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Point of retreat, p.17

  Point of Retreat, p.17

   part  #2 of  Slammed Series

Point of Retreat
 


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  She might find them too easily if I hide them in such an obvious spot. I move the cereal again and place the vase right behind the tequila.

  “So is this chick your girlfriend?” Reece says.

  I’m not sure how to answer his question. I don’t know how to put a label on what’s going on between us. “Yep,” I say.

  He cocks his head at me. “Doesn’t seem like she likes you very much.”

  “She loves me. She just doesn’t like me right now.”

  He laughs. “What’s her name?”

  “Layken. I call her Lake,” I say as I pour myself a drink. A non-alcoholic drink this time.

  He laughs. “That explains your incoherent rambling last night.” He spoons some pasta into our bowls and we sit at the table to eat.

  “So, what’d you do to piss her off so bad?”

  I rest my elbows on the table and drop my fork into my bowl. I guess now is as good a time as any to fill him in on the last year of my life. He’s been my best friend since we were ten, minus the last couple of years or so. We kind of grew apart after he left for the army. I still trust him, though. So I tell him everything. The entire story. From the day we met, to her first day at school, to our fight about Vaughn, all the way up to last night. When I finish, he’s on his second bowl of pasta and I haven’t even touched mine.

  “So,” he says, stirring his pasta around in his bowl. “You think you’re really over Vaughn?”

  Out of all the things I just told him, that’s what he focuses on? I laugh. “I’m absolutely over Vaughn.”

  He shifts in his chair and looks at me. “Just tell me if this isn’t cool with you, but…would you care if I asked her out? If you say no, I won’t man. I swear.”

  He hasn’t changed a bit. Of course this is the one thing he would pick up on out of my entire confession. The single girl.

  “Reece? I could honestly care less what you do with Vaughn. Honestly. Just don’t bring her here. That’s one rule you can’t break. She’s not allowed in this house.”

  He smiles. “I can live with that.”

  ***

  The next few hours are spent finishing homework and studying the notes Vaughn left for me. The first thing I do is re-write them and throw her original notes away. I hate looking at her handwriting.

  I’ve cut my spying down to about once an hour now. I don’t want Reece to think I’m crazy, so I only look out the window when he leaves the room. I’m at the table studying and he’s watching TV when Kiersten walks in; without knocking, of course.

  “Who the hell are you?” she says to Reece as she walks across the living room.

  “Are you even old enough to talk like that?” he asks.

  She rolls her eyes and walks to the kitchen and takes a seat across from me. She puts her elbows on the table and rests her chin in her hands, watching me study.

  “You see Lake today?” I ask without looking up from my notes.

  “Yep.”

  “And?”

  “Watching movies. And eating a lot of junk food.”

  Of course she is. It’s Sunday. “Did she say anything about me?”

  Kiersten folds her arms across the table and leans in closer.

  “You know, Will. If I’m going to be working for you, I think it’s a good time to negotiate fair compensation.”

  I lay my notes down on the table and look at her. “Are you agreeing to help me?”

  “Are you agreeing to pay me?”

  “I think we could work out a deal,” I say. “Not with currency, of course. But maybe I could help you build your portfolio.”

  She leans back in her seat and eyes me curiously. “Keep talking.”

  “I’ve got a lot of performance experience, you know. I could give you some of my poetry…help you prepare for a slam.”

  I can see her thoughts churning behind her expression. “Take me to the slam. Every Thursday for at least a month. There's a talent show coming up at the school in a few weeks that I want to enter, so I need all the exposure I can get.”

  "An entire month? No way. This reconciliation between Lake and I better happen before four weeks! I can't go through this for a whole month.”

  “You really are an idiot, aren’t you?” She stands up and pushes her chair in. “Without my help, you’ll be lucky if she forgives you this year.”

  She turns to walk away.

  “Fine! I’ll do it. I’ll take you,” I say.

  She turns around and smiles at me. “Good choice,” she says. “Now…is there anything you want me to plant in her head while I go to work?”

  I stew on this for a moment. What’s the best way to win Lake back? What in the world can I possibly say to get her to see how much I really love her? What could I have Kiersten do? I jump up when it hits me. “Yes! Kiersten, you need to ask her to take you to the slams. Tell her I refused to take you, and that I said I’m never going back. Beg her to take you if you have to. If there’s one way I can get her to believe me, it’s while I’m on that stage.”

  She gives me an evil grin. “Devious… I love it!” Kiersten walks out and goes to work.

  “Who is she?” Reece says.

  “She is my new best friend.”

  ***

  Other than the fight we had over the stars today, I’ve given Lake all the alone time I can possibly give her. Kiersten reported back to me and said Lake agreed to take her Thursday, after an intense bout of begging on Kiersten’s part. I rewarded her with one of my old poems.

  It’s after ten now. I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t seem to go to bed without trying to talk to her at least one more time. I can’t decide if me leaving her alone or me hounding her is the better choice at this point. I decide it’s time for another star. I really hate that we’re opening them so fast, but I consider this an emergency.

  When I get to the kitchen, I’m shocked to see Lake peering her head in one of the cabinets. She’s getting sneakier. When I pass by her, she jumps. I don’t say anything as I reach into the cabinet and pull out the vase she’s looking for. I set it on the counter and take out one of the stars. She looks at me as though she’s waiting on me to yell at her again. I pick the vase up and hold it out to her and she reaches inside and grabs her own star. We both lean against opposite ends of the counter while we open them and read them silently to ourselves.

  Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

  And so I do just that…I practice patience. I don’t speak as she reads hers. As much as I want to run up to her and kiss her and make it all better, I decide to be patient instead. She scowls as she reads the paper in her hand. She wads it up and throws it on the counter, then walks away. And again, I let her go.

  When I know she’s gone, I grab her slip of paper off the counter and unfold it.

  “So if you could find it in your heart

  To give a man a second start

  I promise things won't end the same.” ~The Avett Brothers

  I couldn’t have said it better if I would have written it myself. “Thank you, Julia,” I whisper.

  Monday, January 23rd, 2012

  I’m not giving up

  You’re not giving in

  This battle will turn into a war

  Before I let it come to an end.

  Chapter Nine

  I know Lake doesn’t like me right now, but she definitely doesn’t hate me, either. I can’t help but wonder if I should back off and give her the space she's asking for. Part of me wants to respect where she’s coming from, but part of me is scared that if I do back off, she may decide she likes the space. I’m terrified of that. So maybe I won’t give her space. I wish I knew where to draw the line between desperation and suffocation.

  Reece is in the kitchen drinking coffee. I haven’t seen a lot of him, but the fact that he always has coffee ready is almost worth having him stay here.

  “What are your plans today?” he says when I walk into the kitchen.

  “I have to go to
Detroit to get the boys at some point. You want to go with me?”

  He shakes his head. “Can’t. I have plans with…I have plans today.” He looks away nervously as he rinses out his coffee cup.

  I laugh and take my own cup out of the cabinet. “You don’t have to hide it. I already told you I was cool with it.”

  He places his cup upside down in the strainer and turns to face me. “It’s still a little weird, though. I mean, I don’t want you to think I was trying to get with her while you two were together. It wasn’t like that.”

  “Stop worrying about it, Reece. Really. Oddly enough, it’s not weird for me at all. What is a little weird is just a few days ago she was professing her love for me, but now she's about to spend the day with you. Does that not bother you just a little bit?”

  He grins at me as he grabs his wallet and keys off the counter and exits the kitchen. "Believe me, Will. I've got skills. When Vaughn's with me, you'll be the last thing on her mind."

  Reece has never been much for modesty. He puts his jacket on and heads toward the front door to leave. As soon as the front door shuts, my phone vibrates. I pull it out of my pocket and smile. It’s a text from Lake.

  What time will Kel be home today? I have to go pick up a textbook on backorder and I won’t be home for a while.

  The text seems too impersonal. I read it a few times, trying to gain hints from any hidden meanings in it. Unfortunately, I'm pretty positive her text stated exactly what she intended to say. I text her back, hoping to somehow talk her into going with me to pick the boys up.

  Where are you going to pick up textbooks? Detroit?

  I’m pretty sure I know which bookstore she’s going to in Detroit. I know it’s a long shot but I’m hoping I can trap her into riding with me instead of taking her own car. She replies almost immediately.

  Yes. What time will Kel be home?

  She’s so hard to crack. I hate her short responses.

  I’m going to Detroit to pick them up later. Why don’t you just ride with me? I can take you to get your book.

 
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