“How are you doing?” Mamma asked me as I sat up on my hospital bed. “You really had us worried.”
“I’m okay,” I said weakly. “A little groggy. I’m not sure what happened.”
“You passed out on the lawn in front of our house. That nice young man, Davis, you were with, drove us to the hospital and Nonna and Nonno took your sisters home to their house,” Mamma explained.
“Oh,” was all I managed to say.
“Kassio, why didn’t you tell us you were dating?” Mamma exclaimed, clasping her hands together.
“Uh… I could’ve asked you the same thing,” I frowned.
“Well, you know now, I told you, but I didn’t know you were even interested in a guy,” Mamma sighed. “Well maybe… I had an inkling…”
“So you met Davis?” I assumed.
“Yes, he seems really nice. Very cute too,”Mamma nodded.
“Mamma!” I wrinkled my nose.
“Well, he is… I’m sure he’s a very nice young man.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Well, he is nice.”
“You said that.”
“And that’s all I’m going to say for now. I’ll go get the doctor.”
“I’m fine,” I slid off the bed slowly.
“Kassiopeia Celestia Fullbright,” Mamma said sharply, then closed her eyes and shook her head. “You get back on that bed until Dr. Bachelor tells you it’s okay to get up.”
“But I’m okay, Mamma, really,” I protested, rubbing the back of my head. “I just got a little dizzy and needed some water. Everything happened so suddenly. I’m okay now. I feel fine.”
“No, tsk! Get back on that bed, and we’ll talk later about Davis,” Mamma insisted.
“Mamma, what does that mean?” I gave her a worried look. “I’m eighteen. I should be allowed to date.”
“Oh yes, but I… I don’t know, Kass. I just want you to be safe,” Mamma replied.
“Safe? What do you think is going to happen?” I exclaimed.
“Well, you’re young and hormones… I get it… I was young once too. I just want you to go off to school with a good head on your shoulders and focus on your studying,” Mamma explained deliberately, taking her time.
“I do have a good head on my shoulders,” I answered. “Thanks to you and Nonna and Nonno. I won’t make any dumb decisions and Davis is not going to get in the way of my schooling.”
“He better not! Or I will have words with him!” Mamma said sharply. “I don’t want you to go off to school and get all moony about some guy and then drop out, get pregnant, and never go back.”
“Mamma, that was you and Dad. That’s not me!” I said, horrified. “I’m not stupid. I know a good university education is important to getting a good job and providing for myself and living well. But I also want to enjoy my life too and Davis is a new part of that.”
“I just think it’d be better for you to wait…” Mamma began, and seeing I was about to reply, she quickly added, “For your sake, so you don’t risk it and so he’s not a distraction.”
“He’s not a distraction!” I defended Davis.
“But he may be, and he could ruin everything,” Mamma said vehemently.
“I’m not going to get pregnant, Mamma,” I said softly, hoping to diffuse the situation.
“I won’t do it!” Mamma cried.
I stopped and stared at her, startled by her passion. Mamma turned her head away as if afraid to look at me.
“You won’t do what?” I asked.
“I won’t raise your babies, Kass. I’m not your Nonna.”
“I didn’t ask you to be… I didn’t ask you to… and I don’t have any babies nor am I planning on any anytime soon,” I huffed in frustration. “Do you regret having me? Is that what this is really about?”
“No!” Mamma snapped back, and then her expression softened. “Absolutely not. I love you and I love Cari and Andi too. I don’t regret having you.”
“But…” I probed.
“Look, I just don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did,” Mamma puffed out a sharp sigh.
“I won’t, Mamma,” I replied heatedly. “I’m a smart woman. You raised me to be one. But I have to be able to make my own mistakes, Mamma, so I can be my own woman. I promise I won’t be getting pregnant, but I might make other mistakes, and you and I are going to have to live with them. Maybe it’s not Davis. Maybe it’s not pregnancy. But someday I’ll make my own mistakes and they’ll be mine… not yours.”
“Okay,” Mamma suddenly threw her arms around me and hugged me. “I love you so much, Kassiopeia, you know that, right?”
“Mmmhmm,” I leaned into her embrace.
We pulled back from one another after a moment.
“Just promise me that you’ll reconsider dating Davis…” Mamma said quietly. “Or anyone for that matter… for your sake, not just mine.”
“I’ll think about it,” I replied demurely as I looked at my feet.
“Thank you,” Mamma answered as she gently pulled some of my hair forward. “It was tucked in your breast pocket. I’ll go get Dr. Bachelor. Would you please lie down again?”
“Yes, Mamma,” I said obediently, crawling back onto the hospital bed.
While I waited for the doctor, I thought about everything that had happened yesterday- discovering Gage had a sister, my date with Davis, the earthquake, my house getting destroyed, my passing out, and now Mamma upset with me dating. I felt a tear streak the edge of my cheek. It was so much to process. Suddenly I was gripped with panic. What if I passed out because of EXCES?
“Hello Kass,” Dr. Bachelor walked in the room dressed in her scrubs. “It’s been a bit of a crazy night.”
“That’s an understatement,” I said, then spoke up quickly, “Did you do blood work? Is my reason for being here…” I couldn’t even say it as I gritted my teeth and laced my fingers together, bracing myself for the truth.
“No, Kass, not to worry,” Dr. Bachelor reassured me. “I believe you were just in shock and that’s why you passed out. That young man that brought you in said you were also struck by a small tree branch earlier. But the cut above your eye is minimal and barely noticeable. You’re also mildly dehydrated so I want you drinking plenty of fluids for the next couple days.”
“Oh that’s a relief,” I sighed, the tension oozing from my entire body.
“The blood work came back negative for EXCES. You don’t have a concussion,” Dr. Bachelor explained. “But I do have a couple questions to ask as standard procedure now that you’re awake.”
“Are you sexually active?”
“No.” Why was everyone thinking that lately?
“Do you feel safe at home?”
“Have you experienced any unusual changes to your schedule or diet lately?”
“Like skipping meals, not getting enough sleep, overexercising, stress…”
“How about all of the above… maybe minus the overexercising part?”
“Okay, Kass, we’ll talk about stress. What kinds of stress? Environmental, relational, work or school related?”
“Well, tonight’s earthquake would count as environmental. I’ve been struggling with this whole EXCES thing a lot actually, but I’ve been trying to stay busy to not worry about it too much. I also think my relationships with… well…have been strained lately.”
“The earthquake is completely normal. It’s bound to shake all of us up, no pun intended. As for dealing with EXCES, have you spoken the counselor I recommended?”
“No… I don’t know how to pay for it. And I’d rather my mother didn’t know.”
“That’s your decision, though, I’d recommend telling her or someone else to lighten the burden. However, the first private counseling session is free and if you don’t like it, you can always find a different one or try a different route. The support group meetings are always free. And if financials are an issue, there are plenty of payment plan options though it will be higher if you aren’t going through traditional insurance.”
“Thank you, Dr. Bachelor,” I smiled in appreciation.
“You’re most welcome. Now, I don’t see why you can’t go home tonight… well, to your grandparents that is. Get some rest, eat breakfast in the morning, and drink plenty of fluids,” Dr. Bachelor recommended. “If your symptoms return or worsen, please don’t hesitate to contact me.”
“My clothes?” I inquired.
“Oh yes, we put everything in that drawer right there. Feel free to get dressed in the private bathrooms right outside your door and to the left,” Dr. Bachelor waved on her way out.
I sighed three times, pushing out my emotions with each breath. It’s not EXCES. I was still shaking a little, but I figured that was to be expected. I found the clothes right where Dr. Bachelor had said they would be and headed to the bathroom, taking extra time to redress. I had just clasped my necklace and bracelet when I heard a gentle knocking on the door.
It was Davis.
“Yes, I’ll be right out,” I called through the doorway.
The instant I stepped out, Davis had his arms around me. I tucked my own arms around his neck and allowed him to draw me in. He smelled good – a fresh pine scent. There wasn’t a wrinkle on his clothes. He still looked perfect. I felt like crying. His embrace felt so good, so comforting, so inviting.
I felt his grasp tighten around my rib cage. The safety and warmth of his embrace made me feel like we were the only two people in the world. I swiped at the tears under my eyes and gently cupped the back of his head with my hand. I didn’t want to let go and I sensed he didn’t either. Someone cleared their throat nearby. I pulled back dramatically, almost as if I was afraid of being caught… of being caught falling for Davis. I couldn’t let myself admit it.
I was grateful it wasn’t my mother.
“Kass,” Dr. Bachelor interjected. “I just wanted to let you know that my office can email you that information you requested.”
“Oh thank you,” I said sheepishly, a hint of pink breaching my cheeks.
“And your shoes… you left them in the bathroom,” she added, setting my sandals down on the cart next to my purse. “Have a good night.”
Davis took a step toward me and I instinctively took a step back. I hoped he didn’t notice.
“Kassiopeia, I’m so glad you’re okay. I was so worried,” Davis spoke.
“Thank you…” I squeaked, and then cleared my throat awkwardly. “Thank you for staying. You didn’t have to.”
“Nonsense, you’re my girlfriend. Of course I’m going to stay,” Davis replied gently.
“So you met my Mamma?”
“And your sisters. They all seem very nice.”
Yeah, until my Mamma is warning me to stay away from you.
“That’s good. What did you tell them?”
“Just that you and I had met at Jade’s, that she’s my grandma, and that I’m staying here for the summer.”
“Well, no, I told your mother that you and I wanted to date and I asked her permission.”
“You didn’t?” my eyes widened.
“Yes, I did. I mean, she asked me about our relationship, Kass, when I was in the car,” Davis answered. “And I’m serious about you so I wanted to ask her permission. Do you mind?”
“No,” I said, my voice barely above a whisper. “What did she say?”
“She said she’d talk to you,” he replied.
My heart sank. I knew from my conversation with my mother that she didn’t approve of me dating Davis. I was an adult though, perfectly capable of making my own decisions, and I shouldn’t need my mother’s permission to date. I was still living under her roof. Things could get awkward if I didn’t agree with her and kept dating Davis. And I respected my Mamma. I wanted her to like Davis. I wanted to respect her back. The only way I could do that would be to focus on my school… and give up Davis.
“Kass, what did she say?” he asked.
“Uh… she said…” I frantically racked my brain for an appropriate response. “…she wants to… get… to… know you better.
“I think she likes you,” I lied. “Uh… she seems okay with me making my own decisions.”
That’s not a total lie. Even so, I felt overwhelmingly guilty.
“That’s great,” Davis looked down at his shoe awkwardly.
“Great?” I repeated, confused.
“Yes,” he lifted his eyes to meet mine. “I’m so glad and relieved. Because I like you, Kass, a lot… and I want to be with you.”
At those words, my heart thudded. I gulped. With me? What kind of with me? With me like we’re dating with me? Or with me like what Ayesha and I were talking about? Ayesha’s words came flooding back to me. ‘How do you expect to get Davis if you can’t even say the word ‘sex?’ I mean, he is an older guy, right? Probably more experienced?’ I didn’t want to think about Davis and his previous experiences. I didn’t want to think about his ex girlfriends. I didn’t want to think about anything right now because my head was pounding.
Davis took a step toward me. Don’t freak out! Don’t freak out! Kass, don’t freak out! Just ask him, you idiot. Ask him what he means. Tell him you’re afraid and you aren’t ready and you want to wait. Tell him… whoo! Is he even thinking about sex? Maybe he’s not. Maybe I’m overthinking this. Maybe I’m panicking for no reason. Maybe…
His lips were on mine… soft, warm, and… Oh this is a wonderful sensation! My mind blurred, dizzy from the swirl of emotions surrounding me. My blood pumped hotly through my veins. He was kissing me! Oh llamas!
I was kissing him back. I invited his pale pink lips down onto mine as my hands curled around his cheek. He wasn’t pushing me. His kiss was almost hesitant, and his touch kind. Even so, I had to stop it. I had to end this now before it got out of hand.
“Davis!” I said breathlessly, jerking back hard.
He looked startled, his hand still draped around my neck. My hands were shaking, one hand hovering over his lower back and the other dropping rapidly to my side.
“Did I do something wrong?” he asked, his eyes searching my expression. “I shouldn’t have kissed you?”
“I… uh… oh wow!” I stammered.
I took a step back, unlocking from his embrace. My mind raced at a million miles a minute.
“What do you mean you can’t?”
“I just… what are we doing? I mean… what is this relationship? I know I’m your girlfriend, but I barely know you… and I just… I don’t know… I mean… I’m going to university this fall and you’re already done and…”
“Is that what’s bothering you? Kass, I can move back to Edgewater while you go to school. I can come with you. My family’s there, remember?”
“I know that… I just… Davis…” my heart caught as I said his name. “It’d be better for now to take things slow. I… don’t… want… to… hurt… you…”
…or you to hurt me. And oh! I like you, Davis! I’m falling for you! That kiss ruined everything. It ruined any chance we had at just being friends. But I can’t… I don’t want to end up like my Mamma, throwing my life away for some guy. She didn’t say it but that’s what she meant. I have to be strong. I have to say no to things I want… and it’s for the better… I can’t… oh! Davis. I can’t look at you.
“I’ll call you later,” I said briskly, brushing past him.
As I walked away, my heart tugged, calling me back to him, asking me to give into my feelings. My mind urged me to tell him the truth, but I couldn’t bring myself to turn around.
Chapter 17 Coming Soon!
- Will Kass and Davis break up so soon?
- Will Kass tell him how she really feels?
- What will happen with the aftermath of the earthquake?
Author Changes: What’s different?
- Grandmother was changed to Nonna.
- Picture size was edited.