I kept thinking about what Camo said and I wanted to get to where he was. He didn't label Absolon as a Stranger, he just looked at him as another person.
I'm sitting across from Camo eating lunch with him. I can't stop staring at his lips as he eats his soup. I really want to kiss him, but I probably shouldn't since we're at work. He'd probably kiss really well, with lips like that. How is he making eating soup sexy? My heart is going to leap out of my chest.
"Verona? Are you going to eat your sandwich?"
"What? Sandwich. Yeah."
I can't help but feel a little embarrassed and silly that Camo has me so entranced that I forgot to eat. I pick up my sandwich and take a bite.
"Camo? What do you do for fun?"
"Go to work."
"You think work is fun?"
"No, but seeing you is."
Oh, my heart skipped a beat and now there are butterflies in my stomach. I don't know why since he's already my boyfriend, so it's not like I have anything to be nervous about. I wonder if this is what love feels like. I've dated lots of guys, but no one has ever made me feel like this before.
"Camo, do you like the beach?"
Camo's eyes light up as he smiles and nods at me.
"I love the beach. In fact, that's a place that holds one of my fondest memories."
"Oh? What's that?"
"It's the day I first saw you."
"Really? Hmm.. how come I don't remember you?"
Camo laughs a little nervous laugh before he smiles again and looks down into his soup bowl.
"Uh... well... I kind of... uh, I-"
"Camo, it's all right. You can tell me."
"I was being a typical teenager and checking out your ass."
Camo talks really fast and continues eating. That's why he looked like he'd seen a ghost when he and Titanium came into the store looking for jobs. He already knew me, well, sort of, knew my backside. I chuckle to myself as I now I realize that the front of me must have stunned him into oblivion. Well, the feelings are mutual, sexy Camo.
I'm sitting with Titanium on the couch. He and I have been getting to know each other better and he asked me how I knew of The Compound after apologizing profusely again for judging me that day.
"You want to know how I know about The Compound? My mother was a resident for a while. She was the lady in the car with you and Camo when you guys left the beach that day."
Did The Leader require people he picked up at community gatherings to live in The Compound?
For residents who had a home, they were allowed to live at their house as long as they attended a few meetings. Some of them ended up eventually moving into The Compound.
"Class, not all Strangers have to be homeless to need our help. Some of them have miserable home lives and although they have houses to sleep in, they need our support. If you know any of these types of Strangers, you do not need to convince them to live here, but it would be good if you could encourage them to attend some of our classes."
"What kinds of things make them miserable at home?"
"Good question Zinfandel. All situations are different, but there are usual things like problems with relationships, drugs, crime, and other impure things. Some Strangers are in abusive relationships where the person they live with beats them up regularly. Some get into arguments over money and turn to unhealthy ways of solving their problems like drugs and alcohol."
I went to the beach alone after being woken up by my parents' fight. I'd just gotten done playing some pool when my mother came into the beach house. I wondered how she had found me since I hadn't told her where I was going.
"Absolon, honey? Why'd you leave the house?"
"I had to get away from you and dad. You guys woke me up with your fighting. I've been here all day."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I tried to get your father to talk to you and he got mad again."
"Mom, I don't know why you keep doing that. I know he hates me. He's made that very clear. I don't care much for him either. You should save yourself the trouble and just give it a rest."
"Don't take that tone with me, young man. I am trying to make us a family."
"Yeah? Well, don't bother."
I sigh and look down. I'm a little ashamed for talking to her like that, but I really think it's pointless, and if it will get her and Dad to stop fighting, maybe it's just better that way.
"I'm sorry, Mom. I just don't think there is any hope for the three of us to be one big happy family. Maybe happily ever after is not meant for us."
"Don't you talk like that. There is always hope. Okay?"
I nod, even though I don't believe her one bit. I don't want to crush the hope she seems to have.
"Come with me, Absolon. There's a little gathering I want to stay for, and I'd like you to see what it's about as well."
I follow my mom to another part of the beach house, where the red haired man who gave us hot dogs is standing. Some other people are gathered around. He starts talking about how Silicon Shores is full of pain and sadness and that he has some shelter that is an escape from all of it. He sounds like a complete nutjob, thinking that there's a way to live in utopia. I whisper in my mom's ear to let her know I don't want to stick around for this.
"Mom I think I'm going to go for a swim, if that's okay with you. I'll be back home later. I love you."
"I love you too, baby. Hey, I'm going to stay up here. I'm curious what he has to say."
"All right Mom. See you at the house."
I go back home and see Dad watching some tv. I'm glad for the sudden change in peacefulness, but I wonder where Mom is. The little discussion group she went to seemed like it was hours ago. Dad ignores me, as usual, which I suppose is better than him yelling at me to go away or stop bothering him. There are gross plates of food everywhere so I decide to clean up.
Unfortunately for me, I drop one of the pans on the floor. I don't even have to turn around to feel my dad burning a hole into me with his eyes. I don't know what his problem is, the television is at a perfectly decent volume so it's not like he missed anything.
"Absolon! Will you shut up! I'm trying to watch tv."
"God! You are such a pain in the ass!"
"Is Mom back yet?"
"How the fuck should I know? She went out to find your stupid ass, and you're here, she isn't, put two and two together. Where did you lose her?"
"I was at the beach and she stayed at some party."
"Great. She accuses me of cheating and then she goes off to a party. Bitch."
"Dad, it's not that kind of party."
"Well then what kind of party was it?"
"I don't know."
"God, you're useless! Just go away!"
The next day, Mom still wasn't back. Dad continued to yell at me for leaving her at the beach, and two more days passed before she finally walked in the front door.
Before Camo left for work today, he made a date with me to go to the beach the next day. He said he had to be back home for a class at 2pm but that we could spend the morning together. I don't know why he has class in a shelter. Maybe it's some type of home schooling or something. I meet him there around 8am and we start dancing. I really love the way he is looking at me. His eyes are so intense. Maybe today is the day we should have our first kiss.
Holy shit he's adorable. Kiss him, Verona! For the love... kiss him.
"This is fun, Camo. I'm glad you suggested it."
"You're so pretty."
Ooh, I can't take it anymore. I grab Camo's hand and look into his eyes. He stares at me intently again like he did when we started dancing and our faces get closer and closer to each other until his lips are finally touching mine.
When we pull apart, he's smiling at me again.
"Wow, is that what it's like to kiss a girl? I like it."
"Camo? Was that your first kiss ever?"
"Well, not technically, but it was the first kiss ever that I actually wanted."
"What's that all about?"
"There's this thing called the reproduction schedule where I live, so I have to have sex with random people there. It's stupid and I hate it. I've only done it once and it sucked. She kept kissing me, but I didn't like her."
Camo's shelter is sounding stranger by the minute.
"Camo, have you ever been kissed like this before?"
The look on his face when we're done tells me he hasn't.
That day at the beach, I went to a shelter with the man who had given Absolon and I a free lunch. He runs it and it's called The Compound. The man sat down with me after Absolon had left and was concerned about my black eye. I told him I had marital problems and he asked if I had any friends to talk to about it. I said no and he offered to take me to his shelter so I could talk to some women. I agreed and then I stayed there for three days. I probably should have called Enigma and Absolon, but I didn't. Now I'm walking up to my house.
I'm glad to see Enigma when I walk in the door. He has a worried look on his face and I'm glad he missed me.
"Andromeda, what happened to you? Where did you go? I came back here after we made up at the motel, but you weren't here."
"I went to the beach to find Absolon after I left the motel. I'm sorry, I should have called you. I went to a shelter."
"Why? You know I don't hit you regularly. That was a one time thing, I promise."
"I know, baby. There were some girls there I talked to, you know, girl talk?"
"Oh, well I'm glad you're okay."
"Enigma? I'm going to be going there once a week to hang out with those girls. I think the time will help me figure out how to fix my side of our marriage."
What happened to you, Kalya? How did you end up like your mother? I can't sleep because I'm thinking hard about our new house guest and what Charles said to me the other night about how I treat Verona. I don't know what to do, I'm just worried about her. When I met Charles, he was a recovering drug addict. I worked in the rehab facility where he was assigned. It was hard watching him suffer from withdrawal. My heart went out to him, and somewhere along the line I gave my heart to him. My mother was not pleased with me picking a former drug addict as my boyfriend and she and my father disowned me from the estate. I was devastated. I can't imagine doing that to Verona, but I can't figure out how to stop worrying about her. The only thing I have figured out how to do is control who she dates. I don't really believe that's good for her, but I fear she will pick someone who will get her into trouble. She's never been one to follow rules very well.
I wanted her to work at the country club because there are decent men who go there, but she doesn't want to, so I can't do anything about that. Growing up rich, I learned not to trust people because most are only friends with you because you have money. I roll over and look at Charles. He's such a handsome man, inside and out. I am a bit jealous of Charles and Verona's eternal optimism, but I guess I'm just naturally a pessimist. I wonder about Verona's friend Absolon and I hope he does not have any ulterior motives. Charles told me to try to remember how I felt when we first met, and to apply some of that sympathy towards Absolon. I promised Charles I would try my best to respect Absolon for who he is now and what he's trying to do with his life, rather than where he comes from. It is a little easier since I know Verona is not involved with Absolon. Somehow I've got to find that young girl who fell in love with a drug addict because she seems much nicer than who I am now.