Point of Retreat
I place my hand on the back of her head and slowly move my lips in rhythm with hers. Our kiss is different this time. Rather than push it to the point of retreat like we've been doing, we continue to slowly kiss, pausing every few seconds to look at each other. It's almost as if neither of us believes this is happening. I feel like this kiss is my last chance to remove any doubt from her head, so I pour every single emotion I have into it. Now that I have her back in my arms, I’m afraid to let her go. I take a step forward and she takes a step back until we end up against the dryer. The situation we’re in reminds me of the last time we were alone together in a laundry room over a year ago.
It was the day after her kiss with Javi at Club N9NE. The moment I walked around his truck and saw his mouth on hers, I immediately felt a jealousy coupled with an intense hurt like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I had never been in a physical fight before. The fact that he was my student and I was his teacher was lost on me as soon as I began to pull him off of her. I don’t know what would have happened if Gavin wouldn't have shown up when he did.
The day after the fight when I heard Lake tell her version of events, I felt like such an idiot that I actually believed she had kissed him back. I knew her better than that, and hated myself for assuming the worst. As difficult as it was that day to allow her to continue to believe I had chosen my career over her, I knew it was the right thing to do at the time. That night in her laundry room though, I allowed my emotions to take control over my conscience, and I almost messed up the best thing that ever happened to me.
I push the fear of losing her again out of my mind as I continue to kiss her. She moves her hands to my neck, sending chills down my entire body. Slow and steady loses out as we simultaneously pick up the pace. When she runs her hands through my hair, it sends me over the edge. I grab her by the waist and lift her up until she's seated on the dryer. Out of every single kiss we've ever shared, this is by far the best. I place my hands on the outside of her thighs and pull her to the edge of the dryer and she wraps her legs around me. Just as my lips meet the spot directly below her ear, she gasps and shoves against my chest.
“Eh hem,” my grandmother says, rudely interrupting one of the best moments of my life.
Lake immediately jumps off the dryer and I step back. My grandmother is standing in the doorway with her arms crossed, glaring at us. Lake straightens her shirt out and looks down at her feet, embarrassed.
“Well it’s nice to see you two made up,” my grandmother says, eyeing me disapprovingly. “Dinner is ready when you can find the time to join us at the table.” She turns and walks away.
As soon as she’s gone, I turn back to Lake and wrap my arms around her again. “Babe, I’ve missed you so bad.”
“Stop,” she says, pulling away from me. "Just stop."
Her sudden hostility is unexpected...and confusing. “What do you mean stop? You were just kissing me back, Lake."
She looks up at me, agitated. She seems disappointed in herself. "I guess I had a weak moment," she says in a mocking tone.
I recognize the phrase, and more than likely deserve her reaction.
"Lake, quit doing this to yourself. I know you love me."
She lets out a sigh as though she's unsuccessfully trying to get through to a child. “Will, I’m not struggling with whether or not I love you. It’s whether or not you really love me.” She heads into the dining room, leaving me behind in yet another laundry room.
I punch the wall, frustrated at what just happened between us. I thought for a second I finally got through to her. I don't know how much longer I can take this. She's starting to piss me off.
“This roast is delicious, Sara," Lake says to my grandmother. "You'll have to give me the recipe."
I snatch the bowl of potatoes off the table in front of me and silently seethe at the way Lake is so casually exchanging pleasantries with my grandmother. I have no appetite, but I pile on the food anyway. I know my grandmother and if I don’t eat, she’ll be offended. I scoop potatoes onto my plate, then take an exaggerated spoonful and drop them onto Lake's plate, right on top of her roast. She's seated next to me, doing her best to pretend nothing is amiss as she eyes the massive mound of potatoes in front of her. I don't know if she's putting on this fake display of happiness for my grandparent's sake or for Kel and Caulder's sake. Maybe for the sake of all of them.
"Layken, did you know Grandpaul used to be in a band?" Kel says.
"No, I didn’t. And did you just call him Grandpaul?" Lake says.
"Yeah. That's my new name for him."
"I like it," my grandfather says. "Can I call you Grandkel?"
Kel smiles and nods at him.
"Will you call me Grandcaulder?" Caulder asks.
"Sure thing, Grandcaulder," he says.
"What was the name of your band, Grandpaul?" Lake asks.
It's almost scary how good she is at putting up a front. I make a mental note to remember this little detail about her for future reference.
"Well, I was in several actually," he replies. "It was just a hobby when I was younger. I played the guitar."
"That's neat," she says. She takes a bite of her food and talks with a mouthful. "You know, Kel has always wanted to learn how to play the guitar. I've been thinking about putting him in lessons." She wipes her mouth and takes a sip of water.
"Why? You should just get Will to teach him," Grandpaul says.
Lake turns and looks at me. "I wasn't aware that Will knew how to play the guitar," she says in a somewhat accusatory tone.
I guess I've never shared this with her. It's not like I was trying to keep it from her, I just haven't played in a couple of years. Of course, I'm sure she thinks it's just another secret I've been hiding from her.
"You've never played for her?" he says to me.
I shrug. "I don't own a guitar."
Lake is still glaring at me. "This is really interesting, Will," she says sarcastically. "There sure is a lot about you I don't know."
I look at her straight faced. "Actually, Babe…there isn't. You pretty much know everything about me."
She shakes her head and places her elbows on the table and squints her eyes at me, putting on that fake smile I’m really growing to hate. "No, Sweetie. I don't think I do know everything about you.” She says this in a tone that only I could recognize as her false enthusiasm.
"I didn't know you played the guitar. I also didn't know you were getting a roommate. In fact, this ‘Reece’ seems to have been a pretty big part of your life, and you've never even mentioned him….along with a few other ‘old friends’ that have popped up recently."
I set my fork down on my plate and wipe my mouth with my napkin. Everyone at the table is staring at me, waiting for me to speak. I smile at my grandmother who seems oblivious to what's going on between Lake and I. She smiles back at me, interested in my response. I decide to raise the stakes, so I wrap my arm around Lake and pull her closer to me and kiss her on the forehead.
"You're right, Layken." I say her entire first name with her same feigned enthusiasm. I know how much it pisses her off. "I did fail to mention a few old friends from my past. I guess this means we'll just have to spend a lot more time together, getting to know every single aspect of each other's lives." I pinch her chin with my thumb and finger and smile at her as she narrows her eyes at me.
"Reece is back? He's living with us?" Caulder asks.
I nod. "He needed a place to crash for a month or so."
"Why isn't he staying with his mother?" my grandmother asks.
"She got remarried while he was overseas. He doesn't get along with his new step-dad, so he's looking for his own place," I say.
Lake leans forward in an attempt to inconspicuously remove my arm that's draped around her shoulder. Instead, I squeeze her tighter and pull my chair closer to hers. "Lake sure made a good first impression when she met Reece," I say, referring to her shirtless tantrum in my living room. "Right, Sweetie?"
She presses the heel of her boot into the top of my foot and smiles back at me. "Right," she says. She scoots her chair back and stands up. "Excuse me. I need to go to the restroom." She slaps her napkin down on the table and gives me the eye as she walks away.
Everyone else at the table is oblivious to her anger.
"You two seem to have moved past your hump from last week," my grandfather says after she's disappeared down the hallway.
"Yep. Getting along great," I say. I shove a spoonful of potatoes in my mouth.
Lake remains in the bathroom for quite a while. When she returns, she doesn't speak much. Kel, Caulder and Grandpaul talk video games while Lake and I finish our meals in silence.
"Will, can you help me in the kitchen?" my grandmother says.
My grandmother is the last person that would ask for help in the kitchen. I'm either about to change a light bulb or receive a lecture. I get up from the table and grab mine and Lake's plates and follow her through the kitchen door.
"What's that all about?" she says as I scrape food off the plates and into the disposal.
"What's what all about?" I reply.
She wipes her hands on the dish towel and leans against the counter. "She's not very happy with you, Will. I may be old, but I know a woman's scorn when I see one. Do you want to talk about it?"
She's more observant than I give her credit for.
"I guess it can't hurt at this point," I say, leaning against the kitchen counter next to her. "She's pissed at me. The whole thing with Vaughn last week left her doubting me. Now she thinks I'm with her just because I feel sorry for her and Kel."
"Why are you with her?" my grandmother asks.
"Because. I'm in love with her," I say.
"Well, I suggest you better show her," she says. She takes the rag and begins wiping down the counter.
"I have. I can't tell you how many times I've told her. I can't get it through her head. Now she wants me to leave her alone so she can think. I'm getting so frustrated; I don't know what else I can do."
My grandmother rolls her eyes at my perceived ignorance. "A guy can tell a girl he's in love with her until he's blue in the face. Words don't mean anything to a woman when her head’s full of doubt. You have to show her."
"How? What else can I do? I disabled her car so she’d have to ride here with me today. Short of stalking her, I don't know what else I can do to show her."
My pathetic confession prompts a disapproving look from her. "That's more like a good way to get yourself put in jail, not win back the heart of the girl you're in love with," she says.
"I know. It was stupid. I was desperate. I’m out of ideas."
She walks to the refrigerator and pulls out a pie. She sets in on the counter next to me and starts cutting slices. "I think the first step is for you to take some time to question just why you're in love with her, then figure out a way to relay that to her. In the meantime, you need to give her the space she needs. I'm surprised that little spectacle you just pulled at dinner didn't get you punched."