The Many Faces of Kai

Chapter 7

By Dabeagle

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Lysander

Oh, I so screwed up. Why oh why did I tell him he's fine as fuck? I mean he is, but damn it – especially in those joggers. I was seriously afraid I'd just totally stepped in shit up to my chin, but he seemed to let it slide. Honestly, from his tone, I think it's because he mentioned his mom. I noticed the pictures in the hallway were mostly of Kai – and holy Kentucky fried flaming shit was he fine. There were head shots and beach shots where he was running with a surf board toward the water. There were, honest to god, shots where he seemed to be modeling swim trunks, but one. Oh one. He was sitting on a pier? No. One of the wooden posts that holds a pier up.

The ocean was behind him, even a few clouds and maybe a seagull or something in flight. But he was on this wooden post, and it looked like he was adjusting or maybe going to get down, I don't know. But his feet were pointed toes down and the shorts were riding up, showing his thigh muscles and this white area toward the top that wasn't getting sun. He had on a button-up shirt, white with a pattern on it, that was open to display his tanned skin underneath. He was looking down toward his toes, his ice cream scoop hair style being tossed a little by an ocean breeze.

So many feelings.

I mean, yeah, lust. He's fine as fuck, like I said, just that I meant that part to stay in my head. But man...what a place to be. I've never been to the ocean, but he looked like he belonged – son of Poseidon or something. That's kind of what I meant when I told him how much whoever took those pictures must have loved him, because every shot was him at his best. The head shots with him looking away, appearing like he was deep in thought, or another where he looked focused on something out of the shot. She'd known the angles and the light to bring her son's beauty out so that no one could ignore it.

But yeah, when he said it was his mom – the way he said it – I knew I'd bumbled into something that hurt. As he went to go get his laptop I thought through the pictures I'd seen and recalled Kai and Kai's dad, but no pictures of his mom. What happened to her?

Of course, I didn't have those answers, so I covered by bringing up something I hadn't really wanted to – Stacy. Realistically Stacy could just ask Kai out at any time, so it's not like anything I said or didn't would sway him. I suppose if I'd lied and said she was a slut or humped squirrels in front of the school he might have given that a thought, but I'm just not that much into the drama that comes with lying. Especially since he could easily find out she hadn't humped any squirrels in front of the school; plus thre was the whole 'lying to a friend' thing.

“Okay,” Kai said as he set his laptop down on the table. I had mine set up, and we split up the work a bit. He started on the main page and I started working on the first planet page, Mercury, trying to come up with something that sounded like it would be in a travel ad.

“Scorching hot beaches?”

He frowned a little. “There isn't any water there, is there?”

“No. But that just means it's all beach.”

He blinked and then shrugged before going back to his page. We worked steadily, taking chunks of code that had been created in previous assignments and adding in our own text boxes. Sometimes it was tough to get something to line up where we wanted it, but that was kind of the reason I'd wanted to do this before it was due; there would be time to get some help with whatever wasn't working right, if we couldn't figure it out.

Kai got us drinks at some point – raspberry iced tea – and man that stuff ran through me – like directly to my bladder, do not sit in stomach.

“Where's the bathroom?”

He hooked his thumb over his shoulder. “End of the hall; the door's open, probably.”

I walked down the hall, trying not to stare at his pictures on the wall, and found the bathroom easily. I'd have probably lingered to look at the pictures a bit more if my bladder weren't telegraphing how much it really wanted to burst. I washed my hands and started back down the hallway, but I paused by an open doorway and spotted some models. Not models like Kai, wearing clothes to make them look good for other people, but plastic models of cars and airplanes.

I heard a scraping noise and turned to see Kai getting out of his chair and wandering toward me.

I pointed at the open doorway. “I was just looking at the models. Your room?”

“Yeah,” he said, lifting his hands over his head and lacing his fingers as he stretched, causing his shirt to lift and show his stomach.

So not fair.

“You build these or your dad?” I asked.

“Me,” he said, passing me and entering his room. I trailed behind, taking his movement as permission.

“This is so sweet,” I said, looking at a car. I have no idea what make or model it was, but it looked fantastic.

“That was the last one I built before we moved,” he said quietly.

His tone was similar to the one he'd used when he'd mentioned his mom, laced with some kind of pain. I wanted to ask, but I also...wanted to let him decide when to talk about whatever that was. I looked around and pointed to a model that was rigged up on some kind of jig for painting.

“Paint booth? Really?”

He nodded and placed a hand on top of it briefly. “My dad and I built it. It's on wheels so we can shift it if we need to, but it's got a fan built in and a damper so you can route paint fumes outside. We even have a filter to keep the paint stuff from getting on the windings of the fan motor – they can accumulate and start a fire.”

“Shit,” I said, impressed. Glancing around I remarked that I liked his storage shelf for his paints and the obviously hand made shelves for his models.

“He built them himself,” his dad said, leaning onto the doorway.

“Really?” I asked, turning to look at Kai, who just shrugged and nodded. “Well. I think you should join the backstage builders then.”

Kai raised an eyebrow. “The what who?”

“Backstage builders,” I said with a grin. “We build the sets for the school play. They are starting auditions for roles in a few weeks, but the plans for sets are already starting to be drawn up. If you can measure and nail things,” I coughed, “you should join up.”

“Oh, right, you're set crew.”

“Kai, don't forget to start your laundry,” his dad said before leaving us.

I looked at Kai with curiosity. “How did you know I was on the set team?”

Kai rolled his eyes, and his lips curled into the tiniest smile. “When Rick was giving me shit about the video you made-”

“I did not!”

“-he said your name. It's not exactly a common name, and I ended up looking it up on the school picture stream.”

I smiled. “Funny. I found your name that way, too. By accident! I wasn't stalking,” I said, grinning. Kai's expression softened further, and I continued. “I was scrolling on my phone, and a picture of the soccer team came up. When I clicked in they had a shout out to you.”

“Oh, yeah,” Kai sat on the edge of his desk. “I remember that. Funny. We needed social media to learn each other's names. I mean, after you'd already recorded-”

“Okay, really? You're enjoying that way too much,” I teased.

“Well,” Kai replied, “I had wondered how you knew my name the morning you asked me to the dance.”

“I hate Shell,” I said, lifting my arms and dropping them. “I'm going to need you to do something embarrassing so I can hold it over your head for a while.”

“Me? Nah. I don't do that kind of shit,” he said with a little grin.

I smiled at him. Kai doesn't really seem to smile much, but I thought it was a nice thing when he did. His face was a real classic when he was just looking around or something, but the smile gave me something new to like about his face. “So yeah, social media gave us names,” I said, picking up the conversation. “And yeah, I don't have a common name. My mother is...complicated.”

Kai frowned. “How?”

I sighed and gave him a tired smile. “She's a giant child sometimes. Bad with money. Wants people to give her respect without actually doing anything to earn it.” I pointed at myself. “Lysander is the name of a character in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Essentially, he's a dick who cheats on the girl he talks into going out alone in the forest with him, but then she doesn't want to mess with him, so he gets with another woman and the girl is pissed because he did that, and he's confused about why she doesn't like him. So of course, my mom thought it was a good idea to name me after him.

Kai looked at me for a second and then his eyes got a bit wider. “You're serious?”

I held a hand up. “Swear. I sent all her ideas pear shaped when I liked boys.”

Kai snickered.

“It's not that she's an evil person or anything, just really, really irresponsible.”

Kai glanced at me with a thoughtful expression. “So...are you irresponsible?”

I tilted my head and gestured with my hand. “Less than I was. I've just really noticed some differences between my mom and, say, Shell's mom. I know you can't just compare one house to another and get a whole conclusion, but the differences are pretty big.”

He frowned a little. “Like...how?”

I sat on the edge of his bed. “So Shell's family takes vacations during the year. Camping, lake rental, stuff like that. Her parents manage their money and don’t do things like...quitting their jobs or being so entitled they get fired.” I looked at him steadily. “Like my mom. We don't go places, not unless my grandparents take us. I do mean us. When I was little, I once heard my mom getting upset that my grandparents wanted to take me somewhere, but my mom wanted to go too. It's almost like having a sibling as your parent, sometimes.”

Kai grunted and sat down in his chair, slowly moving from side to side. He was looking down at his hands, brought together at the fingertips. I glanced at his hands, but then studied his face. His expression had changed, the smile gone but not his normal expression either. He swallowed and his face seemed like he was pushing it to be blank, which was another new face – another expression.

“My mom...she was really artistic. She liked photography and graphic work. She liked woodworking and got my dad to work the math part – you know, measuring and cutting, but she designed how things would look.”

I saw Kai's dad appear in the doorway, smile lightly at me as he pulled the door closed silently. I don't think Kai noticed.

“Kai?” I asked softly. “You said was.”

He twitched his head toward me and licked his lips. He looked up at me, meeting my gaze. “My mom died last winter. It's why we moved here.”

My heart broke. I felt it. I could see from his expression he was hurting, showing me that hurt, and I desperately wanted to do something – the right thing.

“Bro...Kai. I'm so sorry, man. I can't even imagine.” I tried to push every ounce of empathy and sympathy into my tone I had in me.

He sniffed and looked away. Fuck. Had that been the right thing? Maybe try something else.

“I'd offer to share mine, but honestly....” I ran out of steam. What else could I possibly have said?

He swiped at his eyes. He swallowed and said, “Thanks. My...the people I thought were my friends...didn't even say that to me.” He glanced at me and shook his head. “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to drop that on you.”

I shook my head. “Nah, bro. You can't carry all that on your own. I'm glad you told me. I mean...you're a private guy. I don't know if you always were, but...fuck. I'm just glad you trusted me.”

He waved a hand at me and then pushed his thumb and his pointer finger over his eyes and he sniffed. I really, really wanted to give him a hug.

So, I did.

It was awkward, him in the chair and me bending over. I rubbed his back a little, and he let it happen. It didn't last long. Maybe a minute.

He stood and nodded at me, and we went back to the table to work on our project, but things were different now. I'd crossed some line with him. I don't know when it became okay, but...it was precious. I couldn't get that face of his – that precious, pained face – out of my head. How many faces does he have?

^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*

“Tomo. I felt my heart break, bro,” I said into my headset that night.

“Yeah, that's a huge hit to take no matter how old you are,” Tomo said. “When my grandma died it hurt, but my mom was wrecked. I was little when it happened and didn't understand it as much – I just knew something sad had happened. It sounds like he thinks of you as a real friend.”

“It's something,” I agreed.

“You were saying some girl is interested in him?”

I coughed. “Yeah. Stacy. I mean, she's fine, I guess. I just....”

“Want him for yourself?” Tomo prompted.

“I'm...actually not thinking that,” I said. “I'm actually worried about Kai. The way I see it, he may not even want to date. He's still dealing with losing his mom – and I have to say, they must have been close. It hasn't even been a year. The thing is, if she asks him out and he turns her down-”

“Yeah, some people will say he's gay because you guys are hanging out,” Tomo finished my statement.

“Right. But if he does date her, it shouldn't be just to avoid that.”

“Yeah. Not sure what your options are there.” Tomo sighed. “So. What are you thinking about this guy? Like, you happy with where your relationship is at?”

“Yeah,” I said slowly. “I like him, but I also think I don't really know him yet. I wonder what kind of guy he was before his mom passed, and those pictures showed a guy who was...ready to conquer the world. He had a certain confidence, a presence.”

“He inspired lust?”

“God, yes,” I said and laughed. “But he always does, at least for me. But...I have to admit, more important, it feels really precious that he trusted me. What he said about his friends...it doesn't really make any sense to me. Why wouldn't you say something in sympathy about your friend's mom dying? Who was he that people reacted that way?”

“Well. You never know – either about him or whoever he thought were his friends.”

“True,” I said quietly. I glanced at my phone and then said, “I have to go pick up Shell from work. Catch you later, Tomo.”

“Aight, be good.”

I logged and got my shoes on. I'd been burning a lot more gas with how many rides I was giving Shell and Kai. Shell was going to slide me some cash, but Kai wasn't working, so I wasn't going to ask him for now.

“Ma! Going to get Shell from work,” I called out to her.

“Okay. Hey, stop at the store and get me a pint of Rocky Road, would you?”

“Okay,” I said. Normal people would ask that person for the money for the item they wanted, but that always turned into more shit with my mom than I wanted to deal with. It was just easier to appease her than have to listen to her. As I drove over, I had a text pop in, but I figured it was just Shell wanting to know where I was. I pulled into the lot and went inside, figuring I might get a drink. Shell wasn't behind the counter so she was probably clocking out.

I checked my phone and was surprised I had a text from Hakeem Assad. That was weird. We didn't really know each other, but at one party last summer his friends had a bet going – I'm not sure if the bet was if he kissed me they paid or if he lost the bet the penalty was kissing me, but either way I had a drunk boy's lips on mine. Hakeem was slender, smoked pot and was kind of dumb. Harmless, but dumb.

And he was sending me a WYD text. Huh. Did that kiss mean more than I had thought? I texted that I was out to pick up a friend from work and drop her off. He asked if I wanted to slide by his place.

Well.

I mean.

Hakeem wasn't anyone I fantasized about, but I'd really been going through a dry spell. I liked being kissed, and maybe there would be a little affection here, so I said I would stop by.

“Let's go,” Shell said, storming by me. Deciding I didn’t need the drink, I turned and followed her out.

“Bad shift?” I prompted as we got in the car.

“Nancy,” she spat. “Some sub-human went into the men's room and smeared his shit all over the wall.” She turned and looked at me. “Nancy told me to go clean the bathroom.”

“No she didn't,” I said, staring.

“She fucking did,” she growled. “And I told her I wasn't fucking doing it.”

“Good for you.” I laughed. “She must have loved that.”

“The bitch said she'd fire me!”

“No way!”

“Yeah! I told her she could fire me and clean the bathroom herself or go clean the bathroom and still have an employee – her call.”

I grinned. “Go Shell. So, you still employed?”

“Yeah,” she said, thrashing a little in her seat to adjust her seat belt. “but I'm going to talk to the DM. That's some bullshit. I mean, I hate Nancy, but if you have some gross wacko in there, they need to get some professional people to disinfect that room.”

“Yeah, even Nancy doesn't get paid enough for that shit. Literally.” We both laughed. She pulled out her phone, and as we pulled up to her house she told me she'd put some money through my app for gas. I told her I'd see her Monday and told Hakeem I was on my way.

I was a little nervous on my way over. I'd planned to meet with guys before over an app, but I'd always chickened out. The majority of my experience with guys was drunk party kisses, so to have a guy I knew actually ask me over was kind of exciting, even if it was Hakeem. I followed the phone directions and parked at the curb, then texted to let him know I was there. He told me to come around the side of the house; I could see light coming out of a window.

I got out and looked around, making sure I wasn't about to get bashed or something, and then crossed the scraggly lawn to the side of the house. I was shocked when Hakeem stepped out of the shadows well before the light at the back of the house.

“Shh,” he whispered.

“Shit. Scared me,” I replied reflexively.

“Don't want anyone inside to know,” he said quietly.

“Yeah, I get it,” I said.

“Okay,” he said and I saw his hands move in the low light – my eyes were getting used to the dark. “Go ahead. Make it quick.”

Confused I asked, “Make what quick?”

“C'mon,” he said, sounding aggravated. “I'm standing here with my cock out. Suck me.”

“Wait, what? Here?”

“Yeah, here,” he said, now whispering in an irritated tone.

I glanced around. “What about-”

He grabbed my shoulder and pushed down, but he wasn't that strong and it wasn't a good angle. I backed up a step, and he fell forward, his pants down a little around his thighs.

“What the fuck you doing?” he whispered fiercely. “You here, I got my dick out, get me off!” He struggled back to his feet.

“Yeah?” I crossed my arms. “You'll do me next?”

“Fuck that,” he said.

“Yeah, I agree. Fuck this.” I turned and headed back to my car while he made some angry whispers. Jesus Christ. I drove off a little faster than usual and headed home. Why can't I find anyone to fucking date? I wouldn't have minded a hook up if it were on even terms, even someone I'm not totally into like Hakeem. Instead the best I can do is boys who only get their gay on when they tie one on. I can't even. I'm not ugly, I'm not a bad person, why can't I find someone decent? I mean really...what the fuck, universe?




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