I wake up another morning laying in a bed that belongs to Kaleb Nixon. This time, the walls are bare and white. It’s quiet like always, but it’s a nice quiet. I lay there a moment longer, soaking in the room, before I stand to my feet. My mind was replaying last night with Kaleb. Something had definitely felt different between us. I honestly expected Kaleb to turn me away last night. The last time I talked to him had been in class and he’d brushed me off real quick.
I step into the quiet hallway. When I pass Kaleb’s room, his door is open and I can see him sleeping soundlessly on his bed. I smile and climb down his stairs. I don’t want to wake him up, so I quietly rifle through his kitchen cabinets for the ingredients to make pancakes. Last time he stayed at my place, he bought me breakfast. I wanted to return the favor this time.
It didn’t take me long to finish the pancakes. I placed them on a plate on the island with a post-it note that read, “Thanks, Jerk”. Then I gathered my things and I slipped out the front door quietly. I didn’t want to stick around for the awkwardness that I knew would await me.
I pulled into the driveway of my house ten minutes later. Leo was home as well. I already knew where he’d be as soon as I stepped foot into our front room. His eyes snap up from the files he’d been reading to look me over.
“Greer, where have you been?” He asks, standing to his feet and meeting me halfway. “I’ve been calling you nonstop!”
I pull out my phone and sure enough, there’s over ten missed calls from him. “Crap, I’m sorry. I went out with Adam last night and just didn’t remember to check my phone.”
“Greer, do you know how irresponsible you’ve been lately?” He snaps. “I need to know where you are at all times. You have a curfew, you know! I had to hear from the police officer that patrols our street that you didn’t come home!”
“Leo, I’m sorry. I’m fine, alright?” I defend.
“You are not fine! None of this is fine!” He runs a shaky hand down his face. “I know I haven’t been around a lot lately, for that I’m sorry. Things have been crazy at work.”
“I know, Leo. It’s fine.” I say timidly.
“It’s not.” He curses. He sits back at the table and lets out a heavy breath. “I’ve been working on your parents’ case.”
“What? I thought they kicked you off it because of attachment issues or something?” I question.
“They brought me back on it because they found more evidence.” He explains, barely meeting my eye.
"Evidence? To find their killers?” My heart starts beating into overdrive. After their murders, the detectives had told me that whoever killed them had been a professional. Which meant that they covered their tracks thoroughly. There hadn’t been any evidence left behind at the scene.
Leo nods, “They found a partial print. It’s not leading anywhere though. Whose ever it was, isn’t registered in the system as a criminal. We’ve been combing over every national system to find who it belongs to. I’ve been working day and night going over the crime scene photos to see if I can find anything else.”
“Leo, you can’t.” I shake my head. “It’s not good for you to be involved like this.”
“I can’t just do nothing! She was your mother, Greer. She was my sister.” He hides his face in his hands and his shoulders shake.
I step forward quickly and kneel in front of him. I place my arms around him and pull him in close. Tears are streaming down my cheeks now. I hate seeing him like this. I told him in the very beginning, that he shouldn’t be involved in this case. He felt like it was his responsibility though.
“Leo, seriously, I think you need to take a step back. There are people more than capable enough to handle this. I’m sure if something else comes up, someone will tell you.” I tell him.
He nods and brings his head up. Tears streak his cheeks as well. This is the first time I’ve noticed how completely wrecked my uncle looks. I’ve noticed how tired he’s been, but now he looks utterly exhausted and lifeless.
“When was the last time you slept?” I ask him.
He shrugs, “I can’t really remember.”
“Alright.” I stand to my feet and usher him up as well. “Get some sleep, Leo. I’ll be here when you get up.”
He scratches the back of his neck and yawns. “Are you sure?”
“I’m fine, Leo, promise. Now go.” I push him to his bedroom. He gives me a tired smile and disappears into his bedroom.
I rest back onto the couch and stare out the window. I wanted to find my parents’ murderer just as much as Leo did. Especially since I knew I wouldn’t be safe until they were found. Finding whoever killed them meant being able to go back to my old life, or I hoped it did. I didn’t really know how Witness Protection worked, but I hoped I’d be able to go back to being Greer Thomas eventually. I wonder if I’d have to move out of Washington to do that.
I spend the rest of the afternoon watching TV and trying to not let my thoughts roam. Leo has yet to come out of his room and I don’t bother him. It’s almost dinner time and I’m craving Chinese. I know there are leftover noodles in the fridge. My phone starts ringing as soon as I step foot into my kitchen.
I answer it without looking at the name, “Hello?”
“Greer.” It’s Bash.
My heart stops beating for a moment, “Bash, hey.”
“I’m sorry to call you.” He sighs. “I just wanted to talk to you.”
“No, it’s okay.”
“I miss you.” He says quickly.
“I miss you too.” I smile.
There’s silence on his end, “Look, I know that you probably hate me right now, but could you meet me somewhere?”
“Yeah, sure. Where?” I say quickly.
"Pete’s?” He asks timidly.
“Okay, I can be there in about twenty minutes?”
“Yeah, I’ll see you then. Thanks, Greer.” He says before hanging up.
I stand there a moment. I don’t know why it was so easy for me to give into Bash like that. I don’t even know what I want anymore. I’d been so torn up about Bash leaving. But last night I’d felt differently with Kaleb. I didn’t want to string either of them along, but I also didn’t want to lose either one of them.
I quickly change my clothes and throw my hair into a ponytail. I write Leo a quick note before slipping out the front door and sliding into my car. I make it to Pete’s a few minutes later. Bash’s car is already parked out front. I can see him sitting at a booth through the window. He’s fidgeting with a straw wrapper before him. His clothes look disheveled, which is different from how he usually looks.
I step out of my car and make my way into the diner. Bash looks up quickly as I step inside. My eyes skirt around the diner quickly. There’s an older couple sitting in the corner and a lone man sipping at a cup of coffee at the bar. I bring my focus back to Bash and give him a smile. He smiles back, but I can tell he’s nervous.
I slip into the booth opposite of him. “Hey, Bash.”
“Greer, thanks for coming.” He says with a bright smile.
“No problem, I’m glad you called,” I say easily.
Silence works it’s way over us. I don’t know what to say. The waitress comes by and takes my drink order. She disappears and we both watch her go.
“You look tired,” I state as I study him.
He looks me over quickly before answering, “I’ve been under a lot of stress at school. I haven’t been sleeping much.”
I nod, understanding.
“Plus, I hate how I ended things with you.” He sighs. “I feel like a jerk.”
“Why? You shouldn’t.” I tell him. “You did the right thing. I was confused. You didn’t deserve that.”
“And are you still confused?” He asks.
I sigh, “This is probably not what you want to hear, but, yeah, I’m actually more confused than ever.”
He nods and looks away from me. His jaw tenses. “That Kale kids always getting in the way.” He says it under his breath so I’m not sure if I heard him right.
“I’m sorry, Bash. I am. I just need some time. I don’t expect you to wait around for me either. I just need some time to figure things out.”
“What do you even see in that punk?” He snaps, and I’ve never heard Bash so irritated at something.
My mouth drops open before I can form a coherent thought, “He’s not a punk, Bash.”
He laughs, “Yes he is! He’s not just a bad boy, Greer. You deserve better than him.”
“You don’t even know him.” I balk.
“I’m a good judge of character.” He explains.
“Kaleb isn’t a punk, Bash. He’s just misunderstood.”
"Misunderstood?” Bash rolls his eyes. “I know he has a pretty face, Greer, but you have to look past all thought. He’s not misunderstood. He’s just a punk kid.”
“He has a good heart.” I defend.
Bash laughs again. He’s silent for a moment before he sighs. “Look, I didn’t ask you to come here to fight with you. I don’t like the kid, but that’s really not the point.”
I nod, my eyes drifting to look out the window beside us. Suddenly, I spot someone standing on the other side of the road. He’s standing in one spot staring into the diner at Bash and me. He has a dark hood pulled over his face. My eyes go wide and my heart stops beating.
It hadn’t been Bash that night under my window.
I turn to Bash to warn him, but when I turn back to the window, the man is gone. It was like he hadn’t been there at all.