Chapter 6: Little runaway
When Kat woke up in Kevin’s arms, it was late morning, and the sunlight streaming in the room was bright.
Kevin was still asleep, his breath soft on the back of her neck. "Gods, he really is so beautiful,’ she thought as she slipped out of his embrace. She was strongly attracted to him, but she had to admit that the immediate spark she had felt when she met him was not the same as the one she had felt when she met Howie. Despite this, she had started down a path where she couldn’t conceive of a life with either of them in it. After only four days!
Her rational side decided that this was an unnatural dependence. She needed to remove herself from this situation. It was distracting her from the real things she needed to work out. Quietly she gathered her things, and once done, sat down and drew a sheet of paper out of the hotel desk. She wrote swiftly, glancing at Kevin occasionally to ensure that he still slept. She left the note on the pillow next to him and slipped silently from the room.
When Kevin woke he was somewhat disoriented to find himself somewhere other than his familiar bedroom. He was also disappointed, once he remembered where he was, to find the room deserted. He listened intently for a moment, thinking Kat may just be in washroom, but the silence was deafening.
"Damn," he muttered as he sat up. Then seeing the note, he opened it quickly.
Last night was … confusing. I am not sure if what you say is true. I mean about Howie. But what you said about me "running away" is, unfortunately, about to be true.
Kev, let’s face it. I am not what either you or Howie need. As I was saying last night, I am not even sure who I am right now. That’s what I need to find out.
So I am taking off (again) to spend some time trying to get my head together. Kevin, please don’t come after me this time. Please respect my privacy. (Remember I know where you live and I can have it all over the internet quickly… just kidding).
I do mean it though. DON’T come after me. I really need this time alone. I promise I’ll call before I go home – just to let you know I am okay.
As for Howie. Maybe we are meant for each other. Maybe not. Whatever, it will have to wait. It is a risk I need to take.
Do me a favour though. Kick AJ in the butt for me. Then forgive him. He was hurting last night and lashed out at an easy target. So he’s human.
He had just finished reading it when there was a brusque knock on the door.
"Yes?" he called out; hoping that Kat had changed her mind and come back.
He sighed. "Just a sec." He got up, trying to straighten his wrinkled clothes. "Shouldn’t have slept in them," he thought. Then remembered watching Kat after she had fallen asleep, and decided he had made the right decision…the temptation had been too great. He opened the door, admitting the maid.
‘Thanks. I was just leaving."
The seaside restaurant was starting to fill up, or at least the patio was. Kat noticed it almost subconsciously and finished her sandwich. She should be heading out soon.
The last few days had been good. She had finally stopped looking over her shoulder, afraid she’d see Kevin there. She had started to relax, though not forget.
So she had concentrated, as much as she could on other things. Her surfing had improved. She still couldn’t balance standing up, but had developed good control over the board when lying on it or even kneeling. She had even gotten in some snorkelling. And reading, lots of reading. She loved to read – mostly mysteries and science fiction – as they said, "reality is for those who have no imagination." She had discovered a great second-hand bookshop that had several of her favourite authors.
She had also done a lot of thinking. Her job wasn’t working out. She loved her co-workers and even the work itself. Most days. But it wasn’t satisfying her. So she decided to look for other opportunities – actually look not just say she would. And to guard her free time more jealously. No more endless weekends at the office. She was going to write! Write anything – short stories, plays, even one of those silly romance thingies, like the one she was reading right now. It wasn’t supposed to be – the jacket had called it a "terse tale of intergalactic tension." Yeah right.
"Is this seat taken?" a voice said beside her.
Kat didn’t even raise her head, just waved a hand indicating that it was okay to take it away. But instead of taking it away to another table, as had happened to the other chairs at her table, the man sat down across from her.
She looked across at him quizzically, then realized that under the dark sunglasses and the baseball hat was…
"Shh. Not so loud. I don’t want to be mobbed,’ he replied.
"What are you…"
"Actually I was looking for you."
Kat bristled, "look, I asked you guys not to bother me."
"No, you asked KEVIN not to bother. I am not Kevin."
"Yeah, I noticed," Kat muttered. She was sure that he could hear the beating of her heart, even across the table. Lord knows it was echoing in her ears.
"Good. You finished?" he said gesturing to her plate. "Then we are out of here," he said as he threw some money on the table, grabbed her hand and pulled her out of the restaurant.
"Hey," Kat protested, trying to regain control.
"Nope. You and I and going to talk and I want to do it in private." He pulled her along the path, then onto the beach. Finding a spot he liked, he dropped down on the sand, pulling her down with him.
Kat pulled her hand from his and moved a little bit away. "So what did you want to talk about?" she asked nervously.
"First: AJ was a jerk and he’s sorry."
"You told Kevin to forgive him so I figured you had."
Kat remembered saying that in the note she had left – and what else she had said. "Kevin showed you my note?"
"No. Said it was private," Howie replied, once again biting back the surge of jealousy he felt. "But he did read me that part."
"You should call him. He’s really worried."
"I told him I’d call before I left."
Howie cocked his head and looked at her. "Not good enough."
"Look, I know Kev can be a worrywart, and that you two just met, but I have never seen him open up to a person as quickly as he did to you. I know you had other things to work out and didn’t want, what did he call it Backstreet Boy-illness…"
"Itis," Kat corrected him, smiling softly.
"Right. So maybe it is because the guys and I have practically lived out of each other’s pockets for years, but we always solve problems together. You could have asked for his advice."
"These are my problems, not his."
"Friends help friends. And you helped him with Kelly. He really wants to return the favour."
Kat sighed, "I am used to doing things on my own. I live alone, tend to do solitary things. Hell, I even like to go to movies alone. I just usually work out my problems by myself."
"You don’t talk to a friend. I mean when you are at home?" Howie asked incredulously.
Kat turned away sadly. "I don’t have any."
He looked shocked.
"Look, I moved to a new city a few years ago. I only know people from work. All my hobbies are solitary, and even the ones that aren’t, I just seem to make acquaintances. I had a best friend, but we grew apart a few months ago. I’ve become the type of person I was always afraid I’d be. Someone who would die and no one would notice." Kat bit back tears, then laughed, trying to make the mood light, "except my cat of course."
"I didn’t realize…"
"Dammit," Kat said getting up. "What is it about Backstreet Boys that I end up spilling all these things."
He grabbed her hand before she could turn away, and removed his glasses, looking up into her eyes. "Are ‘these things’ the truth?" he asked softly.
Kat wanted to pull away. This conversation had gotten way too deep way too fast, But she just looked into his deep brown, guileless eyes and nodded yes.
"That’s probably why. We like the truth." He patted the sand next to him, and Kat sat down. He put his arm around her and gave her a quick hug.
"Okay. Here’s how it is going to be," he said decisively. "Kevin is your new best friend, and that is that. You can still go to movies alone, but no more thinking you wouldn’t be missed. And no more running away. Got a problem let us help. Get that?"
Kat laughed, "okay."
They sat there in companionable silence for a few minutes before Kat finally got the courage to ask, "Howie?"
"If Kev’s my best friend…what are you?’
"Umm. Second best friend? Official stand-in? Designated alternate? Second banana?"
"Sidekick? Understudy?" he kept going, then turned and looked at her," But I’d really like to be more."
Kat’s mouth went dry and she buried her hands in the sand to keep them from shaking. ‘Howie…"
"Remember? Honesty," he said, gulping back his own nervousness.
"Fine. I’d really like that," Kat said quickly, then barrelled on, "but I go home the day after tomorrow and I am not a holiday fling kind of person."
She was afraid he would be disappointed, but instead he wrapped his arms and whispered in her ear, "good. Then I can spend a bit of time getting to know you now, and lots of time later. I’m not in a hurry and I think you are worth it."
Kat felt tears pricking in her eyes again. "Thank you," she said, kissing his cheek.
"No, thank you for giving me a chance." He hugged her again. "Okay, so here’s the deal. You can spend the rest of the afternoon finishing that book you were so interested in. But as of 6 p.m. you are having dinner with me, and then you are going to have to suffer through seeing a movie with someone one. Got it?"
"Yes, sir," Kat chuckled, giving him a mock salute.
"That’s the way it should be. I am finally getting some respect," he laughed. "Then, tomorrow, your are coming to a barbecue with me as my date."
"Umm…" Kat started to feel nervous again.
"No backing out. It is at Brian’s and you are coming," he said sternly
‘Let’s just see if we survive tonight first," she suggested.
"All right," he relented. "But it will be so good you won’t want to leave me alone."
Kat laughed, certain that he was right.