For Snippet Saturday, enjoy this second chapter of Unclichéd, Kevin’s story!
“She still does it, huh?” I ask when I spot the green card with “Sunday”, bold and centered, leaning against the bedroom window. We’re here to take Claire’s gran to lunch, and heading up the landscaped path to her cottage in this retirement complex.
“Yeah, she does. I keep trying to get her to put the wrong day up but she won’t have any of it.”
I raise my sunglasses and give Claire my best mock-reproachful stare. “God, you’re an awful human being.”
The card system is something the elderly people in the retirement center have in place in case any of them have an emergency—like one of them falling or having a stroke in the middle of the night. The thought is that, should something happen, a neighbor would be alerted to the fact that the day wasn’t changed and could check-in. Claire’s sense of humor is a bit off, but her mischievous side is one of the things I love about her. Right now, that impish side makes me want to pull her to me and kiss her, but I don’t because I don’t want to give Claire’s gran any more ideas. Granny Jo is the only one who knows there’s more to our friendship than meets the eye. She all but interrogated Claire at last year’s Christmas lunch and Claire spilled the beans. I don’t care that she knows—Gran is our biggest cheerleader—and only wants what she thinks is best for both of us. It’s just that what she thinks is best is for us is to settle into a “proper” relationship. Since that’s not something either of us wants right now, I restrain myself.
We round the bend and I see Gran standing at the door. It’s hard to say which of us is more enthusiastic, but my younger legs get me to her first and I swoop her into my arms. The giggle that escapes her lips is like balm to my soul. I needed this. A sanctuary. A place to unwind and be “me” for a while. A place to be with family. I know Claire’s family technically isn’t mine, but I’ve known them since Linda, Claire’s mom’s best friend, started fostering me when I was five. Claire’s family has always treated me as though I’m part of them. When my mom died nine years ago, Mrs. Addington offered to take my brother, Brandon, in so I could remain at the University of Stellenbosch. But I couldn’t abandon my brother when he needed me most. Especially when I was drowning in guilt. He’d only been with us for six months before my mom died in a car accident, and those six months had been tough. I wasn’t always generous with Brandon and I know it hurt my mom that I wasn’t closer to him. She’d tried to get me to see reason, and patiently pointed out that things for Brandon hadn’t been as easy as they were for me. So remorse for how hard I’d been on him cemented my decision to change schools. Four years later, I would’ve been putting my degree in veterinary science to use if I hadn’t been picked up by an agent and Brandon hadn’t insisted I take the opportunity with both hands.
“You okay, dear?” I place Gran gently on her feet and look to where she’s directing her question. Claire’s frowning and if I’m not mistaken, a little close to tears. She had confided in me more than once about being on “borrowed time” with Gran. At ninety-one, she wasn’t frail by any means, but she wasn’t a spring chicken either. I don’t even want to entertain the thought of what losing Gran would do to Claire.
Gran turns to face me, mischief dancing in her eyes as she winks. “She’s getting jealous. Don’t worry, dear. I won’t steal him from you. He couldn’t keep up.”
Laughter spills from Claire’s lips and just like that, Gran has lightened the moment. It wouldn’t surprise me if she knew what was burdening Claire. She’s a sharp old biddy. “I think you might be right there, Granny Jo, but I’d be willing to sacrifice myself trying.”
Claire covers her face with her hands. “Will you two stop? Just stop.”
Unable to resist, I add fuel to the fire as I lock Gran’s house. “I see what you’re saying about the jealousy thing.” Shooting Claire a look over my shoulder, I watch her failing miserably to act disgruntled, and I know she’s grateful for the levity. She reaches for her gran’s purse and we slowly make our way back to the car. I help Gran in the front where she has more legroom while Claire gets in the back.
I round the car and get in the driver’s side. “So, what have I missed since I’ve been gone? Claire tells me you were invited to the M.O.T.H ball?” We pull up to the gate and Claire hands me the exit tag. Her fingers brush mine and the familiar charge runs between us. I smile at her through the mirror and she smiles back. Gran talks animatedly about her social life and I’m drawn into the conversation. It’s easy and light, and I find myself relaxing into the seat as I drive us to lunch. When Gran mentions Mr. Carter for the second time, I interrupt.
“So let me get this straight. Mr. Carter has been walking you home from the book club for the last three weeks?”
Gran’s cheeks flush pale pink, knocking ten years off her and she smiles. “That’s correct.”
“I think I’ll have to have a word with him. Find out what his intentions are.”
She swats my arm and changes the subject. I steal another glance at Claire, she’s staring absently out the window. She’s so beautiful. The light reflects off her blue eyes as she sighs peacefully. God, I love her eyes—cornflower blue outlined with navy—that crinkle at the corners when she smiles, and pulls you in with their warmth. I could get lost in their depths all day but that would make me fucking creepy. I find myself wondering how I’m going to go back in a month. How I’m going to leave all this behind. The normalcy. The peace. I love being an actor but sometimes I wish things weren’t so complicated.
We stop in front of Primi, and Claire and I help Gran onto the sidewalk. Then I park the car. I’m looking forward to lunch with Claire’s parents and Gran, but Kim I could do without. Every family has them— that one person who has to needle everyone—and Kim is it. It wouldn’t bother me so much if it didn’t hurt Claire.
It takes Claire and her gran so long to make it to the restaurant that I easily catch up and we make our way inside together. When we enter the restaurant, I’m happy I remain unnoticed for the most part. A couple of people take a second glance, but easily get distracted by their meal or the company they’re with, and continue about their business. Chances are they might have recognized me, but seeing me with Claire and Gran threw them off. It’s always so refreshing when I don’t get recognized. On occasion, I’ve had people tell me I look like that Kevin Peyton guy. It always makes me smile.
I don’t miss the pointed look Kim gives us as we get to the table. Neither does Claire. I hate that she tenses up immediately when Kim implies we’re late. Being on time is very important to Claire—she’d never be late and we certainly aren’t late now. I walk around the table greeting Mrs. Addington and Adam, Kim’s husband. When I get close to Kim, she gives me a look so cold, it would freeze the balls off Lucifer, and digs into her purse so she doesn’t have to greet me. Suits me. I head over to Mr. Addington and he pulls me into a tight embrace and claps me on the back. He’s been the only father figure in my life and I’ll always appreciate everything he did for me growing up—coming to my games at school, teaching me how to fix a carburetor, refueling an aircraft. You name it, he did it.
“You look gorgeous, is this new?” Mrs. Addington fingers the fabric of Claire’s pink sundress and tries to defuse the situation between her daughters, like she always does. Claire’s gorgeous in anything, but seeing her in a dress the color her cheeks turn when I’m inside her makes me want to do things to her later when the dress is off, to see if I can hit the same pantone. My cock stirs behind my jeans and I have to sit to hide my growing erection.
Well fucking done, Kev. Way to come out to the whole family about your relationship with Claire by getting a hard-on at a family lunch.
Claire brushes her dress over her thighs and it’s not helping my situation. All it does is make me think of brushing my hands over her in the same way while she makes the sweetest sounds.
“Yes, I got it on sale last week.”
“The color is stunning on you.” Mrs. Addigton moves closer and lowers her voice. “Try to ignore her, she’s only trying to get a rise out of you. This lunch is for Kevin.” She tucks some hair behind Claire’s ear and my fingers itch to be the one doing that right now. Call it being deprived for three months, but all I can think about is touching Claire and feeling our connection. I turn away, trying not to eavesdrop on a private conversation, and feel moved that they’d do all this for me. Even though they’ve been this way for as long as I can remember, I try not to take anything for granted. Losing my mom at nineteen taught me to hold onto everything with both hands. It’s why I’m holding onto this friendship with Claire. It’s why I don’t want anything to change.
“So how was Nepal?” Mr. Addington pulls me from my thoughts and into a conversation about my time in the south of Asia.
“Incredible. You won’t believe how liberating it is to just unplug. I did miss some creature comforts though.”
“Where’s Brandon today, Kevin?”
I turn to Claire’s mom. “He’s driving back from Stella. He competed in the TOTPAK national championships.” Pride just about cracks my chest open when I share my brother’s achievements.
“How wonderful.” Mrs. Addington’s tone conveys her pride. “How did he do?”
I grin. “He came in first.”
“Oh, how wonderful,” she repeats and claps her hands, her gold bracelets jiggling and adding music to her enthusiasm.
Our conversation pauses momentarily when the waiter comes to take our drink orders. Mrs. Addington orders a bottle of champagne to celebrate Brandon’s victory and Claire orders a glass of rose. I order a beer.
“So, Kev. You must be bummed you missed the championships then?” Kim’s voice, falsely sweet, drips from where she sits next to Adam. Adam is a good guy; how he lives with a woman as toxic as Kim is beyond me.
“I wanted to be there, but Brandon and I spoke about it and decided it would be best for me not to attend.” With all the coverage I’m getting at the moment, I didn’t want to steal Brandon’s thunder. He deserved his moment in the sun. The waiter returns with our drinks and we order the appetizers. Kim gets peri-peri chicken livers and I wonder if the sauce will burn as much as her bite.
“Yeah, it must be a tough choice between getting in some playtime with a hot actress and family.”
I see Claire stiffen even more next to me. I desperately want to put Kim in her place, but I respect the hell out of this family too much to embarrass anyone in the process. Besides, I know that’s exactly what Kim wants, so I reach for my water and take a healthy sip. I’m about to open my mouth to explain—in as polite a way as I can muster—that sometimes sacrifices are necessary no matter the cost, when Gran interrupts.
“Kim, if Kevin missed his brother’s championship, there’s no doubt it was for a good reason.” She pats my hand. “That aside, if Kevin chose to stay away because he wanted to entertain all his past co-stars, that’s his business, not yours. Personally, if I were sixty years younger and in Kevin’s position, I’d be the Hollywood Whore.” Gran also takes a sip of water before pointing her glass at Kim. “Just because you don’t know fun from a trip to the morgue doesn’t mean you get to be a brat.”
I can’t decide whether to burst out laughing or kiss Gran, so I do neither. But wine comes spewing from Mr. Addington’s mouth and splatters all over Claire. She’s a mess of red spots and I look forward to helping her get out of her ruined dress later. Kim stands and knocks her chair to the floor as she retrieves her purse and storming out. Adam mutters his goodbyes before racing after his wife.
Fuck! This is the last thing I wanted. Claire’s family are so generous with me and I didn’t want anything to mar their lunch. I stand, intent on going after Kim to apologize. I don’t want things to be worse between Claire and her sister than they already are, but Gran tugs gently on my arm.
“Let her go,” she mutters. “She was just going to give me indigestion anyway.”
The mischief is back in her eyes and I see Claire and her mother failing to suppress smiles. Mr. Addington leans forward. “Sit, Kevin. I apologize for my daughter.”
I do as he says. “Not at all, sir.”
Claire smiles at me apologetically and I smile back, letting her know it’s okay and I’m sorry too.
“So…when are you people gonna get it right in films, huh?” Claire’s dad teases as he takes a sip of his wine. “The aircraft they used in Flying North was all wrong. The outside was an Embraer 145 and the interior was a Challenger. How hard can it be?”
I chuckle. This has been a long-standing pet peeve of Mr. Addington’s, but I know he’s bringing it up now to distract us all from what just happened between Kim and me, and once more I find myself grateful to have such wonderful people in my life.