Time to call Teela and Maven. Their shift ends in an hour so they might as well start looking for gowns they like.
Maven picked up on the first ring.
Maven: Hey Karina
Me: Hi Maven, I have a surprise for Teela and you.
Maven: Go on.
Me: You guys are coming to the Too Tasty Anniversary Gala on Friday this week. It's in two days so you guys need to buy a formal dress and accessories.
Maven squealed in delight and I heard her run towards someone.
Maven: Teela, we're going to a gala! Look for a dress! I'm paying.
Teela: Oh my gosh, yes! I was born to shop.
Me: *laughs at the commotion*
Maven: Who else is going?
Me: Well, my friend Tyler invited Lincoln and his family too.
Teela: You have friends? That's new.
Yup, I'm on speakerphone.
Me: Yeah yeah Teela. Actually I do have friends your highness. Now hurry up and find a dress before Lincoln comes to pick you up. And Maven, let him come upstairs to our apartment this time. I need to talk to him.
Maven: Okay no problem.
Teela: Byeeee bitch.
I snickered and said goodbye. Now, I could take a nap in peace before seeing them in an hour.
Brrring Brrring. My phone vibrated next to my ear and I swatted around my couch to find it.
Uh, it's 5 pm already. Stupid alarm clock.
Oh shit. I need to fix my hair and chew a piece of gum. Lincoln's stopping by.
I tried to run up the stairs but huffed in pain so I resorted to walking quickly. I looked at my PJs and rolled my eyes. They had little cupcakes all over the top button down and the bottoms were plain blue sweatpants.
I didn't bother changing my clothes but I ran my toothbrush over my teeth and combed out my hair. I pulled up my hair into a half ponytail and half messy bun.
At least I looked presentable.
I heard the doorbell ring and strode towards my door.
"Jesus Christ," I said as I looked at the number of shopping bags in Teela's hands.
"Jesus Christ isn't available. Please leave a message at the tone: Beep," said Teela with a cheeky smirk.
Maven whacked Teela in the head with her tote bag. Lincoln stood behind them with a knowing smirk.
"Get in guys. You too Lincoln," I said with a smile as I grabbed the bags from my sister's hands.
Maven sensed that I needed time alone with Lincoln so she dragged Teela upstairs. I could hear Teela squealing in excitement as they tried on their new clothes.
Lincoln gazed at me. His eyes raked down my messy hair that hadn't been washed in over a week, the bags under my eyes, and my PJs.
It was super awkward actually because Lincoln and I just stared at each other for a couple of minutes.
"I just needed some time to accept what had happened. I'm sorry for hurting you and your family," I said.
He frowned at me and I could see the disappointment radiating off of him in waves. "Pushing people away doesn't solve problems Karina."
All I have the right to ask for is that you don't hate me. Because I don't think I could handle losing such a good friend.
I was quiet as I sifted through my jumbled thoughts. "I'm trying Lincoln I swear. It's just that I got too attached to Max."
My eyes welled up in frustration at my own folly. I pressed my eyelids and felt the tears reside.
"I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that you're going to be okay right away. It takes effort and small steps to get back to your routine," Lincoln said to me.
"How am I supposed to do that when I'm not even capable of having a coworker relationship? I can't even have friends. Knox, Siobhan, Trini, and you are by far the best thing that has happened to me in the past few months. I ruin everything; I'm like a wrecking ball that causes havoc everywhere it goes," I responded in a glum tone.
Lincoln walked closer to me and closed the distance between us. "I'm here in front of you aren't I? You decided to let me in so now all you have to do is let me help you," he said.
I sniffed as I felt my eyes well up again. My half ponytail and half-bun were bothering the hell out of me so I put it up into a full bun to distract myself.
"Thanks Lincoln," I said. I grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the kitchen. I wanted to give Siobhan some banana bread that I made.
Lincoln made a disgruntled sound and I stopped midway.
"What's wrong Linc?" I asked. I worriedly looked him up and down but then saw that he was staring at my neck.
Oh no! I just had to put my hair in a bun didn't I? First Tyler and now Lincoln had seen my scars. What if they think that I'm pathetic and meek?
"Hold up. What happened to your neck?" Lincoln said, tugging me closer to him.
"Umm," I said as I chewed my lip. I honestly had no clue as to what I should say.
Do I tell him the truth or wait for him to find out eventually from Seth? Seeing Seth around the streets is inevitable anyway.
Red pill or blue pill?
Lincoln shook me by my shoulders and asked me the same question.
"Look it's really not a big deal Lincoln. Leave it be," I said in frustration.
"How can I? That's your body Karina. Who did that to you?" Lincoln demanded. I cringed as I met his rage-filled eyes.
I stood there in silence, mute.
"This isn't fair Karina. I don't know much about you," he said.
"I don't know much about you either. You never talk about your life outside of your family. All I know is that you're an avid soccer player, live with your sister and niece, and were in the military," I said. I was annoyed that he said that because I'd been meaning to ask about him too.
"Touche," Lincoln said.
"I'll start. My parents live in New York. My mom's an engineer and my dad works in the construction industry. My little brother Evan died when I was eight because he had lupus. I currently also work for Quinton at his tech firm. That's how I knew who Knox was by name but I'd never actually met him personally until now. We work in a highly classified field as FBI agents. I can't give you more details about my job than I already have," he said.
My mouth was open at all of the information he just threw at me and I squeezed his hand.
"Now it's your turn," Lincoln responded gently.
"As you know, my mother is dead and my father got out of jail recently. Seth and his entourage are my dad's best friends; that's why they're equally demented. I was responsible for killing my mom because I was too scared to call the cops. If I did, my father would've hurt Maven and Teela. So I stood there and watched," I said, swallowing the lump in my throat.
Lincoln rubbed a hand on my back and waited for me to continue.
"My father used a kitchen blade and carved down from my neck to my back because I defied his 'order' of cleaning up his paperwork. I questioned whether he was right to move all of it into my mother's separate room and he took revenge for disobedience. After my mom died, Teela, Maven, and I left forever," I said.
Tears were falling from my eyes but I looked away so that Lincoln wouldn't see my cry. I swiped at my eyes to dry them.
"Let me see," he said and I paused.
Just do it. Let him tell you how ugly they are.
I pulled my shirt up and he sucked in a breathe as he saw how deep the scars actually were. Jagged cuts with flayed skin meant that I'd never feel comfortable in a bathing suit or anything else ever again.
Lincoln didn't say a word as he pulled my shirt down. He just hugged me from behind and I touched his arm.
"So on that happy note, will you and your family come with me to the Diner's gala?" I asked with a tinge of sarcasm.
"You bet. We'll be there!" he said with a smile.