Scared And Coping: Kaylee's Life

10

XxX

I laughed and he laughed with me, amused, throwing his head back, making me smile and suddenly really want to kiss him. As our conversation progressed, we decided to sit down, so now we had out backs to our mothers' prying eyes.

"Mom says that you look good and..." He trailed off, looking out across the water.

I raised an eyebrow. "And what?"

He didn't look at me. "Uh, never mind, you don't need to know the rest."

Levy became red-faced and he started acting nervously when I took a peek at Catalina, who smiled widely and gave me a thumbs-up.

I waved after the people blocking my path cleared up. It was then that I noticed that Catalina and my mother were looking around frantically for something. I wondered for a second who she was looking for when I noticed who was missing from the picture.

Olivia.

XxX

Levy and I started looking around frantically, in an overwhelming rush of panic to find Livvy. After a little while, Levy suddenly grabbed hold of my wrist and pulled me behind him, my clumsy feet nearly tripping me as I blindly followed him to our destination, which still remained unbeknownst to me. All I saw around us were blurs of people, our surroundings flying by, and my own two feet were moving quickly in front of me.

He stopped suddenly, making me run into him. I was unsteady for a second before he reached out and steadied me.

We were standing a few feet in front of a woman who was looking around frantically holding a very familiar baby girl in her arms, and holding the hand of a confused-looking little girl.

"Ma'am," Levy said. When he realized that she hadn't heard him, he got closer to her, tapping her shoulder and repeated himself. "Ma'am."

She turned around, her face puzzled for a moment as she looked at Levy and I from head to toe, aaand then she looked at Olivia again. Apperantely she saw the resemblance between Levy and Olivia because her face broke out into a satisfied smile.

"Is this your baby?" the woman asked us.

"Yes," Levy replied evenly, "she is. We were so worried."

Olivia reached for Levy, but the woman handed her to me since I was closer to her than Levy was. Olivia babbled out some happy-sounding nonsense as Levy kissed her forehead and ruffled her hair, but left her in my arms. She yawned and laid her head on my shoulder, which I found extremely cute, and couldn't help but let a soft smile spread across my face.

"Ah, a daddy's girl, huh?" the woman said to Levy. "It's horrible to look back where your baby was a second ago and not see her, isn't it? Well, I can relate. I lost my daughter for a little while once at Walmart, so I remember the gut-wrenching feeling a parent feels when he believes his or her child is in danger."

My eyes widened and I looked at Levy sideways, who was looking at the woman calmly with a calculating look in his face, but I wasn't fooled by his facade-I could see the tips of his ears starting to turn red.

I looked back down at Olivia, then remembered Levy's hand on my lower back, and my skin began to give off little tingles. She and I did have some similarities, now that I looked closely at her, but I didn't think they were enough to be able to confuse her as mine. We both had fair skin, had brown eyes, brown hair, Levy...

"Oh my goodness!" Catalina shouted behind me. "My baby! Thank God you found her!"

Catalina kissed Olivia's cheeks and took her from me.

The woman who'd found Olivia looked at Catalina, who was holding a happy Olivia, then back at Levy and me, a bewildered expression adorning her face.

"B-but—you—" she said and pointed between us, obviously so discombobulated that she found herself unable to properly string a grammatically correct sentence together.

I gulped, as my face and the back of my neck began to heat up, a scarlet blush creeping it's way in. I probably felt more embarrassed than she did. Goodness, Olivia was about a year and a half old, and to think about getting pregnant at that age...

"Thank you," Catalina said and smiled kindly at the woman, who just nodded and looked somewhat flustered.

"You're welcome."

"I wanna go home," the little girl, who I assumed was her daughter, whined, tugging on her mother's hand.

"I'm sorry, but I have to go now. I'm glad I could help you find your daughter," she said earnestly, then turned on her heel and left us.

"Kaylee!" I heard someone call from somewhere behind me.

My mom.

I turned to look at her.

"You found her!" Mom exclaimed gleefully, smiling. Her grin fell a little at the look on my face. "What happened to you?" she asked me, her voice growing concerned.

"Oh my goodness. I can't believe that just happened," I said, still in shock.

"What?" she pressed, impatient as ever.

"That lady thought that Olivia was my daughter." I looked down at my stomach and touched one of my stretch marks, which ran into my bikini bottoms. "I'm only fourteen though. That's crazy."

"It's not that crazy," Levy interjected smoothly. "You two look a little alike, and she might have thought you were older. It was a simple mistake."

"Yeah, I'm surs that's it," I said sarcastically, my face starting to feel a new kind of hot, and it wasn't because of the weather (as much as I'd love to have used it as a viable excuse), either, but because of the fact that I was even considering the idea of having my best friend's baby. I mean, seriously, a best friend is not supposed to be thought of as your baby daddy, but then again, having your best friend's baby instead of your teacher's, who raped you, does sound a lot more appealing...

No. Thinking of him like that is still just plain wrong.

But even as I thought that, I couldn't help but start picturing my imaginary baby who would someday be born and who would have a better father than a rapist...

"Kaylee?" my mom said in an annoyed voice.

"Yes, Ma?"

"We need to go. Your brothers are in the sprinklers and I can't see them from here."

"Okay."

"Levy," Catalina said, "grab Olivia for a minute and go find your father; he stayed with Fabian at the sprinklers."

Levy took Olivia from Catalina, and walked alongside me as my mom lead the way. We fell back a couple steps as Olivia started "talking" again.

"So," Levy said.

"Yeah?" I said and glanced down, then felt a tug on my hair, followed by pain that was traced back to my scalp. "Ah!"

"Olivia!" Levy yelled and released my hair from her little fingers.

My insides twisted as she started crying and I felt somewhat guilty for making her cry. Levy tried to calm her down, but her cries only got louder.

I rolled my eyes as Levy made a fool out of himself trying to make her stop crying.

"Levy-" I started to say.

"Little busy here, Kayls."

"Just hand me Olivia, okay?"

Levy only seemed to think about it for a second before he gave Livvy to me, who went back to touching my hair.

"Pwetty," Olivia said and started squirming around.

I looked at Levy and he shrugged.

"She means that your hair is pretty. I think. I don't know how her mind works."

I smiled and said, "Okay, now I officially love your family."

"Pwetty!" Olivia yelled in a demanding tone.

"Okay, okay, Little Miss Impatient," I said and tickled her tummy a little. "Thank you, and your hair is pretty too, baby girl."

She giggled and started rattling off in speech that I couldn't understand.

"How do you do that?" Levy asked me.

I shrugged and said, "I don't really know. I guess maybe it's because I'm a girl, and, usually, the mom spends more time with the baby. I don't know. Maybe she really likes me 'cuz I don't call her a brat or a stupid baby, like her brother does."

"That was a really long time ago, okay? And she still gets on my nerves sometimes, but that doesn't mean anything."

I shook my head. "Olivia's an awfully cute and adorable baby, how can you hate that?"

Olivia looked up from chewing on her fingers, as if to say 'You hate me?'.

"I don't hate her. She's my baby sis. Olivia's just more annoying than a dog sometimes—she drools all over everything and chews on my homework, and because of her, the entire house is baby-proofed. Everywhere you look there's some stupid toy of hers that if you step on it she'll cry about it for like a day. Not to mention the lack of sleep 'cuz she cries in the middle of the night sometimes, and I can't ever bring home any friends because she's all over the place."

"Well, that's how babies are supposed to be," I said defensively, "and you brought me over."

I felt a pang of some sort of emotion inside me. Hurt, maybe? Didn't Levy think of me as a friend?

"Well, you're different," he said stubbornly.

I rolled my eyes and turned around to face him, annoyed. "How come? I thought I was your friend."

"Yeah, you are, but you're also a girl, and you...I don't know. You actually like Olivia. If I took any of my other friends, they wouldn't think the same thing about my family that you do. All my other friends just wouldn't understand."

I rolled my eyes, annoyed at Levy.

"Tiffany's also a girl, and you really seemed to like her, so why didn't you bring her home instead of me?"

I really didn't know what was the deal with me, but I just couldn't stop running my mouth. Not now. Catalina said I'd been the only girl he'd ever brought home, but instead of making me feel special, it only made me feel more upset.

"Because," he said in a tone that led me to believe that it was all I was going to get out of him, and that it was the end of it, but I just couldn't seem to let it go.

"Because what, Levy? Speak in full sentences. Because she's a queen bee who gets everything she wants? Because she's mean and talks about everyone? Because she's a bitch?" My eyes widened and I looked down at Olivia, who looked back up at me innocently. I shook my head and continued my tirade, making sure that I didn't let anything inappropriate pass through my verbal filter. "Sometimes I just don't get you, Levy. When you're with me, you're nice and when you're at school with other people you let them influence you and turn you into something you're not. You knew from day one that Tiffany didn't love you and you were just her stupid little toy, but despite all of that, you still went out with her and followed her around like a lovesick puppy!"

I let out a sigh and remembered who I was and what I was doing. It was a happy day and I was ruining it by talking about Tiffany. Not to mention that I had a baby in my arms and I was screaming.

I shook my head to clear it off and looked back at Levy, who looked angry and slightly hurt.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't mean to take it that far, okay? I really just can't stand her. She manipulates everyone and gets them into doing her dirty work, and no offense or anything, Levy, but she's not even really that pretty. If you look at her, even from a mile away, you can see that everything about her screams 'fake'; and besides that, you don't even know how many people she's been with! I know you're a good person and you might have just wanted to see the good in her, but goodness, she's been caught in the girl's bathroom doing things I shouldn't have even heard about—"

"What are you two still doing here?" Catalina asked us. "And in the middle of the sidewalk, no less?"

"Mama!" Olivia squealed, reaching out for Catalina. I handed her back to her mother, and crossed my arms over my chest.

I glared at Levy, still mad about the poor choice he made a while back, and tried not to let my eyes linger on his chest instead of his face.

"Is everything okay?" Catalina asked.

"It will be when I forget Levy and I had this conversation," I said, and turned around, stomping off towards the bathroom.

I just couldn't help but ruin a perfectly good day, and it was all because of a worthless girl who'd had him while I stood back and watched, feeling jealous and hurt up to the point where I felt numb, but I needed to live in the present. She'd had her shot with him, and now he'd turned into my best friend. That's all I could ever ask for.

I locked myself in a bathroom stall, and did something I hated doing. I cried my eyes out 'till my head felt heavy and it hurt to even think, and when the tears ran out, the sobs that shook my body sufficed my needs to let everything out.

XxX

"Kaylee!" I heard through a heavy fog. I felt like I needed to get up, like there was something I needed to do yet I was way too tired to wake up. Apart from the fact that I was laying on something hard and cold, going back to sleep seemed pretty tempting.

"Kaylee! Wake up!" somebody yelled and shooked my shoulders.

Slowly I returned to the real world and noticed that I was still on the stinky bathroom floor where I'd been crying. I had fallen asleep sorrounded by bathroom paper that was full of my snot. Catalina was above me, shaking my shoulders.

"Kaylee, are you okay? What happened?" she asked me.

I looked around me and sat up, a little disoriented.

"Um..." Now, I had to remember that I was talking to the guy I'd argued with's mother. "I-I don't know," I lied, shifting uncomfortably on the cold floor.

"Oh, Kaylee. Sweetie, why were you crying? Your eyes are red and your nose is runny. You can tell me if you want to."

"Not now," I said. "Maybe later."

"I know how hard it is to be pregnant with all the ups and downs and the mood swings, but everything's going to be alright. It's going to be hard, but you'll make it through this, I swear, and if you want some advice...well, I would say that you should tell your parents about this. If this hapenned to Levy or Olivia, I'm more than certain that I'd want to be aware of it. I know I'm putting pressure on you, but you need to decide what you're going to do with your baby now, before it's too late. Once it's past a certain amount of time it will hurt your baby if you get an abortion."

I pulled my knees up to my chest and put my face on top of them.

"I would never ever be able to be that cruel-especially to my own baby," I said and closed my eyes, but not before seeing a flash of emotion pass through Catalina's face. It was gone before I had the chance to detect what she was really feeling. "Do you..." I trailed off, rephrasing my question, "Did you think twice before you decided what to do with your children?"

"I did with Levy, but not because lack of love; I had financial problems at the time and my family was really poor. I don't know how much you know about Cuba, but it's a small island and has some parts that are very poor. My dad was the person that provided for us, and a little less than a year before I became pregnant with Levy, he died. It was really hard on my family and my mom tried to pay the bills, but it wasn't enough. It had been a couple months since l'd graduated high school and I had a part-time job. After that, I had to start acting like a grown-up and get a full-time job and take care of my family. That's the only reason I wanted to give Levy up for adoption. I thought that he would be better off with a couple that would not only love him, but be able to give him the best life he would ever ask for and the luxuries he deserved. Paul told me that if I gave our baby up for adoption that he would leave me and raise Levy on his own. He didn't do it out of harshness; he just wanted me to reconsider my options.

"In the end, all I'm trying to do is get you to think of your choices. There are three of them—well, two since you ruled out abortion—and it's a very important choice. You probably think I'm overreacting about all of this, but you have to remember that there's a baby inside of you that's as real as Olivia, and I don't want you to think that just because it's not developed enough for you to hold or look at in person doesn't mean that she or he doesn't exist."

"I know, I know; I know exactly what you mean. This baby is very real to me even though I still can't fully process the idea around, well...it. Since I was little I've longed for a baby, like most other little girls, but now that I have it, I don't think I want it or that I can do it..."

"I understand that," Catalina said, kindly, offering me a comforting smile. "I've gone through it, Kaylee." There was a moment of comfortable silence between us and then she finally asked me that dreaded question. "I know that it's really none of my business, but Levy told me that the baby wasn't his and that you don't have a boyfriend, either. How exactly did you get pregnant?"

My cheeks started burning bright red both out of embarassment and shame. My mind went back to the earlier thoughts I'd had on having Levy's baby, but then the fantasy was shattered by the image of the actual father of my baby. Gosh, I would've felt so much happier if it had been Levy's. Sure, it would have still been a 'problem' that needed solving, but it wouldn't have been as horrible. At least Levy would have had been there to comfort me and tell me that everything would be alright as the baby's father instead of as my best friend. He would been the face that popped up into my mind when I thought about the conception of the baby instead of...

I drew in a sharp breath.

"Kaylee, are you alright?"

"Yeah, yeah, I just—" my voice faltered, but I covered it up quickly and plastered on a fake smile. "Don't worry about me. Tell me more about what you were telling me before. I love stories and I want to hear more. How did you and Levy's dad handle your pregnancy with Levy? And what did your family say?"

"Well, my younger sister, who's three years younger than me, was sixteen at the time. She was happy about being an aunt and she loves Levy almost as much as I do-she always has. My mom was happy about it, because over the past months she had had to go through so much pain, and she was extremely happy that Paul had been the one that I chose to have a child with. My little brother, who was eleven at the time, was pretty neutral about it, but I think that at the same time he was kind of upset because we used to be really close-he blamed Levy and Paul for ruining that. I understand where he was coming from, though. He was the baby of the family, and it pretty much felt like he was my own child sometimes.

"When I told them that I was planning on giving Levy up for adoption, they were both relieved and sad. Anyhow, Paul was really excited about the pregnancy since Levy was his first child, so he made it clear that abortion was not an option. He wanted Levy to have a mother, but if I would have refused to take care of him, I'm pretty sure that he would have taken on both parental roles and it would have been the last of them I had ever seen. Paul is a couple years older me, and he was better off than me. He was middle class, and at the time, he pretty much looked rich to me. He comforted me and told me we were going to make it through together, and we did. There really isn't much to tell, to be honest."

My smile grew.

"Why are you grinning?" Catalina asked me.

"Well," I said in a sing-song voice, smiling, "that's a really romantic story, and Mr. Rodriguez is kind of starting to sound like a certain best friend of mine."

"Levy?"

"Mmhmm. At the beginning of summer I was going through a rough time, and he got me out of it. I still feel sad sometimes, but he's there for me and he always helps me feel better. That's all that matters." Catalina gave me a small, knowing smile, which made me blush, but she didn't push me to say anything else (surprisingly enough). "Anyhow, how did you decided that you were going to keep and raise Levs?"

"I can't really pinpoint the exact time where I decided to keep him, because there was a lot of outside interference, but once I saw his face, it gave me the strengh I needed to...to be able to say that I was going to be there and raise him and be the mother he needed and deserved."

"Were you happy when you found out you were going to have him? Or..." I couldn't really think of any other good emotions. "Um, what were you feeling, exactly?"

"Well, yes, I felt happy, but I also felt sad because of the situation we were in."

"Now, I have a question for you, Kaylee. More than one actually. How are you feeling? Are you okay? You know, if you need anything, you can always call me. Do you have my phone number?"

I shook my head.

"No, and I'm feeling okay, I guess. I'm just upset that Levy and I had an argument."

"You really seemed into it. Wanna tell me what it was about?"

"Did you see the girl that came up to us?" She nodded. I sighed, "That's Tiffany. I don't like her. For a while, she was, I guess, his girlfriend—if you could call it that—but it wasn't really serious or anything, and now she's obsessed with him and just because I was hugging him earlier, she saw me as a threat. I don't know what she's after, but before school was out I heard from somebody..." My face suddenly flushed bright red. "Well, I'm not going to say what I heard because it's too embarassing for me to even repeat it."

"Is she trying to get him into drugs or something?"

"No, not like that."

I saw her confused look and gave in, sighing.

"I don't know if it's true or not, but I heard she tried to get in his pants and he pushed her away. Levy seemed to really like her, even though she treated him like crap. I've never liked her, and even before she got together with Levs, and she has always given me bad vibes. Earlier on, she came here and called me a slut, and aside from that, whether Levy admits it or not, he's suffered a lot because of her. Don't mention any of this to him, though."

"Why are you telling me this then?" she asked, curiosity clear on her face.

"You're his mom-you're always going to be there for him. Me? This friendship will probably not last as long as I'd like for it to, and the thing is that I probably won't be able to stop it."

Again, I found myself wanting to explain to her what was going on, so I continued.

"Levy has always been one of the most popular boys in our grade; everybody likes him. I'm the nerdy girl not many people take a chance of being friends with. I don't know. I've never had somebody like Levy before and I'm probably gonna screw it up sooner or later, like earlier today, and he's gonna get sick and tired of me. You know what people say, everything has an ending and I just can't take some things for granted, you know? The only thing I really take for granted is my family, because family you can't get rid of."

I laughed softly, albeit somewhat uneasily.

"I'm sure that's not true. I have a feeling that soon enough you'll officially be part of our family, so you won't be able to get rid of us either." She laughed and made me smile, just like Levy does. "Kaylee, Levy's my son and I know him better than he knows himself, so..." she hesitated before continuing. "Well, Levy likes you a lot, and people he likes he doesn't let go of easily." I gave her a small smile. "Did you feel jealous?"

That question caught me off guard.

"Jealous? Because of what?"

"This girl. Stephany."

I started laughing at her mistake, though it was nothing really all that funny. I think those pregnancy hormones were starting to get to me.

"It's Tiffany," I said, and continued talking in a not so convincing tone, "and, uh, jealous? No way. Why would you say that?" She kept staring at me with that I-know-you're-lying-to-my-face look, and a smile formed on her lips, growing bigger and bigger until I couldn't take it anymore and gave in to the pressure. "Okay, fine, I lied to not make a fool of myself, but whatever, it's not like it matters anyway," I admitted, my tone dripping with annoyance at my defeat. "Happy? I can't lie."

I felt myself start to become red all over.

Catalina grinned, her victory clear in her features.

"Yes, and I knew you had a little crush on Levy!" she accused me, smiling from ear to ear.

"A little crush? Please, I don't think that describes it enough."

"So, what, are you in lo-ove?"

My whole face was on fire now. Geez, Catalina sure seemed eager to get all the details of my 'love life', which are pretty much inexistent.

"I—"

"Mom! Is Kaylee with you? Is she alright?" Levy's anxious voice bounced off the bathroom walls.

"Yes, Levy. I found her," she shouted back.

"Are my eyes puffy and red?" I asked Catalina.

She shook her head.

"Kay Kay, are you okay? Hang on in there for a second, okay?"

"Levy, I'm alright!" I yelled back and a second later I heard him groan.

What happened to him?

"That's what you get for coming into the ladies' room, you little pervert!" a woman yelled, I'm assuming that at Levy.

"Ma'am, it's not what you—"

"Oh, shut it, you little freak!" the woman yelled. "Enough of your attitude right now and get out of here before I call the police on you." She then went on a rant about the 'young people of today, going around acting as if though they ruled the world'.

I snickered quietly to myself as Levy left, slamming the door. Poor boy.

I peeked out of the bathroom stall once I was sure the lady was gone, and nobody else was there. I let out a sight of relief, then giggled.

"Catalina?"

"Hmm?"

"Has Levy ever done something like this? Old ladies get aggitated when they see stuff that didn't happen back in their time; it's basic logic."

"I get agitated when I see some stuff that happened in my time, and I'm not old."

"Like screwing someone in the bathroom?" I asked with a giggle.

I felt like I had just committed the ultimate social no-no when I realized my thoughts had left my mouth.

"Sorry," I said and turned to the mirror on the wall to see my appearence, which screamed 'I just woke up'. I put my messy hair up in a bun, splashed water on my face and turned to leave.

"I'm going to give you kids time to make up, but I can't be in the bathroom forever, so make the best of it, okay?"

I looked back at Catalina as she winked at me and kicked me out.

I was grateful enough that she'd let my comment slide that I wasn't even a little bit mad at her for literally pushing me out the door. I was so embarrassed about what'd happened earlier with Levy. I hoped he would let it go because I didn't feel like discussing it. I'd meant what I'd said-I wasn't going to take it back, but I was sorry that it'd come out across as it had.

Levy was pacing back and forth a few feet away from me, his arms crossed over his chest. A hundred million thoughts ran across my mind, but the words that came tumbling out were pretty much the lamest I could have come up with.

"So, did the lady that screamed at you hit you with her bag, too?"

Levy turned my way and smiled at me.

"No, but I bet that she would have started hitting me with it if she had had one...What happened to you, Kayls? One minute you were there, and the next you were just...gone." He ran a hand through his hair. "I thought you'd been kidnapped or something. Please tell me that you're okay and that it didn't happen again."

"Nothing bad happened really. I just...got really tired and decided to take a nap in an inappropriate place." It was a tiny twist to the truth, but he didn't need to know that I'd gone to the bathroom with the original intention to bawl my eyes out. "And what do you mean, 'it'?"

"I'm glad you're okay. And please don't make me explain..."

"I'm sorry, Lev, but I woke up a couple minutes ago, so I'm kind of lost on what you're insinuating," I deadpanned bluntly.

He pinched the bridge his nose and closed his eyes.

"You know what I'm talking about, Kaylee," Levy said, narrowing his eyes at me. "That monster took your innocence away as well as your chances of being a normal kid. He left you broken, yet you defend him, acting like you don't know what I'm talking about when I mention it."

"Gosh, Levy, where did that come from?" I asked, shocked at his angry tone. "And I am not defending the bastard," I spit out the word as if it were poison. "You're right-he did take things away from me that he didn't have a right in taking. Can you let me explain? I'm sorry about making you angry. I didn't mean to either time, things just got out of control."

"I'm glad you see my point, and go on, explain what I'm not grasping."

Levy still had his eyes closed, a hand still pinching the bridge of his nose and he was facing the ground, but he wasn't as tense as he was before, when he was so worried about me.

I'm such a lucky girl for having such a nice guy as a best friend. I mean, I would never ever trade him for anything or anyone else in the world, but, as I'd told Catalina, I knew that our friendship probably wouldn't survive for longer than a few months into the school year, if not less.

Levy was the kind of guy that everyone liked and was friends with, and as soon as he became Mr. Popular Boy again, he wouldn't be my Levy anymore. Not the sweet boy who figured out what happened to me and decided to help me instead of run and tell everyone. Once he went back to his other friends, he wouldn't be the guy I love—he'll be the guy everybody else loves. Levy—

"Kaylee, weren't you going to say something?"

I snapped out of my trance immediately, forcing myself to stop babbling away in my head. I looked at Levy seriously as I made up my mind for what to do next.

So, yeah, maybe we wouldn't be friends later on, but I couldn't go moping around because of our friendship's impending doom. I had to live in the moment, the here and now, because, for now, I still had my sweet boy.

"Yeah..." I replied slowly. "Can we talk? I mean, really talk-not argue, not joke around, but talk seriously. I know you're not the kind of person that can't be still or serious for too long, but can you at least try? For me? I really need to talk to you."

"Yeah, sure, whatever." He looked up at me and asked, "Are you cold?"

His question caught me off guard, then looked down and noticed that I was trying to make the goose bumps on my arms go away.

"Yeah," I said, embarrassed.

"Alright. I knew that was gonna happen sooner or later. Come on."

I looked at him confused, but followed him to a bench, where he took out a backpack and threw me a hoodie. I untagled the arms of the hoodie from the torso part and threw it on over my bikini. It felt so warm and inviting, like Levy himself, and smelled like him too-a bonus.

"Can I ask you something, Kayls?" Levy asked me as I sat down on the bench attached to a picnic table.

"Of course."

"I don't want you to get mad or anything, but what are you planning on doing with...it?" He looked at my stomach and made sure that I knew what we were talking about, or, rather, who we were talking about. Levy sat down in front of me the same way I was sitting-with his legs on either side of the bench. "Are you going to keep it or are you going to abort it? I think that aborting it would be the best thing that you could do for yourself in this situation."

My heart broke at his words and I looked away as the pain I was feeling got translated into a single tear that slid down my face. I wiped it away and tried to undo the knot in my throat.

After a while I looked back at Levy, who was still looking at me, waiting for his answer.

"Levy, I think twice before I kill a stupid bug...how do you expect me to allow someone to kill my own baby? It's an innocent baby that has never done anything wrong to anyone, and you're telling me to hurt it in the worst possible way?"

The pain I felt laced into my voice as I spoke.

"Kay Kay, I don't think you realize how I feel about this baby." He sighed heavily. "I want what's best for you, and I don't want you to sacrifice your happiness or youth because of what you think is right...or...or your morals. I know how your mind works. You probably want to go ahead with it because you're thinking of the baby and everybody else but yourself." He reached out and took my hand, enveloping it in his own slightly larger, warmer one. "It's nice of you to be able to think of other people first, but sometimes you have to think about you first." He gently squeezed my hand. "Look, I'm not telling you, 'Hey, you should be selfish twenty four seven', but sometimes just have to do what's best for yourself. Do you get what I'm saying? If you would have gotten pregnant, I don't know, seven, ten, thirteen years from now, you had the financial resources to support it and it wouldn't have been a product of rape, then I wouldn't be suggesting this. I'm not saying abortion is right all the time, but by having it and keeping it all you're going to do is hurt yourself even more."

"Look, Levy, I can see where you're coming from," I looked down and pulled my hand from his, staring down at my hand, "but I don't think you see where I'm coming from or what I'm feeling."

I looked at him through my lashes and saw his expression soften.

"Tell me then," Levy said.

I drew in a shaky breath and forced myself to look back up at him. "However it was that he or she got inside of me, this little person isn't just somebody else's baby, Levy-it's my baby. It's a part of me already, and instead of making me happy to get rid of it, it'll only make me feel worse about this whole thing." I saw the way he felt about this whole thing clearly in his face: he was upset by it and didn't agree with what I was doing in the least. "Can you at least be a little skeptical? For me, getting an abortion would be like killing Olivia."

"I get that, but, I did research and right now it's not even a baby. It's just a bunch of cells. Heck, I don't think you're even past the three month mark."

I looked at him as if he were an alien from a foreign planet. Geesh, way to be supportive, Levy!

"Kaylee, are you crying?"

"No," I lied, avoiding his penetrating gaze. "I just have an eyelash in my eye."

"Oh, Kayls, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to make you sad or anything...I just...I want..." he took a deep breath before continuing. "I just don't want you to be hurt anymore. I want you to be able to go on and be like you were before this whole accident happened."

He took my hand in his again, squeezing it, and with the other one wiped away the tears on my face.

"Levy, do you want the truth?"

He stopped wiping away my tears, and stared into my eyes.

"Yes. I do," Levy said, his body stiffening.

I closed my eyes and swallowed the knot that was choking me.

Keeping my eyes closed, I said, "Do you know why I was raped?" His silence assured me that he was listening. "The man who did it wanted a child, so he made it work and got me pregnant. He said that if I didn't get pregnant this time, he would violate me as many times as it took for me to get pregnant and bear him a child." More tears slid down my face, and a sob rocked my body. "Do you see one of the reasons why I don't want to get an abortion?"

I covered my face with my free hand, feeling relief because somebody finally knew my secret, but ashamed of it at the same time.

Levy pulled me into a hug, rubbing my back and saying, "Let it out. Just let it out, Kayls."

I cried a river into his chest, and I bet some snot even snuck out, but Levy never complained, just shushed me and rubbed my back. I was so happy I had him, and that at least he knew the truth—well, most of it. He still didn't know who the baby's father was.

Levy hugged me tighter and put his chin on top of my head.

"I don't know what you ever did to deserve this. It's too much for me to even get my head wrapped around it, and I'm just your friend. I think that I can understand more of what you're saying now, but I still don't get why you won't tell me who did this to you. Don't you think that it'd be better for you if we got him arrested? That way he'd never be able to hurt you or anybody else again."

I pulled back and looked him in the eyes.

"I want to tell you," I said honestly, "I really do, but I can't bring myself to say it. Not out loud. Not to you. It would make this so much more real, and it would make you look at me differently as well as treat me differently. I...I can't do that. I won't. It probably makes me sound selfish, but I can't loose you now."

Levy pulled me back into his arms, pressing me against him as hard as he could. He rubbed my back and kissed my forehead while I let out the sobs and the tears choking me.

"I wouldn't ever judge you because of something you didn't have control over," he whispered into my ear in a soothing tone. "Kayls, I don't think you're any different than before. You're just sad and upset a lot more often." His voice cracked. "The only reason I would think that of you is if you slept around and that'd be the reason why you're pregnant, but it wasn't like that. You aren't that kind of girl."

I hugged him tighter to me, wishing there was some way that we could be closer.

"I'm so glad you get it," I whispered back. "I'm gonna miss you..."

My eyes widened. That was not supposed to come out.

"Miss me?" Levy asked, confused. "I'm going to be at your house all the time 'till school starts."

"That's what I mean, Levy," I murmured. "Maybe you don't see it, but when you hang out with the popular crowd, they change you. High school is going to be a whole different story and it's going to start up in a while, and, by that time, I'm probably going to be history. Levs, sometimes I wonder—" I stopped myself. "Nevermind, you don't want to hear it."

"Is that what you think?" he demanded and pulled back, making me look up at him. "That I'm going to forget about my best friend?"

"Yes, Levy, that's honestly what I think," I muttered back. "I don't want to have hope that you're going to stick around and hang out with somebody who's a nobody at school—invisible—even after you get your other, cooler friends back. I don't want to be like, 'Oh, Levy's been hanging out with me all summer long, so that's going to translate into the school year.' I'm not naïve enough to think that. Sometimes life stabs you in the back, but you just gotta get up and look forward instead of back. I get that. You were there when life brought me down at the beginning of the summer, and you've seen how depressed I can get. I don't want to rely too much on anyone, so when I'm stood up, I'm not left out in the cold, suffering. Levy, it's nothing personal, but I just don't want to get too attached to you. That's all."

"I don't know who's done that to you before, but they were idiots. I'm not going to do that to you," he said, his face hardened in determination.

"Levy, I appreciate that you seem to be sure about your decision, and I–I believe you," I let out a sigh, "but at the same time I know that out there, you will have friends who are nicer, smarter, and aren't depressed or a little crazy at times like me. I know nothing lasts forever-it's not like it's a foreign. All I'm asking you to do is be honest with me when the time comes. To not just drop me out of the blue and without an explanation."

"You truly are a little crazy," he said, and I looked down, embarrassed and a little hurt by his words, "if you think you're getting rid of me that easily."

I looked back up at him.

"Do you truly mean that?" I asked, biting my lip.

"Yes!" he exclaimed. "That's what I've been trying to tell you!"

I didn't know what else to do, but smile as he kissed my cheek and helped me up, holding on to my wrist as he grabbed his backpack off the ground.

"Come on, let's go back to our families before they organize a search party for the two of us."

XxX

Levy's dad was the first familiar person we saw when we came back to the more populated part of the beach. He was sitting in a bench with a notepad and a pen in hand.

"Levy, can I talk to Kaylee privately?" Mr. Rodriguez asked in that formal voice of his.

Levy raised an eyebrow at him and asked, "About what?"

"Nothing really important, I'd just like to ask her something in private."

Levy seemed curious and suspicious, but let go of my wrist and left.

"If you need me, I'm going to be in the showers," he shouted over his shoulder.

"So," I said, drawing out the word, and sitting down next to him on the bench, but still keeping my distance, "what do you want to talk to me about?"

Though I had been in his presence before, I still felt kind of nervous and I would have felt more at ease with him if somebody else had been with us.

"Have you told your mom yet about your pregnancy?" he asked me.

I looked back at him and shook my head.

"Gosh, no," I said, "my mom would kill me and I have no idea how to break it to her. In our family, teenage pregnancies are pretty common, but I still don't know how to tell her. I have no idea how to wrap my head around it myself."

Mr. Rodriguez gave me a stern, fatherly look.

"You shouldn't be stressing yourself out. I know you might still be in shock, but it's not good for you or the baby." He paused. "And speaking of which, I have a few questions for you."

My eyebrows knitted together as I waited for him to start questioning me.

"Do you have a boyfriend? Sorry, but as a doctor it's kind of my responsibility to ask you things like this and if you are sexually active and such."

I became red and looked away.

"First of all, I am definitely not sexually active and I have never even had my first kiss, so—"

"Okay," he said. "Have you gone to a doctor to check you out?" I stared at him with a confused expression. "To confirm your pregnancy," he clarified.

"No. I haven't gone to a doctor, but I do know I'm pregnant," I answered honestly.

"What drew you to that conclusion?" he asked me, scribbling furiously in his notepad.

"I wake up with nausea in the mornings, I throw up, I feel moody—well, more than usual, anyways—I dream of a baby, and somehow...I can just feel it in my heart," I replied. "I know it sounds stupid, but I feel like this is one of those times where I just know." I paused for a moment before sheepishly adding, "Plus, I did take those pregnancy tests when I went to your house with Levy, and you checked me out yourself."

"That's true," he said, nodding and comtinued scribbling down into his notepad. "By the way, the things you mentioned—your symptoms—are normal for somebody who's pregnant."

"Mr. Rodriguez...I feel like I can trust you." I said all of a sudden. "And I don't know if it's because you're a doctor, or if it's because of your resemblance to Levy, but I feel like I need to tell you something, but the thing is that it needs to stay a secret between us. Right now, Levy's the only one that knows it."

Mr. Rodriguez looked up at me seriously.

I couldn't believe I was doing this.

"Is it something bad?" he asked me.

"It's something dark about my past."

"Tell me, but only if it has to do with yours or my son's health." He said, then, almost as an afterthought, he added, "Or both, of course."

I closed my eyes before I whispered, "I want to know if the way a fetus is conceived affects its physical, mental or emotional health."

"It depends on what you mean. It would be more helpful if you told me more."

I hesitated before I let it all out in a broken whisper.

"The father of my baby..." I swallowed. "He forced himself on me, and I'm scared and worried about the baby. The father wants me to hand him or her over to him after I give birth to it, and I don't have a choice but to go on with this pregnancy and at the end give him my baby. I don't know what to do."

Mr. Rodriguez stared at me, silently telling me to give him more details.

"He raped me, Mr. Rodriguez," I stated in a steadier voice. "He's a man who's probably the same age as you or older than you. I don't know what to do. I didn't mean to end up pregnant, and I need to tell my mom, I know I do, but I need to figure this out first. I feel like I'm stuck in limbo and need to move forward, but I don't know what to do or where to go."

Mr. Rodriguez was silent for a moment. "I have to digest this first before I can be of any help, but why didn't you go straight to the authorities? They could have helped you more than I can, and they could have arrested the man who did it. The law even allows you to get an abortion. Under the situation you're in, they wouldn't have been able to judge you."

"Men make me nervous, and after the accident, all I wanted to do was go home and cry. I was really scared and sad, and I admit that I let myself get lost in in the pain. If it wasn't for Levy, I would still be at home, beneath my blankets, bawling my eyes out. He's the only reason why I'm able to tell you this. Besides, my baby's father left the country to go to some far away country where he probably couldn't get arrested for doing what he did to me. In some countries, like in some parts of Africa, they let their citizens do whatever they want, even rape or buy as many girls as they want, and the law doesn't have boundaries." I took in a deep breath. "Anyhow, a part of me believes that if God let this happen, it's for a reason. God doesn't make mistakes, and I'm not going to willingly tell somebody to kill my baby. Levy thinks that it'd be the best for me, that it would make me happy and turn me back into the person I was before this whole incident, but it wouldn't. I find it really sad how women kill their own innocent babies and that the law permits it, and if I do it...then I'll probably regret it for the rest of my life and ask myself about the 'what if's. Besides, that would make me a hipocrite."

"It surprises me that you want to keep going forward with this pregnancy, but are you sure that you would want to keep going with it even if the father was unable to take care of it, or say, got arrested for raping another girl?"

"Yes, I would. This baby...he or she wasn't planned nor conceived the way a baby should be, but I'm this baby's mother, and if I don't protect or take care of him or her, then who will? If the baby's father is unable to come get the baby, then I would be happy because I'd get to be more than a surrogate mother...but, on the other hand, I'm still unsure if that would be the right decision."

"What if I could make that happen? I could get him arrested when he comes back into the country, that way you don't have to hand over your baby and you don't have to worry about that. Please let me help you. I already stood back and watched somebody who I love and got raped multiple times, end up pregnant and abort her baby. I regretted letting her do that, and she regretted aborting her baby and not telling the police."

My breath caught in my throat.

"History is repeating itself," I finally whispered.

"Yes, it is. I'm glad you don't hate your baby like she did, and I can hopefully make a wrong a right. I know you're going to do the right choice—you seem to be grounded to your choice, and I want to help you, but just give me time to figure this out, okay?"

I nodded my head.

"I just don't know if I'm doing the right thing or not," I said. "What if I'm not good enough for him or her? And I don't think my family has enough money to take on a baby's costs. Babies are really expensive. I want to take care of it, but I don't know if I can do it. I talked to Catalina earlier and she told me about what you went through with Levy, and now, it's got me thinking about all these things. Let's say that you found a way to get the guy arrested, but then what? What if I'm too young to take care of the child on my own? What if, in the end, I have to give up my baby for adoption?"

"If you decided to keep it, I'm sure you would be able to make it as a mom if you really wanted it and kept going forward. I don't think Catalina would oppose to letting you have the things that Olivia's too big to use. Most things were rarely worn and Olivia outgrew her toys. Babies grow up pretty quickly and only use their things a couple times before it's time to get them more stuff. Even if you have a baby boy you could still use most of it, since the majority of the clothes are yellow or white-neutral colors. If in the end you are sure you aren't fitted for the job, then you at least gave it a try and you can give somebody else a chance to be parents."

"Okay, I think I can do that. Thank you for listening to me. Please don't tell anybody about this, okay?"

"No problem. And about your earlier question, I don't think you have to worry about your baby's health being jeopardized because of rape. The baby will most likely be fine. You, though, might have acquired a sexually transmitted disease. I strongly recommend that you get tested for that as soon as possible."

"Okay, I will. I was thinking about doing that anyway, I just needed you guys to be back in town, so I had an excuse to get out of the house."

XxX

"Oh no," I cried, my eyes wide in mock-fear, "the monster's going to get us!"

Olivia giggled gleefully.

"Go!" she squealed, tugging on the ends of my hair from where she was situated in my arms.

I turned around and saw Levy behind us, wiggling his fingers from his defensive crouched position, his arms raised so that his hands were poised as "claws".

He smiled at us, his eyes narrowing playfully.

"ROAR!" he shouted, leaping up and chasing after us. He trailed us in hot pursuit around the little playground a few times before finally speeding up and scooping Olivia out of my arms.

"Pwetty!" she howled, her arms reaching wildly for me, but it was too late for her.

"You can't get away now," Levy said, a challenging grin on his face a he looked at his sister.

She turned her chubby face to look at him, her plump little lips curling into an adorable smile.

"Bubba, no!" her voice was light with childike giddiness, her brown eyes sparkling.

"It's all over for you now, little girl!" he said triumphantly, and then began tickling her.

She squirmed, laughing loudly, the sound bringing a smile to my own face. He tossed her in the air a few times, and she hooted loud baby-sounds of delight each time.

After a little while, Livvy got tired of his game, so he set her down. Immediately, her eyes grew as big as saucers and I realized what had suddenly consumed her attention: the carousel. It was painted an array of bright colors, so, naturally, Olivia tottered in it's general direction.

It was a couple feet away beside a building that was usually reserved for wedding receptions and birthdays.

"Pwetty?" she called out, looking at me as if she were asking for permission to get on it.

I nodded, smiling warmly at her.

"Okay, Livvy, let's get on it."

She clapped her hands happily and dashed over to grab my hand, tugging me over to the contraption. When the carousel slowed down, we walked over to it. I looked over at Levy, who was watching the whole thing, a huge grin lighting up his face, and his own eyes twinkling merrily.

"Are you coming, Levs?" I asked, flashing a hopeful smile at him.

"Of course."

He laughed, climbing the mechanical contraption as well.

Levy came over and crouched down in front of us, his eyes solely on his sister and asked her, "Are you ready to spin around?"

Her eyes lit up.

"Faster, faster?" she inquired, excitement inkling into her tone.

He nodded and reached over to ruffle her hair.

"Yep, very fast."

She giggled as he stood up.

"Livvy, do you want to go on a horse or do you want to seat on the bench?"

"Horsie, horsie!"

"Okay," I said as I sat her on one of the horses' saddles—a white one with a purple and blue streaked mane, a bright pink saddle on its back—and climbed on behind her.

"Hold on tight," I instructed her, putting an arm around her and one on the pole.

Levy smirked and grabbed a hold of the pole as well.

"What?" I asked him with a smile. His twinkling eyes met mine, and my stomach did somersaults. But then he shook his head, laughing.

"Nothing," he replied lightly.

When the carnival machine started moving, my arms instinctively tightened around the little girl.

The world blended together, all of the colors morphing into each other, and I closed my eyes, listening to the sounds of Levy's rich laughter and Livvy's exuberant shouting until they, too, faded away.

Then it was just me, spinning quickly through the world at an unknown speed, barreling through life to God-knows-where.

"Faster, faster!" Olivia crowed, and we continued to zoom past, around and around. Her cry pulled me from my thoughts, and I blinked to see her turning her head upward to look at me. "Pwetty," she mumbled, her face and voice awe-struck as she looked at me.

I gave her a curious look, which turned into a happy one.

"You are, too, Livvy," I murmured to her, and she continued to stare at me in wonderment.

I hugged her closer to me.

So was this what it was like, having a child? As Olivia's attention returned to her whooping and hollering, it was I who was staring in amazement.

She was so small, sitting there in my arms, and yet her meaning in the world was worth more than anything money could buy. How could someone so tiny, so fragile and innocent, possibly comprehend how much impact they have on their surroundings?

I didn't know.

My gaze trailed down to my stomach, lingering briefly on the slight stretch marks that were beginning to appear on my smooth skin. Little baby, I thought, I may not know you yet, but one day...

I looked out at my surroundings, realizing that the machine was slowing to a stop.

...one day, you'll mean as much to me as Olivia does to her family, and I hope I can protect you as well as her family protects her.

XxX

I stood by the Rodriguez's mini-van with Livvy in my arms. She had been so exhausted from playing that she had fallen asleep, her cheek rested on my shoulder and her thumb in her mouth.

Catalina turned to me and took her carefully from my arms and buckled her into her pink Disney Princess car seat. Catalina turned and smiled at me.

"You did a great job with her today, Kaylee," Catalina said.

I shrugged, smiling modestly, and said, "I've had practice with babysitting."

She nodded at me before turning to address the small assemblage of children around us waiting to get in the car (Levy, Fabian, and my brothers—not to mention my mom). "Alright, everyone pile in!"

Suddenly, there was a rush all around me as everyone surged forward toward the seven-seater car. I did some quick math as I watched Levy climb inside first and came to a horrific conclusion: Someone's not getting a seat. I came to another one, a clear no-brainer: That person is definitely not going to be me.

I shoved my oldest younger brother, Steven, a hyper ten-year-old with a skinny, dark-haired physique, out of the way.

"Hey!" he yelped as he stumbled backwards. "I was there first!"

He glared at me.

I stuck my tongue out at him over my shoulder.

"I was born first," I countered, getting into the car.

Levy was sitting on the opposite side of the car that I was getting in on, and the aisle leading to the back separated his and Olivia's seats. Fabian and Michael, my annoying but cute round, freckle-faced six-year-old little brother, were already buckled up in the very back, and—my eyes narrowed.

The last seat was right between them, just waiting for me to claim it.

I moved past Olivia's seat, only a step away from victory, when—

"Move, Kaylee!" Steven shouted at me, shoving me aside much in the same fashion as I had just done to him.

I lost my balance and fell as Steven hurried past me. I heard the seatbelt click as he buckled himself in, and I knew that my fate was sealed: I was going to have to sit in the floor or in my mother's lap—and I was definitely not doing the latter one.

But then I realized that I had definitely not fallen onto the floor. My cheeks flushed a deep burgundy as I turned my head slowly and found myself looking up into Levy's startled face.

Oh. My. God. This couldn't be happening to me. Steven was so dead when we get home...

I scrambled around to sit up.

"I-I am so sorry, Levy, I—," I stuttered, but he silenced me with a breathtaking crooked smile.

My heart skipped a beat as I looked up at him.

"Hey, hey," he said, laughing softly, "it's fine, Kaylee. Calm down."

I nodded slowly, and shook my head, giggling breathlessly.

"Right," I said and pushed myself up into a sitting position and moved to go to the floor.

His arms, which had reached out to catch me, tightened around my waist.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

I looked at him, surprised by his actions and what he was incinuating. I almost, almost told him that I was going to sit on the floor, but found that I couldn't form the words. So I took his invitation and settled more comfortably into his warm embrace.

"Nowhere," I replied.

The van was put in motion. Mr. Rodriguez was driving us, of course, with Catalina in the passenger seat, and we were off—but not before receiving an eyebrow raise from Catalina, a weird look from my mom, and Mr. Rodriguez staring at me through the rear view mirror.

I decided to ignore the looks, stare at the floor and wait for the flush to come down.

I was exhausted after the long day, though, and the vibrations of the car made as it rolled along over the asphalt began to lull me to sleep. My eyelids dropped and closed, and I listened to the soothing sound of Levy's heart beating against my ear. His comforting warmth enveloped me like a blanket, and the last thing I could remember before falling into the oblivious world of sleep was a gentle hand rubbing my back.

XxX

A warm hand was shaking me. I moaned groggily and snuggled further into the warm...something that I was sleeping against.

"No! No..." I muttered.

I heard a very familiar chuckle, and felt vibrations against my cheek.

"Come on, sleepy-head. We're here."

My eyes fluttered open. I knew that voice.

I tilted my head upwards and found myself nearly nose-to-nose with Levy. It was then when I realized that the warm something that I had been so intent upon burying myself in only moments ago was actually a someone.

"Hi," I whispered, and I was so close that I couldn't look at both of his eyes at the same time, so my eyes flickered from one to the other.

He grinned, which made me wonder how he could always be so happy.

"Hi," he repeated.

"I'm tired," I grumbled out.

He leaned forward a fraction of a hair's width and lightly, ever so lightly, affectionately nudged my nose with his, his eyes twinkling.

"I know."

I let out a lethargic half-laugh. I closed my eyes and moved my head back to his chest to try to go back to sleep. Levy brushed my hair as I settled back down. After trying to go back to sleep without success, I decided to open my eyes. I looked outside the window and noticed that we had some onlookers.

Catalina (with Olivia in her arms), my mother, Mr. Rodriguez, Fabian, and my brothers were all shamelessly staring at us from the sidewalk leading up to the Rodriguez house.

I blushed furiously, my sleepiness from only moments ago completely gone now.

I jumped, trying to get away from Levy without hurting his feelings and get off his lap.

"Actually, I changed my mind," I said quickly reaching for the door handle and wrenching the door open. "I...l-let's just get out now."

Levy chuckled at me, causing me to turn even more red as I scrambled off of his lap and out of the car, a shaky hand moving to smooth my slightly sleep-mussed hair down.

Everyone exchanged their goodbyes after we exited the van (thankfully not mentioning anything about what had happened when they had so rudely intruded on mine and Levy's privacy), and my mom and brothers got into our car. Olivia, still exhausted, began to cry, so Catalina took her inside to put her to bed, Mr. Rodriguez following her, and then it was just me and Levs.

I walked over to him and smiled up at him.

"I had a really great time today, even though I'm dead on my feet and we fought."

Levy ran a hand through his hair, an uneasy expression on his face.

"I'm sorry, Kaylee," he said. "That was my fault..."

I shrugged.

"It was both of our faults, but the good thing is that it's behind us."

He nodded, and then a somber look fell into place on his face.

"Hey, Kaylee?"

"Yes?" I said.

"About what you said earlier..." his voice was soft, and I stepped closer to hear him.

"You'll have to be more specific, Levy."

He sighed, and from where I stood, he looked like a frustrated fallen angel.

"You really don't think I'll leave you when school starts, do you?" he asked quietly.

Ohh.

I sucked in a small breath, and let it out in a soft whoosh. I could tell that the subject had been bothering him.

"Before, I would have said yes," I answered honestly. His gaze cut to the ground, his expression downcast. "But now..."

He looked up at me again, a small glimmer of hope flickering in his eyes.

Please don't leave me, Levy. I need you. You're the only one who really understands me.

"Now," I repeated softly, looking down at my hands and twisting my fingers, "I don't think you will. At least I hope you don't. Don't betray my trust, Levy."

As soon as the words left my lips, he pulled me into a tight hug.

"I won't. I promise to never, ever leave you all alone," he whispered fiercely into my ear. I hugged him tighter to me, tears forming in my eyes. He pulled away just enough to look into my tearful eyes. "Okay?"

I swallowed.

"Okay, Levy," I choked out, and a tear leaked out. "Just don't go making promises you can't keep."

He reached up with one hand and swiped the tear away with his thumb, his hand lingering where it cupped my cheek.

"I won't. I promise I'm not going to leave you, Kayls," he murmured. "You'll see."

"We make a good team, huh?" I asked him, referring to our relationship as well as our time taking care of Olivia. It was sort of like playing house, except that it was an on-going game and the relationships were real—well, not exactly like the game at all, really, but I was happy to have the two of them in my life nonetheless.

Levy let go of my cheek and pulled me back into his arms for another hug, rubbing my back much like he did when I fell asleep in his arms.

"Steven, for the last time, leave Michael alone!" my mom's scolding voice interrupted our moment and I became aware that I had to leave.

I pulled away from him, sniffling before giving him a watery smile.

"Bye, Levs. I'll give you your hoodie back later."

He leaned forward and pressed his lips to my forehead.

"Goodbye, Kaylee." He whispered against my skin, which incited a shiver that ran up and down my spine.

He let me go, and I went to the car, getting in the passenger seat. My mom smiled softly to herself as she put the car in reverse. I watched Levy from where he stood in his yard under the stars that were just beginning to appear in the sky as we pulled onto the street and started driving away until he disappeared on the horizon.

XxX

LEVY

I watched Kaylee's car drive away and breathed in the humid and ocasionally cool summer air.

Today had been one heck of a day. Kaylee had been so emotional that it made me wonder if that was how she really was behind doors, or if it was just the situation she was in that made her so emotional. Probably the latter one.

I shook my head.

Girls—who could figure them out anyway?

I turned around and walked inside my house, hearing voices echo off the walls.

"Did you see that? It looked like they were about to kiss!" my mom exclaimed in a hushed tone.

"Catalina—," Dad started saying, but got caught off.

"No, Paul. Kaylee even told me—,"

Just as I was leaning in to listen better, I happened to stumble over a toy truck of Fabian's, giving away my place. I cursed the damn thing under my breath as it belted out a loud chorus of beeping noises.

My mom got up from the couch and came my way.

"Levy?" she asked unsurely.

"Hi, Mom." I said uneasily. "You know, you should really look into a security system or something if you didn't hear when I came in, since you were just in the living room."

"Levy," she said in a warning tone, crossing her arms over her chest.

"What?" I asked innocently, brushing past her on my way to the living room.

While I knew my mom would never hurt a soul, that didn't make her disciplinary looks any less scary.

I knew she wanted to talk to me, so I followed her back into the living room with a sigh. "So," I said after I sat down. "Are you going to tell me what Kaylee told you?"

My mom raised an eyebrow, her lips pursed.

"Look, I wasn't eavesdropping," I said earnestly. "I just so happened to hear you say something about Kaylee."

"Pwetty!" Olivia shouted from Dad's lap. "Where Pwetty?"

"Kaylee went home, 'Livia."

"Pwetty!" she shouted.

"Olivia," I said, trying to be patient. "Kaylee's gone."

Her eyes started to water.

"Where Pwetty?" she demanded again.

"Listen Olivia, Kaylee—Pretty—," I quickly amended, seeing her beginning to open her mouth, "went home," I shook my head, giving up, knowing she wouldn't give in and leave it alone. "Would you like to see her?"

Olivia nodded, tears coming out of her eyes.

I took out my phone and searched up Kaylee's online profile. I looked around her photos until I found one of her most recent ones, then handed my phone to Olivia.

"Pwetty!" she shouted, happily, then touched the screen. "Pwetty?" she shouted again, sadly.

I shook my head and sighed, tired and annoyed by Olivia's consistant whining.

I snatched my phone out of her hands before she dropped it on the ground.

"Levy," my mom said softly.

"Hold on, Mom," I said and pressed the call button.

After a couple rings, Kaylee picked up.

"Hey, Kayls," I said. "Would you mind talking to Olivia? She's throwing a tantrum and calling for her Pwetty."

Kaylee laughed softly on the other line.

"Really?" she asked. "Poor baby. Put her on, Levy."

"'Kay."

"Here, Olivia," I said and handed the phone to Olivia.

"Wivvy goo'," she said into the phone Dad was holding to her ear.

I frowned as she began to talk her baby gibberish into the phone.

"What do you think that means?" Mom asked.

"I don't know," Dad said with a shrug. "She says lots of things that have no real meaning."

"What she said does, though," I said, cutting in. "It's what Kaylee calls her—Livvy. That's what she means, I think."

This went on for a while until Dad grabbed the phone out of her hands and hand it to me.

"Say bye-bye to Pretty,'" I said to Olivia.

"Bye Pwetty!" Olivia yelled.

After Olivia and I said bye, I hung up.

"So?" I asked. "Are you going to tell me, Mom?"

"No, Levy," Mom said. "If Kaylee wants to tell you herself, then she will...eventually."

"And don't add to the stress she's in," Dad interjected sternly. "If she doesn't want an abortion, then don't force her into one. If you want her to keep being your friend, just support her and stand by her no matter what she decides."

My mom was looking at me in disappointment, and I felt the shame and guilt settle in.

"You did what?" Mom half-shrieked.

"It's not exactly what it sounds like, Mom." I muttered.

"Really?" she asked angrily.

"Yes. She was freaking out when she found out she was pregnant, so I thought that I'd bring it up. I acknowledge it wasn't the best thing I could have done, but at the time, it seemed like a good idea."

"Be careful about what you say to her, Levy." Dad said. "Do you know what would happen if the stress Kaylee is feeling piles up and becomes too much?" I shook my head. "She would have a miscarriage, and that would end up messing with her psychology even more."

"'Even more'?" Mom asked. "Is there something I'm missing?"

"I—" I said, then looked quizzically at my dad. "Are you in on it too now?"

He nodded.

"What's going on?" Mom asked.

"I can't tell you," I said. "Kaylee made me promise I would never tell anyone, and I bet Dad's bound to secrecy as well." I turned to my dad. "Are you, Dad?"

"Yes."

"So, that's it?" Mom asked, standing up and taking a whimpering Olivia from Dad. "Neither of you is going to tell me?" We sat in an uncomfortable silence. Mom shook her head in disbelief. "I really hope Kaylee's okay, at least. I'm trusting that it's not something bad and that she isn't in danger."

After that, Mom left.

I took a deep breath and got up as well.

"I'm going to grab a quick shower, then go to bed," I announced when Dad looked up at me questioningly.

"Levy, are you ready for the responsibility that comes with being friends with Kaylee?" he asked quietly.

"Of course I am! What do you mean, 'if I'm ready for it'? It's not really much of a responsibility—you talk about her as if she were a burden."

"She's not, but she is a girl who needs to lean on someone." Dad's words rang with truth in my ears. "She's strong, I can see it—silent strength within her—but she needs a friend and not someone who adds any more stress than what she already has right now. If she keeps the child or not, it's her decision and I don't want you to fill her head with negative thoughts. It's not your baby she has in her womb, and even if it was, it would still be her decision what she did with it."

"So what you're telling me is that if Kaylee was pregnant with my baby instead of the bastard's that got her pregnant, then she could give away my baby to strangers just because she would be the mother?" I asked angrily.

"No, but unless you were to help her raise it or raise it on your own, like she is, then you would have to support her decision because you're thirteen, don't have a job and wouldn't be able to support her and the baby, but unless you both lied to me, you don't have to worry about it because it isn't your baby."

"I still worry about her and the baby up to some point, and yes, Dad, I'm more than ready for what's coming my way."

XxX

Caitie Manda: Hey, everyone! I would just like to say that it is all my fault that this chapter has taken so long to update. :/ I'm so sorry, guys, but I've been really busy now that school's started up again, and I feel terrible about making all of you wait so long for this chapter. :( Anyways, enough about me. :P I hope that you liked it, and that you'd be kind enough to leave us a review. Pretty please with a cherry and hot fudge on top? With rainbow sprinkles? :)) It would mean a lot to both of us. Thank you for your patience!

wasauskyx: Hi, everyone, I just wanted to say that it isn't ALL of Caitie's fault for how late this chapter is. Me, being a very picky writer (at times), decided to edit this until I thought it was pretty much close to perfect. I hope you see and appreciate how much effort we have put into this chapter because I have truly re-read it enough times that I'm up to the point that I'm pretty much sick of it and wondering why it isn't online. I am also very busy since I am in school until 4 and get home at 5 with the exception of the days in which I'm in rehearsal for a musical at my school, so updates probably won't be very constant. We WILL keep writing this story though, so don't give up us and please be patient :). Thank you for your patience and I would like to also say thanks to my awesome co-writer for being so patient and sticking with me :).

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