"Perfect," she says. Before clapping her hands together which I’ve noticed is always what she does when she gets an idea. "Okay! This is what we’re going to do tonight. Let’s make a deal that we’ll just have fun. Not that I don’t always have fun with you, but tonight is ‘Happy Kira and Carter night’. What do you think?"
I’m pretty sure it sounds incredible. "Deal. Just one question, though—"
"Just one. I swear. I just want to know…did you decide if you’re going? To LA?"
Kira shakes her head. "No, I didn’t decide, now shh. Happy Kira and Carter night."
"Happy Kira and Carter night," I echo after her.
"So, what do you know about the girl Travis is going with?" Kira plays with one of the colored ribbons in her hair. I get out of the car, and run around to open her door before answering.
"Not much. She doesn’t go to our school. He met her at a party or something like that." I lock my fingers together with hers. "And I know she isn’t as beautiful as you."
Kira’s eyes dart to the ground, before she recovers, giving me one of her sassy looks. "I thought you haven’t seen her before, Coach."
"I haven’t." And then, before I look like more of an idiot by getting even sappier, I lead her toward the restaurant. We picked a little Italian place. The lights are dim when we walk in, those red and white checkered table cloths that I thought they only use in movies are lying across each table. There are candles at each one, which I hope will be bright enough to let the light glitter off her nose ring because…well, because it’s sexy.
"What’s up?" Travis waves his hand at us from the table. I hold in my laugh. Loser. He went with a tie. The girl sitting next to him is Asian. She’s tiny. Like practically microscopic. She’s pretty, though.
"Hey," I say when we get to the table, then pull Kira’s chair out for her. I take the seat next to her.
"Carter, Kira, this is Patrice. Patrice, Kira and Carter. Wow… I never said your names together before. They even start with the same sound. How cute!" Travis teases. I roll my eyes at my best friend.
We launch into conversation, Travis and I jumping into basketball talk and how much we rock. Patrice looks a little lost in the conversation. Apparently Travis hasn’t filled her in too much on his life.
"You can come with me to their next home game if you want," Kira offers and my eyes shoot to Travis. Hopefully he’s planning on seeing this girl more than once. He shrugs like it’s okay.
After dinner we take our separate cars with plans to meet up at the dance right after. All the dances except for Prom are held in the high school gym. Totally lame, if you ask me, but whatever.
"Travis seems different lately. Like he’s upset or something." Kira latches her seat belt.
"Yeah." She’s right. It’s because of his parents though. Not like I can give him shit for having trouble dealing with his parents’ split. "He’s going through a lot right now."
"You should spend more time with him. Might help."
My heart starts beating really fast all of a sudden. "Are you trying to get rid of me?"
Kira laughs. "No way, Coach, but he’s your best friend. He needs you. We’re always together. Aren’t guys supposed to be all ‘bros before hos’ or something like that?"
"You’re not a ho. You’re…" What is she? Okay, stupid question, but it kind of hits me all of a sudden. I know Kira’s different. That I like her in a way I’ve never liked another girl. She’s gorgeous and funny, and understanding, and… "Awesome." It probably has to be one of the stupidest things I’ve ever said, but I don’t know what else to say and now I’m sitting here contemplating my feelings like no guy ever really likes to do and it’s…
She laughs again. "You’re…awesome too."
"I know." I squeeze her hand when I say it, and then let go so I can pull into the parking lot. Saved by her declaration of my awesomeness.
The gym is dark except for the strobe lights and other colored lights they have hanging all over the place. There’s a deejay in the corner, playing some mix of Britney Spears or some crap like that. We look around for Travis and Patrice, but don’t see them, so I take a seat at one of the tables.
"Dance with me!" Kira calls over the music.
I look around, the image of her dancing at the party fills my brain until it’s all I see. Until the image of me trying to dance jerks into my head and fantasy-Kira trips over my feet as I try to dance with her. "It’s not a slow song…"
"Good observation." I’m sitting on top of the table, and Kira comes forward and steps between my legs, wrapping her arms around my neck. "Don’t tell me you can’t dance."
"Oh, no. I can dance." I lean forward and nuzzle her neck. "Just not well," I whisper against her skin. Kira shivers. Shivers! Goosebumps slide down her skin and I want to kiss every single little bump on her.
"That’s a tragedy." I’m still kissing her while she speaks and it’s making her voice all raspy. Totally hot.
"Not if we get to do this instead," I reply.
"Hey! Break it up before I have to give you two detentions!"
Kira looks up at the sound of Travis’s voice, forcing me to pull my lips away from her neck.
"You suck." I notice his eyes are a little red and glossy. I c*ck my head to the side, studying him.
"Patrice? Do you dance? My boyfriend won’t dance with me." Kira’s completely out of my arms as she talks to Travis’s date.
Patrice confirms and the next thing I know, Kira’s kissing me goodbye and walking away to go dance with Patrice. Travis falls next to me, onto the table. The second he does, I get an all too familiar whiff of alcohol. It shouldn’t be a big deal. It really shouldn’t. Travis has always drunk. Not all the time, but he parties once in a while like everyone else. He’s smart about it and I’ve never know him to drink before coming onto school grounds before. It’s not like either of us never break rules or anything, but the school is strict on this. If he gets caught, he’s off the team. He’ll probably get kicked out of school his senior year.
And even though he’s always partied from time to time, he’s been doing it a lot lately. It’s different. "Dude, are you drunk?"
Travis does a double take and then laughs. "Wow…you totally just sounded like my dad. Well, what my dad sounded like when he lived at home and could actually catch me if I did something."
My stomach starts to roll. "Hey, I know it sucks or whatever, but still. I mean, I’m not saying you can’t party, but don’t do it here. What about the team?" Carter’s stupid comment number two. Why aren’t I telling him not to drink at all? That it only makes things worse? That before he knows it he’ll be hiding bottles of alcohol in his closet and damaging everyone he knows?
He pats my shoulder. "There’s more to life than ball, man."
"No shit, but still. It’s up there. It always has been. You couldn’t handle it if you got kicked off the team."
"Then be quiet and stop talking about it so no one knows." He leaps off the table. "I’m gonna go dance with my date. You should be doing the same thing rather than trying to babysit me." Travis heads over to the girls, squeezing his way between them and wrapping his arms around Patrice, who doesn’t seem to mind. Kira backs up a little before turning and heading over to me.
"Hey. What’s wrong?" She asks, taking her position between my legs again.
I open my mouth to tell her, but then stop. Am I freaking out? Overreacting? I mean, how many people drink and have fun? Drinking before a dance doesn’t make him Mom. "Nothing." I hug her close to me, but can’t concentrate to continue where we left off a few minutes ago. Instead, I watch Travis across the gym. The familiar question hits me again. Am I doing the right thing? Should I say something? Do something? But then, why does it always have to be me. Why am I always the one responsible for everyone else? For one night, I just wanted to be free with Kira. Free to have a good time without any of the other shit and I’m determined to make that happen. Even when she kisses my ear before whispering, "Liar, liar pants on fire."
Kira and I spend the dance sitting on the table. We talk a little bit, but I’m watching Travis. He’s laughing with Patrice and having the kind of fun I should be having. They disappear every once in a while, but then find their way back to the floor dancing and laughing. I suck. I know I do because Kira deserves to be having that much fun, but instead, she’s stuck with me, who’s stuck babysitting someone else, hoping they won’t drink too much.
"Wow. Like the suit, Carter. You’d think you could at least try to dress up." Mel and Trina stand next to the table, two guys I don’t know with them. She’s all princessed-out, even wearing a tiara. What did I ever see in this girl?
"Since I didn’t come with you, I don’t see why you care what I’m wearing."
Kira’s hand tightens on my arm. "Plus, he looks gorgeous. You know, he has the kind of hair a girl loves running her hands through." There’s all sorts of innuendo in Kira’s voice that makes me want to cheer for my girl.
"Whatever. Excuse us while we actually go have fun at the dance. My date actually wants to dance with me."
I open my mouth to say something, not caring that Mel is now walking away from me because she’s not the one I want to talk to. "Shit. I’m ruining this, aren’t I?"
We’ve sat through all the slow songs. All the fast songs while everyone around us is free to have fun. "I’m sorry," I turn to her and say, hoping she understands where it comes from. "I want to dance with you. Have fun with you."
Before she replies, a slow song comes on. "Then dance with me, Carter Shaw." She stands up and holds out her hand. I grab it, leading her to a corner of the gym before pulling her close. So close that she couldn’t get closer without being a part of me. Inside me. Me inside her. Together.
Her hand plays in my hair. My hands rub up and down her back. And it feels good to be this close to her. So good that I’m pretty sure she feels the evidence of it against her stomach, but she doesn’t say anything so I don’t care. And I know this is supposed to be our night, but I need to be honest with her, too. Need her to understand why I’ve spent the whole night sitting at the table. "Travis is drunk," I mumble into her hair. My hands don’t stop moving, exploring and neither do hers. I feel her chest rise and fall against mine until our breaths are synchronized, like it’s a play on the court that we’ve practiced a million times.
"I wondered. I smelled it on Patrice too."
"He’s been partying a lot." I didn’t think much about it until tonight. I let it go. He told me about his parents and I just let it go, without trying to do anything.
"It’s not your fault." Her words counter my thoughts, trying to battle my demons into making me believe her, but I don’t. It might not be my fault he’s started drinking more, but it’s my fault for not trying to stop him.
Kira leans far enough away from me that we’re face to face. "I’m serious, Carter."
Instead of replying, I kiss her, needing to feel that closeness. Needing to feel like everything is normal. Seeing Travis makes me think about Mom and Grandpa until they’re all I can think about.
I part her lips with my tongue, and she lets me, kissing me back just as fiercely. It goes on and on and on. Maybe till the end of time, or at least until I feel like I could explode from it, but I keep going because this isn’t such a bad way to blow up.