Kellan din't even know how it happened. He didn't understand what continuously brought him back to 'Maxine's Bagels and Coffee' shop everyday. What brought him back to see her ... everyday?
"Um, just a small hot chocolate today is all. Thank you!" Kellan heard her tender voice say to the young woman at the register.
He watched as she rummaged through her bag, searching to make enough change to pay for her drink. $1.19! That's all it cost for a small hot chocolate. Something so miniscule to Kell, but seemed so hard to obtain for her. He fought internally with not running over to her and paying for her drink, but somehow he knew that would offend her. Even in her weak state, she exuded an air of pride. She carried herself not in confidence in herself, but in assurity that she didn't need anyone. She knew she would be ok.
What Kell didn't know was that she had to think this way just to make it through the day. "Uh..., you know what. Never mind. I'm not really thirsty. Is it ok if I just sit at my usual table and read a book? I mean I don't actually have to buy anything to stay here? I know.... I'm supposed to....." she rambled as the cashier cut her off, giggling and telling her it was no problem.
She made her way to her usual table, facing the window, and opened her book from her back pack. Kell decided it was time for him to leave, but he had to make a stop before heading to his truck.
"Hi! May I have a large hot chocolate and a blueberry muffin please? Thank you." he ordered, noticing that on days when she was fortunate she would always add a blueberry muffin to her usual hot chocolate. After he paid the cashier and she handed him his items, he quickly denied receiving it. "Could you just, uh.... just give this to the young lady sitting over there. I don't know her name, but um, I want her to have it. Just uh... just... yeah!" he stammered, a little embarrassed by the woman's knowing and admiring gaze.
"Sure thing!" was all she said, beaming from ear to ear. Kell nodded his head before briskly walking out of the shop to his truck. He knew if he stuck around she wouldn't accept, so he took the punk's way out and bolted.
As Shauna sat, becoming totally engrossed in her book, she tried to ignore the hunger pangs that her stomach was threatening to tell. She realized after ordering that she was 15 cents short, 15 cents!!!! She couldn't believe it, and was totally embarrassed.
A large cup appeared, alongside a blueberry muffin in front of her. She looked up from her book to see the young cashier smiling down at her. "For you." the young lady beamed. Shauna quickly began to protest, but she held up her hand in the air stopping Shauna. "I didn't do it. The gentleman who always sits two tables over from you, over there, paid for it. And he's gone, so if you don't take it I would have to throw it away. And I'd hate to have to waste this for no good reason."
Shauna was stumped. He didn't even know her, never spoke a word to her. She smiled up at the woman and uttered a timid 'thanks.' The cashier walked away rather triumphant, with her heart warmed by Kell's actions.
Shauna found her emotins ranging and raging within her. She was grateful, but mad! Touched but angry! Accepting but appalled! Who the heck was he to think that she needed his help?? Just who the heck was he??
The next day, at the same place, at the same time... Kell sat at his usual table when she sauntered in. Wearing as usual a pair of jeans that were 2 sizes too big, a long sleeve shirt, a pair of dirty sneakers, and her thick black hair piled up ontop of her hair in a knotty pony-tail. Her bronze skin was beautiful, different, flawless to him.. but she wore a pair of unflattering glasses that if you didn't look deep enough, you would miss her beauty. But Kell noticed.
She saw him instantly, glancing at her. He wasn't flat out staring, but he wasn't doing anything to hide the fact that he was looking directly at her. She wondered how many times had he been looking at her before to know her order the way he did!!??!!
His gray eyes were piercing into her, almost as if he could see into her life. His brown, unruly curly hair sat disheveled atop his head. He had a pointed nose and plump pink lips. She could tell he was an athlete, or at least very fit, by the way his t-shirt hugged his body. His skin was a peachy color, different from her step-father's pasty skin... and she noticed she liked it.
Her face darkened as her complexion didn't really allow her to blush, and she found herself nibbling on her bottom lip. She always did that when she was nervous. Kellan definitely made her nervous. She ordered her usual, adding the muffin, and pulled out a 20 from her bag. She had access to money, she just didn't like the way the money was made, to use it. She would rather sometimes just go without. After receiving her food items and change she made her way over to Kellan's table.
She stood nervously at his table and with a shaking hand placed $6 on the table. Kell glanced at the money and and raised one eyebrow up at her. "For yesterday." she squeaked, and if Kell wasn't looking at her, he might not have been sure that she actually spoke with how soft she said it.
Kellan chuckled and raised from his chair. "If I wanted the money back, I would have come and asked for it. So seeing that I didn't..." he picked up the money and shoved it into her bag "... you keep this." He started to walk towards the door praying internally that she would call him back. "And if I wanted charity I would start up my own organization. But you don't see me walking around holding up an empty cup with my picture on it, now do you?" she replied in her small sweet voice. Yet she spoke with such fire to her voice that it made Kell shiver in delight.
He turned to her with a big smile on his face. "If you really want to pay me back, you'll sit with me tomorrow. Because I'm sorry honey, but your money isn't accepted here." he said pointing to hisself. He turned on his heels and was out the door before she had a chance to say anything.
Kell was hoping that this was it. That hopefully he had a found a way to get her attention. He didn't understand why, but he so desparately wanted to know this girl.
She was amazed. He wanted her to do what?? No one, let's repeat that, NO ONE - EVER wanted to be with her. She was weird, different, a nerd, a loner! What was his deal? She constantly fought with herself over and over in her head. Should she or should she not? What would it hurt? It's not like he would ever find out her secrets, right? Right???
She walked into the shop, and not to her surprise... there he sat! She didn't even spare him a look. She walked to the corner to purchase her usual, but the cashier just smiled at her and pointed her finger out. As Shauna followed the woman's finger with her eyes, it led her to none other than Kellan. As she she took a better look, she realized that he sat eating his chocolate- chocolate chip muffin and reading a paper, but across from him was a large cup and a blueberry muffin.
Shauna turned back to the cashier as she just giggled and walked away. Shauna let out a deep breath that she didn't even realize she was holding in. She grasped her bag that hung over her shoulder tighter to her hip, squared her shoulders, and slowly walked over to Kell's table. Once there she stood, unable to move or even blink. She bounced on her toes before clearing her throat to get his attention. Without his eyes ever leaving his paper, the chair next to Shauna screeched on the floor as it slid out from under the table. Kell, using his foot, pushed the chair out. Signaling for her to join him!
She ever so slowly slid into the chair and fiddled with her fingers, constantly nibbling on her bottom lip. Kell raised his eyes from his paper to meet hers with a smirk on his face. "So are you going to enjoy, or just sit there and stare at it?" He asked in his baritone voice that gave Shauna the shivers. "I don't need you to buy me anything you know? I can take care of it myself." Shauna responded.
"Oh, I know..." Kell said almost condescendingly "... but this was a gesture to get you to come and sit with me, not because I thought you needed me to."
"Well... good... because I don't."
"Yeah, I got it! Now that we have this established, can you please just eat it!!??!!" Kell said more as a statement than a question. Shauna sighed and felt herself loosening up a bit in his presence.
Kell dropped his paper onto the table and stared at Shauna as she nibbled on her muffin. He folded his arms across his chest, causing his forearms to flex and Shauna to gulp down her bite. "So why have I never seen you in school?" Kellan asked. "Uh, well that's 'cause I'm homeschooled. But I'm finished now. I just finished last month. What about you, why are you always here and not in school?" she responded.
"I only have 2 classes left, I go in the morning. Right now it's all about graduation preparations. Driving me crazy, I swear." Kell chuckled. "So tell me about yourself! How is homeshooling, being home with your mom all day?" Kell teased.
"Ha! My mom isn't really there, I mean she's physically there, but I do all the work. She just signs and checks what she has to. Nothing more!" Shauna said with a bitterness to her tone. Kell made a mental check to revisit this conersation.
They spent everyday talking and getting to know one another, except for weekends. Shauna learned that Kell was an only child. He had a "girlfriend" but it was just a cover. She had a real boyfriend whom her parents didn't approve of because he was poor, and Kell was tired of girls throwing themselves at him. So he and his fake girlfriend, Michelle, decided to help each other out. His mom was a photographer and his dad owned a small chain of sporting goods stores. Both were very successful and Kell benefited from it.
Shauna's situation was a bit different. In the beginning she was very closed off. She shared that her step-dad, Tom, was a construction worker and her mom worked nights but she wasn't sure what she did. Only half of that was true. Tom was a pale white man with blonde hair and green eyes, and her mom was native american with brown hair and hazel eyes. Her mom was married when Shauna was 13, right after she found out her mom was expecting. Her little brother Christopher was born soon after, and two years later came Loralei. She dropped out of public school when she was 15 to be homeschooled. After Loralei was born they moved from New York to California to be far away from her old life. But that's all Shauna would say. She had only met her biological dad once when she was 8, a black man named Rob. She had no desire to ever meet him again nor he any to see her again.
Everyday they grew closer. Kell found himself wanting to be so much more than her friend, but scared if he made a move he would scare her away. He kept telling himself he would know when the time was right. He would feel it, because with Shauna all he could do was feel. She opened up a whole other side of him emotionally. He didn't even realize what he was doing to her. Everyday walking into the shop to see him sitting there with her hot chocolate and blueberry muffin made her heart skip a beat. His voice, the way his leg would brush hers under the table sometimes, and his eyes.... those piercing gray eyes would make her melt into a puddle. She felt like he could see straight through her sometimes, yet there were so many things she kept from him. So many things she felt that he could never know!
As time went on, little things from Shauna's story about her home life wasn't adding up... and secrets were rising to the surface. Like the time her sleeve on her shirt came up when she stretched and there were visible finger prints on her arm; purple bruises on her bronze arm. She refused to answer any of his questions and ran out the shop. The next day she returned and broke down in his arms. The grip marks on her neck was all he needed to understand what happened. She told him everything.... or so she said.
"Sometimes my mom gets angry and hits me. I take all the abuse so my brother and da... sister, don't have to. I refuse to let her touch them which makes her more angry. I'm stronger, but I just can't hit her. I can't do it. And Tom just ignores it all, he just ignores me for that matter." Shauna cried. Kell had already pulled her into his lap and was rubbing her back in slow steady circles. She rested her head into the crook of his neck and sobbed. "She's a stripper! That's why I won't take her money unless I have to. It's dirty and contaminated, and I don't want it. Ido all the work around the house. She spends her days sleeping and her nights working. No time for us." she continued.
"Shauna, I'll help you! I'll help you with anything you need. I'll get you out, we'll protect you...." Kell's heart was breaking and he felt himself propel into protective mode.
"NO! No, I can't just leave. I have to be there for them. I just need 3 more weeks. I'll be 18 and then I'll fight for custody." She cried
"You have no job Shauna! You have nothing, let me help you? They're not gonna give you custody if you can't take care of them. They'll just put them into the system and they'll end up separated in different foster homes." Kell reasoned.
"Don't you think I know that? I have to try. What, what do you think you're gonna do, huh? How can you help me?"
"I don't know. But I can least start by getting you a job. My dad will hire you. We can get you loans and grants to get you set up in school... with me! We'll give you guys a place to stay. Anything you need Shauna, I'll be that!"
"Huh. Why do you wanna help me?"
"Because I care about you Shauna. I care about you a whole hell of alot." Kell slowly pressed his lips to her cheek. Shauna sighed and electric currents coursed throughout her body. She rested her head back on his shoulder feeling more loved in this moment than she ever did in her whole life. She knew there was more she was hiding, she just didn't know how to tell him. How would he feel about her after finding out her biggest secret of all.
"Can I meet them?" Kell asked and Shauna felt her heart plummet to her feet. She picked her head up, searching his eyes. "What?" she asked breathlessly. "I asked if I could meet them, you're brother and your sister?"
"I-I-I don't know if... um, maybe we... I-I just..." Shauna stammered. But before she could continue soft lips pressed to hers, silencing her. "Please, don't push me away now." Kell whispered, his whole body on fire with the feel of her luscious lips. He fought hard within himself to keep his body under control. "I-I..." Another kiss pressed to her lips. "It's just soo...." And another kiss. When she moaned, it was all over for Kell. He jammed his lips to hers and gently licked her lips. She gasped with the sensation of his tongue on her, and Kell licked his way into her mouth.
He pressed her hips down into his body, and kissed her with such fierce intensity he momentarily forgot where they were. While Shauna was still on a cloud never being kissed like that in her life. He slowly pulled away and stared at her, a smirk forming on his lips. Her eyes were still closed and her mouth was open with her lips trembling. She made a heavy sigh and fluttered open her eyes. "Um, yeah... you can uh... you can meet them...." Shauna whispered, "... but you're in for a bigger surprise than you're thinking." She said.
They arrived at the day care and Shauna asked Kell to wait outside. He stood at the door to his truck, tapping his foot, anxiety getting the best of him. Then he saw her coming. There was a little boy bouncing up and down in front of her talking animatedly. He had a head of dirty blonde hair and once when he was close enough Kell could see his hazel/green eyes. His skin was a light caramel, lighter than Shauna's but darker than his. The little girl on her shoulder had her head turned so Kell couldn't see her face, but he could see a lot of wild, curly hair that was black with natural dark brown highlights. Once she turned her head, Kell thought he would pass out from shock.
From the round button nose, to the full lips, and golden bronze skin... he was looking at a mini Shauna. Except Shauna's eyes were dark brown, and Loralei's... were green!! She was lighter in skin tone, but it was Shauna's child... he knew that!! "Shauna, why does she look like just like you?" Kell asked gritting his teeth. Christopher stopped mid-sentence asking who Kell is, and Shauna lightly, half-smiled, "This is my uh.... she's my...." Shauna said as tears began to fall from her eyes, "... my child, mydaughter."
Kellan's world began to spin, what did this mean. As he stared in Loralei's eyes, it became clear. He gasped from his realization. "No!" He said shaking his head, and Shana nodded her head 'yes'
"Hey Christopher, have you ever uh, have you ever been behind the wheel of a truck?" Kell asked, needing a minute alone with Shauna, immediately. Chris's eyes lit up, "No, but I want to" he practically yelled at Kell. Kell and Shauna chuckled, "Then this is your lucky day. My name is Kell, and this is my truck. Now..., I need a big favor from you! I need you to be a big man and watch your sister for Shauna and I. I'll let you sit in the driver seat of the truck, and you will be the man. How's that sound?" Kell asked.
"Ooh, can I, can I? Pleeeaassee, Shauna?" Chris begged. "Of course sweetie." she said. They put the kids in the car, Loralei was a little more hesitant, but when she saw how much fun Chris was having she all but jumped in.
Once alone outside, Kell wasted no time. "Explain Shauna. She looks like you, exactly like you... but somehow she has green eyes. Doesn't your step-dad have green eyes Shauna?"
"What are you getting at Kellan?" Shauna whispered.
"What am I getting at, do you want me to spell it out for you?" Kell whisper/yelled "Are. you. sleeping. with. your step-dad?" Kell enunciated each word.
"NO! How could you even think that of me?"
"Then who's child is it Shauna, she's obviously yours. Is she his too?"
Shauna gulped, "Yes, but it only happened once. He only did it once." she fought to hold back tears. Now it all made sense. Why her mom hated her, why they moved so far away from their hometown, why she chose to be homeschooled, why she was so withdrawn - yet strong, why her step-dad ignored her and never helped her, ... why he was drawn to her. He was meant to save her, and save her he would. He quickly wrapped her in his arms as she cried.
"He was drunk. He went into the wrong room... he thought I was my mom. He took it, and left without a word. The next day my mom saw my sheets in the trash. She called me a whore. After the baby came and she saw her, I know she knew. But she didn't blame him, she blamed me. And that's when the abuse began." she continued to cry "I didn't want to tell you because I thought you would think of me as ruined. Back there today, at the coffee shop was my first and only kiss. Thank you for that. He just used my body. So I totally understand if you want to walk away from me and never....."
Kell grabbed her by her shoulders and kissed her senseless. "You are mine now. I'm not letting you go. I'm not walking away, and nothing you could ever say or do could push me away." He kissed her lightly again, "I'm taking you guys home... with me. You're never going back there again. My parents and I will help you guys."
"I dont' need....." Shauna started.
"Uh-uh-uh, sssshhhhh!!!" Kell pressed a finger to her lips, "You need to understand something. It's ok to need someone else. You may not want to see it, but you do need me. You need me just as much as I need you Shauna. I think I love you, these feelings I have for you are sometimes unnatural to have developed so soon. I mean I want to kill your step-dad. I want to smack your mom, I want be there for your brother and... and your daughter, I want to take care of you. I've wanted you since the first day I saw you. You try to hide your beauty behind all this..."
Keel took off her glasses. "And this..." he gently pulled her bow out her hair, letting it fall in her eyes and down to her shoulders. ".. And this..." he took the hem of her oversized shirt lifting it over her head noticing that she had an undershirt on. "Just let it go..!" he urged as she fought a little not wanting to expose the bruises on her arms, but Kell didn't care and he was stronger. What he didn't expect was a flat stomach, she had a child after all. Her tank top was snug to her chest, causing her breast to swell over the top a bit, her flat stomach made her round hips more prominent. Kell knew she was hiding something.... but not this.
His heart skipped a beat as he swelled with emotion towards her. "Wow!" was all he said. Shauna blushed and tried to cover herself with her arms, and Kell embraced her not taking a second to kiss her. She could feel his excitement, and she herself was warring with her internal emotions. "Eeeewwww, why are you trying to suck the life out of each other. Are you guys aliens or something?" Chris asked from the window, and Shauna burst into laughter. Kell groaned in frustration.
He gave Shauna her shirt and they made their way into his car. Loralei was in Shauna's lap and Chris was in the seat between them. "Are you ready?" Kell turned to Shauna. She looked at her family. and her new found love. "More than you'll ever know." she said, as they rode away to Kell's house.... and never looked back!!
Things weren't easy for them... but when where things ever easy for Shauna. She was just happy that someone finally loved her enough to save her!!!