THREE'S A CROWD:
I don't know how to explain how I am, what I am. Ever since I hit puberty, I've been different. I was thirteen when the changes started happening. I started getting incredibly faster and stronger. It wasn't normal. I wasn't normal. I was turning into a freak.
I could crumple a brick in my hand like it was a piece of paper. When I ran, I was passing up cars on the freeway and that wasn't even me running at full speed. When I was running at full speed I wasn't much more than a blur to anyone else.
I never understood how this happened, or why it happened to me. I thought maybe it could be genetic, but I was adopted so there was no way to tell. I guess I could have tracked my birth parents down and asked them about it, but I figured they didn't want me in the first place, so why would they help me if I came to them telling them I was a freak and asking if they were too? If they weren't like me, they would think I was crazy and probably have me locked up.
That was my biggest fear: ending up in a government lab with needles constantly poking me.
So I didn't tell anyone. Not my parents, not my girlfriend, Dayna, not my best friends, Cam and Dom, and not even my sister Kylie. I thought about telling Kylie once. I knew I could tell her anything and she would accept whatever it was, but I always worried it just wouldn't be the same if she knew. She'd stop looking at me as her brother Cayden, and start thinking of me as freak-show Cayden.
Kylie was less than a year younger than me. She wasn't my biological sister, but our parents had adopted her at the same time they adopted me. I figured she couldn't have the abilities I did because we weren't related by blood. But that was just a guess. For all I knew, my birth parents might not have those abilities either. I just liked to think that they did, because that way I didn't feel as alone.
I did use my abilities to my advantage though. I could launch a football any way I wanted to, and it always went exactly where I wanted it to go. That got me the position of star quarterback and captain for Varsity. That was a pretty big deal since I was only a junior, and except for me and a couple of other juniors, our Varsity team was all seniors. I was also dating the hottest girl in school, who happened to be the captain of the cheerleading squad. I tried to tell myself, so what if I was a little weird? It wasn't like it was hurting my social life.
My alarm clock went off, and I sat up in my bed. It was the beginning of October and school was a few weeks in. I rubbed my eyes and got out of my bed. My room didn't have much to it. A twin bed in the middle of the room flanked by a dresser and a nightstand. A small TV sat across from my bed. I stretched, yawned, and tried to ignore the impatient knocking at my door.
"Cayden come on we are going to be late…again!" Kylie yelled.
"I'm coming" I said loud enough for her to hear me through the door. I quickly threw on some black jeans and a white v-neck. I brushed my teeth and took a look in the mirror. My brown hair stood up, like always, pieces going in every direction. Good thing that was the way I wanted it to look.
I hurried down the stairs. Kylie, tapping her bright red heels against the linoleum, was standing by the door. She wore a red tank top with a small jacket and a poor excuse for a skirt. I gave her a dirty look.
"What?" she asked defensively.
"Don't you think you should be a little more clothed?"
"Kylie come on, it's freezing outside"
She rolled her eyes. "Cayden, it's only October. It's not that cold. Can we just go? I don't want to be late again" she whined.
"Go change. Then we'll leave".
She sighed dramatically. "You are not my father, and you are not telling me how to dress".
"You're right, I'm not your father, but the last time I checked, our dad could give a shit less about anyone but himself, so someone has to take care of you".
"I can take care of myself. I don't need your help. I'll be in the car".
She stormed out of the house. I wasn't trying to be an asshole or anything, but I was worried about her. Okay, so she was only a few months younger than me, but that still made her my little sister. When our mom left us two years ago... our adoptive mom, I mean…it really took a toll on her. I guess I've been a little overprotective of her ever since, but I never wanted to see her hurt like that again. It was excruciating.
Kylie and my mom had been really close, so Kylie felt the most betrayed when we came home one day and our mom's stuff was just gone with a note saying…
I'm sorry I can't do this anymore.
By 'this', she was referring to was dealing with our alcoholic father.
They adopted us when we were just babies. I was one and Kylie was 6 months. Everything went fine for about 12 years. Then they started fighting a lot. They would fight, and then our dad would go blow off steam at the bar and come back trashed, which really pissed Mom off.
Then Dad got into an accident at work and cut off the fingers on his right hand. After that, he decided he was just going to live off of worker's comp and let Mom struggle working two jobs. I know, real fair, huh? Then his drinking got worse.
Mom put up with it for about a year, and then I guess she just plain got sick of it and took off. I thought it was a pretty crappy thing for her to do. I mean, I could totally understand her wanting to leave him, but did she really have to leave Kylie and me with him? And then she left that damn note instead of telling Kylie and me what she was going to do. What a coward. I lost every shred of respect I had ever had for her that day.
We always knew we were adopted. They never hid it from us, since Kylie and I were too close in age to possibly be related. They didn't give us their last name, either. They had us keep our own last names, saying that they didn't want to block out the truth. I guess they thought if they weren't absolutely honest, we'd grow up to be juvenile delinquents or something. They were nuts, but it ended up benefiting Kylie and me in the end. Neither of us wanted their last name after what they had become. So I was glad I stayed Cayden Rivers, and that she stayed Kylie Dinelli. Mom and Dad even let me keep the necklace that my birthparents had left on me when they dumped me.
Anyway, after Mom did her vanishing act, Kylie blamed herself. She wouldn't get out of bed or go to school. Seeing her like that just crushed me. Kylie had always been so happy and bubbly. Then Mom was gone, and I couldn't even get Kylie to talk to her friends. I spent hours with her every day, just talking about anything and everything. Finally, she started to come out of her depression. She talked to her friends again, joined the cheerleading squad, and, finally, seemed happy again. I told myself that I would do whatever I could to prevent her from being hurt like that ever again.
I grabbed my jacket as I headed out the door and got in the driver side of my silver Nissan Altima. Well, it really wasn't mine. It was my dad's, but he didn't drive it. He was always wasted. We didn't even see him much. He was either at the bar or passed out in some random place around the house. I turned the key in the ignition, pulled out of the driveway and headed to Ridgemont High School.
Kylie didn't speak to me at all in the car, and when I pulled into the school parking lot and found a parking space, she jumped out of the car as soon as it stopped.
I didn't know why she was flipping out about being late. We were still ten minutes early. I walked in the main doors of the school and headed for my locker. My girlfriend, Dayna, was standing by it talking to Kylie, which didn't surprise me. They were best friends. In fact, that's how I met Dayna. When she wasn't with me, she was with Kylie. Kylie saw me walking towards them and she stomped off in the other direction. Dayna greeted me with a kiss on the cheek, Her long, blonde hair brushed my face.
"You like?" she asked, showing off her outfit. She was dressed in a white shirt and a pink skirt, which I'm sure she had just bought the night before.
"Yeah, you look great."
She smiled at me and then looked at me, Her darkening blue eyes transformed her expression from happy to serious. She brushed her hair back behind her ears.
"You know you really need to give her a break," she said.
Great, I was getting it from the both of them. "Whatever" I gritted.
Dayna noticed that I was irritated. She quickly changed the subject. At least she knew better than to push. "So what are your plans for tonight?"
"Nothing, what about you?"
"Want to go to the mall?" she asked hopefully.
I thought about it for a second. I did need new shoes. "Sure" I agreed.
Dayna smiled and her eyes lit up again. "Okay we can just meet up at my house after school. You can drive."
She didn't wait for me to protest. She smashed her lips to mine kissing me briefly before pulling away and running off. "See you later," she called over her shoulder, purposely not giving me an opportunity to speak.
I laughed and shook my head. I didn't mind driving that much. I went to my first period class, which was English and took my usual seat next to Cam. She smiled at me when I sat down.
"Hey" she greeted me pushing her dark brown bangs out of her eyes.
"What's up?" I asked.
"Tired," she replied, yawning. Even when she was tired her green eyes still glowed like emeralds.
"Camilla, am I boring you?" Mr. Winters echoed from the front of the room. His glasses hung down on his nose and the lights made his bald head shine. I'm the only person who calls Camilla Cam. I have ever since we were little.
"No sir", she replied quietly, blushing at Mr. Winters calling on her.
Like a cat worrying a mouse, he didn't let up. "Well is it okay if I continue my lesson or are you and Mr. Rivers having a more important conversation that you would like to share?"
"No sir, you can continue" I replied politely, biting back a few things I would rather have said.
Mr. Winters turned back to the board and wrote Of Mice and Men. "I will be handing out a copy to each of you. I want you to read chapters one through ten by Wednesday. You can have all this period. That is more than enough time. You will have a quiz on Wednesday".
He walked away from the board, passed out the books, and took a seat at his desk. He opened a newspaper. He wasn't watching us, so I decided I'd read the book later. I was too tired to pay attention to it right now. It seemed to take first period forever to end.
It took forever for the day to end in general.
When it finally did, I was out of the school as fast as possible. Kylie got to the car a few minutes later. We got in, I drove her home, and then headed over to Dayna's. She was waiting for me in her driveway. I pulled up, and she got in.
Going to the mall with her was definitely a mistake. As soon as we got there she ran off into the department stores. I watched her pick up and put down clothes for about an hour before I decided to go look for some shoes. I took my time making my purchase because I knew that Dayna would be a while.
As I walked out of the shoe store, I ran into Sean and Mason. They were on the football team with me. They were both seniors and they were both built. They were the best defensive linemen that we had on our team. They weren't too sure about me when I first became captain. I was younger than them, and I was definitely not as built as they were, but I proved myself in the first game alone. I scored two touchdowns and almost all of my throws were perfect.
They could all have been perfect, but I had to purposely mess up a few, and I only ran for the touchdowns when there was absolutely no other option. I should have been a running back since I could run so fast, but I knew I'd end up getting carried away when someone came running at me. I'd run even faster, someone would realize that no normal kid could run as fast as I could, and I just didn't want to deal with it. Being a quarterback was risky enough.
"What's up, man?" Sean asked me in a deep voice.
"Waiting for Dayna to finish shopping," I laughed.
They laughed too. "Chicks, man" Mason shook his head. "So what are you thinking about the game Friday? We got this one in the bag?"
I didn't want to sound too confident "Maybe."
"Pleasant Lake has some good players this year, though" Sean added, "but if Cayden plays like he did last week then we definitely got this one in the bag"
"For sure" Mason agreed bumping fists with Sean.
"Well I've got to go find Dayna, so I'll see you guys tomorrow" I said to them and walked back to the department store where I'd last seen Dayna.
"Jay….Jay…JAY!" I heard some girl yell and I realized she was talking to me. She must have had me confused with someone else, so I just kept walking, ignoring her until I found Dayna. I was relieved to see she was in the check-out line.
"Ready?" She asked.
"Oh, yeah" I replied. I took Dayna back to her house and then went back to mine. Kylie was cleaning beer cans off of the table.
"He actually made it up to his bed before passing out?" I asked.
"Yeah. He stumbled upstairs about a half hour ago." She replied dully.
I decided I should probably read some of that book for English, but by the time I got to chapter four, I knew I couldn't concentrate. I put the book down and relaxed on the couch. I examined the pendant around my neck. I guess my birth parents had left it with me. It was unlike any kind of necklace I had ever seen before. It was in the shape of a star, but it was a more deformed star. The sides of the star were curved inward instead of straight. It had the word powers engraved on it. I wasn't sure why. I wasn't even sure why I kept it. I felt like I just had an attachment to it for some reason.
Kylie walked over to the couch. I moved my feet so she could sit down.
"So how was your day?" I asked her.
She let out a sigh. "Fine." .
"Well, that's not very convincing," I laughed and looked over at her.
"It's just that, well… I really like this guy."
"And does he like you?" I asked curiously, hoping I wouldn't have to beat him up or something.
"Yes. And that's why it sucks" she whined.
Girls! "Let me get this straight. You like him. He likes you. But it sucks?"
"He already has a girlfriend," she answered quietly.
I raised my head a little to look at her. "Well then, yeah that is obviously a bad idea."
"Don't you think I know that?" she snapped.
I made my voice as comforting and steady as possible. "You should just forget about it then, about him, I mean."
"I know," but this time she didn't sound like she wanted to tear my head off. She sighed again and sat there silently for a few minutes. "I'm gonna go upstairs for a bit" She got up and walked up the stairs to her room.
I flipped through the channels a few times, but there was nothing on so I gave up and decided to go for a run. I walked out of the house and down the street. With each step, I started running faster and faster, until I was running at full speed. I was nothing but a gust of wind to anyone around me. I felt so free as the cold, refreshing wind hit my face and dried the sweat on my body. I ran around the park path a few dozen times. Then I got bored of seeing the same thing over and over again, so I decided to go home.
I wasn't tired at all. I was never tired after I ran. In fact, I felt more energized after a run, which was weird. Yet another freak show side effect.
The house I shared with Kylie and Dad was not very big. I walked in the door and threw my coat on the couch. Something in the kitchen, which was just to the left of the door and living room, smelled really good, so I walked in there. There was a small table in one corner. The counter tops were really small. I didn't know how Kylie could cook in this kitchen. I always felt like I could barely move when I was in here. Kylie was draining noodles. From the smell of the marinara I could tell it was spaghetti.
"Perfect timing," she complimented as she dished me a plate. She sat down at the table with me, and we started eating.
"So who is this guy you're all hung up over?" I asked nonchalantly.
Her eyes widened and she lowered her head down to her plate and started shoveling food into her face.
Wow. Must have been a bigger deal than I'd thought at first. Let's face it, this kind of mess required a mother, but since we didn't have one…"Oh come on Kylie, you can tell me. What is he, a big nerd or something?" I joked.
She shoveled the last of her food into her mouth and quickly got up. She tossed her plate in the sink. "I don't feel good, I'm going to bed, night" she mumbled quickly and bolted up the stairs.
I wondered why she wouldn't tell me. Maybe she was embarrassed that he had a girlfriend? I tried not to read too much into it. She would tell me soon. She always did. Kylie hated hiding things and keeping secrets.
Her openness made me feel guilty for not telling her about my… capabilities, but this was…different.
I have a crush on someone, and I cheated on my math test were on a completely different level from, Oh hey by the way I can run faster than a cheetah, or, Oh and I forgot to tell you, I have hulk strength.
See? There wasn't even a fair comparison to explain what I was. Hulk was a fictional character, a cartoon. I was real. This was reality. I told myself it was better that she didn't know. This was my burden.
I felt my eyelids getting heavy so I turned off the TV, lights, and, went up to my room to get some sleep.
Tuesday and Wednesday went by fast. Thursday, on the other hand, seemed to drag on forever. It started when I woke suddenly, panting and drenched in sweat. I had a huge lump in my throat and a bad feeling in my gut. I got my breathing under control and laid my head back on my pillow, trying to remember what I had been dreaming about, but it was useless. I turned to the alarm clock. Almost time to get up. No point in going back to sleep.
I prolonged my shower to kill time. The hot water felt soothing as it rinsed the dried perspiration from my body. I kept trying to remember what the dream was about, but I kept drawing blanks.
The lump in my throat was gone but I still had a bad feeling in my gut. I was probably just nervous. The game against Pleasant View was tomorrow. I toweled off, trying to dry my hair as much as possible. I got dressed in my usual t-shirt and jeans and went downstairs to get a bowl of cereal. Kylie came down just as I was finishing. "Let's go," she urged, looking at her watch.
"Well, good morning to you, too".
"Sorry, I just really want to get to school early."
"Why?" I didn't want to be in school when I had to be, let alone get there early.
"I have to talk to someone".
"Who?" I asked.
"Dayna, all right? Now quit being so damn nosy, and let's go!" Kylie demanded.
She took me by surprise. All I could think to do was say, "Uh…okay."
Kylie tossed me the keys and tapped her foot impatiently in the car as I drove. I couldn't imagine what was so important that she had to talk to Dayna face to face. Isn't that why they invented cell phones? Kylie was out of the car the second I pulled into the parking lot. We were twenty minutes early. Great. I reclined my seat and shut my eyes. A knock on the window woke me. It was Dayna.
"Hey come on, sleepyhead, the bell is about to ring."
I got out of the car, still a little groggy. Rubbing my eyes, I wished that my nap had lasted longer. "So what was so important that you and Kylie couldn't talk about on the phone?" I asked.
"What are you talking about?" Dayna looked at me, confused.
"Kylie said she had to come here early to talk to you"
"I just got here." Dayna stated flatly. Then she realized that she had blown Kylie's cover. "Oh, um…"
"Don't bother. I'm not a moron."
She actually flushed. "I'm sorry. It's not my business to tell"
I laughed "Not your business to tell? Well there's a first, You know what? I don't even want to know. If you two are going through so much trouble to keep me in the dark, maybe its best I don't know."
Her mouth dropped open. I didn't give her a chance to speak, I just walked away. Okay, maybe I shouldn't have snapped at Dayna like that, but I was pissed. I found Dom in the hallway and walked up to him. He looked nervously back and forth.
"You're not worried about the game are you? Don't worry about it, we got this." I punched him lightly on the shoulder. Dom was a junior on varsity too, the best running back we had. He was really fast and I could always count on him to catch the ball and run with it.
"Yeah, sure we do," he agreed, but he still looked jumpy.
"Well I'll catch you later. Calm down. And remember, we got this." I assured him again before walking off to English.
I was in first period and Mr. Winters handed back the results from the quiz we had taken the day before. I had forgotten to read the other six chapters, so Cam had filled me in on what I missed. She glanced over my shoulder at the 92% written on my paper. I looked over at the 100% written on hers. Apparently I hadn't paid as much attention to her summary as I should have.
"Hmm…well it looks like I am an excellent teacher", she smiled.
"Thanks again", I replied. "My mind's just been pre-occupied the last few days".
"What's bothering you?" She asked, genuinely interested.
"Kylie and Dayna are both trying really hard to keep something from me, and that's not like Kylie at all—she hates secrets—so I'm just really worried about her," I confessed.
She thought about it for a minute. "Maybe she's afraid to tell you, afraid of your reaction or something."
"She should know she can tell me anything."
"I'm sure she will… when she's ready."
I sighed. "I guess you're right." But I didn't want to wait until she was ready. I wanted to know now.
Mr. Winters finished passing out the papers and walked back to his desk. "You all did a great job yesterday, so take today as a free period… just keep it down". He sat down at his desk and buried himself in a newspaper.
"So what are your plans for tonight?" Cam asked.
"I have to work" I replied glumly.
"Well why don't you stop by for a little while after work, maybe it will get your mind off things."
The thought of hanging out with Cam cheered me up. "Sounds like a good idea. I'll be there a little after nine o'clock if that's okay."
"Yeah that works."
"So what about you?" I asked. "Anything new?"
"Not really. My parents are even more absent than usual. They are always going on business trips. And if they're not going on business trips, they're going somewhere else on vacation." Her face twisted as she tried to smile. Her smile could light up a room. She had perfect white teeth and a perfect smile. You could be in the worst possible mood and Cam's smile—complete with dimples—would bring you right out of it. But this wasn't that kind of smile. It was forced and weak, and it wasn't her, so I knew she was really upset. She hung her head down and pretended to look at the papers in front of her.
I nudged her. "Hey it'll be okay. I'll come over after work and we'll watch something extremely cheesy on TV. That always makes you feel better."
She laughed and smiled again. It still wasn't the smile I was looking for, but it was definitely an improvement on the first one.
"Thanks" she said softly.
The bell rang and I walked out with Cam. We walked down the hall towards our math classes. She waved goodbye as we approached her boyfriend Drake. He was really tall with hair falling into his eyes. He never talked. I tried to talk to him, but he always just looked at me and didn't answer. I didn't understand why he and Cam dated. True, they hadn't been dating long, but he didn't seem like Cam's type at all. I mean, he had the personality of a brick wall. But, who knew, maybe he was different with Cam. I just gave him a nod and kept walking down the hall to my math class.
Before I knew it, it was fifth period. Finally—time for lunch. I walked down the first floor hallway to the cafeteria. There were three different ways to get into the cafeteria. The main doors—that was the way I had come in. On the other side of the main doors to the cafeteria was the hallway that lead to the main doors out of the building. Directly at the opposite end of the main cafeteria doors were the rear doors, connected to the hallway that lead to the second floor. And all the way to the left, opposite the main doors were the doors that lead to the athletic building. In between the two was a long glass wall.
I continued through the main doors and walked across the cafeteria, through the lunch line doors, and proceeded to the actual line. I grabbed a slice of pizza, some chips, and a can of pop. I paid the lunch lady and walked to my regular table. The usual people were there. Kylie and Dayna sat next to each other with the chair on Dayna's other side empty, for me. Next to Kylie was their friend Caddy. Three word description of Caddy: short, blonde, annoying. She would not think twice about spilling your deepest secrets to anyone who would listen. Occasionally, Mason and Dane would sit with us. They were there today, and I nodded at them.
The girls just rambled on to each other about nothing any of the guys were interested in, so I was happy when Mason and Dane did sit with us. I hated being surrounded by just the girls, but all my other friends had sixth period lunch. Mason, Dane, and I made small talk about the game tomorrow and ran over plays a few times and what to do if they went wrong.
After what seemed like ages, the day was finally over. I went home, showered, and got dressed for work. The uniform was nothing special. Just black pants and a black shirt with the store's name, Pet Place. I worked as a stock boy there. My dad never gave me any money so I had to get spending money somehow.
I walked in the doors of the store and clocked in. Then I went in the stock room to start dropping bags to put out on the shelves. My co-worker Lainey, Dom's girlfriend, was back there. She was reaching for a bag on the top shelf and she didn't notice my arrival, so I took the opportunity of grabbing a toy off the ground and throwing it by her, missing purposely. The toy whizzed past her. She screamed and wheeled around, knocking down a small bag of dog food that exploded all over the floor. Great, I was going to have to clean that up. I laughed.
"Cayden!" she yelled, "You scared me!"
"Sorry I'll clean it up," I apologized, still laughing.
She squinted at me through her dark rimmed glasses, "Damn right you will, because I'm not." She turned back and reached for the same bag she had tried to get before, but she was too short and couldn't reach it.
I grabbed it down and handed it to her. "Peace offering?" I asked.
She grabbed the bag from me and walked out of the stock room, but she was laughing. I got a broom and started sweeping up the dog food. I had just finished sweeping it all up when Dom came in the back.
"You're late", I teased him
"No, I clocked in on time; I was just out there talking to Lainey,"
"Well, come on, let's start getting these bags down. I'll drop them, you catch them, okay?"
I pushed the ladder over to the shelves and climbed up it. I started dropping the medium sized bags first. I finished dropping them and then climbed down from the ladder. Dom and I both grabbed a stack of bags to take out to the front.
"Hey!" Lainey's voice called angrily. Dom and I turned to face her.
"Yeah?" I asked, hoping she wasn't still pissed. After all, she had been laughing, and I had cleaned up the dog food.
"Boss wants you to put the returns away and get fish for a customer," she barked and dropped a basket full of items on the ground.
I didn't want to piss her off any further. "Okay", I responded.
"Give us a second to go put these bags away," Dom replied not even fazed by the fact that Lainey was obviously mad as hell. Lainey picked up something out of the basket and chucked it right at my head. Dom was standing right next to me. We both hit the ground immediately, dropping all of our bags. A few of them busted. More dog food all over the floor. I looked up, and Lainey was already gone. I looked over to see what she had nearly hit us with. It was a big rawhide. I got up and looked at Dom.
"Wow, she is pissed," I said stating the obvious.
"Sorry, man, that's my fault. I threw a toy at her; it didn't even hit her though. I can't imagine what she would have thrown at me if I had actually hit her." I laughed nervously.
Dom shook his head. "No, I'm pretty sure she was aiming for me. Her aim just sucks."
"Why would she be aiming for you?"
"Because I broke up with her," he said flatly.
I shook my head, baffled. "You broke up with her? When?"
"When I got here." Still no emotion in his voice or on his face, which I thought was weird. They had been dating for two years and as far as I knew, everything was fine between them. Apparently not. I just stared at him, waiting for him to say more, but he didn't.
"Why did you break up with her?" I asked finally, starting to sweep up the dog food again.
"I don't know. I got bored. Just didn't feel like dating her anymore."
"What?" he asked.
"Bullshit," I repeated. "You're trying to tell me that you broke up with Lainey, your girlfriend of two years, just because you got bored?" I raised my eyebrows at him.
"Yep. So you want to take these bags out?"
"No, I want an answer. All bullshit aside."
Dom let out a long sigh. He was silent for a minute, but then finally said softly, "I like someone else and I want to ask her out."
My jaw must have dropped six inches. "She must be pretty amazing to get you to break up with Lainey. You guys have been together for a while."
He sounded like a little school girl when he said, "She is amazing." He dragged out the word amazing. He was staring off into space. I looked over to see what he was looking at but he was just staring at nothing.
I snapped my fingers in his face. He blinked and came out of it. "I know what I did to Lainey was wrong, but I have been thinking about it for a long time. My feelings for her just aren't the same anymore, and I can't ignore my feelings for this other girl. It's torture. But of course no one is going to see it that way. I'm so much happier when I hang out with this other girl. But I'm sure I'll be called the asshole."
"Probably," I agreed, thinking he deserved it.
Dom huffed angrily.
I backed off a little. "I get what you're saying, and it does suck, but breaking up with Lainey right before her shift was cold, especially when you two work together."
"Yeah, I guess I kind of messed up there, huh?"
"Oooh, yeah. So, who is it?" I was curious. I had never seen Dom like this over a girl before, not even when he first started dating Lainey. I wanted to know who had him acting like this.
"If she agrees to date me, I'll tell you. I'm going to ask her tomorrow morning."
I looked at him like he was crazy. He must have lost it.
"What?" he asked.
"You just broke up with Lainey. Do you really think it's smart to be publicly dating this girl so soon?"
"Sure, why not?"
"Well you must have had an out-of-body experience a few minutes ago, then. Lainey chucked a dog bone at your head for dumping her. Do you really think she'll take it lightly if you already have a new girlfriend the next day?"
"I'm sure she'll be over it by then."
Wow, he really was delusional. The door flew open, and Lainey came in clutching something in her hand. It wasn't there for long. Whatever it was came flying at us, and luckily we both ducked in time. Another dog bone.
She walked back out the door yelling "Fish! Now."
I looked at Dom, "Yeah I'm sure she'll be over it by tomorrow."
Dom's expression was blank.
"You know, maybe you should introduce her to your new girlfriend. I bet she'd love that. Who knows, maybe Lainey will wait until you're alone before throwing something even heavier at you." He was starting to understand now, but I continued. "You and your dream girl are going to have to keep this secret for a little while, at least until Lainey calms down, or you're going to have to keep a safe distance from any human being. People don't like getting things thrown at them for standing near you. I know I don't, and I'm sure your new girl won't appreciate it either."
"Yeah", he agreed slowly.
I felt a little sorry for him. "All right, tell you what, I'll go get the fish and put the returns away. You just clean up all this dog food. I think it's best you stay as far away from Lainey as possible. If you want to live, that is."
"Thanks," he replied gratefully. I handed him the broom, grabbed the basket and walked to the fish section. I quickly bagged up the fish and handed them to the customer.
"Lainey will take care of you over there," I said pleasantly as I pointed to the counter where Lainey was standing.
Her eyes were all red and puffy, and her cheeks were wet. I felt bad for her. She wasn't a bad person. She wasn't mean at all. Actually, she was very nice to everyone. She was really smart, too, top of our class. You couldn't help but feel bad for her, which is why everyone would think that Dom was a jerk.
I understood his point too, though. Why be with someone when you don't care about them as much as you care about someone else? He just…could have gone about it better. But who was I to judge? Dayna was the first girl I ever actually dated, so I was no expert on break ups.
Lainey looked up at me and I mouthed, "sorry," and made an apologetic face. The corners of her mouth turned upward just a little bit, and she nodded.
I took the basket of returns and started going through the aisles putting each item back in its place. The boss' voice came on over the speaker, "Cayden to the office. Cayden, office."
I tried to think of what I could have possibly done wrong, but I couldn't come up with anything. I got to the office and my boss, Steve, was sitting at his desk staring through his thin-rimmed glasses at a calculator as he counted a big stack of money. He looked up at me when I walked in. His gray hair shone silver in the light.
"Ah, Cayden. Lainey isn't feeling well, so I am sending her home. I am going to finish counting her drawer, and then I'll take over register for her. I just need you to make sure everything is done correctly in the back before you leave."
"Sure," I agreed, relieved that I wasn't in trouble.
"Great, thank you." He returned to his calculations.
I went back to the stockroom. I didn't talk to Dom much more—I was too busy making sure everything was done. I did it as quick as possible to make sure I could still leave work on time.
Right after work, I headed over to Cam's. I parked a few houses down, just in case her parents were home. They probably wouldn't be, but just in case I didn't want them to know I was there. Cam was already in a bad mood. She didn't need a fight with her parents over late visitors to top it all off.
I texted her, PATIO DOOR?
She replied, YEAH ITS OPEN JUST COME IN.
I walked around the front of Cam's house and into her backyard. Her in-ground pool was completely empty. Leaves were collecting at the bottom of it. I walked up the stone path to Cam's patio door, which was the door to her room. I quietly slid open the door and closed it behind me. Cam was sitting on her bed and shivered when the gust blew her way. She pulled the blankets around her still shivering.
"Sorry", I said.
"It's okay," she laughed. She grabbed her remote and started flicking through the channels. "You can sit down, you know". I kicked off my shoes and sat on the bed next to her. In front of us was a giant entertainment center with a big TV to match it. Everything in her room was zebra print: comforter, pillows, rugs, even a zebra bean bag chair in the corner of the room next to her oversized closet (which was always stuffed). She had a white desk in the corner with a laptop sitting on it and on the other side of the room were two doors. One of the doors led to her personal bathroom and the other led to the rest of her house.
Her parents shelled out tons of money to her, trying to make up for the fact that they weren't there, but it still upset Cam. She'd have rather had her parents around than all those things and money any day. They had her when they were really young, and now that she was old enough to take care of herself, they wanted to go out and live the lives they never got to.
"Are you okay?" I asked. She was still shivering.
"Yeah I'm okay I just get lonely in this big house," She shrugged, pulled her knees up to her chest and rested her head on her them.
"I can stay with you until you fall asleep," I offered.
She looked up at me with a smile, "You would?"
My phone started ringing. It was a text from Kylie. WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO BE HOME?
I texted back, NOT FOR A FEW HOURS.
She didn't answer. She probably just wanted to know because she was making dinner or something. I sat with Cam, and we watched TV. After about an hour I looked over, and Cam was fast asleep. That was fast, I thought to myself. I made sure she was covered up and made my exit through her patio door, closing it quietly behind me.
I wished I had run there. Running was so much faster than driving, at least for me. It seemed like forever before I pulled my car into the driveway and cut the engine. The lights were off downstairs, so I figured Kylie must be asleep. I left them off and walked quietly up the stairs, not wanting to wake anyone.
Then I heard giggles coming from Kylie's room. She must be in there with Dayna, I thought. The next sound froze me. A guy's laugh. Without thinking I flung open Kylie's door. Kylie was sitting on her bed with her lips locked to Dom's. They both jumped and pulled away from each other. Dom stood up quickly.
"What the hell-?" My best friend and my sister? So this was what she and Dayna were hiding from me. This was why Dom had looked so nervous today, not because of the stupid game tomorrow.
I felt stupid. More than stupid. They had played me for a fool. I wondered how many other people knew besides me. My blood started pumping.
"Cayden, I'm sorry," Dom pleaded.
I grabbed Dom by his throat and slammed him against the wall. I heard the drywall crack behind him.
"Cayden, stop!" Kylie begged, trying to pry my hands off of his neck.
"Why can't you keep it in your pants?" I spat at him, clenching my fingers around his neck even tighter. I forgot to be careful as my temper rose.
"You break up with Lainey, whom you were with for two years for some 'amazing' girl, and now you're making out with my sister? What are you doing, working your way through the cheerleading squad?" He was not going to play my sister like that.
"No…" he choked. He was a little blue around the lips.
Then it hit me and I dropped him to the ground. Hard. Dom gasped for air and Kylie dropped to her knees to help him. I couldn't believe it. Kylie was the girl that Dom was all hung up over. Now I felt even more stupid then I had before.
"What's the matter with you?" Kylie yelled, stroking Dom's hair. He really didn't look too good.
"Me? What's the matter with both of you?" I looked at Kylie. "You think it's okay to hook up with my best friend? AND to hide it from me?"
I looked at Dom. "And you. You think it's okay to hook up with my sister behind my back, without my permission?"
"Oh, stop it, Cayden," Kylie shouted at me. "It's my life, and it's none of your business."
I opened my mouth to yell back.
Dom interrupted. "Cayden I know I should have asked you I'm really sorry." He sounded like he had a bad case of laryngitis. He was lucky I hadn't killed him.
I clenched my jaw tight and left the room, slamming Kylie's door behind me so hard a crack appeared in the wall. I felt… betrayed. They both hid it from me. Kylie was my sister and Dom was supposed to be my best friend. If they would have just said something to me about it before, I would have been fine with it. At least, I thought I would. I still wasn't sure how I felt having my sister date my best friend. I mean, I couldn't be a hypocrite, because I date Kylie's best friend.
I slammed the door to my room, too, and sat on my bed. A few minutes later I heard footsteps hurry down the stairs. The front door opened and closed. Dom had left.
My phone started ringing. Caller ID popped up with Dayna's name. I picked it up and talked to her for a few minutes, but it didn't go so well. She just kept trying to justify why she hid the thing with Kylie and Dom from me. She didn't apologize, she just kept going on and on telling me why she was right.
"It's fine," I said, my voice sounding fake to my own ears. "I'm over it." There wasn't much she could say after that. I finally hung up with her, changed into some basketball shorts, and lay down in my bed. Sleep came easier than I thought it would.
We had a pep rally after school. I had told Dane I would meet him at the cafeteria doors by the gym so I stood there waiting for him. Cam came bouncing up to me.
"Ready for the game?" she asked, nudging me with that brilliant smile on her face. It was Cam's smile. I was glad she was acting more like herself and not as depressed as she was yesterday.
"Yeah we got this. At least, we'd better," I replied.
"You'll do great." She assured, me smiling again in confidence.
"Thanks," I replied, flashing her back a smile.
A soft voice spoke in a harsh tone from behind me. "What's going on here?" Dayna asked. She looked Cam up and down and spoke in a voice of pure disgust: "Camilla."
"Dayna." Cam raised her eyebrows and her own voice was icy and flat.
I decided to speak before the tension got worse. If that was even possible. "Nothing was going on, Cam was just wishing me good luck tonight."
Dayna scowled. "You don't need luck, you're an awesome player." She didn't take her eyes off Cam while she was speaking to me.
Then she said, "Anyway, you better get going. I just ran into Dane by the auditorium, and he said he was waiting for you to meet him there." Even though the moment was tense, I couldn't help but laugh at Dane's stupidity. The girls broke their glares at one another and turned to me to see why I was laughing.
"I swear, Dane's such a moron. I definitely told him to meet me by the cafeteria, but apparently that sounds like auditorium to him."
"Well, I better get going, baby. They can't start the rally without the cheerleaders, especially the captain," she put emphasis on the word captain, looking at Cam when she did so. Then she looked back at me. "Hurry up. We don't want our star quarterback to be late to his own pep rally," she. She kissed my cheek and walked off.
"Well, she seems to be in a good mood," Cam said bitterly.
"Oh, come on, she's not that bad. She's just uhhh…. Misunderstood?" I said, apparently not coming up with the right words.
"Right. So was Hitler just misunderstood?"
"What happened? You guys used to be friends."
"Yeah, she was nice to me until she realized that she didn't need my approval to date you, and then she became a mega-bitch."
"That's crazy." I objected
"Whatever, Cayden. I'm going to take off before Godzilla comes back on her rampage. I'll see you later"
"Be nice," I warned. She laughed and headed off down the hall. I walked down to the auditorium to find Dane. Sure enough, there he was, looking like a lost dog. He finally spotted me.
"Dude, where have you been?"
"In the spot you were supposed to meet me at…. the cafeteria."
"No way! I thought you said auditorium."
I laughed. "It doesn't matter now. Let's go."
We walked through the auditorium. "So you have all the plays down for tonight, right?" I asked him.
"Yeah I think so," he replied, which really didn't inspire my confidence.
I stopped and stood in front of him. "What do you mean you think? I need you to be sure, I'm counting on you to take out their big players."
He grabbed my shoulder. "Cayden, calm down, I've got it." That did calm me down a little bit. I wasn't sure why I was so nervous. I took my jersey out of my book bag and threw it on over my white-tee.
After the pep-rally, I had to take Kylie to the house because she had forgotten something. I drove faster than I should have, but I wanted to get back to the field. I wanted the game to start already. I felt the fire burning deep inside of me. The desire to win. To crush the other team.
Our dad was sitting at the kitchen table, passed out, with an empty bottle of whiskey in his hands. I let out a grunt. "Ugh. I see he switched to fifths. I guess the flasks just weren't cutting it anymore."
"Stop it, Cayden, he's going through a rough time right now." Kylie kept trying to make excuses for him, and it really pissed me off. I had actually been in a pretty good mood, and this was ruining it.
"Kylie, mom left two years ago. When are you going to quit making excuses for him?" I shouted and slammed my fist on the counter.
"Shhh! You'll wake him!" she whispered sternly. "Will you take him upstairs?" she added. I opened my mouth to protest, but Kylie cut me off.
"Please Cayden, I don't want to fight with you and we need to get back to the school." She rushed up the stairs to her room. I picked my father up, slung him over my shoulder, and carried him upstairs. When I got to his bed, I let him fall hard. I didn't care if I woke him.