Reality Check…

I knew I didn’t have long and I was taking a huge risk. I had to talk to him. I had to know where we stood.

He was waiting there for me by the time I rushed up over the hill. I’d been so anxious to see him but now that he was there, I found I was suddenly nervous. Maybe I didn’t want to know after all. What if he had moved on? How would I ever deal with that? I couldn’t make myself go any further.

“My Ki…”

My eyes shot up but there was no time to respond.

It was heaven being in his arms again. I knew I didn’t have long and we needed to talk but I couldn’t make myself pull away from him. It was Lotus who started the kiss and Lotus who eventually had to end it.

“I’ve missed you so much, Kiki. Berry, I don’t think I could have taken much more. I was so afraid he’d never change his mind.”

I looked down. I didn’t relish having to tell him the truth but I’d learned my lesson about being dishonest. “He didn’t change his mind, Lotus. He’s at the hospital with Ashley.”

Lotus pushed away slightly. “Berry, Ki! You’re going to get into worse trouble. Dad told me he’s going to pull you out of school if you get in trouble again!”

“I know, Lotus! I know. It was the only way. He won’t let me out of his sight at all. Ever. I can’t stay long but I had to talk to you. I-I needed to know…to know if…”

“Ki…why do you torture yourself. What did I tell you the last time I saw you? I love you, Kiki. Nothing will change that. I hate being away from you but it won’t change how I feel. I’ll wait as long as it takes.”

I let out a breath and fell into his arms. “Oh, Lotus. I was so afraid. This is such a mess. I’m so sorry.”

He held me for a bit, stroking my hair and whispering in my ear. When I’d composed myself, he wiped my tears away with his thumb and kissed me gently.

“Ki, I need to talk to you before you go.” His touch was still gentle but his tone was so serious. My heart sank.

“There’s no easy way to say this.” Oh Berry. I didn’t want to hear what he would say next.

“I’m going to Bridgeport.”

I’d known it was coming but it still took my breath away. I could barely manage a whisper. “When?”

He looked away again. “Soon. After my birthday.”

“But thats…”

“Yes. Next week.”

And then the tears were back.

I managed to pull myself together again but I couldn’t make myself look at him. Instead I just stood there with my head hanging while I listened to him.

“Ki…I…Please don’t think I want to leave you. I just…You were the only thing worth staying here for. If I can’t be with you, then there’s nothing here for me. I’ll take some classes and get a job in Bridgeport. I can start making a life for us…if that’s what you want. I don’t care how long I have to wait. I would wait forever for you, Kiki. But I can’t wait here. I can’t make a life here.”

I nodded miserably. He was right. And it was true, we wouldn’t be able to see each other and there was no point in him sticking in this dead end town but the thought of him not being in the same town as me was sickening.

“I’ll come. Right after graduation.”

He shifted and looked uncomfortable. “Actually, Ki, I think you should wait a little longer.”

My head shot up. “But…why?”

“Just hear me out, ok? You know I love you but I think you should wait for just a little while. Get closer to your birthday. Berry, you’ve got a new sister on the way-your family needs you. I need to you to come to me without running away from this mess. You’ve got to get your head together and stop being so reckless. I think you should straighten things out with your Dad, too, Kiki.”

I shook my head slowly.

“Kiki. Do NOT think I don’t want you. If you told me to stuff it and insisted you come after graduation, I’d never, ever turn you away. But I just don’t want it to be that way. I want to be with you and I want you to be able to choose when and how to be with me. I don’t want you to run away and be with me just because you’re afraid you’ll lose me otherwise!” He threw his hands in the air. “Berry! Am I making any sense at all?”

I took a deep breath and nodded. He was right. I was so afraid of losing him that I would run away from everything I knew and burn every bridge in my life instead of working it all out. I could read between the lines. He was telling me I needed to stop running from my problems and stop acting like a…well, an over emotional teenager. He was right, of course, but it was so hard to think of waiting that long.

“Lotus, I-I don’t know when I’ll see you again.”

“I know, Ki. It doesn’t matter. I promise you, I’ll be there waiting for you when you’re ready.”

I nodded again. “I need to get going soon.”

“I’ll drive you but…before we go…”

_________________________________________________________

A few days later, Ashley and Dad brought home Abigail Elizabeth and for the second time this year, I fell completely and utterly in love.

Desperation…

It’s been a month.

An entire month since I last saw his face, heard his voice, felt his touch.

It’s not getting better. It’s not getting easier.

The only time I talk to Dad is to try to make him change his mind. It never works.

I’ve tried everything I can think of but Dad watches me like a hawk. I’m locked out of the computer.

He’s always there, watching me. He even changed his work schedule so he can pick me up from school every day. He won’t even let me ride the bus. And I have no idea what he said to the Principal at the school but I can’t even get near a phone or computer at school either.

He won’t even let me go outside without him.

That first week, Ashley tried to comfort me. She said she thought Dad was overreacting a little and that if I gave him time he might relent. That hasn’t happened. I think she even tried to talk to him last week. Nothing changed except that he was mad at her for a couple of days. All she could say was that she was sorry and we’d have to wait it out.

I don’t know what to do anymore. I can’t think, I can’t eat, I can’t concentrate in school. All I can do is cry and sleep and wait for this hell to end.

__________________________________________________

When Dad wouldn’t budge after a full month had passed, I realized he probably wasn’t going to. That’s when I knew I had to leave. Thoughts of Lotus giving up and moving on plagued me constantly and I knew I had to talk to him, had to find out if he still wanted to be with me.

But graduation was just a month away. As much as it pained me to do it, I knew I had to stick it out. If the worst happened and…and Lotus had moved on, I still wouldn’t be coming back. I needed to finish school so I could get a job because there was no way I was living my life in Twinbrook. Now that I’d been to Bridgeport I was more certain than ever that I didn’t belong here.

___________________________________________________

Four weeks and three days since I last saw Lotus, something changed. As I trudged out of my last class for the day, Mrs. Granger, the Assistant Principal stopped me and said I had a message to call my Father immediately. My first thought was that something was very wrong because there was no way he wasn’t going to be there to pick me up. I followed her to the office and called him. His answer was rushed.

“Hi, Ki. Ashley’s gone into labor.”

“Isn’t it too early?” A jolt of fear shot through me.

“Yes. About a month. It should be okay but I need to be here with her. Listen you can’t come up here right now. They’re not letting anyone but me in with her. I need you to go home and wait for Samantha. She’s with the Jones’ right now and has piano practice from three to four-thirty at the studio and Scouts from five to six. I want you to go straight home, do you understand me, Kiki?”

I knew exactly what he was saying. He wouldn’t have any way to stop me but he wanted to trust me. “I understand.”

As soon as I hung up the phone I bolted out of the school and looked around. I spotted Nick and yelled after him.

When I caught up to him, I didn’t waste any time. “Nick, can I use your cell? Please? It’s really important.”

“Sure.” He handed it to me and I dialed quickly with shaking hands.

He answered on the the third ring.

“Lotus. It’s me. Can you meet me by the beach?”

“I can be there in ten minutes.”

I tossed Nick’s phone back to him and took off at a run towards our beach.

Falling to Pieces…

I was in deep, deep trouble. Dad was livid.

Lotus wasn’t very happy with me either.

“You did WHAT? Kiki, how could you?!”

“I-I’m sorry, Lotus! It’s not fair that you can’t even bring your girlfriend anywhere. I just wanted to come here with you and see Bridgeport. I knew how happy it would make you if I could go! I didn’t know what else to do!”

“Yeah, I know it sucks, Ki, but we could have waited for all this. I would have waited! How could you do this? You lied, Ki!”

I hung my head. “I know. I just wanted him to let me go, Lotus.”

“You didn’t just lie to him, Kiki. You lied to me.”

There really wasn’t anything I could say to that. And even if I would have tried, he’d already turned and started walking away from me.

“Lotus…?”

“Let’s get back to Twinbrook.”

That’s all he said to me the entire time we were heading back to the apartment, packing and then leaving the city.

Tears slipped down my cheeks as I watched Bridgeport disappear in the side mirror.

Despite the fact that my stomach was churning uncomfortably, I fell asleep. When I opened my eyes, Lotus finally spoke just to tell me that we had about half an hour until we were back in Twinbrook. I simply nodded and looked out the window into the pitch black night.

When we hit the city limits, he surprised me by pulling the car over. Oh Berry, was he going to make me walk home? But he just reached over and pulled me to him. I let out a breath I hadn’t even realized I’d been holding.

“Lotus, I’m so sorry. I know I was wrong. I wasn’t thinking. I’m sorry!”

“Shhh. Kiki, I-I understand. I don’t like it but I understand. I needed to talk to you here because I’m afraid I might not get to see you for awhile after this.”

I nodded sadly. “I love you, Lotus.”

He kissed my forhead. “I love you, too, Ki. Please don’t ever doubt that.”

_____________________________________________________

Like I was afraid of, Dad was waiting up and furious when I got home. Lotus tried to walk me in but one look from Dad told him not to push his luck. Dad was so mad he wouldn’t even talk. He just kept pacing before finally turning completely away from me.

“Get to your room, Kielekea.”

I knew it wasn’t over-he needed time to compose himself. I rushed to my room and waited nervously. Finally, ten minutes later, he came in.

“Do you have ANY idea how…no. Nevermind. Of course you don’t. You went to Bridgeport with Lotus without any thought at all to your family and how we might have worried. You lied to my face about who you were going with and snuck off without a second thought. I have never been more disappointed in you.”

“Dad I-”

“I don’t want to hear it, Kiki! You were alone in Bridgeport with a 17 year old boy doing God knows what and you think you’re going to be able to explain it away?!”

“It wasn’t like that, Dad, I swear!! We didn’t…nothing like that happened! I just wanted to see the city and meet other people like me!”

“So you lie and sneak off? This is UNACCEPTABLE, Kiki and I won’t tolerate lying and sneaking around! It’s obvious I can’t trust you anymore so no phone, no computer and no friends over until I can somehow find a way to trust you again. Which is doubtful.”

“But Dad, I-”

“I said NO, Kiki! And you’re not to see Lotus again, do you understand me?!”

“NO! Dad, please! You can’t do that!”

“I already did. I called Andrew before I came up here. I’m sorry, Kielekea but since you’ve met him, I don’t know you anymore.”

“Oh so now I have to wear a hat and hide in the house all the time again? Would you know me better then, Dad? You can’t do this! He’s my only real friend and it’s not his fault! He didn’t even know I lied to you! He thought I had permission!”

“Be that as it may, my decision stands. Whatever may have happened this weekend, Kiki, you and I both know he’s far more than a friend. I’ve been lenient and this is what happened so I’m doing what I have to do. I’ll not have my daughter out galavanting with some boy in a strange city. You won’t see him again! And if you pull a single stunt, I’ll pull you out of school to be homeschooled again. That is FINAL, Kielekea!”

And then he stormed out of the room and I fell to pieces.

All Good Things Come to an End…

On our second day in Bridgeport, Lotus wanted to show me around downtown so we were up fairly early for breakfast. Okay for breakfast and some morning cuddling.

We spent most of the morning wandering around downtown. There were so many different shops to duck into. I splurged and bought myself a new dress in a little clothing shop and Lotus slipped away while I was browsing and bought me a beautiful beaded bracelet.

After lunch, we headed to Riptide’s. Lotus told me last night that Rip had invited us. Riptide, his wife Electra and their twins Kobi and Ocean lived in a small apartment a few minutes from downtown. I was a little nervous since Lotus had revealed Rip and Electra were sort of on the rocks but it turned out, Electra was at work.

It was a little awkward at first. But once the girls warmed up to us…well, that was when I discovered that I love kids!

They were unbelievably adorable and I was happy to play with them so Lotus and Rip could play a couple rounds of Foosball.

We spent the entire afternoon there. It was nice to see Lotus so relaxed. Even though he had a couple of buddies in Twinbrook, they were nothing like this. It was obvious these two went way back. All in all, it was a great afternoon.

That night, Lotus took me out again. We spent most of the night at a quiet little music club. Lotus even played the drums for awhile.

Since it wasn’t far from the apartment, we walked home, taking our time so I could marvel at everything I saw. Well, what I saw when I wasn’t totally absorbed with Lotus.

It was a wonderful evening.

Sunday dawned bright and beautiful. Since Monday was a school holiday, we didn’t need to head back to Twinbrook until Monday morning so we had another full day of Bridgeport ahead of us. Our first stop was the art museum.

It was clear Lotus was in his element here. He spent more than two hours showing me around and explaining exhibits.

After a quick lunch, Lotus took me to his old school. We sat in the swings near the school while he told me some hillarious stories of his hijinks there.

Late in the afternoon, Lotus took me down by the waterfront to the Butterfly Esplanade. He thought I would love it and he was right. We ran into some more of his friends while we were there.

Their friend, Kai, had brought his guitar and begged Lotus to play so he did!

It was when Lotus was on his second song that my phone rang, making me jump. By the ringtone, I knew it was Dad.

I walked a few paces away before I answered.

“Hi, Dad!”

“Kielekea, where are you?

“Um, I-I’m in Bridgeport, Dad. Like I said.”

“And who are you with?”

“U-uh. Patina, Dad. And her family.”

There was a long pause and when he replied, his voice was low and angry. “I ran into Mrs. Knack, Kiki. I know you’re not with them.”

Oh Berry. This was not good.

Compromise…

It was nearly two when we left The Grind but I didn’t feel tired at all. I’d been having so much fun with Lotus and his friends. Unfortunately, my relaxed mood flew out the window the second we were in the cab. Soon we’d be back at the apartment and alone. Together. With one bed. I was sure I was ready but that didn’t make me any less nervous.

By the time we got on the elevator my nerves were nearly shot. If Lotus noticed, he didn’t say anything. In fact, it was nearly silent on the way up. He looked a little uncomfortable himself and I wondered if he was as nervous as I was.

When we got into the apartment I realized I didn’t have a clue what to do next. Luckily, he seemed to be taking the lead. He took my hand and led me to the couch.

“C’mon, Ki.”

It was awkwardly silent again. Berry, this was not going well. I wanted so badly to dispell the tension but I had no idea how. The longer the silence stretched out, the more my stomach churned.

“Come here.”

I nearly jumped out of my seat when he spoke. I gaped at him for a long moment before I was able to make my limbs move. I wondered if this was it. Was it finally happening? My mouth went dry as I moved over into his arms. Before I could so much as utter a word, he was kissing me.

When he pulled back he held my face and whispered, “Ki…”

I squeaked nervously and before I knew it, words were coming out of my mouth in a rush. “Ineedtogogetreadyforbed!” I wasted no time in jumping up and making a beeline for the bathroom. Of course, the second I was in there, I realized my bag was still by the bed. So I took a deep breath, darted out, grabbed the bag and darted back in the bathroom without meeting Lotus’ eyes.

Oh Berry, I was so nervous. I knew I had to get it together. I wanted this to happen and if I kept spazzing out, he wasn’t going to want to get anywhere near me. So I made myself breathe deeply for a minute before I began changing clothes. I didn’t have much choice as far as night clothes were concerned. I’d have liked to wear something a bit…sexier but this was all I had.

After I’d changed, I took down my hair and fluffed it out. I spent a couple minutes brushing my teeth and primping in front of the mirror.

When I’d run out of ways to stall, I stared out the window and took a few more deep breaths. I could do this. I would do this. This was Lotus and I loved him more than anything. I knew I was ready. With one last deep breath, I opened the door.

He was sitting on the couch but turned towards me when he heard the door. When he saw me, his eyes widened and he quickly stood up and walked around the couch.

Before I could lose my nerve, I reached for him but his hands grabbed mine and gently pushed me away. “Ki, we need to talk.”

I looked at him in nervous confusion.

“Ki, you are so beautiful. But I…I know what you’re thinking and we can’t go there yet, Kiki.”

My heart sank and I felt rejected. “I-I’m sorry, I…” But he cut me off.

“Do not apologize. You haven’t done anything wrong. But, Kiki, I…I don’t know how to explain…”

All I could do was stare and wait.

“Kiki, we’re not ready.”

“But, I…”

“Ki, stop. You were so nervous a little while ago. I wish you could have seen yourself. You shouldn’t have to feel that way. And…and I’m not ready either.”

I dropped my head in embarassment, sure he didn’t want me. I felt his arms pulling me close just as the tears started to form.

“Kiki, I…please don’t think I don’t want you. Nothing could be further from the truth. You have no idea just how bad I want you. It’s taking every bit of willpower I have to not go down that road right now.”

“But then why…?” I just couldn’t understand it.

“Ki…I…You know my friend, Rip?”

“Um…yeah?” I was beyond confused now.

“When he was my age, he got his girlfriend pregnant. They were still in high school. To make matters worse, she ended up having twins. The pregnancy was hard and she had to miss a bunch of school. When their twins were born, they both missed more school to take care of them. They were a mess, Ki. Neither of them ended up graduating with their class. Rip finally got his diploma but Electra is still working on it, as far as I know. I’ve watched him go from a carefree kid to a bogged down man, Ki. He loves his kids but his relationship is falling apart, probably because of all the stress. He’s a mess.”

“Oh.” This totally surprised me and I had no idea what to say.

“I don’t want that to be us, Ki. I’ve seen him change so much. They used to be so in love but it’s all falling apart. I can’t imagine what that feels like but it’s not exactly a risk I feel ready to take. Believe me, I want you. Badly. But I can’t stand the thought that you could…could end up pregnant and I could do nothing more than visit you from across town. I don’t want us to get stuck there, Ki. I have plans, I want to be something. I want to make a good life for us. I can’t even get a job in Twinbrook, Ki! How could I take care of you? It’s too much! I can’t deal with that yet.”

This is about the time I started feeling like a monumental ass. I’d been bugging him about this for awhile now without even thinking about potential consequences because I simply trusted that nothing could go wrong with him. I felt like a silly little child.

“I…I’m so sorry, Lotus. I’m so embarassed. I wasn’t thinking about…I just…”

“Hey, stop. I told you, no apologizing. There was a time when I was seriously considering going ahead but then I happened across of picture of Rip and I shortly after his girls were born. He looked awful and I started remembering what it was like for him. And…he and I talked a bit tonight. It made me think even more that we need to wait. Until we can really be together.”

“Lotus, I feel so stupid. I-I thought you didn’t want me.”

“Ki, I want you so bad, it hurts.” He gave a little smile when I blushed. “But I want more for us. When, not if, when I make love to you, I’m not going to have to take you back home that night, the next night or at the end of the weekend. We can be together and be able to handle whatever happens.”

I dipped my head, blushing at his candid words. His hands were tugging me closer and he nudged my cheek with his nose until I lifted my lips to his.

When he pulled away, he kept his face close to mine. “Are you okay with this?”

I nodded, suddenly more relieved than I wanted to admit. Maybe he was right. “Yes. Thank you, for being strong enough to make the right decision.”

He grinned. “It’s not easy, I promise you that.” He kissed me again. “I’m gonna get changed for bed, okay?”

I nodded and watched as he disappeared into the bathroom. I wasn’t sure what to do-should I go to the bed? Sit on the couch? Before I could decide, he was coming back out wearing only his pajama pants.

My heart rate quickened as he pulled me to him again and lowered his lips to my ear. “I was thinking, maybe we could make a little compromise.”

“A compromise?”

His grin was wicked and sent chills down my spine. “I was thinking, we can’t do…that. But there are no rules against kissing and holding you and…touching.”

My breath caught in my throat and he led me across the room without waiting for a response.

“Be honest with me, Ki. What do you think?” His voice was barely more than a whisper.

I gathered all my courage and looked him in the eye. “I-I think I like this compromise.”

Carefully Proceed…

If I could make a list of high points of my life so far, bringing Kiki to Bridgeport would definitely be near the top of that list.

I love the city and I love Kiki so being able to bring her here was so good. I knew without a doubt that she was the girl for me but I also knew I couldn’t stay in Twinbrook. Seeing her start to fall in love with this city where I wanted to spend the rest of my life meant the world to me. As soon as I found out she was going, I made up my mind to show her how awesome Bridgeport was and how great life could be here. It felt as if everything hinged on this trip-as though I could finally allow myself to start planning our future a bit if she liked Bridgeport. Conversely, if she hated it…well, I don’t know what I would have done.

Thank Berry I didn’t have to find out. From the moment she woke up in the car, she seemed to be in complete awe. And even though she seemed a little overwhelmed, I could see it in her eyes-she liked it.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous about spending these two nights with her, though. We were going to be together, alone, for two nights and I knew she was going to bring up the issue of taking things to the next level and I’d have to let her down again. Berry knew it’s not because I didn’t want to. On the contrary, I’m embarassed to admit how many times I’ve fantasized about it but I have good reasons for waiting.

I nearly lost all my resolve when she stepped out of the bathroom dressed for the club. I meant it when I said I was tempted to keep her to myself in the apartment all night. What? I am a guy. Somehow, I managed to keep it together and we headed out.

It was obvious that Kiki was worried about meeting my friends so I immediately started introducing her to everyone I knew when we got to The Grind. I knew once she saw how accepting everyone was, she’d relax and I was right! She even went off with Lydia for awhile. While she was gone, I used the time to really catch up with Rip while Kale prowled for girls.

Riptide was a nearly two years older than me but we always got along great. We’d been friends since I was in seventh grade and he was in ninth. He was a good guy and even though the last few years had been rough for him, he always had my back. It was an incredible relief to finally be back on my own turf and around someone I knew so well.

“So how are things, Rip?”

He shrugged. “Can’t complain.”

Something seemed off and I raised my eyebrow at his response. “Really?”

“Eh. Could be worse, you know?”

Now I was sure something was off. “Yeah. How’s Electra?”

This time there was no mistaking his discomfort. “Ah, you know man. It’s off and on.”

“Are you still living together?”

“Yeah. We got an apartment close to downtown. It’s not much but…Anyhow, we’re trying.”

I felt bad for him. “What about the girls?”

This time his whole face lit up when I mentioned his twin daughters. “Outstanding, brother. Totally have me wrapped. Walking and talking and doing all sorts of crap.”

I grinned at his enthusiasm. Despite being completely unprepared to be a Father at seventeen, he’d thrown himself into parenting his girls. No matter how hard it must have been for him, he always doted on them. I let him go on as long as he wanted, figuring he might not be able to talk about them like this with some of our friends.

He invited us out to visit the next day and I told him we’d be there. After a few minutes, he began asking me about Kiki and it was my turn to take advantage of having a friend to listen.

After I’d gone on for a couple of minutes about her, he gave me a stern look. “Not to be weird, Lo, but you’re being careful, right?”

“Berry, Rip! Awkward much?”

He shrugged. “I’ve learned the hard way. This life is no joke.”

“I’ll be careful, Rip. Don’t post it to the front page but we’re not really going down that road yet, ok?”

He grinned. “Keep it that way. Trust me, man.”

I was thankful the conversation turned to less awkward topics after that. Before I knew it, Ki and Lyd were back and I couldn’t help but pull her right into my arms.

It had only been twenty minutes and I missed her. Berry, I was a goner.

Welcome to Bridgeport…

Lotus met me after school on Thursday. I was so excited to see him-I’d found a way around Dad’s rules and I couldn’t wait to tell him I was going to Bridgeport. He was shocked at first but that quickly gave way to excitement.

The next afternoon he met me after school again. Only this time, we hopped in his car and headed out of town. We were finally on our way to Bridgeport.

________________________________________________________________________

Nerves had kept me up much of the night before and I ended up sleeping most of the way there. Lotus woke me as we started hitting the suburbs. I marvelled at the high rise buildings and bustling crowds as he chattered away excitedly next to me.

The original plan was for Lotus to stay with friends of his. When he found out I was coming he made some calls and arranged for us to stay at an apartment of another friend. His friend was out of town for the week but was happy to let us crash there for a couple of nights, as Lotus put it. I was more than a little nervous at the thought of being alone with Lotus for two nights but still excited to see the apartment. I rushed in anxiously when Lotus opened the door for me. It was…tiny.

The smile hadn’t left Lotus’ face since we left Twinbrook. He happily dropped our bags and plopped himself down on the bed while I looked around. It took all of 30 seconds to see the entire apartment.

He simply grinned from ear to ear as he watched me. My eyes were instantly drawn to the windows and I wandered over to take in the view. It was unbelievable. I wanted to pinch myself-was this really happening? Was I really here in Bridgeport with Lotus?

Just a few seconds later, I felt him moving behind me.

I felt his hand on my hip and automatically leaned back into his arms. He pulled me to him as we stood there gazing out at the city and he spoke low in my ear.
“I’m so glad you’re here with me, Ki. I can’t wait to show you my city.”

He didn’t have to wait long. We’d gotten into town shortly before six so I quickly set about getting ready for our night out. Lotus was taking me to meet a group of his friends at a night club. I was incredibly nervous as I dressed. I had no idea what to wear or how to style my hair. I ended up wearing it like I did to prom and I picked what I hoped was an appropriate dress.

I guess I shouldn’t have worried. Lotus’ eyes lit up when I stepped out of the bathroom.

“Well, what do you think?” I shifted my weight nervously.

“You look so good, Ki.”

I bit my lip and grinned up at him. “Really? It’s okay for the club?”

“You silly girl. How could you not see how beautiful you are? Part of me wants to scrap our plans and keep you here to myself all night.”

Berry that boy could make me blush.

We were only a little late getting to the Grind. Once we were there, Lotus wasted no time introducing me to people. At every turn we seemed to run into someone else he knew. Eventually we got to the friends he was actually meeting-Lydia, Kale, Champagne and Riptide.

Considering the only other “friend” of his I’d met was C.C., I was feeling nervous and shy. That was all gone in a matter of minutes, though. They were all so friendly and seemed to welcome me easily. After that, I loosened up a lot. Lotus even got me onto the dance floor a few times.

After a long while, I excused myself to the ladies room while he caught up with Riptide and Kale. Champagne went to talk to some other friends but Lydia came with me to the restroom. As we were touching up our hair and make up, she started to chat.
“It’s so good to finally meet you, Kiki. You’re really good for him.”

What was it with everyone making me blush today? “Oh…Um, thanks.”

She grinned. “You’re too sweet. I’m happy he found a nice girl. After everything before…” She trailed off.

“You mean C.C. right?”

“Yeah. She, um, she mentioned you.”

Suddenly, I was feeling really nervous again. Was Lydia friends with C.C.? “I, uh…Oh.”

“Don’t worry. She had nothing but her normal bitchy things to say. With C.C. you can pretty much assume the opposite of what she says so I knew you had to be cool.”

“Oh! Well…thanks.” I think I managed a confused smile and she laughed.

“Please don’t think I’m actually friends with that little brat. I just have to sit next to her in Study Hall and she never shuts up.”

“Oh, thank Berry. I thought…”

“Berry, no! We were all so glad when Lotus dumped her sorry butt. It’s nice to see him with someone like you, Kiki. You know, he told Riptide he loves you.”

I couldn’t help the grin that spread across my face. “I love him, too.”

She smiled widely at me. “I like you, Kiki. I hope you guys move back someday. I think we’re gonna be great friends.”

All I could do was smile. As we made our way back to the group, I pondered her words. Would I move here with Lotus one day? I’d never even considered it but when I thought about the idea of staying in Twinbrook, that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Lotus couldn’t even get a job there. Maybe I would move here with him one day. The thought was a good one and when I saw him, I flashed him my widest smile and gladly let myself be pulled into his grasp.

Yes, I could definitely see myself making a life here with him.

Promises made…

Image

Prom with Lotus was amazing. He showed up looking sexier than I could imagine and he whispered compliments and “I love you’s” in my ear all night long. I knew I was, without a doubt, the luckiest girl in Twinbrook.

Our time in the little park was just the icing on the cake. I was on cloud nine after our night together. It seemed like the entire night, we simply had to be touching one another. I had to feel that connection with him.

The truth is, after everything that had changed, I was ready for anything and everything with Lotus. He is the one. I know that with a certainty I’ve never known possible. Okay, and yes, he had my hormones in overdrive. He’d been resistant-he’s a true gentleman-but I always found ways to let him know I was ready when he was.

“You know, it’s awfully secluded out here. Very private…” I wiggled my eyebrows at him.

“Ki…” His tone was playful but held a warning. He had no intention of going down that road out here in the middle of some trees. I giggled.

“Oh relax. I’m only joking.”

He rolled his eyes at me but then he smiled and pulled my face to his.

“You are too much sometimes, you know that?” His tone was light.

“I try.”

He grinned and lowered his head until his lips were right next to my ear. His whisper tickled as his breath hit my skin.

“It will happen, Ki. I promise you. I’ll make it worth the wait.” I felt the knot of anticipation in my stomach give a little tug and I’m sure I blushed. Funny that I could feel shy after what I’d suggested seconds before but that was Lotus. He always had the ability to make me blush ten shades of red-in a very good way.

He laughed lightly at my response and planted another, much lighter kiss on my lips before he leaned back.

He sighed. “I hate for this night to end.”

“Me too. It’s been perfect, Lotus.”

He smiled and nudged me. “Think your Dad will let us hang out tomorrow?”

“You know he will. As long as we follow his ‘guidelines’.”

“Anything to be with you.”

“I forgot to tell you-Patina invited us to a bonfire at the beach next weekend. I know Dad will let me go since everyone else will be there.”

There was a long pause. “Oh…uh. Ki, I completely forgot to tell you earlier…”

Something was off about his voice and I turned to look at him. “What?”

“Well, earlier today I got a call from a friend of mine in Bridgeport. He invited me for the weekend. I’m sorry I didn’t mention it earlier, I just…I guess I just got wrapped up in everything.”

A sliver of worry blossomed in my mind. “You’re going to Bridgeport?”

“Only for the weekend, Ki.” He knew exactly where my thoughts were going. “I’m only going to visit a couple of my friends. I wish you could go. You’d love Bridgeport and I know my friends would love you.”

I smiled at that. “I wish I could go, too. I’ve never been but my Dad and Mom lived there for awhile before they moved to Riverview for Dad’s job. That was before I was born though…”

He smiled wider. “You would love it, Ki. First, there are Berries everywhere! There’s so much there I want to show you.” He was so animated when he spoke of it. It made me uneasy. Why on earth was this wonderful man stuck in a little town like Twinbrook when he could be in a city he loved and wouldn’t be singled out in? Because of me.

And he couldn’t even take me there for one weekend to meet his friends?

A pang of guilt hit me. That’s when I knew I had to find a way to go with him next weekend. Lotus had changed my life so much and sacrificed so much to be with me and I needed to do this for him. I would find a way.

“Lotus, what if I could go? Would you…I mean, would you want me to go?”

His smile softened. “Ki, you should know the answer to that. You know I would. I do.”

“What if I could talk Dad into it?”

His eyes widened a bit. “There’s no way…”

“Just let me try, okay?”

He slid closer and wrapped his arms around me. “Ki, are you serious?”

“Lotus…I really want to go with you. I’m going to convince him.”

He stood and pulled me up into his arms and I knew it was time to head back.

But instead of going anywhere, he reached out and touched my cheek. “Ki…the fact that you’re even going to try means so much to me. If he says no, don’t be too disappointed, okay? I’ll take you sometime, I promise.”

He pulled my face to his before I could respond.

My mind was made up. I was going to Bridgeport with Lotus…one way or another. That was a promise I was going to keep.

Head Over Heels…

I never would have guessed that I would be excited at the prospect of going to prom at Twinbrook High but I was. Kiki was ridiculously excited about the dance which made me excited to take her.

More accurately, I was excited to walk into that school with my girl on my arm. I hadn’t seen her yet but I knew she would be stunning. She always is.

I hurried to her door and rang the bell-I couldn’t wait to see her.

Mr. Spencer let me in with a grumbled hello. I tried to be as polite as humanly possible. I was thankful he was still letting me anywhere near his daughter after the…incident.

It happened a couple weeks before. He knew we were dating now and had set some ground rules which we usually tried to follow. Usually. That day Sam and Ashley were taking Samantha to a movie which left Kiki and I on our own. We just…hung out.

In my defense, this was all her idea. Okay, so I didn’t exactly argue but we didn’t go too far. Despite the fact that Kiki had been subtly hinting that she’d be okay with taking our relationship…a bit further, we hadn’t crossed that line yet. I swear, it was just a lot of kissing.

Okay and maybe some heavy petting but that’s really all! Really.

The thing is, when you’re a guy and your girlfriend, whom you are head over heels for wants to make out, it’s easy to lose track of everything else. I guess that’s why we didn’t hear them come back early.

Needless to say, Sam was not amused. Apparently, they’d come home early when Ashley got sick and when he walked upstairs to get her a cold wash cloth, he heard us laughing.

I’d only been allowed back in the house for a week now and the ground rules I mentioned earlier? They were a lot stricter. It kind of sucks but like I said, I’m thankful he’s letting me anywhere near her.

I was thinking about all this as I stood alone in the foyer waiting for her to come down. A minute later, there she was.

Speech failed me. She was a goddess and all I could do was gawk at her. I must have made her nervous because she stopped several feet from me.

“Lotus?” She looked at me nervously. Berry, I had to get it together!

“Ki…You look…” I stopped trying to talk and closed the distance between us, pulling her to me.

I could barely manage a whisper. “You are stunning, Kiki.”

She blushed and, to my utter delight, kissed me.

“AHEM.” That had has scrambling to find some distance.

“Sorry Dad!” He gave her a dry look before approaching me.

Thankfully, after a couple minutes of him recounting the rules in great detail, Ashley interrupted and told us we’d better get going before we were late.

And finally we were off to prom.

A few hours later, Kiki and I slipped away from the school gym and out to the courtyard for a little alone time.

We manage to snag a whole fifteen minutes before a chaperone shooed us away. Prom was winding down and her curfew wasn’t for another couple of hours so we went for a walk by the river near her house and headed for the little overlook area.

No, that’s not all we did.

We looked at the stars from the grove. It was so nice to just be with her and let go of some of my worries for awhile.

Later, we found a quiet bench to share.

It was all going so well. I don’t know why I chose then to tell her about the trip to Bridgeport.

Expect the Unexpected…

The first day I got sick, I figured I had a bug or it was the stress of everything finally catching up to me.

When I was still getting sick two weeks later, I began to suspect something a bit more lasting.

How on earth had this happened? Actually, we’d only had one shot so I knew exactly how this happened.

Things with Sam and I were improving slightly. With a lot of counseling, we started speaking again, sometimes even about normal, everyday things. Then the counselor suggested we begin to engage in activities together to help us begin to rebuild our connection. I’m pretty sure she didn’t mean that particular activity. In fact, she warned us that we should be careful about adding that back into our marriage until we’d had a little more time.

With that in mind, Sam slowly began including me in his life again. And I was always so damned happy to be with him. Sam is, without a doubt, the love of my life. There is no one else for me in this world and I was willing to do anything to be closer to him again.

So when he came home from work that day, so stressed, I timidly asked if he’d like to take a dip in the hot tub to unwind. I was elated when, after a short pause, he agreed with a small smile.

It was so relaxing, being there with him. He slowly began to relax and talk about his day, work, projects he wanted to do-all normal stuff. I was content to just sit back and listen to his voice. But suddenly, he stopped and before I knew what was happening, he reached for me.

I wasn’t sure what to say or do. I had wanted to be near him like this for weeks and I had to fight myself not to dive into his arms in desperation.
“Sam?”

“Ash. I’ve missed you so much.”

I let my breath out in a woosh and felt tears sting my eyes. “Sam, I miss you.”

He pulled me closer. “I know, Ash. We’re going to work this out. I know we are. We can’t give up.”

“I won’t ever go back to how I was, Sam. I swear.”

He smiled softly and leaned closer. “I believe you.”

I sat there in absolute bliss for a few moments before I felt his breath on my ear. But he wasn’t talking. I closed my eyes and revelled in the feeling of his lips on my skin as he peppered soft kisses on my cheek. And then I felt his right hand creep over across my waist to angle me towards him. He looked at me with that look in his eyes, the one I hadn’t seen in so long, and I was a goner.

One thing led to another and…well, what can I say?

Sam’s always been a man with needs and he’s always been a man to go out of his way to satisfy my needs, if you catch my drift. And I needed him like I’d never needed him before.

We were in the hot tub for a very long time that afternoon.

And though we hadn’t ventured down that path again, that day seemed to break some invisible barrier for us. However well things had been going, though, I wasn’t sure if a baby was going to be a great thing to throw into the mix.

I guess we should have considered that sooner.

So I did what I knew I had to do. I met Sam when he came in from work like I had been lately. And after receiving a much wanted and appreciated kiss and hug from him, I told him I had to speak to him.

A look of concern flitted across his face. “What is it, Ash? Are the kids okay?”

“Oh, yes. They’re fine, Sam, it’s just…” This was harder than I thought.

“What?”

“Do you remember that day in…in the hot tub?”

He flashed me a devilish grin. “How could I forget?” I blushed. I actually blushed.

“Well, Sam…I realize this isn’t the best timing but…I’m pregnant.”

I froze, bracing myself for his response. It took him a bit longer than I expected to form words.

Finally, he cleared his throat. “Wow”

“Yeah.”

“Well, is everything…okay? I mean, are you okay? How do you feel?”

I warmed a bit at his thoughtfulness. “I’m okay, Sam. I’ve been a little sick, which is what made me suspicious, but otherwise, I’m fine.”

“Good. Good…Wow. A baby.” He looked up at me and gave me a small smile. “I think we can handle that.”

Oh how I love that man. Without stopping to think about it, I leaned over and kissed him.

And he pulled me right into his arms.

As he held me, I whispered the biggest worry that had plagued me. “Sam, what about the girls. I feel so bad dropping this on them after everything else.”

He pulled back just enough to look me in the eye. “Ash, it’s going to be okay. We’ll get through this. You obviously didn’t do this alone and you’re not going to have to deal with it alone. Everything will work out.”

And I believed him.