"What are you doing here?" he says with a surprised look on his face.
"I saw your car," I say. "What happened?"
He doesn't invite me in. Instead, he walks outside and locks the door behind him.
"I resigned. They withdrew my contract," he says as he walks toward his car.
"But you only have eight weeks left of student teaching. It wasn't your fault, Will. They can't do that!"
He shakes his head. "No, it's not like that. I wasn't fired. We just all thought it was best if I finished my student teaching at a different school, away from Javier. I've got a meeting with my faculty advisor in half an hour, that's where I'm headed."
He opens his door and removes his jacket and satchel, throwing them into the passenger seat.
"But what about your job?" I ask as I hold onto the door, not wanting him to shut it. I have so many questions. "So you're saying you don't have an income now? What are you going to do?"
He smiles at me and emerges back out of the car as he places his hands on my shoulders.
"Layken, calm down. I'll figure it out. But right now, I've got to go." He gets back inside, shuts his door, and rolls down his window.
"If I'm not home in time, can Caulder stay with you guys after school?"
"Sure," I say.
"We're leaving pretty early to go to my grandparents tomorrow, can you make sure he doesn't eat any sugar? He needs to get to bed early," he says as he slowly backs out of the driveway.
"Sure," I say.
"And Layken? Calm down."
"Sure," I say again.
And he's gone. Just like that.
“Close the laundry door
Tiptoe across the floor
Keep your clothes on
I got all that I can take
Teach me how to use
The love that people say you made.”
-The Avett Brothers, Laundry Room
I spend the rest of the afternoon helping my mother clean. It keeps my mind occupied. She never once asks why I'm not at school. I guess she's leaving the mundane things up to me now. When it's time to pick Caulder and Kel up, Will still isn't home. I bring both of the boys back to the house and we begin another discussion on Halloween costumes.
"I know what I want to be now," Kel says to my mother.
She is folding clothes in the living room. She lays a towel on the back of the couch and looks at Kel, “What are you going to be, Sweetie?”
He smiles at her. "Your lung cancer," he says.
She is so used to the things that come out of Kel's mouth, she doesn't skip a beat.
"Oh yeah? Do they sell those at Wal-Mart?"
"I don’t think so," he says as he grabs a drink out of the refrigerator. "Maybe you could make it. I want to be a lung."
"Hey," Caulder says. "Can I be the other lung?"
My mom laughs as she grabs a pen and paper off the bar and sits down. "Well, I guess we better figure out how to sew a pair of cancerous lungs."
Kel and Caulder flock to her and start spitting out ideas.
"Mom," I say flatly. "You're not."
She looks up from her sketch at me and smiles. "Lake, if my baby boy wants to be a cancerous lung for Halloween, then I'm going to make sure he's the best cancerous, tumor-ridden lung there is."
I roll my eyes and join them at the bar, writing down a list of the supplies we'll need.
After we return from the store with the supplies and materials needed for the cancerous lung costumes, Will pulls up in his driveway.
"Will!" Caulder runs across the street and grabs his hand, pulling him toward our house. "Wait 'till you see this!"
Will helps my mother and I grab the supplies out of the trunk and we all head inside.
"Guess what we're going to be? For Halloween?" Caulder is beaming as he stands in the kitchen, pointing at the supplies on the floor.
"Julia's cancer!" Caulder says, excitedly.
Will raises his eyebrows and glances at my mother who has just returned from her bedroom with a sewing machine.
"You only live once, right?" She places the sewing machine on the bar.
"She's letting us make the tumors for the lungs," Kel says. "You wanna make one? I'll let you make the big one."
"Kel," I say. "Will and Caulder can't help, they'll be out of town all weekend." I carry two of the sacks to the bar and start unpacking them.
"Actually," Will replies as he grabs the other sacks off the floor. "That was before I found out we were making lung cancer. I think we'll have to reschedule our trip."
Caulder runs over to Will and hugs him. "Thanks, Will. They're gonna need to measure me while they’re making it anyway. I've been growing a lot."
And once again, for the third time this week, we're one big happy family.
We have most of the hand drawn patterns cut and it's time to get the boys measurements. "Where's your measuring tape?" I ask my mother.
"I don't know," she says. "I don't know if I have one, actually."
"Will has one, we can use his," I say. "Will do you mind getting it?"
"I have measuring tape?" he asks.
"Yes, it's in your sewing kit," I say.
"I have a sewing kit?"
"It's in your laundry room."
I can't believe he doesn't know this. I clean his house once and I can tell him where everything is better than he can? "It's next to the sewing machine on the shelf behind your mother's patterns. I put them in chronological order according to pattern nu-nevermind," I say as I stand up. "I'll just show you."
"You put his patterns in chronological order?" My mother asks, perplexed.
I turn back to her as we're headed to the door. "I was having a bad day."
Will and I head across the street and I use the opportunity to ask him about what happened with his internship. I didn't want to ask him in front of Caulder, because I wasn't sure if he had said anything to him.
"I got a slap on the wrist," he says as we walk inside. "They told me since I was defending another student, they couldn’t really hold it against me."
"That's good. What about your internship?" I say as I walk through the kitchen and into the laundry room where I grab the sewing kit.
"Well, it's a little tricky. The only available ones they had are here in Ypsilanti, but they were all primary. My major is secondary, so I've been placed at a school in Detroit."
I pause what I'm doing and look at him.
"What's that mean? Are y'all moving?"
He sees the worry cross my face and he laughs. "No, Lake, we're not moving. It's just for eight weeks. I'll be doing a lot of driving, though. I was actually going to talk to you and your mom about it later. I'm not going to be able to take the boys to school, or pick them up either. I'll be gone a lot. I know this isn't a good time to ask for your help-"
"Stop it." I grab the tape measure and return the contents into the box. "You know we'll help."
Will follows me as I walk back to the laundry room and replace the sewing kit next to the sewing machine. My hand brushes against the patterns that are neatly stacked in chronological order as I recall all the cleaning and alphabetizing I did the previous weekend. Is it possible, that maybe I had a momentary lapse of sanity? I shake my head and reach over and flick off the light switch when I run into Will. He's leaning against the doorframe with his head resting against the wall. It's dark now, since I've switched off the light, but his face is slightly illuminated by the glow from the kitchen behind him.
A warm sensation flows through me as I try not to get my hopes up. He's got that look in his eyes again.
"Last night," he whispers. "When I saw Javi kissing you…" His voice trails off and he is silent for a moment. "I thought you were kissing him back."
It’s hard when he's in such close proximity, but I do my best to focus and process his confession. If he thought I was allowing it to happen, then why did he pull Javi off of me? Why did he punch him? Then it hits me. Will wasn't defending me last night, he was jealous.
"Oh," is all I can say.
"I didn't know the whole story until this morning, when you told your version," he says as he continues to block my way; making me stand in the dark.
“God, Lake. I can't tell you how pissed I was. I wanted to hurt him so bad. And now? Now that I know he really was hurting you, I want to kill him." He turns away from me and rests his back against the doorframe.
I think back on last night and the emotions Will must have been experiencing. To be professing his love for me on stage one minute and then thinking I was making out with Javi the next. No wonder he was so pissed on the drive home.
He's still blocking my way. Not that I plan on running anywhere. My entire body is tense, not knowing what he’s about to say or do. I try to relax as I exhale. My breathing has increased so rapidly in the last minute, my lungs are starting to ache again as the knot in my back reminds me of its presence.
"How did you-" I stutter. "How'd you know I was there?"
He turns and faces me, placing both hands on either side of the doorframe. His height and the way he has me blocked in are intimidating, but in a very good way.
"I saw you. When I finished my piece, I saw you leaving."
My knees start to fail me so I place my hand on the dryer behind me for support. He knows I saw him perform. Why is he telling me this? I do my best not to get my hopes up, but maybe since he is no longer my teacher, we can finally be together. Maybe that's what he's trying to tell me.
"Will, does this mean-"
He takes a step toward me, leaving no space between us. His fingers brush against my cheek as he studies my face with his eyes. I place my hands against his chest as he wraps his arms around me and pulls me to him. I try to take a step away from him so I can finish my question but his body presses me against the dryer.
Just as I try to ask him again, he brings his lips to mine. I immediately stop resisting and I let him kiss me. My entire body becomes weak as my arms fall to my side and I drop the measuring tape on the floor.
He grabs my waist as he lifts me up and sets me down on top of the dryer. Our faces are even now. He kisses me like he’s making up for an entire month of stolen kisses. I can't tell where my hands end and his begin as we both frantically pull at each other, our hands exploring each other's bodies. I wrap my legs around his waist and pull his mouth to my neck so I can catch my breath. All the feelings I have for him come rushing back. I try to hold back tears as I realize just how much I really do love him. Oh my god, I love him. I’m in love with Will Cooper.
I no longer try to control my breathing; it would be pointless.
"Will," I say as he continues exploring my neck with his lips. "Does this mean…does it mean we don't have to pretend…anymore?" I'm breathing so heavily I can barely form a cohesive sentence. "We can be…together? Since you're not…since you're not my teacher?"
His hands soften their hold on by back as his lips slowly close and pull away from my neck. I try to pull him back into me but he resists. He puts his hands on my calves and unlocks my legs from around his waist as he backs up and leans against the wall behind him, avoiding my eyes.