I received several calls over the next few days. The first one was Orion apologizing for making it seem like they didn’t want me there, which really didn’t make me feel any better–though it should have. But my family assured me that Kyle was fine, that he’d be home very soon. Kyle got on the phone with me and promised me that he was okay and that he couldn’t wait to see me when the baby was born.
On Saturday I showed up at the diner feeling really nervous, but the nerves changed to annoyance when Kellen showed up, out of breath from running. He apologized profusely and told me that there was a big accident at work and he only had about thirty minutes for lunch. He asked if I wanted to hit up the new cafe for dinner and if not, he’d understand.
I reluctantly agreed to meet him for dinner and he apologized again before running off. I frowned slightly, hoping he was being honest.
“I’m so glad you agreed,” Kellen said as soon as we met up at the new cafe. “I was kinda worried you wouldn’t.”
“You have to work Saturdays?” I asked as we walked over towards a table. He pulled my chair out for me and I sat down, watching him carefully.
“Not always,” he said as he took the seat across from me. “But we’ve been super busy lately.”
A waiter came over to take our orders and once we both finished deciding what we wanted and the waiter went off, we returned to the conversation. “The library?” I inquired. “Or do you work somewhere else?”
“Somewhere else,” he said with a big smile. “I work at a science lab.”
“I’ve never seen you there,” I stated, very surprised by this. “The Soil and Water Research Facility?”
Kellen’s eyes bore into mine and his lips twisted into an even bigger smile. “No,” he said quickly. “There’s a facility a couple miles out of town. It’s a bit small but really nice there. A tad understaffed, which is why I needed to get back early.” He pushed his fingers through his hair and laughed. “I really am sorry for that! So, you’re a scientist too?”
“N-not exactly,” I stammered. “I’m just a lab tech right now. I hope to be a scientist someday. You’re… a scientist? What a coincidence.”
“Yep!” He beamed at me, obviously enjoying the fact we had something else in common. “I was working at the Soil and Water place when I finished college. But then the Acinert offered me a place, a much higher paying job with more benefits and more interesting things to do. So I took it and never looked back. I’ve always wanted to do work in the field of science. You know, help people and all that.”
“Acinert?” I asked, sipping at my water. “Is that the name of the place?”
“Sorta,” he said, suddenly looking upset. After a minute or awkward silence, he added, “It’s A.C.I.N.R.T. We all call it Acinert for short. It’s…” He trailed off and fidgeted. “It’s a pretty cool place. Can get pretty intense sometimes. But let’s not talk about work. How long have you lived in Riverview?”
We chatted for a few minutes and he started to relax once more. He’s hiding something, I thought as our food was brought. He had seemed fine talking about work but then suddenly wanted to not talk about work? It seemed a bit suspicious to me. Or maybe I was just being paranoid.
“Whoa.” Kellen said after I told him a bit about my family. “Your brother is having a baby?” I looked up at him, waiting for more of a reaction. Part of me hoped he’d react badly and I could just leave. But part of me didn’t want to go. I was… well, I was having fun. “Congrats to him,” Kellen finally said with a bright smile. “I think it’s great couples like that can have babies.”
“Not everyone thinks so,” I said distantly. “He was beaten up recently.”
Kellen looked at me in surprise. I knew it was an awkward thing to say on a first d–NO! I thought, angrily pushing the word away. Milla was wrong, this was NOT a date! “I’m really sorry,” he said, not upset about me saying such a strange thing. “People can be complete–” He stopped and then flushed. “Ah, I shouldn’t say such things in the company of a lady.”
“I’ve probably heard worse,” I said with a tiny smile.
“Hmm, I’ll just stick with savage and inhuman,” he said, propping his chin onto his hand. “Is your brother all right?”
“Yes,” I answered. “He’s due in about five weeks.”
Kellen shook his head. “Takes a real gutless, low-down twat to attack someone pregnant.”
We continued talking, going through different, random subjects. We talked about things we liked and disliked. We talked about family, and I discovered he was an only child. His mother was a socialite while his father worked at the military base. He talked a bit more about his grandfather, who was in the hospital, and his aunt, who was in China.
I found myself having a wonderful time. I laughed at his jokes, and rolled my eyes are the cheesy ones. We talked about college experiences and growing up in our different worlds–me at the beach, him in the country.
Finally it was getting late and as we stepped away from the cafe, he turned to me and said, “Can I show you something?”
I found myself in his car, winding a bit away from town. Part of me felt afraid but I also felt fairly relaxed. Soon we were pulling up in front of a small area with bridges and what almost looked like camping supplies.
“My grandpa used to take me up here for fishing,” he said, spreading his arms as a silent ‘ta-da’.
I looked around, listening to the crickets and the peepers. “It’s beautiful,” I admitted, reaching up to tuck a strand of hair behind my ear. “Do you still come up here a lot?”
“Yeah,” he said, stepping towards a bench. “I come up here mostly at night. I like listening to nature, it’s pretty calming.”
We sat down and I looked down at my knees. “You said before that you like to go through junk to sort of… relax. And this place too?” I tilted my head at him. “Sounds like you have a stressful life.”
He shrugged, leaning back. “It can be. Between work and taking care of the library, things get tiring. Plus my boss is a driver,” he added with a laugh. Then he imitated cracking a whip and made sounds to go along with it. “Wright, do this, Wright, do that,” he said in a nasally voice. “‘Wright, I needed those reports yesterday!’ ‘You told me about them today!’ ‘Well then you should have had them done yesterday, aren’t you a mind reader?’.”
I giggled slightly, pressing my hand against my mouth as if to hide the fact I was making that girly sound. “But you like working there?” I inquired, remembering that earlier he had gotten all antsy. Now here was another switch and I wondered if he would start acting anxious again.
“I love it,” he said. “Despite management. Do you like the Soil and Water lab?”
I shrugged and spread my hands on my knees. “Yes. I mean, it was weird being a test subject but my new job is great. I hope to be working there for a very long time.”
He just smiled at me and I smiled back, my heart beating. I settled back against the bench and lifted my eyes to the night sky. I… like his company… I pressed my lips together, marveling at this revelation.
After we talked a bit more, he took me home and once he parked outside my house, he asked me for my phone number, asking if he could call me sometime. I wrote my number down and gave the bit of paper to him. “I think I can handle that,” I said, eyes sparkling.
“G’night, Luna,” he said.
“Goodnight, Kellen,” I whispered, getting out of the car and heading inside.
As the next few weeks went by, it was hard to concentrate on things. Work, gardening, pretty much anything other than when I worked on my inventions. Milla kept asking me about the ‘date’ and all I said that it wasn’t a date, because it wasn’t. And just because he and I were talking every other night… that didn’t mean anything. We just happened to have things in common. I could have a guy friend.
I took up fishing, waking up a bit early on weekdays to walk over to the nearby river. It was peaceful, standing in the dark, watching the sun rise sometimes. I wasn’t getting much sleep anymore but I didn’t mind. I had too much to do, too much I wanted to do.
Fishing gave me time to think freely. Something I was starting to lack. I thought about work, I thought about my inventions, I thought about my family, but most of all I thought about Kellen.
Sometimes it worried me how well I got along with him. We hadn’t known each other long and with Milla’s comments, I wondered if Kellen thought of me as something more than a friend. I wasn’t stupid, I mean–I knew he probably did. I couldn’t put away the memories of him referring to me as a goddess and sometimes on the phone he would say something. But I wasn’t ready for anything more than a friend.
Though, if I ever did decide to… you know, date anyone. Kellen wouldn’t be a bad choice. We had a lot in common and I enjoyed spending time with him. But that was far, far in the future. When I was a lot older. When I had more promotions under my belt and a satisfying career. By that point, Kellen would probably already be married and I wouldn’t have to worry anymore.
Though I couldn’t help think about how lonely I felt, and that feeling of wanting love.
I got the phone call late one night. Dad babbled something completely incoherent and then hung up. He sounded worried, but also excited. I looked at the calendar as I called back, having my suspicions on what was going on.
“Mom,” I said when she picked up the phone. “I could not understand a word Dad said. Is Kyle having the baby?”
“Yes,” she replied. “Kenya just took him to the hospital. Your father is a bit… freaked out.”
I bit my bottom lip, resisting the urge to ask if they wanted me to come home for this event. “I’ll get there right away,” I said, waiting for her reply.
“That will be good,” she said. “I will see you soon, sweetie.”
I hung up, taking a few deep breaths. I was scared to see my family after what had happened but there was no way I was gonna miss seeing my first nephew or niece. I called the car rental company, called work to take a few days off, packed my things, and was ready to roll by eleven.