I slept in late. It was nearly noon by the time I woke up. Carmichael, my grandparents dog, was sleeping with me on the bed. I cracked a small smile and petted him.
I decided to take a bath. I soaked up the hot water with pleasure. My muscles felt sore and achy. The last twenty-four hours had been such a haze. Gage. Shameka. Davis. Earthquake. Mamma. Dr. Bachelor. Davis again. And that kiss? My fingers rose to my lips instinctively. I could almost still feel Davis’ lips on my own. And they had been welcome there… until reality crashed in.
I headed downstairs, but couldn’t find anyone. The maid told me that everyone was over at my house. I hopped in my car and drove across town to my house. There was a good bunch of people milling around outside. I eventually found Mamma on the back side of my house.
She was crying when I walked up. She was still wearing the same clothes she had been wearing the previous night. I stared up at our house as I reached out to touch her elbow. I couldn’t even cry. I didn’t know what to say.
“Mamma?” I said softly.
Choking sobs escaped my mother’s throat.
“Mamma?” I said again, this time a little louder. “Why are you standing in a puddle?”
She jumped startled.
“Kassio, I didn’t see you,” she sniffled.
“Mamma? The water?”
“Oh the water main broke and it’s gushing water under the foundation.”
“But you’re standing in the water.”
“I know… I just…it doesn’t matter… none of it matters.”
“Mamma, what doesn’t matter?” I asked puzzled.
“The house… my home… the girls’ home,” Mamma said as if in a daze, as if I weren’t standing there. “I just can’t believe it’s gone.”
“Mamma, it’s going to be okay,” I tried to reassure her.
“No, no, no, it’s not. I mean, we lost it. We lost our home. I lost our home.”
“Mamma, you didn’t cause the earthquake!”
“We don’t have a home… I don’t have a home…No, I’m… just so overwhelmed. It looks so terrible.”
“Mamma, who are all these people here?”
“Oh, the people!” Mamma ducked her head in embarrassment. “Friends and neighbors… they’re helping out. Our house was hit the worst. It was that stupid roof… the one Howard always said would be fine, but it wasn’t earthquake proof.”
“Mamma, is anything earthquake proof?” I asked.
“The neighbors… all these people… what do I tell them?” Mamma asked in bewilderment. She lowered her voice to a whimper. “I couldn’t even get Clark to come back. He didn’t answer his phone. I just don’t understand. Why won’t he call me back?”
She took her cell phone and chucked it across the yard. A few of the young men working on the side of the house looked over in our direction.
“Mamma!” I gasped.
“I know,” she ducked her head shamefully. “I… I just can’t… function.”
“Mamma, it’s going to be okay. Are Nonno and Nonna here? Cari? Andi?”
“Yes, and their school friends…”
“And the house is safe to walk around in?”
“Moderately so,” Mamma wiped a tear from her face.
“Okay… why don’t you go sit in the car and collect yourself for a few minutes? I have some tissues in the glove box,” I suggested, looking around and scanning the groups of people.
“Alright,” Mamma agreed.
I watched her walk across the yard, shoulders hunched over and wiping tears from her eyes. I hope she’s going to be okay. This is hitting her really hard. My mother stopped to talk to one of Cari’s classmates. I was about to follow her when Nonna found me. She explained how the firemen had said it was okay to walk around in the house as the roof was completely gone. The chief was concerned about the floorboards and the leaking water, but assured her that someone from city maintenance would be out to fix it quickly. She and Nonno were working in the house with the girls and their friends and neighbors were outside patching up holes in the lawn, picking up debris, salvaging household items and boards if possible. I wandered back to the fire pit and approached a pretty blonde around my age.
“Kassiopeia, right?” the girl said, her eyes sparkling upon recognition.
“Yes, you’re Jamie, right? Jamie Jolina?” I said, offering her my hand. “The pianist from the Jolt the other night.”
“Yes, yes,” she laughed effervescently. “I’m Jamie. I couldn’t forget you either… not after Davis dedicated a song to you.”
“He really is rather sweet,” she smiled. “I’m so glad I get to meet you. I’ve heard so much about you.”
“It’s nice to meet you too,” I said, feeling a little lame.
Jamie looked down at the ground, the heat rising in her cheeks. “You are one lucky girl. That Davis is a keeper.”
I sensed she was attracted to Davis, possibly even had a crush on him. Can I blame her? He’s gorgeous!
“Yes… uh… yes, he is,” I frowned, feeling confused. “What are you doing here?”
“Oh Davis called me and asked me to come over and help out.”
“Yeah, he called a whole bunch of us. He’s been here since four A.M. organizing the neighborhood and helping out wherever he can, but mostly, he’s been here…rallying the troops… ”
My hand flew to my heart. “My Davis has been here?
“You didn’t know,” Jamie’s eyes widened.
“I mean, he’s here? Davis Lamar?”
Jamie gave me an odd look. “Yes, he was helping out your grandpa last I saw him. You really didn’t know?”
“No, I didn’t know,” I said quietly, my gaze dropping to the ground. “Uh… excuse me, Jamie…”
“Sure, I’m just going to finish putting stuff in boxes,” Jamie replied.
I decided to walk through the house to assess the damage. It was pretty bad. I found Nonno in the foyer.
“Kass, how’s my favorite eldest granddaughter?” Nonno asked, holding out his arms for a hug.
“Nonno, I’m your only eldest granddaughter,” I smiled as we embraced.
“Are you feeling okay today? Amy told me about your trip to the hospital,” Nonno asked in concern.
“I’m fine, Nonno,” I nodded as I looked out the window past him. Davis was on the front lawn picking up a book that must’ve been dropped accidentally. “Nonno, how long has Davis been here?”
“Since before your grandmother and I got here. He was coordinating with your mother and helping her figure out what to do. He’s been a godsend, talking with the police and the fire department, contacting the city about getting maintenance up here,” Nonno explained. “…calling all his friends to come help move the furniture and clean up the house, canvassing the neighborhood to see if anyone else needs help and lending a hand, helping me repair some of the floorboards, and he even had a friend at a moving company who is loaning us use of the vans for the day free of charge. That Davis is a real trooper… he really is a great guy.”
“Yes,” I said, choking back the tears. “He really is. Excuse me, Nonno.”
“Sure thing,” Nonno patted me on the back and walked back into another part of the house.
I found Davis by the van. He was waving down the hill to one of the moving vans when I walked up. I felt nervous, overcome by emotion, but I swelled with pride. This is the guy who wants to be my boyfriend! I thought excitedly.
“Hi,” I said lamely.
He turned around. “Hi Kassiopeia.”
I wanted to melt into his arms right then, to throw my own arms around him and kiss him passionately, and to tell him how sorry I was, but I restrained myself. It’s too soon. I looked away.
“Davis, what are you doing here?” I asked instead.
“Helping out,” he replied. “After I left the hospital I went for a drive and found myself here. Your mother was here with… what’s his name… Clark, I think?”
“And they were talking with the police and fire. I drove up and offered my services. I think your mother was surprised, but grateful…”
“But you’ve been here all night?” I exclaimed. “I mean… and all the things you’ve done for my family… thank you!”
“I am happy to help. It’s only the right thing to do. After my family was struck by tragedy in Hurricane Katsimona₁ last year, our neighbors and friends rallied around us, and we needed them too…” Davis trailed off, a strange look flitting across his face briefly. “I guess this is my way of paying it forward.”
“Davis!” his name caught in my throat.
I took a step forward, my hands outstretched.
“Kass, it’s fine, I understand. I moved too quickly last night…”
“Well, yes… no… I don’t know… I’m not sure…”
“Kass, I respect you and I care about you. I want you to know that. If it’s better if we take things way slower or if now is not a good time…” Davis said gently.
“Davis, now is…I don’t… you can’t…” I stammered, and huffed in frustration. My voice dropped low and I met his eyes timidly. “Don’t leave…”
“Don’t… leave…?” he repeated, looking confused.
“I don’t want you to leave… I want to be your girlfriend… please? If you still want to be my boyfriend…” I said, trying not to blubber like an idiot.
“Come here,” Davis pulled me into his arms and hugged me tightly. “Of course I still want to be with you. I still want to be your boyfriend and I want you to be my girlfriend.”
“Oh good, I was worried I confused you last night. I’m so relieved,” I sighed, breathing in the scent of his cologne.
“Kass, can you tell me what happened last night?” Davis probed gently.
“You mean… after… we… uh… kissed?” I said awkwardly, hoping we weren’t drawing a lot of attention.
“Yes. Do you want to go someplace and talk about it?” Davis asked.
“No… I… uh… Davis, I’m not sure. There’s so much going on in my life right now. I can’t make sense of everything. I don’t know why you want to be with me at all. I’m such a wreck. I’m… I don’t know how to process all my emotions and all the stress. I’m… can you understand that?” I asked, making a face.
“Yes, I can understand that perfectly,” Davis replied. “Kass, I know we don’t know each other all that well yet, but I want you to know you can trust me. Whenever you’re ready, I’m here for you. Whatever it is going on in your life, I’ll listen and I won’t judge. Even if you didn’t want to be with me, I’d still hope we could be friends.”
“Not after that kiss last night,” I nearly laughed, then flushed embarrassed. “Davis, I think it’s best if we do take things slow… and for now, I want to wait to kiss you until I’m absolutely sure…”
“Absolutely sure of what?”
I flushed again, hoping he’d think it was the heat of the day.
“Uh…” I swallowed hard “…until I’m absolutely sure…”
“…until I’m sure that I’m… I’m… I’m… in love with you,” I whispered.
I didn’t add… …though I think I’m already falling for you. What’s wrong with me? I can’t even say the ‘l’ word! Oh llamas! Davis, why do you have to be so perfect?
“Oh, Kass, honey,” Davis lifted his hand up slowly and stroked my cheek.
I leaned into it welcomingly, my hand touching his hand. It was as if electricity sparked between our fingers. He pulled his hand back way too soon.
“I can live with that,” he said solemnly.
“You can?” I asked, surprised.
“Yes, Kass, I’ll wait for as long as you need,” he nodded, this time with a smile.
“Thank you,” I said appreciatively.
We stood there awkwardly for a moment. I wondered how long it would be before I’d say the ‘l’ word. I felt pretty sure that it would be sooner than I’d be ready for it. Davis was pretty much amazing.
“So…uh…” Davis broke the silence. “…I think I’ll go home and grab a shower…”
“…and get some sleep,” I interjected. “You’ve been up all night. You look terrible.”
“Thanks,” he grinned sarcastically.
“I’ll call you later,” I promised sincerely. “We can have dinner?”
“Better make it breakfast tomorrow,” Davis shook his head. “I’m pretty wiped.”
“Oh… ok…” I felt a little disappointed, but I understood.
“I want to be refreshed for our date,” Davis added with one of his beautiful smiles. “I will see you tomorrow, Kassiopeia.”
Chapter 18 Coming Soon!
- Will Kass tell Davis everything that’s going on?
- How will their relationship progress?
- How will the clean-up process after the earthquake go?
Author Changes: What’s different?
- Picture sizes were edited.