Too Close For Comfort
Thank God that wasn’t me.
I didn’t dare look back for fear that the cop was coming after me. And it wasn’t like I didn’t give him any reasons not to; I just elbowed him in the stomach and kicked him in the knees. How many years of Juvie would that land me? Five? Ten? I couldn’t stop shaking. Oh god. Oh. My. God. I was going to jail. They were going to lock me up in some filthy cell with some crackhead roommate named Suga Momma. I couldn’t go to jail. I didn’t want to. It was bad enough being in trouble for coming home late, but for getting arrested? Mom would send me to military school for sure!
I slowed down to a jog and dared to glance over my shoulder.
To my surprise, there was nobody there. There was no group of armed SWAT team members pounding down the sidewalk to capture me, machine guns blazing and tasers in hand. There was no helicopter in the sky or mangy hounds snarling menacingly and pulling against their leashes, ready to eat me. There wasn’t even a single cop cruiser circling the block, trying to find me. At least not yet.
A sudden realization hit me. And it was not a pretty one.
They would be looking for me right? So what the heck was I still doing on the streets where they could easily locate me?
I groaned out loud and broke out into another sprint. It was too bad that they didn’t hand out diplomas or scholarships for running away from the police like this because I would graduate from high school with honors. You know, have my name under ‘Students with Greatest Achievements’ or something like that. But instead, I would end up in an orange jumpsuit playing Gold Fish with a group of tattooed, coke-addicted delinquents.
Argh! Why did I let Hayden drag me all the way out here in the first place? Why didn’t I just get ready for school like the good girl that I was supposed to be? When mom found out about this…scratch that. I didn’t want to find out how mom was going to react. She was still pretty steamed about my coming home past curfew and everything and that was, what, a day ago? Two days ago? Not even a stupid week! What if she grounded me even longer and decided to add more to the punishment?
What if she sent me off to Uncle Jack and Aunt Paula after all? I didn’t even know how to harvest corn or milk a cow! I’d have to rely on pig wrestling just to entertain myself!
Ohmygod! Ohmygod! I would never see Hayden again! “Stop it!” I shouted and grabbed my head with both of my hands. “Stop!”
I was being crazy. Totally freaking out over nothing. Maybe mom wouldn’t find out. Maybe mom would just assume that I ran off to Mexico with a cab driver named Javier to have those eight children I’d always dreamed of having. Or maybe she would just assume that I flew to Italy to live with Hayden’s grandparents under the name Morelia Lasagna to work as an international Opera singer, selling albums worldwide and everything. She didn’t have to know right? She wouldn’t have to know. Hayden could cover for me. She had to since this was all her fault. If she never would’ve come to my house and told me anything then I wouldn’t be on the run like a dangerous fugitive or something.
I didn’t have a choice then. I had to leave town to avoid being—
“Hey!” a voice shouted behind me. I felt hands grip my shoulders tightly. “Stop right there!”
Oh god. I was caught. The policeman had found me after all. And now I was going to jail for the rest of my adolescent years. Oh my god. This was the end of me wasn’t it?
My heart was thudding wildly now, threatening to burst through my ribcage and fall onto the concrete. I didn’t dare turn around. Why would I? I would rather be taken to my doom without having to sleep at night with the face of my captor in my dreams.
I felt a wave of fresh hot tears sting my eyes. I wouldn’t even get to say goodbye to mom or Hayden or even sniff my Alpha Centari ‘Shooting Stars’ perfume or hug my posters one last time.
When I woke up tomorrow morning, I’d be in a cell six feet below the ground; no sunlight, no fresh air, no familiar faces, no nothing.
All of this because of my inability to follow the rules. I couldn’t blame Hayden; I had chosen to follow her after all, hadn’t I?
“Katie Kitten Linda Holm. What are you—”
“I’M SOOOOOORRRRRY!” I wailed and buried my face in my hands.
My legs suddenly felt wobbly and unsteady, as if they were made of jelly. I dropped to my knees and sobbed like a baby. I was trembling all over like a leaf, but that was the least of my worries. My tears and regret weren’t going to save me this time. Where was Hayden when I needed her? The least she could do was give me one last hug before I was taken away to Delinquent City!
“I’M SORRY!” I screeched at the top of my lungs. I even noticed some pedestrians pause and watch me lose it. “PLEASE DON’T TAKE ME TO JAIL! I’M INNOCENT! I HAVEN’T DONE ANYTHING WRONG! ALL I WANTED TO DO WAS SEE EDEN! I SWEAR I NEVER MET TO HURT ANYBODY! I DON’T WANT TO ROT IN SOME CELL ALL ALONE!”
“Get up this instant!” the voice demanded. It sounded strangely familiar, like I’d heard it somewhere before. “And what are you—”
“NOOOOOOOOO!” I bellowed. “I WANT MY MOMMMMMY!”
This was it. This was the end of Katie Holm. Any minute now, the officer would sigh heavily and slap the cuffs around my wrists before reading me my rights and guiding me to the cop cruiser parked a few feet away. I couldn’t believe this. This was really happening. I was really going to get arrested. How could I have been so stupid? I should’ve just gone to school like a good girl instead of come here to see the boys….
Then Eden’s face flashed through my mind. His round face, his moss green eyes, his perfect lips...
My heart suddenly jumped in my throat as the realization slammed into me like a ton of bricks. I would never see him again. I would never be able to read the latest Alpha Centari news feeds on LoveBucket or log onto my YouTube account and watch his performances over and over again. I would never be able to brag to anyone about how I was their biggest fan or how I had more Alpha Centari merchandise then any other fan out there. I would never be able to engage in anymore heated arguments on the internet with haters or get my hands on another one of their CDs or T-shirts or posters ever again. No more excited squealing with Hayden. No more late night talks over who was the best member and why they would always be.
No more Alpha Centari. No more nothing. It was over. All over.
And then I burst into the biggest cry jag I’d ever been in. I sobbed, I cried, I moaned, and I screamed. It was all over for me now. And it was all my fault—
“Katherine Kitten Linda Holm—if you do not get up on your feet and stop that insidious crying this instant, you’ll be grounded until your thirtieth birthday!”
All of a sudden everything was quiet. No sobs, no screams, no whimpers, no nothing.
It couldn’t be. It just couldn’t be. I had to be hallucinating. I just had to be. There was no way she was here right now. No way. I didn’t dare look up for fear that my worst nightmare was coming true. This was no way that mom had just threatened to ground me until I was thirty. No. way. This wasn’t happening.
“Get up,” she snarled and yanked me up to me feet. “And stop crying.”
I felt like crying all over again, only this time because getting arrested didn’t seem like such a bad thing anymore. I was still shaking, no, more like trembling, but I refused to look up. I was hallucinating. Mom wasn’t really here. She was across town on a lunch break with some of her friends before heading back to the community college to give a lecture on proper English. She couldn’t be here. No way.
“Katherine,” mom hissed in my ear. Her grip on my arm was painful, as if she were ready to wrench it out of its socket. “We’re going.”
I opened my mouth to say something, anything, but nothing came out. I was screwed. Big time screwed. Oh my god. Mom really was here. And I was caught in the act. I was caught skipping school red-handed. Oh god. What had I done? Mom really was here.
But why was she here? She had to work today. Why was she all the way here in downtown Dixie?
“I’m so disappointed in you,” she growled as she shoved her way through the crowd toward the minivan a few feet away, dragging me along with her by my throbbing arm. “First you stay out past curfew and now you skip school to see that stupid boy? And what in god’s holy name are you wearing?”
She cursed under her breath and shook her head. “We are going to have one long discussion about your recent behavior Katherine.”
Oh god. Could this get any worse? Why did I bother to come in the first place? Mom jerked the passenger’s side door open. “Get in,” she barked. “Now.”
“Now.” She shoved me inside and slammed the door shut so hard that the window rattled.
Why was she acting like this? Mom normally would have gotten upset and cried before she would get mad. And not this kind of mad either. I shakily clicked my seat-belt into place. No, she wasn’t mad. She was furious.
I rolled down my window and poked my head out. “Mom wait!”
She was grumbling something under her breath as she rounded the front of the van to get inside. “Mom?” I asked. My voice sounded so unnaturally high and shrill that I winced. “Mom? Why are you so—”
“Lauren!” a voice called from somewhere in the crowd. “Lauren—where are you going? Lauren!”
Mom froze, half inside and half outside the car. I pulled my head back in and stared at her. Her face had gone pale and her hand was shaking terribly, making the car keys rattle nosily. My breath caught in my throat. What was wrong with her? And who was calling out to her? Why didn’t she just respond? Why was she so scared?
And then a man stepped out of the crowd.
He was tall with a shaggy mane of black hair and narrow blue eyes. He was dressed in a plain white t-shirt and a pair of dark wash jeans faded at the knees. His smile faltered and his hand, which he had used to wave, suddenly dropped to his side. Then his eyes came to rest on me. My chest tightened up, but no one said anything. Mom still stood there with the keys jangling loudly in her quivering hand, but her eyes were teary and moist, and I knew she would start crying any minute now.
Who was this man? Why was she about to cry?
“Mom,” I whispered and touched her arm gently. She recoiled as if I’d hit her. “Mom, what’s wrong? Who is that guy?”
She blinked as if she’d just come out of a trance. Then quickly dove into the car and slammed the door shut, not forgetting to threw the lock on the doors and roll the window up. The man blinked a couple of times, but didn’t make a move. He was still staring at me as if I was an alien from Mars. I wanted to look away, to look at mom, but I couldn’t move. Suddenly nothing was working the way I wanted it to work. My body wasn’t responding to what I wanted.
The car came to life with a loud roar. But I still couldn’t look away.
“Roll your window up Katherine,” mom snapped. “Right this instant.”
“But why?” I questioned. The man suddenly stumbled forward on wobbly legs, looking visibly dazed and confused.
“ROLL UP THE DAMN WINDOW!” mom bellowed. I jumped at her tone and let out a choked sob as I did what I was told.
And then we were off, weaving through the heavy traffic in the direction of home.
It was like being in a war only instead of running around swinging a broad sword and hiding behind a massive shield, I was now suffocating under the weight of at least twenty girls. They kicked, they screamed, they cried, they puckered their lips and tried to kiss me. The sky had become a mere blur of reds, purples, and greens; glow sticks, posters, CDs, T-shirts, and hats were thrown at me to sign, but how could I do that if I couldn’t move?
“I love you Eden!” a girl to my left confessed through excited sobs.
“Kiss me, Eden!” a girl to my right demanded and puckered her lipstick-coated lips at me. “Kiss me please!”
“Back off bitch—he’s mine!” someone shouted.
“No way! He’s mine!” another voice cut in, sounding very aggressive and impatient.
I grunted and groaned as I tried to wrench my arms and legs out of their vise-like grips, but it was fertile. These girls had the strength of ten thousand women put together and I was powerless to get away from any of them.
“Get…off!” I panted as the weight on my chest grew.
I was close to panicking. They were everywhere, so close, and I couldn’t breathe very well. What should I do? Where could I go? Who could I call for help? I could only imagine what must’ve been going through the minds of Alex and Kai at the moment. Were they panicking too? Did they feel their claustrophobia start to kick in? I cried out and fought to get free. My nerves were thin and I was ready to snap.
I needed air. Oh god. I needed some air.
Calm down, I told myself. But I could feel myself start to tremble all over and sweat profoundly. There were so many sounds and colors; a chorus of pleading voices, grunts, shouts, sobs and whimpers. Whistles were being blown, orders tossed back and forth through the air, sirens screeching, and cameras clicking away. It was all too much. Oh god. Someone get me out of here!
My chest rose up and down rapidly, my breaths coming out short and shallow. Why was the world spinning all of a sudden? Or was it me? I squeezed my eyes shut and tried my best to block out the noise, but it seemed to get louder with each second that went by. My head was spinning and my vision was starting to blur. Oh god. Where was everyone? Where was Kelsey and the manager? Where were the security people?
Damn it. I couldn’t breathe. God help me. I couldn’t breathe.
And then pain exploded all over my body. The tugged on my hair, they bit into my skin, they raked their nails over my face, and they viciously jerked me back and forth, this way and that. I cried out and manage to free one of my arms. As bad as I knew I would feel about this later, I started to swing as hard and as fast as I could before my arm was ceased again.
“Leave…me…ALONE!” I shouted with the last bit of my energy.
But they didn’t leave me alone. They just kept coming in waves of hands and feet, each one anxious to take a taste of me. Of my lips.
“Get away from my boyfriend, bitch!” a nasty voice snapped.
And then a heard a sharp snapping sound. I didn’t feel it at first, but then it came rushing back of me in a hot wave of fiery pain.
My finger. Someone just broke my finger. I cried out and thrashed around wildly. Someone just broke my finger. I had to get out of here. I had to get out before something else broke.
I rolled over to my side to escape…and ran into Unconscious Girl again.
She screamed her head off, a sound so high-pitched and loud that I winced and leaned my head away. Then she leaned forward, lips puckered, ready to meet my own. I grunted out loud and turned my head in time for her mouth to meet my jaw. Oh god. That was a close one. I felt my cheeks warm all of a sudden, but quickly pushed it off to the back of my brain. Now was not the time for my hormones to kick in. Not when I had a finger that needed some medical attention.
“Don’t you remember me?” she shouted eagerly.
“Huh?” was my response to this. What? She wasn’t going to try to stick her tongue in my mouth or tear my clothes off? “Yeah,” I said, “Yeah, but you have—”
And then I was saved by Big Willy the bodyguard. He shielded me with his body as he helped me make my way through the chaotic crowd to the car, where everyone was waiting for me. I hurriedly climbed and took a seat next to Kai as big Willy slammed the door shut and motioned for the driver to drive away. I winced and glanced down at my finger; it was bleeding and the skin on my left pointer finger savagely torn, dirty, and bruised, but it jutted out at an odd angel, out to the side while the others pointed straight.
“Stop by a hospital,” I said sternly. “My finger’s broken.”
“Oh my!” Grandma cried from the backseat. “You heard him—take us to a hospital!”
“Already going to ma’am,” the driver replied and sped up.
“That was horrible,” Alex said quietly from the front passenger’s seat. “I’ve never seen the fans get so crazy in my life.”
“We need more security, Paul,” Kelsey chimed in with a worried frown. “That was horrible and the situation was so out of control! Those animals even broke Eden’s finger!”
It bugged me how Kelsey could call our fans animals, but after the way they had acted, I couldn’t help but agree. I’d never seen them so rattled up and wild in my whole entire life. But at least it was just a finger. It could’ve been worse.
“Okay, okay,” Manager said and put his hands up in surrender. “I’ll take care of everything. But first, we need to make sure that everyone. especially you Eden, my boy, is okay.”
And then we drove off to the nearest hospital to get my finger checked out.