those who love truly
are far apart and in between
but when they do show up
do consider it a fine win
Kayden’s grip on my hands was warm, a nice kind of warm that seeped through my bandages into my damaged skin. It distracted me as we walked into the diner, more so when we sat down in together in the same booth. His shoulders brushed against mine; I heard my heart in my ears; he hadn’t let go yet.
He grabbed the menu and parted it skillfully with one hand like he had done so several times. “So, what would you like?”
“Uh?” I looked down at the menu in front of me and just like that the spell was broken. I stared at our intertwined fingers—his tanned digits contrasting badly with the white bandages wrapped loosely around mine—up on the table for everyone to see. I raised my head and saw nearly all the customers in the dinner looking at us. They must have been wondering what sort of freak I was. Did they know what had happened? That I had hurt myself? Could they see it on my face?
I was sure they could.
“Kayden?” I used the menu to shield my face. “Could you maybe stop holding my hand?”
“Hm?” he looked at our hands and laughed. It was an awkward laugh, so unlike the hearty sound he had made in the streets. It was my kind of normal, something I could get used to. I sort of liked it. “I didn’t even realize I was still . . Sorry, I thought you’re hands would be cold.”
“Okay,” I tugged my hand into my lap the moment he let go. “Why are you sitting here instead of on the other side of the table?”
“This is the only free booth at the moment, and the Air Conditioning loves this spot for some reason. I was afraid you’d get cold and I have more layers on so,” Kayden explained, his eyes fixed on a point above my head. I was tempted to look but I didn’t.
So, you’re blocking the wind with your body and getting cold yourself. I nodded, accepting his selfless reasoning, and dug my nose deeper into the menu. “Do you come here often?”
“Not really? People say that I’m really observant.”
“Okay,” I replied not knowing what else to say. He was pretty observant. He had been the first person to notice me besides Arleen, and I didn’t think the me she saw was even who I was. Kayden had seen who I had been with one glance and that was the reason I chased after him. That was what led us to this point.
A waitress walked up to the table, disrupting the rest of my thoughts. I saw her from over the top of the menu. Immediately, I decided that I liked how the diner’s uniform, the red blouse and blue skirt looked on her. It was a nice combination of colors and she had the curves to pull it off unlike the other waitresses milling about who just let the uniform hang off them.
She smiled at Kayden. “Can I get your order, sir?”
“Yes, you can,” Kayden smiled back. “I would like today’s special. . .”
Then he turned to me and suddenly the lady noticed me as well. I noticed something flash through her eyes; it wasn’t pleasant. I shrunk into my half of the booth, a desperate need to disappear coursing through me. No longer distracted by Kayden’s warmth, I was more attuned feel the gazes on me. I could feel them burning holes through the pink shirt I wore. I should have changed before going out.
I shook my head, realizing that wasn’t the point. No matter what I changed into, no matter what color shirts I wore, they always knew, they always sniffed me out somehow.
Why had I agreed to do this? I never went out, I never left the house. There were rules in place for a reason. Why was I outside? In all my years of existence, I had never ventured anywhere that wasn’t on the path to school, and today, out of all the days, was not a good day to try and experience new things. What had I been thinking?
I got to my feet, twisting my fingers into the material of my shirt to hide that they were shaking. I couldn’t keep still, not when I knew I had made a terrible mistake. “Kayden, I have to go.”
He looked at me, confusion back in those kind blue eyes of his. He wouldn’t understand. He would ignore me. He would finally see— “Why? We just got here.”
“I don’t feel comfortable with you spending your money on me,” I picked an excuse off the top of my head, ignoring how his eyes narrowed at me in suspicion. I ignored it. I couldn’t let him know how terrified I was, but sitting here made me feel as though someone would leap up to steal my soul the moment our gazes met. He didn’t need to know about how people made me anxious.
He just needed to shift out of the way and let me—
“Okay,” he got up. My shoulders sagged as relief washed away some of my worry. The sooner I got home, the sooner I could pretend that I had never left in the first place. Maybe Mom would be too drunk to notice.
He grabbed my hand again and gave me another one of his charming smiles. “Let’s go.”
My eyes widened as I stared at him in surprise. That hadn’t been what I meant. “What?”
“You obviously don’t like it here, so let’s go somewhere else,” he said to me then turned to the waitress. “We’ll be leaving now. Thank you for the wonderful service.”
Even if I had lived under house arrest since I was born, I would have recognized Kayden’s sarcasm. He was being rude to the lady. Why?
I didn’t have the chance to explain things to her. Kayden had started walking out the diner already and our hands were still connected, I had no choice but to follow him.
When the door shut behind us and we were back in the winter wind, I looked at him. “Why did you do that? She was clearly interested in you.”
“I saw how she looked at you,” Kayden said. “Did you think I would turn a blind eye to it?”
Thank you, but I’m used to it. “But what does that have to do with you?” I tried to think about what his intentions were. “She probably just wanted a date or something and she was jealous that I was sitting next to you.”
Kaden sighed and patted my head twice. “You really are too pure for this world.”
I stayed silent. I didn’t understand what he meant so I couldn’t give any input. I could only listen.
“Let’s go,” Kayden said, and I knew my chances of slipping away were getting slimmer and slimmer.
I pulled my hand out of his. “I. . . I need to go home and put on some clothes.”
Kayden regarded me for some moments and I stayed still, barely breathing. Did he catch on to my lie? Does he know that—
“Okay,” he said at last and put his hands inside his pockets. “I’ll be here waiting for you.”
And that only served to make me feel like a terrible person.