I roll over in my bed, only stirring from my sleep, and stretch out comfortably. The Monday morning sun gleams through the blinds. I stare up at my beige ceiling and reach up to my neck to feel my locket.
But it's not there. My heart sinks in remembrance of yesterday's events. I blink my eyes against the tears that threaten to pour out. Come on, Nina. Kai promised that you'd get it back. You just have to trust him.
Sitting up, my head starts to spin. Guess all the action took more out of me than I thought. I press my fingers against my temples and massage them until the throbbing dissipates.
Maybe if I walk around, I'll be okay. I swing my feet to the floor and stand up, wobbling somewhat. Moving to the mirror, I examine myself in distaste. My skin looks pale and my hair hangs greasy and limp. Yuck. I need a shower.
A shower before breakfast does sound amazing right about now. What would Kai think if she saw me looking like a garbage dump? He doesn't seem like the type who would really care, but it's always nice to look presentable in front of a celebrity. I pull a violet sundress out of my closet and make my way to the bathroom.
The piping hot water feels peachy against my cool skin. Dad always said he should've just bought me a hot tub instead. I close my eyes and let the water run over my head, soaking me completely.
It feels so empty without him around. With most girls, they usually go to their mother for advice. Not me though. Dad was always the go-to parent for me. He gave me boyfriend advice, homework help… You name it. He was always there for me. And now he's gone. It's like someone just grabbed him ripped him out of my life, out of my heart.
After I found out the news, I made at oath to myself that I would be strong. I would stop crying, just like he'd wanted. I remember when he gave me that locket.
"Nina?" Dad called through the door, knocking twice. "Can I come in?"
"Yeah, um…" I sniffled, grabbing a handful of tissues and drying my face off. "Sure."
The door slowly opened and Dad stepped in, carrying a tray of brownies and a glass of milk. He sat down on the bed and put the tray on the other side of me. "I know you miss her, honey, but you can't stay holed up in here forever."
He was referring to my dog, Bubbles, who'd recently passed away. I shoved a brownie into my mouth, taking brief comfort in the moist chocolate, and pulled my knees up to my chest. "I know. It's just so hard coming here and not having her waiting at the door ready to tackle me." The tears started pouring out heavier. "And it's just not fair! Bubbles was five years old! She wasn't supposed to die yet!"
He hugged me, pulling me close. "Nina, it's okay. No, it isn't fair but you've got to learn to let it go. Everything happens for a reason."
"Why do cars have to drive so fast?" I hiccupped, trying to drive the gruesome hit-and-run out of my mind.
Kissing the top of my head, he dug his hand into his pocket. "I was going to wait until your birthday to give you this, but I think now might be a better time." He forces my hand open and drops a shimmering gold chain into my palm. At the end of the chain hung a little gold heart with an azurite stone in the center.
There's a hard thud on the bathroom door. "Nina?" It sounds like Kai. "Are you almost done? I need to talk to you. Meet me downstairs."
He wants to talk to me? I wonder about what it could be. The faucet twists into the off position and I hop out of the shower. I fumble with my towel as I rush to dry off. Maybe, just maybe, he wants to tell me that he's realized that I'm his one true love. I cock my head to the side as I ponder that.
I doubt it. I don't have that kind of luck.
Once dressed, I admire myself in the sundress. Not bad. It'll have to do. I don't want to keep Kai waiting.
I don't see him when I step off the staircase. "Kai?" He's not in the living room, nor in the kitchen. Who I do find, however, is my mother. "Hey, do you know where Kai is?"
Mom stands against the counter with a cup of coffee in her hands, but she sets it down as I walk in. "No, I don't. How're you feeling, though?"
Oh, please don't tell me that she's going to start lecturing me. "Oh, me? Yeah, I'm fine. Great, in fact. Never better. So…" I look around the room quickly. "Where's Ian?"
"Work," she states plainly. Her face remains placid, but her green eyes belie a heated temper. "So, Nina, why didn't you tell me?"
"Tell you what?" I ask innocently.
"That you had hurt yourself, Nina!" She erupts like a volcano, something she rarely does. She must really be peeved about the whole thing. "You've got to learn to be more responsible!"
I should be talking to Kai right now, not fighting with the old bat. Shouldn't she be going to work now anyway? "I'm plenty responsible, Mom. You just don't see it."
"Okay, yeah. I see it now. Letting your brain ooze out and not doing a thing about it is plenty responsible. Thank you for clarifying that." She crosses her arms across her chest and fumes quietly for another second. "Why would you just hide something like that from me?"
"For exactly this reason! You always overreact! If I had told you, then you would have thought the worst and rushed me off to the hospital!" I try to make her see what I mean.
"But you ended up in the hospital anyway! Maybe if you weren't so caught up in being so individualistic, then I wouldn't have had to waste four-hundred dollars! You need to stop caring only about yourself and think more about how your actions affect others."
This is crap. She never gets what I'm trying to say. "A waste? Spending money on my panic attack was a waste? Gee, why don't we award you with the mother-of-the-year award right now?"
"Don't take that tone with me, young lady." Suddenly her face turns soft, and she comes over to me and puts her hands on my shoulders. "Nina, I know the world is a scary place. And you're trying to carry everything on your shoulders, and I understand. You think you have to be brave. But, sometimes, the weight of the world is too much for one person to bear alone. You need help, baby."
I shove her off me and laugh in disdain. "Stop trying to act sympathetic, because it's crap."
"Ladies, please." Kai's voice is behind me, making me jump. I turn around to his sour face. What's his problem? "Nina, can you wait for me in the living room?"
Anything to get away from her. "Surely." I can hear Kai telling her to just go to work in a hushed voice as I head out.
For some reason, I don't think he wants to confess his undying love for me. He looked angry in the kitchen. I hope it's not something I did. I think I might scream if he was mad at me. What could I have done in the two days he's been here? Most of that time I've been passed out. Unless…
"She's off to work," Kai says as he comes out into the living room.
"Thank heavens," I let out a sigh of relief. "I don't know how much more I can take of her. Sometimes I wish I could just shoot her."
Fury wells up in him and, out of nowhere, he seizes my right wrist in his hand. He tightens his grip so that my circulation almost cuts off. I screech in agony, pain blazing through my forearm. "Yeah, I bet that hurts. Doesn't it?" he seethes. When I don't answer, he gets louder. "Doesn't it?"
I draw back from him, trying to shake him off. "Yes…"
"What was that?" he dares me to speak up.
"Yes!" I cry out, my wrist starting to turn numb. "It hurts! Let go of me!"
His clutch only hardens. "Never say that again, got it? Someday Bella really will be gone and you'll feel like an idiot for wishing that. You'll be alone. So, don't say that, okay?"
He lets go of my wrist finally and I hold it away from him, rubbing the feeling back into it gently. "What the hell is your problem, Kai? And how do you know what I'd feel like? You're not me."
He sits down on the floor and pats the ground for me to join him. Reluctantly, I do. He clasps his hands in front of him, as if signaling to me that he won't hurt me again. "Nina, do you know anything about my life? About where I come from?"
"No, no. Of course not. Why would I? I'm not some creepy stalker! Who do you think I am, Elliot? Nope." But in my head I'm saying Yes. Hell yes, I know where you come from. I've only spent three-fourths of my life watching you on TV and finding out every single tidbit of information that I possibly can.
"Would you like to know?" I merely shrug. "Alright, but you can't interrupt me. Okay?"
"No problem." I keep a calm look about me, but inside I'm an eager beaver to hear his story.
"I was born in London, England. I lived with my mother, Alicia, and my father, Dante. They were amazing people and even better parents to me. My grandfather, Voltaire, moved here to Texas when I was two. He actually lived here in Mica and he knew your parents, Nina." He stops, watching my reaction. Wow. I'm tempted to say something, but I remember my promise not to interrupt. He continues. "I lived in London until I was four years old. When I was four, I was out shopping with my parents and they were shot. A mental case had been carrying a gun and decided my parents were the perfect victims for his first and only crime. He spared me for some reason.'
"I stayed with my Aunt Patrice until my grandfather flew back to come get me. He decided that it was too dangerous for me to stay there so he took me to America with him. We lived in the house he had here. We knew your family. I knew you. You were my first friend here, even though you were two years my junior. That's why I'm here now, and how I knew your father and everything."
I'm speechless. I thought it was a bit too comfortable around him, like he was an old friend or something. Kind of like déjà vu. I just thought it was my wishful thinking though. I never imagined that it'd be true.
He doesn't stop speaking. "We lived here for two years. Grandpa was eager to get me out into the world so he set me up at some auditions for TV shows and whatnot. They said I was a natural and I was whisked off to Hollywood. Grandpa died six years later from heart failure. Orphaned, for the most part, I stayed with my manager, Roger. He's currently my legal guardian."
Kai looks at me, expecting an answer. It's hard to find my voice. Here I am complaining about my mother and stepfather, and he has no family. How could I be so stupid?
"Kai," I say consolingly. "I'm so, so sorry. If I'd known-"
"Never mind. I've gotten over it. Now, why don't you tell me about your past, Nina?"
My past? He knows my past already. What could he possibly want to know? "What are you talking about?"
"Don't play games with me," he growls, yanking my hand out and pointing to my wrist. "The scars on your wrist. Where'd you get them from?"
Oh, those. I stare solemnly at the still healing marks and bite my quivering lip. So, that was his whole plan? Open up to me and maybe I'll tell him about my problems? I owe him this much at least… "It's obvious but they are… self-harm cuts. After Dad died, I thought I had nothing left. There was nothing for me in the world. Angry and hurt, I took a knife and tried to kill myself. But I couldn't take the pain and all that's left are the scars. No one knows this, not even Cassidy."
His eyes go wide in shock and rage. "You idiot!" he breaks out, standing up. "Don't you know how stupid that is? No matter how horrible things are, suicide is never the fucking answer! Why in heavens name would you even resort to that kind of thing? They have grief counselors, you know. There are people to help you with those sort of issues! You don't just go and kill yourself!"
He's starting to scare me. He seemed like he was perfect; caring, cool, collected and handsome. I didn't think he was capable of this, at least not in real life. Sure, he got mad on TV but that's acting. I wish he would stop. "Kai…"
"I thought we agreed on no interruptions, Nina? So, shut your trap and listen to me!" I seal my lips and hug my knees, my eyes starting to water. "And don't tell me that there was nothing left in the world because I know what that's like! I've lost family member after family member and you lose one and you think you're hot shit? You think you've got it bad? At least you fucking have a mother to live with! And sure, Ian may not be the greatest but he sure as hell tries! So, don't bull shit me by saying you were alone and hurt because you need to get the hell over it!"
He's eerily silent for a time, pacing back and forth across the floor. When he stops, he bursts again. "But, GOD, Nina! Suicide? God damn it! I thought you were smarter than that! I thought I'd actually found someone worth giving a hoot about!"
He sinks to his knees and crawls over to me, taking my hand in his own shaking ones. "Nina, Nina, Nina…" He shakes his head, as if trying to find the right words to say. "Nina, you have to promise me that you won't ever attempt suicide again. Please, promise me."
He sounds so sincere that I can't help but agree, but I don't lift my head from looking at the floor. "I promise, Kai."
He starts to smile weakly. "Thank you. I'm sorry for blowing up like that. I just care so much about you, and to think that you might not have been here right now scares me."
"What?" He looks at me, bewildered.
I tell him simply, "Prove that you care."
He places cool fingers beneath my chin, lifting my head up lightly. All of a sudden, his lips are pressing against mine and my stomach is doing back flips. His kiss is warm and caressing, as if molded to fit neatly into my lips. My heart races inside of my chest, but in a good way, and it's leaping up into my throat, trying to scream out that this is what I've been waiting for all my life. Mini fireworks go off in my head and they keep on going as he's separating from me. The room almost spins.
Kai takes his hand and pushes my hair behind my ear, whispering softly, "Does that prove it?"
I giggle like a child, "That and so much more."
He kisses me once more, sending my insides into a flurry of butterflies, and grins. "Nina Lothario?"
I look at him dizzily and purr, "Yes, Kai?"
He takes my hand in his, intertwining our fingers. "Would you go on a date with me?"
Maybe my luck is starting to look up after all.