When the final bell rang, I was the first one out of the classroom. I walked past everyone, staring down at my Black All Star Converse shoes as I made my way to my locker. Grabbing the books and my binder, I moved quickly towards the exit, still trying to shove everything into my bag as I walked. When Mr. Blue Eyes himself left school, I would be the first person he’d see. I parked my butt on the stone railing and waited, not taking my eye off the door until someone calling my name pulled my attention elsewhere.
“Kai! Hey Kai!” Kayla said stumbling over, panting, “Dang dude. You move too fast.”
“Hey,” I nodded over at her, then continued my staring contest with the door.
“Whew. So, what’s the rush?” Kayla asked, still breathing hard, “Your first day wasn’t that bad, was it?”
“Hmmm,” I replied, barely listening, “Sorry. What?”
“I asked why you were in such a hurry, is all,” she reiterated, nibbling her lower lip.
“Just… Waiting for someone,” I said, only daring to look at her for a moment.
I watched as students filed out the door in cliques, a few loners scattered here and there, but I still hadn’t spotted him yet.
“Where he?” I muttered under my breath, forgetting Kayla was there for a moment.
“Someone I need to talk to,” I said, glancing at her in annoyance. Why was she bugging me?
“You mean that guy that you were talking about earlier?” She pressed, not letting it drop.
“What is he, your crack dealer or something?” Kayla teased.
“What? No.” I turned to face her with a scowl on my face, still trying to keep an eye on the door while I did so. “What’s with the third degree anyways?”
“Sheesh, grumpy. I was curious,” she grumbled, her eyes narrowing as she adjusted her backpack onto her shoulder.
“I’m not grumpy,” I huffed, “I told you, I’m waiting for someone.”
“Yeah well, you don’t have very good social skills do you? Just forget it,” she grunted, wiping her eyes before stalking off.
“Crap,” I ground out through my teeth. As if I didn’t feel bad enough as it was, “Kayla. Wait!”
She slowed her steps, looking back at me over her shoulder. The hurt on her face caused a deep twinge of guilt to twist my gut. I hurried to catch up with her, throwing one last glance at the door before I threw an arm over her shoulder.
“I’m sorry. My cast is driving me crazy. I’m in a new school. Now this guy keeps appearing and disappearing on me, which is annoying, “ I began to explain, “Can you forgive me
She sniffled, seeming to consider my request, “Yeah. I guess that’s understandable.”
“Thanks you’re the best,” I grinned, causing her to blush again.
“Wanna hang out? Get a tour of the town? Maybe a bite to eat?” She cast a hopeful glance my way.
“Sure, sounds like a plan,” I smiled, “You’re a good friend.”
The slightly devastated look on her face caught me off guard for a moment, but I didn’t want to pry.
“So, uh,” I tried to keep the conversation moving in a more positive direction, “What should we do first? Do you have much homework?”
She started to laugh, “I’m kind of a nerd. I already finished my homework in my classes.”
“Wow,” I raised my eyebrows, “I’m impressed. I thought I was the only one who did that.”
“Really? Awesome, something in common already,” she smiled, punching me ion the shoulder.
“Ouch, what was that for?” I let go of her to rub my shoulder.
“Isn’t that what friends do?” She widened her eyes.
What the heck is her deal?
“Is it what you do with your other friends? Do you go around punching and harassing them, too?” I joked, poking her in the waist.
There was a fleeting sadness in her eyes before she looked away, “Ummmm. I don’t really have friends.”
“What? Why not?” I asked, incredulous.
She lifted one shoulder, kicking a rock. “I wish I knew,” she spoke so softly, I had to concentrate and lean in to catch what she said.
“Hmmm,” I didn’t know how to respond to that, change of subject, “Hey uh, let me text my mom real quick to let her know the plan, ’kay?”
“Hanging out with a new friend. Be home by six, if that’s okay.”
“Sounds fine. See you for dinner.”
“You’re welcome, sweetie. Have fun. :)”
I closed my phone and looked over to catch her watching me, “So….”
“Lead the way. Other than my home, I have no idea where anything is around here.”
“Oh. Right,” she chuckled, her cheeks turning pink, “Follow me, then.”
Kayla showed me the small market, the five bars, six churches of different denominations, the modest library, the rundown movie theater, the bowling alley and the park. There wasn’t a whole lot to see if I was being honest, but it was nice to walk around and crack jokes without judgment.
“So, I think I’ve pretty much shown you all there is to the town.” She laughed, sitting down at the park bench, our last destination of the tour.
I sat down next to her, “Wow. It’s...it’s...quaint. Is that the right word?”
“Quaint? It’s tiny! It’s like living in a shoebox, under a microscope, with people watching your every move.” She threw her hands up in the air dramatically.
“I’m sure it’s not all bad,” I chuckled, “So, tell me about you.”
“I’m not that interesting, I promise,” she ducked her head, drawing in the dirt with the toe of her shoe.
“There’s not much to tell.” She shrugged, then peeked up at me through her swoop bangs, “What do you wanna know exactly?”
“I dunno. Tell me about your taste in movies. What you do for fun? What you want to be when you grow up? What your family is like?”
“Uh wow. That’s a lot of questions. Let’s see. I love horror and sci fi movies. For fun, I read. I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. And...my family is messed up,” she rushed out quickly.
“All families are, though. What’s wrong with them?” I turned towards her on the bench, trying to catch her eye.
“Umm, I don’t really want to talk about them right now. Is that okay?” she grimaced like she was in pain.
“Fair enough. Anything you want to know about me?”
“Yeah a few things…” she hedged with a mischievous grin.
“Like what? I’m a pretty open book. Ask away,” I grinned back, hoping she wouldn’t ask anything embarrassing.
“Well, same questions you asked, plus one,” her face reddened again, peaking my curiosity.
“What’s the plus one?” I raised my eyebrow at her.
“Unh uh. After, you answer the others first.”
“Okay, but why?”
“Because, I might change my mind. Just, answer the other ones first,” she giggled.
“Alright, alright. I love alternative rock and old music, all music really. We’ll just say my taste is eclectic and leave it at that.” I laughed and she smiled, “As for movies, horror and sci fi too, I love crazy ideas and gore. I like to skateboard, play games, watch movies, hang out, draw. Man...when I grow up, I want to be a video game designer or something. Anything to do with art, once my arm heals anyways. As for my family, my mom is great. I’m an only child. So, I don’t have to share things. You got siblings?”
“No, uh, no siblings exactly,” she muttered, her voice sad and wistful, “What about your dad?”
“How about we save talking about him for when you tell me about your family? He’s a bit of a sore spot for me,” I stared at her and her eyes started to tear up, “You okay? Something I said?”
“No it wasn’t you. I’m okay,” she sniffled, offering a small smile.
“Did you lose your nerve?” At her questioning gaze I smirked, reminding her, “The other question you wanted to ask me.”
“Oh, that.” She pressed her lips together, turning beet red before releasing a nervous giggle. “Do you, um, have a girlfriend?”
“Oh,” I said, surprised at the question, “No. I don’t have a girlfriend.”
“Ah,” she said before leaning in to plant a quick, wet kiss on my lips, catching me off guard again.
“Whoa,” was all I could manage to say after she pulled away. I wanted to wipe it off, but I figured would hurt her feelings.
“Oh my god. I’m so sorry. I can’t believe I did that!” She covered her mouth and recoiled in horror.
I touched her shoulder lightly, “It’s okay. It happens.”
“No. It shouldn’t have,” she brushed my hand off, avoiding my gaze, “You’re new and I shouldn’t have thrown myself at you like that. I mean I practically attacked you. Like an animal. What is wrong with me?”
“Kayla. Don’t worry. We can still be--”
She jumped up, her neck and face lobster red, “I’ve gotta go. I’ll uh...yeah I just gotta go.”
As she ran off, I sat there watching her with my mouth open in shock. I didn’t even know what to say. I felt like she ambushed me in a way, since there was no precursor or warning to what just occurred. I mean, I supposed there was because she asked me about a girlfriend, but no way did I think she was going to kiss me.
“What the heck was that?” I mumbled, shaking my head as I got up, staring after her.
Blowing out a deep breath, I shrugged and shoved my hands in my pockets, leaving the school grounds at a snail’s pace. I played the kissing scene in my head as I walked home in a state of disbelief. It got me wondering what I had done to give her the impression that I wanted her to kiss me. I had a hard time remembering where to turn to get to my street. I’m pretty sure I wandered by the same tree three times before finding the right way home.
Maybe I’m just overthinking things again.
“Mom? I’m home,” I called out, dropping my bag on the couch.
“Hey honey. How was school?” she called from the kitchen, banging stuff around.
When I went to investigate, she was standing on her tiptoes trying to get a plate, “Here, Mom. Let me get that.”
“Curse your tallness,” she laughed, grabbing silverware, “Thanks.”
“Anything else I can help with?” I said, setting the small table for two.
“Nope. All done,” she grinned, her voice full of pride since she didn’t usually cook.
“What time do you have to go in tonight?” I wondered aloud.
“I don’t. I have the night off and I’m not answering the phone if it rings,” she said setting the rolls on the table, but we both knew that if she was called in, she’d have no choice but to go.
“Cool,” I said, waiting for her to sit down before I dug into the meatloaf, fragrant roasted potatoes, buttery crescent rolls and corn on the cob. “Yum. Thanks.”
“No problem. I know we don’t have dinners together very often. This is nice, don’t you think?”
“Yup,” I agreed through a mouthful of food.
“So, you never said. How was your first day?”
“It was interesting,” I shrugged, shoveling more food in my mouth.
“Oh yeah?” she said taking a sip of milk, “Interesting how?”
“Um,” I swallowed, drinking some of my water, regretting bringing it up, “Well. That friend who was giving me a tour of the town today? I think she has a crush on me, even though we just met.”
“You think so?” she quirked up an eyebrow, “How can you be sure?”
I rolled my eyes at her, “She kissed me. Out of the blue. For no reason.”
“Oh wow and what did you say?” she cut another bite, watching me carefully, but trying to appear nonchalant.
“I didn’t get to say anything. She ran off,” I furrowed my brows as I looked back on that moment.
“Okay. So, what would you have said?”
“I’m not sure. How do you tell someone you’re not interested without coming off as a jerk?” I looked at her intently, wiping my mouth with my sleeve.
She paused, her fork mid-air as she pondered my question, “I don’t know. I guess you just say it as gentle as possible.”
I nodded, putting down my fork, “Yeah, I suppose.”
“Why aren’t you interested in her? Is she hideous or something?” she resumed eating, taking a big bite of the roll.
“No. She’s attractive enough. Just…” I trailed off.
“She’s not my type, I guess,” I shrugged, playing with my food.
“What is your type then?” She raised her eyebrows at me, an amused grin on her face, taking another bite as she waited for my answer.
I took a deep breath and dove in, “I think I like boys.”