SURFACE | 3

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3 | KAIYA

Procrastination was Kaiya’s best and worst frenemy. Though she was known to be one of the most organized teenagers—her 3.7 grade point average proved her success—she had a bad habit of leaving lots of things to the last minute. And if she had stuck to her timeline and checklist, she would not have to deal with the stress of actually putting the study party together to make sure that people didn’t see her as a flake or disorganized.

It was times like these that made Kaiya wish she had a license, a car, or that Coach Otero had not called Jeremiah in for emergency drills. It wasn’t even the season for baseball. So she had to walk the entire thirty minute distance from her house to the church’s multipurpose building, carrying bags of snacks and holding a large ‘Happy Birthday’ sheet cake for this month’s birthdays under a dark sky that was ready to burst at any moment. On top of that, because she did not ask anyone other than Jeremiah for help, she was stuck setting up all the tables, chairs, and board games Deacon Allen supposedly left out.

With only three hours until the study party began and people started showing up, Kaiya rushed to lock up her house and power walk down the block focused on only what was in front of her. She prayed Deacon Allen got her voicemail and text message and left either the key or the church open. She was so focused on getting in to the church and finishing the setup on time that she did not notice someone walk right behind her and reach his hands under the sheet cake as she tried to open the door.

“OH MY GOD!”

It was Levi. He had a good grip on the cake so that when Kaiya threw her hands up in terror he caught it. “You scared the heck out of me!”

He flashed his signature smile, lifting up the left side of his lip, laughing. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. You looked like you needed some help.”

Kaiya put her hand over her chest and breathed slowly, giving him a half smile in return. “Thank you. Actually I did.” She watched him pull a key ring with a small set of keys on it out of his hoodie’s front pocket and open the glass warehouse doors to the multipurpose building. He held out one of his hands to show her the way in. “Where did you even come from?”

“I was hanging out with Westley and Jonathan in their garage when I saw you pass by,” he said. “I didn’t realize how close you lived to the church.”

“Yeah.”

The large open space was as empty as Kaiya expected it to be, with the tables and chairs stacked in straight lines up against the brick walls, outlining the shape of the room. Levi followed her inside the bare kitchen area where they laid out all the snacks Kaiya bought for everyone on the center island.

“I hope it doesn’t rain until everyone gets here,” she said as she pulled out a two-liter bottle of Sprite. “I don’t want anyone to be left out because of a little rain.”

Levi put down the sheet cake and pushed off his hood. “It’s amazing how the weather can change that quickly. Yesterday it was blazing hot.”

“Right. You can’t even trust the weathermen.”

Avoiding eye contact, Kaiya immersed herself in arranging the drinks in the fridge and decorating the island bar counter with different flavored Laffy Taffy candies, chocolate, popcorn bags, chips and dip. In the corner of her eye, she saw Levi move closer to her, dipping his hand in the open bags and popping chips in his mouth.

“You do know that’s for everybody, right?”

He chuckled and placed another handful in his mouth, walking past the center island toward her. When she turned around from the fridge he stood over her with a mouth full of chips and a side smile. She quickly averted her eyes and stepped around him.

“So…I heard you have a thing for me,” he said, leaning over the counter with his eyes still on her. She did not turn to look at him and shrugged her shoulders, fiddling with the positions of the dip containers. “Oh, come on.”

Kaiya left the kitchen without answering him and began to move the chairs from the wall. She heard the squeak of his tennis shoes follow closely behind her and caught a glimpse of Levi putting down the tables. Every time he came close to her, she moved further away.

“Who told you that?”

“So it’s not true?”

Kaiya paused for a moment, glanced in Levi’s direction and the clock high on the wall behind him, and then proceeded to fix the chairs around the tables.

“I mean, I like you, yeah. We’ve known each other for a while and have had meaningful conversations, I guess.”

Again, while Kaiya was distracted, Levi found his way in front of her, cornering her next to the exposed brick. This time he stood closer than before.

“You know that’s not what I mean,” he whispered.

His warm breath against her face made Kaiya almost hold her own. He brought his hand to her face and caressed it, his lips being not so far behind. She instantly melted. Once their lips touched, her immediate reaction was to kiss him back. It was all she wanted and imagined him doing for years and it had finally happened.

Kaiya’s own hands and arms moved without any hesitation as they wrapped around his torso and pulled his body closer to hers. He softly parted her lips with his tongue, joyously welcomed by the light moan that escaped her mouth. That must have excited Levi; Kaiya’s eyes opened once she felt his free hand roam down her back and squeeze her buttocks.

She pulled away. “Wait, stop. We can’t do this.”

“Yes we can,” he said. “No one’s here or will be here for a while.”

Levi moved in for another kiss, but she held him back with her hands on his chest. “No,” she said, “I like you, a lot. But no, we can’t and we shouldn’t. Especially not here.”

“No one’ll know.”

“I said, ‘no.’ And you shouldn’t want to either,” she responded, staring directly into his eyes. “At least not yet. We’ve got school, college…what about getting married? There’s one more year until we can do that legally or we could ask our parents.”

“Who said anything about marriage?” he laughed.

Kaiya scoffed and then looked at the floor. “Well, I want to wait until I’m married, okay? Sorry to disappoint.”

Levi stretched out his arm and placed his wide hand across the brick wall. Kaiya glanced at it then rolled her eyes with a slight shake of her head. He was acting so different. Nothing like she remembered him or even how she saw him just minutes beforehand. She regretted allowing him to kiss her.

When she moved to get away from him, he gripped her forearm.

“What are you doing? Let me go, please.”

He didn’t respond, only stared at her.

“Levi, let me go. I have to finish setting up.”

Before she could get another word out, he slammed her against the brick wall. She cried out, her eyes bulging. She could feel the sharp edges of the wall cut into the skin on her back. With one hand he kept her pinned to the wall; with the other, he pulled and tugged on her shirt, popping off buttons. She kicked upward; yet only reached a part of his thigh.

She tried to run but he still had a good grip on her top. The both of them fell to the floor—she hit it hard and he crashed on top of her.

“Levi, stop! Okay! Okay! I’ll do it! I’ll do it!”

She could not believe this was happening. She knew the more she tried to fight him off, the angrier he would get and the more it would hurt. Wrestling, along with everything else he did, made him so much stronger than she. So as he lifted the skirt part of her dress—the one time she decides to wear a dress in cool weather—she allowed her head to fall over to the side, staring out of the space at the entrance doors. She felt him rip her tights and lift up her right leg while he moved around, shimmying out of his own pants. She held her breath when he forced himself in and did not exhale until she could not hold it anymore.

Her mind was blank the entire time. She just stared out the door. No one came early. It did not start raining. Not one person even passed by the doors. Not even an animal scurrying down the sidewalk.

Once he was done, she felt him roll over and lie on his back. The tiled floor felt like freezer burn against her skin and she could barely move her legs without pain. For another moment she did not move until she heard Levi’s raucous snoring echo throughout the hall. She slowly glanced over to make sure he was asleep before she moved again.

A single tear fell from her eye when she lifted herself off the floor using a nearby chair. She did not look back once she got to the door. And she was not going back home. There was only one other place she could go.

Kaiya limped for at least two hours in the rain to get to Jeremiah’s house. She only hoped that he had not left home already for the study party. At his door, she rang the doorbell twice before her legs gave out and she collapsed on his welcome mat. Her hair fell around her face as she curled over herself. With one hand she attempted to beat on the door.

“Please be home,” she whimpered.

She heard the door open. “Kaiya? Kaiya! What happened?” He was home. She felt him left her head and try to help her up. “Kaiya. Kaiya, talk to me.”

“I’m sorry.”

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