fiction friday: four.
∼ Fourth installment of… [I know it’s corny but it works. Trust me.]
[Parts 1, 2, 3: Blue 1 – Blue 2 – Blue 3]
Two weeks earlier…
Kate kicked her old swing and watched it sway back and forth. She loved that her parents never took the swing set away. Every visit brought her back to her happy childhood. But she wasn’t especially happy now.
When Sara joined Kate outside, Kate paced toward her mother.
“Katie? Are you okay?” Sara asked.
“Yeah. But… Mom? God, what is wrong with men?”
Sara laughed. “Oh, honey, if I knew the answer, I’d be a very wealthy woman.”
“I just don’t understand him. Michael and I were together for almost two years. And he suddenly needs to be alone for a while?”
“I don’t have the answers. But he will regret letting you go.”
“Mom, you have to say that. You’re my mother.”
“I’m also right.”
The sun began to set and the breeze brought a chill to the air. “It’s getting cold, Mom. Let’s go inside. We can cook dinner together.”
“I already have a dinner date.”
“You’re funny,” Sara shook her head. “You know very well he’s far too much of a perfectionist to leave the studio this early.” Kate did know. And she admired her dad’s talent and dedication to his art. “I’m going to Jill’s for dinner. And you’re coming with me.”
“Jill would love to see you. And the boys are home. You can catch up…”
Kate missed spending time with her best friend. For as long as she could remember, he was there. But over the last couple of years, since his band got signed, she wasn’t able to see him as often. But they talked. Always. Almost every day, even if just for a few minutes. And he teased her almost as much as he did when they were five.
“So he’s going to be there? Oh, Mom, I don’t know if I can handle seeing him right now.”
“What, honey? He’s your best friend.”
“But you know he’ll tease me. I’m not sure I can handle that right now. Not with the whole Michael thing…”
“You smile when he teases you. I’m sure that’s why he does it. I know it makes you happy.”
“I don’t know, Mom.”
“We don’t even have to tell them about Michael. You can talk about it when you’re ready. Get your jacket. We’re going.”
Kate sat near Sara and Jill, completely distracted, barely aware of them. Why am I anxious about seeing him? Mom’s right – he’s my best friend. Des. Des and Katie… inseparable since, well, birth. His birth anyway. I had a whole three weeks before he showed up. He does make me smile. But it’s been a while. Maybe it will be different. Oh, stop it Katie! No matter how long he’s ever away, it’s always the same. So why am I such a mess? Stupid Michael.
She looked up to Jill and smiled. “Sorry.” Kate smiled shyly, knowing her name was probably spoken more than once before she realized anyone was talking to her. “Want me to set the table?”
“No, hon, we’ll do that. But could you run upstairs and find Des? He mumbled something about borrowing my shower when he got here after playing with the boys earlier. Could you tell him to come down for dinner?”
When Kate reached the stairs, she felt a strange pang in her chest. What was that? It’s only Des. She needed to stop thinking so much. The whole situation with Michael had her on edge. Maybe I should tell Des. He’s always been the one I talk to and cry to… and laugh with. We’ve been through everything together… the perfect not-couple.
Meandering down the upstairs hall, Kate looked down to the floor and shook her head. Stop thinking so much. It’s only Des. She took a few steps down the hall before lifting her head. When she did, her eyes met a bit more of Des than she expected.
He stood before her, fresh out of the shower, his hair damp, his only attire a white towel wrapped around his waist. Jesus, Katie, stop looking at his chest. It’s Des, for God’s sake! When she finally ripped her eyes from his body, she found a huge smile on his face. She felt a weight lift from her. It was Des and nothing had changed.
“Katie! Hey, sweets!” He grabbed her into his arms, not bothering to consider his lack of clothing. Or his somewhat drippy hair. She didn’t care, though. She needed that hug. Des made her feel safe and content. She could almost forget Michael ever hurt her… for the moment, anyway.
“It’s good to see you, kid.”
“Are you going to call me that for the rest of my life?” Des asked.
“Probably.” She laughed. “I’m older. I get to call you that.”
“Yeah, three weeks older, Katie.”
“Still counts.” She stuck her tongue out at him.
“Yeah, okay killer. You’re so mature.”
“Are you going to call me that for the rest of my life?” She threw his words back to him.
“I guess you haven’t given me a reason lately. Not since you killed Harry.”
“Des, Harry was a cricket. And you put him on my ice cream. What did you think I’d do?
“I’m pretty sure I did that, too. And it was, like, twenty years ago – shouldn’t you be over it by now?”
He ran a hand through his damp hair pushing away the strands that had fallen into his face. “Yeah. I guess I’m over it. But you’re still killer to me.” And with that, he stuck his tongue out at her.
“All right, kid. Your mom says dinner’s ready.”
“Okay, killer. I’ll be right down.”
Alone in Jill’s kitchen washing the dinner dishes, Kate fell into her own world. Distracted, she didn’t hear anyone enter the room. She had no idea she wasn’t alone until she felt fingers tickle her sides. She giggled and squirmed and nearly dropped a plate from her hands. She turned her head to see Des behind her, looking far too self-satisfied.
She growled playfully and placed the last of the dishes in the rack. “Des, you’re such a kid.” She turned around and leaned back against the counter.
Des’ expression turned a bit more serious. “So, how are you, Katie? We’ve barely talked about you.”
She stood there hoping that he wouldn’t ask about Michael. Her eyes fell from his and she stared into her fidgety hands. “I’m fine. Not much to say, really.”
“Oh, come on. Your life is never boring. Talk to me.”
“That depends who you ask,” Kate said. “I mean, I’m not touring the world with my band or anything.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Like always, Des tried to dismiss his exciting life as just his job. “What’s been going on? Tell me.”
“Hmm… we got that huge client we wanted,” she said. “I still can’t believe Meredith put me in charge of that…”
“Of course she did. Katie, you’re the most talented person there. So… what else?”
“I don’t know. Seriously, it’s not as interesting as your life,” she smiled, “my best friend, the rock star.”
“Shut up!” He still wanted to know what was really on her mind. He knew something was going on inside her head. He could read her a little too well. “Killer,” he stepped closer to her. “What’s going on with you? Is everything okay?”
“You are such a liar.” He smiled and rested his hand on her shoulder. “Look at me.”
Kate looked up at him. His stupid eyes always make me confess everything. Jerk. “Des, I’m fine.”
“I don’t believe you,” he said, giving her a little smile. “Do I have to find a bug to stick down your shirt?”
She let out a little laugh. “I think I just need some more coffee, but thanks for the offer, kid.”
Des and Kate abandoned their moms and snuck away to the living room sofa. Kate leaned back into the pillows and sipped her coffee. Des rested a foot on the coffee table and let his head fall back into the cushion. He turned his head and looked at Kate.
“You look great, killer.”
She turned to him with a smile. “Thanks.” And then she promptly stuck her tongue out at him again. Maturity was unnecessary with Des. It was a relief to her. Michael was a little stuffy sometimes. He was a bit obsessed with his work. He could be sweet and fun, and sometimes he was. But… Ugh, stop thinking about Michael! Kate had to distract herself with Des. She did not need to relive Michael’s break-up speech again. Tonight was supposed to be her night off. “So, how are you… really?” She asked Des. “And I don’t mean more road stories…”
“I’m all right. Tired… I love touring, but it’s exhausting. I’m happy to be home.”
“I’m happy you’re home, too. It’s good to see you,” she said with a smile.
“So tell me what’s wrong…?” he asked again.
“I told you… I’m fine.”
“And I told you I know you’re lying. Besides, everyone knows fine does not mean fine.”
“Des…” She really didn’t want to talk about Michael.
“Tell me what else is happening in your life…”
Des smiled and gave in. He knew Katie was keeping something from him, but he also knew she’d tell him when she was ready. “Not much. Clearly… since I’m having dinner with my mother.” They laughed. “I really didn’t want to see Nat tonight. It was kind of a relief when Mom called.”
“Why? Is everything all right?”
“I guess it’s okay.” He chugged down the rest of his coffee and put the cup down. He ran his hand through his hair. It was nearly dry, and no matter how he pushed it away, a few strands found their way back onto his face.
“Just okay?” Kate wondered.
“Yeah. I don’t know. Maybe Mom’s right. She never liked her.” He sighed and looked up at the ceiling, not at Kate. But she watched him. “I liked her… but now… something’s just… wrong… missing… I don’t know. I’m messed up.”
“No you’re not. Not any more than I am… or anyone else…”
“Katie, you’re not messed up. You’re so together. You always have been.”
“I have not!” She had to let out a little laugh. “Maybe I’m just better at hiding it.”
“Well, I think you’re amazing.” Again, his head fell to the side and his eyes met hers. “Hell, I’m in a relationship with someone I know is wrong for me. I need to get out of it. I’ve been away from home for three months… I missed my family… and I missed you. I didn’t miss her. I was kind of glad to be away from her.”
“You should have said something… at least to me.” She laughed softly. “Jeez, you really are messed up!”
Des laughed, too. “Wow. Thanks.”
“You know I’m joking, kid.” She kicked his leg playfully.
He kicked her back. “Yeah, I do.” He grabbed a pillow and tossed it at her. “So… where’s Michael tonight? I’m surprised you’re not with him.” A laugh escaped his mouth as he mumbled, “that boring stiff.”
“You don’t like him at all, do you?” Kate asked, tossing the pillow back at Des.
“He’s a nice guy… smart… I guess I like him but… I don’t know, Katie. I just don’t think he’s right for you.”
“Okay, Dad.” She giggled.
He had to laugh, too. “Sorry.” He watched her bring her knees up to her chest and rest her arms on them. When she looked at him again, he smiled. “I know he makes you happy and that’s good enough for me. But I guess I… worry about you.” He was silent for a moment. And Kate knew she had to tell Des everything whether she wanted to talk about it or not. With a deep breath, she opened her mouth to speak, but Des’ words stopped her. “It’s none of my business. I just…”
“Des, you’re my best friend. Of course it’s your business.”
He reached towards Katie and grabbed the only part of her he could reach from his side of the sofa. He wrapped his hand around her ankle and looked at her face. “He’s just not the guy I imagined you’d end up with. And I don’t want to see you settle for someone who’s not good enough for you.”
“You shouldn’t settle either.”
“I know…” He smiled to her. “Just promise me you’ll think about what I said? Don’t let him change you… don’t let anyone…”
Kate took her eyes from his. She turned downward and stared at her hands. “You don’t have to worry about that, Des.”
“I was kind of trying to avoid talking about this tonight but… he dumped me.”
“What?! God, I hate that guy!” Kate laughed at Des’ angry words. “Come here, killer,” he said, extending an arm to her. She crawled over and leaned on him. His arm surrounded her and pulled her close. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Just happened.” Kate was nearly mumbling to him. “Yesterday.”
“Jeez, Katie. I thought things were going okay?”
She laughed. “Yeah, me too.”
“Are you okay?”
“Katie?” She knew he was looking down at her and she knew he wanted her to look at him. Finally, she lifted her head from his chest until her eyes met his. “You’re not okay. I know you. You’re pretending you’re okay like you always do. But you’re not.”
“Maybe you were right. Maybe I knew deep down that he wasn’t right for me.” She sighed. “I guess that makes it easier.”
His hand petted her hair, and again, she rested her head on his chest. She closed her eyes and listened to him talking. “Damn, Katie, you are the strongest woman I know. Right for you or not, you were with that guy for a long time. But, God, look at you now. You’re amazing.”
Kate didn’t say anything. She just wanted to concentrate on feeling safe with Des’ arm around her. She didn’t want to think about Michael hurting her. Yes, she was doing okay, but it was still painful.
“You are way too good for him. And I still don’t think you’re okay,” Des said leaning down to plant a kiss on her head. “But I’m here for you.” Kate heard him laugh. “Even in person this time.”
She let a tiny laugh slip out as well. “Good timing, kid,” she said softly.
“Yeah,” he said messing up her hair with his fingers. “I’m pretty cool like that.”
Kate felt so safe and warm with Des, she almost dozed off leaning on him. But she opened her eyes when she heard Jill and her mom walk in. She pulled herself up to sit.
“You ready to go?” Sara asked her.
“Sure,” Kate said, starting to stand. But Des reached for her arm and grabbed it to stop her.
“Katie,” he said, “don’t go yet. I can drop you off later on my way home. Stay.”
“I don’t know… I’m really tired.”
“I won’t keep you up too late. Promise.” He smiled.
“I guess I can stay for a bit.” Somehow, he always managed to make her give in. Jerk.