I’ve never had Penne alla Vodka before, but I can tell you now that Kaleb’s is the best. I end up eating three helpings of it, plus several pieces of garlic bread. To say I was full, was an understatement.
“Do you want to take somehow with you? There’s plenty of extras.” Kaleb asks as he shovels the left-over pasta into a takeout bowl.
“Really? That would be great.” I smile up at him, but don’t leave my seat. I’m pretty sure Kaleb will have to roll me out his front door. “That was the best thing I’ve ever had.”
He laughs, “Thanks.”
“Seriously, I’m not kidding. What do you want to do once you graduate? You should be a chef.” I tell him.
“I want to be a surgeon.” He says quietly with his back still to me.
Kaleb Nixon wants to be a surgeon? The Kaleb Nixon that skips school on a regular basis and doesn’t take anything seriously? That Kaleb Nixon?
“Wait, come again? You want to be a what?” I question.
He spins around finally to face me, there’s a ghost of a smile on his lips. “You heard me.”
“I mean,” I stutter. “Why?”
“My mother was a neurosurgeon. I guess, I just want to be like her.” He shrugs.
I stare at him for a moment, words lost on the tip of my tongue. I didn’t know what to say to him. I’d totally read Kaleb Nixon wrong at the beginning. I thought he was a shallow bad boy, but he was so much deeper than that. There was so much hiding under his surface and I wonder why he didn’t let anyone see it but me.
“What do you want to do?” He asks.
My attention snaps back to him, “What?”
“What do you want to do after high school?” His inquisitive eyes study me for an answer that I don’t know how to give.
“I used to want to go into music.” The words spill out of my mouth before I can stop them. Here I am again telling Kaleb Nixon things he should never know.
“You play piano, right?”
“I lost my parents.” I sigh, resting my chin on my palm. “My mom was the one that taught me to play piano. After she died, I just lost the desire.”
“I’m sorry.” He says slowly.
I shrug, but don’t say anything. I don’t know what to say.
Sofia comes running into the room a minute later, two dolls in her hands. She’s singing under her breath and twirling around. Kaleb catches her and flips her upside down. I hear Sofia giggle and scream with excitement.
“Kay, put me down!” She says between laughter. Kaleb kisses her on the forehead and places her back down on the floor. A smile breaks across my face. I love the way Kaleb is with Sofia.
“It’s almost bed time for you, scimmia.” Kaleb says to her, poking her on the tip of the nose.
“No! You can’t make me!” She screams at the top of her lungs and then takes off running.
Kaleb watches her go with a smile wide on his face, “She’ll go hide for ten minutes and then come back to ask me to sing her a lullaby.”
“She’s adorable.” I say.
Kaleb leans back against the island and stares into the empty front room, “She understands me better than anyone, really. She might be only five, but she gets me, you know? I get her, too. She doesn’t have a dad, either.”
“What happened to her dad?”
“Left when she was three. He was a piece of trash like my father is.” He shakes his head. “I just don’t understand how a man could bail on their kid, ya know? Especially someone like Sofia. She’s pure and innocent.”
“Some men just can’t handle the pressure and responsibility of having a kid.”
“Then they shouldn’t put themselves into a situation where they could have kids.” He says, annoyed. “When I have kids, I’m going to be a better father than mine was. I’m going to give them the childhood I never had.”
“You want kids?” Yet another moment that I was completely surprised by Kaleb Nixon.
He nods, “Don’t act so surprised, dork. I can be deep when I want to.”
“I just didn’t take you for a kid’s person.” I shrug.
“What did you take me for then? Someone who wants to be alone for the rest of their life.” He asks.
I laugh, “Actually, yeah. You’re so independent and don’t listen to anyone. I just thought you wouldn’t want to tie yourself down.”
“I don’t consider a family tying me down.” He says. “My dad did, and I don’t want to be anything like him.”
I fall silent, studying him closely. I don’t know what to say to him. I’m pleasantly surprised by him and I don’t know how to handle it.
“Holy cow, I just made things super weird.” His eyes widen. “Can we do something else to make it less awkward?”
“Please.” I beg.
“Cool.” He pushes up from the counter. “You can help me find Sofia.”
He leads me out of the kitchen and into the front hall. He starts listing all the places she could be hiding. Kaleb assigns me the top floor and he takes the bottom. I jog up the stairs and start looking in the areas Kaleb told me to look.
I start with the den, behind the couch, but she isn’t there. I then try the bathroom, but there’s no luck. I don’t go into Kaleb’s room because he said that Sofia knew it was off limits. Sofia’s room was empty as well. That left the guest bedroom. After looking under the bed, I heard a tiny giggle. I smile and pull open the closet door. Sure enough, Sofia is seated on the ground with her back against the wall. She starts laughing. I look behind me and then step into the closet as well.
“Can I hide with you?” I ask.
“Yes! Then we both can hide from Kay!” She scoots over until there’s room against the wall for me. I sit down and bring my knees to my chest. “Hide and seek is my favorite game!”
“Mine too.” I agree. “But we’ve got to be very quiet, okay?”
She nods quickly and cups her hand over her mouth. It’s only a few minutes that I hear Kaleb call my name. When I don’t answer, I hear him climb up the stairs. He calls my name again, I don’t answer. I hear his footsteps as he passes the guest room. Sofia giggles, but I shush her. Then I hear Kaleb step into the guest room. Sofia buries her head in her hands to keep from laughing. Kaleb closes in on the closet. I hear him turn the knob. As soon as he pulls the door open, both Sofia and I start screaming and launch ourselves at him. He yells in surprise, stumbling back as Sofia grips onto his legs.
“We got you, Kay!” Sofia yells.
He scoops her up into his arms, “Yes, you did.”
“It was Geer’s idea.” She laughs.
Kaleb’s eyes meet mine, “Really?” Sofia nods vigorously. “Now that I’ve found you, it’s time for bed, scimmia.”
“Okay, but you’ll sing, right?” She asks, laying her head against Kaleb’s shoulder.
“Don’t I always?” Kaleb holds her close and carries her out the door. “I’ll be right back.” He says to me.
“I like you’re ragazza, Kay.” Sofia whispers, but I can hear her. It’s the same name she called me before.
This time, Kaleb doesn’t protest the word, “Yeah, me to.”
Remind me to look up what ragazza means when I get home.