“Twisting paths always cross again, and whose paths are more twisted than ours?”-Neal Shusterman
San Myshuno Spire Apartments Penthouse
Drowsily, Caitlin stumbled down the stairs. She might be a vampire, but was young and trained on a mortal sleep schedule rather than the occasional intense coma-like slumber most vampires preferred, and the party last night, commemorating the successful finish to a long-planned and stressful high fashion show, had worn her out.
She smelled coffee and heard someone in the kitchen, assumed it was Leeora as she just loved parties and despite being the only mortal among the three friends, she was the party animal, was constantly going out, meeting people, drinking, and seemed able to just shake it all off by morning, while Heath and Caitlin dragged after each party they attended.
“There better be coffee …” mumbled Caitlin, as she yawned and stepped off the last stair of the brand-new stairwell of the meanwhile almost fully remodeled penthouse, finally accommodating all their tastes. Cait’s parents had been impressed with her maturity, her grades had not suffered, she had proven herself so they bought the place and gave her a carte blanche to make it into a real home she, Heath and Leeora would enjoy.
The kitchen came into view now, but Caitlin winced when she noticed it was a man, wearing only boxers, in her kitchen, doing what seemed like making breakfast.
“Excuse me? Who are you?”
The man halted, then turned slowly, before both of them froze.
“This can’t be!” Caitlin exclaimed.
“What are you doing in my kitchen, KC?!” Caitlin sounded as mortified as she felt.
“YOUR kitchen? It’s my date from last night’s kitchen and she told me this was all right. What are YOU doing here?!”
“OH MY GOD – you are banging Leeora!? Oh no! Have you no shame or boundaries?! She’s my cousin!”
“WHAT?! Oh jeeze. You know what, who cares? Fuck you, Cait. I mean it, seriously, go fuck yourself!” he said, his words full of disdain, as he took the plate and headed upstairs. Caitlin wanted to follow him, but her legs wouldn’t work.
“NO FOOD UPSTAIRS!!!” she yelled, then felt like a moron. Really?! Like that mattered now.
Wondering how to handle the situation, Caitlin stood in the kitchen, discombobulated, when Leeora came down.
“Good morning Cait. Have you met him yet? Oh, I can tell by your face that you have. You are welcome for that view! Ha ha ha. Isn’t he something?! Sorry about the surprise thing, I meant to warn you but when I saw him come back upstairs with his breakfast I kinda figured I was a bit late. Oh my god, isn’t he handsome! Oh, he is so many things. Total chance encounter, I wasn’t even looking for a date, but changed my mind when he walked in. Am I glad I am not shy! I swear I won the lottery! He is perfect, I think he’s a keeper! A real man, not a wimpy, boring, lame dude. He takes risks, is super-funny, brave – oh, did I mention he has a motorcycle! Cait, have you ever ridden on the back of one of those things? Like flying. And holding on to that man while the world flies past, oh Caitie, shit is finally happening for me. I am crazy-happy! I forgot what that felt like. Come, you gotta really meet him, I’ll introduce you. Come!” Leeora was so excited, Caitlin was so shocked, she wasn’t sure what to say or think.
Like a ragdoll, Caitlin let Leeora drag her up the stairs and to her room door, which she opened dragging Caitlin with her. Oblivious to the hesitance, Leeora was way too excited.
“Caitlin, this is KC. The most amazing man ever. KC, this is one of my roomies, Caitlin. She is the best cousin and friend a girl could ask for! Yeah, we don’t look it, but we are actually related. There is one more roommate, but you likely won’t even meet him, or if, just in passing. He’s not a people person. A bit … weird.”
“Oh, I bet he is! Hi Caitlin. So nice to ‘meet‘ you.” KC grinned, she felt transparent and angry and just knew he knew the other roommate was Heath.
“Ah, yeah, likewise. And the other roommate is NOT weird. Just the quiet type.”
“Yup, I am sure he is.” KC mumbled.
And there he sat now, in Leeora’s room, just a wall away from Caitlin’s room, KC McCoy, chuckling, looking like the personification of every teenage girl’s dream, while Caitlin could barely take her eyes of his exposed torso. He was so grown up. And so tan. Something she would never be, unless it were for fake tans.
“I … ahem …. need coffee. See ya.” Caitlin rushed out, kicking herself for sounding so idiotic.
Instead of to the kitchen, she went straight into Heath’s room, without knocking, catching him coming out of the shower, barely able to cover himself with a towel, as he stared at her startled.
“What the hell happened to knocking, Cait?! Is there a fire?”
“Worse. A KC. He’s here. In this penthouse. Like LITERALLY next door to your room!”
“What? How did he find you? Doesn’t matter, I’ll get rid of him.”
“No, don’t! I gets worse yet. Leeora never really met him back when he and I … ya know, she doesn’t know that … you know. And she met him somewhere last night and now she is all over him. I think she’s in love with him. The way she introduced us, she was … so … Heath, she’s got it bad for him.”
“In love after one night? Doubt it. He didn’t tell her about you?”
“No. And I didn’t either. It just felt too weird and honestly, I was paralyzed. Maybe it doesn’t really matter, it was years ago, right? So, I need you to not say anything. With a little luck, it just fizzles out and he just – poof – goes away again. But I have never seen her so excited and happy. I cannot take that from her by telling her. She needs that high she’s on right now after all the crap she’s been through. I cannot take that from her.”
“Letting it ride, so her high becomes a serious low again when he does to her what he did to you? Not sure that’s the way to go. Don’t you remember how he left you feeling?”
“Well, hopefully he changed for the better. His looks definitely have … no wonder Leeora’s drooling so hard.”
Heath’s face darkened.
“Are you keeping him around for her, or for yourself? Caitlin, just … don’t.”
“What? I am not. Oh god, I am not. You know me better!”
“Do I though? Here I was thinking that chapter was closed for good, yet, you sure seem to have your panties in a bunch over him. And since when are you THAT close with Leeora that you would deal with him around, just for her sake. I call bullshit, Cait.”
“Asshole!” Caitlin felt caught, blushed, then ran out, Heath after her, still in just a towel, and since coincidence loved nothing more than humiliation, just as Leeora and KC were leaving her room.
Everyone froze in place, Cait and Heath blushed deeply, KC had an undefinable expression on his face before he roared laughing when Leeora burst into laughter as well.
“Ha ha ha – oopsie. Busted, you two! KC, meet my other roommate, the Q-Tip over there is Heath, don’t look straight at him without wearing sunglasses or the bright white of his skin will blind you. Hahaha. Come on KC, let’s unweird this a little. Hahahaha”
With a headshake, still chuckling, he followed her down the stairs, where Heath and Caitlin heard muffled giggles, indicating they were probably making out.
“Oh. My. God. Kill me now!” Caitlin said.
“At least you’re not the one almost naked here and got publicly humiliated for it. Thanks much for your help – NOT. Guess you didn’t want to look bad in front of someone, and that someone is not me.”
“Sorry Heath, I should have said something. It’s just super-weird and I was in shock. It’s not what you think, just … argh.”
“How would you know what I am thinking? You haven’t the first idea, Cait, I guarantee you.”
“Fine, then share.”
“Okay. I think, you are still hung up on something that will break you again, like it did before, but this time, it’s also out of reach because of Leeora, until it isn’t, which would create an even bigger mess if you tried to change that in your favor, screwing things up between you and Leeora for all eternity. THAT’s only the beginning of what I think.”
“I am not a homewrecking hoe, Heath, thank you very much!”
“Normally no, but the way you just stared at him, and then acted like THIS, I am not so sure here.”
“You’re an idiot! And put on some clothes, nobody wants to see THAT!” Caitlin hissed, then ran into her room, slamming the door.
“Tell me something I don’t know.” mumbled Heath, then returned to his room.
Cait felt guilty almost instantly. Yikes. What the hell was happening? Poor Heath. That was so mean of her. Oh boy. She had to fix this. NOW! She left her room and knocked on Heath’s door.
“I am changing. Just a minute!” he called from inside.
Caitlin reached for the doorhandle, then just opened it heartily, catching Heath off guard, scrambling for decency, he grabbed his towel off the floor and tried to cover up best he could.
“Caitlin get out!”
Caitlin shook her head, then stepped towards Heath and ripped the clothing he had been trying to put on from his hands, exposing him back to his towel, while she put her hands on his bare chest.
“I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to be a bitch to you!” she told him.
“Okay, can you be sorry in the hall for just a minute or so? I’d really like to finish getting dressed and dust off what’s left of my busted confidence here.”
“You don’t have to cover up. You’re handsome. I am an idiot and was just being mean, but I didn’t mean to be mean. You look great, Heath.”
“Ah … thanks, I think? Cait, you are acting seriously weird.”
Caitlin started undoing her robe, then attempted to pull the nightshirt over her head, when Heath quickly stopped her, pulled her clothes back as they were, the travesty ended with him dragging her out of his room, locking the door behind her.
“Not like this, Cait. We’ll talk, I’ll be right out.”
Crying, she ran into her room, dropping to the floor by her bed, feeling rejected and confused, when Heath entered. He had knocked a few times, which she ignored, sobbing, then tried to pull away from him when he tried to put his arm around her. Unlike his usual timidness, he prevailed eventually, surprisingly strong, until she cried into his shoulder.
“I am sorry, Caitie. I didn’t mean to hurt you, but that wasn’t going down a good path for either of us.”
“So, you just don’t like me like that? I am not your type? Or are you … like … gay?””
“Caitlin, stop! You are confused because of KC. You still have unresolved issues with him, and I was just the lightning rod. I don’t want that for either of us, both of us deserve better than some frust-hump.”
Caitlin burst into laughter.
“What did you just say?” she giggled between seizing tears.
“Well, you got a better word for that nonsense?” he chuckled too.
“No. I am sorry Heath. You’re right. I am dumbass.”
“At least you’re a dumbass with a good ass, as your dad would say now.”
Caitlin laughed harder, then leaned into Heath more.
“I am really sorry I almost frust-humped you. You really do deserve a LOT better than desperation nookie, Heath.”
“So do you. And that is NOT going to be KC McCoy, Caitie. Okay?”
“Okay okay, I got it. You’re right, unresolved issues here. I admit it. But it’s not what you think, Heath. I swear I don’t love him. It’s just, we never officially broke up, and the way it ended … I just never thought I’d ever see him again and then all this? And I mean, you have to admit, this is totally nuts – and he is crazy-easy on the eye.”
“I have to admit nothing like that. I am definitely not gay then, cos all I see when looking at him is a giant piece of used toilet paper. Not anything drool-worthy for either you or me.”
“So, what do I do, Heath? Tell Leeora?”
“I think it’s probably too late for that now. That should have happened right away, if not you, he should have said something. If you do it now, it may come across funny. So, I guess just let it ride. Not sure what to root for. If he uses her, she’ll be destroyed, if not, we have him in our faces all the time. Neither sounds too thrilling.” he got up, held out his hand to her, she took it and with just a little gesture he had pulled her up to standing.
“When exactly did you get so ripped?”
“Probably while you were busy staring at other boys or pining after KC. Blame your dad. He dragged me to the gym with him telling me no girl wants to date a dude who looks like he can’t even hold up his phone without falling over.”
“Go dad! Is it weird that I want to take your shirt off and look again?”
“Very weird, my shirt stays on, I had all the naked-time in front of an audience I can handle for today. I think you are just caffeine-deprived, after a cup or two that feeling will pass. Ready to face the beast downstairs again to make it to the coffeemaker and watch them make out all day long, hoping that is all they do outside her room?”
“Oh god, yikes! That will take more coffee than we have, I think.”
“How about I take you out for our morning coffee then to that cafe in the Fashion District where you like the view – and it happens to be architecture and not men.”