Stray Cat

By Adjory Thomas

Chapter 2: Home

As Caleb fell flat on his back, his head smacking against the hardwood floor of the pub, he had to wonder whether coming here had been the best idea. Lena had insisted, however, as this was her favorite place to 'get shit-faced' as she had so elegantly put it. It took him a minute or two to regain his bearings, but he was able to sit himself up. To his shock, crimson fluid ran freely from his nose and dribbled onto the floor. As the bartender passed him a clean wet towel, he placed it over his nose and pinched his nostrils closed tight. The young man was relieved to find that his nose wasn't broken, just bashed up a bit. Unfortunately, his shirt had been stained with a few drops of blood. Caleb resignedly took his seat after observing the scene currently playing out before him and realizing that Lena hadn't needed his help with that guy harassing her after all.

The aforementioned woman, a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, had brought the other man to his knees, catching him in an arm lock. With a loud growl, she applied further pressure to the large man's elbow, twisting his arm as she placed pressure against his elbow with the other hand. "You gonna leave us alone, you jackass?" she asked coldly through gritted teeth.

The man shook his head, long blond locks shaking wildly as he attempted to endure the submission hold. The pain became too much to bear, however, and he soon screamed out in agony. "Aagh, fine!" he shouted in submission, his face beginning to turn red, "I give up, you crazy bitch!" Squirming away as the hold was let loose, the gaudily dressed man scrambled to his feet, holding his aching arm. "Damn it, you'll fucking pay for that!"

Lena returned to her seat at the bar with a casual wave, reclaiming her bar stool and giving the man a seemingly pleasant smile after taking a drink of her glass of spiced rum. She then raised her fist, followed by her middle finger, the smile never leaving her face. "Why don't you be a sweetheart and just piss-off and die?" After she watched him get escorted out in a furious and cursing frenzy, she turned to Caleb. "Hey Cal, you okay?" she asked, genuinely concerned.

"I'll live," he replied irritably, breathing heavily through his mouth as he continued to apply pressure to his nose. The once cool wet towel began to grow lukewarm due to his breath and body heat, much to his discomfort. The other patrons, who had nosily watched the confrontation after it broke out, had shifted their attentions back to their own business, their brief moment of free entertainment now ended. The pub settled back into a mix and muddle of conversation. "Where the hell'd you learn that, though?"

"I've been practicing since I was 12," Lena answered, finishing off her glass and standing back up. She twirled her finger around the rim before heaving a sigh. "Well, I'm ready to go when you are. That jerk ruined the nice buzz I had going." Glancing at her friend's glass of chilled beer, which had remained untouched the entire evening, she pointed at it with a tilt of her head. "Are you going to drink that?"

"No, I only ordered it so I wouldn't stand out," Caleb admitted, pulling back the blood splotched towel. The bleeding quelled at last, he called for the bartender, who then took towel back for later washing. As he got out his wallet to pay for the drinks, Lena reached over to pick up the drink in front of him. He shook his head and rolled his eyes, placing a few fives down on the bill that had been placed in front of him.

"Hey, if you aren't going to drink it, I will," Lena said before gulping it down. Setting the glass back near its previous spot, empty save for a few melted shards of ice, she winced. "Wow, you got the weak stuff."

"Well, excuse me for not knowing how to drink properly," Caleb replied with a hint of snark, playfully turning his nose up and pouting his lip at the slightly younger woman as he got up from his seat as well. He was just glad to be out of there, as he hadn't wanted to come in the first place.

"Relax, I was just joking!" Lena said with a grin, giving the man a hard pat on the back. As they exited the bar, she gave Caleb a quick wave as she began to turn in the direction opposite of him. "Well, seeya Cal! Thanks for the drink!"

"Huh?" Caleb tilted his head, a bit thrown off by her sudden departure. "Where are you going?"

"I'm going to crash at a friend's place tonight" she explained, turning around with a wink. "Catch you later!" And that she did. Every few days, she would show up and disappear, almost like clockwork. She'd eat, drink, and sometimes sleep over before departing once again. One day he made the mistake of asking her why she never just settled down in one place for once, which seemed to offend her for some reason. At least, that's what her suddenly cold demeanor towards him for the rest of that evening seemed to say. It uneasily reminded him of the way she had acted when they first met. It was as if their relationship had regressed. After that, her visits became more sporadic, less friendly. Eventually, she stopped showing up completely. It would be 3 weeks until Caleb saw Lena again.


It was just another normal evening, Caleb walking home from work as usual. Although he had moved on for the most part, he still kept his encounters with that strange, wild woman at the back of his mind. He could only think about how he could have done things differently, done something to keep her from distancing himself. He had put his foot in his mouth, and now she was gone.

Out the corner of his eye as he passed, he saw a figure stumble violently into an alleyway. Curious, as well as concerned, he followed the person to see if they needed any assistance. To his surprise and horror it was Lena, who appeared to be sick. As she heaved forward and wretched violently, Caleb ran to her side and caught her, gently taking a hold of her hair. The woman placed her hand on the wall, coughing and spitting a few times before wiping her mouth with her sleeve.

"Jesus, Lena, are you okay?" Caleb asked her, rubbing her back.

"Yeah, I'll be fine," Lena replied, standing up straight before starting to walk out of the alley. Her steps seemed clumsy, and her skin was growing pale. "It's nothing I can't handle." As she walked a little further down the sidewalk, she stumbled over her own feet and fell. Caleb grabbed her once again, and she grunted out. "Fuck. I really screwed up, didn't I?" she asked hypothetically, her breathing shaky and labored. "What the hell? I didn't even drink that much."

"You are definitely not okay, Lena," the man said in a scolding tone. Placing his hand on her shoulder to help keep her upright, he reached into his pocket for his cell phone and called 911. While trying to keep Lena conscious, Caleb asked her questions about what and how much she had drank, forwarding the answers to the person on the other line. He gave them their address, explained the situation, and waited for further instructions. After a moment of listening, he thanked them and hung up. "It's going to be all right. They said you shouldn't need any medical attention, just some rest and someone to watch over you."

"Cal?" Lena began softly, her mind a blur. She cursed herself for appearing so weak, but she couldn't help it. She was frightened, and fighting to stay awake. She felt her body grow cold, letting out a shiver as she clung to him tightly.

"Yeah, Lena?" he replied, holding her close to keep her warm.

"Don't leave me..."

"I won't. Come on, let's get you home..."


Caleb gently shook Lena by her shoulder, trying to rouse her awake. He had been by her side all night to make sure she didn't sleep too long: he had been told she might not wake up otherwise. He had set her on her side and placed a pillow behind her back as well, following all the instructions he had been given.

The woman turned to face him, placing her hand under her head to support it. "Ugh, I'm already awake. I haven't been able to sleep since the last time you woke me up."

"Sorry."

"Don't be," she replied, "It's my entire fault that you have to watch over me like some helpless child in the first place." Lena was looking much better than she did several hours ago. Her head was feeling a quite bit clearer and her breathing was returning to normal.

"Don't be so hard on yourself. You made a mistake, that's all." There was one thing that was still bothering him, though. He had seen Lena drink before. She was no lightweight, and could drink men twice her size under the table with little to no effort. She shouldn't have gotten sick from the little she told him she had drank before he ran into her. Unless, of course... "You haven't had anything to eat today, have you?"

"Nope, not a thing," she admitted sheepishly, a little ashamed at having done something so foolish.

"Thought so," Caleb said with a chuckle, shaking his head. "You really are something else, you know that?" Yawning, he looked to his clock. It was 12:16am, and he had to continue looking after Lena until she completely sobered up. He certainly wasn't going to work in the morning, that's for sure. He'd have to call in and take the day off. He also had lunch with his father, he remembered. Depending on how Lena felt later he might have to cancel that as well.

"You're too damn sweet, you know that?" the now misty eyed woman said, her voice cracking. Wiping her eyes, she turned her head away a bit. "I got kicked out by my ex-boyfriend of 2 years about a couple months back," she suddenly explained, "and I was too ashamed to go back to my fathers' place. He had been against it from the start and I couldn't bear to go back and prove him right. I'm just stubborn that way."

"I see," the man nodded, letting out a sigh. So that's why she got so defensive at the idea of 'settling down'. "When I saw you outside the first time we met, I had no idea why you were out there in the rain and frankly I didn't care. Seeing you out there in the rain, getting soaked to the bone, I just had to do something. To tell the truth, and I feel ashamed to admit this, I almost pitied you a little, kind of like how someone would pity a stray cat." Pausing for a moment, he waited for a glare or a smack on the head, but Lena only smiled. "But I was wrong," he continued, "You're so strong Lena. You learned to survive on the streets after being forced into a desperate situation. After being mistreated so much, I'm still surprised you took a chance on me."

"Don't feel too bad about it," Lena said in an assuring tone. "I thought much worse of you when we met. I only took up your offer to get out of the cold." She turned back to face him, a wide grin on her face. "A stray cat, huh? Yeah, that sounds about right..."

Thinking for a moment, Caleb prodded a little further. "What about your mother? What did she think about you moving in with your ex?"

"Her opinion was never even a factor. She died when I was little."

"Oh. I'm sorry..."

"Don't worry about it." Sitting up a bit, she stretched. "I hardly knew her, but I remember that she was a kind, beautiful woman. My dad said that she was the one that gave me my middle name: Alegria. It means happiness. Apparently she gave it to me in the hopes that I would have a happy life. By the time I was born, she knew that she didn't have much longer. I was blessed to have had her as long as I did." Her eyes lit up as she continued, teeth gleaming as she smiled widely. "It's my dream to one day go to her birthplace of Hope Town, in the Bahamas."

"It's a good dream. I wish you luck with that."

"Thanks..."

Caleb stayed by Lena's side all night. Eventually both of them succumbed to sleep, the man leaning lazily in the chair he brought in while the woman nodded off in bed.


Hours later, Caleb awoke with a start, having had a nightmare. Wiping a bit of sweat off his brow, he soon noticed that Lena was already gone. He slowly stood up from his chair with a humorless laugh. "Just like a stray cat," he repeated to himself. Just as he was about to make the bed, his nostrils flared as the scent of something cooking wafted over his nose, tantalizing his senses. He found himself wandering into the kitchen, where he discovered Lena preparing breakfast. Sausages sizzled in a pan as she flipped pancakes in her usual pajamas and she was just finishing up the eggs. He waved as she turned to him with a bright smile. "Good morning…"

"Hey! Good morning, Cal!" She turned back to the food, placing the eggs on the plates that were laid out. "I felt bad for making you miss work, so I decided to earn my keep." After a couple more minutes, she flipped the hotcakes onto the plates and put some butter on them, followed by the sausages. "Don't worry; I won't burden you for much longer. I... I'll just go and make-up with my dad and see about getting my stuff back from Trent."

"You're not a burden," Caleb quickly said. Going over to the sink, he washed up a bit. Glancing at the clock real quick, he saw that he was indeed quite late. It was 8:36am. Grabbing the plates, he took them over to the table and set them down before glancing at Lena. "Don't treat me like a mere stranger. You're free to stay here as long as you'd like." As he turned away to help set the table, he felt the woman's presence behind him, her arms wrapping around his waist in a firm hug.

"...You won't hurt me?" She asked wistfully, a touch of weariness to her voice.

"Of course not," Caleb said assuringly, his body tensing. No one would ever hurt her again as long as he stood and breathed. Swearing this to himself, he placed his hands over hers. "This place is your home."

"Then I'll trust you…" she whispered, squeezing tighter. Overwhelmed by his kindness, she let a few stray tears fall and wiped them on the back of his shirt. Home, huh? It had been a while since she had been able to call a place by that name.

"Thanks, Len…" Soon the pair sat down for breakfast. As Caleb dug in, his eyebrow arched a little. "Wow... this is good!"

"You almost sound surprised," Lena replied, a dangerous smirk on her face. "Don't make me kick your ass, man" she joked, popping a few finger joints.

Caleb laughed nervously as he attempted to explain himself. "No, I mean, it's just..." Sighing, he nodded in resignation. "Yeah, I really wasn't expecting you to be the cooking type." He flinched as she reached over and flicked him on the head, hard. "I'm sorry."

"You'd better be," she playfully warned, shooting him a little teasing glare before shifting her focus to her food.

After they finished their meal, Caleb took a shower and dressed up a bit. Calling in to work sick, he sat down on the sofa next to Lena. "I'm sorry if what I said before breakfast seemed a little… out of line."

"Not at all," she assured, clicking through channel after channel. "It's been a while since all of that bullshit. I've gotten over him as far as I'm concerned and I'm really not in the mood for my dad's 'I Told You So' lecture if I go back to him. He's going to flip once he finds out I moved into another guy's house, though…" She shot him an arched eyebrow as she finally took notice of his clothes. "Are suits the only thing you wear all day?" she asked jokingly, not even making an attempt to hide her grin.

"Oh, right," he muttered, rolling his eyes at her little jab. "No, I just have lunch with my dad today and want to look my best. Think you'll be okay while I'm gone?"

"I'm not going to destroy the house or steal anything, if that's what you're worried about."

"Not that, I'm just worried about you, that's all…"

"Oh, " Lena blinked, grimacing in embarrassment. "I'll be fine. I feel much better now. Thanks for worrying, though." Not finding anything that caught her interest on television, her eyes wandered to the game system lying on the floor. "You've got a few hours left, right?" she asked slyly.

The two played several games, including a fighter and a couple sports games. Caleb had his rear thoroughly handed to him each and every time. "Good grief," he mumbled, leaning his head back. "I surrender. Besides, I have to get going." Standing up, he straightened out his clothes and put on his suit jacket. I should be back in a bit. "Should I cook or should we go out for dinner tonight?"

"Hmm, I'd say you owe me a home cooked meal after breakfast," Lena replied, setting up another game.

"Huh? I thought you said that was a thank you for last night?" Caleb asked, more than a little confused.

Lena turned to him again, sticking her tongue out. "Oh, did I?"

Shaking his head, Caleb chuckled. "I'll see you in a bit." The two waved goodbye as he grabbed his keys and phone before leaving through the door, closing it and greeting another resident of the complex as they passed by each other. The place he was meeting his father was near work, so he took his normal morning subway route. He arrived around half an hour later, entering the restaurant and setting up a party of two. After he was escorted to his seat and two menus were set on the table, he ordered a beverage and waited.

Minutes later, his father took a seat across from him. Daniel Clough was a mustached man in his early 50's, with thinning and graying dark hair that once matched his son's and an average build. Dressed in a mostly blue suit with black shoes, he nodded to his son in greeting. "Hello, Caleb. Sorry I'm late."

"Don't worry about it, I just got here myself." Caleb and his father had had an uneasy relationship ever since his parents split up. The lunch meeting, which the elder Clough had set up, was one of many attempts to patch things over. The younger male had been reluctant, but unable to bring himself to refuse the invitation. The two ordered their meals after the waitress came by, handing her the menus.

"So, how's your mother?" Daniel asked of his son, his hands clasped together as he broke a long, awkward silence between the two.

"I haven't talked to her in a couple weeks," Caleb explained. "Why don't you ask her yourself?" he snapped back, surprising himself a bit. He didn't care enough to apologize, though.

"You know I can't do that," Daniel replied, before adding "You should really call your mother." Tilting his head, he pointed to a long dark hair on his son's shoulder. "What's that?" he asked.

Caleb looked over, finally noticing a strand of Lena's hair from earlier. "Oh, it's nothing…" he lied, picking it off and flicking it away. "It must have been from someone on the subway here."

"You sure?" Daniel asked, smirking at his son. "Not taking in any strays, are you?"

"Of course not," Caleb said, unfolding his napkin as their food arrived. He couldn't help but chuckle at the irony.

After lunch, Daniel reached into his jacket's front pocket, pulling out two strips of card stock. "Here, I got some passes to the carnival that's coming up in a couple weeks."

"Thanks…" Caleb said, taking the passes grudgingly. He placed them in his own pocket before paying his half of the bill and leaving a tip.

"And son?"

"Yeah?"

"Stay out of trouble."

"Sure." The father and son bid their farewells. While he didn't feel any closer to the man, he did enjoy seeing him again. He knew it was childish to hold a grudge against him for the divorce, but it was hard for him to let it go. His father wasn't always as mellow as he was at lunch.

When Caleb arrived home, Lena was nowhere to be found. The bathroom was unoccupied and she wasn't in the bedroom. For a moment, he almost thought that perhaps she changed her mind, but he quickly dispensed with that notion. Lena didn't seem like the type to say one thing and then do the opposite. Once she decided to do something she stuck with it. Her long feud with her father was proof enough of that. As he turned around he saw Lena in the open doorway, holding a box. Jumping in shock, the man held his chest as it pounded wildly. "Jeez, Len! You scared me!"

"Sorry! And I hope my disappearing act didn't worry you, I just had to get a few things back from Trent!" she explained, motioning towards the box in her arms. "I'm just glad he didn't throw it all out! We split up on some pretty nasty terms." Swinging her leg back and closing the door with her foot, she walked towards the bedroom. "By the way, you shouldn't leave the door open like that! Imagine if it hadn't been me who came in. You're too naïve, Cal…"

"I know, I know…" Caleb said resignedly. While Lena began to unpack her belongings, he reached into his pants pocket for his cell phone. Dialing a number, he held it to his ear and waited. After several moments, there was an answer. "Hey, mom... No, everything is fine. I was just checking to see how you were doing..."


The bus ride was a quick one, barely giving the two enough time to speak once they got settled in their seats. Caleb was dressed casually for once, a polo shirt, denim jacket, dark jeans, and a pair of sneakers making up his outfit for the day. He had gotten Lena a new black hooded sweatshirt and shoes to replace her old ratty ones. As the bus came to a stop a couple blocks away from their destination, Caleb and Lena got out and began to walk the rest of the way. "So you've never been to a carnival?" Caleb disbelievingly asked as they traveled side by side.

"Never got the chance," Lena explained, "My dad was always busy, so he was never able to take me to places like that." Playfully linking her arm with his, she smiled. "That's okay, though. I'm sure you'll be more than happy to show me what I've been missing..." Catching the man's reddening face, she let out a short laugh. "You sure blush a lot, you know that?"

"Damn it," Caleb mumbled, turning away. "Well, it's hard not to when I'm around you." As the woman hugged his arm tightly, he felt his heart begin to beat faster. In the past couple of weeks since Lena had begun living with him, the two had hit it off quite well after their admittedly rocky initial encounters. That first weekend he had watched her like a hawk, fearful of any possible complications from her case of alcohol poisoning. She seemed to be doing well, so after a time his over protectiveness gradually ebbed away. Lucky for him, as Lena had been near ready to take his head off. However, he noticed that lately she hadn't been quite as... rough around the edges as she was when she first showed up.

"You're so adorable," she cooed teasingly. She had been a bit unsure about accepting his proposal, especially after what her ex had put her through, but she was certainly glad that she had. He had been nothing but a gentleman to her. However, he could stand to be a little more assertive. She sometimes felt like she was pushing him around at times because he was so yielding to her requests, even to ones that she herself later felt were a little unreasonable. 'He doesn't have to be so damn nice all the time...' she thought to herself. Even so, she wasn't going to worry about it too much for now, today was supposed to be about having fun. Spotting the large yellow and red carnival banner hanging over a wooden arch, she began tugging Caleb along excitedly. "Ah, I think I see it! Let's get going!"

As they approached, Caleb got his passes out and showed them to the boy working the turnstile. The two were allowed entry, Lena looking around in amazement as they did. Unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells overwhelmed her as they went deeper and deeper onto the carnival grounds. "It's... it's even better than I ever thought!" she shouted ecstatically, her words nearly drowned out by the screams of people riding the nearby roller coaster. Her head spun towards the monstrous structure, a kiddish grin on her face. "I... I wanna go on that thing!" she proclaimed excitedly.

"I had a feeling you would," Caleb replied, laughing heartily. It looked like she truly hadn't been to a carnival ever, which made him really glad that he had decided to take her. "Do you get motion sickness? If not, let's get something to eat first so we'll have something to munch on while we wait. Roller coaster lines are always killer."

"...Cal, who do you think you're talking to?" she asked sarcastically, giving him a harmless roll of her eyes and elbow to the side. "Me, have motion sickness?" Placing her hands at her sides, she looked around curiously. "So, what kind of food do they have at these carnival places?"

Thinking for a moment, Caleb smiled as an idea came to mind. "Know what a funnel cake is?"

"Not a clue," Lena said, yelping in surprise as the other grabbed her hand and pulled her along.

"You're going to love them!" The pair awaited in line for several minutes before their turn came up. Caleb ordered two funnel cakes sprinkled with powdered sugar, watching Lena's fascination with how they were made with some amusement. After paying for and receiving the treats, he handed one off to her before grabbing two plastic forks and passing one of those along as well.

Lena poked her funnel cake with her fork for a moment and then cut a piece off with the side of the utensil. Shoveling it past her lips, the sweet and flaky fried dough set off her taste buds in a rush of flavor. "Wow! That's some good stuff!"

"I knew you'd like it," Caleb nodded, taking a bite of his own funnel cake. "Now if we're going to go on any rides, we'll need some tickets." Looking around, he spotted a ticket booth. Waving her over, he led her to the booth and they waited once more. Now at the front of the line, Caleb bought 30 or so tickets, splitting them up between the two of them. "Now let's see about getting on that roller coaster..."

The line, as expected, was packed. It stretched all the way around the safety barrier and continued up a ramp, which led all the up to the entrance of the ride. Lena eyed the line wearily, not looking forward to standing around for who-knows-how-long. "Ehhh, why don't we just do something else until the line dies down a little?"

"It never will, you know," Caleb replied, looking back with a gleam in his eyes. "If anything, the line will just get bigger. Besides, waiting is part of the experience!" After getting constantly caught off guard by the streetwise Lena, he was glad to for once feel like he was in his element.

"I dunno..."

"It will be worth it, I promise."

"...Okay, fine."

The wait was long and grueling, the pair having little to entertain themselves besides small talk. Their funnel cakes had quickly disappeared into their bellies, plates and forks long disposed of. After some time had passed, however, they were being escorted to their seats and secured. Once everything was ready, one of the attendants started up the car. It traveled along the track at a moderate pace, pulled along by a chain, eventually reaching the bottom of a peak. The car was pulled up the lift hill, the passengers all tense with anticipation. Lena let out an uncharacteristic squeal as they reached the top, and it erupted into a full-out scream as the car accelerated down the slope. The car sped down the track at full speed, turning upside down as it went through a loop. Caleb shouted and laughed, his adrenaline rising as the coaster finished traveling through the ring. The car went over a smaller hill, keeping its momentum going to bring it back on home. As the car came to a stop, Lena giggled gleefully as Caleb watched her with a smile, their safety restraints unlocking soon after. As the two undid their seat belts, the woman regained her composure. "...Yeah, that was pretty fun."

"That's understatement of the year!" Caleb teased, placing a hand on her shoulder as they walked down the exit ramp. "I've never heard you scream like that before, Len!"

"I did not scream!" she lied, her arms crossed as she walked ahead. She could barely suppress her laughter, still hopped up on energy from the roller coaster ride. She hadn't had that much fun in ages, and her heart was pounding. "So, what's next?"

Caleb and Lena went on a couple more rides and then moved onto games for a bit. Lena became a bit competitive, turning every game into some sort of contest. By the time they stopped she had 5 prizes to Caleb's 2. "So!" she proclaimed, still a tad sore from being teased earlier. "What do you say now?"

Glancing towards the Ferris wheel, Caleb looked back to Lena and motioned towards it with a jerk of his head. "Want to see the whole park?"

The line for the Ferris wheel was mercifully shorter than that of the roller coaster, and within minutes they were seated and on their way up into the sky. Lena couldn't help but yelp a little, quickly covering her mouth and blushing. "Don't you say a word," she warned, halfheartedly shooting daggers at him with her eyes.

"I wouldn't dream of it." Sighing, he looked out the side as their car arose higher and higher, the wheel pausing every so often to let new passengers on. "So, are you enjoying yourself?"

Lena nodded happily. "Of course. Thanks a lot for bringing me." Her smile soon faded, however. Licking her lips, she changed the subject. "Have you ever... thought of running away from it all?"

"Huh?" Caleb began, confused. "What brought that on, Len?"

"Don't give me that," she spat harshly. "I've seen how exhausted you are when you get home from work. You hate it, don't you?"

"Of course. I only took on the job so I wouldn't disappoint my father," Caleb admitted. "But still, lots of people have jobs they hate. I can't just give up, Len."

"I have a new dream, you know," Lena said, "To run away to Hope Town with you. It's really small, only a population of around 300. We could build a new home and get away from all the noise and bull shit and the people we hate... start a new life!"

Caleb grit his teeth, shaking his head. This was too much, too soon. "I'm sorry, Len, I--"

"God, you're so damn wishy-washy sometimes!" Lena snapped, scowling irritably. Calming down, she pouted with an exasperated grunt. She hadn't meant to snap at him like that. "Look, I'm sorry."

"No, you're right," Caleb said, running a hand through his hair. "Look, just… give me some time to think. It's a lot to take in, you know?"

"Of course," Lena said, nodding in understanding.

There was an awkward silence between the two for a moment, before Caleb finally spoke up again. "Alright, I'll quit my job and go to Hope Town with you on one condition..."

"...and that is?" Lena asked, curious and yet cautious at the same time.

"You have to make peace with your father."

Lena arched an eyebrow, her lips curling into a grimace as she stared at the man in disbelief. "...You're shitting me, right?"

"Not at all," Caleb replied, crossing his arms. "You can't keep fighting with him, Len."

"You too, then," Lena snapped back. "I heard you talking with your dad on the phone the other day. It didn't sound very friendly to me." Biting on her bottom lip, she took a deep breath as she shot a glare at the other. "Mind telling me why I'm the only one who has to make nice with their old man?"

"No, you're right, that's not fair," Caleb admitted. "Listen, how about this: We tie up any loose ends we have left in this god-forsaken city, and then we leave. If we're going to do this, I want to feel right about it."

Turning away, Lena stared out at the park through the Ferris wheel, watching the people below walk by. A swarm of hundreds of different colors drifted along, voices and music and the calls of animals all mixing and mingling and fading into one another. She pondered long and hard on what to do, until finally reaching her decision as their Ferris wheel car began to slowly descended. "Okay, Cal," she began, turning around to face her friend, "lets do i--" Her face turned a light pink as she found her self face to face with him. "Um, Cal, dude, what are you doing?" she asked inquisitively.

Gathering his wits, Caleb swallowed, pursing his lips slightly as he leaned in closer. "What does it look like I'm doing?"

Lena laughed, bumping her nose against his as she leaned in as well. "Dude, you have the worst timing... But if you're going to do it, just do it, man." Her eyes narrowed as she grinned a little, feeling mischievous. "I bet you don't have the balls to actually go through with it, tho--" Her words her off as the other captured her lips, her eyes widening before gradually lowering and falling into the kiss. It was awkward, but not as bad as she was expecting. He planted several kisses upon her lips, and she parted her lips to let her tongue slide into his mouth and twirl her muscle against his. Their maws smacked wetly together each time their lips parted, and Lena couldn't help but notice that this was perhaps the... sloppiest kiss she had ever had. She wasn't sure whether that was a good or bad thing, but when Caleb's tongue gently slid along her now sensitive bottom lip, she couldn't really care at the moment as she let out a small moan. Finally she broke away, wiping her mouth as before letting out a cackle. "...Shit, Cal, you're a messy kisser."

Blushing, Caleb turned away. He wasn't sure what had came over him just now, and now he wasn't sure if it was such a good idea. "It was my first time..." he mumbled, cleaning off his mouth as well.

Sighing, Lena placed a hand on his head as she shook her own. "Good god, you're like a kid sometimes. What am I going to do with you?"

"Says the woman that drinks and smokes like a rowdy teenager," Caleb retorted, gently brushing her hand away as their car reached the bottom and came to a stop. Undoing their safety harnesses and seat belts, the male winced as his friend punched his shoulder. He had a brief pause on the word 'friend' as it came to mind in reference to Lena. After what the two had been through lately, plus the complexity of their relationship, was 'friend' even a proper term to use anymore? As the woman reached for his hand, locking her fingers with his and dragging him along to explore the rest of the carnival, he decided it really didn't matter as long as she was by his side.

End of Part 2