The night went by in a blur of kisses and holding, but I could hardly complain. Well,
should I complain? This was what I wanted. Right? Right?
Of course it was what I wanted.
It just wasn't right.
The following morning I woke up to motion, but I refused to open my eyes. Exhaustion overtook my senses, and I was slowly drifting back into a light sleep…
"Karter," a voice whispered in my ear, stirring me once more. "Wake up."
"Go away," I mumbled, pushing at the solid form next to me.
Something firm and gentle pressed against my cheek, and then my neck. When my temple was next, I popped open an eye curiously. When Max's face appeared in my line of vision I froze.
What had we done?
I threw the blanket off of me and eyed my fully-clothed body; a visible sigh of relief left my lips. We just…heavily made out. That was it. Max got to his feet after watching me intently for a few more seconds that seemed to pass as minutes or even hours, and I could only watch him as he tried to flatten his hair and picked up blankets and pillows off of the couch.
The light in the TV room was off, but the sun was shining through the windows. I turned my attention away from the sunlight and back to Max, who was staring at me again, only this time with a thoughtful expression on his face.
"What does this mean?" I voiced the question I knew he was asking himself.
I grabbed Max's hand when he extended it to me, and he pulled me to my feet. Falling against his chest, he looked down at me and asked, "What do you want it to mean?"
We both knew what I wanted it to mean; what was the point of even asking that? The question was, what were we willing to risk in order to get what we want? So I answered him with the only thing I could think of,
"I want it to mean whatever it's meant to mean," I said quietly, and then pulled away from him. "I should go get ready for school. Daniel is probably worried about me."
"Danny knows," he called after me.
Max was right - Daniel did know. He knew about Max and me. He knew I was right about Haley and Holly. When I walked back into our apartment, Henric was there with the rest of the band and they were lounging on the couch surrounding Daniel.
"Ah, Karter, perfect timing," said Henric, gesturing me over.
"Not really," I muttered awkwardly, trying to tame my own bed-head and obvious making-out golden locks. "I need to get ready for school."
Daniel jumped to his feet, and I could tell by the dubious look on his face that Haley and Holly were the least of his worried at the moment. Curiosity overtook me when he said, "You're not going to school today. Go get changed, we're going out today. As a family."
"A family?" I peered at him with raised eyebrows. "There's only two of us, Daniel."
"That still makes us a family," he said, and then pointed to a basket full of…were those clean clothes? He did the laundry?
What in hell was going on? Daniel never did laundry.
"Anyway," I heard Ronnie say from beside Daniel as I sifted through different pairs of pants and shirts. "What exactly happened with Haley…or Holly? Or whoever she is?"
Daniel could be heard letting out a frustrated sigh before beginning his exclamation, "Haley was dating Max, but seeing me as well. Karter knew this, but wasn't sure what to do I assume. And then when she offered the whole dinner thing, Haley used her younger sister, Holly, who had met Karter at the fair earlier that week-"
"And lied about who she was," I cut in, pulling out a red long-sleeved shirt from the basket. "Said her name was Adele or something."
"Yeah, what she said," he grumbled out, scratching the back of his neck. "Anyway, Holly made me feel guilty because I thought her name was Haley, and I only saw her in the, er, in the dark. Ahem, so I was a bit confused, but I didn't really think much of it. And then you know, it turns out Karter was right. Haley was two-timing both Max and me."
All heads turned to me just as I pulled out a pair of grey sweatpants from Hollister that looked super duper comfy. "What?" I asked, standing up from the floor.
"You and Max then?" asked Jonathon. "How'd that happen?"
I caught Henric smirking to himself from the corner of my eye, but I only shrugged. "Don't know what you're talking about," I clarified, slipping into Daniel's room and shouting over my shoulder, "I'm appalled you're taking what Holly said to heart, Jonathon. I mean, honestly."
Henric was chuckling softly, but it only lasted a few minutes before I heard Daniel kicking out everyone. I changed into my clothes, ran a brush through my hair, and pulled it into a bun on the top of my head. I added a golden jeweled headband for some distraction from the mess of hair.
When I left the room, Daniel was shrugging on his jacket and grabbing his keys. He tossed me said keys, much to my utter surprise. Daniel, letting me drive? I was so shocked that I almost didn't recognize Max when he was leaving his apartment at the same time we were. When he saw me, a smile that lit up his entire face and emphasized his barely visible dimples came to life, and all I wanted to do was wrap myself in his arms and crinkle his fresh white button-up shirt and black pants.
Daniel, on the other hand, didn't look entirely thrilled. He glanced at me and then back at Max. "Excuse us for a second," he said to me, and dragged Max down the hallway. My expression of elation faded, and was replaced with confusion. Their mouths moved, but their eyes kept traveling back to me.
What confused me the most was the look of seriousness that was present on both faces after the conversation was over. Both of them came back over to me, and Max bent over just slightly to kiss my cheek and then started back down the hallway. "I'll stop by your apartment after school lets out," he told me, before disappearing into the elevator.
I looked to Daniel. "What was that all about?" Now that we're on that topic… "And why are you acting strange?"
Daniel stayed quiet and uncertain, which only made me freak out more.
"And where are we going?" I continued asking questions. "Daniel, what's going on?"
Again, he stayed quiet, but this time he grabbed my hand and started walking towards the stairs. We took two steps at a time, and when we were in the parking-lot I was so upset that he wouldn't give me answers that I refused to drive. "Give me the keys," he sighed, grabbing them from me when I didn't hand them over.
"Karter, get in the car."
"Not until you tell me what's going on," I argued, wrapping my arms around my stomach.
"Please, just get in the car," he pleaded, and after a few minutes debating it, I slid into the passenger's seat begrudgingly.
He started the engine, and blowing a piece of golden locks from his face, he turned to me. "We're going to the police," he said finally.
The first thing that popped into my head was Max. Max was a teacher, and teacher/student relationships weren't legal. "Max is only four and a half years older than me, Daniel," I started, slurring my words together. "But I don't understand why you're doing this, you just let him kiss me back there, what's going on? I thought you were fine- he said you were fine with it, and we won't go public, not until I've graduated-"
"Karter," he interrupted me, and when I locked eyes with him, I was startled to find the most sympathetic look I've ever witnessed being given to me. By my brother. "It's not about Max," he said, finally pulling out of the parking-lot and onto the highway. "It's about Dad."
Dad? "Dad's in prison," I told Daniel surely; he wasn't suppose to be put out on parole for a while.
"He's not," said Daniel, taking a left at the second stop sign we came to. "At least, he's not anymore. He escaped from prison, and the only thing they know is the night before he did, he was saying your name over and over again."
My insides froze. Daniel had to be kidding, right? Right? There's no way that could happen, especially not after such an amazing night. It was like…five months until April Fool's Day. Maybe it was an early joke? But why would he joke about something like that? "Daniel," I finally said. "Don't lie to me."
"I'm not lying Karter," he said in exhaustion. "I got the call early this morning, and they wanted us to meet with them this afternoon to discuss protection plans."
Protection plans? What kind of protection plans? Was this seriously happening?
"How did he escape?" I found myself asking; my voice sounded cracked and underused.
Daniel pulled into the police station's parking-lot, and turned the ignition off. "I don't know," he admitted, getting out of the car. I followed.
"That's something else I hope they're going to tell us today," he said, grabbing my hand again. I didn't pull away; he was probably worried our dad would randomly pop up in the parking-lot, grab me, and then take off running. I was kind of scared that would happen too.
When we walked into the station, all eyes turned to us. The atmosphere was rusty and cold, and the smell of donuts and coffee filled my nostrils. Many men and women in badges filled my line of vision, and a few people in orange jumpers were attached to one of the badge's sides'.
"Karter and Daniel Thompson?" asked one of the lingering officers by the front desk, glancing at us. Daniel shook his head in confirmation, and the man lead us to a secluded room with one-way glass. We couldn't see out.
Taking a seat in one of the three chairs next to Daniel, I focused my attention on the short man with a chubby build. His hair was a dark brown, but streaks of grey flitted through it. A mug of steaming coffee was sitting on the table next to him as he eyed us down, before he finally opened his mouth and said, "Precautions are already being taken for your safety, Mrs. Thompson. We have you on surveillance at all times."
"We haven't seen anyone," Daniel said skeptically, and made a face identical to how I felt when the man's mustache moved with his lips.
"That's the way it's suppose to be," he said. "Call me Agent Marks, please."
"We're not suppose to see them?" I asked him, pulling my arms tighter around me thinking I'd rather be at school than in this creepy place. "What's the point in that?"
"If you can't see the officers I've assigned to watch you, then neither can your father."
I had to admit the man had a point, but that didn't make it feel any better to know you're being watched at all costs. Well, maybe not all…costs. My mind traveled to Max and our night last night.
There was no way they'd seen that.
"Is that it?" asked Daniel, moving to stand up. I followed his example.
"It sure is," said Agent Marks, standing up as well. "If you've got any questions or come across any problems my officers aren't aware of, please call me on this number," he handed both Daniel and me a small card, "Happy to be of service."
"Do you want to go to school?" Daniel asked, glancing at the clock. There was only two hours left of school, and by the time we got to the school there'd be one. I nodded my head yes anyway; tonight was the Test of Courage, and I wouldn't be able to attend it if I didn't at least show up for one hour.
Plus, I kind of wanted to see Max, even if it was in an educational environment where we couldn't act as more than teacher and student. Daniel watched me as he pulled out of the station, and the look on his face made me consider that he knew exactly what I was thinking and why I wanted to go to school for the last hour.
Daniel dropped me off at school on his way back to the apartment, and bid me off after giving me a five minute long lecture on not running off anywhere and riding back home with Max. The fact that my dad was out of prison seemed surreal—no, he wasn't out of prison, he broke out of prison.
When I walked into Max's classroom, it felt like everyone was staring at me. I wondered if they knew.
Konnor wouldn't meet my eyes in all of his stubbornness, but he seemed satisfied with glaring at Max. "Karter?" Max asked uncertainly, his eyes filled with concern and confusion. "I didn't expect you to be here today."
I frowned awkwardly at him and took my seat next to Konnor, who still wouldn't look at me. The hour passed by in a blur, and I could tell Max was worried. It wasn't every day I went an hour without somehow sharing my opinion on something. My mind was pulsing with many different thoughts though—that wasn't a surprise though.
When the class made their way out of the door, I was startled to find that Konnor hadn't left his seat. When the door shut behind the last student leaving, he stood up from his desk. The room was empty except for him, Max, and me.
"Is there something you need?" Max asked Konnor. "Information on the Test of Courage, perhaps? I'm kind of in a hurry though, so if you could…"
"In a hurry?" Konnor scoffed; this wasn't like him. "Why am I not surprised? Oh—that's right! Because you're fucking Karter. Going to get in a quickie before tonight?"
"Konnor, today is really not the day," I warned.
"Have a bad day?" he asked with mock sympathy.
"Konnor—!" But my warnings were futile; Max was starting to get really pissed off.
"What?" Konnor turned to look at me. "You are so full of yourself, Karter! You are so caught up in your problems—your miniscule problems—that you don't have time to consider how you might be causing other peoples problems!"
"That's enough!" Max's fist slammed on his desk. "Konnor, I'm going to have to ask you to leave. Karter may have broken your heart, but that's honestly the last thing on anyone's mind right now."
Konnor looked like he was about to say something, but I cut him off. "My dad broke out of prison," I said quickly. "Max is right. My love life isn't important right now."
I left the room while Konnor was still dumbstruck, and let Max handle the rest. I headed towards the staff parking-lot and looked for his car. When I spotted the black mustang in the corner of the lot, I walked over to it and slipped inside the passenger's side.