The next day was even weirder. I woke up early from a dreamless, restless sleep, to discover that I was still alone on the couch. I must have fallen asleep there. My stomach growled, so I decided to make some breakfast. I usually made breakfast on my mom’s days off, which was rare, because she liked my eggs the best. I grabbed the supplies I needed, blasted some alternative rock music and got to work. I figured that if the music didn’t bring Preston out of hiding, then the smell of bacon cooking might do the trick. I was right. It didn’t take too long before a half awake Preston drug himself out of the guest room. He was grinding sleep out of his eyes as he walked into the kitchen.
He rubbed his scruffy, wild brown hair that was sticking up every which way and squinted at me, “Dude. What’s with the loud wake up call?”
“Sorry. I always play loud music when I cook,” I said, hiding a sly smile since he was talking to me again of his own free will.
Preston yawned and plopped down on a bar stool at the kitchen island, “Since when do you cook?”
“Since always,” I answered, flipping the pancakes and the bacon, the eggs were done so I turned off the burner.
“Weird. I never knew that. Is there any coffee?”
I cast a sideways glance at him as I started to plate the hashbrowns and eggs, “Since when do you drink coffee?”
“Since always,” he said, repeating my answer with a shrug and a small smile, “Plus I didn’t sleep well.”
I bit my lip to keep from asking whether it was because of what I said. I added the finished pancakes and bacon to our plates, setting them on the island with the silverware and syrup. I poured some orange juice for both of us, started coffee for Preston and placed a bowl of fruit in the center of the island.
“Coffee will be done soon,” I said, not commenting on the loss of sleep because I didn’t want to start anything this early.
“Don’t you want to know why I didn’t sleep well?” Preston eyed me warily, watching me put the pans and cooking utensils in the sink and wipe off the counter while the coffee brewed.
I stopped cleaning up and turned to him, rag still in hand, “I do. I didn’t know if you wanted to talk about anything yet. I know I kind of bombarded you with the whole sexual preference thing.”
“It wasn’t so much that. I mean, I’m not like weirded out about it or anything. I’m surprised is all. It was kind of a random time to tell someone something important like that.”
“I know. I’m sorry. I couldn’t hold it in anymore,” I said, putting the rag on the sink faucet to dry and hovered near him, too nervous to sit.
“And you said it in front of some strange girl. One I was trying to impress by the way, since you insisted you weren’t together,” Preston added with a smirk and a wink, digging into his breakfast. “Dang. You can actually cook. How did I not know this?”
“My bad,” I chuckled as I leaned my back against the island, “The food’s good then?”
Preston nodded and smiled with a mouth full of food, “Yes. Way better than my mom, but don’t tell her I said that.”
“I won’t,” I said, pouring him coffee and handing him sweetener and a spoon.
“Sit. Eat,” he said, pointing to the seat next to him with his fork, “You’re making me nervous.”
I smiled and sat beside him, shoveling food into my mouth while I admitted, “I didn’t realize how hungry I was. I was nervous about talking to you.”
“Don’t go getting all girly on me now,” he said, smacking me on the back.
I swallowed my food and grinned, “You got it.”
“Cheers,” said Preston, raising his orange juice glass.
I clinked my glass with his, glad we were still talking, “Cheers.”
After we finished breakfast, Preston helped me clean up and then we got into a pretty heated game of Zombie Wars on the Playstation 4. We had done some pretty extensive damage to the zombies before my mom finally woke up and came downstairs some time after noon.
“Morning boys,” my mom said with a yawn, stretching as she came downstairs, “Any breakfast and coffee left for me?”
“Morning Ms. Bishop,” Preston said with a small wave and a flirtatious smile, “You look amazing first thing in the morning.”
“Dude. Ugh, don’t hit on my mom,” I said to him, glancing over at my chuckling mom. “Coffee is stale by now, but the leftovers are in the fridge.”
“What? Your mom is hot,” he said in a loud whisper, causing more laughter from my mom and more hardcore eye rolling action from me.
“Thanks kiddo,” Mom said to me with a smile as she ruffled my hair. Then turned with a more serious expression, although amused, to Preston, and raised her coffee cup at him. “And you, need to hit on someone your own age. Not that I’m not flattered, but still.”
“Sorry. Can’t help it,” Preston said raising his eyebrows up and down at her.
She snorted, “You’re a goof. Not to mention, it’s a little inappropriate.”
“Age ain’t nothing but a number, Hannah,” Preston said with a shrug.
“Gross,” I muttered.
“Okay. It’s Ms. Bishop to you. You two, get out of here,” she waved her hands in a shooing motion, “It’s nice today, for once, go enjoy the sunshine.”
Preston opened his mouth, probably to say something sarcastic, but my mom stopped him, pointing her finger towards the door.
“Out. Now,” her tone was serious, but her expression was humorous, “Just be back by three for your appointment, Kai.”
“You’ve got it mom.”
“Your mom is so bossy,” Preston said as we walked out the door, closing it behind us, “But I like it.”
I made a face, sticking out my tongue, “Seriously, stop. That’s so disgusting.”
“What’s the matter? Don’t want me to be your step-daddy?” Preston laughed.
“And you went there! When did you become a player?”
He slapped my arm, “I’m messing around. Chill dude.”
I smacked him back much harder, “Wanna head to the mall?”
“Sure. Do you think Kayla would want to come?” He asked, trying to appear nonchalant as he shoved me.
I snorted as I shoved him back in a rather wimpy attempt, “Naw man. She has work today.”
His face fell and he kicked a rock, “Well that sucks butt.”
I grinned smugly, enjoying torturing him, “But she has a job at the mall and she’s working right now. So we can still see her as long as we pretend to be customers.”
“Nice! You could have led with that jerk face,” Preston said, punching me in the arm that wasn’t already hurting.
I grimaced, grabbing my arm, then grinned, chanting, “Worth it. Totally worth it.”
“Hey guys. What’s up?” Kayla asked brightly when she saw us together. She was stocking some shelves with band t-shirts.
“My mom kind of kicked us out,” I told her, my hands in my pockets.
“So, we thought we would come say hi,” Preston said to Kayla and she turned to him, her gaze lingering on his a little too long.
“Ah, I see,” she said glancing at me and flicking her eyes back at his green ones, “Well I’m glad you did.”
Preston smiled slowly at her, “Yeah me too.”
I rolled my eyes and smiled, annoyed, but amused, “I’m glad you two get along and all, but do you have to do that in front of me?”
“Do what?” They both said in unison, turning towards me.
“You guys have been making goo goo eyes at one another since I introduced you. I’m not blind,” I said to them both.
Kayla turned pink and looked at the rack she was stocking, “Oh. Sorry Kai.”
Preston chuckled, not looking the least embarrassed at my crassness, “My bad dude. Can’t help it. You’ve got good taste in women for someone who doesn’t date them.”
“Shhh, my boss is coming over. Be cool,” Kayla whispered even as she blushed, trying not to look at us as she focused on her task at hand.
A tall, twig like girl with purple braids and a nose ring came over, looking only at Preston as she spoke, “Is there anything I can help you boys with?”
Preston didn’t catch the flirtatious innuendo as he flashed a glance at her, “No thanks ma’am. Your employee here has been helping us out just fine.”
She narrowed her eyes and scowled with her fuchsia lips at from being called ma’am, not looking too much older than us, “Alright. Well if you need anything, let me know.”
“Thanks. Will do,” I said, chiming in.
She ignored me and sashayed away. She looked back over her shoulder once before finally giving up on impressing him and going back to what she had been doing before. Both Kayla and I burst out laughing as Preston’s one eyebrow cocked up at us.
I looked at him perplexed, “Kayla’s boss has the hots for you.”
“What?” he said, looking over at the lady with skeptical eyes, “No way.”
“Dude. For someone so cocky, you sure are oblivious.”
“For sure. I haven’t seen her throw herself at a guy in such a long time,” Kayla said with a smirk, her eyes sparkling as she winked. “Her boyfriend dumped her and she’s single if you’re interested.”
Preston looked back at Kayla to see if she was serious and smiled, shifting from side to side, “No thanks. She’s not really my type.”
“Yeah?” Kayla said, eyeing him carefully, “She’s not bad looking and she’s eighteen.”
“But you were just hitting on my mom,” I pointed out, making Kayla laugh, “She’s way older than that chick.”
“I like shorter girls with purple streaks,” he flirted, ignoring my comment and looking at her while putting his hands in his pockets.
“Oh. I see,” Kayla said as she bit her lip, her cheeks pinkening further.
“Okay. So, we’re going to go now,” I said pushing Preston out the door, “We’ll see you later tonight?”
Kayla laughed and waved, “Okay, sounds good. I’d best get back to work before Lulu murders me for slacking.”
“Oh my god, her name is Lulu?” I snickered.
Kayla bit her lip and nodded, “Yup. I’ll text you after work.”
“Hey, what about me?” Preston asked, acting offended.
“Kai can give you my number. I have to get back to work. Later,” Kayla said with a wave and a grin.
“Bye,” Preston and I said as I continued to push him out the door, “Dude, what gives?”
“You guys were making me nauseous.”
“What? Why?” Preston scoffed, putting his hands up.
“Oh come on. You can’t be that oblivious, can you?” I chuckled.
“All right. You got me. I like her. What of it?” Preston said, trying to sound tough as he puffed out his chest. What a gorilla.
“You’re both my friends. If it doesn’t work out, I have to hear about it,” I pointed out, “From both sides.”
“Oh. I didn’t think about it like that,” he winced.
“Exactly,” I nodded, then added with a sigh, “But it’s good y’all found one another. I kind of feel like a third wheel around you guys, though.”
“Sorry bro. You’ll find someone,” Preston said, slinging his arm over my shoulder.
I wanted so badly to tell him that I thought I already had, but I knew he would think I sounded crazy. Then, I felt like a loser because I had a thing for someone I could never be with. Why did I have to like someone who wasn’t even alive? I looked up to see Jude watching me over by the fountain with curious eyes. He waved at me, but when I tried to walk over to him, he shook his head as he shimmered away, becoming part of the air. What?
“So, you think she likes me then?” Preston asked in a hopeful voice as we walked around the mall.
I laughed, I couldn’t help it, “You would have to be blind to think otherwise.”
“That’s so great,” Preston said and then let out a lungful of air in a whoosh, ”Sucks I’m only here a couple of weeks.”
“Maybe you could convince your parents to move…” I trailed off, knowing even as I said it that it was an impossibility.
“Don’t I wish. I miss you bro. I realized after you left, all the other guys I hang out with are jerks. Like, they never listen to my ideas. It’s annoying,” he nudged as we passed the bookstore, “You seem to be adjusting well though. Are there any good prospects here for you?”
“Missed you too,” I said nudging him back, “Maybe, but I don’t think it will work out.”
Because he’s a ghost.
“Just...trust me. We’re from two different worlds; it’s not meant to be. Some things aren’t. No matter how much you want them to work out,” I said with a sigh, knowing this was a truth that I was going to have to accept sooner rather than later, if I didn’t want to end up with a broken heart.