Why Are You Here? by LC Kelly

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Kayla takes a walk, she does it everyday, then why, oh why, is today any differet. But fate has a funny sense of humor and today her heart is in her throat and her breath cannot make it out of her lungs. And she's not the only forced to deal with the uncomfortable twists that are thrown onto the corner of Woods Street and Puter Lane.

Submitted: August 27, 2009

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Submitted: August 27, 2009

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She couldn't believe it, it was simply too unbelievable.  It had been thirteen years since she'd seen him but here he was in the flesh.  Kayla Wolf blinked her eyes a few times, trying to dispel the image in front of her.  It couldn't have been true, she told herself, no higher being was that cruel.  But no matter how many times the girl wished him away, there he stayed.
There, on the corner of Woods Street and Puter Lane, was Evan Stafford, smelling the fruits out in front of Lemon's Grocery.  Fate was trying to make some twisted joke and Kayla didn't want to stand around to see the punch line.  Unfortunately, she couldn't seem to move from her spot.  Her stomach felt like lead and the mere thought of moving wiped her out.  
A deep breath, that was all she needed.  She just needed to take a deep breath.  Closing her eyes once more, the woman sucked in a lung full of fresh air.  It was cleansing, she had to admit, but  part of her hoped that that would've been the end to this horrid vision.  Her naive bubble burst when she opened her eyes to see Evan smiling and laughing with Mr. Lemon's wife,  Irene.  But, to her amazement, Kayla found herself able to move.
Allowing herself a quick smile in victory, she began to turn around to walk towards the park, resuming her day.  It seemed like Kayla's victory would be short lived when, due to the length of her frozen state, her quick turn conjured up a cry from inside her baby carriage.  Great,  this is exactly what she needed.  Calling  attention to herself could only end in good, she thought, sarcastically.

It was the first "disturbance" he'd heard since leaving Boston, forcing Evan to look away from the pleasant conversation he'd been having with this Irene Lemon.  Eyes finding the crying baby immediately, he tilted his head just so, wondering if his 20/20 vision was suddenly flawed.  It had to be, he couldn't imagine that the woman he saw picking up the crying child was who he thought it was.  
Evan shook his head and ran his hand through the remains of his hair.  There was no way that wasn't Kayla, her chocolate brown hair and had never changed and her smile was a mirror image of her grandmother's.  Drowning out Irene's voice with his own rapid-fire thoughts, Evan shook his head again, he would recognize her anywhere: that grace in her movements, it was Kayla, his Kayla.
How was it, that in all the world, Evan would run into her here?  A small town in North Dakota, population 768.  It was more than he ever thought was possible to wrap his mind around, so it was no surprise he was having trouble now.
Excusing himself from Irene's dialogue on this season's choice of apples, the man made his way over to the woman and the wailing infant she held in her arms.  It had been over a decade and yet he felt as calm walking up to her as he did when she was eleven and they'd spent nearly every afternoon together.  What was she now twenty one, twenty two?  He couldn't remember, but in his current state of mind, he could hardly blame himself.

"Shhh.  Come on, babe.  I'm sorry I woke you up," Kayla said in the softest voice she knew, a rather often sound.  She rubbed the baby's back, soothing it back to sleep.  To her pleasure, it was working, though, with a four month old, almost anything would've done the trick.  His cries were becoming smaller with each breath, allowing Kayla to look away, toward Evan.
Unfortunately, now that she was able to look up, she regretted the decision.  It was irony in a nutshell.  Evan was walking over to her, his eyes locked on her as she stood there and as their gazes met she knew there was no way out now.  She kicked herself for thinking the cries would've gone unheard, this was a quiet town and little sounds attracted a few stares at the least.  Even someone new to the town.
Taking another deep breath to calm her nerves and trying to push away all the different emotions she was feeling, Kayla returned the baby boy to the carriage.  She stood to face the on-coming man, neither smiling nor scowling, Kayla simply faced him.  So many emotions ran through her at that moment, as Evan closed the distance between them, that the young woman  wished hell upon whomever the smart ass was who invented feelings.
Before he could get within six feet of her, Kayla looked straight into his eyes, squinting out the sun the shown behind him.  Shielding herself with harshness she asked the balding man, "Why are you here?"

That attitude hit Evan like a fist, it was so different from the persona he'd known all those years ago.  Her steal eyes were almost more than he could take, forcing him to look away.  Looking down and scratching the back of his head, the man let out an uncomfortable chuckle, "After ten years, that's all you have to say to me? 'Why are you here?'?"
Kayla kept her voice soft, probably not wanting to wake the now slumbering child next to her, and stated, "Thirteen years."
"What?"
"It's been thirteen years, not ten.  I wasn't even thirteen when..," she trailed off, finally detaching her frozen gaze.  She was hurt, even Evan could see it, you didn't need to know the woman she's become to know that.  Wanting to console her but knowing she'd never let him, he shoved his hands into his pockets and fiddled around with his motel room's key.
He desperately wanted to change the subject, but that was something else he knew she would never allow him to do.  He went on, "Kayla, you have to understand, I'm sorry about that.  I never meant to--"
"Forget it," she interrupted him.  "I read your letters, and I don't care.  So, what are you doing here?"
She'd changed the subject.  Evan was floored, the girl he knew would've grilled him for some answers but this girl... this woman didn't even want to here his apology.  She'd changed.

Kayla's heart hurt, she couldn't explain it further than that.  In all the languages she'd taught herself there were no words for her to use in this situation and that made her want to get out of it as fast as possible.  "Listen," she said looking straight into his chin, the last time they'd been face-to-face (so to say) she barely came up to his rib cage.  "I've been doing okay, and I can see you have been too, so let's just leave at that."
"So no more 'Why are you here?'"  His chuckle was exactly the way she'd imagined it for all these years.  Of course in all those dreams the laugh was followed by a quick slap, but Kayla couldn't do that, no matter how much she wanted to.  Her will power held as he amused himself, amazingly, and she waited for him to notice that she wasn't smiling.  He finally looked at her and his own grin ceased.  He coughed out a "sorry" and looked at her seriously.  "Kayla, don't you want to know anything about me?  What I've been up to?  I want to know everything about you."
Now it was her time to cough, whether in anxiety or untrustworthiness she didn't know but that openness from Evan made her body react in such a way.  And still, he went on, "I want to know when you moved to North Dakota?  Did you end up going to Penn State like your Old Man?  When did you decide to go into child care?  Is there a special someone in your life?  How is your family?"
The man stopped and Kayla could tell it was because it was her face.  Those questions, that word, they must've twisted her face into something otherworldly.

The look on her face was undescribable.  Never in his forty-nine years had he seen someone's features change with such disgust an all he could do about it was mouth the word "What?"  His voice had failed him and yet Kayla didn't even seem to notice.  This was beginning to feel like something out of the "Twilight Zone" and Evan was just waiting for a commercial break to collect his thoughts and find his voice once more.
The demon that had apparently highjacked Kayla body was ready to speak now, she did it with a mockingly kind voice,though the anger was clear, and said, "My family?  My family?  Oh, they are just fine.  Honkey dory.  Really.  But you know in thirteen years a lot has changed for instance we, especially I, do not want to know anything about you or where you've been."  She took and breath and lowered her gradually increasing tone, becoming aware of the child that slept beside her.  "Evan," she said the name with some hesitation, "If you want to know about me, fine, in fact I'm flattered, but do not expect me to want to here about you and your life."
Kayla stopped herself and Evan wondered if it was his turn to say something.  A part of him hoped she'd keep talking, he had no clue what to say next.  No younger woman has ever spoken to him this way, he was a respected business man and people treated him as such.  But Kayla was different, she didn't treat him like a business man, she treated him as someone who'd hurt her and Evan wasn't sure how to handle it.  
Looking up at her face only proved it further.

Wiping away the few tears that spilled from her eyes, the girl took another deep breath, thanking yoga and therapy every time she did so, and tried to continue.  "I moved down here almost two years ago after graduating William and Mary.  So, no, I didn't follow in my "Old Man","  using air quotes, Kayla kept her voice steady.  Slightly lowering her eyes, Kayla fiddled with the only ring she wore, "And I do have someone, actually.  I got married last year," then, "I invited you, or at least what I thought was you.  The only address we had ended up being to a sweet old lady."  A small smile crossed her lips as she remembered her wedding day and the old woman no one had ever met before.
The truth was, she wanted Evan to be there but he didn't make an effort to keep in touch and that was something he would have to live with.  Though the look upon his features when Kayla looked at him betrayed that fact.  He scratched his head, looking like he wanted his deceiving appearance to be a thing of the past and in a low voice said, "You're married?  Who-- um, who's the lucky man?"
Kayla's heart couldn't help but hurt a little bit more, even as his temples grayed and his faced became marked with lines, she could see that Evan was holding onto some naivety toward what Kayla said.  She could do nothing for him, what she said was the truth and she wasn't ashamed to answer his follow-up question.  "His name is Charlie Wolf.  He's a biologist here in North Dakota.  And," she went on slowly, "this is our son."

Evan's eyes were on the carriage before the sentence was able to fall out of the woman's mouth.  That baby, wrapped up in what he was now able to identify as the blanket Kayla first knitted when her grandmother taught her, was her son.  Her son with that man, Charlie Wolf.  He hadn't been out of her life that long, had he?
He scrambled for a sentence/word/sound or anything that would show that he'd been educated.  She was obviously able to show off her education, she said, "His name's Tyler Finn."
At this, Evan found his voice and his head shot up, "Finn?  Like your grandfather?"
His head was spinning.  Thirteen years.  Thirteen years was all it took for Kayla to change into this beautiful woman with a family- a son!  Evan couldn't wrap his mind around everything.  "Kayla," he started, though without any sort of ending to the sentence.  She looked at him with a mixture of both composure and impatience but he could come up with no more.
Once again, Kayla took the lead, slowly forming her next sentence, "I, uh, I gotta get home.  Tyler's gonna wake up soon and want to listen to Barry Manilow."  At this the cloud around Evan's mind cleared and his eyebrow rose.  Kayla simply shrugged, "I don't know what it is but Tyler loves hs voice.  Anyway," she sighed and took something out of the carriage and handed it to him, "my home number is on there.  Maybe you could call and we could talk."  The sentence came out strained but she continued, "You could answer my first question?"  Seeing his eyebrow still up questioning her, she explained, "Why are you here, Dad?"


© Copyright 2020 LC Kelly. All rights reserved.

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