Chapter 14

Alisha stood silently in the kitchen, her back against the refrigerator. Her arms were folded across her chest and she stared blankly at the hardwood floor, tears threatening to spill. She heard Gwen coming down the stairs and wiped the brim of her eyes, not wanting Gwen to know she was crying. Gwen walked quickely across the kitchen, picking up an apple at the table.

"Hey Alisha," she said nonchalantly and she made her way past Alisha and headed for the door.

Alisha grabbed Gwen's wrist and pulled her back. "Wait a sec," she said quietly. "We need to talk."

Gwen noticed Alisha's red eyes and her eyebrows creased with concern. "What's up?"

Alisha looked at the floor and then back up into Gwen's eyes. "Melissa called," Alisha said, referring to her second best friend.

"Oh. How'd she get the number?" Gwen asked.

"My mom gave it to her when she called my house," Alisha replied, her voice beginning to quiver.

"Ok," Gwen continued, "what's the big deal?"

Alisha licked her lips. "Gwen...her brother and cousin died."

Gwen's jaw literally dropped and her eyes slowly grew wider. "What?" she asked, barely above a whisper. ""

Alisha put her hand on her forehead and sighed heavily. "They were in a car accident." Again, the tears lined her eyes.

"Oh my God..." Gwen managed to choke out. "How's Melissa holding up?"

"She's awful. I talked to Jenna and she said that Mel won't eat or sleep," Alisha whispered. She closed her eyes just as a tear began to roll slowly down her cheek.

Gwen remained silent and just looked at Alisha with shock.

"Gwen..." Alisha began, "I want to go home."

"Ok, Taylor," Ike began over the phone, "I'm gonna ask you something that would normally be out of the question..."

"C'mon Ike, just say it," Taylor said impatiently.

"Ok...I need help getting ready for a date," Ike mumbled hesitantly.

Taylor grinned. He knew very well what Ike had just said, but felt the need to tease him. "What was that? I think we're loosing connection...say that again."

Ike rolled his eyes and sighed, realizing Tay was just trying to drive him crazy. "I need help getting ready for a date tomorrow," he said very clearly.

"What? A date? Tomorrow? Geez Ike, I dunno..." Taylor said while holding in a laugh.

"C'mon Taylor," Ike insisted, "I know I don't usually ask for that kind of stuff...but I'm just asking you to help me."

"Fine, fine, fine...come over later today and we can start off by finding you something normal to wear," Taylor replied with a sigh.

"Thanks, I owe you, man," Ike said. He glanced at his watch and realized he had to be to work in 30 minutes. "Hey, I gotta go...I'll be over later tonight."

"Bye, Chewwy."

Ike, irritated with his brother for still calling him Chewwy (c'mon, it's been a few years now!) hung up with out saying good-bye.

"Piss head..." Taylor muttered as he heard the dial tone with how a word from Ike. Shrugging, he too hung up the phone and went downstairs in search of Gwen.

Zac opened the back door in the hallway near the kitchen. He stopped his mud-covered shoes on the doormat and slid them off. He slammed the door shut and sauntered into the kitchen humming a light tune. He entered the kitchen and noticed Gwen and Alisha sitting at the table. They were talking in hushed voices, both clutching glasses of water. Alisha looked up at Zac with a depressed expression.

"What's wrong, Lish?" Zac asked with a concerned look on his face.

"What happened to you?" she asked, avoiding his question. His clothing was covered in dirt, with a few rips here and there. His hair, slightly tousled, had a few clumps of dry mud.

He looked down at his clothes and shrugged. "My basketball got stuck on the roof and I kind of got a little messy trying to get it down."

Alisha smiled for the first time all day. "Just a bit..."

"Um," Gwen started, realizing Alisha probably wanted to talk to Zac alone, "I'm going to go find Taylor." She slowly rose from her chair and walked out the kitchen and into the family room.

Alisha, feeling sort of guilty for what she was going to have to tell Zac, stared down into the ice in her glass.

"I guess the ice is pretty interesting, huh?" Zac joked, trying to lighten the mood.

"Zac..." Alisha sighed and put her hand to her forehead.

"Sorry," he said a bit quieter.

"It's ok," Alisha replied replied quickly.

After a moment of silence, Zac broke it. "Alisha, did you want to tell me something?"

Alisha looked up at him with glossy eyes. "Do I want to tell you? No, not really. But I kind of have to." Zac got a confused look on his face and Alisha decided to go on. "Zac...I'm going home tomorrow."

Zac's jaw dropped. "What? Why?"

"My friend needs me. Her brother and cousin died yesterday," Alisha replied, her voice quivering and tears filling her eyes.

"But...I mean...what about..." Zac stuttered.

"Zac, I'm sorry...I really need to do this," Alisha apologized.

"Why can't you stay here?" Zac asked after a quiet minute. After the words slipped out, he realized that probably wasn't the best thing to say.

Alisha glanced at him with a funny look. "Do you think I'm being selfish or something?"

"No," Zac replied slowly. Kind of... he said in his mind. "I just don't think you're really thinking of me."

Alisha's eyebrows crossed. "Zac, I have a friend who needs me right now. Is it really that hard to understand?"

"Well...I need you too," Zac tried to reason. Every time he spoke he wished he could take the words back.

"What?! I can't believe you just said that. Zac, you didn't just loose two of your relatives. I'm leaving tomorrow no matter what you say. And if you want to end it on a bad note that's fine," Alisha said stubbornly.

End it... The words echoed in Zac's head. Did she actually want to break up with him??? "End it?" he asked quietly.

"I meant end this little vacation," Alisha quickly explained. "Zac, can you please try to understand where I'm coming from?"

Zac bit his lower lip. "I'm so sorry Alisha, I shouldn't have said half of that stuff. It's just hurts me to see you so upset and with you leaving, I won't be able to do anything about it."

"You can, Zac," she whispered as she got up from her chair and walked over to Zac. "You help me by letting me go without a fight." She wrapped her arms around him and rested her head on his shoulder, gently kissing his neck.

Taylor held up a maroon v-neck sweater to Isaac. "Hmm..." Taylor contemplated, "I dunno, this might work."

"I don't like that shirt," Ike said. "I want to wear my green shirt."

Taylor looked up at Ike and raised one eyebrow. "Well, I didn't ask what you thought, now did I, Chewwy?" he snapped.

"Ok Taylor, I think you're taking this job a little too seriously. I just asked you to help me pick out my outfit," Ike replied.

"And I am so stop complaining," Taylor said smugly. Ike just rolled his eyes. Taylor dropped the sweater and stood there, thinking. His eyes grew wide and exclaimed, "I got it!" He ran to the other side of his room. He bent over a pile of clothes and started throwing loose articles around the room. "Here it is!" he exclaimed proudly. He held up a pair of black leather pants.

Ike gave the pants a strange look. "I don't know,'s only the first date...aren't leather pants kind of..."

"Oh, shut up Ike, I promise you that Cathy, Candy, whatever her name is, will like them," Taylor responded.

Ike looked at Taylor apprehensively. "Fine..."

Taylor grinned. "Good. Now we just have to find a shirt..."

Zac quietly knocked on the door to Avery's room, where Gwen was staying.

"Yeah?" Gwen asked from the inside.

"Gwen, it's me, Zac."

"C'mon in," Gwen answered.

Zac poked his head in, and then walked over to Gwen's bed. He sat down, sighed heavily, and then said," Gwen can we talk?"

Gwen could sense that something was wrong. "Yeah, sure," she replied.

"It's about Alisha."

Gwen didn't say anything, hoping he would talk first.

"Does Alisha still like me?" he finally blurted out.

Gwen's eyebrows creased. "Zac, that's kind of a dumb question..."

"Well," he continued, "I thought she did at first, but now I'm not so sure. And with her leaving and all..."

"Zac, you have nothing to do with her leaving. Put it into perspective," Gwen suggested. "Pretend you're staying with her in Oklahoma City and something happens to Taylor or Ike. You're going to want to go home, right?"

Zac looked down and licked his lips. "Yeah, I guess." Then he looked up at Gwen. "Is she really that close to Melissa?"

Gwen nodded. "Yeah. And she was pretty good friends with her brother."

"Oh. I guess I should've been more supportive then," he concluded, then stood up. "Well, thanks, Gwen."

Gwen smiled. "Yup, no problem." Zac was about to walk out the door when Gwen said one last thing. "Zac, I'm sure you've noticed already, but I'll say it anyways. Alisha is really sensitive. The bad part about that is she's hurt easily. So be careful with her."

Zac smiled. "I know, thanks."

"You really love her, don't you?"

Zac nodded, then turned around out the door, leaving Gwen silently contemplating in her head. I wonder if Taylor feels the same way about me...

"Hello, boys," Gwen said as she poked her head in Taylor's room. Surrounded by Ike and Taylor were about ten millions loose aritcles of clothing. "Taylor, I was going to through some stuff in the wash, is any of this dirty?"

"Aww..." Ike began, "you've already got her doing your laundry, Taylor?" He grinned ear to ear, thinking, Wow, she must be whipped. "No!" Taylor denied. Then he turned to Gwen. "I'm still trying to find him an outfit, so I can't put any of this in the wash."

"Ok," she replied and started to walk down the hall.

"Wait a sec!" Taylor suddenly shouted.

Gwen stuck her head in the door again. "Yeah?"

"We need your help," Taylor quickly said. "Ike has a first date tonight. We don't know what he should wear."

"Ok," Gwen replied as she walked in and sat on the bed. "Did you have any ideas?"

"Taylor wants me to wear these," Ike said as he reluctanly held up a pair of black leather pants.

"They're cool!" Taylor exclaimed in defense. Then he looked at Gwen. "What do ya think?"

Gwen tilted her head and examined the pants. "Um...well...I dunno..."

"But," Taylor replied stubbornly, "they're cool leather pants!"

"I don't like the leather pants," Ike said.

"We didn't ask you if you like the leather pants," Taylor retorted.

"I'm not so sure about the leather pants," Gwen said apprehensively.

"Just wear the damn leather pants!" Taylor exclaimed.

"I told you, I don't like the damn leather pants!" Ike replied with equal force.

Gwen frustratedly looked on the floor behind her. She bent over, picked up a pair of khakis and the maroon sweather, and tossed it at Ike. "Let's forget about the leather pants, just wear this."

Ike examined the outfit Gwen tossed to him and shrugged. "Works for me."

"Ugh!" Taylor sighed exasperatedly as Gwen walked out the door. "Fine," he muttered, "don't wear the cool leather pants."

Take Me Home!