Read To the Steadfast Online

Authors: Briana Gaitan

To the Steadfast (8 page)

BOOK: To the Steadfast
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“Almost seventeen,” I
correct.

“Barely an adult,” he
says with a disapproving look. “Killian, you are twenty-years-old. I’m not sure
a relationship between the two of you is appropriate for our family image.”

Killian drops his fork
on the plate. A loud clank resonates through the room, filling the
uncomfortable silence. “We’re just friends, Dad.”

“Then this conversation
is over.”

Killian glances my way,
mentally apologizing for his father’s behavior. I take a bite of my food and
chew in silence until something hits me in the cheek and falls on my plate. I
look down to see a huge black olive staring up at me.
Gross.

Both our parents stop
midchew as another olive falls in my lap.

Horrified, I look at
Killian, who has plastered an innocent look on his face. I pull a piece of my
croissant off and chuck it back at him.

“Ouch!” Killian holds
his hand over his right eye. “You got me right in the ball!”

I answer by sticking my
tongue out at him. “You know I hate olives.”

“Children!” my mother
exclaims, pounding one fist on the table. Our giggles halt immediately.

Beneath the table,
Killian’s leg nudges mine.

 “Dad, are you sleeping
with Cody’s mom?” he asks.

His father chokes on
his food, almost turning blue before taking a drink of his water. “Okay, this
dinner is over. Killian, get back to the house now.” He rises and throws a napkin
on his plate before walking from the room.

 “Please don’t go,” my
mother calls out to the Senator, but he doesn’t stop.

Killian stands and
pretends to look perplexed. “I didn’t expect him to get so upset. Guess I’m
never going to be invited to another dinner party again.” He hangs his head in
shame, but I can detect a smirk hidden in the shadows. “Later, Cody. Sorry I
didn’t get to try your lovely baby cow, Mrs. Lombardi.”

“Traitor,” I mouth as
he walks away, leaving me alone with the monster.

 

I twirl in front of
the mirror and hike my short dress up a little more.
Picking up my phone, I dial Violet’s number.

“Hello?”

“I’m having second
thoughts about this orange dress. I mean, who wears orange to a prom anyway?”

“The orange was way
hot, but like I said. This whole prom thing is stupid anyways. I can’t believe
you’re going.”

“Don’t be jealous,” I
tease. 

The doorbell rings.

“Is Mischa going to be
at the bonfire?” The entire after party will be mainly seniors and juniors, so
it’s a possibility.

“I don’t know. He’s
been pretty busy.”

“I noticed he’s been
out of school.” I try to make everything come out natural, but it’s hard.

“Yeah, things have
been…not good. I’ll tell you more about it later.”

The doorbell rings
again.

“Killian’s here. Gotta
go.” I hang up and grab my purse. No more than a second passes before I hear
Killian calling my name from outside my window. I push it open and stick my
head out.

“Why are you screaming?
I have a front door.”

He pops the collar on
his white suit and spins around. “I feel like I’m reliving high school. I don’t
like this.”

“Why not? You were Mr.
Popular. Everyone loved you.”

“I have a surprise.
Come over when you’re ready.”

“Your dad isn’t home?”

“Senate, remember? How
about your mom?”

“Gone, too.”

“Awesome. Hurry up.
I’ll be inside waiting.”

“I’m coming, I’m
coming.” I shut my window and slip into my heels before heading downstairs.

I walk across my front
yard to Killian’s front porch and let myself in.

“Killian?”

“In here!”

I follow the sound of
his voice into the kitchen where he stands in front of a small table set with
candles and flowered china. There’s an intimacy in the air, probably from the
dim lighting. No one’s ever gone all out like this before. Killian has his
digital camcorder in his hand, pointed straight at me. A little camera shy, I
cover my face.

“Why are you filming
me?”

He makes a slight bow
before pulling out my chair. “Prom comes but once in a lifetime.”

“It’s junior prom, not
senior prom.”

“Nonetheless, these are
the years that shape your memories, and I want to make sure you have some good
ones.”

“You’re a good friend,
Killian. Thanks.”

He picks up a camera
and puts one arm around my shoulder as he pulls me close for a selfie.

“Say cheese.”

I smile as the camera clicks
a few times. He sits and hands me a basket of French bread.

“Looks good.” I take a
bite of my lasagna. “You know, I bet most parents are taking pictures of their
daughters before prom.”

“We don’t have most
parents. I think my dad gave me a box of condoms before prom and told me not to
get anyone impregnated. You know, before election.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, he didn’t even
get me magnum sized, so I had to toss them.”

“You jerk!” I cover a
smile but wonder if he’s joking or not. Killian is a tall guy, so it’s
practical to think he might have bigger than average male parts.

“I’ve been called
worse.”

The rest of dinner goes
by fast, and before I know it, we’re walking into the school. It’s dark and
decorated with cheesy streamers and balloons. All the excitement I’ve built up
is diminished as I realize this is just another dance; nothing life-changing is
going to happen tonight.

 Violet jumps next to
me as we walk toward the food.

“Looky at my dress,”
she says. “Got it for a real steal. A five finger discount.”

 She spins around to
show a dangerously low cut back. It’s orange, just like mine. A bit of anger
surges through me. She knew orange was the color of my dress and just had to
show up looking better.

Swallowing my emotions,
I say, “I thought you weren’t coming.”

“I’m kind of seeing
this guy and he invited me like half an hour ago. His date got sick or
something.” She lowers her voice. “I have something for you.” She looks at
Killian and extends a hand. “Hi, I’m Violet.”

“Killian Carmike.”

“The senator’s son, of
course. Nice to meet you.”

He puts on that
sickening sweet Killian charm. “You, too.”

Violet snakes an arm
around me, a wide grin never leaving her face. “We have to go to the bathroom.
Be right back.”

When we are out of
earshot, she hisses in my ear. “Tell me you are sleeping with him.”

“Oh, gross. We’re
friends.”

“Well, you need to.
He’s hot. He’s got that cute baby face and those eyes!”

“He’s cute, but I’m not
interested in him.”

“I have an early
birthday present.” She holds up a small blue pill and waves it in my face.

“What? Is that Viagra?”

“No, stupid. It’s
ecstasy. Compliments of my date.”

I push it away. “No,
thanks.”

She forces it into my
mouth. “I’m not going to roll alone. Now swallow.”

Giving in to her peer
pressure, and the need to try everything once. I swallow and give her a smile
that says “Happy?”

“Now, I want to dance
and dance!”

She grabs my arm and
drags me back into the gym where I find Killian and pull him along with me onto
the dance floor.

 

I’m hot
.That’s the thought
that wakes me up. I’m so hot, and I can’t breathe. Opening my eyes, I find
naked arms and legs strewn across me. 

“Ugh!” I cry out,
moving away from the bodies and rolling off the bed. Violet and a guy I’ve
never been introduced to but have seen at parties are both on the bed naked. I
have on my bra and panties, thankfully. Killian sits in the corner of the room
with his head slumped over. He’s still in his suit.

“Killian?” I hiss.
“Killian.”

He groans a little
before lifting his head. “You’re awake.”

“Yeah, and I have no
idea how we got here.” I remember bits and pieces about last night, but it
feels like a dream.

“You and Violet danced
all night, and when prom was over you wanted to dance more so you offered up
your house.”

That’s right. We’re in
one of the guest bedrooms downstairs.

“Violet and that…” I
realize I don’t even know this guy’s name. “She and that dude are naked.”

“Yeah, I know.”
Killian’s eyes widen slightly before he stands up and stretches.

“Did we?” I motion between
the two of us and make a few suggestive motions with my hands.

“Have sex? No, I don’t
take advantage of girls on drugs.”

“You knew I was high?”

“God, you told me more
than I wanted to know last night.”

I cover my face in
embarrassment. I have a tendency to say too much when I’m high. “I’m sorry.”

“Can you two shut up?”
Violet yells from the bed. “Take it outside.”

Killian opens the door
and I follow him out into the hallway.

 “So you stayed to make
sure I was okay?”

“Something like that.
Listen, I know Violet is your friend, but when you two are together, it’s like
this dynamic duo of trouble. You’re different around her. It’s like you two are
trying to compete or something. I’m sure she’s a great friend, but she’s
reckless and…”

“She’s my friend. She’s
practically my only friend.”

“What about me?” He
raises an eyebrow at me.

“Violet is my only
female
friend.”

“She’s a bad influence.
The Cromwells will do nothing but drag you into trouble with them.”

In no mood to fight, I
stomp into the kitchen. “Don’t tell me anything else about last night. I’d
prefer to live in ignorance. Now sit. I’m making pancakes.”

After breakfast,
Killian returns home in one of those moods where he pretends he’s okay, but I
know something is still bothering him. He has every right to be upset, but it
was my prom to ruin, not his.

The entire weekend is a
recuperation from prom, and though I can’t remember much of what happened, I
dread school on Monday. Finals are over, so instead of going, I decide to skip
and spend the day in Atlanta, maxing out my father’s credit card.

I’m getting gas at the
only station on the edge of town when someone taps me on the shoulder.

“Hey, Cody.”

I turn around to see
Mischa in a button down shirt with
Brown’s Auto
embroidered on the
pocket.

“Mischa! I didn’t know
you worked here.” Seeing him brings a flush to my face. I’ve missed him at
school.

“Yup, that’s me.
Attendant slash part-time mechanic.”

“Wow, that’s great. So
you aren’t going back to school? You’re so close to graduation.”

“Someone needs to make
money. My mom sure as hell isn’t doing it. Besides, there’s only a few more
weeks left.”

“You can do better.
You’re too smart to work here,” I blurt out.

He scratches the back
of his neck and changes the subject. “Good news. I might have a car in the works.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, well. I have a
lot going on with my dad and all, but maybe we can get together sometime soon
and chill.”

My gas pump stops,
alerting me that it’s time to go, but I can’t stop staring at him and the way
the sweat glistens off his skin in the hot Georgia sunlight.

“I get off in a few
minutes. Wouldn’t care to give me a ride home, would you?”

I pull the pump out of
the car and replace the gas cap. “Well, I kind of had plans.”

“Please? I’ve really
wanted to call you, but things have been crazy.”

“Okay, why not?”

“Great. I need to
finish up something, and I’ll clock out and meet you in a minute.”

I return to my car, not
sure exactly how this has happened. A few minutes ago, I was on my way for some
much needed R&R.

Mischa keeps to his words
and is in my car within a few minutes.

“Your place?” I ask.

“Yep.”

We leave the gas
station heading towards his home. I wrack my brain for an excuse to prolong our
time together. I could invite him to hang out with me, but he’s a mess, a
hat-headed, grease stained mess.

“What have you been up
to?” I ask.

“The usual. You?”

“Prom.”

“I heard.” His answer
is short, but I detect a bit of annoyance. I decide to probe for answers.

“Something wrong?”

“No, I mean you went
with Killian Carmike? That’s great.”

“Great? You said you
wanted to date me and you disappeared. You don’t come to school, you’re not at
home, you just left me hanging.”

“I know.” He doesn’t
elaborate so we both sit there until I pull up to his house.

“I wish I could tell
you why I disappeared, but for now I need you to trust me. I had a good reason,
I promise.” He runs his hand down the side of my face.

Not wanting to waste
this time together, I nod. “I believe you, but I want you to know you can trust
me. Whatever is going on, I can help you.”

“Not this time, Cody.
It’s always been my job to protect you, so let me do my job.”

I notice a strange car
in the driveway. “You got company?”

He unbuckles and sighs.
“Violet’s guy of the week. He’s here every day.”

I cringe, remembering
the guy’s stark naked butt pressed up against my legs.

“Come inside so I don’t
have to deal with them alone?”

“Sure.”

We walk inside to find
Violet and naked prom guy in the kitchen. Violet is whipping something in the
mixer and he is pulling something out of the oven.”

“Ooh, Cody. You’re just
in time. Harrison has the most awesome recipe for hash brownies.”

“Smells good.” I sniff
the air, which is permeated with pot. “Don’t the cops still watch your house?”

“Yeah, but so what?
They never come in. Mom’s at the bar and Dad is never coming home. This is our
time.”

Mischa disappears into
the other room and Violet moves closer to me to speak.

“Why are you bringing
Mischa home?” There’s a little bit of an accusation in her voice.

I shrug. Who knows what
we’re doing. “I ran into him at the gas station.”

“Whatever. Ooh! Wait, I
have something to really get this party started.” She skips from the room and
I’m left with her blond boy toy.

“Hey, I’m Harrison.
Remember me from the other night?” He walks over and shakes my hand. This is
the first time we’ve met sober. He’s my age, but I’ve never seen him before. He
must be new to town or something.

“I remember. You’re new
around here?”

“Just moved here from
up north.”

“Why?” I don’t mean for
it to come out as mean as it sounds, but he chuckles slightly and raises his
hands in the air.

“Why not? My parents
wanted to live in a safer town, but you guys have more shit going on here than
we ever did back in my old neighborhood.”

“This place is a
wreck,” I tell him. “As soon as I turn eighteen, I’m getting the hell out of
here.”

He tries to hand me a
brownie, but I push it away. A few seconds later Violet hops into the room with
a can in her hand. “Who’s ready for the Waaa, waaa juice?”

“What’s that?”

Violet holds up the
can, which I recognize as what we have at the house to clean out our computer
keyboard. “It’s like a whip-it but a million times better. Try it.”

She shoves it in my
hand, but before I can decline, Mischa walks into the room and pulls it from
me.

“Are you fucking crazy?
That shit can kill you.” He slams it on the counter right in front of Violet
and the two of them exchange a crazy glare.

Afraid of being caught
in another one of their fights, I take a step back. The Cromwell siblings could
make any party fun, but they are best known for their short tempers. Mischa
grabs his sister by the hand as she tries to push him back, but he misjudges
her strength and falls into me. The scent of sandalwood and shaving cream
overcomes my senses as he turns around to steady me.

“Sorry,” he mumbles,
catching my gaze and holding it. I’m not afraid to admit that our physical
attraction overshadows everything else about our relationship. Maybe it’s the
reason why I’m so breathless right now.

“It’s okay,” I manage
to get out.

“Come on.” He pulls me
from the kitchen. “Let’s let these two kill themselves in peace.”

“I heard that!” Violet
yells.

He shuts his bedroom
door behind us, and I sit down on the bed. I’ve been in this room a hundred
times. We’ve watched movies on this floor, and we’ve played cards on this bed.
But not since we hooked up. He throws himself on the bed beside me, causing me
to bounce up and down a few times.

“Sorry about Violet.
She’s been acting out since my dad got arrested. I don’t know what’s going on
in her head.”

“She’s in pain, maybe
you should talk to her.”

“I’m a guy. We don’t
talk.”

He wraps an arm around
me and pulls me close so my head is on his shoulder. “I’ve missed you.”

All my anger from
earlier melts away. Right now, I couldn’t care less about what he’s hiding. “Me
too.”

He traces the veins on
the back of my hand before lifting it up to press a kiss against my skin. “We
should hang out more when schools out.”

“That is if I pass
Chemistry. I’m having such a hard time. I might have to go to summer school.”

“Let me help,” Mischa
offers. He rolls off the bed and grabs his chemistry book from a pile of books
by the door. He throws it on the bed. “What are you having trouble with?”

“Everything.”

“Okay, then let’s start
at chapter one.” He pulls up the periodic table and begins going over all the
elements with me, helping me memorize the entire thing. Gallium, Indium,
Chromium, things like that.

“I think I got it,” I
exclaim as I balance out a chemical equation. “You should be a teacher or
something.”

This earns me a hearty
laugh.

My lips open up to a
perfect oh as an idea strikes me. “Teach me how to solve a Rubik’s Cube.”

He grabs the cube on
his nightstand. “Okay, what do you want to know?”

“How you do it, duh.”

He flips the little
blocks around under his fingers. “It’s simple really. Just think of it in
levels not sides. You can match up one side all day, but it doesn’t matter if
all the other colors are wrong. Focus on doing the top level, then the middle,
and lastly the bottom. Just remember that the very center blocks never move so
use those as guiding marks.”

I take the cube and
move around a few blocks with no luck.

“Just practice,” he
says. “Take it home and practice.”

I move the colored
squares around hopelessly a bit more and make small talk. “Are you doing
anything in the fall? College or anything?”

He slams his book
closed and tosses it on the floor. “I’m not the type of guy who goes to
college.”

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