Travis’s voice sounds strange. And I don’t know about the forever part, but I at least figured we’d stay together through high school. "Huh? You’ve never said that before."
"It’s just… My…" He shakes his head like he just changed his mind about something. "This is our last year in high school. Do we really want to spend it getting bitched at for everything? I mean, it’d be different if I, like…but it’s not like that. I just want to have fun, ya know?"
I have no idea what he’s not telling me, but I totally get what he is saying. It’s not like I thought we’d be one of those go-off-to-college-together couples. Or that we’d get married one day. Have the 2.2 kids or however the saying goes. Don’t ask me how you can have .2 kids, but whatever.
Still, we have fun. At least, we used to. When I pictured my senior year, I pictured the four of us. We’ve been a constant for a year now.
"I’m not saying you should do the same," he says. "But I just wanted you to know. Didn’t want it to come out of nowhere."
This shouldn’t come from nowhere, because we’ve both been fighting with the girls a lot recently, but it does. It does because as weak as it makes me sound, even though I’m jealous as hell he’s going to do this, I don’t know if I can do the same. Mel will freak and as hard as she is to handle lately, I can only imagine how much hell it would be to deal with a broken-up-with Melanie. All I want is one piece of my life that has no drama and I can’t even get that.
Before I can reply, the second bell rings, making us late for English. We make a run for it, my mind tangled with thoughts of Mel, Mom, English, and Kira.
Practice is ruined by Mrs. Z’s voice in my head; every play I want to call out is overpowered by her lecture because I didn’t turn in anymore late assignments. Unfortunately, she’s not the only person copping a squat in my head. I have Mom on one shoulder, needing my help at the store. Getting upset when I question her about her douchebag dad. Even if she weren’t whispering in my ear, I’d be worried about her. It’s never a good day when she has to go see him, but knowing Sara will be home takes some of the worry away.
The crappy part is, it doesn’t stop there. Mel’s sitting on the other shoulder, alternating between being the calm Mel who helps make me forget, and then images of her with Devin keep popping up behind my eyes. The fact is, I realize I’d be pissed, but I wouldn’t be hurt. I’d almost be relieved. It’d be one less direction to be pulled. One less person who wants something out of me.
Right now, I could do with a little less "Carter, I need you to" and a little more, "Carter, do what you need to do." Hell, maybe even a little, "Carter, do you need help?"
By the time I rush to the shop after practice, I’m in an even worse mood. Yanking my backpack out of the truck, I slam the door and head inside. There are a couple customers, but Mom’s still here so I sit at the little round table by the front counter, where Sara does her coloring and Mom eats her meals. It’s kind of hidden because it’s shorter than the counter the register sits on and it’s on the opposite side as the door.
The only problem is on the other side of it is a spinning wrack of homemade bookmarks, jewelry, and weird little animal carvings that a lot of people come in to buy, which means pretty often there are nosey people looking over my shoulder while they’re shopping.
Luckily, no one is standing at it today.
Even though I’d really like to put my head down and take a nap, I pull out Mrs. Z’s English stuff. It’s numero uno on ‘Carter’s list of crap to do’.’
Without paying attention to anything else, I try to make myself concentrate enough to figure out what happened in the play we’ve been reading. All the ’twas’s,’ ‘eth’s’ and rearranged words (I see, not see I) make no sense to me. Why the hell can’t the guy just say what he means? It’s like he writes in code so you have to try to decipher ever little word. Me and deciphering Shakespeare don’t mix.
"Oh! Carter, I didn’t see you come in." Mom steps up beside me. "I’m heading out. Bill has Sara, but I’m picking her up after I go see Dad. We’ll probably be home around the same time as you." Her voice sounds light, but I hear the stress behind it. Hear her nerves at going to see her dad, who’s only going to give her crap for trying to help him.
"I still don’t get why you’re going." Even though it will upset her, I can’t stop myself from saying it.
Mom sighs. "Because that’s what you do, Carter. You take care of your family. Like it or not, he’s my dad."
My eyes snap toward her. Take care of your family? Yeah, I get that, but at least Mom deserves what I do for her…right? "Whatever."
She presses a quick kiss to my forehead. "Thanks for helping, kid. See ya tonight." And then she’s gone.
Yeah, my day was great. Thanks for asking.
Leaning on my elbow, I try to focus on my homework again. It’s probably not even two seconds later when footsteps head my way.
"How ya doing, Sleepy?" Kira stands next to me, wearing something different than she had on at school. It’s a black dress. Not short, not long. Okay, maybe a little long since it goes right past her knees. I swear this chick has multiple personalities or something. I’ve known her less than a week and she’s been dressed like a hippy, a Catholic school girl, Mel, and now…I don’t even know…it’s not a real style, but it doesn’t fit the other looks either.
But I don’t have time to worry about that right now. "Fine," I mumble and look at the book again, hoping she’ll get the clue.
She sits across from me. The store is quiet so I’m assuming we don’t have any customers right now. "How was practice?"
Annnd she has to ask the one question I would normally want to talk about. "Fine." Eyes on the book, Shaw.
"You okay? You’re not your usual sarcastic, cocky self."
Without moving my hand from its position propping my head up, I look at her. She wants me to take the bait, but I’m not going to. English. I’m here to focus on English and not get into another word war with her. So, even though I want to comment on the cocky thing, I don’t. "I’m fine."
"Hmm," is her reply. I try. God, I try to leave it at that, but I can’t.
"Hmm? What’s that supposed to mean?"
"I just didn’t take you for a liar."
Hmmm, I want to say. Shows you how much you know. I’m the best liar there is, but then that would be telling a truth that I’m not willing to tell. "I’m not lying. I’m fine."
"Liar," she says again and smirks.
I’m caught in this weird place where I want to tell her where she can stick it, but I suddenly wants to kiss her, too. "I’m ignoring you." Great. Now she makes me sound like I’m eight.
"Liar, liar pants on fire."
Maybe we both suddenly hit a time warp or something. "How old are you?"
"Eighteen. Actually, I’m lying, I’m seventeen. You’re rubbing off on me. Or maybe I’m not really lying and I’m not exactly sure how old I am. Could be seventeen, could be eighteen." Kira shrugs.
"Did you forget to take your medication today?" I’m sitting up now, trying to figure out if this girl is really crazy or not. If I like it or not. "Everyone knows how old they are."
"Whatever you say, Sleepy." She stands up. The ceiling fan blows the edge of my book, reminding me of all I have riding on this crap in my hands. Anger wins my internal war.
Whipping my head to face her, I grit, "I don’t have time for this. I have a shitload of homework to do or I’m going to flunk English and Mrs. Z will take away the only thing I have that I actually want to do. Play games with someone else."
Kira looks at me a minute and I realize how strange her eyes are. They’re brown, but almost the lightest brown I’ve ever seen. Like they’re swirled with yellow or something.
"Okay… You want to know what I made, Sara?"
Holy random subject. Did she not just hear what I said? "What?"
"I’ll leave you alone. You finish your work—all of the work you’re supposed to do tonight and you can know what it is. If not…you’ll always wonder. It will drive you crazy just because you don’t know."
The bell over the front door rings while I’m still trying to process what she just said. Somehow, it’s kind of what I need. I open my mouth to tell her it’s a deal, but like always, she’s already walking away. "Hi, can I help you find something?"
"Do you need a ride home or anything?" I ask.
Kira hands me the keys to the store. It’s crazy how I’m feeling a little electric right now. Like I should have at practice today if all the other stuff hadn’t ruined it for me.
"Nope, Lana’s picking me up." She still hasn’t asked me if I finished my work and I’m waiting for the perfect time to tell her. Yep, that’s right. I won. It’s the most work I’ve gotten done in one night in I can’t remember how long, but there’s no way I would let her get me on that one. Now, I just have to hope it’s right. But I’ll save that hope for tomorrow. For tonight, I won.
"Who’s Lana? Sister?"
Oh. "Oh." Wow… I’m smooth. "I mean, cool."
Kira looks at me and laughs. "If you say so."
Leaning against the wall, I cross my arms then realize I’m smiling. I’ve never known anyone like this girl before. "Aren’t you going to ask me?"
"What position do you play? How’d you know I’ve been meaning to ask you that?"
A laugh kind of jumps out of my mouth. "I really think there’s something wrong with you. Have you ever considered getting yourself checked?"
"Aw, come on. You know you like it when a girl wants to know what position you play. What is it? Short stop? Full back?"
"Umm, those aren’t basketball, but good try. I’m point guard and you know that’s not what I meant."
She groans. "Fine. Did you finish all your homework? Happy now?"
I smirk at her. "Yes and yes." Which means I won, I want to tell her. Ha! You made a bet and I kicked ass. Now you have to tell me what I want to know. But that sounds lame, which I realize I might be, so I don’t say anything.
A car pulls up to the street. "That’s Lana. Good job on the homework. Catch ya later, Sleepy."
"What?" I push off the wall. "I don’t think so. You said I could know what you made Sara!"
I have to yell, because she’s already walking away.
"You can!" she calls back.
How? Unless she has some telepathic power I don’t know about. "Then you kind of have to tell me."
"I never said I’d tell you. I just said you could know. Ask your sister. I never got around to telling her not to show you anyway." Kira smiles, gets in the car, and closes the door. Her taillights are gone before I stop watching.
She played me. I totally got hustled by Kira.
And I like it. I don’t know what it is about her, but she gets to me. Mel should get to me like this, shouldn’t she? Even in the beginning, I don’t remember her ever making me feel…well, I don’t really know what it is, but like this. All smiley and giddy like a thirteen-year-old girl meeting Justin Bieber or something.
Realizing how late it is, I run to my truck and jump in. I need to get home before Sara goes to sleep.
When I get home, Mom and Sara are just finishing dinner.
"There’s pizza in the kitchen for you, Carter. Sorry I didn’t have time to cook." Her voice is tight, but normal. Sara’s here, so of course it doesn’t smell like a bar in here. Mom’s voice doesn’t hold a shadow of her drinking voice.