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something from the archives: chocolate velvet - part 8

after the jump, you know what to do...





Part 8

Liz got the diner job easily. It took me a week, but I found a garage willing to take me on without asking too many questions. Our cut of the cash is just enough to give us some breathing room, but we’re still going to need to find a permanent place quickly.

It’s a small town and it feels like everyone is watching us newcomers so Liz and I do our best to blend in and stay under the radar. We decide to pretend we’re engaged, and she has a ring that Max gave her on her finger.

Every time I see it I want to blow things up. But I need to remain calm. The green static will start up again if I get too agitated so I work on accepting that she’s wearing this ring as a prop. That she’s not still holding onto the dream of Max Evans. She chose to be here, with me.

I’m working on a busted radiator on a beater that probably should be sent to the junkyard instead of being patched up, but it’s not my call on how others spend their money. “Hey man,” I ask the head mechanic, “do you know of any places that might be for rent? My girl and I are settling in, and we’d like to find a place that’s more permanent.”

My boss, Dan, is a pretty chill dude. In his fifties, laconic and stoic, he’s a man of few words. He looks me up and down and says, “There’s an apartment out back. Last guy I had working here used it until he moved on. It’s small but better than a hotel room.  $400 a month with utilities included.”
I look up from the car as I tighten the cap on the radiator, “Seriously?” And looking at his placid expression, I know he’s not kidding. Clearing my throat I add, “That would be awesome. How much do you need upfront? Liz and I have some savings.”

“First and security should do it,” Dan says with a nod. “It’s empty now if you want to take a look before committing. But you can move in anytime.”

I nod my head, thinking quickly. Liz and I definitely have $800, and even if this place is a total dump between us we can do a lot to fix it up. We don’t have cell phones because we’ve been worried about being tracked, but I wonder if I can send her my thoughts. “Would you mind showing me on the next break?”

He has no problem with that and when we walk over later I see that it’s a detached building from the garage. Dan explains, “When I bought the place I wasn’t married, so I lived here. When my wife and I had kids we moved out to a house on the edge of town with a big backyard for kids and pets. But I’ve kept the place as an apartment because often new guys need a place. It’s small like I said, but it’s a decent spot to lay your head at night.”

This is probably the most words I’ve ever heard from Dan at one time. But I’m grateful for it. More than anything Liz and I need a safe place to stay. As I look around the small but clean space, I think we can make this a home. Dan excuses himself to give me some time to look around and I take the moment of solitude to focus on Liz.

“Kyle?” I hear her voice in my head and I grin. Whatever I did, worked. I quickly flash my thoughts over to her, sending her images of the apartment. I hope she can understand. “You found us a place. It’s perfect.” 

It is perfect for us. I go out and tell Dan that we’ll take it. Liz and I can have a longer conversation about it later, but this is the break we’ve been waiting for.

Kyle watches as Liz glances over his shoulders at something. She’s been doing that more and he’s not sure how he feels about it. 

Until recently their connection felt strong. But Liz has been distracted. If he’s honest with himself, he’s been distracted too. As she bustles over to attend to another set of customers, Kyle turns to see what Liz was staring at. 

At a table in the corner, Max Evans; his sister, Isabel; and Michael Guerin are seated talking about something. The three friends have always been on the social fringes at school. Surprising only because Isabel looks like a cheerleader and ultimate popular girl. She is the one who blends in the most, but Max and Michael are both loners. 

With a rush of jealousy, Kyle recognizes the allure of someone like that. Dark and mysterious. Even he isn’t entirely immune from feeling curious about the three friends. But he and Liz have a history. And that has to mean more. Doesn’t it?

When Liz’s hand touches his arm to call his attention he flinches away from her. He’s upset and she sees it, but she doesn’t ask him what’s wrong. 

They’re splintering apart and they both know it. 

Liz licks her lips and asks, “Kyle?” her voice tentative. 

He’s not sure what she is going to say. He’s not sure he wants to hear it. So he shakes his head and replies, “I’ve got to go.” He leans forward as if to give her a kiss, but hesitates and settles for a wave. 

Holding on too tightly won’t work. He’s already been left by someone he loves and he knows that it’s like clutching at sand. You can’t keep someones love if they don’t want to give it. He’d thought with Liz he’d found his forever, but the truth is they’re young. Life happens. He walks out of the Crashdown feeling like grains of sand are spilling out of his skin. 

Liz watches him leave with her heart in her throat. She can’t explain what’s happening between them. Every day it feels like the gulf between them stretches wider. And she can’t stop fixing her gaze on one Max Evans. There’s something about him that intrigues her. And the crushing guilt she feels about these disloyal thoughts aren’t enough to stop her interest. 

She’s pretty sure Kyle knows. 

“This is exactly what we need, Kyle? Did you tell him yes?” Liz asks excitedly as she whirls around the room in our new apartment. I had told him yes, but that I’d wanted Liz to come see it. He’d agreed to that readily enough. When we came back I’d brought the money to claim the place as ours, so he’s already handed us the keys and told us to move in any time.

I show her the key and she squeals and jumps into my arms. I lock them around her slight form and twirl her around. When I stop we’re looking into each other’s eyes in an embrace that reminds me of the past. I’m about to set her loose when her arms tighten around my neck, “Kyle?” she whispers.
I groan. This is what I want after all. Liz in my arms. Liz looking at me with love and hope and yearning in her chocolate velvet eyes. I’m so fucked.

I should be a gentleman.

“Kiss me.” she demands.

And my breath catches, “What?” I ask hoarsely.

“Kiss me.”

I don’t think about it. I can’t. She wants me and I want her. I can’t deny it any longer. The nights we’ve been here, sharing a bed, have been pure torture. Liz has always been my dream girl. I let her go once, I don’t think I will be able to do it again.

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