Chapter 8: Candi...
I walk into my house and hear voices coming from the kitchen. I was too busy being pissy, so didn’t even notice any extra cars outside. I round the corner and immediately squeal, running over and damn near tackle hugging my mom. My dad gets the same treatment. They’re both laughing at me.
I pull back and ask, “What are you guys doing here?”
My dad speaks up, “Really Candace? Like we were really letting our children move away from us and NOT coming to see the place?”
I immediately start feeling guilty, but my mom hugs me again, “Now, none of that. You did the right thing. You got out of all the crap that was hanging over you. You get to start over and be happy.”
My mom is like an older version of me, only shorter… and no dread locks, of course. My dad, on the other hand, is built like Cam… with a bit of a paunch. He mostly sits behind a desk all day. They’re both dressed pretty casual, in jeans and T-shirts. Of course, that’s usually how you’ll find them when they’re at home. My parents are awesome and down to earth.
I look over at Cam, “Did you know they were coming?”
He grins and shrugs, “They mentioned the possibility when I told them I was moving here with you.”
“So, basically yes.”
His grin gets bigger, “Surprise!” The jazz hands have me laughing and forgiving him.
My mom speaks up, “Now… I want to see everything and go shopping while we’re here.”
I make a face, “I don’t really know where to take you shopping around here. It’s a really small town, Mom.”
“Well, we’ll just figure it out. Why haven’t you gotten out and explored? That’s not like you.” Shit. She looks worried. I can’t tell her what’s been going on… not unless I want to be guilted into moving home.
I shrug, “Just been busy around here. We had a few things that needed to be done. I’ll get out some soon.” I pause, “Since you’re here, we can explore together.”
She completely lights up, “I’d love that. Now, show me around.”
I take her through the house, pointing out all the things I love about it, including the circular part of the porch. I still haven’t gotten my patio furniture to go out there. My dad and Cam are following us around, so I turn to them, “I really want to put something out here but it’s too much to get in my car. Ya’ll think we can go get it while we’re out today?”
My dad stands there grinning at me, until I finally ask, “What?”
He laughs, “Turning into a southerner already?”
Cam points out, “You said ya’ll.”
I roll my eyes and go on with my tour. I avoid the basement. I have no intention of ever going down there again. My mom oohs and aahs over the kitchen, pointing out how much she loves the cherry wood cabinets and the huge farm house sink, which makes me preen, since I picked them out myself and had them installed.
Once they’ve seen everything but the basement and attic… which I still haven’t found the access to, even though I know it’s there since I can see the window for it from outside… mom suggests we all get ready and go out for lunch. I head to my room and shower really quick. I sweated quite a bit out in the woods, especially when Kieran left me by myself and I got freaked out, so I really need it. Clean skinny jeans and a red slightly dressy tank top has me ready to go. I don’t bother with makeup. It’s too hot, anyway. It’ll just melt off. As I go out of the room, I slide my feet into my beige sandals with little red jewels on them.
I’m driving my car, with mom in the passenger seat and dad, Cam and Chris following us in Chris’ truck. He showed up as we were about to leave and they invited him along. When my dad started asking me where I wanted to get the patio set from and if they delivered, Chris immediately offered to drive his truck.
Mom reaches over and picks up one of my dreads, “Honey, why white?”
I take a deep breath, trying to come up with something on the fly. I can’t even begin to give her a good excuse, so I just shrug and say, “I don’t know. I just wanted something different. I saw it in a magazine and thought I’d give it a try. Don’t worry, though, I’m probably gonna dye it back next week. I set up an appointment to get the dreads taken out and I was thinking of fixing the color then, too.”
“Why?” When I glance over at her in confusion, she continues, “Why are you taking out the dreads? They fit you and you love them.”
“I don’t know. Just…” I shrug, “Every time I see it in the mirror, it reminds me of that stupid video. He hated my hair like this, talking about how everybody stared at me when we went out. Now, I see what he meant. Everyone that knows anything at all about that video can point me out from a mile away with this hair and my tattoos.”
“Honey,” She reaches over and puts a hand on my shoulder, “All the more reason to keep it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your hair is one thing that you’ve always clung to as your own. You share everything with Cam and almost everything with everyone around you. You’ve always been so over the top generous and helpful. You’d give up body parts to help someone else. But, your hair…” She shakes her head, “That’s one thing you always claimed as untouchable. That idiot made it a point to put you down for it on a regular basis, but you stood strong against him. Don’t let him make you change who you are when you’re finally away from him.”
She’s right. I know she is. But I’m so sick of everyone knowing who I am and making assumptions about me. Obviously, it followed me here, since Kieran saw the video, and it won’t be long before everyone around here starts assuming I’m a slut. I don’t know if I’m strong enough to go through it again. Granted, I do live out in the middle of nowhere, but I’d like to have the choice to go out in public and make friends.
We pull into the parking lot of a steak house and everybody piles inside. When we’re seated, I’m put between Chris and Cam. There’s plenty of chatter amongst us all, with my parents wanting to know everything we’ve done since we left New York, and then updating us on what they’ve been doing. Once we’re done eating and getting ready to head back out, I announce that I’ve got to go to the bathroom. I stand in there for a bit, just staring at my reflection. In a way, I can see myself having a bob cut. In another way, though, I completely agree with my mom. I don’t want to try and change who I am. Not for some douche bag that threw a tantrum when he didn’t get his way. It was an epic tantrum, but a tantrum, nonetheless.
As I’m drying my hands, I push my way out the bathroom door and immediately bounce off something hard. Right before I hit the dirty floor, hands grab me around the waist and pull me back up against a body. I look up and I’m face to face with Chris.
He nods, a little grin quirking up one side of his mouth. My eyes get stuck on that grin. I don’t realize I’m staring or that I’ve licked my lips, until he groans and tightens his hands on my waist.
“Candi, you can’t look at me like that.”
I jump back like he has the plague and start babbling, “Oh, God, Chris, I’m sorry. Th... thanks for, um, saving me. Sorry. I’m gonna go, um, go back to the car.”
I run out of there like the hounds of hell are chasing me. What the hell was THAT? I mean, yeah, I always thought he was hot. And I’d definitely have gone there if I hadn’t been in a relationship when I knew him. But, he’s never given any indication that he felt the same. Is it just because I stared? That’s a depressing thought. Once I’m away from him, though, I remember Kieran. We never said we were in a relationship, but I was JUST kissing him.
God, maybe I AM a slut. But, thinking back to that kiss in the woods… I can’t bring up any feelings for him. It’s all very vague in my memory. Is that because of Chris? Jeez, I have no idea. But, right now, I don’t want Kieran at all. Hell, I’m not even mad at him anymore. He’s just a guy I met. That’s all the feelings I have for him. Which makes no sense because I DO remember that the kiss made me feel like I was on fire while it was happening. Shouldn’t I be able to at least get a portion of that feeling now, when he’s not around?
When we get to the store that I wanted the patio set from, my parents veer off from us to look around. It’s starting to get late and they wanted to see as much as possible before we head back home. We don’t really have stores like this back home, so I guess they’re enjoying it.
I find myself walking alone with Chris because we lose Cam to the video game department. Guess I’m gonna end up with game systems set up in my living room. Oh joy. I feel weird around him now, though. I’ve noticed him before, obviously, but he’s always been just my friend. The person that was there for me anytime I needed him. Now? All I can think about is what his lips would taste like. They look firm and soft at the same time. And his breath always smells like mint chocolate from those little breath mints he always has on him.
I shake myself out of it when we get to the patio furniture. Walking around and looking at them all a second time, I think I’m going with the round top table, to match the circular, almost castle turret-like, area on the porch. The top looks like a pale pink quartz and it has wicker chairs with it, with white cushions covered in peonies.
When I point it out, Chris raises an eyebrow, “Trying to make it girly?”
“Well,” I shrug, “I have to fight the testosterone you and Cam are trying to put in my house somehow.”
“Huh? What’d WE do?”
I clear my throat, “You do realize Cam’s in the video game department, right? He’s probably gonna walk out of here with every system he can get his hands on, along with massive amounts of games for them. Where do you think all that’s going? Can’t turn the basement into a man cave because it’s full of crap and the guest rooms are actually going to be outfitted AS guest rooms. In fact, while we’re out today, I’d like to get furniture and stuff to put in the ones that are empty. Especially if my parents are staying for a few days. You’re staying with us, so they can’t go in your room.”
“What about the attic?”
“Can’t find access to it.”
“I’ll help you look for it later, then. Maybe Cam can set up his “man cave”, as you call it, up there.”
I shrug, “Works for me. I honestly don’t mind the stuff being in the living room. I’m just happy he’s staying.” I look around for a minute, “Do they not have employees?” We’ve been standing here talking for a few minutes now and I have yet to see a single other person over this way.
“I need somebody to help me get this.”
“I’m here to help you, Candi.” He looks offended.
“They may not want me to take the display one, though.”
“Oh… good point. I’ll find someone.”
While Chris is off to places unknown in the warehouse like store, I wander around, looking at a few of the other products. This place is seriously huge. They have a little bit of everything, including a grocery section. Chris finds me standing in the middle of the pharmacy, staring at vitamins.
He snaps his fingers in my face, “CANDI!!”
I start blinking my eyes, feeling like I’m just waking up, “Huh?”
“You alright? I’ve called your name like 10 times already.”
“I’m fine. Sorry, I must have zoned out.”
He reaches into the basket that I didn’t realize was hanging on my arm, pulling out a jumbo size bottle. “Prenatal vitamins? Something you wanna share?”
I laugh, “You’d have to have sex to get pregnant.”
He shakes the bottle in my face, “Then why are you buying these?”
Honestly, I have no answer for him. I don’t remember picking up the basket, much less putting stuff into it. But, I have that bottle and several other types of vitamins in there. The way my mind is working lately, I’m starting to feel like I’m going crazy. My seemingly newfound feelings for him make me want him to see me as NOT insane, though, so I rack my brain for an answer.
Remembering something I read once, I reach over and pluck the vitamins from his hand, putting them back in the basket, “Apparently, women should start taking these whether they’re preggers or not. I figured I’d stock up, since we live so far from town and all. Plus, you all keep talking about how it snows up here in winter. Maybe I want to make sure my house is weather ready with supplies.” Yeah, it probably would have been simpler to just put the things back on the shelf and pretend that I picked up the basket on accident… or maybe that it was in the middle of the floor and I didn’t want anyone to trip over it. But… for some reason I can’t make myself do that. It’s like I WANT to put them down, but I CAN’T.
Thank goodness Cam walks up because that little crinkle in his brow tells me that he’s about to ask more questions and I honestly can’t remember WHY women should take those damn things, just that I read it in a health magazine once upon a time.
Cam is pushing a buggy damn near overflowing with electronics, as I knew he would be, and stops right in front of me, “You guys ready to head out? I got what I need and they have your patio set waiting up front for you.”
Chris turns to him, “No, she wanted to get some bedding stuff for the other bedrooms.” Looking back at me, he says, “Why don’t I go get another buggy and we’ll get that taken care of now.”
I just nod at him and watch him walk away again, my eyes dropping to his ass and how well it fills out those jeans. When the hell did he get so hot? I normally don’t even LIKE bearded guys, but his is short enough to make me want to rub my palms on it and feel how bristly it is. I’ve only had one serious boyfriend and he turned out to be a mega douche. At the rate I’m going, though, I’m gonna blow through every guy in my vicinity… the ones not related to me, anyway. Shaking my head at my weirdness, I follow behind everyone else.