“Maybe Kaia’s dad is right” Temperance suggested watching her friend leaning against a tree catching her breath.
“It’s just a little nosebleed” Unity objected.
“Yeah maybe the first two not the four or five that came afterwards.” She crossed her arms “I don’t think that’s normal.” She nibbled on her bottom lip not wanting to mention how pale Unity had become. For someone who had spent all her life on the island she should have been a lot tanner.
“Don’t look at me like that” she dried “I’m pale because I’m inside a lot more lately.”
“I guess” Temperance said unconvinced.
“If I was really sick don’t you think I’d know it” Unity insisted “I’m fine.”
“Promise me if you get anymore nosebleeds you’ll tell your mom” Temperance insisted.
“There’s nothing wrong with me” Unity pushed her away “don’t worry.”
Walking backwards Temperance said “if you die I’m going to kill you.”
“I’m not going to die” she giggled.
“Hey watch it” a boy called out right before he plowed into Temperance.
Unity ran to where Temperance lay sprawled on the ground “Temp are you alright?”
“Get this goon off me” she cried struggling beneath the bulk of a young teenage boy.
“I have a name you know” he grumbled getting to his feet.
“Why should I care what your name is” Temperance demanded inspecting herself for damage. A couple of bruised and scraped knees. Nothing much. She looked up sharply when Unity gasped in shock. “What’s wrong?”
“I know you” Unity pointed at the boy “you’re my cousin.”
The boy gave her a hostile glare. “Our mothers were adopted by step siblings. I don’t see how that makes us anything.”
“Excuse me for trying to include you in the family” Unity wrinkled her nose at him.
“Um guys” Temperance winced as she attempted to put weight on her right ankle. “My foot really hurts.”
“What do you want me to do about it” Will growled.
“You could carry her or something” Unity demanded “it’s your fault she’s hurt.”
“Is not” he protested “she’s the one walking backwards not paying attention.”
“Why don’t you just go” Temperance interrupted the boy her best friend had been arguing with. “I’ll just call my dad to come get me. You should stay though. I’m sure my dad will want to meet the boy who hurt his little girl then refused to see her home safely.”
“Why would he want to do that” he asked without thinking it through.
“You really are dumb” Unity slapped the back of his head. “Her dad will beat you up.”
“I’d like to see him try” the boy challenged confident he could take on an old man. Listening to Temperance as she spoke to her dad he decided to leave changing his mind. “I’m out of here” he scooped up his skateboard and took off downhill.
“Coward” Unity called after him.
Temperance giggled as she sat down to rub her ankle. “I don’t know…he was kind of cute.”
“Really Temp” Unity shook her head at the girl “only you would think that he was cute.”
“Were you embarrassed when the girls were ogling your dad” Aubrey asked her best friend.
“Well” Kaia shrugged “maybe a little. I mean they’re my age and he’s my dad. It was just kind of gross.” They walked for a while silence “what about you? Didn’t you think he was cute?”
“Not really” her blond curls blew around her face. She gave her friend a penetrating look “if I tell you something you have to promise not to tell anyone.”
“I promise” Kaia vowed glad the girls had accepted her into their group.
“I’m not really into guys” she whispered. She stepped backwards blinking in surprise as Kaia erupted into giggles.
“Is that all” she cried “I was expecting some deep dark secret. Maybe an admission of who you like.”
“You act like you already know” Aubrey pouted.
“It’s not like it’s a secret. I see the looks you give London when you think no one is looking.” Kaia giggled making a face at her friend “I promise I won’t tell.”
“Pinky swear” Aubrey held her pinky up.
“Pinky swear” Kaia agreed linking fingers together. “Are you going to tell her?”
Glancing away she slowly shook her head. “I don’t know. I mean I tried once but she kept interrupting me and changing the subject.”
“Sounds like she’s not ready or not interested” Kaia surmised. “Who else is there?”
“What do you mean” Aubrey asked.
“You know what I mean. Keli. I’ve seen the way she looks at you.” She gave Aubrey a knowing grin. “You should ask her out.”
“I’ll think about it” Aubrey said kicking dirt around with the tip of her shoes. “Do you really think she likes me?”
Kaia stared into her friends hopeful blue eyes. “There’s only way to know for sure. You have to ask her.”
Biting her lip she gave it some thought. “I don’t know. I mean I haven’t even told my parents yet. Me showing up with a girl on my arm isn’t the way I want to let them know I’m gay.”
What are you waiting for” Kaia asked. “I’m sure they’ll support you. I mean they have gay friends. What are you afraid of?”
“I’m not afraid” she protested in a loud squeaky voice. “I’m their only child. What if they want grandchildren someday?”
“You’re not making sense” Kaia shook her head. “Lesbian couples have babies all the time not to mention adoption.” She gave her friend a serious look “what’s with all the excuses?”
“I’m not making excuses” she protested “I’m weighing all my options.”
“Life isn’t perfect” Kaia said “sometimes it’s messy. Uncontrollable. Things happen when you least expect it.”
“Not for me” Aubrey shook her head “I know exactly how things should go.”
“What if I tell you Keli’s walking towards us right this second” Kaia asked giggling at the horrified expression on her friend’s face.
Grabbing Kaia’s hand Aubrey took off running along a side road that would take them twice as long to get home. Running alongside Kaia demanded “what’s wrong with you? You could have just asked her. Now you’ll have to explain why you ran away. If she lets you explain.”
“I wasn’t ready” Aubrey gulped for air “it wasn’t perfect.”
“It doesn’t have to be perfect” Kaia felt like shaking the frustrating girl. “Your drive for perfection just might cost you more than your prepared to pay.”
“I know” she crossed her arms “I can’t help it.”
“Hey Micah” she waved at the boy riding towards her.
Stopping Micah sauntered over to her “did you enjoy the party last weekend?”
“Yeah….sure” she gave him a weak smile “my hurt for days afterwards though.”
“You’ll get used to it” he assured her “so we’re planning another one on Friday.”
“I don’t know” she looked away “we may be out-of-town…”
“Everyone’s counting on you” he protested “I told them you’d be there.”
“I can’t” she shook her head trying to take off on her bike when Micah reached out and grabbed the handle bars.
“What’s your hurry” he demanded “surely your dad can get along without you for a few hours.”
“Let go” she pleaded.
“Not until you tell me you’ll be there” he insisted giving her a level gaze.
“I can’t” she cried “my mom will get suspicious if I take too many too often. The bottle is pretty low.”
“I’m sure your mom has already ordered a refill” Micah said using his most persuasive tone.
“My dad needs these pills” she objected her stomach twisting in panic.
“Hey you’re the one who wanted a way to escape reality” he pointed out “you liked how it made you feel didn’t you?”
Nodding her cheeks burning with guilt over what she had done. Sneaking her dad’s pain medication. Letting her mom believe he was taking more than he should. The constant arguments. “I can’t do it” tears rolled down her cheeks.
“You want to feel good again don’t you” he asked gently wiping her tears away. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to escape reality. The release from all the pressure your parents put you under.”
“Please” she begged “don’t make me do this.”
“I’m not making you do anything” he let his hand fall away from the handlebars of her bike. “I know you don’t want your friends to suffer anymore than you want to suffer. Believe me we’ll suffer if you don’t come.”
“Leave me alone” she begged taking off as fast as she could on the dusty island road. She could feel Micah staring after her. He was so sure she’d do as he requested. Could she afford to lose the only thing that helped her cope?
She felt lethargic and heavy all day after the party. She could live with that if it meant she could feel that wonderful weightless feeling again. It made her feel like she could do anything. No worries. No responsibilities. The opposite of what her life was really like. With a heavy heart she opened the door to find her parents waiting for her.
“You were supposed to be home an hour ago” her mother cried as soon as she opened the door.
“I went to the beach with the girls” she stammered.
“The least you could have done was text us to let us know you were alright” her mom said.
“I know I’m sorry” she cried “it won’t happen again I promise.”
“I’ve heard that before” Teasha crossed her arms “what’s up with you?”
“Why does something have to be wrong with me” London shouted “don’t I deserve a break? None of my friends have to come home and take care of their dad.” She ran up the stairs ignoring the stunned looks being exchanged between her parents.
“Are you ready to go” Mindy asked as she came into her office.
Jumping a little Coral placed a hand to her chest. “Oh” she gasped.
“I didn’t mean to scare you” Mindy said watching her.
“No it’s not that” she shut her Kindle down. “I was so absorbed in the book I was reading. You just startle me.”
“Sorry” she apologized “are you ready to go?”
“Soon” Coral gathered her things “did you finish that design you were working on?”
“Almost” Mindy mumbled “I couldn’t concentrate…”
“I shouldn’t have bothered you” Coral cried believing she was the distraction.
“It’s not your fault” she assured the jumpy girl. “I’ve been having trouble with this design from the start. Something just isn’t right.” Shrugging Mindy sighed “I just can’t figure it out.”
“Can I see” Coral asked. She could see the reticence in Mindy’s eyes. “Never mind it’s alright. It’s like trying to read a book while the author is still writing it. I’m sorry.”
“It’s ok” Mindy smiled “you don’t have to apologize. I’m a solitary worker. I don’t often show my designs with anyone until they’re complete. I hope that’s not going to be a problem.”
“It’s ok I understand” Coral assured her walking from the room. “It doesn’t keep me from being curious though.”
“It’s a good thing my work room is locked” Mindy said locking the office door and turning the lights off as she went. “I wouldn’t want you succumbing to curiosity.”
“Don’t worry I won’t let it kill me” Coral giggled “sorry it’s the saying curiosity killed the cat. I’m not a cat so …. Um yeah.”
“You need to relax” Mindy said ushering her out of the boutique. “I know what you were trying to say
“Sorry” she mumbled “I ramble when I get nervous.”
“What’s to be nervous about” Mindy asked leading the way to the car.
“What time is it” Coral asked staring up at the darkening sky.
“Almost ten” she shrugged “I got carried away.”
“I had no idea it was no later” Coral said “I must have really been absorbed in my book to notice the passage of time.”
“Are you hungry” Mindy asked “I might be able to scrounge something up at home but I haven’t been shopping in weeks.”
“I’m good” she patted her bag “I have granola bars. Want one?”
“Yes please” Mindy held her hand out “I’m starving.”
“If your hungry why don’t we go through a drive thru or something” Coral demanded.
“Aren’t you tired” Mindy asked “I know you want to get to be sometime tonight.”
“I’m fine” she rolled her eyes “it’ll take a few extra minutes and if I’m that tired I could sleep in the car.”
“Well if you don’t mind” Mindy made a u-turn and back tracked to the center of town. “Would you like anything” she asked as they waited their turn in the drive thru.
“Um” her stomach growled reminding her that it had been a long time since lunch. “A big mac.”
“With fries” Mindy asked with a grin.
“Make it a meal. Change the coke to a strawberry shake” Coral instructed.