Paisley tells Kai more about her background, and why she ran away.
“We usually eat in the kitchen,” Nina explained. “But it’s so nice to have company, I thought we’d eat out here. This is my husband, Brad. Honey, this is the girl I told you about, Paisley.”
“Hi, Paisley. Nice to finally meet you. Nina’s talked about little else since she took your class the other day. How was your first day?”
“It was good, thanks. Everyone’s made me feel so at home.” Paisley’s lip trembled. She looked like she was going to have another meltdown.
Kai pulled out a chair for her, helping her get settled at the table, before sliding into the one next to her. Cody, who usually sat in that place, looked miffed. Kai flashed him a look to keep his mouth shut. His brother sat across from them instead.
“This is cool, having another girl here, huh, Mom? Usually the guys outnumber us,” Tempest explained. “And you can cut the testosterone with a knife!”
Paisley giggled. “I bet that’s a problem sometimes.”
“Do you have brothers?”
“Sure don’t. Just only me. As brothers go, yours aren’t so bad.”
“That’s because you’re not their sister. Absolutely no boys want to talk to me at school, for fear Cody will pound them. And none of them will ask me out, for fear of Kai. I swear, I’m never gonna get married.”
“Maybe they’ll lighten up when you get older.”
“Yeah, that’ll happen,” she laughed, rolling her eyes.
“My sons have made a pact to protect their sister from the predatory males of the world,” Brad said, spooning out potatoes.
“Every man on the face of the earth, he means,” Cody explained. “I don’t care who he is, or how old he is, every guy is looking to sc…. Ouch!”
Kai had kicked his brother under the table.
“Twatwaffle, you didn’t have to kick me!” Cody rubbed the wounded shin tenderly.
“Cody Simon Beecher, you watch your language, young man! That earned you clean up duty!” His mother scolded. “Did you teach him that?” she accused Kai.
“No, ma’am. Don’t believe I’ve ever used that word in my life.” He tried to look innocent, knowing full well Cody had learned that word from him, and he’d said it only last week.
“Liar!” Cody threw his napkin across the table at his brother.
Kai caught it, tossing it back. “Behave like a human, please.”
“If you weren’t taking Paisley home, I’d make you help him,” their mother said.
“He could help, and you could take her home,” Tempest suggested.
“Thanks, Knee-Britches. Keep your suggestions to yourself,” Kai fussed.
Tempest stuck her tongue out at him. He made a grab for it, nearly snagging the tip.
“Keep that in your mouth, kid.”
“Or… I’m not gonna say at the table. Behave, huh? What’s Paisley gonna think? You’re a couple barbarians?”
Paisley honestly didn’t know what to think. She’d never been around a family like this—ever. It was shocking, and refreshing all at once. She quite liked the verbal sparring and insults they hurled at one another. Obviously, though it didn’t exactly sound like it, they loved one another a great deal.
Once dinner was over, Kai helped clear the table, and rinsed dishes as Tempest put food away. Cody loaded the dishwasher. They wouldn’t let Paisley help, even though she offered.
“Next time,” Nina assured her. “Tonight you’re a guest. Next time, you’re family.”
Paisley’s lip trembled again, but she managed to keep from crying. Nina put her arm around the young woman’s slender shoulders, hugging gently.
“Oh, honey—what kind of life have you had that a simple thing like that…. You precious, tender spirit….”
Paisley burst into tears, this time clinging to Nina. The two women cried for a few minutes. Kai and Brad wanted to comfort them, but didn’t really know what to do. It was Tempest who took it in hand. She went to them, putting her arms around them both, hugging. She didn’t say a word, her presence was enough. They stopped crying soon after. Nina kissed Tempest on the head and Paisley hugged her.
It was after 9:00 when Kai took Paisley home. Her apartment was in a questionable part of town. It wasn’t quite disreputable, but a couple blocks further down, it was. Kai didn’t like the idea of leaving her there alone, but he wasn’t in a position to offer alternatives.
“Want coffee or something? Thanks to your mom, I’ve got some.”
“I’d love some.” Kai carried the groceries as Paisley unlocked the door.
The apartment was small and cramped, but cozy. She’d decorated with second hand cast offs, but somehow it all came together, looking like a real home.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes