I leapt off the couch as fast as my body would move. I covered my chest and fixed my shirt, pulling it back down over my stomach to cover my belly button. Despite being fully clothed and not doing anything wrong, I felt wrong in the moment. My face was burning hot, red I was sure, and I wanted to cry.
The entrance way to the house was dead silent. Dad shut the door behind him, scooting in next to mom, both just standing beside the stairs, looking at me like it was the first time they saw me. Leo coughed, but I didn't dare look behind me at him. I was focused on my parents and I wanted them to see that.
"Well, you must be Leo," Mom said as she hung her purse on the bannister and extended her hand to him.
"Yes, ma'am," Leo answered, his voice strong, not shaky like I had expected. He was better at controlling himself than I thought. I wondered how many moms he'd met before.
"Who's up for some grilled cheese?" dad asked, clearing his throat as he held up a bag of what I assumed was gourmet bread and cheese. I nodded and turned to Leo, who had a look of fear on his face, his eyes wide and mouth somewhat in a line.
"I actually have to be going," Leo said, averting his eyes away from me.
"Are you sure?" I asked, still rooted in my spot.
"Yeah, I have to help clean the house before my mom gets home." He stood up and brushed his hands on his legs like he was wiping off the sweat. "Thanks," he said to my mom and then moved to the door. Dad walked into the kitchen, letting Leo pass him to get to the door.
"I'll walk you out?" I said more as a question. Mom's face had changed from welcoming to serious, but she gave me a curt nod, allowing me to walk him out. I scurried behind Leo, shutting the front door when we were both on the front porch.
Leo took my hand but was silent as we walked to his car. He stopped around the back and put both of his arms around my waist. I rested my head on his chest.
"Why do you have to go?" I asked him.
"I'm just...I'm not into the whole family pow wow thing."
I flinched back, letting go of him. "What's that even mean?"
"My family isn't like that," he said, pointing at the house and waving his finger. "I'm not comfortable around it. I like you, a lot. But a big family and having people judge me and us, it's not my thing. They're important to you, that's why I'm not asking you to leave with me."
"I would leave with you," I said, holding onto his shirt like we were separating for life.
"I'm not asking you to pick." He shook his head, his face looking tired and worn down.
I kissed him, then pulled back. "It'd be you."
"Good." He kissed me, elongating the embrace. His arms tightened around my waist and I wound mine around his neck, pulling us as close as humanly possible. I could feel his heart through our bodies, thumping fast and hard.
"Carley!" mom yelled from the house. Was she serious?!
Leo chuckled. "I think you better go before she flips a shit."
"Sorry," I apologized, letting go of him but still holding his hands between us.
"Call me later tonight," he said and let me go.
I nodded and backed onto the sidewalk as he walked around the side of his car and got inside. He honked twice then rode off down the road, taking a left and then disappearing. My stomach knotted when the realization of what I had to walk into hit me like a wall.
I took a deep breath, then headed back inside to face my parents.
I was actually started to feel the murmurs of annoyance in my gut. I didn't want to go back into the house and face my parents. It was embarrassing and I was sixteen. Why did I have to check in with them or have them judge me? I didn't do a thing wrong. I was making out with my boyfriend. That's it.
With my hand on the door, I let go. It felt monumental for me to make this decision, to not talk to them. To be fair, they knew everything about me. Most days I spent with them or Jessa. It was just us and they were all I had.
I was being childish. I opened the front door of my house and walked in, kicking off my shoes near the mat. Before walking into the kitchen and turning the corner, I let out a heavy sigh. This was brutal.
Mom's back was to me in the kitchen. She was flipping the grilled cheese on the stove and wiping her other hand on her apron. I glanced to my left and right, dad was nowhere to be found. It actually reassured me since i didn't want to repeat the entire sex-talk thing when I was fourteen with him just staring into blank space. Now that was an awkward conversation.
I made my presence known, sitting on the stool and putting my hands on the table loudly. Mom spun around, her smiley face masking whatever emotions were going through her. I had never had a real boyfriend, never brought guys home or being in a situation to even want to do that, so this was new territory for us.
"So that was Leo," she said, trailing at the end like she wanted to say more.
"That's him!" I faked a smile and cocked my head to the side.
She leaned onto the counter and stared at me, like the conversation was about to turn serious. "He looked older, much older."
"He's a senior," I said defensively.
"He's got a nosering."
"So what?" I leaned back, wanting to put more space between me and my mom. She was annoying. What did it matter what he looked like? she always preached to me about being unique and not letting people tell me how to look or what the be like. And then she sat here judging Leo like he was different or worse? How was that right?
"Relax, Carley. I'm just saying."
"And I don't care what you're saying. I like Leo. So what? There's nothing you can do about it."
"Carley." She frowned at me, her eyebrows squished together. "What's this attitude about?"
"I don't like you talking about my boyfriend like he's some bad guy. Here's your run down. He's a senior with a nose ring. He plays lacrosse. That's all you need to know." I crossed my arms over my chest, my anger growing and growing the longer our conversation went on.
"I don't like what's gotten into you." Her voice was even and not as harsh as her words were. She was staring at me, like I was changing before her eyes. I wasn't at all. I honestly didn't like how she talked about Leo. He was a good guy. "Why don't you go finish your homework."
"I was going to go to Jessa's," I said even though it wasn't my plan, I probably should go see her. Plus, I didn't want to be under this roof for another second more.
"I don't think it's a good idea tonight."
"And why's that?" I fought back. She never had a problem with me going to Jessa's. Again, this was new territory for us.
"Because I said so, Carley."
"Oh, that's real nice. Good reasoning." I laughed and stood up. "Nice to see you falling into this restraining role now mom." I turned on my heels and walked up the stairs, sure to make each step loud and annoyed. I slammed my door shut just to make a second statement.
I pulled my phone out of my pocket and texted Jessa.
My mom is being so freaking annoying. What are you doing?
Jessa: Attempting this brutal spanish homework.
Come hang out?
Jessa: Can't. Jason's coming later.
Hmm. I didn't have anything to do. I opened my backpack and pulled out a bunch of papers. I did my homework already during my Culinary class. We were "researching" recipes, so instead I let my partner Hannah do the work while I finished whatever homework I had.
I took out my camera, but hadn't taken too many pictures in the past couple days. I flipped around, not really finding anything to develop or print. I grabbed my phone again, this time texting Leo.
Got in a fight with my mom :(
Leo: I didn't make a good impression, huh?
It's not that. She just is judgey.
I've been banished to my room and I'm bored.
Leo: Better bored then up to your elbows in empty beer bottles.
Leo: Cleaning the house.
Why was there empty bottles in his house? And why was it his job to clean it all up? Leo had something weird going on in his home life, but I doubted it was him being an alcoholic. He really didn't strike me in that way.
Leo: You want to come help me?
Leo: I don't know, Carley. I'm not good.
Come get me.
I fell in love with Leo Daniels faster than you could say Leo Daniels. September 2016, I remember when it happened like it was yesterday. He was the seventeen-year-old, unattainable, lacrosse player who was way out of my league, but one day in the hall, he saw me.
I was fascinated with him, wanting to know why he pushed people away and why he acted so distant at certain times. He was strange and mysterious— and before long, he was mine.
Then we changed. Leo had a life that was foreign to me. In the town of Ridgebury, I was sheltered and accepted, and my family surrounded me with love. But Leo’s life was toxic. And his poison burned into me.
What was I supposed to do? Leave him to avoid what was sure to be a terrible ending, or stay by his side? I deserved better, but so did he. If I stayed, would we lose everything? What was the price of our love?
© Taylor Lavati 2017
What Readers Have to Say...
"An absolutely heart wrenching read that shows us that at times no matter how much we hope, darkness will find its way to win. "
-Blogger's From Down Under for A Reliant Love
"So this book is the ultimate love story. I like how two ordinary people who is so different and still so alike in so many ways can overcome everything together."
-Angelica Berglund for For The Love of Hockey
"I never thought I would read a "zombie book", much less love one. The Last Legacy really surprised me. Even with the whole people-eating-people thing, it was a fantastic book"
-Melannie S for The Last Legacy
"I could not wait to start book two. If this book was as good as book one, then I knew I wouldn't be disappointed. It wasn't as good as book one...it was better. "
-Keely Retchloff for Finding Sam
"The powers, the love, the excitement, the drama kept me so enthralled. If you are looking for a GREAT series about true love and mythology, look no further... I wish I could rate 10 stars! Definitely recommend this whole series to all my book loving friends!"
-The Book Blog for A Curse Books Trilogy
"For the Love of Ash" by Taylor Lavati was a rare 5-star read for me. I honestly find many typical romances rather dull and predictable. This was not the case at all here; there was nothing average about the romance, overall storyline, and the long list of supporting characters."
-Summer's Book Blog for For The Love of Ash
"Wingless isn't what I would normally pick up and read, but thought I'd try it out and I am so glad I did. The characters and "worlds" she creates are done so well that you can actually picture them and feel like you are there right along with the characters."
-JLH for Wingless
For The Love of Hockey | January 2016
The Price of Love | 2017