Coming Updates :-)

Hello all 🙂

I’m still working on that next update. It’s about 6 pages now and I’ve only done one half or so; at least that’s what’s in my mind for now. 🙂 However, it should be coming soon. I want to get at least two updates for Surface in before I take a 3-day or so vacation to take my little brother to college (insert extreme excitement here). So be on the lookout for that, but of course I’ll let you all know when I’ve updated if you don’t see it before then.

Also, I’m working on more personal touches of KeativeTherapy.com and really focusing on its brand. It’ll test my skills of Photoshop and such. If you see anything that may be out of place on the site or hinders your ability to read, please let me know so that I can fix it immediately.

Again, please don’t be afraid to post a comment/review on any of the stories and their chapters/updates. I do like feedback. 🙂

Lovies! ❤
Nyke P

SURFACE | 5

LIAM | 5

IT was the blaring of his alarm clock that woke him from his deep slumber. The sounds of an emergency bullhorn filled the room in echoes that startled him awake.
 
He didn’t hear what was his daily early morning workout playlist, a mimic of what he assumed was on his favorite athlete’s, Jeremy Lin, workout playlist. Most of it was Lecrae’s Church Clothes. The tunes served a two-fold purpose: they were intense enough to wake him from an enjoyable night’s rest in order to prepare him for the day but weren’t so annoying that his parents would complain. Their knowledge of Lecrae’s walk with Christ, which was how they worded it to Liam, gave him permission to play it pretty much all the time. And it was good music to him too, so a win-win.
 
When his body jerked up, Liam slammed his fist down on the snooze button, his force almost cracking the hard plastic. No music meant his iPhone wasn’t on the charger. He groaned loudly as he opened his eyes to look around. Though the curtains were open, it was still pretty dark outside. The little light in the room was coming from the open door that led to the en suite bathroom. He caught sight of his blue and white Jordans neatly placed up against a door across from the bed, his black hoodie hanging from the knob. His body was halfway covered by what he recognized was his Nana’s self-knitted afghan though he was still wearing his gym pants and Columbia University t-shirt and one side of the bed covers were pulled back for him to sleep under. He was home.
 
The realization confused him. It was a few minutes after five am; that knowledge only came to mind because he only had one alarm set. But how in the world had he got home?
 
Groaning from the growing headache, he slid from his bed and slowly moved barefoot across his carpeted floor toward the bathroom. He squinted to allow his eyes time to adjust to the light but blindly reached for counter tops. He felt an overwhelming sensation of heat come over his body. At his sink, he turned on the faucet and splashed cold water on his face and neck before staring at himself in the mirror. His hazel brown eyes were no longer surrounded by white but a fire red color. It looked like someone had taken a blood colored crayon and colored the area. When he touched them they were tender and he could barely blink without feeling some kind of pain. What had he done to his body?
 
There was a whole sixteen hours or so he did not and could not remember. Yesterday, he got up at five as usual, brushed his teeth, ate a protein bar, and stretched in his room before changing. He ran a mile in a circle starting at his house and through his neighborhood as a warm up, only stopping for a moment to share a moving conversation with the only other person up and outside that early, Andrew Hastings, who had never given up on his Marine Corps routine though he was on permanent leave due to half his right leg being blown off during a mission. When he returned home, he lifted weights in the basement for forty-five minutes then took a shower and was out of the door for school at exactly seven thirty-five.
 
Nothing special had happened at school that day, either. He went to his classes, talked to his friends, hung out a bit with the wrestling team during lunch. After school, he decided against his better judgment to accept the invite to the Ashley brothers’ place. They were really good friends, since middle school, but Coach Mitchell treated him, and the rest of the team, as if they were professionals—they were always in conditioning mode. Coach Mitchell had no reserves about calling pop-practices and with his brother being a police officer there were no qualms that kept him from sobriety or drug tests at any moment. And at the time, Liam wasn’t exactly in the mood to drink, but he went anyway.
 
That was all he could remember for the time after school. Westley, being twenty-two years old, picked the Liam and Jonathan up and drove them by Harold’s Liquor and Convenience Store to pick up the drinks and some snacks. He remembered hanging out with them in their garage, with the door closed and music blasting, sharing a couple of beers, a bottle of Vodka and orange juice, and ended up trying some of Westley’s new stuff.
 
As was his custom, Liam didn’t ask when Westley brought something new and Westley didn’t tell. Nine times out of ten, it was better not to know what was in it, who made it, or from whom he bought it. Liam even stopped trying to figure out how Westley was getting his hands on this stuff on a college campus or was selling it himself out of his dorm room. To get them to stop pressuring him, Liam had come to conclusion that he would only try it once. It was only once.
 
But now, looking at himself in the mirror and knowing that that was all he could remember, he could only ask, what the heck had he smoked?
 
He figured after everything there was only one explanation for him being at home right now—he had passed out at the Ashleys’ and they drove him home. He could not have possibly been awake or coherent enough to get up the stairs to his room and his Nana’s afghan didn’t appear out of thin air and magically be placed over his body. Even his shoes and socks had been taken off. There was clearly a lot of stuff he missed. Whatever Westley had given him definitely did not agree with his body. He vowed to never smoke again and definitely to never take anything from Westley.
 
Now Liam really began to feel the pain of his headache. While rubbing his temples, he opened his medicine cabinet and swallowed two small pills of ibuprofen. He hoped it was enough pain medication to kick in quick. His muscles began to ache and spasm and it was hard for him to stand. His body felt as if it were overheating, though he wasn’t wearing any sleeves and the cold of the white tiles cooled his bare feet. Then suddenly, a chill shocked Liam’s body, his knees buckled, his eyes crossed, and his stomach gurgled. A salty, burning liquid pushed itself up in his throat before it quickly spilled out of his mouth. Weakness overcame him, but he was glad that he left the toilet seat up.
 
IT only took a few heaves of Liam’s stomach before everything that didn’t agree with his body was out. He had flushed the toilet, prematurely, about six times, but all sight of his nausea was down the drain. His body was hot again and he only had enough energy to get off the bathroom floor and lie atop of the covers of his bed on his back. The headache had subsided to just a little pinch over his left eye and even that was going away.
 
He turned his head to check the clock: five forty-eight. He blinked slowly and ran his hand over his face as he yawned. He was not about to even attempt any workout routine this morning. He was just hoping that he would feel good enough to go to school. Due to random injuries from wrestling and some from goofing around, he had missed enough school for the front office staff to believe that he was skipping class and lying to his parents about it to get them to sign the papers or forging excuses. His parents were already going to ask a million and one questions about why his sleeping habits had suddenly changed; he didn’t want any extra attention today.
 
As if trying to recall on something to make him feel better, an image of Kaiya flashed into Liam’s mind. Immediately, he remembered that he had a dream about her. A very steamy dream, if that was a good enough description of it.
 
The two of them were, oddly, at the church. Not in the sanctuary, though. In the multi-purpose building behind the sanctuary. He had walked in on her setting up for something and he helped her, meaning he ate the cake. After she scolded him, he questioned if she liked him or not. Even in the dream, he was unsure if he liked her because he had never had feelings for her before. She was just a cute, friendly girl who pretty much maintained everything HGA had to offer, and did a pretty good job at it. He mostly admired how she juggled school, HGA, and some sort of job at a museum in downtown. Truthfully, he didn’t know much about her except that she became Jeremiah’s close friend when he and Jeremiah had grown apart. They all had met in the eighth grade when she was a whole lot bigger than she was now, and though he thought she was cute in the face then, he had no real attraction to her.
 
But in this dream, there was so much sexual tension between them. He found himself thinking that Kaiya was actually sexy and had a desperate urge to undress her. When he got close enough to her, she smelled heavily of cotton candy—his favorite cheat snack. Her lips were soft and tasted of peppermints and strawberries. When she stopped him, he wasn’t ready.
 
She had given him some story about not doing anything in the church. It was obviously a dream, so there was no need for this talk or fear that someone was going to walk in. They were a lone and they weren’t really in church, they were in his head. He tried to kiss her again and then she said something about her waiting until marriage. She practically proposed to him before turning away. Then he took her elbow or tugged at her shirt—he couldn’t quite remember—pulled her back to him, and somehow ended up on the floor. All that talk didn’t really matter anymore, he desperately wanted to see her naked. He almost laughed even thinking about it now; it was so unrealistic.
 
However, that was the only part that seemed false. Even though he didn’t undress her, he had unzipped his pants with one hand and found his way into her under the skirt she wore. He couldn’t remember her make any sound that he could hear, yet their bodies moved in sync with one another. He felt everything; from her initial tightness to the very rhythm of his movements. She had given him complete control of her body.
 
A knock came at his door. “Liam, sweetie.” It was his mother.
 
He growled lowly, staring at the back of his door. This was the second time he would be taken away from the best dream he could remember.
 
“I’m up.”
 
She cracked the door and her petite frame cast a shadow that spread across the floor all the way to his windows. “Are you dressed? It’s almost time for school, honey.”
 
No he wasn’t dressed. At least not for school; he was still in yesterday’s clothes. He was so busy recounting the dream to himself that he forgot to check the time and actually move from his bed. If his mother was knocking on his door, he had surely missed the bus.
 
With one eye open and his arm over his face, he watched his mother emerge from the hallway and into his room. Her almost jet black waves were in a tight bun and she wore her fuzzy pink robe and matching slippers. She didn’t seem ready to leave the house either. She sat facing him on the edge of his bed and place the back of her hand on his forehead.
 
“Your fever’s gone. That’s good.” She kissed where her hand had been. “How are you feeling?”
 
He looked up at her. Her eyelids were low over her eyes and the outer corners had small wrinkles. She looked like she hadn’t gotten much sleep.
 
“I’m feeling much better. I think I can go to school today.”
 
“Are you sure?” She gently rubbed the line of his jaw and examining the rest of his body with her eyes. “You came home yesterday mumbling something none of us could understand then you came to your room and fell asleep.” He came home alone? Westley’s stuff was harder than he imagined. He imagined himself walking all the way from one side of mid-town home. “You were burning up all night and then I heard you this morning. You scared Leah…”
 
“I’m sorry. Whatever that was, it’s all out of my system now. I’m good.”
 
She gave him a huge smile and patted his chest. “Okay. But you know if you feel sick at all today, just call me on my cell or at work. Your dad will be at the hospital all day visiting, but I don’t have much to do at the office so I can pick you up,” she rambled on. His father was in “Pastor” Luke mode already and it wasn’t even eight o’clock in the morning.
 
“Mom, I’m fine. Really. I’ll just rush a shower and be ready for you to drop me off.”
 
She stood up to leave. “Okay, sweetie.”
 
He did exactly as promised. His shower didn’t take long and it was easy to slip on a pair of khaki pants because it was still chilly from yesterday’s rainfall, a rolled up grey chambray shirt, and pair of golden brown Sperry boat shoes. He got caught up for a moment searching for his backpack when he remembered that it was probably still in the back of Westley’s car. Instead he grabbed a notebook and pen from his desk, hoping that Jonathan would show up to school and bring his things.
 
 
 
FOR the entire car ride and most of the day at school, Liam could not get the dream of him and Kaiya having sex out of his mind. The only times he didn’t think about it was when he said goodbye to his mother and promised her that he would call if he felt sick again, to give the occasional head nod of a hello, and to confront Jonathan about his brother and retrieve his backpack.
 
He found himself wishing that it had happened. Every time he relived the dream in his head he couldn’t help but imagine that there was a sexual goddess yearning to break out of that virgin shell of hers. He wondered if she did like him and if they would ever get close enough for that type of experience. For the entirety of third period history he daydreamed of what it would be like to see Kaiya completely naked and ready for him.
 
When he got to fifth period calculus after lunch, he finally realized that neither Kaiya nor Jeremiah had shown up for school. He did not have class with them until after lunch, when the classes were set up based on math and science levels. And it was easy for him to miss them during lunch because they were always off campus. Yet he expected to see them in their calculus class.
 
He didn’t see the empty chair at the third row’s middle round table where Kaiya was supposed to sit until Mrs. Phillips called roll.
 
“Kaiya.”
 
She was answered with silence. “Kaiya Parker,” she called again. Mrs. Phillips glanced up from her clipboard and over her thick-rimmed glasses. “Hmm.”
 
Another thing Liam knew about Kaiya: she was a stickler for being on time and had a perfect attendance record since the eighth grade that would win her a million dollars. She had to be terribly sick or something worse to keep her from showing up to school.
 
“She was supposed to work out the proof for the Pythagorean Theorem today,” Mrs. Phillips stated before she moved on with the roll only stopping for a quick second to mark Jeremiah Perez as absent also.
 
Liam looked behind him at Owen Colt, a tall and lanky red-headed basketball player with freckles whose family attended the church and sometimes hung out with Jeremiah and Kaiya. He mouthed the words, “Where are they?” Owen just shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.
 
Now his mind was obsessed with the fact that neither one of them were at school. At the end of class he offered to take the homework to Jeremiah and Kaiya, so they wouldn’t be too far behind the next time they came to class. He rushed out of the classroom and caught Owen in the hallway at his locker.
 
“You know where they are?” Liam asked.
 
Owen’s eyebrows came together. “Uh, no. I’m guessing they’re at home,” he answered with a bit of sarcasm. He continued pulling books from the packed and junky locker and placing them in his backpack.
 
“Seriously, Owen. Kaiya’s never absent. Didn’t she show up to the study party last night?” Liam was shocked at his own urgency to gather information.
 
Owen’s shoulders came up and down as he chuckled. “Why are you all of a sudden interested in what Kaiya’s doing? If you were there last night, you would’ve known.”
 
He didn’t really attend anything HGA, except when his father strongly suggested he go. The only times he ever showed up was when he wasn’t at practice, wrestling, or able to use his tiredness as a way out. To be honest, sometimes he didn’t feel all that welcome.
 
“You hang out with them…” He was at a loss for an excuse that wouldn’t make him seem like a stalker. “I just want to know where to go to give them the homework, that’s all.”
 
Owen rolled his eyes. “I don’t know where they are exactly. All Jeremiah told me is that Kaiya’s not feeling well and he and his mom are taking care of her. I was going to text them the homework.”
 
Liam shook his head. “Nah, that’s okay. I’ll just go take it to them. I already told Mrs. Phillips I’d do it.”
 
“Whatever.”
 
 
 
LIAM called his mother as soon as he returned home and found himself in almost a panic as he rushed to the garage to get his bike and travel to Kaiya’s place. It was now that he wished he had his license and a car because one, it would be quicker and two, his permit was burning a whole in his wallet. Unfortunately, his father was clear and stubborn about the car; Liam would have to trade his diploma for the keys.
 
Just before he hung up the phone, his mother asked him for a favor.
 
“Liam, sweetie,” she called as he unlocked the side garage door. “Before you leave, would you go into the kitchen and take that plastic white mixing bowl that’s on the counter to Kaiya? It’s Sister Denise’s and I forgot to bring it to church on Sunday. Since you’re going over there-”
 
“Sure,” he said with an exasperated sigh.
 
“Thanks, sweetheart.”
 
After Liam hung up the phone, he jogged to the kitchen through the backdoor, snatched the bowl of the counter and put it inside his backpack on top of his history and math textbooks. It took him fifteen minutes of pumping his legs hard to get to Kaiya’s place.
 
When he arrived, he was sweaty but not smelly. He thanked God for that. He used the end of his shirt to dry himself as he power walked from the sidewalk concrete, where he dropped his bike into the freshly mowed grass of her front yard, and up the brick walkway to the green door of the grey, slim but tall and almost modern, two story townhouse. He rang the doorbell, ready to greet Kaiya with a smile and her homework. He knew she would be overjoyed to get the homework, especially since Jeremiah wasn’t there to get it for her.
 
No answer.
 
He rang again. He couldn’t see inside the small, black windows because of the closed blinds. He didn’t hear any movement, not even the slightest sound of the television or snoring. It was pretty dark inside, from what he could tell, considering the sun was still out. Maybe she was upstairs or in her room with the door closed? He rang once more. Still nothing.
 
He checked his cell. Maybe she was with Jeremiah? He rolled his eyes and balled up his fists before getting on his bike again. It would take him another twenty or so minutes to get to Jeremiah’s.
 
This time, Liam wasn’t going to be sweaty, so he peddled with less force. He saw Jeremiah’s old Jetta parked at an angle in the driveway, right next to a clean, white Nissan Altima. Rather than going to the backdoor he remembered was by the driveway, he continued on to the front. Jeremiah had lived at this address as long as they knew each other, yet the last time Liam was here, the two of them were still in middle school and hanging out together. That was almost four years ago. Liam didn’t want to cause any unnecessary awkwardness.
 
Jeremiah’s house was wide and seemed to be off-balance in how the two stories were built only on the left side of the house. He remembered that’s where most of the rooms were built after Jeremiah’s widower great aunt passed away and his mother bought the place to renovate after she was promoted at Augustine’s Memorial Hospital. Its tan and brown stone stretched across the foundation and then up the two stories, the chocolate brown siding and white trim covered everything else. The wooden shutters matched the heavy dark green door with the frosted window. Ivy was growing up the right edge of the house.
 
Liam used the large metal knocker instead of the doorbell and stepped back to wait. On the other side he heard Jeremiah holler to his mother, “Got it!” and to the door, “Coming!”
 
The door opened and with his hands stuff in his pockets, Liam carefully watched Jeremiah’s smile transform into a frown. An awkward silence passed between them.
 
“Hey, Jeremiah. I, um, brought you the homework from calculus today.” Liam pulled out from his backpack a half piece of typing paper with the assignment written on it in pencil. When he looked up, he saw Jeremiah tighten his jaw.
 
“Thanks. But I already asked Owen to get it for me.”
 
Liam held the paper out and was glad that Jeremiah took it. “I know, but I promised Mrs. Phillips that I’d bring it to you and Kaiya.” Jeremiah shifted his weight to stand equally on both feet, blocking the entrance. “Have you seen Kaiya today? I stopped by her place, but no one answered the door. I have something my mom told me to give to her mom and-”
 
“I’ll give it to her,” he said curtly.
 
Another awkward silence. Liam didn’t know how to respond. Liam was just trying to fulfill his promise and Jeremiah was acting like he was ready to fight. In silence, Liam handed over the mixing bowl then put his backpack on his back.
 
“Anything else?” Jeremiah started biting the inside of his left cheek. He only did that when he was furious or frustrated. What did Liam do to him?
 
Liam shook his head. “No. Just wanted to give you guys that stuff, that’s all.” He wanted to say more about Kaiya, but he didn’t know what. He wanted to know where she was and if she was doing okay, but feared that it might anger Jeremiah even more. Although they were both athletes in their own right, Liam didn’t want to fight Jeremiah.
 
Before he could say goodbye, Jeremiah had slammed the door in his face.

I’M STILL HERE!!!

Hello all my lovely readers! ❤

I know it’s been a little over two weeks since I updated. I tried SO hard to update Surface from this Fourth of July weekend, but I kept wanting to write more in this next chapter. I couldn’t stop. However, it gives me great pleasure to let you know that the next chapter will be published/posted either late tonight or early tomorrow morning. Please be on the lookout. 🙂 Hopefully it won’t take me as long to write the next update.

And don’t forget to post a comment. ;1 I do read them.

❤ Nyke

 

SURFACE | 4

JEREMIAH | 4

Jeremiah immediately went into hero mode.
 
“Can you walk?”
 
When Kaiya didn’t respond, he rushed barefoot into the rain and put her arm around his shoulder leaning most of her bodyweight on him. She felt heavier than normal, like deadweight wrapped in sopping wet clothes. “C’mon, Kaiya, we’re almost inside. Just a few more steps.” With the kick of his foot, Jeremiah shut out the cold before slowly sitting Kaiya at the end of the brown leather couch.
 
He snatched his cell phone from the coffee table and sat close beside her on the couch’s arm, quickly dialing 911. Before the first ring, he felt Kaiya’s hand grab his wrist.
 
“No,” she whispered. There were no tears, no sniffing. She just stared at him, slowly blinking her eyelids as if she was too tired to lift them.
 
“But you need…”
 
“Please.”
 
It was like that was the only word she could get out. Her voice was hoarse and faint. Her clothes were hanging off her—the button-down was missing half of its buttons, one suspender was no longer attached to the twisted skirt around her waist, and her black tights had so many holes in them that it was hard to imagine how they were still on her body. What had happened to her?
 
Against his better judgment, when the emergency operator answered, Jeremiah calmly explained to her that it was a false alarm and the person did not need medical attention any longer.
 
Still in panic, he dialed his mother’s cell number. “Well, will you at least let me call my mother?”
 
His mother was the night shift charge nurse in the emergency room at Augustine’s Memorial in downtown—a quick fifteen-minute drive. He could get her there in less time if they left immediately and she wouldn’t have to wait to be seen because his mother would be ready. His mother would know just how to help Kaiya with little to no information. And Kaiya would trust his mother if not anyone else.
 
“No!” she took the phone from his hand and pressed ‘end’ before another ring. “You can’t tell anyone.”
 
Jeremiah exhaled in frustration, harshly rubbed his hands over his face multiple times before settling them on his jeans. He cornered himself on the edge, his wet clothes making a faint squeak when he faced her. She just stared at him and without a word to say, watched a single tear run down her right cheek and settle on her chin. Even with her dense, dark curls falling all around her face, he could tell that she was not looking at him but past him. Her breathing was slow and deep, as if every inhale and exhale counted toward keeping her still and calm. She did not seem bothered by her drenched clothes or the water that made puddles on the hardwood floor and seeped into the area rug.
 
With a sigh, Jeremiah walked behind the couch toward the staircase to get her a towel and hopefully find some clothes she would be able to fit from his mother’s room.
 
“Don’t leave me.”
 
“I’m just going to find you some dry clothes. You can barely walk.”
 
She caught grip of the end of his graphic tee as he passed between the back of the couch and the bar seating that extended into the walkway from the kitchen.
 
“Just stay with me.”
 
He paused with his back turned to her, attempting again to figure out what she needed him to do even if it went against what she wanted of him. Would it be better to get the clothes and leave her psychologically damaged after a trauma or just stay with her until his mother made it home?
 
His mother would have a better chance cleaning her wounds, anyway.
 
Jeremiah climbed over the back of the couch and pulled her body closer to his. He wrapped her in the motorcycle jacket he was going to wear when he left to meet her at the church and allowed her to nestle her body between his arm and his chest. He held on tight.
 
The television was on, an old episode of Rocket Power motherentarily distracted both of them. But he began to get fidgety. There was no way he could just sit still when his best friend was clearly hurt and most likely needed medical attention.
 
“Do you want to tell me what happened?” Even if she had allowed him to call his mother, he would not be able to explain anything because he had no clue.
 
He felt her wipe away tears.
 
“There’s nothing you can do about it,” she shrugged her shoulders, “It’s already happened.”
 
He glanced down at her fiddling with the lone ring on the ring finger of her left hand. It was looked oddly shiny, an almost polished gold, with a single pear-shaped emerald sparkling at its center. It was the abstinence ring her mother gave her at her Sweet Sixteen birthday party; there was an entire wedding ceremony and all. That day she wore a lace ivory dress that was just enough of a party dress to satisfy her fashion taste yet had she worn a veil, it would have been mistaken for a beach wedding dress or baptism attire at the church. She was happy and excited to take that vow despite most of the church members’ assumptions that her mother coerced her into doing it. But that was Kaiya, always wanting to do the right thing. She told him earlier that week that she wanted to please God and she didn’t want to wait until she was old and worn out to do so.
 
He watched her slowly pull the ring off and hold it in the palm of her hand. She tightly closed her fist and crossed her arms around herself.
 
Jeremiah cleared his throat. “You didn’t want to.” He didn’t phrase it like a question or even state it as if he were surprised. He knew. He could clearly tell by the disarray of her clothes and hair, her demeanor. How she would not let him leave her alone even for a few minutes. He felt he had to say it to reassure her that he believed her, that there was no judgment coming from him.
 
She shook her head. Neither of them paid attention to Rocket Power any longer. It was background noise.
 
“You gonna tell me who?”
 
That was a dangerous question. Jeremiah had no plan now, but he was sure to think of something devious that would get him in to a lot of trouble but make sure this guy paid for every ounce of pain he put Kaiya through. He didn’t care. Whoever it was that hurt her was going to pay, if he had anything to do with it.
 
She curled deeper under his arm and buried her face in his chest. There wasn’t anymore cold air inside and their body heat combined made them more content to where they were on the leather. In their silence, he could hear the loud clap of thunder and heavy rainfall crash against the roof and windows. They weren’t going anywhere tonight.
 
He contemplated calling the church or someone who had RSVPed, but then that meant he would have to give them an explanation as to why he nor their host showed up to the party. Jeremiah simply left his phone on the end table next to them. They were smart people. They’d figure something out sooner or later.
 
 
 
BEFORE he knew it, both he and Kaiya had fallen asleep on the couch in damp clothes, his arm still tight around her body. He was beginning to sweat a little from their body heat and the leather. When he opened his eyes, his head was resting against the back of the couch and all he could see was the ceiling fan. Without moving his body his eyes roamed around the family room. All the lights in the room, the kitchen, and above the staircase were still on. His glasses were a bit blurry from the dried droplets of rain he never cleaned off after he brought Kaiya in. The television was still on, now playing a late night rerun of some show he knew he had seen before but couldn’t quite find the name in his mind.
 
He turned his head to his right and carefully reached for his cell phone on the end table next to Kaiya who was softly snoring with her head against his chest. He pressed the home button. Underneath the bright readout of 03:47AM, he saw the list of five voicemails, twelve missed calls, and eight text messages—all of which were from a few peeps in HGA, Deacon Allen, but mostly from his mother. He wasn’t even going to bother trying to call her back. She would be home soon enough.
 
He was tempted to kiss Kaiya’s forehead before going back to sleep, but decided against it. Just as he was about to make himself comfortable again, he heard keys jingling against the wooden door that led to the driveway where he found Kaiya.
 
As soon as his mother’s feet crossed the threshold, Jeremiah had a “shh” on his lips and slowly removed himself from under Kaiya, leaving her to lie on the couch.
 
“Jeremiah Nathan Rivera Perez.” His mother spoke quickly and in a tone that did not require her to be loud to know that she meant business. “I have called you at least six times. What is the use of you having a phone if you don’t ever answer it?”
 
“I’m sorry, Ma. I fell asleep.” He closed the door behind her and took the bags from work she carried on her arms and walked through the archway to place them on the kitchen counter. His mother followed and put her purse next to the bags.
 
“Who is that on the couch?” Kaiya moved as if summoned by the question but did not wake. “What is Kaiya doing here? I thought you two were supposed to go to that study party at the church?”
 
“We were,” Jeremiah took off his glasses and cleaned them with the end of his shirt, “but something happened.”
 
His mother only glanced at him as she put items from her bags away in the refrigerator behind her. With his back against the counter, Jeremiah rubbed his eyes underneath his glasses as if they were itching or trying to wake himself up from a dream. He hoped it was all just an extremely horrible nightmare that he would wake from and go on about his business.
 
He turned his head to his left through the archway, away from his mother and her preoccupation with the fridge, contemplating how he was supposed to break the news to his mother and not wake Kaiya.
 
“I think Kaiya was raped.”
 
His mother dropped the plastic bottle of water she had in her hand on the floor and simply looked at Jeremiah with one brown raised and her jaw tight. “And you called no one?”
 
“Ma, I tried, but she wouldn’t let me.”
 
He could tell his mother was badly attempting to contain her rising frustration. She stepped over the bottle without looking at him and held her hand up to quiet his speaking. “She wouldn’t let you? Miah, this is serious. You could’ve just called me.” He followed behind her thinking, I tried all of that, Ma. With his hands stuffed into the pockets of his jeans, he stood silent in the empty space between the couch and the bar stools as his mother gently shook Kaiya’s shoulder. “Mi hija…wake up, sweetie.”
 
Kaiya seemed to wake up with such clarity, almost like she had never gone to sleep. She still didn’t speak and had a tough time walking. When she looked at him Jeremiah bit the inside of his cheek, hoping that she knew he didn’t leave her to call his mother. He swallowed hard.
 
Afraid that he would do something else that his mother didn’t approve, like lift Kaiya too fast or touch a tender limb—or one that had to be examined and his touch would contaminate whatever evidence they might still have, he carefully helped his mother lift Kaiya from the couch and lead her upstairs to his mother’s room.
 
With his mother home and taking care of all the medical procedures he could not do, taking control of the situation, the shock of finding his best friend collapsed outside his house in the rain began to wear off. Kaiya would get the help that she needed and he could stop worrying—at least for now. There was still the question of who had raped her and if she was going to press charges against him. If she wasn’t going to do anything about it, Jeremiah was sure he would handle it for her.
 
After he and his mother got Kaiya to his mother’s bedroom and on the neatly made bed, he was pushed out of the room and made to sit waiting at the top of the staircase. He rested his head against the railing and closed his eyes, his palms together and vertical in front of his face.
 
He opened his mouth to softly whisper to the only other person with him. “Lord, I know you’re here and that you hear me and that you know everything, but I really don’t understand what is happening or why you let this happen to her. I just ask, please…please make it better. Please help Kaiya.”
 
 
 
IT wasn’t long before Jeremiah’s mother, still dressed in her lavender scrubs and sneakers, exited her room and slipped beside Jeremiah on the top step. She placed her cold hand on top of his; she had washed them. He unfolded from his position of prayer and removed his glasses from his face.
 
“How is she doing?”
 
His mother exhaled before answering. “She should be fine…physically. She’s sore, but mostly scared and hurt. I’ll call Denise in the morning and see if I can get a hold of her in Tokyo.” His mother’s hand was on top of his head, smoothing down his short cut hair, a method of calming him since he was a baby with lots of trouble going to sleep. “You still should have called me as soon as she got here. But she’ll be fine.”
 
Jeremiah fiddled with the rim of his glasses and tried to focus his eyes on the door to the driveway. His vision blurred trying to see that far. “Can I stay home today?”
 
His mother continued to soothe his anxiety. “Sure.” He did not look up at her. “You did good. Now try to get some rest.” She softly planted a kiss on his cheek before making her way down the stairs and toward the back of the house where his brother’s, Joey, room lay empty. “Good night.”
 
“Night.”
 
Jeremiah had no idea if Kaiya was awake or not. He ran to his room and grabbed the red and navy blue patchwork duvet off his bed and a pillow. “I’m right here, Kaiya,” he said through the keyhole. After making a pallet on the carpeted floor, he laid his head on the pillow and wrapped himself in the duvet with his back against the bedroom door. He refused to leave her alone.

War

The Lincoln brothers were still behind her.

She couldn’t run so she walked out of the store in a hurry and straight toward home. The Lincolns didn’t allow her to get too close to Bolivar’s bridge and over to the east side of town before they blocked her way.

“I think yo’ dress is pretty,” Richard grinned, his frame casting a shadow that covered her entire height. She stepped back when he stood in front of her.

Mercy backed away with every step he took. She looked up right into his face, the whites of his bright blue eyes contrasting with his black hair and staring right back at her. Her hand gripped tighter around her paper bag. With one hand Richard reached for her hair and twirled her curls around his finger and played with the collar of her dress with the other.

“Where’d you get the money?” Paul, his younger brother, questioned and blocked her left side escape onto the road. Now her sole escape was through the trees, where she did not want to go; there was no place to hide there.

“Home. Where I need to be now.” She said it so fast that it came out as mumbles. They always messed with her; they messed with everybody since they didn’t go to war. But they never followed anyone.

Mercy tried to walk between them, but Paul pushed her back. “Where you goin’ so soon?”

“Home.”

She tried again and this time Richard grabbed her arm.

“I thought we were friends?” Richard poked out his bottom lip then laughed.

Mercy clenched her teeth together and looked around, hoping that someone across the road at the store or the mechanic’s had seen them. The Lincoln boys were both taller than she and had pushed her a good distance from the road in behind the trees.

She attempted again. “I really should be gettin’ home.”

“But we’re havin’ so much fun,” Paul replied, rubbing the back of his pale, cold hand against her face.

Mercy snapped and slapped his hand down with a quick step back. Her mouth dropped open and eyes opened wide. Paul didn’t hesitate a moment before he backhanded her—a blow that knocked her against a tree and caused her to drop her bag. She yelped and held her eye and the right side of her face.

“My Papa and Josiah are coming after me.”

The Lincoln brothers laughed.

“We’ll see about that.”

Richard grabbed both her wrists, holding her back against the tree. She twisted in pain to get out of his grasp, but didn’t attempt to yell. She didn’t want to get hit again.

“Please, I’m sorry.”

Paul raised the left corner of his mouth in a crooked smile as he closed in on her. She breathed shallowly and closed her eyes tightly when he brushed his cool fingertips down the right side of her face, standing so close that she could feel him breathing on her neck. He chuckled softly and began to unbutton the front of her dress slowly.

Just as she felt the heat of the sun touch her exposed chest, a familiar voice ordered, “Leave her alone.”

Mercy opened one eye at a time. And when Paul moved out of Mercy’s line of sight, she saw Levi walk through the trees toward them.

Richard laughed a bit. “Join us, Levi?”

The scowl on Levi’s face shut Richard up. He stared directly at Richard as he walked into the middle, with both Richard and Paul on one side and Mercy, with her back still on the tree, on the other. He didn’t make eye contact with her.

“Get back to the store. My daddy lookin’ for y’all.”

“What he need with us?” Paul retorted.

Levi’s head snapped to Paul. “Get back to the store now. She ain’t botherin’ nobody so you shouldn’t be botherin’ her.”

Levi then stood in front of her, pointing the Lincolns to the direction of the store. As they walked away, the brothers mumbled some words under their breath. Paul spit in their direction then followed his brother. Levi didn’t move until they were completely out of sight. Only then did Mercy bend over and began to snatch up the items that fell out of her bag.

“Are you okay?” He reached for her hand and examined her exposed body. “They didn’t touch you or…”

Mercy didn’t answer him. She wiggled her hand out of his, fixed her dress and continued to pick up her things. Levi took her hand again and caressed it, begging with his grayish-blue eyes. He was starting to look more like his daddy and less like Richard. “Mercy.”

Mercy raised her eyebrow and leaned back with her arms folded. “She ain’t botherin’ nobody?”

“I got rid of them, didn’t I?” She scoffed and snatched away from him when he tried to help her up. “I’ll deal with them later.”

Mercy shook her head and looked away. “How long have you been home?” She spat.

“I got back last night,” he responded slowly, confusion spreading over his face. “Late. We are a long way from New York.”

She exhaled hard and walked away; Levi flanked her right side.

“Your last letter was three weeks ago! You could’ve sent me a letter in three weeks sayin’ when you would be back. Josiah did.”

He stopped. “What does Josiah have to do with anythin’?”

“Forget it.”

He caught a hold of her wrist as they walked. “I wanted to surprise you.”

“I can’t handle anymore surprises,” she retorted, smoothing down and dusting off the bottom half of her dress. “You still could’ve sent me somethin’.”

He held both of her hands and crouched down to get her attention. “Don’t be mad. Come to the root house later.”

“I don’t want to.” She moved her hands to her hips. “Won’t you mamma and daddy be at home?”

He dusted off the rest of her dress and made sure all of the buttons were fastened. “They’re stayin’ late at the store tonight. Please come. I missed you.”

“Maybe.”

“Please.” He brought his face so close to her that their lips almost touched. She could smell peppermint and cinnamon on his breath. “Please.”

She closed her eyes then shrugged her shoulders slowly. “Fine…I guess. I have to bring a cake from Mama Nolia by your house anyway.”

Levi smiled and reluctantly let go of her hand when they reached Bolivar’s bridge. Mercy started walking home, looked back at him, and then walked faster knowing Mama Nolia was waiting on her.

* * *

When Mercy returned home, Mama Nolia was standing with her hands on her hips in the middle of the square porch, blocking the front door. Mercy kept her head down when she handed over the wrinkled bag and maneuvered around Mama Nolia to get into the house to clean up. Her hair was a mess and her dress still had spots of dirt stains.

“What happened to you, girl?” Mercy heard Mama Nolia walk through the screen door after her.

“Nothin’.”

“Girl you better turn around and answer me.”

Mercy kept her head low, but looked up at Mama Nolia. Mama Nolia tightened her lips, put the bag down next to the magnolia vase on the end table near the door and brought her hands back to her hips. Her apron was still covered in flour.

“Nothin’.”

Mama Nolia stared long and hard at her. Mercy turned around and speedily disappeared down the dark hallway. The bathroom door and Mama Nolia and Papa’s bedroom door were closed, causing the only light come from the one window at the end of the hallway and her open bedroom door. She rushed past the Jesus, Mary mother of Jesus, and family portraits on the wall before her door and closed it with one hand behind her.

She exhaled leaning against the door. The curtains were closed and everything was neatly in its place—the way she left it. Quickly she unbuttoned her dress, breathing heavily, and used the inside of it with an old cup of water next to her bed to clean off whatever dirt was left on her body and the sweat on her face. She opened her drawer and pulled out a folded red and white polka dot dress that Levi brought home from New York the first time after he was sent back from Europe. It was his favorite. She slipped it over her body before she balled up the old dress and hid it under her bed. In the small mirror above her dresser she fixed her hair, pinning her curls behind her ears with a new ribbon.

When Mercy joined Mama Nolia in the kitchen again, Mama Nolia said, “Girl, you fillin’ out that dress. You might need to stop makin’ these cakes with me.”

Mercy gave a half smile in response and rubbed down the dress. She took the knife from Mama Nolia and iced the cake. Mama Nolia put the finishing touches on it and covered it before she pushed it toward Mercy.

“You be back before supper.”

To get to the west side of town, Mercy had to pass the store again—she could see the Lincoln twins, Mr. and Mrs. Graham and a couple of other customers inside the store—and cross the town center. She crossed the road to be on the side where Levi’s house was so she would not have to cross later with the cake if a car was coming; then she would have to run. The seven houses she had to pass before the Grahams’ were almost identical outside of the colors: two-stories with white- or yellow-painted enclosed front decks, a porch swing on one side and white wicker chairs on the other. The Grahams were the first to paint their front door the same orange as the general store and left the old wooden rocking chair on the porch since Mr. Graham’s daddy died. It was dark inside.

Mercy skipped the front door and walked between the shrubs Mr. Graham planted to mark the end of his property. She walked a ways off behind the Graham’s tall home and backyard, which led to the west side’s Meadow. She pushed the trees and plants out of her way with one hand until she found the wooden doorframe of the root house.

Its flat roof was covered in fallen leaves and was only slightly taller than the base of the largest tree in the Meadow. It was built there many years ago, long before Mercy and her friends discovered it. Back then, all the kids—black kids included—played in building before and after they went hunting with their fathers and grandfathers, conjuring up stories about secret hideaways or praise meetings. A younger Levi put in a bed when all he wanted to do was do homework, sleep alone, and read books. He used to read his favorite books to Mercy in there. They became man and woman together in there.

Mercy knocked four times, kicked the door twice, and then knocked again three times. Levi opened it, dressed from head-to-toe in his tan uniform with colorful badges and hat. She had seen him once like this before—when he left the second time. She frowned.

“I’m glad you came. I thought you would’ve stayed at home.”

“I told you I had to bring the cake.”

“Smells like cinnamon. My favorite.”

He grinned at her and let her in. She watched him as he took the cake out of her hands and looked directly into his eyes when he placed his lips on hers. His hands dropped down to the small of her back as he pulled her to the bed behind him. She let her eyes shut as she kissed him back, feeling the chills surface on her skin as the comfort of his lips and touch took her in. She let him turn her around and gently lay her on the soft quilt and smoothly move his body on top of hers. While he kissed her, she felt his hand slide over her knee, up her thigh and under her dress. Her eyes blinked open, seeing nothing but his forehead and his flattened dark brown hair from the cap that he must have taken off when she closed her eyes. When he started to kiss her neck and lower, she bit her bottom lip and curled her toes in her shoes. She turned her head and stared at the bookcase. It was as if everything Mama Nolia said about boys becoming young men were true and she had allowed herself to be used as only a step in the process.

Levi glanced into her eyes to bring his attention back to her face and lips. He stopped.

“What’s wrong?”

“Is this all you asked me here for?” she asked still staring at the bookcase.

He pushed himself up and rolled over to the open space on the bed, blocking her view. “Not exactly.” Mercy propped herself up on her elbows and fixed her dress. “But shouldn’t I be happy that I survived the war to see my wife?”

“I’m not your wife,” she answered lowly and then turned her back to him, now looking at the wooden desk under the only window in the root house. The book they were reading last was missing.

“You are. And I was going to keep my promise to come home you. That’s why I gave you the ring…” He rotated his body to her and caressed her left hand, noticing that it was not gracing her finger. “Where is it?”

Mercy drew back her hand and looked at the door. “I hid it in a safe place.”

“Why aren’t you wearin’ it?”

“People asked me where I got it. I couldn’t tell ‘em. And you know I can’t wear it any time I go to the store ‘cause I’m sure your mama and daddy would know that it was your gran’ma’s. I don’t want give nobody cause to talk about me.”

“Why does it matter? It’s a gift from me to my wife.”

Mercy pushed herself up from the bed and walked past him to the trunk of the tree in the middle of the house. With her arms folded, she looked at him on the bed. “Why do you keep sayin’ that? You forget where we are? You ain’t in Europe no more! You and I both know I’m not your wife. We’re pretendin’.”

“I’m not pretendin’,” he countered as he moved from the bed to the trunk. He glanced down at her with his hand on the trunk, his lips brushing the side of her cheek, and leaned in for another kiss.

Mercy rolled her eyes and pushed him back. “Then why don’t you have a ring? Huh? Why aren’t you wearin’ one when you go out?”

“I will.”

She scoffed at him and paced around the trunk because she couldn’t sit still.

“You’re lyin’ straight through your teeth. And it won’t change anythin’. People will still talk. They’ll know, Levi. They’ll know. And then other things’ll happen.” She took a book from the shelf but didn’t read the title. Instead, she threw it on the floor. “You can leave. You can go back to Europe like you talked about in your letters, move on, and it won’t even matter that I’m still here. I can’t go with you. And if you leave, everyone’ll know for sure about us and talk about how I laid down with a white man and was left on the ground like a dog. They’ll say I’m no good no more, just like they talk about them other girls with white men.”

“You will not be one of those girls,” Levi sighed as he got up from the bed. He glanced down at her, no smile on his face. “You are not one of them. Don’t even compare yourself. I won’t let that happen.”

He attempted to hug her from behind, wrapping his arms around her waist and planting a kiss on the nape of her neck; she broke through his arms.

“What are you gonna do? Tell them that I’m not doin’ nothin’ to nobody like you did your cousins?”

Levi’s face reddened. “Do you want me to go to them right now and make sure they don’t mess with you again? I’m sure they’ll take me seriously then,” he said heatedly, almost to a yell.

“No! That’s—that’s not what I’m asking.” Mercy shook her head back and forth and used her fingers to message her temples. “I’m just sayin’ it’ll be worse if we wear rings and then when the baby comes—” She paused. “You don’t have to deal with these problems.”

“Baby?”

She didn’t look at him. “I’m gon’ have a baby.”

Levi suddenly took her in his arms and spun her around. He was extremely excited, asking aloud if he wanted a son or a daughter, how he would hold him or her, what they would name the baby. Mercy did not share his excitement. He put her down and stood in front of her.

“You’re not happy?”

She bit her lip and gazed up at him. “You know I can’t have this baby. What are they gon’ do to me then?”

Levi sat next to her on the bed. “How long have you known?”

Mercy shrugged her shoulders. “I guessed after that time didn’t come twice. Only a couple weeks. I couldn’t tell you sooner. I thought you decided to stay in New York City when didn’t send me anymore letters.”

“I was always comin’ back home.”

Mercy rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand. “You didn’t send me anythin’ sayin’ when you were comin’ back.”

Levi stood again and paced the floor in front of her. He scratched his head and swallowed hard. “Anyone else know?”

“Only you.”

He nodded his head and rubbed his chin. “Good. I’ll think of somethin’.” He kneeled on the floor in front of her and reached for her hands, looking down.

“What are you gonna do? You’re not leavin’ me.” She ran over her words and held tightly to his hand.

He glanced up and smiled. He pushed her hair out of her face. “No. I’m not leavin’. I’ll think of somethin’.”

He kissed her forehead and wrapped his arms around her. With her ear to his neck, she felt his heart rate race and then slow to normal while he held her close. He kept repeating, “I’ll think of somethin’.”

SURFACE | 3

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.”

FINALLY!!!

I know I’ve been gone for a long time y’all. I apologize. I got sick and then I started working — BUT — I now make time to write things that come to my mind. I will be trying my hardest to get in updates every Friday (or every other Friday). We shall see.

However….I have updated Surface. Click the link and read the update. Comment too.

SURFACE | 2

2 | JEREMIAH

Since freshman year Kaiya and Jeremiah had a standing lunch date every Monday and Tuesday at Ichiban Hibachi and Sushi Grill. Before Jeremiah got his license and inherited his mom’s old midnight blue Volkswagen Jetta they would walk the three blocks down the sycamore lined street from the football field to the cobblestone pavement of the strip mall, just talking or sharing a large bowl of frozen yogurt. Though they saw each other every Sunday and multiple times throughout the week because their small families were close, Jeremiah’s baseball practices and deejay gigs and Kaiya’s Honor Society, after-school theatre club, and internship with the World Africana Museum curator kept them busy in addition to all the schoolwork they had to finish. And with the HGA study party coming up, this lunch date was bound to turn into a business meeting instead of catching up.

“So what’s the plan?” Jeremiah asked as he opened the passenger side door for Kaiya to get in.

Just before she answered him, someone shouted “Right face!” like an army general running backwards followed by two straight lines of guys running in hand-cut sleeveless shirts – or top at all – and gym shorts. By the length of the lines, the lack of females, and the fact that Liam Steele was at the head of them, Jeremiah guessed it was the wrestling team and some football elites. They were parading through the parking lot again when they could have been using the football field as per usual. It was like watching a bad re-run of Baywatch or a scene from 90210.

“Seriously?”

Kaiya chuckled a little and closed the door. “Let them exercise.”

“That’s not exercising – that’s ridiculous. Isn’t going without a shirt against school policy?” said Jeremiah. “School’s still in session.”

“And it’s football season.”

“Fall,” he responded as he got into the driver’s seat and switched on the A/C. “Fall is football season, not summer.”

“That just gives them more of a reason to go without shirt.”

Jeremiah rolled his eyes before he pulled off into the street. “Please stop making excuses for them. You just want to see Liam with no shirt on. Feeding your fantasies.”

“Just drive; I’m hungry.” She adjusted the vents then looked at Jeremiah with her tongue sticking out. “I do not have fantasies about Liam.”

“You lie.”

Kaiya had been crushing on Liam since she and her mother moved to the neighborhood from California the summer before eighth grade. With him being in the position of her best friend – she still hadn’t made many female friends – Jeremiah was responsible for listening to and caring for her love life. She told him about every guy as the winds of her tastes changed, including his older brother Joey, but somehow she always returned to the great Liam Steele. Every time she mentioned Liam and whatever obsession she had with him, it was like she dragged Jeremiah into her dreamland of perfection where she and Liam were married off into a white-pickety future. It was stupid to him that she was constantly trying to fit Liam into her life: she was wasting her time and energy on him.

Liam was the epitome of preacher’s kid living a double life and Jeremiah was sick of hearing things about him. Liam made captain of the wrestling team. Liam’s doing another sermon. Liam’s leading worship. Liam wrote another song. All Jeremiah heard was Liam could do no wrong. Didn’t he already get enough of this at church? It seemed like every other Sunday Pastor Levi had some cute anecdote of how baby Levi used to imitate him, preaching in front of stuffed animals, or how trustworthy he was when it came to managing his responsibilities of the house and his schoolwork.

How could anyone not see that? Liam spent most of his free time with the college crews at the parties where Jeremiah was called to deejay. Jeremiah wasn’t one to judge – he was at those parties, too, playing the music they paid him to play. Staying away from their fun kept him from seeing his father’s face in the mirror when he woke up the next morning. He also refused to act like he knew more or had it all together; there were just things he wouldn’t do because he knew better. He was smarter than that and his mother and Coach Otero kept a short leash. But somehow Liam’s actions never added up to how he portrayed himself on school grounds or at church. It seemed like no one could see that but him. Just because Liam was the pastor’s son and did well in school should not make him poster boy for teenager of the year.

“Why do you like him so much?” Jeremiah asked as he held the glass door open for her.

Kaiya rolled her eyes with a smirk as she entered the dimly lit building, following the hostess to a booth against the exposed brick wall at the back of the room. He walked close behind her, allowing her to scoot into the center of the leather seat.

“Don’t start that, Miah. Let’s just eat, talk about the study party and then go back to school,” she ordered as she opened the menu and kept her focus down. “What do you want?”

“I want you to stop acting the way you do whenever he comes around or you hear his name. You change into this starstruck groupie or something.”

“Starstruck groupie?”

Before Jeremiah could respond to the raised eyebrow and angered look on her face, a middle-aged waitress stopped at their table with a plate of edamame and placed two green- and red-topped bottles of soy sauce in front of them. They both ordered their usuals – spicy tuna rolls and shrimp tempura that they would share – and Kaiya kept her lips pursed as she stared at him.

He glanced over and laughed. “You heard me. He’s not even all that great. You treat him like he can do no wrong when you know he’s living life.”

“I know he’s tried some stuff.”

“Oh he’s beyond trying it, Kaiya,” he retorted while taking out his iPad, “And please don’t make any excuses for him. He needs to be held accountable.”

“More than you?”

Jeremiah clenched his teeth together and glared at her.

Every time. She did this every time Liam came up. It was annoying. He was not in competition with Liam for who was the most sinless or sinful. All he did was speak the truth.

“Can we get back to the study party and your list of songs, please?”

Kaiya smacked her lips. “You brought him up.”

Yes, he did bring Liam up to prove a point and it had come back to bite him. He had known Liam since the fifth grade and they were somewhat friends, but things started to get awkward and unfriendly between them when they hit middle school. Summer came and went, puberty and hormones kicked in, and girls started crowding around the new Liam—tallest sixth grader playing rugby and wrestling—leaving Jeremiah the computer nerd with the glasses to play with his music alone. People only paid attention to him once Joey taught him how to work the turntables with his computer and let him tag along to all the high school and college parties. And yet, Liam’s shadow was cast so big that no one seemed to get out of it.

Liam always won. Even when he lost—game or match—he always won everyone’s affection.

Jeremiah glanced down at his iPad and moved around some apps to keep from looking up at Kaiya. “I kinda wanted you to see through his charade, not take up for him.”

“I’m not taking sides, Miah.”

“I think you already have,” he let out a deep sigh, then looked up at her, “Skrip or Dee-1?”

Yo!

So I’ve finally added to something! Yay! I’m already working on the next section/chapter/part (whatever you want to call it) and I can’t wait.

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