"I have a romantic evening planned for us," Leo told me over the phone. It was Saturday morning; I woke up to my phone ringing. I knew Leo would call, I just didn't think it would be as early as 8 a.m. I didn't get much sleep the night before; I tossed and turned to the worries of Leo's demeanor. I was hoping he just had a rough day, but I figured tonight would prove my thoughts.
"Oh yeah?" I said, yawning in the process. I heard Leo chuckle on the other end.
"Yup. Tell your parents that you'll be staying at a friend's house tonight; my plans may last longer than expected."
My heart fluttered at the sound of that sentence. Was he planning on taking my virginity? I tried to ignore the butterflies in my stomach as I asked, "Where will I be meeting you?"
"The Pier at 6 tonight. Don't bother bringing a change in clothes; I'll bring everything we'll need."
I had a weird feeling about the sound of that. "Um…alright," I said finally, not knowing what to think.
"Great. Oh, and Kath?"
"I'm sorry about my behavior last night. I'll make it up to you tonight," Leo reassured me. "See you then." Then, with a click of a button, Leo was gone.
I told my parents I was sleeping over at Taylor's that night, texting her ahead of time and informing her of my situation. She told me she had me covered in case my parents became suspicious and contacted her themselves.
As I drove to the Pier, my mind was racing. I didn't know what to expect. I threw on skinny leg jeans, a grey dropped shoulder top, and grey boots. My hair rolled past my shoulders in waves and I was wearing little makeup. I felt confident about the way I looked but hoped I wasn't dressed too casual.
I parked a block away from the Pier and sauntered towards my destination. I spotted Leo standing in front of the Sawmill with his hands shoved in his pockets and a devilish grin plastered on his face. I was relieved to see that he was dressed casual as well; denim skinny jeans, a red shirt with the sleeves reaching his elbows, and red Vans. His hair was brushed across his face and his all-around aura was much different than last night's.
He gave me a hug when I approached him. "Good evening. You look gorgeous," he smiled, grabbing my hand and intertwining his fingers in mine. He led me off the Pier and onto the beach, where we first had our first kiss. I stopped in shock as I noticed his car parked in the middle of the beach, already dusted with sand.
"What the hell? Isn't this illegal?" I asked in amazement.
"It's only illegal if we get caught," Leo winked, "Come on." He led me to his car and before I realized it, lifted me up effortlessly to sit me on the hood. I squealed in delight; his strong hands touching my body were enough to send electricity through my veins. He hopped up next to me and squeezed my hand.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" he asked, gesturing towards the horizon. It was sunset; the sky was glowing pink and orange, the sun beating warm rays of heat against my face. The combination of that and the breeze from the ocean made me feel extremely comfortable; I could've sat there for days without moving.
"Yes" I agreed. "I haven't watched the sun set in a long, long time."
"Well in that case, I'm glad I brought you here," Leo smiled. He leaned over and softly kissed me on the cheek, lingering there a second more than necessary.
"Me too. I'm hoping this can make up for last night," I said quietly, tucking a piece of hair behind my ear.
Leo sighed and rubbed the back of his neck with his free hand. "About that…I owe you an apology. I'm sorry if I seemed…off," he said hesitantly.
"I was worried about you," I confessed, looking into his eyes.
"I appreciate that, thank you," Leo said sincerely. "And I promise you, I'm not some moody guy who takes his problems out on his girlfriend." My heart jumped at the sound of girlfriend. Is that who he thought of me as?
"Then what happened?" I pressed, eager to hear a full explanation.
Leo took a deep breath and looked up at the sky, as if looking for answers. "I have a…rough, family life, to say the least," Leo finally admitted, pausing. "I tend to let my problems at home affect my mood, which is not a fair way to live."
"Rough? Like, how?" I asked, sincerely curious. A million possibilities ran through my mind, most of them being drawn out from movies I'd seen.
"My dad left us a long time ago, right after I was born," Leo said quietly, as if the thought itself was too painful to speak out loud about. But he continued. "My mom was left to raise three kids by herself. She was young and unemployed. She had no family to turn to, no friends to rely on. It was just her, my older brother Lance, my older sister Cindy, and me. My mom unwillingly turned to drugs; that's how she made her money. That and prostitution." Leo paused, tears welling in his eyes. He turned to me. "You're the only person I've ever told this to," he whispered, his voice quivering.
I didn't know what to say. I envisioned his life being easy and glamorous; the way he seemed to not have a care in the world, I thought his life at home was equally easy-going. I just squeezed his hand, urging him to continue.
"Prostitution," Leo said in disgust, "was what produced my three little siblings. Rachel, Nicole, and Dylan are spawns of sin."
"Is that really how you think of them?" I asked, shocked at his obvious resentment towards his little sisters and brother.
"Absolutely," Leo nodded, his lips trembling. "Rachel and Dylan were both born with birth defects; Rachel has cerebral palsy and Dylan has Down Syndrome." He quickly wiped away a tear on his cheek. "All thanks to the drugs my mom consumed during pregnancy," he continued.
I felt my mouth hang open. I was, once again, speechless. Leo didn't bother noting my silence; he kept going.
"Cindy is 22 and Lance is 24. They're both fucked up in the head too. Took after my mom." Leo shook his head and stared down at his lip. "Lance is a heroin addict, the product of complete failure. And Cindy is the mother of a 2 year old baby boy, Braden. She has no idea who the father is, which isn't much of a shock considering what a slut she is," Leo hissed, his eyes full of hatred. "Keep in mind all these people live in my house. My fucking 7 year old sister is in a wheel chair, unable to walk or eat on her own, while my mom and older brother drink and smoke and do all types of drugs without a care in the world." He took a deep breath and looked up at me.
"I've been working since I was 13," he told me, his voice quivering again. "My mom gets welfare checks and health care benefits and all that bullshit, but she doesn't use it towards her sick children; she uses it towards more drugs and alcohol. It's disgusting, and I'm ashamed of it. I use all the money I make towards my tuition for school and also Rachel and Dylan's needs. I'm like a father at the age of 19. That's not any way a young man wants to live."
"There are nights where I don't fall asleep; I lay in bed crying at how much my life sucks. But then I see the smiles on my little siblings' faces, the ones that are sick, and wonder in disbelief how they overcome their challenges without a tear shed on their faces," Leo said, a small smile forming on his face. "I think they're spawns of sin, but I love them with all my damn heart. They deserve to have a better life than what they're given, that's for sure."
"And then there's you." Leo looked into my eyes and I felt my heart melt. At that point, tears were rolling down my face at the heartbreaking story of his life. "As soon as I spotted you at that party, I felt some type of deep connection, nothing I could explain. I was glad you made that jackass comment about me, because I then had an excuse to talk to you. And when I saw you sitting in my class on the first day of school, my heart leaped out of my chest. I've had girlfriends before-well, more like flings-and none of them compared to you. You make me forget about the problems in my life, if only for a little while. That's what I need in my life; you are what I need in my life. I may have a rough outlook on life, but you make it easier to live."
Before I could stop the words from tumbling out of my mouth, I said, "I love you." They may have been rushed, but they were the truest words I'd ever spoken in my entire life. I knew this kid for a month, even less than that. But from the beginning, I knew that there was something special between us, something rare. Tears rolled down my face as I wrapped my arms around him and held him tight.
"I'm so sorry, Leo. I'm so, so sorry," I cried, meaning it. "I will be by your side through all of this; I promise it will get better."
Leo broke down as well; his grip around my body tightened. "I love you, Kath. I love you, I love you, I love you."
And for a moment, all of our problems in the world were insignificant. True love overcomes all. Little was I aware that my theory would be tested soon enough.