Chapter 9: The Cute New Boy
“So… what were you two doing?” Sophia asked without even trying to suppress her grin, her eyes switching between the two of them. Gabriela opened her mouth to explain before Kyle made it sound like something that was not, but he was faster again.
“I was just walking Gabriela home on my way to our volleyball team’s meeting. She mentioned she was working late and it didn’t feel right to let her walk by herself at night.” He said with the most charming smile. His overly confident act from before, like when he claimed she’ll definitely fall in love with him, had disappeared and now he looked almost timid.
“Oh, my, that’s so sweet of you.” Sophia laughed, glancing towards Gabriela who was struggling to keep a straight face. “But what’s this meeting you’re talking about? Are you both going?”
“No, she said…” Kyle started, but it was Gabriela’s turn to interrupt him.
“Mom, where are the triplets?”
Her mother looked at her for a long second as if trying to figure out what she was talking about, then waved with her hand.
“Oh, they are with your grandparents tonight. Hugh fell asleep and the other two were quietly playing, so your grandma offered to keep them there for tonight. I’ll go get them tomorrow morning.” Her mother replied quickly, relief sweeping over her face. “Which means we can do whatever we want tonight. I think I’m going to finish a whole bottle of wine by myself!”
“That’s great, mom. Let’s go inside then.” Gabriela said, grabbing her arm. She glanced at Kyle, who was standing a few feet away and their eyes met. “See you at practice.”
“Wait!” He called just as they were about to go through the door. Her mother turned at once. “Mrs. Howell, I hope you don’t find this inappropriate but I have a request. Please let Gabriela come to the gathering tonight. Both girls’ and boys’ teams are gathering to eat pizza at Johnny’s and she is the only one who said she couldn’t come because she had work to do. So now that it turns out she is free, can she come for a bit? I promise to walk her back to the door so you wouldn’t worry.”
Her mother turned to look at her daughter, raising an eyebrow.
“You didn’t tell me you had plans for the evening? I would have come to close the cafe in your stead.” She said in an accusing tone.
“It’s fine,” Gabriela mumbled. “I’ll go next time.”
“Nonsense.” Her mother snorted. “Kyle, please come wait inside while she gets changed.”
“I don’t…” Gabriela started, but her mother dragged her through the corridor, pulling her impatiently all the way to their door. Gabriela waited for her to find the right key while trying to ignore the imposing presence behind them. Her mother waited for them to enter then ushered Kyle into the living room, apologizing a few times for the mess and the toys lying everywhere.
Gabriela took that time to slip away into her room, throwing her bag on the floor and starting to undress. Her mother strode into her room a minute later, not even bothering to knock. Gabriela jumped in surprise, pulling her shirt to cover herself.
“Knock damn it!” The girl growled, throwing her shirt on the bed.
“Why are you so jumpy? Did you expect Kyle to enter your room?” Her mother grinned, stepping towards the wardrobe and opening it.
“Of course not.” Gabriela snapped.
Her mother stared at the empty space inside the wardrobe then her eyes stopped on the boxes by the wall. She glared at her daughter.
“Don’t tell me you haven’t unpacked even your clothes.” She said with indignation. “Now everything will be crumpled!”
“I’ll just put on a t-shirt,” Gabriela mumbled. “I wasn’t planning on going anyway.”
Her mother stopped with a hand on the door handle, staring at the white wood before turning to look at her daughter over her shoulder.
“Wait here.” She said then disappeared into a corridor. Five minutes later she returned with an armful of clothes which she dropped on the bed with a grunt. “Okay, let’s find you something to wear.”
“What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?” Gabriela asked, looking down at the dark jeans and a shirt she had put on while waiting for her. Her mother just snorted then started rummaging through the pile. “If you take out a dress, I’m not going.” Her mother let go of the clothing she was holding, going through the pile again. “Here. Put that on.”
Gabriela studied the clothes for a second - a pair of black pants and a white tank top then took them and started undressing.
“So… who really is this cute boy? Did you get a boyfriend already?” Her mother asked as Gabriela was pulling her shirt over her head.
“He is not. He is just on the boys’ volleyball team.” Gabriela answered curtly, jumping into the pants and pulling them up. It was convenient that she and her mother were about the same size - they could share clothes and shoes any time they wished and it saved them a lot of money. If only it was for her mother’s obsession with puffy clothes and revealing blouses, they could literally wear the same things.
“Is that all?”
“I don’t know anything else about him.”
“He is really handsome.” Her mother pointed out with a sly smile.
“I have eyes,” Gabriela mumbled. “But I am not interested.”
“He seems interested.”
“Well, that’s his problem,” Gabriela grumbled, slipping into the blouse. It was made of light, but thick material that fitted her chest tightly, leaving part of her shoulders bare. Gabriela stared at her reflection in the mirror for a second then tried to take it off, but her mother wrapped her hands around her and squeezed, stopping her from moving.
“Don’t you dare change it!” She threatened. “After giving birth to five children I know I will never wear something like this so make your mother happy and wear it for me. You look great!”
“This is tighter than my volleyball uniform.” Gabriela pointed with annoyance.
“You need a better point of comparison.” Her mother laughed, letting go of her. “But I’m serious. T-shirts are fine and all, but wear something different for a change. You have a nice body and a pretty face. There is nothing wrong with dressing up. See? It doesn’t even need to be a dress.”
“If you want to play dress-up, use Julie. She is too small to say no,” Gabriela said but didn’t try to change again. She grabbed her jacket, slipping it on and leaving the room before her mother insisted on adding makeup on the mix. Her mother marched after her, almost running to catch up as Gabriela peeked into the living room, her eyes stopping on Kyle. He was sitting on the sofa between two small piles of toys, looking around as if he had woken up on an alien spaceship.
“Let’s go.” She said and he immediately looked at her, getting to his feet. He took a step towards the door and something squeaked, forcing him to look at the rubber rabbit that he had stepped on. “Mom, I’m leaving. Go to bed early.”
“You can wear my shoes.” Her mother offered generously, waving towards the black heels that were sitting forgotten on the top of the shoe locker ever since she got pregnant and her feet started swelling.
“No, thanks,” Gabriela replied without hesitation, slipping into her tennis shoes. “Kyle, are you…?” She called, turning around to find him behind her, already done with his shoes. “Ok, let’s go.”
“It was a pleasure meeting you, Mrs. Howell. Goodnight.” He said, shaking her mother’s hand again. Her mother looked so charmed that Gabriela could imagine her looking through wedding dresses for the rest of the night.
“Goodnight. You’re welcome to visit anytime, Kyle.”
Gabriela caught him by the arm and pushed him in front of her through the door, closing it in her mother’s face. She heard him chuckle as he descended the stairs, but when they stepped outside he looked more content than amused.
“Today turned out better than expected.” He said, looking at her. “Come on, we’re late.”
She held back her sigh this time and followed him back the way they had come from. They didn’t talk much on the way, too busy hurrying all the way back. Kyle mentioned that they had changed the time to nine o’clock so they were only forty-five minutes late by the time they reached Johnny’s.
Gabriela hesitated outside the door, but he patiently waited for her until she finally followed. A wave of cheers and excited voices greeted them as Kyle stepped into the small restaurant and a few of his teammates even came to meet him at the door. It looked like their two teams were the only customers tonight, taking more than half of the tables in the restaurant.
“Why are you so late, Captain?” Theo’s voice rose above the others as he came closer, patting Kyle on the shoulder. “We almost thought you stood us up. And you weren’t picking your phone either.”
“I found a lost kitten on the way and brought it here.” Kyle laughed and finally stepped away from the threshold where he was blocking her from view. Everybody’s eyes moved down to her as if seeing her for the first time.
“Hi.” She said drily, glaring at Kyle. Kitten huh? Where did the sweet, polite guy go?
“Shortie?” Theo finally spoke, his eyes widening. “Damn, you look so different with your hair down.” Gabriela stared at him, dumbfounded, then raised her hands to tie her hair. “No!” Theodore shouted the same time Kyle and a few others she didn’t know did.
“Leave it down,” Kyle said, leaning over and whispering in her ear. “Come, let’s say hi to your team and eat. I’m starving!”