Crash Landing on 12th Street
"Am I?" Trenton looked past me, at the clock hanging on the living room wall. "I hadn't noticed."
I smiled wryly, gesturing for him to come inside. "You say that, but you're 45 minutes earlier than I expected." I grinned evilly at him. "Would you like to help me prepare for the evening?"
He shot me a strange look, and then he moved to lounge on the sofa as if the place belonged to him. "You should just go dressed as you are. You look fine."
I frowned. I was wearing my brother's old hockey jersey, and, not only was it several sizes too big for me (so big, in fact, that it was long enough to reach my thighs) but it was so old that there were holes all over the back of the jersey. My shorts were covered in leaves and grass from lying out under the trees.
"Uh, no thanks." I sat down beside him. "Well, as long as you're here, why don't we talk to my Dad first?"
"You're going to show yourself before your father…dressed like that?" He asked, his tone containing a touch of incredulity.
I frowned. "I thought you said I looked fine the way I was."
"That was when I thought you were going out with Max."
"Why would I go out with Max like this? That's ridiculous." I crossed my arms over my chest.
"Weren't you just going to the ice cream parlor? I think that's good enough. But if you want to talk with your father, who you haven't seen in a while, you should be more cautious of your appearance." Trenton was frowning, as if he was deep in thought, and he wasn't looking at me. I watched an emotion flash across his face, fleeting, elusive. And then, in an instant, it was gone.
"I thought you and Max were pretty close. Don't you think it'd be awkward if I showed up in my brother's hockey jersey and my younger sister's grass-stained basketball shorts?"
He laughed humorlessly. "You'd think that, wouldn't you? That we'd be pretty close." He turned to face me, his head resting on his hand. "And are all of your clothes hand-me-downs from your siblings? How sad."
"No!" I stood up, sighing. "Why don't I go change first and then we'll talk to my dad?"
Trenton shrugged. "It doesn't really matter to me, either way."
I made my way down the hallway until I reached the very last room at the end. Behind me, I heard the soft sound of footsteps. "Why are you following me to my room?!"
"I thought you wanted me to help you prepare?" His tone was mocking.
I flushed. "I have to change, you know."
He smirked, brushing past me into my bedroom. "Oh? Why would you bother to when we didn't schedule to talk with your father until 45 minutes from now?" He stretched out on my bed, and he glanced at me from my covers.
"Get off my bed," I ordered, putting my hands on my hips.
"I want to sit down."
"There's a chair in here, you know," he gestured off to the right.
"This is my house."
"So? I'm the guest. How inhospitable of you."
"Why would you even want to lie in my bed?! There are clothes strewn all over it!"
He picked up a pink blouse, glanced indifferently at it, and tossed it at me. I caught it, feeling slightly irritated. "You're putting in so much effort for Max. I didn't realize that you liked him that much." Trenton shifted his gaze from the white ceiling to me, a ghost of a smile playing on his mouth.
I blushed. "So? Is it so wrong for me to like him?" I clutched the blouse protectively to my chest.
Trenton stared at me for about five minutes, and then he smirked. "You might say that, but for about the next hour, I'm your boyfriend."
My hands froze in the process of folding the blouse neatly. "That's – It's fake." I said lamely.
"Oh? Don't you feel awkward, having to act as if you like someone when you really like his cousin?"
"No," I answered defiantly. "Not at all." The corners of my mouth curved upwards in a mischievous, mocking grin. "Why? Are you jealous? Could it be that you've fallen for me?"
"I don't like you, and my heart hasn't raced for you once," Trenton replied bluntly. Wow. I didn't know my ego could be bruised so easily. He sat up, straightening his collar and he glanced at me.
I smiled at him dryly. "Same here."
We stood there like that for a few more minutes, until Trenton stood up, stretching. "Well," he said, "You should get changed. We've wasted enough time already."
"I know that," I muttered under my breath, feeling the steady light weight of his hand on my shoulder for about a minute.
Trenton paused by the door. "Oh, by the way," he said, "don't wear those dresses or those skirts. In my opinion, it would look strange to wear such a formal gown to an ice cream parlor."
"As if I'd care what you think!" I snapped, but as he shut the door behind him, I quickly placed all the dresses and skirts back in their proper places in my closet.
Trenton looked up and nodded approvingly when I stepped out of my room; shorts and a tank top were casual enough for him. I tugged on my black hair, which was pulled into a tight ponytail, nervously.
"So this is your and Max's first date, huh?" He said conversationally.
"Actually," I began, "this is my first date…ever."
There was a short pause, long enough for Trenton to let my words sink in and process them. "Ever?" He repeated, a bit skeptically. "But…you're what, eighteen?"
"Seventeen," I corrected, feeling irritated and self-conscious at the same time. I shrugged. "I wasn't really popular back home, plus there was Teddy, my over-protective brother," I frowned at the thought of my dismal social life back home, "Plus, I wanted to settle in here before getting a boyfriend."
"That's…" Trenton's voice trailed off awkwardly.
I cleared my throat. "We should turn on the webcam now," I said, walking over to my computer to turn it on. "We don't want to keep my dad waiting."
"Right," Trenton jumped at the sudden subject change, and hurried to move to stand beside me. His head hovered over my shoulder as I moved the mouse, and I felt even more self-conscious than I already was.
My Dad's face appeared on the screen, beaming at me, but his expression darkened when he noticed Trenton. "Kayla! Nice to see you again! Who is that person next to you?" He asked, getting straight to the point.
I laughed anxiously. "This is Trenton, Daddy," I answered feebly.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Wilson," Trenton said formally, all traces of his brooding persona disappearing once Dad's image appeared on the screen. Amazing. He didn't even bat an eyelash when Dad glared at him. "Allow me to introduce myself: my name is Trenton Daleford, and I'd like to take your daughter out tonight."
This is all felt so old-fashioned. I thought of centuries past, when potential suitors requested permission to marry a lady from their fathers, and I shook off the thought hurriedly. Right, Kayla. Don't get too ahead of yourself here.
"Daleford?" Dad repeated; a touch of amazement in his tone. "As in – "
"Yes, yes," Trenton cut him off, glancing at me. "I'm the younger son."
"But I thought you were going to South High. What happened?" Dad paused, and then realization hit him. "Oh. Right. I'm sorry," he said lamely.
I kept shooting confused, curious glances between the two of them. What were they even talking about? Feeling slightly left out, I cleared my throat. Trenton jumped slightly, shooting a cautious look at me and then turned back to my dad.
"Sir, is it alright if I take your daughter for about two or three hours? We won't be long, I promise." He sounded humbler this time; but he didn't tone down his charm one bit.
Dad smiled, none of the menace is his earlier expression to be seen. I blinked in astonishment. Amazing. My overprotective father with a daughter-complex was tamed by Trenton? How? What was going on, anyway? "Sure. Don't be too long, and remember to say goodbye before you go."
Trenton grinned back at him, and turned the webcam off.
"You used to go to South High?" was my first question. Trenton pinched the bridge of his nose, his eyes squeezed shut. His mouth was set in a thin line, as if he was bracing himself for the barrage of questions he knew was coming.
"I transferred recently. My old man's the principal there, so I thought it'd be better if I went somewhere else, and Max offered to show me around here. So here I am."
"But…what?" I asked, confused. "You transferred just because your dad's the principal at South High? If the people at school knew you used to go there, they'd kill you." The students at North High and South High were practically mortal enemies; they'd been rivals for about fifty years now.
Trenton fixed his dazed gaze at the blank computer screen, his eyes unseeing, unfocused. "Do you remember why Max chose me of all people to pose as your fake-boyfriend?"
"He said it was because…you were the type of guy all parents love."
"Right. That was a lie," Trenton said grimly. "All parents love me, but it's not because I'm an honor student or anything."
By now I was completely lost, but Trenton's expression looked pinched and dark, so I chose not to probe further. "When Max told you that you had to meet my dad," I changed the subject quickly, "you didn't think it'd be like this, did you?"
Trenton shot a grateful look at me, but it disappeared as quickly as it came. "Yeah," he answered. "What's with that? Are your parents divorced? And why do we have to go through this if your dad isn't even here?"
"He won't notice anything since he's not here, but my mom will. And eventually, she'll tell my dad, and eventually it'll reach my brother, who will kill me for keeping a secret." I paused, thinking over my next words carefully. "And no. My parents are still completely in love. It's just that my grandmother died recently, and she had always wanted my mother to study at her alma-mater. But my mother never went to college. One day, after crying her heart out, she just up and announced that she was going back to her hometown and study architecture. Dad misses her, but he didn't ay anything. It's just something that my mother had to do to get closure, I guess." I shrugged.
"Touching. And you came here to keep her company, I'm guessing?" He paused. "Either that or you wanted a clean slate." That last statement was spoken as if he knew from experience.
I flushed. He was spot-on. But shaking my head quickly, I decided that I wouldn't let him know that. "I wanted to know the place my mother grew up in," I answered. It wasn't a total lie. "I actually like it here. A lot. I've met knew people, and had a so much fun here."
A ghost of a smile appeared on his lips, the same one that I only caught a glimpse of earlier. "Yeah. It's a nice change."
Max and Melissa were already waiting outside the parlor when we pulled into the parking lot. Melissa waved slightly at me, a smirk plastered on her face. I shut my eyes and groaned inwardly. Great. I was sort of hoping she was joking when she said she'd show up, but no.
"Kayla, Trenton!" Max exclaimed. "You're here."
"Yeah, well, not for long. I should get going," Trenton said, and Max grabbed his arm.
"No," Max said, smiling easily. "Melissa here showed up, claiming to be Kayla's old friend." I snorted at his last words, and Trenton shot me a curious look. "Why don't you join us and the two can catch up?"
The look on Trenton's face strongly implied that he'd rather be anywhere but here. "I actually have somewhere to be, so if you'll just excuse me-," he said, walking away, but Max grabbed his arm again.
"Lies," Max called out on his bluff cheerfully, and, being the stronger of the two since he played sports, half-dragged, half-pulled him inside. I followed them inside, wondering why Max was forcing Trenton in on our date.
So here we were. Max and Melissa sat on one side, and Trenton and I sat across from them. Trenton was glaring at his melting sundae as if it was the source of all his problems, and Melissa was batting her eyelashes at Max as she engaged him in conversation.
"So Max," Melissa began in what I came to know over the years as her flirty voice. "Are you on any teams?"
"What?" Max looked slightly uncomfortable at the attention she was giving him, and he shot a panicky look at me and Trenton. "Oh, yeah, I play a little bit of football."
"Football. Nice." She giggled.
Shaking his head in amused pity, Trenton turned to Melissa. "You said you knew Kayla a while ago."
Melissa waved him off. "Oh, that. Well, everything we did together was such a long time ago. I'd hardly remember it now." She looked pointedly at me, and I took it as an order to erase our past from my memory for the moment. I knit my brows together in confusion.
How exactly was I supposed to do that? I spent half my life being terrorized by her, and now I was supposed to just forget about it all? Melissa raised her eyebrows silently at me, and I shook my head. She resumed flirting with Max, and I sighed, staring down at my rapidly melting sundae.
Trenton looked like he wanted to gag; he was constantly looking out the window. The ice cream parlor wasn't very busy; a few families here and there, and a small group of girls sat giggling in a booth at the very back. Some of the people behind the counter were standing back and laughing. The first thing that I noticed about the place was that it was a bit plain. Nothing hung from the walls aside from a picture of the manager; enlarged and framed to take up the entire right wall. Otherwise, the walls were undecorated and white.
The white walls seemed almost endless; they looked like they could close in on us at any moment, trapping us in, enclosing everything…I shook my claustrophobia off by eating a spoonful of my sundae.
My mind instantly drifted to the straight jackets and mental asylums I saw on TV, and then I abruptly stopped myself. What was I thinking?! These isn't the kind of thoughts a girl should have on her first date!
Trenton finally grew tired of scowling at the same Toyota parked outside the window and turned to me. "Hey," he whispered.
"Aren't you getting annoyed?" His eyes trailed to Max, who was gently trying to pry himself out of her grip, but she wasn't getting the message. He was just too nice to assert himself, I guess. I shrugged in response, and Trenton raised an eyebrow.
"You seemed so excited earlier," he whispered, "what happened to all that enthusiasm?"
It was my very first date; of course I'd be excited. What did he expect?! But, after showing up here…it didn't exactly live up to my expectations. It actually seemed slightly dull. Most of the conversation took place between Melissa and Max, who was gently trying to hint that he wasn't interested, but she wasn't getting the message and continued flirting. Striking up a conversation with Trenton, who had been unceremoniously dragged into this date, didn't seem like such a bright idea, especially not after the cryptic one we had in my living room earlier.
"Aren't you getting annoyed?' He repeated his inquiry, and I shook my head, effectively closing the discussion.
In fact, I was starting to grow slightly irritated. I mean, putting bad past and animosity aside, I was still sitting right across from them. I know this is my very first date and all, but were people normally this rude?
I stood up abruptly, and all eyes turned to me. "Bathroom," I offered as an explanation, and walked away, only to press myself into the wall outside the women's restroom. A few girls exiting the restroom threw inquisitive glances my way, but I ignored them. The bathrooms weren't that far away from our table, and voices easily drifted to me from there.
"Why on earth would you flirt with that girl's date?" Trenton demanded once I was out of sight.
I'm guessing "that girl" refers to me. It was "you" when I was standing in front of him, and "that girl" when I wasn't there. Out of all the times I've been around him, he's only called me by name…twice. I face palmed, and made a mental note to establish a first-name basis with Trenton when the time came.
There was a short, tension-ridden pause as Melissa let Trenton's outburst sink in. "Max is Kayla's date?" She asked slowly. "But I thought…you were."
This caused another long, long, silence. How awkward. Thank goodness they said all this when I wasn't there, saving me from the embarrassment. But then again, poor, poor Trenton. While I was immersed in my thoughts a woman exited the restroom and glanced at me. "Don't you want to go in?" She asked, gesturing at the door. I shook my head.
"No thanks," I replied, flashing a reassuring smile. "I'm just catching my, uh, breath for a bit."
"Alright then," she replied, somewhat uncertainly. She left, and then I zoned back into the conversation at our table.
"What the hell?" Trenton asked incredulously.
"Well, you two did arrive together," She answered, shrugging indifferently. "It was only natural."
"You – " Trenton started, and, feeling slightly alarmed, I stepped out from behind the wall and made my way towards the table. When he caught sight of me, he cut himself off and grabbed my arm. "That's it. We're going," he threw over his shoulder, and dragged me out of the parlor. My eyes widened, and I sent a shocked glance at our table.
"If she's your date," I heard Melissa say as we exited the place, "Why is he leaving with her?" Max only sighed in response.
"What are you doing?!" I demanded, jerking my arm from his grasp once we were a safe distance from the ice cream parlor.
"Taking you away," Trenton replied brusquely, sending me a glare over his shoulder. "That was horrible. I feel sorry for you; your very first date shouldn't be that awful." I was taken aback; he was the one who took me away from my – disastrous, but still mine nonetheless – date, and yet he was the one sending me death glares as if this entire thing was my fault.
"Okay," I said slowly, "don't take this too personally, but what is wrong with you?! You can't just take your cousin's date away from him like that! Max and Melissa are probably sitting there right now, wondering what the hell just went on."
He laughed bitterly under his breath. "She asks what's wrong with me," he muttered, looking up to the skies as if it held an answer. "What is wrong with you? I know this is your very first date, but it's common sense not to let a random girl walk in on your date and start flirting with him! Assert yourself!" He barked that last part; and I clenched my fists tightly.
I knit my eyebrows together, trying to come up with a comeback. There was a rather prolonged silence, and I heard Trenton release an audible sigh. I grimaced. Pale, slender fingers hovered over the corners of my mouth, and then they jerked the corners up.
"Whah are yuh doa?" ("What are you doing?) I asked, bewildered.
"Making you smile," Trenton replied curtly. "Come on, don't show such a weird expression like that out here in public." We stayed like that for a bit, attracting curious glances from bystanders, but that didn't change our – unusual – position.
I couldn't help it. I burst into a fit of giggles, and Trenton scowled sulkily. It was just so…childish and endearing of him, that I found myself laughing into my palm, all the while watching Trenton amusedly.
"Thank you for – erm – making me smile, Trenton," I said, forming a genuine, small smile as I looked up at him. He merely looked away, scratching the back of his neck with one hand while he ran a hand through his hair with the other.
I just stood there, the traces of my smile still lingering, wondering how the heck the mood managed to do such a one-eighty.
"Whatever. Let's just go back already," He muttered, pulling out his keys and turning off the car alarm.
"You're back? Already?" Dad asked incredulously, and both of us offered sheepish grins. "But it's only been an hour!"
"Well, some people crashed the date, and it got kind of tense. So we decided to head home," I explained. That…wasn't a lie. It just wasn't the whole truth, that's all. I bit down the guilty feeling ebbing within my stomach for lying so much. First it's lying to my father, then what next? Robbing a bank?
I bit down the urge to laugh at the thought. Right. Me, Kayla Wilson, obedient honor student, robbing a bank. Ha. I break out in a cold sweat if I borrow one of Lori's things without asking; and yet here I was, entertaining the thought.
"Oh. Alright then," He said uncertainly. "Better early than late, I guess."
Trenton stood up and walked off, muttering something about "washing hands". Once I was certain that he was out of earshot, Dad leaned forward and, dropping his tone, said, "So how is he?"
"Trenton?" I asked, surprised.
"Who else?" Dad laughed in affectionate amusement.
I found myself laughing as well. "He's nice. He doesn't look like it, and I didn't think he was when I met him, but he is. His manners need some work, though."
Dad looked surprised. "Really? I thought he was a well-mannered gentleman just now."
Oh, right. Trenton acted like a completely different person toward my dad just now. Which surprised me, actually. I guess he acts differently toward adults in general.
"So I'm guessing that means you like him?" I asked, mildly surprised. A sudden thought struck me, and I spoke softly. "Dad…what were you and Trenton talking about earlier? Why is his last name so special?"
Dad looked uncomfortable. "I don't think I should be the one telling you this," he said. "If he's your boyfriend, then you should wait until he tells you himself."
I cringed inwardly. That meant he was never going to tell me. Great. That only makes me even more curious. "Can't you at least give me a hint?" I asked, not too hopefully.
He paused. Then he leaned forward in his seat, and, holding a finger to his mouth like he did when I was a child, said with an air of secrecy, "When that boy comes out, show him your piano."
I was baffled, to say the least. My piano? Why that, of all things? But before I could ask about that, Dad smiled and said, "Good night, sweetheart. See you Friday." And with that, our conversation ended.
Trenton was leaning against the door frame when I turned around. He looked hesitant, tentatively meeting my eyes. I smiled reassuringly, and he returned the smile with slightly more confidence.
"Umm." I tugged at my ponytail nervously, and his crystal blue eyes landed on where my hands were. Jerking them away from my black hair, I placed them both on my lap and laughed nervously. "Thanks for today, Trenton. It's not every day that my dad approves of a guy. And, uh, thank you for having the nerve and lack of courtesy to drag me out of there." That last statement didn't sound like much of a compliment, but Trenton laughed anyway.
Show him your piano. Dad's words echoed jarringly inside my head, and I bit my lip. Now was a good time to do just that, yet I didn't move an inch. I shut my eyes, took a deep, calming breath, and then opened them again.
Mom still hadn't come home yet, so the apartment looked quiet, empty. My backpack had been absentmindedly tossed in a corner, forgotten. But other than that, like my life right now, everything was neat and in order. Yet it was home.
That thought alone relaxed me, so I smiled in the dim evening light. "You're probably hungry, aren't you? Have you eaten anything besides that ice cream yet?"
He shrugged. "Not really. I don't get hungry much."
I laughed. "It's not about whether you're hungry or not. It's about whether another year is added to your lifespan; if you don't eat properly, it won't."
He snorted. "Okay. Melodramatic, much?"
I shrugged. "Okay. Don't believe me. It's in a bunch of articles and everything."
But he wasn't listening to me. Instead, his eyes had taken in every single detail of the small apartment, and they were now resting on the sleek black piano in the corner of the living room. I watched as the slim ray of light from the setting sun play intricate shadows over his face, his body, and his fingers that were twitching slightly, as if they longed to rest upon the black and white keys.
My soft smile widened. That was easy; Trenton zeroed in on the piano without anyone having to point it out to him. "You want to play?" I asked.
He jumped, startled, as if he had recently been broken from a deep trance. His eyes darted restlessly around every corner of the room, as if the walls had ears. Once he caught sight of my questioning expression, he forced himself to relax slightly. "Not really," he answered softly, gravitating toward the instrument. "I just…haven't seen a piano that's not mine in a long time, that's all. You play?"
"I used to," I breathed quietly, not wanting to startle or do something to chase him away. "My mom loved hearing the sound of a piano, so she signed me up for lessons. I don't know why, but after a while, I just quit. I inherited my parent's love of music, though, so I guess I'm only meant to be a music appreciator."
Trenton's long, slender fingers trailed along the surface of the keys, and he stared through half-lidded eyes at the piano. "Interesting." He murmured, and his pale index finger pressed down on middle C. It was a single note, but it resonated throughout the quiet room, echoing within the silence. The lone note, softly played, seemed to shift the mood from a dream-like, peaceful trance to a calm, soothing presence. I shut my eyes, waiting for more, but none came.
He jerked his fingers back, as if the piano had burned him, and his expression was a pained one. "Trenton – " I began, alarmed, but he held a hand up.
"Just," he said, "Please give me a minute."
I nodded slowly, shutting my eyes again. The sound of Trenton's slowed breathing was the only sound in the room; and soon enough I lost myself to it. A few minutes passed like that; and then he sighed quietly.
I heard a soft shuffling, and then Trenton was standing in front of me, and I was staring at his neck. He was digging through his right pocket, and then, finally, he drew out a round object and extended his palm. "Here," Trenton said softly, staring directly into my eyes. "I'll give this to you."
I took the object between my fingers and peered at it. It was a seed. Blinking, I asked, "What is this for?"
Trenton smiled, amusement dancing in his crystal eyes. Again, all traces of his earlier expression had vanished completely. The change was startling and amazing at the same time. "It's a sunflower seed. You know, for planting."
"You want me to plant a sunflower?" I asked, dumbfounded.
"What do you think?" He asked, crossing his arms. However, my eyes were fixated on his fingers. Long, thin, slender fingers that now faintly shone in the dim light; wispy and bony hands that could control music. "Piano hands", Dad had once proclaimed after shaking hands with a concert pianist. Fingers that held natural talent.
Then, out of nowhere, I smiled warmly. "Thanks. First thing in the morning, I'll plant it."
Trenton blinked, and then a few seconds later, I received a smile in return. "I'll be going now," he said, backing up. He paused at the light switch to flick the switch, illuminating the entire room with bright light. I blinked and waited for my eyes to become accustomed to the change. "Bye… Kayla." He spoke my name hesitantly, as if he wasn't accustomed to using the name. "Good night."
"Bye," I echoed, turning my back on him to start cleaning up the apartment in time for Mom to come home. I paused, sensing him still in the room, and we just stood there for a few minutes in the bright silence. Then I heard the sound of his footsteps; the door clicked shut. I let out a withheld breath; a broad smile blossoming on my face.
"Good night, Trenton."
A/N: So I've recently discovered that I can't write anything without music. Which means that if I were on a deserted island with only a notebook and a pencil, I wouldn't be able to write anything.
Did I make any mistakes this time? Have any thoughts on a particular character? I'd love to hear them all. :)