Xavier kept smiling all the way as he drove me back home. And that made me smile too.
Damn. Everything about him is contagious. This Xavierization has gotta stop before I become a butterfly farm.
He dropped my hand, which he had been holding all this time, to work on the gear shift and then glanced at me. I met his eyes. He smiled more.
“God!” he hit the back of his head on the head rest and laughed, “I feel like I’m flying.”
I laughed too. At times, he was too funny and cute.
He pulled up at my driveway. Well, where else. Suddenly, I remembered dad... And also that I was late; way past the curfew. But well, I had the best night ever. We kissed. So, I decided I was ready for the consequences. But really, I don’t like to see dad not pleased.
“Will you be okay?” Xavier asked, “It’s quite late already.”
“Yeah. Don’t worry,” I said staring ahead at the dimly lit front door as I unbuckled my seatbelt and then got out of the car.
Xavier came out too. He took my hand, interlocking our fingers and walked me to the door. I couldn’t help but watch his face, grim and solemn and glowing under the moonlight, as he looked ahead and walked beside me. I remembered all that Alex said to me. And I knew that I still had to learn a thousand more about this guy whose hand was firmly (yet gently) holding mine, making me feel safe and sound. Sensing my gaze, he looked down at me.
“What are you thinking, Mongrel?” He asked me softly.
“I wanna know more about you,” I answered lowly.
He looked away from me but I kept my gaze on him, watching him closely; to see if his expression changes. It was impassive but a hint of smooth (not aggressive) frown was faintly brushed across his handsome face. I was confused whether I should be relieved or not. What Alex told me had made it clear enough that Xavier wasn’t the happiest person on earth and seeing him sad was the last thing I wanted to see, and definitely not by me or because of me. He comforted my worry by smoothly stroking his thumb on the back of my hand he was holding.
We climbed the doorsteps. We stood facing each other just outside the door. I still hadn’t move my gaze away from him even for a moment. His eyes softened as they met mine. He reached out a hand and caressed my cheek.
He said, “I’ll let you know. But not tonight. It’s too late. You should rest.”
I nodded willingly. I wouldn’t force him if he didn’t want to or pester him to hurry up and tell me (like I’m some impatient little brat) if he wasn’t ready. I understood that it was hard for him to open up.
“Thanks for coming out with me tonight,” he said as his thump lightly traced my jawline with a small smile playing on his pink lips.
I remembered how they tasted. Yeah. Like he said some weeks ago when he crashed on my bed, drunk, it wasn’t strawberry or cherry. It was a whole different level. Tasting your favorite song? Close. But even better.
“And,” he grinned, “I really liked kissing you.”
I blinked rapidly as I felt sooooo terribly blushy. But before I could even frame an awkward sentence to try to reply to him, he grabbed my nape and pulled me in gently towards his face as he leaned in too. I really thought he was going to kiss me again and, yeah, he did... Only that it was not on my lips. His lips were already just above my lips but he left me stunned when he suddenly moved away and, instead, placed a very tender kiss on my cheek, which was still enough to make a burst of butterfly-cracker to explode in the pit of my stomach... Like KABOOM!!!
I stared at him when he pulled away... unwillingly.
He laughed and said, “I can’t kiss you on the lips, Mongrel. Not now. If I do, you’re not getting to bed for another one hour. You’re addictive.”
Then I laughed too.
“Goodnight,” he said, carefully keeping his distance.
“Um. Goodnight,” I swallowed rather nervously.
I smile back.
Hands inside his front pockets, he started to leave, walking towards his car. But then, he looked back and blew me a kiss. I bit down my lower lip at once.
BUTTERFLIES. Or XAVIERFLIES.
I smiled down to my shoes and then, dashed in through the door before I tear my mouth apart.
With a goofy grin stretched wide across my lips, feeling like mini love birds were circling my crazy head, I closed the door slowly behind me, trying to make as less sound as possible.
Okay, just that. Great.
I started to head up the stairs, tiptoeing so that I wouldn’t wake David or dad.
Dad, yeah. He isn’t on night shift tonight. He must be asleep though. He has work tomorrow.
I went tiptoeing up the stairs still thinking about Xavier and our kiss. I admit, I like Xavier and kissing him was like....
My footsteps conked the moment I heard dad’s voice booming from the end of the stairs. My teeth sunk into my lips the next instant and I squeezed my eyes shut, mentally praying for nothing bad and preparing for the probable something bad.
“Hey, dad.” I turned on my heels and faced his not-so-pleasant face. “I thought you’d be sleeping by now.”
“Hmm. Yes. I was supposed to be but I couldn’t because my daughter was still not home and it’s midnight already, Alana. A phone call or a message could have made things easier, Alana. It’s already midnight. Do you get that?!”
No. He wasn’t shouting but the frustration was crystal clear on his face. It’d been so long since I’d seen him this angry so it wasn’t good for me either. I really felt guilty. I should’ve at least called or texted. He was right. But I was carried off with the excitement of everything I did with my friends and Xavier. I mean, come on, you don’t get to see fireworks or fly lanterns every weekend. I was having the time of my life and so... I forgot, like every other irresponsible, typical adolescent. What a shame.
“I called. Why didn’t you pick up my calls? Or texted back?”
He called? I didn’t hear a thing! Oh God, must’ve been while we were lighting the fireworks.
My teeth went deeper into the skin of my lips as I dropped my head down to the floor, lost for words as guilt ate at my chest.
“And what is that boy doing to you? If going out with him means changing who you are to some irresponsible kid then you are not to go out with him ever again. You understand that?”
“What? No!!” I countered immediately, totally taken aback in disbelief.
I can’t believe he actually said that.
“You can’t say that!”
“Can’t I?” His voice was stern and rigid, not backing off.
“He’s not changing me, dad! It’s my fault. Not his. I admit I was carried off tonight but you can’t blame him because I actually had some fun after a long time!”
“Now, don’t you talk back to me young lady. That’s what every child say. So stop acting like one and grow up!”
“You can’t stop me from going out with him, dad!” my voice suddenly cracked much to my embarrassment.
I didn’t want to cry like some pathetic, melodramatic, love-sick girl. I wanted to fight and make it work like a responsible woman. But I couldn’t help it. Things had just started to work between Xavier and me and he couldn’t just put a full stop to it!
It was not fair to Xavier.
Dad can’t blame him at all. It was none of his fault. He was only making me happy.
“You’re grounded,” dad said.
“Well, fine! Just fantastic!” With that, I stomped up the stairs, making as much noise as I could with my footsteps, blinking back tears.
Ignoring him, I strode into my room and shut myself in, putting all my anger in banging the door loudly behind me. Throwing my body down on the bed, I buried my face in a sea of pillows, forcing myself not to cry.
My phone buzzed after a while. Knowing that it would be Xavier, I pulled it out of my pocket at once and called his name without caring to even look at the caller.
“You alright?” Hearing his voice, I knew I needed him.
“Alana?” he called again when I didn’t answer. “Are you crying?” At that, I wanted to cry like a childish, little, pampered girl.
“No,” I sniffed.
“Babe, is everything okay?” I could see him frown in worry as he asked this.
“Yeah.” I started to cry.
“Alana. Hey. Baby,” I could hear his worry damn clear in his voice.
“It’s not fair.”
I heard the car come to a stop and he gently asked me again.
“Alana, did it get really bad?”
“No, it didn’t. I’m just . . . I don’t even know why I’m crying.” I laughed a little as I dried my eyes.
“I’m still just down the street. Are you really okay?” He sounded like he wanted to come back to me.
“Can you come back for a little while?”
“Sure. I’m coming, babe. I’m sorry.”
“I’ll be out,” I said.
After that, I scurried down the steps, drying my tears.
I wasn’t crying because he said he wouldn’t let me go out with Xavier. That did hurt too despite the fact that it’s quite impossible. I actually cried because I fought with dad. I rarely fought with him, more like never. So when it happened, it hurt me more than it should. He was all I have as a parent. Ever since mom left, he was everything to me. And I didn’t want to upset him.
And with his busy schedule as a surgeon, our relationship had gradually grown distant as time passed by because we spend less time together. He’s called back to the hospital almost anytime of the day. And being a doctor, you can’t say no. So it scared me that our relationship might be completely broken at some point. And I just made it worst tonight.
Dad still wasn’t sleeping. He was sitting on a couch in the living room. Hearing my footsteps, he came around just when I reached the front door.
“You’re going out again?”
“Just for a while.”
He threw his hands to his head in utter disbelief, “Alana, do you get what time it is now?! You came back just a minute ago and you’re going out again!”
“It won’t be long, I promise. I just need some time.”
“Stop acting like a child and just get back to your room. Now. At this time . . . Going out alone, are you crazy?!”
“I’m not alone. Xavier’s coming to pick me.” There was no need lying to him. I didn’t even know how to so it was useless trying to. “Trust me, dad. I’ll be back soon.”
Then, I walked out the door. Dad followed.
“Alana.” He called behind me.
At the moment, Xavier pulled in at our driveway. Dad and I both turned to look at him. He came out of the car.
I glanced over at dad and scurried down the porch towards Xavier as Xavier, too, came for me. Once I was within his reach, he wrapped the an arm around me and pulled me to his side as he met my father’s eyes.
“Alana, I don’t trust this boy,” dad said, coming towards us.
Xavier took a step forward like the man he was and spoke, “I understand you, sir. It’s late and she’s with a boy but I promise, I’ll bring your daughter back just as she left, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
Dad frowned and looked at Xavier questioningly. One sentence and he managed to silence my dad. The assurance in his words as he spoke was so firm and solemn that even dad didn’t know how to counter him. I was glad that Xavier managed well with my dad but I was also starting to blush in utter embarrassment.
I’d only been out with Xavier for just one night and dad had managed to think as far as that. Never in my wildest dream did I ever imagined that my dad and the boy I go out with would have to talk about that thing right in front of me.
“I know you’re worried about her but I swear, I’ll take good care of her,” Xavier continued while I clung onto him tighter, “Just give us some time. I think, Alana really needs to be with me at this moment. You can trust me, Sir.” Xavier assured him with a nod.
I couldn’t believe my ears.
Dad actually said that!! It was like raining candy in our driveway.
“Yes, sir. I’ll bring her back in time,” Xavier replied.
Dad looked at me and then nodded at us, drooping his eyes to the ground. I looked up at Xavier. He looked down on me too, softness and warmth flooding his gaze. My grip on his arm tightened as I moved closer to him. I was so acting like a baby but I couldn’t help it. I needed some Xavier. With the other free hand, he held the back of my head, gently pulled me in and planted a soft kiss on the top of my head. I closed my eyes and nestled into his embrace.
“Now, tell me who called you a bad mongrel. I will finish them,” Xavier whispered into my ear.
I shoved him at his chest, pushing him away and scowled at him accusingly. He laughed at my reaction and threw his arms around me.
He hugged me even tighter with an even more soothing and deeper kiss on my head, chuckling, “Ahhhh... You’re so adorable.”
Burying my face into his hard but comforting chest, I smiled through tears. I was crying just a moment ago and with just one single effortless sentence of his, he simply made me smile.
“Let’s go. Your dad is watching us,” he said.
I looked at dad. Wordlessly, he turned his face to the ground and walked back towards the house.
Xavier wrapped an arm around my shoulders, kissed the side of my head again and led me to his car. As we drove out of the driveway down the street, I watched dad walk in to the house, his usually straight posture drooping and his head hung low. A tear slipped from my eye and streamed down my cheek.
Xavier held my hand and comforted me by tracing circles on the space between my thumb and index finger. I thought he didn’t see me cry but the attention he give me is more than I could ever expect.
“You okay?” he reached out a hand and dried the tear that slipped.
I nodded with a soft smile.
“I’m sorry if I caused any trouble,” he said.
“It’s not your fault,” I replied.
He held my hand tighter. I did too.