Adam and I spend a few more hours dancing and downing cans of soda. We watch a couple of people play beer pong, cheering them on. Overall, we’re having a great time. We dropped the whole Kaleb Nixon subject and decided not to worry about him.
But, I should know well enough that I can’t get rid of a boy like Kaleb Nixon.
I’m sitting on the back porch, chatting with a nice boy from Arden that I’ve never met. He even laughs at my jokes, which is rare. I’m about to ask him if he wants to dance when I hear an annoyingly familiar voice calling my name. I spin around quickly to look for the voice, praying that it isn’t who I think it is.
Sure enough, Kaleb Nixon is pushing through the crowd towards me. He looks determined as his wide eyes take me in. My heart drops clear into my stomach. The boy I’d been talking to sees Kaleb as well, he’s quick to disappear.
Kaleb is close now, only feet away. He stops, keeping his distance from me. I don’t stand up, I don’t trust my knees to hold me. The distance between us is full of tension and static.
“Greer, I really need to talk to you.” His voice shakes as he speaks to me, I can see the uneasiness in him.
My eyes skirt around us, no one’s paying attention to us. I finally stand to my feet and take a step towards him. “Kaleb-” I break off, unsure what to say to him. Apart of me wants to turn him away, tell him I have nothing to say to him. The other part can see the sadness in his eyes and wants to make him feel better.
“Please, Greer.” He begs.
I look him over for a moment before I give him. “Okay.”
Kaleb doesn’t step towards me, he just turns around and starts leading me through the crowd. We pass through the living room and the kitchen. We step outside and Kaleb leads me around the porch to the side of the house. We find two vacant chairs and take a seat. Kaleb doesn’t say anything at first. We sit in awkward silence.
“What did you want to talk about, Kaleb?” I prompt.
His eyes snap to mine, “I wanted to talk about last night.”
I lean away from him, “I don’t think there’s anything to talk about. You made yourself very clear.”
He shakes his head and runs his hands down his face. “No, I didn’t handle things right. What I said to you after we-” He breaks off, unable to speak the word. “I didn’t mean it.”
“Then why did you say it?” I cross my arms over my chest.
“Because I’m stupid and I’m a jerk.” He laughs dryly. “I panicked. I got scared.”
"You got scared?” I balk.
“Yeah, believe it or not, you scare the crap out of me.”
“You’re not serious.” I laugh. “How many times have you told a girl that?”
He groans, “I’m not lying, Greer. I’ve never felt this way about anyone before and it scares the crap out of me.”
My mouth opens and then closes just as quick. I’m trying to process what he just said. “What?”
“You heard me, don’t make me say it again.” He snaps.
“No, I don’t think I did.”
“I like you, okay? Frankly, I don’t know why, because you drive me insane, but I do.” He shakes his head. “I got scared yesterday because I’m not used to showing emotions. I didn’t handle it well, and for that I’m sorry.”
I stare at him, unable to form a coherent thought. Several seconds pass that neither of us speaks.
“Now would be a great time for you to say something, Greer.” He pleads.
“Sorry.” I stammer. “I just don’t know what to say.”
He laughs, “That’s a first.”
I glare up at him, “I’m just surprised that’s all.”
“Why? I kissed you.”
“Yeah, but you instantly said you regretted it afterward.”
“Can we just forget that I said anything last night?” He begs. “Let’s just start over.”
“Okay.” I quickly agree. It’s going to be a lot easier being friends with Kaleb Nixon then it was being enemies. It was exhausting hating him.
We sit there a moment in silence, but it’s a nice silence. He’s leaning forward on his knees, hands clasped together. There’s a slight smile on his lips, a different smile that I’ve seen on him before. He stares into the darkness before us, completely content.
“Do you want a drink?” He asks, breaking the silence between us.
“Yeah, sure.” I nod.
He gets to his feet and offers his hand to me to pull me to my feet. He leads me into the party, his hand a reassuring presence on my lower back. We weave through the crowd and make our way into the kitchen. Kaleb finds two plastic cups, “What did you want?”
“Just soda or water,” I say.
“You don’t want anything harder?” He eyes me curiously.
I shake my head, leaning back against the counter, “No, I don’t drink.”
“That’s a good way to be.” He tells me as he pours alcohol into his cup.
“You’re not driving, are you?” I ask.
He takes a long swig of his alcohol and shakes his head. “No, Tom drove me. He’s around here somewhere.”
Someone shouts Kaleb’s name a moment later. Both Kaleb and I spin around to see who it is. The crowd parts as someone pushes their way through. My heart plummets for the second time in the span of a few minutes. Bash is forcing his way through dancing bodies and drunken college students. He has anger etched tight in his features, angrier than I’ve ever seen him before. I step back as Bash closes in on us. Kaleb steps in front of me, reading something on Bash’s face that I don’t see yet.
Suddenly, Bash swings his fist in a blur and I hear the crash of it as it hits Kaleb square in the jaw. Kaleb lets out a yell as blood runs down the corner of his lips. I can’t move, my mind can barely understand what just happened. Before I can understand what’s happening, Bash swings again. This time, Kaleb ducks under the punch and swings his own fist. Bash is knocked back as Kaleb’s knuckles hit him. I step away from the pair, afraid that I’ll get hit if I stand too close.
“Stop!” I scream, but neither of them seems to hear me. They keep swinging fists and pushing at each other.
Bash gets the upper hand for a moment, slamming Kaleb into the wall. His fists were tight in the collar of Kaleb’s shirt. He snarls, “You’re always getting in the way!”
Kaleb pushes back, but Bash is unmoving. My eyes stare at the boys, feeling completely useless. Kaleb is bleeding from several cuts on his face and his knuckles are split open. He grabs ahold of Bash. “She doesn’t want you, pretty-boy, get over it!”
Bash slams Kaleb against the hall again and Kaleb winces. “She doesn’t know what she wants!”
“But you do, huh?” Kaleb laughs.
“I know what’s best for her and it’s not you!” Bash screams.
I’m instantly aware of the crowd that their fight has gathered. Everyone around us is chanting and cheering them on. Bash and Kaleb are oblivious to everything that’s going on around them.
“Stop!” I scream again. This time the boys snap their heads in my direction to look at me. “Neither of you know what I want so stop acting like you have the right to decide it for me!”
I don’t stick around to see what happens next. I suddenly feel like I can’t breathe. My heart is hammering in my ears. I stumble through the crowd, trying to make it to my car. I can hear Kaleb yelling my name and stumbling after me, but I ignore him.
I slide in my car and driveway. I just need to get home. I can’t believe Bash showed up tonight and attacked Kaleb like that.
When would my life slow down?