1: Educating Kaylee Ch. 05bySpartan22©
VIII -- Discoveries
"Pick up, pick up," Kaylee growled, sitting in the coffee shop by herself with one leg crossed over the other, bouncing up and down nervously.
Luke either didn't have his cell phone, or he didn't want to answer it.
It took everything she had to resist chucking her caramel latte across the room. Or better yet, at the nerdy kid with the glasses and afro that couldn't take his eyes off of her. "Pervert," she whispered to herself, but deliberately giving him a dirty look. He quickly looked away.
Kaylee dialed a different number.
"Hey, baby," Bradley said. "What's up? I get off work in an hour or so; I was thinking we can run up to the lookout, just you and me..."
"Not right now, Bradley," she said, ignoring the standard chitchat. She wanted to get straight to the point, "Luke's sister said you beat him up pretty bad a few days ago. Is that true?"
"She's smoking crack. Of course it's not true," Bradley said. Smoothly changing his tone, he told her, "You know, I was thinking tonight might be a good night for us to go past second base. Since schools out for a couple weeks for Christmas break, why don't we take it a little further? I know you keep saying you're not ready, but I'm saying tonight's the night to swing for the fences and get that home run. You've been keeping me from slamming something grand into you for way too long..."
"Really, Bradley," she said, clearly agitated with his crudeness. "I told you we're not doing that any time soon so tuck your bat away. Besides," she snapped, "Quit changing the subject and focus. Someone hurt Luke really bad." It wasn't easy, but she tried her hardest to bring his attention back to planet Earth. Bradley always had a way of focusing on his own selfish needs at the most inappropriate times. "And, you'd better be telling the truth about not hurting Luke," she threatened, sounding almost venomous, ready to carefully analyze his response.
"I said it wasn't me," he replied defensively. "He probably mouthed off to someone. For a nerd, he's got a big mouth. There's no doubt he insulted the wrong person this time; it doesn't surprise me he got pounded."
"Don't be insensitive. He's a good guy. I don't think he would do that."
"Really? You think he's some perfect guy, like he wouldn't ever say anything bad to anyone," Bradley asked her, obviously annoyed.
Oxygen thief, Kaylee thought to herself, recalling what Luke called Bradley during one of their study sessions. Ok, so Bradley did have a good point, although it didn't seem like Luke's normal nature. She'd never heard him talk negative like that to anyone else, at least. But still.
"Look, I don't care what Luke says. Can we just drop it and talk about something else? Like me, and you, and the lookout," he said smoothly.
Kaylee sighed, "We'll see. Right now that's the last thing on my mind. I need to talk to Luke, and he's not picking up his phone. I won't bring him up again, ok?"
Bradley was angry. He snapped, "Do you know how much time you've been spending with him compared to me? I let it slide at first because I know you wanted to get your grades up, but come on! It's like you'd rather be with him instead of me! Let's think about your priorities, Kaylee!"
Deep down, she knew he was right, even if his mouthing off was starting to get to her; she hadn't seen Bradley much at all lately. "Ok, I'll tell you what. Let me talk to Luke first, just to make sure he's ok, and then tomorrow night we can go to the lookout after you get off work. I'm not going to give you a home run," she said seductively, "but I might let you steal another base."
After hearing Bradley purr on the phone, she said, "If you behave and start acting nice, I just might let my fingers walk all over your body, maybe scratch my fingernails lightly up and down your chest, and drive you absolutely insane. Kay?"
He was so easy, Kaylee thought as she snickered to herself. She could practically hear his moan in the background, along with a soft, "Ok. I can't wait, baby," before he hung up the phone.
After promising Bradley that she'd spend more time with him, Kaylee was determined to talk to Luke that night no matter what. Besides, she just couldn't let the situation fester. She picked up a big bouquet of balloons and a get-well card, and just for fun (and something of an inside joke), she also found a book for him that she knew he'd absolutely love.
If he wouldn't pick up the phone, she'd go over and see him. She was a little nervous, she had to admit. Kaylee really didn't want to see Luke's mom and dad, especially if they thought her boyfriend beat up Luke. If happy-go-lucky Faith was upset with Kaylee, who knows what Mrs. Patton wanted to do to her. She was the one person she really didn't want to lock horns with because she knew she'd lose.
Carefully, she pulled her Beamer alongside the street, a few houses down from Luke's. With a heavy sigh of relief, she realized she might have a chance to avoid the parents since the Mustang wasn't in the garage and the Challenger wasn't in the driveway. Now, if she could just get Luke to answer the door, she could explain to him that it couldn't possibly have been Bradley that jumped him. Luke probably never saw who assaulted him and just assumed it was Bradley.
"Well, this is it," she told herself as she slid out of her car, carefully balancing the balloons, book, and card in her arms as her high heels reached the pavement.
The walk to his house felt exceptionally long. She was uneasier in that moment than she when she took the midterms.
Despite her full arms, Kaylee tried to straighten out her white pleated skirt and pink/black zebra striped tank top the best she could before she knocked on the door. She couldn't remember a time when she'd been more nervous.
The door swung open. "Hi, Kaylee," a bubbly Faith said with a warm welcome, much different from the last Faith she ran into at the mall. "Oh, wow, I love those balloons!"
Faith looked guilty for a moment and changed subjects. "Kaylee, I'm glad you came by. I just wanted to say I'm sorry for how I treated you at the mall. Like I said, I just figured you knew it was Bradley and didn't care what happened to my brother since midterms were over. I feel rotten for even thinking that. It's obvious," she said, referring to the balloons, "how much of a friend you are to Luke. I shouldn't have doubted you."
Kaylee looked surprised, "Faith, you have no need to apologize to me. I just wish I heard about this sooner. Which is what brings me here..." Clearing her throat, she reluctantly asked, "Is Luke home?"
"He's home, but I don't know if he wants to see you," she said apologetically with a conflicted look on her face.
Kaylee looked distraught, "You have to convince him, Faith. I just want to talk to him. Well, even more than that, at the very least I just want to wish him well after what happened to him, regardless of how he was hurt." The more she talked, the more she felt like giving up. "Oh, never mind. Just please give these to him," she asked, holding out the gifts.
Faith shook her head and sighed, "I can't do that to you, Kaylee. Please, come in. Just know I'm breaking a promise to Luke for you; I told him I wouldn't let you in."
She felt awful but somehow managed a nervous laugh as she walked inside. Kaylee said, "It's that bad, huh?"
"He's just being a big baby. If he can't see how much of a sweetheart you are, then it's his loss," Faith said. Somehow that made Kaylee feel a little better.
"He's in his room. Aaron's in there, too."
That didn't make Kaylee feel better. She didn't need an audience.
"Ok, Faith. I owe you one."
Faith smiled, and for the first time ever Kaylee saw her devious side, "Good; I was wondering who I could ask for a ride to the mall for the after-Christmas sales; now I know!"
Laughing, Kaylee said, "You little extortionist! Well, in all honestly, I'd love to."
"It's open," Luke said as she knocked on the door, unaware and uncaring of who wanted in.
Kaylee carefully opened the door. "H-hi, Luke," she said meekly, bracing for his response. So this is his room, she thought to herself, looking around at the clutter of electronics, scattered books, and super-hero posters littering the wall.
Luke was staring at the television, leaning back in his chair with his feet up on the desk in a careful balancing act so only the rear two legs were on the floor; one of his arms was in a sling but somehow he managed to keep his body tilted to the side, able to use both hands on his controller.
Kaylee unsuccessfully tried not to gasp when she saw the shiner on Luke's face; his eye was really, really black. Her instinct was to run forward and comfort him, but she managed to resist.
Aaron was sitting at Luke's computer processing video footage; his camera was plugged in to the computer. Knowing Aaron, the footage was probably part of the never-ending documentary of who-knows-what that he was working on.
When Luke heard who was at the door, he paused the game and lowered his chair to the floor.
She thought she heard air escaping from his lungs as he gave her a weak hearted, "Hello Kaylee." She could tell he was trying to be polite but he didn't hide his annoyance very well. "What are you doing here? I guess Faith let you in?"
Aaron got up and tried to slink out of the room. Kaylee smiled, looking forward to the privacy, until Luke said, "Aaron, it's cool, you don't have to leave. I'm sure this won't take long."
Kaylee said, "Don't be mad at Faith. I kind of persuaded her. Here, these are for you." She held out the balloons, the card, and the book. Luke seemed confused at her gesture, but his look of inconvenience had softened. Carefully turning each balloon, he took the time to read all of the get-well and feel-better quotes.
"Thanks, Kaylee, you didn't have to do that."
"I know," she said, digging the toe of her high heel into the ground, twisting the tip back and forth on the floor and holding her hands behind her back.
"The balloons and card are my way of saying get well. The book is something of an early Christmas present. Faith mentioned a while ago you collected older books."
Luke looked at the book. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl..." His voice trailed off. Kaylee held her breath. She didn't think Luke would get the joke at first until she saw just the tiniest of smiles creep up on his face.
"I thought I'd get you a much happier version of Lord of the Flies. No one dies in this version and they all eat candy," she teased.
Kaylee thought back to the moment when she and Luke had first studied in the high school library. He had subtly called her Veruca, as in Veruca Salt, the spoiled girl in the book whose father would buy her whatever she wanted. She didn't catch it at the time, but she knew now. Kaylee raised her eyebrow, glaring at Luke with a sparkle in her eye, "Oh, and by the way, I know who Veruca is, you big jerk."
Luke's smile was softly revealed through his blushing cheeks. It was fortunate for him that Kaylee couldn't hold her angry face; a slight upwards curve of her lip let Luke know he was off the hook. At least for now. "Sorry about that, Kaylee. I guess I was being kind of a jerk."
Kaylee snickered, "Maybe, but you weren't the only one. I'm sorry too."
Luke continued staring at the book and exclaimed, "It's even a second edition print! This couldn't have been easy to find. Thank you, Kaylee." The smile on his face was priceless; for once in her life, she wished Aaron had filming with his stupid camera. Or at least taken a picture.
For a moment she thought Luke was going to raise his good arm to hug her. She was going to step forward, but it was a false alarm. She found herself a little disappointed.
"Have you ever read it," she asked.
"Nope, actually I haven't. I'll put it on my reading list, though."
Aaron, oblivious to what either of them was talking about, piped in, "I saw the movie. Both of them. You know, the old old one, and then the one with Johnny Depp."
Kaylee and Luke turned to look at Aaron, as if they forgot he was in the room. Luke blinked.
"Um, ok..." Kaylee said, trying her hardest to avoid patronizing him. Aaron turned back around to focus on editing his video.
She continued talking to Luke, "Well, I thought you would have been reading when I came in. But here you are, playing video games. Maybe I should have bought you a game instead?"
Luke chuckled, "Nah. It's just easier holding the controller than flipping pages with one hand until I heal up a little more. I have to stay frozen in this one position, though."
With a heartbreaking glance, Kaylee focused her attention on his arm in the sling.
She felt so sorry for him.
"Does it hurt?"
"Only when I forget I'm wearing it and bang it on the door jam." He shook his head a little, flashing the smallest of smiles, "I did it twice today alone."
Kaylee gave a nervous giggle, "Oh, you poor thing. I'm so sorry, that's awful."
Her cute laugh quickly vanished despite his subtle smile. She managed to cut through the tension in the room successfully, but it still lingered. Like it or not, it was time to clear the air.
Kaylee asked him with a serious tone, "Luke, I'm sorry, and I want you to know I had no idea this happened to you. Why didn't you tell me, or send me a text or something?" The moment the sentence was out of her mouth, she wished she could have taken it back. Luke threw her a look she had never seen before; it was one of disdain, cocking his head to the side and raising his eyebrows as if he couldn't believe she asked something so unintelligent. Even throughout all of their study questions, no matter how stupid the questions she asked, Luke had never looked at her like that. It stung.
Of course he wouldn't have texted her. Wasn't it obvious? He thought Bradley jumped him. Who in their right mind would text the girlfriend of the guy that just beat him up?
Kaylee felt like she was walking on eggshells, and didn't want to upset Luke any more than he already was. "Luke, I know you think it was Bradley. He told me he didn't do it. I mean, did you actually see whoever did this?"
He looked at her as if she was crazy.
"Of course I saw who did this," he said bitterly. "It was Bradley, your boyfriend." He made sure to emphasize boyfriend as much as he could; Kaylee flinched.
Kaylee couldn't seem to accept it as an answer, "Are you sure? Maybe you were sucker punched and you never saw who did it, or you hit your head, or..."
Cutting her off, Luke leaned forward and told her, raising his voice with each word, "Stop, Kaylee. I said it once; I'm only going to say this one last time. No, I wasn't ambushed." He pointed at his face, "Do you see my black eye? Think about it; he didn't punch the back of my head, he punched me twice in the face when I was looking right at him. Yes, I saw his face. I heard his voice. I felt his fist. I smelled his stink. What do you want me to say?"
She'd never seen Luke so upset before, and never heard him talk like that to her, or to anyone. Tears started to form in the corner of her eyes. "Luke, please! Don't talk to me like that, please! I mean, I'm stuck in the middle here. What am I supposed to do? I'm supposed to be his girlfriend, I can't just not believe him if he tells me it wasn't him, whether or not I have this nagging feeling in the back of my mind! I mean, what am I supposed to think? What am I supposed to do" she asked, throwing her arms up in the air.
Luke sighed, "Look, I'm sorry for overreacting. I understand the position you're in, and I know he is your boyfriend. I'm really not trying to put you in the middle." Luke shifted in his chair, "But if you don't believe what I'm saying, that means you think I'm lying." It was obvious how disappointed Luke was when he added, "If you think I'm lying, maybe you should go."
The tears in the corner of her eyes were getting thicker; one of them managed to escape, trickling down the side of her cheek.
"Luke, please; don't do this," she squeaked out, wiping away the single tear and trying hard to maintain her composure. She couldn't believe how much she was hurting at Luke's reaction to her -- the scary part was no one else had made her cry the way that he had. Not Bradley, not any of her other boyfriends, not even her parents.
"Luke," Aaron whispered, as if Kaylee couldn't hear him somehow. "Just show her," he quietly told him, nodding towards the screen and sliding his chair to the side so Kaylee could see the computer screen as he hit the play button:
"I'd like to say we're even, but that's just the beginning," Bradley said through gritted teeth. His fists were clenched, ready for action; he hovered over Luke like a prizefighter.
"What's your problem," Luke wheezed out, slowly getting back up on his feet.
"Aaron! What the hell are you doing, turn that off," Luke exclaimed as the video played on the computer, jumping to his feet.
Kaylee's jaw dropped. Aaron, startled by Luke's reaction, pounced on the keyboard to stop the video. Kaylee hissed at him, "Don't you dare touch that!"
Aaron held his hands up in the air, thoroughly confused. On one hand, Luke was his best friend, and best friends always came first. On the other hand, Kaylee frightened him and his life may have been on the line.
Meanwhile, as he tried to figure out what to do, the video continued to play:
"Stay away from Kaylee, got it?"
Bradley kicked his chest before Luke could stand, knocking him down again. "If I see you try to kiss her again, or touch her, or look at her cross-eyed, I'll kick your ass. Midterms are over, so stay away from her."
Kaylee watched with shock as Luke grunted on the video, clearly in pain and doubled over, holding his elbow. That explained the sling.
"Fine," Luke snapped at Kaylee and Aaron, his face red. "If you both want to watch me get my ass kicked again, then screw you both. Don't expect me to wait around while you two watch." Luke stormed out of his room.
"Luke, stop! Don't go!" Kaylee turned around to try and stop Luke, but he was too fast. She was torn between chasing after Luke and finishing the video. She heard the front door slam. She started to chase after him until she heard Bradley's cruel voice taunting Luke.
"You think just because you gave her a few study lessons, she actually wants you?"
Luke replied, groaning through the pain, "It's irrelevant what I want. I have no chance with her, I understand that. But I've seen the way you treat her. Don't act like you care about her."
Kaylee was amazed at his sheer defiance, especially against someone so much bigger and stronger than he was. Her stomach turned, realizing what was going to happen to Luke, and she was powerless to stop the matter of the past.
"You take her for granted. If Kaylee were mine, I'd treat her like a princess. She'll never be, I know, but she deserves someone much better than you, Brad. All you're doing is stepping on a beautiful, precious flower that you refuse to nurture and allow to bloom. She's like a radiant, beautiful angel that for some reason came down from heaven to be here, but you don't see that."
Kaylee gasped, right up until she saw the sneer crawl across Bradley's face; she'd seen it many times, but it was probably more intense than she'd seen it before. What she hadn't seen before was the look of fury in Luke's eyes. It was obvious that whatever physical altercation between the two that had worked up to this moment was far from over.
Her eyes widened in horror as she saw Luke -- the same passive, reluctant Luke that she thought she knew -- dive for Bradley's knees. After a few thrown punches by Bradley and a kick to the groin by Luke, the scuffle had ended just as quickly as it had started.