Just Tell Me You Love Me

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Chapter Two

EMILY

“Damon, where did you put my Led Zeppelin shirt after you did the laundry?” Emily yelled, scrambling around their bedroom that seemed to be getting smaller and smaller every day.

“I was supposed to do the laundry?” Damon asks walking into the room holding a cereal bowl, his mouth stuffed with Cocoa Puffs.

Emily sighs, “Yes, I definitely asked you to do the laundry two days ago before I went to cover Melissa’s shift at the diner. When I came home you said you had done it, but I guess the BMX racing on TV was a little too distracting for you to answer me honestly.”

“I’m sorry, babe. I’ll do it today, I promise.”

“Fine,” Emily says throwing a different shirt on and stomping out of the room.

“Emily,” Damon says following her out, “Don’t be passive aggressive please. I’m sorry!”

“I get it, and thank you for apologizing, but I have a job to think about, school to attend, and an oversized mid-section that gets in my way at every turn. A little bit of help in the cleaning and laundry department would be helpful.”

“I said I was sorry, and I’ll do it today! What more do you want from me?”

“Nothing, Damon. I have to go to work. Just do the laundry and don’t set anything on fire.”
“I’m not four years old, I can handle it,” Damon says, and Emily can hear the animosity in his voice.

Shaking off the hurt, Emily grabs her car keys and kisses Damon on the cheek before walking out the door to her car. She couldn’t help but feel sad that she had left the house angry at him, but it seemed to be becoming more and more common. Everyday Damon seemed to be getting farther and farther away from her, and she didn’t understand why. He was forgetful and cold, and did not really seem to care much about Emily’s well being. Emily couldn’t understand what she had done to deserve such treatment, but it was beginning to wear her down.

In the five months Damon had been in Las Vegas with Emily her stomach had grown considerably. She was now as big at 8 months as she should be at full term, and she was dreading the delivery. There were times when she thought back to training at the Rock, and the fact that right now she could be doing just that. But instead she had opted for family life, and she had to stick by that decision no matter what life threw at her.

Damon, for some reason, had not gone to Los Angeles to record his album like Emily assumed he would. He told her that he would rather stay here with her, to help her out, but as he became more restless, the less his story seemed truthful. What was the real reason he wouldn’t go record music, and why did Emily have the sinking suspicion it had something to do with Kaylie Cruz? She had heard him talking on the phone with her a few times, happy and carefree. More happy then he ever sounded while talking to Emily. It wasn’t fair.

Emily opened the door to Melissa’s 2011 Kia Soul and got inside, doing her best to push thoughts of Kaylie and days gone by out of her head. She put the car in gear and headed aimlessly down the street to work. In order to help her earn a little money of her own Melissa had allowed Emily to take the few shifts she works at the diner. Emily had accepted gratefully after being cooped up inside the house for so long. But suddenly she didn’t like the idea of Damon being in the house by himself. What if he called Kaylie? She hated leaving the house mad at him. Quickly she turned the car around heading back the way she came, and then realized how silly she was being and turned around again. Damon could call Kaylie if he wanted to. There was one thing Kaylie didn’t have that Emily did, and that was enough reason for Damon to see this thing through, Emily knew that.

She got to the diner and punched in, willing the hours to pass faster than usual so she could get back home. Her feet were swollen, and she wasn’t even entirely sure she should be lifting heavy plates, much less be standing at all. What she really wanted to do was lay down and sleep for thirteen hours. Her enormous belly had been making it impossible to sleep for more than a few hours at a time each night, and she was exhausted. But, money was another important part of making this new life work, so she plastered a smile onto her face and went to greet her first customers of the day. Thankfully that first customer also happened to be her favorite one.

“Hey Billy,” she said, “What can I get you this morning?”

“Emily! Sweetheart, are you still working? You should be lying in bed somewhere with people waiting on you hand and foot until this little one finally decides to make an appearance!” Billy replied, gesturing to her stomach.

“Unfortunately lying in bed doesn’t pay the bills, Billy.”

“Well, that man of yours should be the one out earning the bacon, not you.”

“Billy…”

“Hey, I’ve got a right, as a man, to be at least a little disappointed in Damon’s effort. It ain’t right for a woman, and a pregnant one at that, to be focusing on anything but being healthy. That’s how I was raised, and I’m standing by it.”

Emily smiled, “Well, now that we’ve exchanged philosophies on life, are you going to tell me what you want for breakfast?”

Billy laughed a big belly laugh that was nothing short of contagious before saying, “I will take my usual darling, and a pot of coffee, black as night.”

“Coming right up, Billy.”

“Thanks sweetheart,” Billy smiled and then went back to reading the sports section of the newspaper.

Emily didn’t know what to think. Was Billy right? Emily had been happy that Damon had just decided to come to Vegas and be with her. Had she settled for less than she deserved? Time ticked by slower than ever that day, and Emily thought about smashing the clock more than a few times just out of spite. When five o’ clock finally rolled around Emily thought she might burst. Walking out the door felt so liberating that she almost jumped for joy, but then thought better of it, and simply walked to the car at a seemingly faster pace than normal. Driving home, Emily felt like the drive would never end. She couldn’t wait to apologize to Damon for this morning, and lay down.

She pulled into the driveway and immediately knew something was wrong. The motorcycle Melissa had given him was missing from the driveway, and he never had anywhere to go. She got out of the car, forgetting to take the keys out of the admission. She swung the front door open with fervor and entered the house yelling for Damon. When there was no reply, she knew something was amiss. But when she entered the bedroom the last thing she expected to find was laying there on the bed, folded in fours, her name scrawled across it in the chicken-scratch she had come to recognize as Damon’s handwriting.

Emily’s heart thumped as she unfolded the paper, and was pretty sure it stopped as she read it:

Emily,

I don’t exactly know what to say other than I’m sorry. This isn’t fair to anyone, not to you, not to the baby, but even so, I have to leave. I have to find out what is left of life out there for me, and I hope you do the same. I loved you once Ems and I will always love our child, but I feel so trapped… I just need some time. I hope you understand, and I will also understand if you don’t ever want to hear from me again.

Just know I’ll keep you in my mind as that stubborn, skinny, brunette I met at that party three years ago, and I will never ever forget her. Be strong Ems.

All my heart,

Damon Young


Emily couldn’t move, she couldn’t breathe, she couldn’t think. Damon was gone. Damon was gone. The weight of it fell on her like a ton of bricks. She could feel her life falling to pieces all around her and she had no idea how to even try to fix it. She thought back on every time Damon kissed her, told her he loved her, touched her stomach or talked to their child. Was it all a lie? These last long months just one big façade, while Damon slowly suffered every day. Only one thing could have jolted her back to the present at a moment like that: a wave of pain washing over her, and water suddenly splashing all over her feet.

Emily screamed, panicking, wondering if someone had cursed her and was laughing at her pain somewhere far away. Her water had broken, and as she felt the wave of her first contractions coming on she knew this baby was not going to wait for anyone, not her, and definitely not Damon. Quickly she pulled her cell phone out of her purse and dialed 911.

“911, what’s your emergency?”

“Um, I’m going into labor, and I’m alone, and I’m not really sure what to do about it,” Emily replied frantically.

“Okay ma’am, what is your location?”

Emily rattled off Melissa’s address, and the woman told her that an ambulance was on its way. The next thirty minutes passed for Emily, in a strange blur. Everything seemed like it was moving in slow-motion and at triple speed all at once. The ambulance ride, EMT’s telling her to breathe through the pain, arriving at the hospital, hearing Melissa’s shrieks of joy at seeing her in one piece, and then firing off questions about Damon. When Emily told her what had happened she thought Melissa was going to explode.

“What do you mean he left?”

Emily handed her the note Damon had written her, which she had clung to the entire ride over. As Melissa read, her face turned from angry to sad in just a few seconds.

Tossing the note aside she grabbed Emily’s hand, “It’s his loss Emily. Right now you just need to focus on having this beautiful baby. You and it will be fine. I will take care of you, okay? You will be okay Emily.”

Emily shook her head back and forth, back and forth. She didn’t think anything would ever be okay ever again. She had repeated every mistake her mother had made that she swore she wouldn’t make too. Her life, and her child’s life were going to be so hard from here on out, how could she keep it? How could she subject this baby to the same life she had lived?

“Adoption,” Emily croaked.

“What?” Melissa asked.

“I want to put it up for adoption.”

“Emily, no you don’t! I can take care of both of you, get you on your feet---“

“NO!” Emily cried, tears pouring down her face, “I can’t subject this child to the same life I had--- AH!” The pain Emily had been feeling intensified, and she found it too hard to speak.

“It’s time,” the nurse said.

“Emily, you have to push now,” Melissa said, grabbing her hand.

Emily nodded.

“On my count,” the doctor said. “One…Two… Three.”

Emily pushed and as the pain ripped through her body she screamed out all the hate, anger, and sadness that Damon had instilled in her. Today was not the first time he had hurt her. She screamed for the look he gave her on the first night they met, for the time he left for Europe without saying goodbye, for saying all the wonderful things he said to her and then kissing Kaylie Cruz. She hated him for giving her hope for a better life, and then taking it away.

So she pushed and screamed and gripped Melissa’s hand so tightly it turned purple.

And then there was a cry, one shrill cry that rose above everything else, and all the hate in Emily’s heart dissolved to love. A love for this one human being that Emily never thought she could feel. A mother’s love.

“It’s a boy,” she hears Melissa say.

“Is he okay?” Emily asked, “He’s so early.”

“Looks healthy enough, but we’ll keep him for observation,” the doctor says.

Emily breathed a sigh of relief, until another round of pain shoots through her.

“AH!”

“Emily, what’s wrong?” Melissa asked.

“Pain,” Emily manages to gasp.

“Doctor,” the nurse says, “There’s another one coming!”

“What?” Melissa shrieks, “Another baby?”

“Push Emily,” the doctor says. “Push!”

So once again, every muscle in her body tensed and Emily pushed, and pushed. But this time, there was no cry. The doctors rushed the baby over to the table on the opposite side of the room shouting something about its lungs.

“Aunt Melissa, what’s going on?” Emily asked, tears rolling down her cheeks.

“I don’t know sweetie, just hang on.”

So she did. She held on to Aunt Melissa and the idea of a new, good life for her and her children, her twins. And then she heard it: a cry to join its brother’s and she breathed the biggest sigh of relief she had ever breathed.

“Is it okay?” she asked the doctor.

He is fine,” the nurse said handing the baby to Emily.

“He is so beautiful,” Melissa says.

Emily couldn’t agree more. In fact she had never seen anything more beautiful in her life.

“And here is your other little one,” the nurse says handing Emily the older of her two sons.

Emily shakes her head in disbelief, “How is this possible?”

“Well,” the doctor begins, “It appears that the little one was hiding behind the other. It’s rare but sometimes a twin can evade the ultrasound. He would have to have been positioned perfectly behind the other.”

“You were hiding, huh?” Emily cooed to the baby in her left arm.

“Do you have names?” Melissa asked.

“Oh god, I thought I had more time. Um, I always liked the name Tyler, how about Tyler Beloff Kmetko, after Sasha.”

“For which one of them?”

“The older one, the younger should be… Liam. Liam Brian Kmetko, my beautiful, sneaky little boy,” Emily caresses her younger son’s smooth cheek.”

“Perfect. So the adoption---“

“A moment of weakness, Aunt Melissa, these boys are not going anywhere unless they go with me.”


KAYLIE

“Kaylie! Kaylie, over here! Kaylie!”

Kaylie Cruz did her best to smile for the cameras and not blink too much, but it was close to impossible with the hundreds of paparazzi fighting to take her picture. This had become her life for the last few months, ever since taking gold in London. She couldn’t pretend that it wasn’t nice to feel so important, but the attention was beginning to wear on her. She looked to her left, and then to her right, and was comforted by the fact that she was not alone in the feeling.

“Let’s go in already,” Lauren whines. “I’m so sick of smiling.”

“I never dreamed I’d see the day when Lauren Tanner didn’t want to be the center of attention,” Payson laughs.

“Come on. Lauren’s right, my face hurts. Let’s go inside,” Jordan says.

“I can’t believe we got invited to the American Music Awards!” Lauren squeals.

“Well, we are the fierce five!” Payson says. “Well, four tonight.”

“Where is Melanie?”

“She couldn’t come. Said she had plans,” Lauren replied.

“Who has plans when they could be on the red carpet a few steps away from--- Oh my god that’s Taylor Swift!” Payson screams a little too loudly.

“Okay, let’s go,” Kaylie says, steering her star-struck friend toward the door of the Staples Center. “You need to get over this star-crazed stuff, Pay. You’re one of them now. We all are.”

“I am not!” Payson protests.

“Pay,” Lauren says, “You don’t win the all around gold medal at the Olympics and not get a ton of attention. It doesn’t happen. You are famous, we all are!”

They all shrieked in excitement at the idea in the least composed way possible, drawing all kinds of confused looks from people around them. As they walked into the Staples Center, Kaylie couldn’t help feeling that a piece of their puzzle was missing. She had found an old friend in Jordan, but almost a year ago she, Payson, and Lauren had all lost Emily and things between them hadn’t been quite the same.

“I miss her too,” Lauren whispers in Kaylie’s ear, squeezing her hand.

“Let’s go sit down,” she replies.

“But--- oh my dear god is that Adam Levine?”

“Lauren! Come on!” the girls yelled at their blonde friend.

“But I’m his soul mate!” she moans.

“Okay Kaylie is right,” Payson says. “You really need to get a hold on yourself. We have to introduce a performance tonight!”

“Alright, I’m getting a grip,” Lauren assures them.

They take their seats, third row, front and center. Kaylie cannot believe that all the work she had put in at the Rock had finally paid off. She and her three best friends were sitting in between Carrie Underwood and Sara Bareilles at the American Music Awards where they had been invited to introduce P!NK’s performance. It was unreal.

“I love your dress,” Carrie says to Jordan.

“Thank you so much! I love yours too! And can I just say what a huge fan I am? I used to work out to ‘Before He Cheats’ all the time!”

“Seriously, that is one of the greatest things I have ever heard.”

“It’s got a great drive for the vault.”

“That’s what you took gold in right?”

Jordan nods.

“I watched you girls the entire competition, and I was rooting for each and every one of you. You represented America in such a bright, positive way. I think you are all so poised and amazing for being so young.”

“Thank you so much!” Kaylie says, as all the other girls also murmur their thanks.

Everything seemed so bizarre in this world of glitz and glamour. Inside, Kaylie wasn’t sure how she felt about it. As the lights dimmed her heart began to pound and she was vaguely reminded of a dim stage she once shared with a boy, a time when she was the performer, not the gymnast. Kaylie smiled at the thought.

Lauren and Jordan clutched Kaylie’s hands as the first performance began. Throughout the entire show Kaylie was mesmerized by the music, the speeches and the passion. When it was her turn to get up on the stage, her teammates by her side, she was more than ready to have her piece of the spotlight.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the announcer began, “Here to introduce the next performer are four members of the United States Olympic Gymnastics Team. Please welcome your Olympic gold medalists, Payson Keeler, Kaylie Cruz, Jordan Randall, and Lauren Tanner.”

The applause was deafening as the four of them walked out onto the stage hand in hand. Lauren was grinning from ear to ear, while Jordan and Payson looked around in disbelief, this was actually happening.

“Thank you,” Payson says beginning to read from the teleprompter. “We are so honored to have represented the United States this year in London.”

There is a roar of applause. The girls all nod in agreement.

Lauren continues, “Yes, and we are just as honored to be presenting this next artist who, in my opinion, would make a pretty good gymnast herself.”

“She flies around the room like a pro, and also has really, really great abs,” Kaylie adds. “I wish I had abs like that. They are crazy defined, like a statue or something. It’s nuts!”

“Anyway,” Jordan interrupts, feigning annoyance, “Please welcome to the stage, the amazing, high-flying, death defying---“

“P!NK!” the girls all yell in unison.

The lights go dark and the curtain is raised on the stage opposite the girls. They look on in awe as P!NK descends from the ceiling, sliding down two pieces of silky black fabric, and begins a modified version of her song “Sober”.

Kaylie was so wrapped up in watching the show that it took Lauren tapping her on the shoulder and saying, “Look at the guitarist,” for her to notice him. She couldn’t believe she almost missed him. How could she? What was he doing here, playing guitar for P!NK? Were Emily and the baby here with him? Kaylie had so many questions for him.

“How do I get to that stage?” she asks a security guard standing nearby.

“There are a series of tunnels that lead there,” he yells over the loud music and cheers of fans. “I can take you over there if you like.”

One perk of being an Olympic athlete is that people generally don’t question you. It’s like being in the military. People see you as some kind of symbol of America, and who would question that?

“Take me please.”

“Kaylie, where are you going?” Payson asks.

“I’ll meet you guys back in the seats okay? There’s something I need to do.”

With that Kaylie turns away and follows the guard down the hallway and through a series of tunnels until she is watching P!NK from the wings, watching Damon from the wings of the stage he is performing on. She didn’t see Emily anywhere, but that didn’t mean anything. Such a newly born baby would need to stay home, and if Emily was the only one to do it then that explained that. But Kaylie couldn’t help feeling like fate was on her side. Of all the places to see Damon again, she saw him here where all her dreams seemed to be coming together, making her ready to dream new dreams. She could finally tell Damon that the only dream she had really had for so long was to sing again, more specifically to sing with him.

As the last chord of the song rings through the auditorium Kaylie’s breath catches. This is finally it. She looks down at her light blue silk dress, brushing down the fabric nervously. Damon walks off the stage as P!NK takes her bows. As he passes Kaylie she almost loses her nerve.

At the very last second she yells after him, “Damon, Damon Young!”
He stops dead in his tracks and turns quickly. His eyes light up as he catches sight of Kaylie, like he can’t quite believe what he’s seeing.

“Kaylie!” he yells back as he runs over to her. Grabbing her with the arm that isn’t holding a guitar her picks her up and swings her around. Kaylie laughs loudly, half in surprise the other half in pleasure.

“I cannot believe you are here!” she yells. “You work for P!NK!”

“Yes! The last few months have been absolutely amazing! I got this great job, and I’ve been traveling all over the place on tour. It’s been a whirlwind! And now you’re here and--- I’m just so happy!” Damon hugs Kaylie again, tighter this time.

“I’m happy to see you too, and all of that sounds so amazing!”

“It really has been.”

“What about Emily? How is she? How’s the baby?”

Damon’s smile fades quickly.

“Damon, what is it?”

“Uh, Emily left me.”

“What?”

“We shared an apartment in Vegas that her aunt paid for us to live in. One day I came home and all of her things were gone, with no explanation. I went to her aunt’s house to ask what had happened, but she wouldn’t talk to me. I haven’t heard from Emily since. Not long after that my agent came through and got me this job so I had to leave.”

Kaylie couldn’t believe what she was hearing. This didn’t sound anything like Emily.

She cared about people with a fierce kind of love and protection that Kaylie had never really seen in anyone else. How could she have done this to Damon after all they had been through?

“Damon, I’m so sorry. Did she even let you know about the baby?”

Damon shakes his head, “But it’s better that way. It’s a clean break for me, and I can finally pursue the life that I’ve always wanted. I’m not a family man. I’m too… restless. But, enough about that, let me go put my guitar away, and then we can talk. I want to know everything you’ve been doing since I last heard from you.”

Kaylie smiles, but as Damon walks away she can feel it fade. She didn’t’ see any of this coming. He and Emily were not together. Suddenly she didn’t trust herself around him. She told herself she was just being paranoid. Damon had just had his heart broken by the mother of his child, and he wasn’t interested in anything other than catching up with an old friend. But, Kaylie couldn’t help but remember the look on his face when he had first laid eyes on her again. They were wide, happy, excited even, like he was exceptionally glad to see her. Kaylie couldn’t help take solace in those eyes, and hope that there might be a future in them.


DAMON

“So we finally all got to London after like three days of flights being cancelled and rerouted. Payson was frantic. We honestly thought we were never going to make it,” Kaylie says, finishing her story of the girls’ trip the Olympics in London.

Damon laughs, “That sounds like Payson. So you guys got there just in time, barely any down time, and you all medaled?”

Kaylie nods, “It’s really a miracle. But, we lived in the moment. Coach really emphasized how nothing else mattered at that point except a focused mind and the apparatus in front of us. It was good advice.”

“Clearly,” Damon replies. “So you medaled in what exactly?”

“I took gold on the uneven bars and bronze in the vault.”

“And everyone else, what did they medal in?”

“Payson took the all-around gold, and gold on the floor, Lauren took the gold on beam and the all-around bronze, and Jordan took the gold on the vault.”

“That is pretty incredible.”

Kaylie smiles, “Yeah, although if Emily still would have been on the team, I think she would have given me a run for my money on the uneven bars. She was always incredible.”

“She’s going to be as good of a mother as she was a gymnast, if not even better,” Damon says, and he means it.

“I still can’t believe Emily wouldn’t let you see your own kid. It just seems so unlike her.”

“Yeah, well, Emily has changed a lot,” Damon says and immediately regrets saying it. He didn’t want to lie to Kaylie. In fact she was the last person he probably had to lie to, but the lies just kept coming. Was this guilt? After all this time had seeing Kaylie dug up the feelings Damon swore he had buried?

You left.

You deserted your own child.

Damon pushed his thoughts as far down inside as he possibly could, and focused on the moment just like Kaylie’s coach told her to. Kaylie was here with him, and he could finally tell her the thing he’d been meaning to since the first time he’d seen her sitting in her mother’s studio.

“Kaylie, I don’t want to talk about Emily anymore,” he says grabbing her hand.

They had found an empty dressing room backstage to sit and talk in, and Damon was suddenly aware of how alone they truly were. No one would come looking for them behind an unmarked door. They could stay here forever, hiding away from the world.

“Okay, then what do you want to talk about?” Kaylie asks.

“Us,” Damon replies truthfully.

“Us? What about us?”

“I missed you, you know.”

“I missed you too.”

“My record company flat out refused to take me without you. Did you know that?”
“Damon I’m so sorry. If I would have known---“

“It isn’t your fault. They were looking for a certain sound, and I wasn’t it, but tell me this, are you done with gymnastics now?”

“What?”
“Are you going to train for Rio? Have you decided yet?”

“Well, no, I mean London just happened so we haven’t been in training as much, but I don’t think any of us have really given it much thought.”

“Look Kaylie, I love playing for a living, and these last few months have been a blast. But I don’t want to spend the rest of my life playing back up, you know?”

“And you shouldn’t either; you have way too much talent.”

“I guess what I’m trying to say is, I don’t think I can do it on my own. I need your help.”

“Whatever I can do for you, you know I’ll do it. If you need studio space or a good ear—“

“That’s not quite what I meant. Kaylie I want you to sing with me, for us to be a duo. I think we might have a real shot at something incredible together.”

“I had no idea that you wanted that.”

“Are you kidding?” Damon says trying to sound as sincere as he felt inside. “Kaylie there’s been some kind of empty space inside of me since we stopped making music. Even if the producers at my company would have wanted me, I don’t think I would have gone to L.A. without you. Nothing has seemed right since I left Boulder. I’ve been so confused and lost, even after getting this job.”

Damon sighs, hoping what he says next won’t scare her away, “The truth is Kaylie, nothing has made sense in really long time, but the minute I laid eyes on you tonight it felt like reality slapped me in the face and brought me back to what is true and important. You give me a reason to go on. And no one, not even Emily, has ever done that for me.”

She says nothing for a very long time, and he’s afraid that he has scared her. But then she starts to move closer to him, leaning her head toward his, and Damon’s heart skips. When their lips meet for only the second time ever, Damon knows that everything he just told her is true. He needs her to stay grounded. The rest of the time it feels like he is living in a haze of right and wrong, never quite able to make the distinction, never able to hold onto what it is he really wants for himself. Kaylie makes all of that perfectly clear.

They pull apart and Kaylie breathes the word ‘yes’ into Damon’s neck as she clings to him.

“Yes, what?” he asks her.

“Yes I am done with gymnastics, and yes I want to sing with you, and just… YES,” she kisses him again, this time without hesitating. This kiss is full of joy and happiness for the future, and Damon wraps his arms around Kaylie, never wanting to let her go.

Suddenly the door opens.

“Well, well, well,” a snide voice says. “Pay, Jordan, I found her. And she is not alone.”

“Lauren, what are you doing here?” Kaylie asks.

“You kind of disappeared. We were worried about you so I asked around, it wasn’t hard to find out where you went. You are an Olympic gold medalist you know, people notice you. Plus I figured you would be with Damon. I pointed him out and you bolted.”

Damon raises his eyebrows, Kaylie blushes.

“Kaylie, what the hell,” Jordan says rounding the corner and taking in the sight of her and Damon.

“Oh dear god, Kaylie,” Payson says. “Did you have to do this here? We had no idea where you went! Hello Damon.”

Surprised that Payson even cared who he was, much less that she would take the time to acknowledge his presence Damon mumbles a quiet hello.

“Come on Kaylie,” Payson continues, “Carrie Underwood invited us to an after party and we are obligated to show. You can smooch other people’s boyfriends later.”

“Uh, I’m no one else’s boyfriend, so let’s not accuse anyone of anything,” Damon says defensively, even though there’s no way they could know that he and Emily weren’t together anymore.

“What do you mean you’re no one else’s boyfriend? What about Emily? You left her? She is the mother of your child!” Lauren starts to raise her voice.

“Lo, calm down! He didn’t leave anyone,” Kaylie defends him. “Emily left him.”

“What do you mean Emily left him? She wouldn’t do that.”

“Well she did,” Kaylie replies. Damon sat there just thankful that he didn’t have to lie again, not that it felt any better having Kaylie do it for him, even if she didn’t know what she was doing.

Lauren still doesn’t look convinced, and Payson simply looks shocked. Damon doesn’t blame either of them. Emily is not someone who would walk out on anyone she cares about, that’s Damon’s M.O. But it was the story he came up with, and he was going to have to stick to it.

“God, Kaylie this is so like you, stealing everyone’s boyfriend ---“

“Me? Oh my god Lauren, get a grip please. Should we talk about Carter, or how about Austin, or Max? I don’t think you have any authority to speak on the subject.”

Lauren looks dejected, but says nothing. This was a first as far as Damon knew.

“Look I know you guys have decided to pick this moment to dig up the past and scream at one another,” Jordan interjects, “But we are at an A-List event and have just been invited to an after party by the winner of season four of American Idol. Now, are you seriously going to sit here being petty?”

No one replies.

“Well I’m not going to be a part of this,” Jordan says, and walks out of the room.

“I like her,” Damon says.

Kaylie smiles, and squeezes his hand.

“Come on Kaylie. We need to go,” Payson says.

Damon watches Kaylie carefully in this moment. She looks so impossibly torn between her life as it is now and the future she could have with him. He places a hand on her shoulder hoping it will assure her that whatever she chooses in that moment won’t make him care for her any less.

Kaylie takes a deep breath and says, “I’m not going. Damon and I have some unfinished business to attend to. I wouldn’t wait around. I’m going to be gone for a while.”

And with that Kaylie grabs Damon’s hand and leads him from the room and out of the Staples Center into downtown Los Angeles.

Damon didn’t think he would ever forget the shocked look on Lauren and Payson’s faces as they left the room, but Kaylie didn’t seem to be thinking about it at all.

“Where to?” he asks.

“I’m good with wherever, but you’re going to be there right?”

He smiles and intertwines his fingers with hers, “Count on it.”


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