Word Count 81K
*This is what the word count is for the book so far. This will be close to a 90K word story.
Holy crap. We are at 80,000 words. I knew this would be a 90K story. Partly because Kai's redemption was no easy feat.
This story has made me go into my past and think about things that had happened to me, face them, in a realistic way, and deal with the skeletons of my history. I feel wiser for and stronger for the predicaments I've placed myself in and grateful. Grateful to come out stronger.
Cryptic, I know. If you care to get the story, email me. I'm not brave enough to spew past happenings out in the open. This story is as close as it will get.
Handle with Care
No part of this story may be reproduced or transmitted without written prior permission from the publisher. This is a work of fiction. All characters, names, events, incidents and places are of the author’s imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
This is a totally unedited chapter. It may or may not stay the same after final edits and it may or may not remain in the story.
If you find any grammar, spelling or punctuation errors, please let know via the comments!! I may not get to them right away, but I will get to them. Thank you!
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Below is an excerpt of (working title) HANDLE WITH CARE
The auditorium turned art gallery brought in a crowd of teenagers after school. Two bolts of cream colored fabric hung from the rafters and cascade all the way down to the floor, making a hallway. A hallway where photography student’s pictures hung seemingly suspended in air. It was like a real art gallery display. But with Mr. Caplin directing the show, it shouldn’t be a surprise.
Rippling sheets shielded the dingy stage. The permanent auditorium chairs hid behind elegant drapes. Even the old tile floors were as clean as they’d ever get—for being walked on since the age of plankton. The age also known as Principal Ellis’ high school years, who admired every piece and looked at each name-place-card under the photos. He seemed impressed with each of his students.
But no one seemed more proud than Mr. Caplin. He pointed out details of the submitted art only a photographer would know to anyone that listened. At the moment, that listener was Principal Ellis.
Of everyone here I was one of two people wearing a suit. Kai insisted. I supposed he bought me this three-piece so I could impress college interviewers, but I felt stupid and overdressed. Especially since the only other person wearing formal wear was the principal. The person I wanted here was on his way.
“Oh, my, god. You dressed for a celebration, didn’t you?” Aubrey swankered up to me.
“Ah, no.” I grimaced and narrowed my eyes at her. “I promised to wear this,” I mumbled.
“It’d be a shame to waste this look.” She waved me up and down. “I mean, wow.”
Aubrey was standing in front of me in a cute floral yellow dress, giving me an in to ask her out, but all I saw was the ghost of her brother behind her cracking his knuckles then taking a baseball bat to my soft ball head.
“Thank you.” My cheeks prickled.
“Come with me after. We’ll celebrate.” Aubrey looped her arm around mine. “We can go to this place I know.”
“Ahhh… would your brother drive us there?”
“No way.” She laughed. “It’s called Uber.”
“You have to be eighteen to ride.” Though I’d used Uber in desperate times. Being one of Andy’s favorites meant having a fake I.D. I still had the card to get me into places.
“Not if you know the right people.” She fluttered her eyelashes.
“And I look like the right people?”
“In that suit you do.”
“Am I being used for my good looks?”
Aubrey smiled. She really was good at getting what she wanted. “You just look like the kind of guy that would know how to work around the system.”
I rolled my eyes. It was hard to say no to Aubrey.
“Come-on, it’ll be fun.” She wiggled on my arm.
“What’s your angle?”
Aubrey gave me a wicked smile. “What if my only motive was to show you a good time.”
That in itself scared me. She was always on the move. Doing something, researching something, getting into trouble. I lifted my eyes to the ceiling. “You need money?”
Aubrey’s light-hearted side faded and she shook her head.
This side of her, the serious side, I trusted. “If you need help Aubrey, I’ll give it.”
She bit her lower lip and looked up at me with huge puppy-dog eyes. “Text me when you’re done.”
“Okay.” I nodded, and she let go of my arm and entered the hall of photos.
My cell phone went off in my pocket.
Here. Kai texted.
My stomach lurched. At the main entryway. In suit and tie, stood Kai scanning the room. I waved and jogged up to him.
“Impressive.” Though his voice flat and unimpressed, I knew he was just being Kai, The Wall.
“Mr. Caplin did all the decorations.” I waved to the long hanging sheets.
“Yes, that too is very professional.”
I turned to Kai and was met by his golden stare. Oh. He meant I was impressive. Kai-ese was a nuance language and I was still a grass-hopper.
Overwhelming gratefulness, gratitude, love… things I couldn’t name swelled inside me. I was a bottle being filled with the most amazing soda. Something better than Red Bull. I was hot, cold, clammy, sticky and bursting with energy.
“Come here, I have something to show you.” I waved him to follow me.
He stiffened, eyeing me with suspicion but followed.
I walked towards the hallway of photos but went a little past the entrance. In a smooth, practiced lunge, I snatched his shirt sleeve and pulled him through the curtains and behind the scenes. We collided into a full body hug before crashing into the permanent chairs.
Three months ago, I’d never been able to maneuver someone with a wrist-hold. But I used my tactical dojo training in practical uses. Like getting Kai behind the scenes.
He remained silent, as I knew he would, completing my ninja move to a private world where no one saw us and I could squeeze this happiness into him. We were, technically, in public, but the curtains shielded us from view. It got me hot thinking people were right there. We could hear them yet they didn’t know we were within two feet.
“Thank you. For coming.” I was about to let go when Kai wrapped his arms around me.
He buried his face in my neck as one hand pushed at the back of my head, crushing my nose to his shoulder. His other arm was a band around my waist and brought me closer.
This was irresponsible of me. I should have thought of how this would affect him. Just because he seemed to have a leash on himself, didn’t mean it was easy.
He held me, careful not to bring his hips too close. His tight unrelenting grip, his breath heavy and tickling the hairs on my neck. Kai breathed me in through his nose and stuttered out his mouth. His scent mixed with the smell of suit fabric soothed this ache. The clawing animal inside stopped as if reveling in Kai’s embrace. Home. Safe.
“The things I would do…” Kai’s voice was so low his whisper a scarce breath.
Oh crap. This was dangerous. I’d underestimated Kai’s limit of control. I tried to push him away, but his hold was titanium.
Kai stiffened and let me go.
Principal Ellis stood two seat rows down. His face just as much a wall as Kai’s.
“Principal Ellis.” Kai bowed his head.
“Mr. Kroll.” The principal drew out my name. His jaw tight. Eyes piercing. Principal Ellis reminded me of a beady-eyed falcon with German Shepard traits. He knew when to be where. It was a little freaky, how he swooped in at the right time. His insight appeared super natural.
Worse, Kai and Principal Ellis shared the same type of silent communication. If two walls spoke to each other, this is what it would look like.
“Mr. Kroll,” Principal Ellis said, this time without elongating my name like I’d been caught hugging my boyfriend. “Mr. Akiyama has business with me. In private.”
Kai grabbed the back seat of a permanent chair and squeezed the wood so hard it moaned under his hand.
Principal Ellis focused his pin-point stare at Kai.
Woah. There was some under lying issues between the two.
“Liam, please wait for me at the entrance.” Kai spoke to me but didn’t look away from The Principal.
“I’ll be waiting.” I slunk out from the fabric shield and into the hall of photos. Through the sheets I heard Kai speak in a low tone.
“Your rudeness is uncalled for.”
“I saw what he did and considering your past…” Principal Ellis’ reply trailed off.
That’s right. Principal Ellis proudly showed me class trophies. He knew Kai and apparently had some sort of history. I wanted to find out more but neither one spoke.
They probably knew I was listening in.
Guess that’s all I would hear.
Thank you for reading Handle with Care by S.N.McKibben.
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