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Point of retreat, p.22

  Point of Retreat, p.22

   part  #2 of  Slammed Series

Point of Retreat
 


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  "Wrong not what's?" I sigh.

  "I'm too tired to talk backwards," Caulder says. "I'm just gonna talk frontwards. Will…can you come to school next Thursday and sit with me at lunch? It's supposed to be Dad day, but Dad's dead so that leaves you."

  I close my eyes. I hate that he's so casual about not having a Dad now. Or maybe I'm glad he's so casual about it. Either way, I hate it for him. "Sure. Just let me know what time I need to be there."

  "Eleven," he says as he stands up. "I'm going to bed now. See ya later, Kel."

  Caulder walks toward his bedroom and Kel stands up. I watch him as he crosses the living room. He looks just as defeated as I do right now as he heads toward the front door. When the door closes behind him, I slap myself in the forehead. You're such an idiot, Will!

  I jump off the couch and follow Kel outside. "Kel!" I yell when I open the front door. He turns around in the street and starts walking toward me. We meet in my front yard.

  "What about you?" I say. "Can I have lunch with you, too?"

  Kel tries to suppress a smile, just like his sister. He shrugs. "If you want to," he says.

  I ruffle his hair. "I'd be honored," I say.

  "Thanks, Will." He turns and walks back to his house. As I watch him close his front door behind him, it occurs to me that if things don’t work out between Lake and I, it's not just her I'm afraid of losing.

  ***

  I'm not sure how today is going to go. When I get to my first class, all I can do is wait. I'm hoping she doesn’t sit by me. Surely she knows that much. Most of the students arrive and the professor finally walks in and hands out the tests. It's ten minutes after the start of class and Vaughn still hasn't shown up. I finally let out a sigh of relief and begin to focus on the lecture when she bursts through the door. She never has been much for subtlety. Of course, after she grabs her test, she comes straight up the stairs and sits right next to me. Of course she does.

  "Hey," she whispers. She's smiling. She looks happy. I'm hoping it has everything to do with Reece and nothing to do with me.

  She rolls her eyes. "Don't worry. This is the last day I'm sitting by you," she says.

  I guess she could see the disappointment clearly written across my face when she walked up.

  "I just wanted to say I was sorry about last week. I also wanted to say thanks for being so cool about Reece and I dating again." She picks her bag up from the table and starts sifting through it, then takes out a pen.

  "Again?" I whisper.

  "Yeah. I mean, I thought you'd be pissed that we started dating right after you and I broke up last time. Before he left for the military? Actually, it kind of upset me that it didn't piss you off," she says with a strange look in her eyes. "Anyway, we decided to give it another shot. But that’s all I wanted to say."

  She turns her attention to the test in front of her.

  Again? I want to ask her to repeat everything she just said, but that would mean I was inviting conversation, so I don't. But again? And I could swear she just said they dated before he left for the military. Reece left for the military two months after my parents died. If he and Vaughn dated before that…that only means one thing…he was dating her right after she broke my heart. He was dating her? The entire time I was venting to him about her, he was dating her? What a jackass. Hopefully he and Vaughn have gotten to know each other pretty well the whole three days they've been 'back' together…because he's about to need a new place to live.

  ***

  I expect to confront Reece about it when I get home, but he isn't here. The entire night is relatively quiet. Kel and Caulder are spending most of the evening at Lake's house. Kiersten is too, I guess. It's just me and my thoughts. I use the rest of the evening to perfect what I want to say tomorrow night.

  ***

  It's Thursday morning…the day Lake forgives me. I hope. Caulder and Kel have already left with Lake. I hear Reece in the kitchen making coffee and decide now would be a good time to go have a talk with him. To thank him for being such a great friend all these years. Jackass.

  When I walk into the kitchen ready to confront him, it's not Reece making coffee. It's not Lake, either. Vaughn is standing in my kitchen with her back turned to me. In her bra. Making coffee in my kitchen. Using my coffee pot. In my house. In her bra.

  Why the hell is this my life?

  "What the hell are you doing here, Vaughn?”

  She jumps and turns around. "I…I didn't know you were here," she stutters. "Reece said you weren't here last night."

  "Ugh!" I yell, frustrated. I turn my back to her and rub my face with my hands, trying to sort out how the hell to fix this whole 'roommate' situation. Just as I'm about to kick Vaughn out, Reece walks into the kitchen.

  "What the hell, Reece? I told you not to bring her here!"

  "Chill out, Will. What's it matter? You were asleep. You didn't even know she was here."

  He casually walks to the cabinet and grabs a coffee cup. He's wearing boxer shorts. She's in her bra. I can't imagine what Lake would think if she walked in right now and saw Vaughn in my kitchen in her bra. I'm thisclose to getting Lake to forgive me. This would derail my entire plan.

  "Get out! Both of you, get out!" I yell.

  Neither of them moves. Vaughn looks at Reece, waiting for him to say something…or do something. Reece looks at me and rolls his eyes. "Let me give you a piece of advice, Will. Any girl that can make you as miserable as you've been this week isn't worth it. You're being an ass. You need to drop that chick. Move on. If you ask me, she ain't worth it."

  This little piece of advice, coming from this man who could care less about anyone but himself, pushes me over the edge. I don't even know what comes over me. I don't know if it's the comment about Lake not being worth it, or the fact that I'm now aware he lied to me for months. Either way, I lunge forward and punch the shit out of him. As soon as my fist meets his face, it's agony. Vaughn is screaming at me as I back away from him, holding onto my fist with my other hand.

  Jesus! In the movies it always looks like the one being hit is the only one hurt. They never show the damage it actually does to the hands doing the hitting.

  "What the hell!?" Reece yells, holding his jaw. I expect him to try to punch me back but he doesn't. Maybe deep down, he knows he deserves it.

  "Don't tell me she isn't worth it," I say, turning toward the refrigerator. I reach in and grab two ice packs. I throw one to Reece and put the other one on my fist. "And thanks, Reece….for being such a great friend. After my parents died and she broke up with me…" I point to Vaughn when I say 'she.' "You were the only one willing to stick around and help me through it. Too bad I didn't know you were helping her out, too."

  Reece looks at Vaughn. "You told him?" he says.

  Vaughn looks confused. "I thought he knew," she says defensively.

  When Reece realizes I now know he dated Vaughn during the lowest point of my life, he becomes flustered. "Will, I'm sorry. I didn't mean for it to happen. It just happened."

  I shake my head. "Things like that don't just happen, Reece. We've been best friends since we were ten! My whole damn world collapsed around me. For an entire month you acted like you were trying to help me get her back, but instead you were screwing her!"

  Neither of them can look me in the eyes. "I know I said I'd let you stay here, but things are different now." I throw the icepack on the counter and walk toward the hallway. "I want you both gone. Now."

  I shut my bedroom door behind me and collapse onto the bed. I can probably count the friends I have left on one hand. Actually, I can count them on one finger. I lay there for a while longer, wondering how I could have been so blind to his selfishness. I hear Reece walk to the spare bedroom, then the bathroom, packing up his things. I don't come back out of the bedroom until I'm positive they're both gone. When I hear his car pull away, I walk to the kitchen and pour myself a cup of coffee. I guess I’ll have to start making my own coffee again.

  This isn’t a very go
od start to the day. I reach into the cabinet and grab a star out of the vase and unfold it.

  "I want to have friends that I can trust, who love me for the man I've become…not the man that I was." -The Avett Brothers.

  As soon as I read it, I look over my shoulder…half expecting Julia to be there smiling. It's eerie sometimes how fitting these quotes have been to the situation. Almost like she's writing them as life is happening…

  Thursday, January 26th, 2012.

  I can only hope that the next entry I write into this journal after my performance tonight will be something like this:

  Now that I have you back, I’m never letting you go. That’s a promise. I’m not letting you go again.

  Chapter Eleven

  Gavin walks through the front door right around seven o'clock. It's the first time he's walked in without knocking. It must be contagious.

  He can tell I'm a nervous wreck as soon as he sees me. "They just left. We should let them get a head start," he says.

  "Good idea," I say. I make another walk-through of the house, trying to find something to add to the satchel. I'm pretty sure I have it all. When we finally leave, I warn Gavin I'm not going to be much for conversation on the ride there. Luckily, he understands. He always understands. That's what best friends do, I guess.

  During the drive, I recite everything I need to say over and over in my head. I've got the poem down. I already talked to the guys at Club N9NE…so everything is in place there. Unfortunately, I only get one shot with her…so I've got to make it count.

  When we arrive, Gavin goes inside first. He texts me a minute later and ensures me the plan is in place. I walk inside with my satchel across my shoulder and wait on my cue from the entryway. I don’t want her to see me. If she sees me before it’s time, she’ll get angry and leave.

  The seconds turn into minutes, and the minutes turn into eternity. I hate this. I’ve never been so nervous about performing before. I guess because when I normally perform, there’s nothing on the line. This performance tonight could very well determine my path in life. I take a deep breath and focus on my nerves when the emcee takes the microphone.

  “We’ve got something special planned for open mic tonight. So without further ado…” he walks off the stage.

  This is it. Now or never.

  Everyone in the audience has their eyes glued to the stage so I go unnoticed as I walk along the wall to the right of the room and make my way to the front. Right before I walk onto the stage, I glance to the booth where they’re all sitting. Lake is right in the middle with nowhere to go. She’s looking down at her phone. She has no clue what’s about to hit her. I’ve already prepared myself for her reaction…she’s going to be pissed. I just need her to hear me out long enough to get through to her. She’s hard headed, but she’s also reasonable.

  The spotlight dims and focuses on a stool on the stage, just as I had instructed the lighting tech to do. I don’t like the bright lights hindering my view of the audience, so I made sure they would all be turned off. I want to see Lake’s face the entire time. I need to be able to look her in the eyes, so she’ll know just how serious I am.

  Before I take the stairs, I stretch my neck and arms out to ease the apprehension building up inside of me. I exhale a few breaths, then take the stage.

  I walk to the stool and take a seat as I place my satchel on the floor. I take the microphone out of the stand and look straight at Lake, who finally looks up from her phone. As soon as she sees me, she frowns and shakes her head. She’s pissed. She says something to Caulder, who’s seated at the edge of the booth, and she points to the door. He shakes his head and doesn’t move. I watch as she fidgets her hands around beside her, looking for her purse. She can’t find it. She points to Kiersten who is seated on the other edge of the booth and Kiersten shakes her head, too. Lake looks at Gavin and Eddie, then at Kiersten again, then she realizes they’re all in on it. After accepting the fact that they aren’t going to let her out of the booth, she folds her arms across her chest and returns her focus back to the stage. Back to me.

  “Are you finished trying to run away yet?” I say into the microphone. “Because I have a few things I’d like to say to you.”

  The audience turns and searches for the person I’m speaking to. When Lake notices everyone staring at her, she buries her face in her hands.

 
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