Word Count: 2,381
Kylie had been more than a little surprised to find that she wasn't the only person who'd gone to church that morning. Bill went with her sometimes, but not all of the time. It was something so engrained in her to do that she decided to check out the campus service. It was different from what she was used to, definitely more casual. Her parents would never have let her wear jeans to church.
After church she'd eaten breakfast at the dining hall and then come back to her room to pick it up some before Bill got there. It wasn't horribly messy, but he'd need somewhere to sit, which meant her bed had to be clear of books and papers. Having her own bathroom meant she was responsible for keeping it clean so she did that, too. Sunday seemed like a good day to be in the habit of doing that sort of thing.
He hadn't said exactly what time he'd be there, but lunch implied sometime around noon. Everything done that could be, she opened her laptop to check her email while she waited. And wondered what he'd bring for lunch. She'd said no pizza, but that left things wide open for anything.
She'd bet anything he would bring subs. There was a pretty good sub place not far from campus. They delivered, that's how she knew about it. They weren't cheap from what she found out, but supposedly they were very good. As pizza was much cheaper, and could make up more than one meal, the couple of times she'd ordered in this week she'd gone that route over a sub.
There was a message from Claire reminding her to be sure to get fitted for her dress. Kylie would have thought it ridiculous Claire e-mailed her when she was seeing Bill, except Bill could be forgetful. And probably wouldn't think about how important it was Kylie be fitted for the dress on time. The wedding stuff went over his head sometime. Kylie admitted she didn't get it all either, but she understood why Claire was so excited. And as small as the wedding would be, she still wanted everything to be perfect.
TheRealSgtFury: Good morning.
She smiled at the IM box.
xKylie Sx: Hi to you, too.
TheRealSgtFury: Am surprised to find you up so early.
xKylie Sx: Early? It's almost noon.
TheRealSgtFury: For someone in college, noon can be early.
xKylie Sx: LOL. Yes, the dining hall was pretty dead at breakfast this morning.
TheRealSgtFury: Breakfast? You were awake enough to go eat breakfast?
xKylie Sx: Yep. Went to church even.
TheRealSgtFury: Wow. No one can accuse you of being a sloth.
xKylie Sx: Not today anyway.
TheRealSgtFury: So, settling in?
xKylie Sx: Yeah. All right. Kinda boring this weekend. Bill's bringing me lunch today, though.
TheRealSgtFury: Oh? What's the occasion?
xKylie Sx: Claire and Mrs. Pardy are coming to town for something to do with the wedding. He called to see if I wanted to be his lunch date.
TheRealSgtFury: To which you of course said yes?
xKylie Sx: Of course. Like I'd turn down a free meal that isn't served on a tray.
TheRealSgtFury: I vaguely remember the dull food choices when Buffy and Willow went to school.
xKylie Sx: So, what are you doing?
TheRealSgtFury: Besides talking to you?
xKylie Sx: Yeah, besides that.
TheRealSgtFury: Nothing. All's quiet on the homefront, so I thought I'd see if you were on.
xKylie Sx: So, you're in the computer room.
xKylie Sx: Hmm.
TheRealSgtFury: That a bad hmm or a good hmm?
xKylie Sx: Just a hmm, picturing you sitting there.
TheRealSgtFury: And this is a good picture?
xKylie Sx: You know it is.
TheRealSgtFury: Well, my picture of you sitting in your room by yourself has to be better.
xKylie Sx: They could both be better.
TheRealSgtFury: Yeah, they could.
xKylie Sx: I miss you.
TheRealSgtFury: Miss you, too. I'm not sure what to do with all that room in my bed and shower now.
She laughed. He'd agreed with her. She wasn't sure about sending that last message, but then she did miss him. Shouldn't she be able to say that?
xKylie Sx: Wish I could help you there, but I'm stuck here.
TheRealSgtFury: You're where you're supposed to be for now. There'll be plenty of time eventually.
xKylie Sx: You think so?
TheRealSgtFury: Why wouldn't I?
xKylie Sx: Dunno.
She hadn't really been sure what he wanted from her, from them, when she'd left.
TheRealSgtFury: So, the wedding plans are coming along then?
xKylie Sx: I guess. Claire sent me an e-mail reminding me to get fitted for my dress.
TheRealSgtFury: What color is it?
xKylie Sx: Kind of a wheat color. You know, to go with fall?
TheRealSgtFury: Oh, right. Cool. Wish I could see it, though it'd be tough to top your prom dress.
xKylie Sx: You liked it?
TheRealSgtFury: Uh, yeah, did I not say that at the time?
xKylie Sx: Well, no, not about the dress specifically.
TheRealSgtFury: It was definitely a memorable dress.
xKylie Sx: Well, good. And thank you. I'm glad.
TheRealSgtFury: Okay, I gotta go. Getting something in I need to take a look at. Have a good lunch.
xKylie Sx: Okay, thanks, Have a good night. Sleep well.
TheRealSgtFury: I could think of ways I'd sleep better, but some other time. Night.
And with that he was gone. Their cyber connection lost. Only for the time being. He'd had to explain to her the meaning of his screen name. Hers was simple. The x's were there simply because she didn't want to be Kylie S2332 or something.
He'd sought her out, though. The couple of other times they've chatted they'd been online at the same time, e-mailing back and forth and she'd suggested they move their conversation to IM. Today had been all him, he couldn't have known she'd be online. Of course, she left her IM on most of the time so maybe he just took a chance she was actually there.
Either way, she felt better than she did a few minutes ago. Stupid maybe, but she did. It was barely twelve and she'd no sooner closed out of her e-mail account when a knock on her door came. She was more than ready for some company.
"Hey," she said when she saw it was in fact Bill. "You made it."
"I did and through my finely honed detective skills, remembered the way to your room without requiring a trail of breadcrumbs."
She rolled her eyes, but stepped aside so he could come in. "I'm glad to hear that. I wouldn't want you to get lost in the big city."
"I know, right?"
He held up a large plastic bag and she could tell by the smell that subs was a wrong guess.
"Yup! Not much good Chinese in Wheelsy and I remember you mentioning how much you like it that one day a while back we had it."
"Well, lucky for you I have a memory like an elephant's."
"Are you really comparing yourself to an elephant?"
"My memory? Didn't you ever read that story? Horton hatched an egg or something?"
She gave a soft giggle. "Yes, I think I remember it. I was just being sure."
They dished out their food. He'd even thought to get plates, napkins and flatware. She had a couple of things here and dish soap, having her own sink she could wash things but she appreciated he was so considerate. This way they could just throw everything away.
"So," he said once lunch was out of the way. There were some leftovers, which she was sure she'd eat for dinner later.
"Want a tour?"
"I'd thought you'd never ask."
The campus wasn't huge, but she showed him everything. Each building she had a class in, the library, the sports complex, the dining hall and everything in between.
"So," he said, when they'd taken a moment to stop in the union and get a drink.
"You know Claire and I are getting married."
"Uh, yes," she said, not hiding her puzzlement at the question.
"You realize that means one of our houses is gonna go?"
"Figured as much, yeah."
"I'm thinking it'll probably be mine. I like where hers is, truth be told. Out a town a ways, nice yard, and I'm not sure that'd be fair to Lucky, moving him from ample yard space to mine."
"That sit all right with you?"
"Why wouldn't it?"
"Well, I realize it ain't where you grew up or anything, but it's been your home for a while now and I just wanted to talk it over with you a spell."
"Oh, no, I'm totally fine with wherever you want to live."
"But you realize that no matter Claire's house or my house, you're still welcome."
He took a sip of his drink. "I mean it, Kylie. You're welcome to hang your hat at my place, our place, as long as you need to. Just cuz you're in college doesn't mean I expect you to be on your own or anything."
"Oh, Bill, I know."
"And Claire has said were something to happen to me that she'd keep her house open to you just the same as if I were there. Also as long as you need it."
She blinked back the tears that were forming in her eyes at what he was saying.
"Thank you," she whispered.
"Hey, Kylie," someone said. Kylie looked away from Bill at the source of the voice.
"Hi, Maggie. How are you?"
"Good, just heading to the library."
"Oh cool. This is my," she paused, not sure what to call him. "Friend, Bill. He's just here visiting for the day from home."
Bill offered Maggie his hand, which she took.
"Nice to meet you," he said.
"You too. See ya in class tomorrow."
"Yeah," Kylie said.
"Making friends. That's good."
"Yeah, she's in my English class."
"So, I just don't want you to think Claire and my getting hitched means you have to look for a place here or whatever. You've got a home with us as long as you want it."
"Welcome. Now, about the wedding."
"You are going to come home Thursday, right?"
"Uh, sure. Why?"
"Because I think my mother and Claire will have driven me crazier than a mad hatter by then and I'll need you to keep me sane."
"What makes you think that I won't just help them?"
"Because you wouldn't do that to me!"
She chuckled lightly. "Yeah, I'll come home Thursday night."
"That's my girl, thank you!"
"Don't mention it."
"You bringing a guest?"
"Nah, no one worth asking really."
"Well, you've still got time. You decide otherwise, it's fine with us. Just a small shindig anyway, so one more won't make much of a difference."
"I can't believe she's going along with that."
"Well, she doesn't have much choice. We talked about her mom and brother, but it's too risky. I'm thinking maybe next summer we'll head out to California for a spell to meet them. Make a vacation out of it. Disneyland or something so it wouldn't be too obvious what we were doing."
"Well, she's going hunting with me, figure Disneyland is the least I can do for her."
"Not too many women would do that."
"That's why I love her."
"Yeah," Kylie said softly, running a finger along the lip of her can.
"You miss him?"
"Yes," she said softly, hating to admit it.
"You talked to him lately?"
"Emails and stuff, yeah."
"You know, they do have colleges over there," he offered.
"I'm sorry? I didn't just hear you say that."
"I know, I know, I was afraid you were going to run off to London after him, but you haven't. You're here, going to college close to home. So, that makes me think you're thinking with your head. I'm just saying, you know, you love him, right?"
She shrugged. "I think so. We didn't really say it, you know, knowing we weren't going to see each other again for a while."
"Well, I don't deny to thinking you're too young, but I know your parents and mine were young when they got married and all."
"I am not thinking of marrying him, Bill."
"Oh, I know," he said quickly. "Just saying, to think that just because you're eighteen doesn't mean you can't know what it is you're feeling."
"Are you encouraging me to be with him?"
"I just want you to do what makes you happy. I'm glad you've taken this year to be here and have the chance to see if what you feel is real. But, you know, you decide school further away than here is what you need, I'd make it work."
"Welcome, I just want you happy. And healthy. You know? Whole. And as much as I'd like to, I can't give you all of what you need." He glanced around at the few people in the union. As it was Sunday there weren't too many people here. "And I look around at the guys here and I can't say I think they can give it to you either."
"Why not?" she asked, curious more than anything.
"Don't know. Just that they don't know what you've been through and I don't expect you to tell all or anything. He does so it's not like you'd have to worry about him finding out later or anything."
"Yeah," she said, having thought of that. Every time she talked to someone it entered her mind what they'd think of her if they knew what all she'd done, been through.
"Anyway," he said, glancing at his watch. "I suppose it's about time we head back."
"I hope you weren't looking forward to those Chinese leftovers for dinner because Mom suggested we take you out for a 'proper meal' when they're done."
"Oh, you don't have to. Really, leftovers are fine."
"No have to's about it, want to. Besides, not sure when I'll get back here, though Claire probably will I'm sure."
"All right. I'm not going to complain."
"Figured as much."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com