Kai and Paisley are kissing, Cody interrupts them, annoying Kai. Paisley fusses at Kai, saying that Cody is jealous of them. His crass comment that at least Cody isn’t getting laid either, makes her jab him in the ribs.
“Sorry, what did I say?”
“It’s the whole attitude I object to. You’re being a cocky son-of-a-bitch, and I don’t like it.”
“I’m sorry. It’s a guy thing, babe. When there’s a beautiful woman around that one’s laid claim to and another one wants….”
“Laid claim? I’m property now? I’m not an object to fight over, Kai! I’m a person!”
“Paisley, I know that! I didn’t mean it that way. Of course you’re not an object.”
He took her gently by the elbows. She tried to jerk away, but he pulled her into an embrace.
“I’m sorry. I screwed up, and I’ve upset you. Forgive me for being a dumb guy, huh? You’re amazing and beautiful. Sometimes I forget what you’ve been through. And I don’t think about what he was like. Please don’t judge me by his standards, cause I swear I’m not like that. I’d never treat you like a possession.”
“What did you mean by laid claim, then?”
Kai sighed, flinging out his arms as he tried to explain. “Not like that. Men get very territorial, especially with women. Those with manners, will respect that this woman, or that, is off limits because there’s a designated interest. If I like you, and I show that I like you, say it, claim you, as it were…. It’s a way of showing how much I care about you. Other guys will back off.”
Paisley gave him a level stare, waiting for more. Kai didn’t have more. He wished he did, but he didn’t.
“Do you understand? It’s like with me. You’ve shown your preference, so other girls should back off, and give you your space.”
“Should?” She raised an unfriendly eyebrow. “Should.” Crossed arms and angry eyes greeted him.
“I have women coming onto me constantly, because of what I do. But once they know I’m attached, most of them back off.”
“But not all?”
“Like guys, there are some girls who don’t take no for an answer…. Babe, why are we arguing? I don’t wanna fight.”
Paisley didn’t know why she was arguing. What he’d said or how he’d said it—something had struck her wrong. She was furious and upset. She wanted to scream and cry. Mostly, she wanted to run away from her chaotic emotions. Suddenly in tears, she ran from him, stumbling over the uneven ground. Kai followed her, calling her name, but she only ran faster. A sprinkler head that hadn’t gone all the way back down, caught her toes as she ran blindly past. Tripping, she went headlong, landing hard on her side. Kai was with her in an instant.
“Paisley! Babe, are you okay? Cody!” he bellowed for his brother.
Gasping and sobbing, Paisley lay on the ground as Kai did an assessment. Cody joined him, then ran back for the first aid kit and wheelchair. Kai’s hands trembled as he checked for broken bones.
His mother joined him, her face full of concern. “Is she okay?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know!” Kai felt unfamiliar panic rising.
“Kai, look at me,” Nina said calmly. “You can do this. You know what you’re doing. Forget it’s Paisley, and check. Deep breath.”
He did what she said and started again. “Nothing’s broken, but she could have some fractures. She’s bruised, got a nasty laceration across her toes…. I can drive her to the hospital.”
“I’ll take her. I need you here. We’ve got people coming. You lead class, and Cody can sit on the tower.”
“Me? I don’t know anything…. Get one of the aerobics instructors….”
“They’ve got their own jobs to do.”
“My notes—are in my bag….” Paisley grimaced in pain as Cody and Kai lifted her into Nina’s car. “The iPod has the music…. I’m sorry. I’m so….”
“So am I. It’s okay.” Kai kissed her gently. “I’ll see you soon.”
He closed the door carefully and his mother pulled out of the parking lot. Paisley’s pale face showed clearly as they drove away. He felt horrible. His actions had made her run. He’d upset her, scared her somehow, that he didn’t quite understand. He’d never had a woman run away like that, and it upset him, too.
Digging through Paisley’s bag, he found her notes and iPod. Cody climbed the tower and Kai took his place on the pool deck, smiling at the group. They gazed up at him with curiosity from the water.
“Paisley had a fall,” he announced. “She’s okay, but Nina took her to the hospital, just to be sure. So I’m gonna be your instructor today.”
Mr. Sims booed playfully, swatting water at him. Kai pretended to glare, pointing at the older man.
“Just for that, you get laps after class, Mister!”
“Yeah, yeah! You’d like to try. Let’s get this class going, buddy. Chop chop!” He chopped the water for added effect.
Kai set up the music and started the warm-up. Class was going well until about halfway through. There was always a small group of people who chatted instead of exercising. There were four women and one man, who flirted with them all. They seemed to think that because it was Kai in charge instead of Paisley, they could talk even more. They got louder and more annoying, to the point where one of the women in the class spoke to them.
“Hey, could you guys keep it down, please? I can’t hear him.”
“Why, you wearing a turtleneck?” The one man in the bunch, who was probably in his sixties, responded.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes