Life sucks. It has ever since I graduated from college last year. My best friend, Carey, has moved in with her boyfriend. My sister, Sydney, has gotten married and given me a nephew to love on, in addition to my niece. Yet, here I am. Single. Struggling to find a job that fits the degree I earned. Bored as fuck with life. I almost want to go back to college when life was more fun. Almost.
Everyone made out as if life after college would be like cruising on a highway. Easygoing and you’d go places. That has not happened for me. I’m still working the sucky job I got while in college because I can’t find one more appropriate. The girls I would see don’t appeal to me anymore. Life has turned into a cycle where I go to work, come home, mope, and sometimes beg Sydney to let her kids come over. I don’t actually have to beg, but it’s sad that a baby and a three-year-old are the highlights of my life right now.
My sigh echoes around my lonely apartment. When Carey left, I decided to move too. A one-bedroom apartment made more sense money-wise and space-wise than a three-bedroom. Sydney told me I could move in with them, but that would make me feel even more pathetic than I already do. Besides, I do not want to be in the Rhett household. I’m over there enough as it is. I can’t see her husband, Ian, being happy with me spending even more time there. I like my own space, too.
Ever since I graduated, it’s like I immediately fell into this rut. A rut which keeps getting deeper and deeper. If something doesn’t happen soon, I’ll be convinced that there’s no way out. I need a new job. I need some excitement. I need something other than the exact life I’m currently living.
My phone rings with a call from Sydney. It’s tempting to ignore it, just because I’m in no mood to pretend like my life is where I want it, but I don’t ignore her calls.
“Hey! I haven’t heard from you all week! What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” I answer honestly. Absolutely fucking nothing is happening in my life. That’s the problem.
“Well, what are you up to this weekend?”
“Nothing,” I repeat.
Sydney is quiet for a moment. “What’s going on, Logan? Please don’t say nothing.”
“It’s nothing to worry about, Syd. Just in a mood. How’s my niece and nephew?”
I’m thankful that she lets it go. “I think we’ve finally nipped her jealousy in the bud.” It didn’t take long after baby Andrew was born before Savannah decided while she loved her baby brother, she didn’t like all the attention he was getting. He was born back in October; it’s now January. “Or have a handle on it, at least,” Sydney continues. “Andrew is cute and adorable and a good baby as usual. Except for when he’s not.”
I laugh. “Maybe he has more of Ian in him than we thought.”
“That’s probably it,” she agrees. “Savannah wants to see her Lo-Lo.”
I snort. “Ian must be gone on a trip.” Ever since Ian entered Savannah’s life, she only wants to see me when her daddy’s gone. Well, that’s when she wants to see me the most.
“She asked me yesterday before he left, actually. Want to come over for dinner?”
“Sure. I’ll be over in a bit.”
I pack a bag, just in case Savannah wants me to spend the night. She often does. Before I can deal with an active little kid, I need some coffee. The lack of energy pulsing through my veins is equivalent to the energy in my life. Quite simply, there is none. With my bag all packed, I head out for my favorite coffeehouse.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” I mutter under my breath.
They’re closed for remodeling. Great way to lose customers. I pull up the map on my phone and see there’s another one close by. I like to go to non-corporate coffeehouses, so while there may be five that are closer to me than the one I’m going to, they are not for me.
When I walk into the store, my brain acknowledges that music is playing. However, the only thing I clearly focus on is the relief that there is not a line. I step up to the counter and order my coffee. That’s when I hear the most angelic, magnificent, powerful voice. Whirling around, I discover it’s not just music, but live music.
There’s a small stage in the corner by the window. A girl sits on a stool with a guitar in her lap. Her hands move fluently; her eyes are closed. Her lips move with the words of the song.
“Hello? Here’s your coffee.”
I face the cashier and take my drink. My body seemingly moves on its own to find a seat to watch her. Her foot taps. Her body sways as if she’s completely lost in the song. Her hands move with such grace on the guitar. The song reaches its height and man, the girl has a set of lungs on her. I’m completely mesmerized. She’s beautiful, too. Well, from what I can see. The guitar hides some of her. She has ridiculously long, wavy black hair. It looks to be almost to her hips. What color are her eyes? When will she open her eyes?
At some point, I should look away, but I can’t. She’s too lost in her song, and I’m too lost in watching her sing.
The song comes to a close and green eyes flash open, landing right on me. Again, I should look away instead of staring at her, but hell, she’s pretty. Fuck, a slow smile rises. I smile back and mouth marry me before I can think better of it. I’m too swept away to think clearly. She laughs; the mic echoes the sound and intensifies my infatuation. She thanks the clapping crowd as she steps off the stool. Once she collects her tips, she leaves the tiny stage.
With her guitar in hand, she walks over to me. I stand and shake the hand she offers.
“Kayla.” The smile on her face is enough to make me want to drop me to my knees and propose again.
“Did you propose to me, Logan?” she asks with a giggle.
“Depends on what your answer would be.”
She sweeps her eyes over me. “I deserve a date before I can answer, don’t you think?”
“When are you done here?” I ask.
Her eyebrows rise in surprise. “That was my last song.”
“Then let’s go.” I hold out my hand. It hovers in the air for a solid thirty seconds.
“I’m driving myself.” When I nod in acceptance, she finally takes my hand. Hers is soft and slightly smaller in mine. She waves to the cashier as we walk out. I show her what my car looks like before we walk to her car. I stand silently, enjoy how she glances over at me while she puts her guitar safely away in its case, and then I open the driver’s door for her.
“Just follow me.”
At the second stoplight, my phone lights up with a text from Sydney and the plans I made crash down on me. Damn it. We’ll make a pit stop. She’s likely told Savannah I’m coming. I can’t let that little girl down. I’ll drop in for five minutes and tell Savannah I have to go, but I’ll come back tomorrow. It’ll be easier for me to let her down in person than to let Sydney be the bad guy.
We pull into Sydney’s driveway and I get out to see Kayla rethinking this entire thing. I told her we were going out and we come to a person’s house. I walk to her car. She rolls down the window.
“So, here’s the thing. I forgot I was supposed to come to my sister’s for dinner; I just need five minutes and we can go.”
Skepticism creeps into her eyes. “You couldn’t call her instead?”
“No. This is simpler.” She probably doesn’t understand how, but that’s okay. “Would you like to come in with me?” I’d hate to leave her sitting in the car.
“To meet your sister?” Her head tilts a little bit and the skepticism continues to rise.
I laugh. “I’m starting to think you don’t believe I’m meeting my sister at all. That settles it.” I open her car door. “Come on.” I hold my hand out.
She gets out of the car and takes my hand. “Were you hoping I’d say no? What will your girlfriend think?”
I laugh again. “It’s my sister. Well, technically, she’s my stepsister, but she might as well be my sister.” We walk up to the door and I open it without knocking. “Savannah, Lo-Lo is here!” I shout.
Kayla gives me another one of those brow-raising looks. Little pounding footsteps come and there she is. I release Kayla’s hand to crouch and pick her up.
“How’s my favorite niece?”
“Good. Who’s that?” She points to Kayla.
“That’s my new friend, Kayla. Where’s your mommy?”
She points upstairs. I start walking and motion for Kayla to follow us. We find her in Andrew’s room, changing his diaper. “Oh! You didn’t tell me you were bringing someone. Sorry,” she says to Kayla.
“I can’t stay,” I say, earning a glare from Sydney. “I’m sorry!”
“You told me you were coming for dinner and all I’ve heard since then is how Lo-Lo is coming over. Now, you’re telling me you aren’t staying? Why? Did you just meet her?” She glances at Kayla and smiles. “No offense and I’m not angry at you.”
“You’re leaving?” Savannah pouts.
“See,” Sydney says as she picks Andrew up.
“We can stay.”
Everyone looks at Kayla. “For real?” I ask.
She shrugs with a smile. “You proposed, only makes sense that I meet the family.”
“You what?” Sydney exclaims as I grin at Kayla. I think I’m in love already.
“Do you have enough for one more, Syd?” I ask.
“Then, let’s eat.”
We head back downstairs while Sydney talks to Kayla. She finally introduces herself, learns Kayla’s name, and finds out that I did indeed just meet her. They leave me with the kids while they bring dinner to the table. Kayla doesn’t look like she feels out of place. She looks like she belongs here.
“What’s this proposing mess, Logan?” Sydney asks as we sit down to eat.
“She was singing in the coffeehouse. When she finished, I asked her to marry me. She laughed, but agreed to go out with me first.”
“He didn’t ask. He mouthed it at me,” Kayla corrects.
“And you just said yes?”
“I am a catch, you know,” I say with a roll of my eyes.
“Lo-Lo,” Savannah says, stealing my attention.
The bad thing about having dinner here is that Kayla is free to talk mostly to Sydney. Savannah talks to me too much for me to talk to Kayla. Regardless, it’s nice to hear her voice. I keep imagining her singing. We need to escape. I need to know more about her than Sydney does.
The moment dinner is over, I stand. “I love y’all, but we gotta hit the road.”
“No, Lo-Lo!” Savannah shouts.
“I’ll come back tomorrow or tonight to see you, but you have to be a good girl.” She pouts her lips, which makes me laugh. I lean over to kiss her forehead and then stand to kiss Andrew on the forehead, too. “Thanks for dinner, Syd. I’ll call you later. Call me if you need anything.”
“Have I called you once while Ian is away?”
I snort. “All the time.” It’s an exaggeration, but she does call here and there.
“Thank you for letting me intrude,” Kayla says. Impatiently, I wait while goodbyes are said once and for all. “Where to now, Lo-Lo?” she teases.
“Somewhere we can talk. Ideas?”
I’d follow her anywhere. To Antarctica to freeze to death? Done. To the pits of Hell? Done. To Heaven? I’m practically already there with her. But for right now, we get into our respective cars and I follow her to a park. It’s a bit chilly outside, but if this is where she’s comfortable, it works for me. I grab a hoodie from the backseat and an extra in case she needs one. It turns out she doesn’t have one, which makes her smile as I offer one of mine.
I shrug and pull mine over my head while we walk over to a picnic table, straddling the bench.
“So, what did you want to talk about?”
“What about me?” she asks. She goes to stick her hands in the kangaroo pocket, but I grab them in mine first. Wow. Her hands are soft. I wasn’t imagining it earlier. Kayla flicks her gaze back and forth between our hands and my eyes with pure curiosity.
“How long have you been singing?”
“Since I could talk.”
“Do you know you’re amazing?” I give her a little smirk; that, my question, or both makes her laugh.
“I think I’m decent, but thank you for the compliment.”
My thumbs rub over her knuckles. “Why do you sing in the coffeehouse?”
Kayla shrugs. “It’s a great way to earn extra cash and a way for me to perform, even if it is just in a coffeehouse.”
“What do you normally do, if this is extra cash?”
She frowns for a moment. “Nothing. I’m a sophomore in college.”
I sit upright. “What? For real?”
“You don’t go to Whaley Jones University?” Her eyes fall to the WJU hoodie I’m currently wearing.
“No, I graduated last year.” My gaze falls to our hands. Well, this puts a new spin on things. I hadn’t considered where she’d be in life or her age or anything of the sort. I simply assumed we were in the same place and the same age.
Kayla dips her head and leans forward. “Well, then.” Her voice changes with a tone of conspiracy. “It sounds like I have an older man after my heart.”
I laugh. “Sounds like. Is music your major then?”
Kayla sighs. It’s such a heavy, disappointed sigh. “No. I’m declaring anthropology as my major and music as my minor.”
“How come? It doesn’t sound like you’re thrilled about it.”
“I can’t see my parents approving of it.”
“But music is what you want to do?” She nods. “Do you know what I’ve learned?”
“When you grow up, you have to make the decisions you want because guess what? Your parents won’t be living your life and as an adult, they lose control anyway. They’ll get over it. It’s your life; do what you want.”
Kayla chuckles. “Yeah, I’m not that brave yet. Music is what I want to do, but I’m not sure what they would think of it. I would like their approval, whether I technically need it or not. And right now, I do rely on them, so I feel like they have a say.”
“Have you always been close to your stepsister?”
I flare my eyes. “Ooh, the girl is becoming interested in me now. About time.” She laughs and I gather my thoughts on my relationship with Sydney. “We didn’t care for one another at first, but we became friends.” I shrug a shoulder. “I don’t know. We just got close and have stayed that way. It’s why I call her my sister instead, because I consider her my sister. Do you have siblings?”
She nods. “A younger brother, but we never get along. Or never as well as you seem to get along with Sydney.” Her mouth opens, but she hesitates. “Can I ask you something personal?”
“What was it like when your parents divorced? How did you feel about it?”
Out of all the questions she could’ve asked me, I never would’ve thought of those. I try to think back on my parents’ divorce. “I don’t know. It happened when I was seven. My dad didn’t marry my stepmom until way later. All I really remember about it is my dad saying he wasn’t gonna live with us anymore, but he still loved us, and me begging to live with him.”
“Oh.” Kayla seems disappointed in my answer.
“Are your parents together?”
She shakes her head. “They’re officially divorced as of last year.”
“Not taking it so well?”
“Not really,” she admits. With a deep breath, her eyes find mine. “Let’s talk about something else. What was your first impression of me?”
“Well, I heard you before I saw you. I was hooked. And when I saw you, I was swept away because you were so beautiful and I wanted to see what color your eyes were. You?”
She smirks, which gives me a heads-up that something funny is coming. “My exact thought was why is this creepy hot guy staring at me?”
“Hot, huh?” I smile.
“Don’t forget creepy.”
“I think you threw that in there for your own amusement. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here with me now.”
“Maybe. Maybe I like to be a stupid college kid sometimes.” Kayla pulls her hands from mine. “It’s dark out here. I should go.”
I stand with her. “Can I have your number?”
Kayla glances around, stalling. She’ll say no. I don’t know why when nothing has gone wrong, unless she’s here to humor me.
“Yes, you can,” she finally says. I whip out my phone so fast and have it ready before she can take her next breath, making her laugh.
Once she recites it, she goes to take the hoodie off. “Keep it for now,” I say. “I don’t want you to be cold on your way home.”
The smile she gives me is a killer. “Thanks, Logan. I’ll see you later.”
Yes. Yes, you will.