“You knew this was going to happen, did you?”
Even before L and I entered the café, a bevy of girls were already following us. They were trying to take a peek of who I was, but I was covered by his security Dex, H’s hoodie, and my shades. But when we got into the café, there wasn’t any escaping it. I had to take off the security blanket.
I dropped the hood, just in time to catch L shrugging. I turned to the small crowd of girls forming outside of the café, and I smirked at the shocked look on their faces when they realized it was me. It was just a few weeks after H had come out to the public about our relationship, and I was getting used to the (unwanted) attention, as well as the death threats sent through Twitter. I almost wanted to delete my Twitter account, but as H said: “Do not give them the satisfaction. Don’t.” I actually do think I’m going to miss these death threats when they’re gone—if they ever will be.
And going out with L right here, in public instead of our previous house visits, it’s different. I think this is just going to add up to my death threats count.
“Well, we have to toughen you up against these girls,” Landon answered, holding up a hand. He went to the counter to order our coffees, and he waited at the bar. After a few minutes, the barista called out, “One Earl Grey and one hot chocolate for Layla!”
I winced at the name—it was T’s idea, a ‘ship’ name for me and Landon, one born from jest one night when he realized that L and I had really grown close and it wasn’t just a passing thing. H found the shipper name funny, especially after T said, “For the record, am still riding the Kayden ship. Just sayin’ that Layla is kind of getting along nicely.”
L slid my drink across the table, very nonchalantly, as I gave him a raised eyebrow. “Really? Layla?” All I got in return was a mischievous smile that makes me want to throw something at him. God, I wish we were at his place where there are a lot of pillows to throw at him. L picked up where he left off, saying, “They spot your weakness—say, not being to carry yourself well in public in the face of their scrutiny—and they will lunge at it.”
I took a sip from my hot chocolate and just sighed. After that night at the cabin in the woods, L has been this person who pops up and disappears in my life. He just resumed contacting me when he got too homesick for his own good. That was why I set up that diner reunion, and ever since L has been something constant in my life. He’s been pretty helpful too, in my dealing with the backlash of H going public about our relationship (like today, for example).
He’s a solid rock I can lean on. Well, another rock to lean on, because H is the solid rock to lean on.
“Danica called me up the other day,” L said, switching topics. I tried not to show him my irritation—after seeing L break down at the cabin, I prefer not to hear about Danica. She makes my heart ache because I could still feel L’s pain—from that night at the cabin and as I watch him trying to recover.
Does she know how much L has hurt?
“And…?” I prompted, and L peered at me with those gray eyes.
“She wants to meet up.”
I paused, studying his reaction. He looked loose and easy, like it was just an ordinary day to have his ex that he has been pining for call him up just out of the blue. He was smiling a bit, enjoying his Earl Grey, and as I was silent, he mentioned that he wanted a cinnamon roll.
“You’re asking me if I’m okay with it, or you’re just gonna tell me your decision?” I settled, trying to go easy on him.
“I told her she and I don’t have anything to talk about anymore. I know she and Daryl had broken up already, and while I’m not one for making assumptions, I’m thinking she wants to get back with me.”
I grinned. “Ooh, too much for your ego there, Petersen,” I teased. He laughed, and his eyes crinkling. I turned serious just as he did, and then he whispered, “But in all honesty, I’m okay. I’m already okay. I’m happy. And I don’t need her anymore.”
“Sure you don’t.”
He looked at me, frustration written all over his face. Cracks started to appear in his armor that he placed around himself. “Jesus, Kayla.” He ran his hands over his face like he was washing it underwater. When he emerged, the coolness that I saw earlier was gone. Back was the conflicted Landon that H and the boys and I had straightened out and nursed back to life.
“Shit, L,” I said under my breath. “I am not gonna let you backslide.”
“I am not backsliding, Kayla.”
I looked at him pointedly, narrowing my eyes at him. “You’re about to.”
L rolled his eyes, pouting. “It’s kind of scary how you know me so well.” I winked at him, saying, “Well, I’m named ‘Bestie’ with that smiley with two hearts as eyes on your phone, so I should know you very well.” I crumpled a piece of tissue and threw it at him, the ball hitting him on the forehead, and he was about to make one for himself when I stood up.
“Getting you a cinnamon roll. And in case you don’t know, it’s also to give you time to reconsider backsliding.”
He still threw the ball of tissue at me when I turned, as I felt this soft thump on my shoulder. When I returned, he had already finished his tea and was drumming his fingers on the table.
I passed him a fork, setting the plate of the cinnamon roll between us. We dug in, L still wrapped in his thoughts, and as we did this fork fight for the last bit of cinnamon roll, he said, “I’m not backsliding.”
I looked up and he held my gaze, and I saw the truth in his eyes. “Good. I’m not up for a trip in the cabin anytime soon because it’s getting kinda cold there right now,” I said, and he smiled.