"At least she was honest with you," Brian said to Nick when he had finished recounting his and Kayla's conversation from the restaurant that evening. The two guys as well as Leighanne were all sitting in the Littrells' hotel room.
Nick stared at his friend in disbelief. "What?"
"At least she's being honest now," Brian repeated. "Isn't it better than what was happening before?"
"Uh...no, not really, because she wasn't supposed to break up with me!" Nick snapped. "I just...I want her, I want..." He sighed in frustration.
"Sweetie, I'm sorry," Leighanne said, putting a hand on his back. "The jealousy thing was my idea, and it kinda backfired."
Nick waved her apologies away with his hand. "It's not your fault. I'm the one who did it." He shook his head incredulously. "I just can't believe it's actually over. I really thought she could have been...it."
"I think all of us did," Leighanne agreed. Brian nodded too.
There was a short silence as she rubbed Nick's back and he thought some more. Then he suddenly sat up straight.
"You know what?" he said. "This isn't right! It doesn't fit! She does love me!"
Leighanne and Brian exchanged a look. "Nick..." she began.
"No," he said, "I'm not making this up! When I touched her and called her sweetie, I could tell that it got to her. The whole time she was talking to me...it was like she was telling me no, but her eyes were saying yes."
"Honey, I know it's hard, but you're gonna have to let go of her," Leighanne said.
"She's right, Frack," Brian agreed. "As much as I hate to admit it...you've tried everything. Maybe it's just not meant to be."
"So I should just give up now? After everything that's happened, after how hard I've worked, I should just throw in the towel?" Nick asked angrily.
"Nick, she told you no," Leighanne said. "You have to respect that. You can love her so much it hurts just to look at her, but if she really doesn't want a relationship...there's nothing you can really do."
"Easy for you to say," Nick muttered.
"Look, given a few days away from you, maybe she'll realize what she's missing out on and change her mind. That's a slim, slim maybe. And if that happens, great. But if not—"
"Wait," Nick said. "What do you mean, a few days away from me?"
The two Littrells exchanged a look.
"What?" Nick demanded. "Tell me. Isn't she coming with us to L.A.?"
Brian slowly shook his head. "Kayla decided she needed a little break. She went with her friends on the plane back home."
Kayla sighed deeply as she stood in the middle of her room. Not her hotel room, not a room that she was simply borrowing for a few days...her room. It felt weird. She hadn't been in it for so long. Less than a year, but it felt like a lifetime. She remembered the last time she had stood within these walls—about seven months ago. She had been an entirely different person then. Her heart had been filled with nothing but anticipation and excitement as well as slight fear. Now there was a confused mixture of a lot more fear, pain, regret, anger, frustration, and so many other things that made her head hurt.
She hadn't wanted to end things with Nick like that. Truthfully, beneath all the fear and indecision on her part, there had always been a hope that they would end up together. Now because of one five minute conversation, that hope had been dashed to pieces. But what else could she do? She had tried to deal with her issues. Really, she had. Everyone thought that it was all her fault. Even Nick, it seemed, thought that he just kept reaching for her and she just kept running away from him. But things weren't that simple. No one else, not even Nick, knew about all those nights when she had lain awake for hours just trying to figure out what to do. They didn't know how hard she had tried to stop herself from running away or how much she hated herself after she had done it. All they saw was Nick's outstretched arms and her retreating body, and they passed judgement. And it wasn't fair. Kayla had asked him for more time. She had told him directly: "I need more time." But he hadn't been able to deal with that, so she'd been forced to end it. Not that she was blaming it on him. It was partly his fault for not knowing when to stop reaching...but it was partly her fault for not being able to stop running.
One way Kayla had tried to get over her committment issues was to try and figure out exactly where and when they had originated. Going over her love history—it hadn't taken too long—had yielded only one answer: Scott. When they had broken up, Kayla had been so furious at the time that at first, her anger had covered up her pain. But anger is usually short-lived, and when it had begun to wear off, as it always does, she had been left with that pain. Scott had meant a lot to her. They'd been close friends for five years, and they'd liked each other on and off ever since then. Kayla truly had trusted him, just as she trusted Nick now, and when Scott had broken that trust, it had hit her hard.
This explanation made sense, but it didn't quite satisfy her. As far as fears were concerned, the possibility of Nick hurting her or betraying her trust wasn't too high on her list. There was a shade of certainty with him that had never exactly been there with Scott. So Kayla kept the situation with her ex-boyfriend in mind as one of the contributing factors, but she went back to the drawing board for the real reason. And it had taken a lot of thinking and probing, but she had finally come up with one.
When Kayla had first left home toward the beginning of her senior year, she had been forced to instantly do something that she should have had a whole other year for: finish growing up. That had been one of the scariest things she'd ever been through. Suddenly she had just been out on her own. An adult.
Of course, she was just an adult in some ways. She had to work like an adult and behave like an adult and handle the press like an adult. But on the inside, naturally, she was still a high school senior. And that included her friendships, her relationship with her family, and...her lovelife. If Kayla got involved with Nick, she knew it wouldn't be anything like her past relationships. He wouldn't just be someone to go to movies and parties with, to talk to on the phone every night, to hold hands with and kiss in the halls at school. He would be her boyfriend. But he would be a man. And she wouldn't just be in it for puppy love. No. It would be the real thing. Honest to God, as good as it gets, maybe even let's get married someday, true love.
And maybe that was one part of her where she just didn't want to grow up yet.