1: Educating Kaylee Ch. 04bySpartan22©
VI -- Inside Changes, Outside Changes
"My sister is going to be so jealous," he said, looking outside the passenger window. Turning to the driver, he told her, "My sister is crazy about you, you know. She thinks you're just about the prettiest thing since God made the sunset."
Kaylee blushed, "Well, maybe after we get you caught up to the present day and time, I'll take her shopping. She seems like a really sweet girl."
"I don't think you have any idea how much she'd love that. Hey, why don't you stop at this K-Mart up ahead? We can get my stuff in there."
She intentionally accelerated the gas pedal, blasting past the entrance.
"And, there it goes..." he said sarcastically with just a hint of his dry humor, looking over his shoulder through the window.
"K-Mart? Eww. No. K-Mart is America's lint trap. That's where you go if you want a stick of beef jerky and a three-pack of wifebeaters. And a case of 40's, if you're not in a dry county. What did I say about trusting me?"
"I know, I know," he said.
He paused for a moment before asking, "40's?"
Kaylee laughed, "Code for beer. As in ounces. This is going to be harder than I thought, Luke Patton."
Luke seemed unphased by her response, unconcerned whether she was joking or serious.
"Ok, so lucky for you, we're in California. You can't throw a rock around here without it landing in some outlet mall parking lot. Our state nickname is The Outlet Mall State, I'm pretty sure."
Luke smiled, "Outlet Mall State? That reminds me. We need to do more practice for your U.S. Geography test next week."
She glared at him, although unable to hide the twinkle in her eye, "I was being sarcastic; shut up."
After two outlet malls, one hair salon, three athletic stores, six clothing stores, and three hundred dollars later (Kaylee insisted putting most of it on mommy and daddy's personal credit card, making Luke pay for less than forty bucks of merchandise despite him fighting her tooth and nail), Luke was a changed man.
At least on the outside.
To say Kaylee was greatly satisfied on the drive back to Luke's house was an understatement. Wearing a smile from ear to ear, she couldn't remember the last time she had this much fun, even if Luke did sound a little too whiny about his dramatically shorter and professionally styled hair. She kept most of her focus on the road, but occasionally stole a few glances in his direction. Kaylee couldn't believe how much hotter he looked without the ragged mop of hair on his head.
Luke. Hot. Those two words didn't belong together much less fit in the same sentence. He was still a nerd, of course, even though she would never tell him that. Besides, he knew. And didn't care. Kaylee would have chuckled to herself if Luke wasn't sitting next to her, but she held it back. She had to admit his self-confidence was impressive.
A sudden buzz cut out the sound of the radio as an incoming phone number flashed across her Beamer's console.
"Oh shit," she exclaimed, recognizing the phone number displayed.
"What is it," Luke asked.
"It's Bradley. We were supposed to go to dinner tonight. I totally lost track of time. He's going to be pissed."
"You can just drop me off here; I'll call a cab. That'll save you a bunch of time since you'd have to drive all the way across town to drop me off," Luke offered.
"No; that's sweet, but no," she said, reluctantly pulling her phone out of her purse. Kaylee took a quick glance at her phone, disengaging the Bluetooth function. Luke's eyes grew wide as the car drifted towards the shoulder.
"Um, Kaylee...," Luke said nervously.
Kaylee swung back towards the middle of her lane and pulled the phone up to her ear.
"Hey sweetie," she started. Bradley was already barking at the other end of the phone; Luke flinched, clearly able to hear him but keeping it to himself.
"I'm sorry; I'm running a little behind. Give me about an hour."
Bradley wasn't having it. He asked her point blank what she was doing, and who she was with.
Nervously, she looked over at Luke. Oh no, what do I say, she thought.
She shook her head and started to say, "I'm not with..." Looking at Luke out of the corner of her eyes, she knew she couldn't lie again. Not to Luke, and not even to Bradley.
She bit her lip and went for it, "I'm with Luke. I took him shopping since he's..."
Bradley cut her off; Luke might not have been able to make out any words, but he definitely could hear the yelling through the phone, Kaylee was sure.
"Look Bradley, I...."
"No, I'm not going to apologize! I owed him for..."
"Will you shut up and listen! I..."
"Look, I'll be there in an hour, unless you don't want to do anything tonight."
She dropped her phone back in her purse, disenchanted with everything that had just happened.
Luke didn't say a word; he pretended to look out the window the entire time. As embarrassed as she was, Kaylee was at least grateful Luke had enough tact to pretend he couldn't hear their tense conversation. She knew he had every right to, after the way she and Bradley treated him over the years.
The ride was quiet until she dropped him off.
Kaylee finally spoke, "So let's study on Monday after my cheerleading practice. Will you be ready to hit the gym on Tuesday?"
Luke reluctantly nodded, "Do I have a choice?"
Kaylee smiled for the first time since her unpleasant conversation with Bradley, "Remember I'm doing you a favor. You teach me math and chemistry, and I teach you fitness and fashion. You'll thank me."
He grinned, but shook his head, "Alright. Have fun tonight, Kaylee. See you on Monday."
Kaylee admitted to herself that she wasn't really sure why she made the counteroffer in the first place. Luke was enough of a sweetheart to tutor her without expecting anything in return. Of course, Kaylee was genuinely concerned for Luke's safety; Bradley could've turned him into paste if he wanted to. And Luke, who was too smart for his own good, didn't know when it was time to back down. For a smart kid, you're a fool, Luke, she thought to herself.
So shouldn't she have told him to take a few martial arts classes instead? Why was she willing to go out of her way and take him under her wing? Simple gratitude? Was she finally trying to do something nice for once in her life, and Luke just happened to be the duckling to scoop up under her wing? That was the question she couldn't figure out.
"Straighten your back, don't throw the weights up! You want to lift them up, slowly. Curl them. Keep your elbows tucked in."
Kaylee swore she would do her best to motivate him in her personal gym -- it was actually her father's gym that he built in the basement, but despite the money he poured into it, he hadn't been in it in years. A power rack and a bench press sat in the corner of the room. A wide dumbbell rack and barbells with plates of all sizes took up the far corner of the room while medicine balls of all colors, a few stability balls and even a couple of yellow jump ropes were scattered across the floor. Linkin Park played in the background as she coached Luke.
Luke couldn't even acknowledge her; the only noise he was making was a series of grunts.
"That's it, there's six. Give me two more; the last couple of reps are always supposed to be the hardest. You're doing good."
Luke strained as hard as he could to curl the dumbbells; his whole body was shaking. Curling them up at a snail's pace, he somehow managed to finish the rep, and lowered them quickly.
"Seven, one more to go," Kaylee said. "Remember, training begins when you feel like you can't do anymore. Keep good form, and let's make this last one count."
Luke looked at her in desperation, shaking his head no, holding the weights at his side.
"Come on, cowboy, you can do it! One more rep, for me?"
Kaylee batted her eyes.
She spotted a flicker in his eyes that told her she was winning. Luke responded. His grunts practically turned into screams as he tightened up his entire body and lifted the dumbbells up one last time. He lowered them slowly and dropped them to the floor with one quick motion, immediately falling to his knees.
"You did it! Yay," Kaylee exclaimed, jumping up and down. "Day one is finished! Well, after we finish our cool down. The hard part is over, at least. You did great!"
Luke lay down on the floor, exhausted. He panted, "Day one?" He took another deep breath and said, "I've never heard myself make that noise," he said with astonishment. "I sounded like Fran Dresher pushing out a baby."
"Late night reruns on television. Don't ask."
Kaylee giggled, "Well, anyway, you did great Luke. Next time, we'll meet up at the track after school and work on your cardio."
Slowly raising an eyebrow, he rolled over on his side and looked at her questioningly.
"On the school track?"
"I know what you're thinking," she said, almost disappointed at his surprise. "I don't care who sees us together out on the track, Luke. Like I said before, you're my friend, and I made a commitment to you just like you did with me."
He nodded with a soft smile, "Sorry, I shouldn't have doubted you. Force of habit for me, I guess." He tried to push himself off the floor, but he could barely push himself up. Instead, he rolled over on his side and tried to use his legs to assist. "What did you do to me, Kaylee? I can hardly feel my arms. They're like tiny, shriveled up tyrannosaurus-rex arms."
"Here, let me help you up," she laughed.
"What did you do to Luke," Audrey whispered in amazement as Luke and Aaron passed through the halls on their way to class.
"Hey Audrey, Kaylee," Luke said as he walked by. It sounded like he had a little more zeal when he said Kaylee's name, but she couldn't be quite sure. Aaron didn't say a word, looking at Luke, and then Audrey and Kaylee, and then his eyes to the ground.
"Hey guys," Kaylee replied, while Audrey weakly said, "Hi."
"Close your jaw, hun. All I did was get him a haircut and some new clothes," Kaylee responded with a nonchalant appearance on her face, although it took everything she had to contain her smug grin. "We even got him a subscription for contacts; no more glasses. He looks a lot better though, doesn't he?"
"You mean 'prescription for contacts'?"
"Yea, whatever. You're missing the point, Audrey."
Audrey shook her head, "When you told me about your little plan to give Luke a makeover, I thought you'd be wasting your time. As if you could polish up a turd. But somehow you made him look borderline hot. Maybe you can't change his personality, but you did an awesome job with his looks. Maybe you have a future career in the beauty industry."
With a confident smile, Kaylee shrugged as if it wasn't a big deal, "I never thought about that. Maybe.
"You know, say what you want, but I owe him for all the time he spent tutoring me. It was the least I could do. Did you know this is like the first time ever that I'll be walking into a classroom without dreading midterms? Most other kids are cramming right now, but I'm ready for all my tests," Kaylee said confidently. "Well, mostly. Still, I told him I'd be happy if I could get my algebra up to a D and avoid failing, but he thinks I have a good chance to get a C or even higher. That would be amazing, wouldn't it?"
Audrey smiled as they turned into the classroom, "Well, I wish you luck. I will say it's nice to see you've been a little more cheerful over the last few weeks."
Kaylee gave another bright smile as the two girls took their seats, "I like that, too. All I know is I'm ready to ace this test! I've been feeling like I could walk on air, and I owe it all to Luke."
Audrey winked, "I bet you do."
She was thrown by Audrey's statement, "What do you mean?"
Audrey rolled her eyes, "Look, you have to be careful around Luke. People are starting to talk."
Kaylee indignantly said, "Well, people can go screw themselves. I don't care if they talk."
A silence temporarily came over Audrey, but she felt compelled to speak, "Well, people includes your boyfriend. I'm telling you because I'm your friend, Kaylee. Just be careful. We both know Luke's not even close to being in your league, even with a nice haircut and stylish clothes. I just don't want either of you getting hurt. Least of all, you."
Her agitation was showing, "I don't want to talk about it. Especially before midterms. Can you just change the subject?"
"Alright, Kaylee. I just hope you were listening," Audrey said. But she knew Kaylee never listened; not to her or anyone else.
"Oh my goodness, Kaylee! You made my brother actually look normal," Faith exclaimed, walking into the living room where Kaylee and Luke sat, studying for her remaining midterms.
Kaylee giggled while Luke rolled his eyes. Luke told his little sister, "Thanks, I think. I'm still getting used to putting my contacts in. I don't think mankind was made to touch his eyeballs yet here we are. By the way, don't you have any one else to pester?"
Faith didn't acknowledge him, "Kaylee, you have such good taste! You have to teach me a few of your secrets."
Kaylee loved every compliment that came her way. Especially from Faith; there was just something bubbly about her that had a way of making everyone around her smile. Kaylee returned Faith's smile and said, "I'd love to. Maybe after midterms are over I'll take you to the mall?"
"I'd love that!" Faith scrunched her face, "I've never been good with hair," she said meekly, running her fingers insecurely through her curls. "Mom has tried to show me but its frustrating listening to her. She has no patience; I'm not really sure she knows what she's talking about anyway."
Kaylee laughed, "Faith, your mother is gorgeous. You should listen to her if you can."
Faith thought for a moment, digesting her words of wisdom.
"Maybe you're right. But do you think you can show me a few styles or designs? I absolutely love your hair; I've always loved all of your hair styles."
"You look fine, Faith," Luke said with an uninspiring tone, not taking his head up from his book.
"You look better than fine," Kaylee added, lightly slapping Luke's knee with the back of her hand, "But a girl can never learn too much, especially when it comes to style. I'd be glad to show you what I know. We're almost done studying; how about in fifteen minutes or so?"
"Sure," Faith said, trying not to overdo her cheerful reply.
Bounding out of the room, Faith said, "Hi mom, hi dad," in passing.
Kaylee quickly straightened up her posture and smoothed out her white miniskirt when she heard Luke's two parents come in the room.
"Hey sweetie," Ryan told Faith as she left. "So, you must be Kaylee. It's nice to meet you," Ryan said, offering his hand.
Kaylee stood up and shook his hand. "Pleased to meet you, sir," she said.
You have GOT to be kidding me. Luke's dad is a hottie? Kaylee was practically in shock despite holding a pleasant, calm face on the outside. He was big, too; not tall, or Schwarzenegger-big, but incredibly ripped and toned, like he owned the beach. It was easy for her to tell even with his baggy short-sleeved Nike shirt and basketball shorts.
And of course, his mother, Jessica, was equally hot. Maybe even more so in her tight spandex shorts and sports bra. However old she was, she looked a lot younger. Maybe like an older sister to Faith and Luke, yet she was far from. She was definitely an overprotective mother.
So where the frick does he get his nerd gene?
"Call me Ryan," he said with a smile on his face. Turning to Luke, he said, "Hey buddy, me and mom just finished up our workout. We're going to take a shower and get something to eat."
"It's nice to see you again, Kaylee. How's the studying going," Jessica asked, analyzing Kaylee carefully, the way only a mom could of a friend of the opposite sex of her first born. It was discreet enough for Ryan and Luke to miss the signs, but Kaylee knew full well what her intentions were.
"It's going great, actually," Kaylee said confidently. "He has me pretty much ready for midterms. Luke was nice enough to help me push myself harder; I have a really good chance of getting my... my bad grade in algebra up to a C if I get a really good grade on my test." Jessica was the last person she wanted to know about her failing grades.
Ryan smiled, "Good for you, I hope your test goes well. Luke told me about your reverse tutoring idea. I'd like to thank you; I've been trying to get him to go to the basketball court and the gym with me for a while now. He's been getting straight A's since kindergarten, but he could use a few physical hobbies." He smirked as he said, "I can't figure out why he'd go with you and not with me, though."
Kaylee giggled, Jessica rolled her eyes, and Luke put his head in his hands. "Smooth, dad. Do you mind if we finish up our homework?"
He chuckled, "Ok, I can take a hint. Nice meeting you, Kaylee."
Jessica took him by the arm, "Let's go, tiger, I'm getting hungry and we still have to shower."
Kaylee blushed and looked away as she caught a wicked grin surfacing on Ryan's face while he stared at Jessica. Luke didn't seem to notice, or else he was immune and chose not to.
"Sorry," Luke whispered, "They... do that. A lot."
Kaylee smiled, "So it was a little awkward. It's nice to see your parents love each other so much." Her smile disappeared. "Not like my parents," she said, somewhat melancholy.
It looked like Luke wanted to say something, but she quickly changed the subject and returned to her normal self, saying, "I think it's time to take Faith shopping. I need a study break"
Luke flashed a soft smile, "You're a good friend, Kaylee. And it looks like not just to me, either."
He didn't know it, but that comment would stick with her the rest of her day.
VII -- Light at the End of the Tunnel
"So how do you feel now that midterms are over," Aaron asked Luke, pointing the camera at him while the two of them sat on a bench in the schools courtyard.
Luke shrugged, "Fine, I guess."
"Fine? That's all you have to say for my documentary?"
"Um... really fine?"
Aaron sighed, unimpressed with his lackluster replies, "Dude, you're killing me. I know these tests aren't hard for you, but say something at least. Most people are ecstatic that midterms are over, like they can see the light at the end of the tunnel."
"There's not much to say. I aced them all, so my 4.0 is still safe," he said casually. "Well, here's something, now that I think about it. Actually I did a lot less studying and preparation for midterms, probably the least amount of my life. I pretty much only had time to study for my college classes."
Aaron sounded surprised, "That's not normal for you, Luke. Why?"
"Probably because I've focused most of my time tutoring Kaylee. Probably more than all of the other students I've tutored combined. As a result, I stayed up later catching up on my own homework, but I didn't put in as many hours as I normally would."
Aaron snickered childishly, "I bet you 'tutored' her. Way to go, Luke! How was she?"
Luke rolled his eyes, "It's not like that. She wouldn't give me the time of day if I asked to kiss her high heels." He narrowed his eyes and looked down and to the side, engaging in deeper thought, "Don't get me wrong, though; she's a nice girl whenever she stops thinking about popularity and social circles. Lately she's reminded me more of that carefree first-grader I used to be friends with. She puts up a front so she can be one of the popular girls, but deep down you can tell she is kind and giving and compassionate. Kaylee's really a sweetheart."