My hands flew to my stomach. I felt nauseous. I had run all the way from Maywood Glen to Jade’s Java Jolt. Now that I was here I had no idea what I would say. I felt hollow.
“Kass?” Davis asked as he turned around.
I stood up as if in a trance.
“Kass? Are you okay?” Davis’ voice sounded far away even though he was just on the other side of the counter.
“This is a pleasant surprise,” he rounded the counter. “I was going to call you when I got off work.”
I whirled around and plummeted into his shoulder, the tears falling freely. I was worried he’d ask more questions. I was worried he’d say something. I didn’t want to hear anything right now. I didn’t know what I wanted him to say. But he just put his arms around me and pulled me close.
“Manny,” he said quietly, to the other barista. “Do you think you can cover me for a little bit?”
What am I doing here? I jerked away from Davis. I couldn’t stay here. Why do I bother showing my face here at the Jolt? Everyone must think I’m crazy.
I bolted from the coffee shop. I didn’t exactly know where I’d go, but I didn’t want to go home. I raced out behind the Jolt and up the hill toward Stoney Falls.
Davis ran after me.
“Kass, stop, please? Please?”
I stopped cold in my tracks. His voice was gentle, his breathing heavy, but not erratic. He approached me cautiously and stopped a few feet away. I sniffled, looking up at the cascading waterfall. The evening was warm, but even so, I hugged my arms to my chest. It was quiet up on the hill. I could see all the way to the ocean as the night was perfectly clear. The air smelled of sweet pine trees and faint traces of sea salt. It was a perfect summer night. But nothing’s perfect, right? I thought despairingly.
“Aren’t you going to ask me what’s wrong?” I asked, almost bitterly.
I waited for the questions, for the concern, for the judgment. I waited for him to hug me. I waited for what seemed like forever.
“No, Kassiopeia, I’m not,” he said huskily. “You’re going to tell me when you’re ready and until then… I’m… just here for you.”
I turned to face Davis and propelled myself forward. My eyes filled with tears. Here was a man who cared deeply for me. Here was the man I had given up any chance with Gage for. Did I regret it?
The sun set beyond the ocean’s horizon and still he held me wordlessly as I sobbed in his arms. The air grew cooler and the crickets began to chirp but still he didn’t push me. The first stars began twinkling in the sky by the time I pulled back and stared at him. His eyes were so gentle, concern and kindness co-mingled on his face. He looked at me and I knew he wondered what I was going to say, but he wouldn’t pressure me. The last half-hour had been a testament to that.
“I think…” I said, and then stopped.
“Take your time,” he urged.
How can I tell him? How can I tell him everything? I didn’t know where to start. Tell him how you feel… about him.
Andi’s words came flooding back to me.
“How do you know?” I had asked.
“Oh Kass,” she had replied. “You just know.”
“How do I know how he feels?”
“…You’ll know, by the way he treats you. More than his words, his actions will tell you everything.”
“Davis, I think I’m falling in love with you,” I said bravely, my voice wobbling.
Davis reached for me. My hands felt so tiny in his gargantuan hands.
“Oh Kassiopeia, I am in love with you,” he stated emphatically.
“Are you sure?” I asked timidly.
“Yes,” he said. “A thousand times, yes. Kassiopeia, I love you.”
He dropped my hands and delicately grasped my arms.
“Oh honey, is that why you were crying?” he asked, concerned. “You didn’t know how to tell me?”
“No,” I shook my head vehemently. “I’m sorry… did you think that? Of course you did, because that’s what I said… I mean… Davis, I’m sorry.”
“There’s nothing to be sorry about,” he reassured. “Just help me sort this out and figure out why you’re so upset, will you?”
“It’s a long story,” I sighed.
“I have all night, sweetheart, and longer if need be,” he replied.
“Okay, this is why I love you.”
“Why because I’m such a patient guy?” he jested.
“You’re full of it,” I laughed.
“There, you laughed. See, let out the stress. Laugh a little. You were scaring me.”
“Really? You didn’t seem scared.”
“I’m the guy. I’m supposed to be strong for you, remember?”
“I know… I just… I want to know what you’re thinking and feeling too. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“It’s okay. But please, don’t keep a guy in suspense.”
I told him everything from the beginning – about my dad’s affair and my parent’s divorce, about Mamma’s depression and living with my grandparents for awhile, about discovering Gage was going away to see his relatives and my concerns about that, about seeing my dad again for the first time in years and how he told me about his EXCES, about my own scare and worrying about having EXCES too, about Mamma having a new boyfriend and Andi too, about my argument with Cari and Andi after telling them about EXCES and my dad, about Gage and his sister and how weird that was, and Gage telling me he loved me and I just wasn’t ready and I didn’t feel the same way, and about his anger and frustration toward me today and how I’d lost my best friend. I continued onto include my fears about this new relationship, about my concerns about what he really wanted from me, about feeling hurt when he ignored me over baseball and not coming to my defense when that guy was hitting on me at the beach, about my conversation with Mamma and how she didn’t approve and didn’t want me to get pregnant and end up like her, and his kiss scaring me and not being ready for sex. When I was done, I looked down at my feet.
“Everything’s happening so fast and I’m just not sure how to process everything. I feel like I’ve been a complete failure. I’m overwhelmed. I don’t know how to handle all that, and be your girlfriend. I just don’t know. The only thing I do know is I love you, okay? Davis? Say something please.”
Davis didn’t say anything. Instead, he crushed me to himself. His Old Spice cologne was intoxicating, his muscular arms warm and inviting. I felt safe and loved.
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” he asked hoarsely.
“I was still getting to know you. I didn’t want to scare you away.”
“Honey, you can’t scare me away. I’m not going to run away just because things get tough.”
“I didn’t know that. I just met you a little over a week ago. That’s pretty fast to fall in love and trust you.”
“I hope I’ve proven myself.”
“So far?” he jabbed my side playfully.
“Okay, yes, you have,” I laughed.
“Alright, Kass, you want to hear my response?” Davis asked, taking a step back.
“Yes,” I bobbed my head enthusiastically.
“First I want to thank you. It took a lot of courage to tell me everything you did tonight and I so appreciate that. You’re not a failure, Kass, you are a one of a kind woman, and I feel like tonight you let me see the real you. I got to see the real Kassiopeia. You’re going to take this one day at a time… tackle it one issue at a time… your dad, your mom, your sisters, your health, your ex-best friend, me, all of it… and you’re not going to be alone. I’m here with you,” Davis answered.
“Okay,” I replied shakily.
“And you know what we’re going to do right now?”
“We’re going to gaze at the stars.”
“When I was little, my granny always used to tell me that when you need a new perspective to stop and look up at the stars. And you know what? It always made me feel better,” he explained.
“That Granny of yours sounds pretty wise,” I grinned.
“Yeah, she is,” he chuckled, and motioned to the ground. “Come over here.”
“Kass?” Davis looked at me.
“Yes?” I said, staring back into his baby blues.
“We should tackle the most important question first.”
“You said you were nervous about me… and you wanted to know what I wanted.”
“Oh, yes,” I said, staring at my hands as I felt my cheeks warm.
“Kassiopeia, I love you, and I’m not going to lie. It’s crossed my mind. I want to be with you… in every way… but I am so not going to pressure you or make you do something you’ll regret. I don’t want to dishonor you. I respect you deeply. I care about you even more deeply. I won’t compromise you and I won’t ask for something you aren’t willing to give. In fact, I want you to wait until you are absolutely sure.”
“Yes, and I’m not just saying this in hopes of you telling me you’re ready now. In fact, I wouldn’t let you. I’m not ready. And that’s a heck of a thing for me to admit. I mean, I’m the guy, right? I’m supposed to always be ready.”
“Seriously, Kass, I trust you with this. I want to be with you someday, but I believe sex should be treasured and saved for marriage.”
I’m wondering if I’m thinking the same thing.
“And I think it’s all well and good to say something like that and then compromise in the moment which is why I think we should set some boundaries now.”
“What do you think those boundaries should be? Actually I’d like you to think on those. Sleep on it and get back to me. I want to be absolutely clear and I want you to feel no pressure to answer a certain way.”
Davis helped me up. I looked deeply into his eyes, the love just pouring out from inside me, overwhelming me. He could consume me if I let him, but I don’t think I’d mind.
“How’d I wind up with such a great guy like you?”
“I was thinking the same thing…”
Davis leaned forward.
“Is it okay?”
“Yes, Davis, it’s okay.”
And with that, he kissed my cheek so tenderly that I thought I’d melt away into a puddle of pure joy. While I wished he had kissed my lips instead, I could be satisfied with what he had given me tonight, knowing I’d get to experience his lips very soon.
Chapter 24 Coming Soon!
- Where will Kass and Davis’ relationship go from here? What boundaries will they decide on?
- How will Kass tackle all the issues in her life now? Will she work things out with Gage? With Cari? Will she tell her Mamma? Her grandparents? Will she talk to her dad again?
Author’s Changes: What’s Different?
- Picture size was edited.
- Minor formatting issues were fixed.