Word Count: 3,020
She had taken to spending less time in her room. Even if it just meant hanging out at the union or library. A couple of weeks of living like a hermit in her room and she'd had enough. That was the point of having a laptop after all. She could take it anywhere. She'd even taken it to a nearby park and written a paper there one day. No Internet connection at the park, too far away from campus, but she was able to get her homework done. And relax some in the process.
She was making more friends, had gone to more than a couple of parties. She'd gotten an extra role in the Theatre's production of Romeo and Juliet and she'd even pledged for a sorority. It made her cringe doing that, but her major of English didn't really give her much opportunity to make friends outside of class.
She'd pledged before getting the part in the show. She may not have otherwise, because she'd made a lot of friends doing the show. Enough that she thought she just might get more involved in other stuff. They were always looking for tech help and she wasn't afraid to get dirty or to use tools. So, why not?
She was doing well in her classes. It'd taken her a couple of weeks to get into the habit of studying without her parents or Bill getting after her about it. She'd sort of slacked for a while, until she realized that she wasn't going to pass let alone get the good grades she was used to if she kept going.
She was sitting in front of her dorm, waiting for Claire. She had gone to a party the night before and while not hung over was definitely needing the fresh air. She didn't get sick or anything, but she knew this morning she'd pushed her limits as far as beer went.
"Hey Kylie. You busy?"
"No," she said, glancing from her laptop to Sheryl. "What's up?"
"Your step-dad coming this weekend?"
"No," she said, not bothering to correct her.
She hadn't figured out what to introduce Bill as. Friend was kind of stupid and step-dad wasn't right either, but people knew she lived with him and just assumed. Seeing her sitting out here was a logical assumption, too.
"I think he has to work this weekend, his fiancée is though."
"Oh. Cool. You like her?"
"Yeah, she's nice and Bill's head over heels with her. We're going to try on my dress for the final time and then she's going to bring it home with her."
"Cool. The wedding's coming up, right?"
"Yes, only a couple of weeks now."
"Well, cool." Kylie knew that Sheryl didn't think it was cool at all. Wheelsy was a hick town as far as she was concerned. Not that Kylie had much to argue against that opinion being wrong. "There's a party at the Theta house tonight."
"Oh, right, I'd heard that. I think I should be able to make it." She honestly wasn't sure she wanted to go to two parties back to back, but she didn't have anything else to do. She didn't even have any homework to use an excuse.
"Great. I suppose I should tell you that Matt Hartwell asked me to let you know about the party."
"You've spent time with him?"
"Yeah, kind of, I mean, I know him from a couple parties, but not real well or anything. I wouldn't say I know him or anything."
"Well, he evidently wants to get to know you better."
"Well, you can tell him I know about it and I'll try to be there."
"He's a nice guy."
"I'm sure he is. He seems like it anyway."
"He's from a good family. His dad's a big shot corporate lawyer, his mom's a nurse."
Was that supposed to impress her somehow? She was from a small-time hick town, her parents had been farmers and her step-dad was a sheriff, so she was supposed to. What? Be flattered some guy she barely knew had his eye on her. Flatter her that someone like him would be interested in a girl like her?
"That's nice," she said simply, not knowing what else to say. She wasn't impressed or flattered.
"Well, give him a chance. I mean, he's not bad to look at, and he's majoring in Chemical Engineering so he's smart."
"I'll talk to him if he talks to me, Sheryl."
"All right," she said. Apparently that wasn't the right answer, at least judging by Sheryl's frown. "I'll see ya there then."
"Have fun trying on your dress."
Sadly, she was looking forward to trying on the silly dress more than she was going to the party. Xander had told her he wouldn't get mad if she tested the waters, but she didn't even really like Matt Hartwell. Everything Sheryl had told Kylie she'd already known and it didn't impress her the second time around anymore than it had the first.
Money wasn't her thing. Neither was stature really. Sure, yeah, Bill had been kind of a slacker to some degree at first, but he'd gotten to be chief for a reason and he was taking his job more serious. And, heck, he'd kept Wheelsy on the map. That was more than Matt Hartwell could probably say about his parents.
And Claire. She'd done world-saving stuff, too. So had Xander and his friends.
Maybe that was the problem. She'd come across people who'd done extraordinary things that she had her standards set too high.
"Wow, you look far too thoughtful for a Saturday afternoon."
"I do?" Kylie said, smiling at the intrusion into her thoughts that was Claire.
"Yeah. What's up?"
"Oh, nothing, just a friend telling me that someone else wanted to be sure I knew about a party tonight."
"A guy someone else?"
"Yes," Kylie said with a little bit of a blush.
"You want to go?"
"Not really," she said with a shrug. "I just went to one last night and am still recovering."
Claire gave a soft laugh. "I wish I could know what it feels like firsthand, but I saw it enough in college to at least empathize with you."
"You can't get drunk?"
"Oh, I can get a buzz if I chug a can of beer or do a couple of shots quickly in a row, but it doesn't last more than a couple of minutes."
"Yeah. Good, I guess. I never had to worry much about a guy taking advantage of me in that way."
"This guy, Matt's his name, the girl telling me about him wanting me to know about the party. Well, she told me his dad's some attorney and his mom's a nurse or something. I'm not sure if that's supposed to impress me so much that I'll want to go out with him or what?"
"Some people think it will, I suppose."
"But it doesn't. Not compared to people like you, Bill and Xander."
"Yeah, I suppose we sort of set the bar a little too high. You don't have to go to the party."
"I don't have anything else to do."
"Hmm. No other friends who'd want to see a movie or something?"
"Not really, and since I don't have a car."
"Oh right, I suppose that limits you."
"Yeah, a little. I'll probably go for a while and then bail early."
"You don't have to decide right now. Let's go see your dress, have some lunch, and see what the day brings."
"Okay," Kylie said, grabbing her things and heading toward Claire's car with the other woman.
"Have you talked to Xander lately?"
"Not physically, no. It's expensive, so we just email and IM."
"But you've been doing that regularly?"
"Yeah, pretty much. Sometimes it's just an email saying hi or whatever, but we manage to every day."
"Makes it kind of difficult to move on even if you wanted to."
"I really don't. I mean, I'm doing my part not to be a hermit, to at least say I'm leaving myself open for something to happen, but I'm not trying very hard beyond that."
"Not saying you have to."
The dress fit perfectly. Kylie thought she was going to look nice in it. Even better, since Kylie was her only bridesmaid and the ceremony was rather simple, Claire had picked a dress that Kylie could wear again. It'd have to be to a formal dance or a fancy dinner or something, but she could possibly wear it again.
Claire's dress was done, too, but she was leaving it here until a day or two before the wedding so there'd be no risk of Bill seeing it. Kylie still found it hard to believe some days Bill Pardy was getting married. And to someone who wasn't Starla Grant. She wasn't the only one surprised at their relationship.
"So, Bill's put his house up then?"
"Yes," Claire said once they'd ordered their lunch. "He's kind of nervous about it, I think, but I offered to sell mine."
"He likes yours. I do, too."
"Thank you, I do, too. I bought it after all, but Bill also bought his."
"He bought it because it was close to work more than anything, I think."
"Yeah, he said as much. I guess you compromise when you get married," Claire said with a little shrug. "I never thought my family wouldn't be there to see me get married, that my dad wouldn't be able to give me away."
"Yeah, I know," Kylie said.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that."
"No, it's okay."
"Kylie, there's something I've been meaning to tell you for a while now. I've kept putting it off, but I know Bill told you last time he was here that I want you to feel free to stay with me if something were to ever happen to Bill."
"Right," Kylie said, wondering what she could possibly have to say to her.
"Well, when I first met you and Bill, I said my dad died. It's what I tell everyone, because he did die."
"Okay," she said, confused now.
"He's not, though. They, well, the people he worked for used my blood to heal him, just like I did with Bill."
"Oh," Kylie said, eyes widening.
"I can't see him anymore than I can my mom or Lyle. You know? It's not safe. Peter's the only one who even knows for sure where I live. I mean, his brother and my father know what town I'm in and everything, but that's the extent of it. I just, well, I never corrected the lie, and I'm sorry. Bill knows, I told him when we were talking about wedding stuff and whether I'd want Nathan to give me away if I could."
"No, because he's not my dad and my dad is still alive. I just didn't want you to find out somehow and think I lied to you about something when you had really lost your parents. I just find I am asked fewer questions, you know? And the less questions about me, my life before Wheelsy and Bill the better."
"Have you seen him?"
"No, not in a long time. He's afraid he'll lead the people looking for me right to me."
"But you want him to be there don't you?"
"More than anything," she said softly and Kylie noticed tears in her eyes. "I can't even imagine what you'll go through knowing that your folks can't be there. It hurts enough just knowing they can't come. I want them there so much."
"I'm sorry," Kylie said, unsure of what else to say.
"It's okay, don't mind me. I just wanted to tell you."
"I appreciate it."
"You're not mad?"
"No, if I didn't know your situation I might be, but I understand why you lied. You didn't really know you were going to end up marrying Bill."
"Right, and by then I'd already said he'd died and it's sort of hard to bring it up."
Claire dropped her off at her dorm after lunch and a quick stop at the mall. Neither had anything specific they wanted to buy, Claire just seemed to enjoy the company as much as Kylie did. Judging by their conversation, Claire had made some friends. Kylie knew that Janine, the woman who owned the coffee shop in Wheelsy, was planning a shower for Claire. Kylie got her invitation in the mail just yesterday. She gathered it was a surprise and wondered just how the little town of Wheelsy would pull it off.
She still didn't want to go to the party, but had something to do first before she'd decide for sure if she wanted to go. She said goodbye to Claire, giving the other woman a hug before heading up to her room.
She never used her dorm phone, calls home were free on her cell, and she didn't have much reason to call anyone else. So, she didn't feel so bad making one lone long distance phone call today. Granted, it was an overseas call and would probably cost an arm and a leg, but she thought it might just be worth it.
'Greetings, my South Carolina woman,' he said.
She gave a soft laugh. "Hi yourself."
'To what do I owe the honor of being able to hear your voice?'
"Well, I have kind of a favor to ask of you."
"Yes, it's a pretty big one."
'Hmm, well, what would I get in exchange for agreeing to do this favor?'
"I guess that depends," she said, knowing she was blushing profusely just then.
"Well, you'd have to tell me what you want."
'Do I really need to answer that?'
"You might have to, yeah."
'All right, well, shoot with the favor and we'll go from there.'
"You said you have a friend who can teleport, right?"
'Uh, yeah,' he said, sounding as though he wasn't sure where the question was leading.
"And she can take other people with her, right?"
"And unless someone was like in the same room as them, they wouldn't know the person left their house?"
'That's pretty much how it works, yeah. I mean, I don't actually do the teleporting, but I'm pretty sure it's quite discreet. Why? You want me to send her to get you for the weekend or something?'
"Tempting thought, but no."
'Oh,' he said, sounding more than a little disappointed.
"Sorry, this is for Claire really."
'Claire? Is everything all right?'
"Yeah, but you know they're getting married."
'Right, followed by a rustic hunting honeymoon.'
She laughed at that. "Yes, well, Bill's choice of honeymoon spots aside, her mom can't come. Plane tickets and stuff can be traced."
'And you were thinking there might be an untraceable way around that hurdle.'
'Well, you're just lucky you have an in with someone who is exceptional at going around hurdles.'
"I do, huh."
'Yes,' he said. 'And that would be me I'm talking about.'
"Hmm, you sure? I thought maybe it might have been someone else."
"Well, I'm a lucky girl then."
'I think I'm the lucky one, but if you say so. Let me talk to Willow and see what we can come up with.'
"Do you need dates and stuff?'
He paused for a minute and Kylie wondered what that was about, other than she realized he might be working on something. 'Yeah, sure, shoot with the dates and we'll need the info. on her mom's whereabouts.'
'Do you want me to call you back?'
"No, I mean, you don't have to. If you want to, you can, but I'm sure I'll figure out what your answer was by whether or not Claire's mom is there."
'Well, I think a phone call from you warrants one in exchange.'
"If you want to."
'Kylie,' he said, voice lowering a little.
'It's nice to hear your voice.'
'You having fun?'
"Yeah," she shrugged, not that he could see her do it.
'That's good. I want you to have fun.'
"I am! I swear. I went to a party last night and drank too much and everything."
'That's my woman, build up a tolerance so you can drink me under the table one day.'
"You don't really drink, though, do you?"
She knew he didn't, he was worried he'd turn into his parents. "I don't really either, just last night."
'Don't worry about it, it's par for the course in college. I'd think there was something wrong if you didn't get drunk more than once or twice.'
"Okay. I'm not turning into a lush or anything."
'I'd probably love you even if you did.'
"Really?" Had she just heard him right? Did he really mean it the way she hoped?
'Did I just ruin the mood? You haven't already hooked up with someone?'
"Uh no to both. I just wasn't expecting…"
'Yeah, I wasn't really expecting to say it, but what can you do.'
"Do you want to take it back?"
She smiled and she was sure it was a stupid, stupid smile. "Xander?"
"I love you, too."
'All the more reason to get Willow to agree to this favor of yours. I can think of a favor or two that would demonstrate to me just how much.'
"And you think you need to do me a favor to get those demonstrations?"
'Can't hurt, right?'
'When's summer break again?'
"End of May."
'Not soon enough.'
'I'll let you know when I can.'
'Thank you for calling. Computers just aren't the same, but I know it's expensive so I'll let you go.'
"Okay, have a good night."
She hung up, feeling better about going to the party tonight for some reason. She didn't need to get to know Matt Hartwell any better, or any other guy on campus, to know she had exactly what she wanted already.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com