She smiled innocently. “I’m just having breakfast with you.”
Kaiden rolled his eyes and continued munching on his grilled fruit.
“What are you getting into today?”
Leaving the house, that’s for sure. “Not much. Gonna go out for a while.” If he told her he was going to Kori D’s house, she’d overreact.
“Oh, that’s good.” She poked at the slice of cake a few times.
He knew she had more to say and braced himself.
“How are you feeling?”
He closed his eyes and let out a heavy sigh. Everyone needed to stop trying to handle him! Weren’t they the ones attempting to convince him to end it all along? They cared, and he appreciated that. But, for the love of the Watcher! Give the man some breathing room!
After breakfast and a shower, he headed to Oasis Springs to hang out with Kori. Her parents surprised her with a sweet vacation for her birthday, so he hadn’t seen her yet. Kaiden and Kori didn’t hang out at her house much. He thought his parents were too much sometimes, but hers were worse. Not only was she the youngest, but also she was the only girl. Now, she was the only child at home since her brother got married and moved out. Mr. and Mrs. Dandridge were protective with a capital P. The only reason she and Kaiden hung out as much as they did was because he and Kori had been best friends since childhood and they trusted him. Hanging out at her house was a rare treat. He loved their house because it was so different from his with lots of large windows with endless natural light, high ceilings, and huge rooms. Maybe if all went well in his career, he’d own a house like that one day.
“Good morning, Mrs. Dandridge.”
“Kaiden! It’s been so long! You’re a man now. Call me Mei.”
“Uhhh, that feels weird.”
Mrs. Dandridge giggled. “Oh, Kaiden. You’re so sweet.”
Kori came out from the kitchen to rescue him from her mother. Her new hairdo looked great. In high school, she always wore it in a ponytail because she had so much hair and didn’t want to deal with it. On occasion, she’d wear it down, and he enjoyed the change. Now she seemed keen on wearing it down all the time and had trimmed her bangs and put highlights in. It was perfect.
“Mama? Are you harassing Kaiden?”
“Why, yes! You invite him over so infrequently, I never get the pleasure.”
Kaiden cleared his throat and hoped Kori had something clever up her sleeve to get them out of that awkward moment.
“Ok, yeah. This visit is definitely over now. We’ll be in my room. Let’s go, Kaiden.”
That also worked though he felt it was a tad bit haughty. In Kori’s room, Mr. Dandridge worked on her computer. “Oh, good morning, Mr. Dandridge.”
He didn’t look up from the screen. “Kaiden? Is that you sounding like a grown man? Long time no see.”
“Dad? What are you doing?”
“I updated our security software. I was just installing it.”
“Can’t you do that remotely?”
“Can’t you give me five minutes?”
“Kori, it’s cool. Just let him do what he needs to do. I’m not going anywhere.”
“Thank you, Kaiden. See, Kori? Have more friends like Kaiden. Maybe the respect will rub off on you.”
Kaiden didn’t mean to get involved in a family dispute and was only trying to be polite. He didn’t mind Kori’s parents, but when her dad finally left, he was relieved. “Geez, Kori. Do you always give your parents a hard time?”
“Whatever, Kaiden. I’ve seen you be the same way with your mom.”
He forgot she was around for two of his most unflattering moments. Sassing his mother wasn’t something he made a habit, but as of late, life had been frustrating. It was easy to get carried away with his feelings around her because he knew she would understand and forgive him easily. He would never lose it around Jared.
“I like your hair.”
“Thanks. I like yours too,” she said, inspecting him. They had only spoken via phone and text since his birthday. “So, tell me what happened. Don’t leave out any details!”
He had hoped they could talk about something fun first like her trip, but she wanted to go all the way in. No wonder she wanted her dad to leave so quickly. Apart from fragments he shared with his parents, he hadn’t told this story yet and readied himself to relive it. “After we had cake, I went downstairs to work out. No sooner than I arrived, she was there! It’s like she had spidey sense or something. Like she followed me.”
“Ugh! I bet she was probably peeking through the window the whole time!”
Kori’s dislike for Breanne had always been strong. Was it because she truly did not like her, or because she was protective of him?
“How did she look?”
He thought she looked ridiculous, but he would never tell Kori that. “She looked ok.”
She snorted. “I know what that means.”
“Anyway, she came in and started going on about how we need to set a date and crazy crap like that.”
“Wait, what? She came out of nowhere into your house and started talking about a wedding? You didn’t accidentally propose to her or something, did you?”
“NO! Heck no! No way! I may not remember getting into this relationship, but I’d sure as heck wouldn’t let her trick me into proposing!”
“Ok, ok! Just checking. Then what happened? PLEASE tell me you shut this mess down immediately.”
“I told her I didn’t want to do it.”
Kori’s eyes lit up like she had just won the lottery. “Ooooh, Kaiden! Did you really? What did she say? What did she look like?”
“Heh, she looked like someone had just told her Father Winter wasn’t real.”
Kori clapped and laughed. “Ohhhh, I would pay GOOD money to have seen her face!”
Kaiden shook his head. “You’re enjoying this way too much.”
“Whatever. What did she say next?”
“She seemed surprised and disappointed and said, ‘but, we talked about this!’ I had been a bit nervous up until that point because I didn’t know what she would do, but when she said that, I had enough of her assuming and making me do things.”
Kori pumped her first into the air. “YES! I am so proud right now! What did you say? Did you put her in her place?”
He shook his head at his excited friend. “I went off a little bit. I said SHE discussed it. She tried to placate me and tell me I was just getting cold feet and crap like that, but I was so done, Kori.” Heat began to rise up his cheeks at the memory. “I told her she needed to stop trying to control my life and telling me what to do. I thought she was going to start crying. She looked so sad. She even sounded like she was upset. She pleaded with me, but I wasn’t having it. So, she went off. I went off too.”
She wagged her finger in his face. “Uh uh, details, man!”
He rolled his eyes and sighed, running his hand across his hair. “You better be glad I hadn’t seen you in a while.”
“I told her she assumed I wanted to marry her, and she never asked me what I wanted. She only does what she wants! She said I never know what I want and should be glad I had her planning my life for me. Then she blamed me and said I led her on because she thought I was ok with it.”
“That girl is a real piece of work! I feel sorry for whoever she ends up with. IF she ends up with anyone!”
“Don’t say that. I’m sure there’s someone out there who is right for her and knows how to handle her.”
“Ugh. You’re too sweet, Kaiden! That’s how you got caught in this mess in the first place. I’m gonna start following you everywhere you go to make sure you don’t meet another nut job like her!”
“Whatever. What did you say next?”
“I told her so she wouldn’t be confused anymore. I said I didn’t want to marry her or anyone right now.”
“Ooooh, I know she was PISSED.”
“Yeah. She really went off. She said I was immature and not marriage material…”
She gasped. “Those were her words?”
He lowered his eyes. “No, but that’s what she meant.”
“Oh no no no, Kaiden. Don’t tell me you believe her.”
“Nope. We’re not doing this. You can’t believe anything she says, Kaiden! She’s insane! And manipulative!”
“But, what if she’s right? What if I’m not?”
“KAIDEN! We all JUST had our birthdays! None of us are mature enough right now! Especially not her! And, it’s unrealistic of anyone to think we should have it all together right now!
“And, I don’t know about you, but I plan to be immature, party hard, and live in my parents house for as long as I can. Once I start creeping toward the middle of my young adult life, then and only then will I consider getting serious and grow up.”
“That sounds like a good plan.”