“Hello? Yes this is he,” I said answering a call on my cell from an unfamiliar number, “Oh sure! That would be great, thank you. Okay see you then. Bye.”
“Who was that?” Preston asked with his brow furrowed.
“It was the Taco Stand here in the mall,” I said, putting my phone back into my pocket.
“The taco stand called you? Why? Did you order some food?” He salivated, rubbing his stomach.
“No dude, it’s called Taco Stand, like that’s the name of the company. Anyways, they called to ask me to come interview Monday for a job.” “Ugh, you have to get a job?” Preston asked with his nose wrinkled.
“No, I want to get a job. To earn money for myself,” I said, not wanting to get into the logistics of why I wanted a job. That felt like a betrayal of my mom’s trust somehow.
“Okay. Cool, cool,” Preston said, “Can we bail on the mall? I’m starving now.”
“Yeah sure. It’s a little after two and I have to be back home by three anyways for my appointment. I’m so excited to get this stupid cast off finally.”
“Awesome, because I’m just kind of over this mall already. Aside from the store Kayla was in, I haven’t seen much of anything I’d be interested in looking at. I’m not really much of a mall guy, I guess,” Preston said with a chuckle.
I laughed, “No, I get it dude. I’m not really into the mall either. I mostly come here to kill time and to say hey to Kayla.”
“And I get that. She’s a pretty cool person.”
“Yes she is,” I agreed as we started to leave.
“Hey, Gimpy, who’s your friend?” I heard a snobby voice say.
“Hey there...Ashley. This is my friend Preston,” I said, not caring what her name actually was.
“It’s Delia,” her posse snickered as she stood up a little straighter and narrowed her eyes at me in contempt, then she softened her gaze as she looked back over at Preston. “Nice to meet you Preston. Are you new here as well?”
“Nope, just visiting my bro here,” he said, squeezing me to him with a one arm hug.
“Awesome. You should come to my party tonight,” Delia said, handing Preston a flyer, “It’s going to be off the hook. You can bring, Gimpy if you want to.”
“Uh, yeah. Maybe. I don’t know. We have plans with a friend.” Preston shrugged, putting the flyer in his pocket as he turned to me, “Do you think Kayla would come?”
You would have thought someone had slapped her by the way she reacted, “Do you mean my step-sister, Kayla? That one?”
Preston’s eyes bugged out slightly as he turned to look at me, “Whoa. Dude. That’s her sister?”
“Yes it is,” I said with a chuckle that I covered up with my hand.
Delia sniffed before replying, “She will be there, yes.”
“Give me a sec,” Preston said, pulling me to the side, “What do you think? Wanna go?”
“Not particularly. Kayla was coming over to the house anyways. I’m not too big on parties,” I said, lifting my shoulders in a slight shrug.
“Come on, dude. It’ll be fun,” Preston begged, “I haven’t been invited to a party in a long time.”
“I don’t know, man. Hanging out with her isn’t my idea of a good time, you know?”
“Yeah. I get it. I do, but I want to party. My parents never let me do anything. Your mom works tonight right?” I nodded, “Well? Why not then?”
“For the record, I only get to do things because I don’t tell my mom about it and she works a lot.” I rolled my eyes and then groaned, finally relenting since I wanted to show him a good time, “Okay yeah, sure. We can always bail if it’s lame.”
“Right,” he said to me, then turned to Delia, “We’ll be there.”
“Great!” she said with a little too much squeal in her voice as she twirled her necklace, “See you there, then.”
“Awesome,” I said lamely.
“Later,” Preston added with a wave as she walked off with her crew, “Dude, why are you hating on that chick?”
“Because she’s rude and she’s mean to Kayla, that’s why.”
“Oh. Well shoot, hope this party is fun anyways,” Preston said, a little less enthused.
“Well, let’s get you home so you can quit being called Gimpy. What’s with that nickname anyways?” Preston laughed.
I rolled my eyes and shrugged, “I have no idea. I guess in reference to my cast. She hates me for no reason.”
“Tell me about it.”
“How does it feel?” Doctor Cho asked after taking off my uncomfortable cast.
“Weird,” I said, flexing my fingers, “But good.”
“Is there any pain?”
“No. None whatsoever,” I said with a surprised laugh.
“That’s such a relief,” my mom said, chuckling herself.
“We need to do some quick stretches and such to make sure everything’s copasetic, okay?” Doctor Cho said with a blinding smile. I don’t remember his teeth being that white last time. He must have had some work done.
“Alright,” I agreed, letting him bend my hand and fingers this way and that, testing for any level of uncomfortableness.
“Everything seems good to go, but if you notice anything strange or painful, give me a call, okay?” Doctor Cho said, gathering his things to leave.
“Thank you Doctor,” my mom said politely.
“Yeah thanks, Doc,” I mumbled, in awe of my healing powers as I stared at my hand in wonder. I was like a superhero. Okay, well not really, but still.
“Have a good day, you two,” the doctor said as he left.
“So, how does it feel?” My mom asked with a big grin.
“Great. I can finally do some sketching. I’ve missed you hand,” I said with a smile as I kissed it.
“Come on you. Let’s go get Preston from the waiting room and go home. I’m still surprised he didn’t come into the room with you. Doctor Cho said it was fine if he did so.”
“He has this irrational fear of hospitals. He thinks they are the breeding ground of germs and death,” I said, laughing softly.
“Wow, okay. He may be on to something though,” she said as we passed several sickly people coughing.
“Oh my god, finally. The people in this waiting room are total germ bags,” Preston exclaimed in a whisper that was less than quiet, which elicited irritated glares from everyone in the room.
“So, what do you two want to eat for dinner tonight? My treat. I’m not working tonight, thank god,” my mom said with a relieved chuckle, looking more relaxed than I had seen her in days.
“Oh?” I asked as Preston and I exchanged a look, “I thought you did work tonight.”
“They hired someone new a couple of weeks ago. That’s part of the reason why I was working longer shifts. I was training them.”
“Well, Pizza sounds good,” Preston said happily, giving me a look that said to shut up.
“Yeah, totally,” I agreed as I cast him an annoyed glance.
Mom laughed, “Okay, Pizza it is. Although I wouldn’t have minded a chicken caesar salad either.”
“Gross,” I said making a face and laughing.
Preston shrugged, “Salads ain’t that bad.”
“Wait. Are we leaning away from pizza then?” I said, eyebrows raised.
“Not at all, sweetheart. I just wish you would eat more variety, is all.”
I wrinkled my nose, “What’s so wrong with eating what I like?”
Preston laughed, “Dude don’t make this a thing. You eat a lot of pizza is all.”
“Well pizza is great. Besides, aren’t tomatoes a vegetable?”
“Fruits actually,” my mom chimed in with a chuckle.
“Well, whatever. I’m getting my fruits in, add a vegetable and it’s a rounded out meal right?”
“Sure, sure,” mom said as we all laughed at that.
While my mom looked for the pizza flyer in the mess of papers on the counter, Preston nudged me and whispered, “Hey, what time does Kayla get off work?”
“I don’t know, like now? Why?”
“We’ll have to sneak out to Delia’s party.”
“Oh. Right. Well, she said she’d text,” I said, checking my phone, “Crap. I guess my phone was on silent for the hospital. She already texted to say she was off work, like ten minutes ago.”
“Are you all supposed to hang out?” Mom interrupted and I nodded, “Well heck, invite her over.”
“You sure?” I asked, surprised.
“Sure, why not? There’s going to be plenty of food and it’s not a school night. I can drive her home afterwards.”
“Nice,” Preston exclaimed.
“Sweet, thanks mom.”
“Sure kid. I’m going to go order the pizza. Any preferences?” she said as she dialed the pizza joint.
“I’m good with whatever. Preston?”
“I eat anything. I’m not picky.”
“Okay,” she said to us and then walked into the other room, away from the television to talk whoever was taking the order, the conversation muffled.
“Text her. Now dude,” Preston said gripping my arm.
I slapped him away, “Dude relax. Texting her now. Why are you being so weird?”
“I’m not,” he protested loudly as I texted Kayla.
“Hey. Sorry, phone was on silent. Do you have any plans tonight? Want to come over for dinner? We’re having pizza.
“There. Texted,” I said, hitting send.
“What did you say dude?” he said, trying to read over my shoulder.
“Crap dude, chill. I asked her to come over for pizza,” I said with a frown, annoyed he was more focused on spending time with Kayla than me.
Preston sighed loudly and rubbed his nonexistant stubble, “You’re right. Sorry. I never usually get this hung up about a chick. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
“You’re obsessed,” I chuckled, teasing him.
He started to protest, but my mom walked in and he shut his trap pretty quickly. Thank goodness. He was beginning to drive me insane.
“Okay, pizza is ordered,” my mom said clapping her hands together, “Want to watch a movie with dinner? It should be here in a half an hour.”
“Sure, let’s watch a movie. There’s some new stuff added on Netflix that we could check out,” I pointed out.
“Sounds good, kiddo. Let’s go find something good to watch. Is Kayla still coming over?”
“I dunno. Speaking of Kayla, there she is now,” I said as my phone buzzed, alerting me to a message, which read:
“Oh hey, no problem. It happens. I’d love to. Just need to change and then I’ll be right there, okay?”
“Well?” Preston asked, looking sheepish as my mom looked at him strange.
“She says you’re gross and she can’t come over,” I said point blank.
His mouth dropped open in shock, he looked devastated, “Wha-What? Seriously? I thought she liked me?”
“Dude. I’m joking!” I guffawed, causing my mom to giggle.
“Jerk!” He said, shooting me daggers.
“She’ll be here soon,” I said through my laughter.
“Sweet,” Preston said as his face immediately relaxed, leading the way to the living room.
“Are you okay, sweetie? You seem a little bummed,” my mom asked when he was out of earshot, slinging an arm over my shoulder.
“Yeah. I guess so. I don’t know what my deal is,” I said, shaking my head.
“Do they have some sort of a thing going on?”
“Kayla and Preston?” I blinked.
“Yes, seems like it,” I said with a shrug, not sure what she was getting at.
She licked her lips and spoke carefully, “I think I know what’s up then. Could you maybe be a little jealous?”
“Of Kayla?” I said, standing up straighter, saying indignantly, “No way. I’m not into him like that.”
“No, of their relationship in general. I mean, he’s here to see you, but now he’s starting something with your new friend. You’ve got to feel like a third wheel, right?” She asked gently.
“I don’t know. Maybe,” I shrugged, knowing she was right but not wanting to admit it.
“What’s up guys? I was talking and then y’all weren’t there,” Preston asked, peeking his head around the doorway to squint at us.
That was the doorbell. You totally thought I was calling my friend a ding dong didn’t you? Rude.
“Kai, would you get the door, hon? Preston, come help me set the table for four please.”
“Yes ma’am,” Preston said reluctantly, looking like he’d rather be the one to greet Kayla.
“I told you to call me Hannah,” I heard my mom begin to tell him, their voices sounding muffled as they grew further away.
As I swung the door open, I understood my mom was right through and through, but also knew she didn’t even know the half of it. I wanted someone who was practically a figment of my imagination and it was killing me slowly, but I can’t exactly tell anyone that.
“Hey Kai,” Kayla said, greeting me in a warm hug.
“Hey,” I said softly as I hugged her back.
Standing, no floating, behind her was Jude, looking at me despondently, his eyes an icy shade of blue. He watched us hug longingly, like he wished we were the ones hugging. I knew then he was feeling exactly the same way that I was. When his eyes met mine, the sadness I saw in them overwhelmed me and I couldn’t help repeating in my head that it wasn’t meant to be.