Angel in doorway

We finally disentangled, but I still wouldn't let Kayla go
completely. I kept my arm around her and pulled her with me back to
my chair. She sat down next to me, pulling her chair close so I
could keep my arm across her shoulder. She leaned in to me and put
her hand on my thigh, wanting and needing the physical touch as much
as I.

I looked around the table as Eric and Keisha got settled in. "Were
all you guys in on this?" I asked.

Jesse smiled and nodded. "Yep. Everybody except for Bryan. I told
him a little about it the other day, but Keisha and Danielle really
planned it all and pulled it off."

I stared at Danielle, across the table from me and looking like the
cat who ate the canary. "And you played the innocent so well," I
said. It made her smile even more.

"And you," I said, pointing at my friend Eric. "That bullshit about
you and Keisha was all made up, wasn't it?"

He shrugged. "Hey, she was busy. I had to keep you away from her
for a few days."

"What did you tell your parents?" I asked my love.

She laughed, and my heart filled again. "I'm on a campus visit,"
she said, glancing fondly at Keisha. "It was all Keisha's idea, and
she was the one who really convinced my mom and my dad it was okay.
I'm staying with her and looking at Maryland, and then I'm going with
Danielle to see South Carolina."

I was a little crestfallen. "You're staying with Keisha?"

Kayla looked at me, smiling. "No," she said, shaking her head slowly.

"No?" I was a little slow on the uptake.

"No," she repeated. "But my parents think I am."

"Then where are you..."

She pinched my thigh, and I got it. Idiot, I chastised myself, but
Kayla was laughing, and everybody else at the table seemed to think
my chronic stupidity was highly amusing.

"So how... and why... and when..." I couldn't seem to finish a
sentence at all.

"For a college kid you sure don't have any answers," laughed Trent.
"Actually, Dani and Keisha set the whole thing up. Jesse and Spencer
were in on it, too. I think they felt sorry for you, all lonely and
depressed and everything."

I glanced at Jesse and Spencer both. Visions of Reggie briefly
flashed in my head, but they popped like soap bubbles into the ether.

"We had some convincing to do on your behalf," said Danielle. "I
worked on Kayla's mother, and Keisha talked to her dad. Between the
two of us we managed to convince them it was all on the up-and-up."

"Which reminds me," said Keisha. "Kayla, you're due to call your
folks in about an hour. Don't forget."

Kayla pointed at her watch. "I'm keeping track, don't worry," she

"So are you really considering going to Maryland?" I asked. To be
sure, I was disappointed Florida wasn't on her list to visit.

All three of the girls, Kayla and Danielle and Keisha, looked at me
very strangely.

"Whatever made you think I'm considering attending school at
Maryland?" asked Kayla, an amused look on her face.

"Uh... because you're visiting... and..." Her hand on my leg must
have cut off the oxygen supply to my brain, I chastised myself. I
decided I would show her I was smarter than I looked sometimes. "And
you're just using the campus visit as an excuse, aren't you?"

"See? I tole you he wasn't as dumb as you thought he was,"
commented Eric to Keisha. He carefully kept his face neutral, his
quick glance in my direction to see if his barb hit its target his
only giveaway. Keisha's response was to hit him in the bicep.

"Give the poor boy a break," she said to her boyfriend. "He's been
doing without for a long time."

Kayla gave her a wink. "I've been doing without for a long time,
too, but it hasn't scrambled my brain," she noted.

"That's because you're not a guy," said Danielle with a critical
look at me.

"No, I'm not," agreed Kayla.

"No, she's not," I confirmed. I turned her head to me so I could
kiss her. I wanted to make sure I wasn't really imagining all this.
Her return kiss confirmed the reality for me.

"Cripes, get a room, would you two?" said Jesse in mock disgust.

I grinned. "I'd like to," I said.

In fact, I was ready to blow off dinner and grab a cab back to the
hotel with my Luscious. Patience, I reminded myself. Good things
come to those who wait. Admirable sentiment, but difficult to do, I
found. Still, I waited.

We all ordered, and Kayla and I spent the next hour in communion
with our friends around the table. Even as anxious as I was, I found
myself really enjoying the time we spent together, my friends and me.

While we were waiting for dessert, Kayla and Keisha got up from the
table and walked into the lobby of the restaurant. It was time for
Kayla to report in to her parents, and Keisha was sure they were
going to ask to speak to her, too. They trusted their daughter, but
after Jake's indiscretions of a few years ago, and Tara and Stephen's
problems of about a year past, all our parents were on heightened
alert, it seemed.

While they were gone, I took the opportunity to ask a few questions
of Eric and Trent.

"So, how come you guys thought of this?" I asked.

Trent had the good grace to look chagrined. "Actually, we didn't,"
he admitted. "Keisha and Dani came up with the idea." He glanced
over at Eric. "We," he continued, indicating himself and Eric,
"weren't particularly in favor of it, actually."

That surprised me, and maybe disappointed me a little. I tried not
to make judgments, however, and I didn't think anything showed on my

"Why not?" I asked, trying to sound noncommittal.

Eric laughed, and I looked at him in surprise. "Shit, Porter, we
didn't want you to be happy during this tournament," he said. "A
happy Sean is a tough Sean when it comes to soccer. Bringing your
girlfriend here just didn't sound like it was in our best interest."

Trent chuckled with Eric. "But once the girls... reasoned... with
us, we saw the error of our ways," said Trent.

"Reasoned? That what you call it?" asked Eric, smiling and
grimacing at the same time. "I'd call it damn painful."

"Yeah, it was that, too," said Trent. "Anyway, after Dani and
Keisha pointed out the... defects... in our logic, we decided that
maybe an exhausted Sean was almost as good as a lonely Sean to us.
If your girlfriend can tire you out enough, it should offset any
benefits from the happiness quotient from seeing her."

"You think so, do you?" I said. "Well, maybe I won't exhaust myself
wining and dining her, so I'll have enough energy to whup your asses
on Sunday."

The whole table laughed out loud at that. "Yeah, right," said
Trent. "Let's see how that plan works."

He was right. That plan just wasn't in the cards, and no matter how
much I tried to bluff, Trent and Eric both knew it.

The girls came back about ten minutes later, all smiles. Everything
had gone well, and Kayla's parents weren't expecting to talk to her
again for a couple of days.

As much as I loved my friends, by the time we were done with dessert
I was ready to get out of there. Jesse, Eric, and Trent, letting
their perverse sense of humor show once again, insisted on ordering
coffee. They sat back and enjoyed watching me squirm as they sipped.

Finally I couldn't take it anymore.

"Fuck it," I muttered, and I stood up. Kayla gave me a quick
glance, and then allowed me to pull her chair out. She stood
gracefully and took my hand. She looked at Jesse, Bryan, and
Spencer, and that was all it took. The three of them scrambled to
get up. How does she do that? I thought to myself. I have to cajole
and plead, and all she has to do is look at them and they jump.
Probably willing to ask how high on their way up, too. It was
another of those mysteries of the universe a small mind such as mine
could never unravel.

We all reached for our wallets and threw money at the table to cover
the bill. Everybody else also got up, and Bryan went out to get a
cab while we all said our goodbyes for the evening.

Just to get in one last dig, Eric asked, "Hey, you guys want to go
out dancing or something?"

Kayla was much more gracious in declining than I would have been.
Before I could swear at him she answered, "Thank you, no. You all
have important games to play tomorrow, so I think we will call it an

Keisha dug her elbow into Eric's side, as if to say, She got you,
didn't she? Eric did his best to ignore her.

Keisha, not about to be ignored, grabbed his arm and pulled him to
her. "Good night, Sean. Good night, Kay. Danielle will pick you up
in the morning, and we'll all go to the games together."

"Great," said Kayla. "See you then." Only then did she allow me to
lead her toward the door.

Jesse, Bryan, and Spencer got into the cab. Danielle and Trent took
us to the parking lot, and Kayla and I crawled into the back seat of
Danielle's car, a 1979 Buick Skylark she had bought at the beginning
of her senior year in high school. It was a little cramped in the
back seat, but I didn't care. I was with my girl. I held her tight,
all the way across town and back to our hotel.

We said goodnight to Dani and Trent. It was right about then I
realized I couldn't just waltz Kayla up to my room. For one thing, I
had a roommate. For another, we had a curfew, and either Pick or
Eddie always came around to make sure we were where we were supposed
to be. Curfew was still an hour away, but how was I going to get
Kayla upstairs and Luke out of our room?

Fortunately, Jesse and Spencer had already thought of that. They
arrived as Kay and I were standing around, trying to figure something
out. Jesse told us to go around to the side, by the restaurant
entrance. He would watch out for Pick and Eddie so we could get to
an elevator safely. In the meantime, Spencer ran up the stairs to
move Luke into his room. Bryan, meanwhile, stationed himself in our
hallway, ready to divert anybody who happened to stick their heads
out at the wrong time.

It all went off like clockwork. Kayla and I made it up to my empty
room unseen. Luke had most of his stuff still there, but he took
what he needed for the night over to Spencer's and Brad's room. It
was going to be a little crowded there, and I knew I was accumulating
some debt with some of my teammates, but it was all worth it, as long
as we could keep Pick and Eddie in the dark.

Jesse and Spencer brought Luke and Brad by to meet Kayla, and we
both thanked them for helping us.

"A slight bending of the rules is rarely a bad thing," said Jesse.

Luke, the one most put out by our machinations, couldn't keep his
eyes off my Luscious. I couldn't blame him, nor was I about to say
anything to him. After all, he was doing me a huge favor. Besides,
looking didn't cost anything, as long as he understood she was my
girl. He could look as much as he liked - or, to be honest, as long
as Kayla didn't mind - and I thought seeing her made his shuffling
around a touch more worthwhile. Or maybe I was just imagining it
all. I still wanted to reach out and touch her occasionally, just to
make sure she was truly there, in my room, talking with my teammates.
It really seemed too good to be true.

Kayla had pulled some pictures out of her backpack and was showing
them to Spencer and Jesse.

"See? And here's little Kyle, Sean's nephew," she said, passing the
photo over to Spencer.

"Boy, he's grown since I saw him over the summer," he said, gazing
at the picture. "How old is he now?"

"Five months old," Kayla said. "He was born in May."

Brad looked at the picture. "And this is your, what, your brother's
kid?" he asked.

"Well, kind of," I said. "It's a long story."

Jesse stood up. "A story for another time," he said, pointedly
looking at his watch. "Lights out in fifteen, gentlemen. Let's get
back to our rooms, okay?"

Everybody got up and shuffled toward the door. Jesse opened it,
looked out to make sure the hallway was empty, and ushered the others
out. He turned back to us after the room had emptied.

"Just in case Eddie wants to make sure Luke's here, I'd suggest
Kayla covers up in the other bed and pretends to be Luke asleep," he

"Good idea," I said. "Thanks."

He gave us a thumbs-up and closed the door behind him.

We were finally alone.

I was suddenly very nervous, and Kayla looked like she was feeling
the same.

"I'd better get ready," she said.

"Okay," I answered. "Can I help with anything?"

She laughed, and the tension was relieved just a little. "No,
silly," she said. "I'll be right back."

She slipped into the bathroom with her backpack. I turned down both
beds and began to undress. Should I take everything off? Wear my
underwear? What about a tee shirt? I was babbling inside my own
head. I remembered I should at least have shorts on, for when Pick
or Eddie knocked on the door, so I took my clothes off and put on a
pair of running shorts I sometimes wore to bed.

I turned out all the lights except for the one by my bed, and I
turned on the television. Kayla came out of the bathroom wearing
sweat pants and a zipped, hooded sweatshirt. She giggled at my
expression, and without a word hopped into Luke's bed and pulled the
covers up over her.

She was just in time. There was a knock at my door, and the sound
of it startled me. I hopped up and peered out the fisheye peephole.
Eddie Whitehead was standing outside the door, looking distracted.
Good, I thought. Distracted is good.

I opened the door and put my finger to my lips so he would be quiet.
He looked in and saw a prone body in Luke's bed, and he made the
assumption we wanted. He nodded and pulled the door gently shut
behind him, already thinking about who was in the next room on his
list to check.

I twisted the deadlock on the door and put up the security chain.
Kayla had turned around and was watching me closely. I climbed into
my own bed and turned out the light. The room was cast into shadow
and light from the flickering images coming from the television. I
lay on my side, watching Kayla watching me.

"Sean?" Her voice was soft, befitting the ambiance of the room.

"Hmmm?" I kept my own voice soft. It was the only way I could
conceal the quaver of nervousness.

"It's silly, but I'm..."

"Yeah, sweetie. So am I."


Mmmm... hmmm," I confirmed.

She threw her covers back and stood up. "Don't go away," she said

It was enough to make me smile, washing away much of my nervousness.
"Okay, if you insist," I replied.

I kept my eye on her as she walked back over to the bathroom and
once more closed the door. She was in there for just a few minutes,
but when she reemerged, she had transformed herself from a mere
mortal into the angel I always knew she was.

The light spilling from the doorway backlit her for just a moment,
until she reached over and switched the light off. It was a long
enough moment to stay with me forever. She was wearing a lacy, sheer
babydoll nightie, cream-colored and diaphanous. I could see the
shadowy shape of her body through the fragile material during that
moment, her nose, chin, breasts, and knees lighter shades of darkness
by contrast. Her fair hair, silken and nearly transparent, spilled
across her shoulders, free of constraints, adding to the vision of
her soft silhouette.

I could not move, faced as I was by the vision before me. The light
was there, and then it wasn't, but the image of Kayla in the doorway,
the current image transposing itself in my addled brain with an older
memory of a younger Kayla in a different doorway, sealed my fate.
Forevermore would I remember vividly my white-haired angel, coming to
me from the light, coming to join with me, into the dark.

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