The Walking Wounded - Cover

The Walking Wounded

Copyright© 2012 by Robert McKay

Chapter 18

Kevin knew that the rest of the congregation would be out soon, so he only let Karin cry for a moment, then led her out to her car. With one arm still around her he set the Bibles and her purse on the roof of the Hyundai, and then – feeling like the whole world was laughing at him, and not really caring at the moment – he dug in the purse until he found the keys. He unlocked the door – they were on the passenger side – and maneuvered Karin into the seat. He closed the door, carried Bibles and purse around to the driver's side, and opened that door. He put the Bibles in the back seat, leaned in and set Karin's purse in her lap, and then climbed in. He didn't have to move the seat back much – between Karin's height and her heels it was already almost comfortable.

He stuck the key in the ignition. "Karin, I'm gonna get us somewhere private, okay?"

She nodded. Her sobbing was almost quieted, but her tears were still flowing, and she seemed unwilling to trust her voice.

Kevin started the car, and carefully backed out of the slot. It had been a long time since he was in control of anything other than a bike, and he wasn't sure he liked the feeling. The pillars that held up the roof – he seemed to recall that they called them A-posts, but since they didn't exist on motorcycles he wasn't sure – blocked his vision, and he wasn't used to a roof at all. But he managed to get out onto Menaul, eastbound, without any difficulties. He remembered there was a park among the houses north of Menaul somewhere along in here, but wasn't sure where. He turned north on Chelwood Park, and then guessed and turned east again on Lexington. Soon he came to a park – not the one he remembered, he realized, but it would do nicely. He pulled across the street and parked along the curb.

He shut off the engine and reached over to Karin's purse, dropping the keys inside. "You wanna stay here, or get out an' walk?"

She thought for a moment. "Walk." Her voice was faint, and choked, but she seemed to be functioning.

Kevin opened the door and maneuvered himself onto the curb – being so tall made it harder than it would have been for a shorter person. He locked the door and went around to Karin's side of the car. She unlocked it, and he opened it, reaching in a hand to help her out. He didn't know where these gentlemanly gestures were coming from, but Karin seemed to appreciate them, so he didn't mind.

Still holding Karin's hand, he led the way into the park. They wandered slowly across the grass, with the sun actually making things warm. It wasn't summer, far from it, but even in her light jacket Karin didn't seem cold. Kevin wanted to speak, but didn't know what to say, but Karin was quiet too, apparently comfortable with the silence.

They came to Los Arboles Avenue on the north side of the park and turned east. The mountains loomed on their left, guarding the northeast corner of the city. A few small clouds drifted across the sky, but none were near the sun and no shadows crossed the park. Kevin still had Karin's hand, and now he gently squeezed it and, marveling at his boldness, brought it to his lips. Now he thought perhaps he could say something. "Karin, I'm so sorry."

"Don't be sorry, Kevin. It's not your fault. You haven't done anything wrong. In fact, you've been a perfect gentleman, and a perfect friend."

"I wish you'd told me what you were going to do."

"I didn't decide until this morning, when I was getting ready. And then I was so nervous that I couldn't think properly."

"Yeah, I guess that could mess you up." He released her hand, and put his arm around her shoulders. He drew her close and, again surprised at his sudden courage, kissed her hair.

Karin leaned against him as they walked. She looked at the trees, and the grass, and the pleasant looking houses, and then up at the mountains against the sky. And then she must have made a decision. "Kevin, I've been fighting something for weeks, without even really knowing it. And I'm going to quit fighting."

"What you been fightin', Kar?" He wanted to be more direct, but he knew, somehow, that gentleness was the way to go just now – though Kevin's gentlest was still pretty direct.

"I've thought of you as a very good friend, and then as a boyfriend. But I refused to acknowledge anything else. But Kevin, I realized this morning, when you held me – when you thought first of me – that I love you."

Kevin blew out a breath. "I don't know what to tell you, Kar."

"Is it because you don't know how to say it?"

"It's partly that, Karin. But ... but you're takin' me places I ain't never been, an' even if I had the words I ain't got the experience."

"If you were any other man, I'd suspect you were running from me."

"Karin, I've told you before, I'll always be here. I ain't gonna leave you, all right? It's just ... Karin, I ain't never loved nobody in my life, an' nobody ain't never loved me. I just don't know what's goin' on, either inside me or with our ... relationship is the word, right?"

"Yes, that's the word." Karin's voice was getting stronger, though it was still a little choked with her emotions. "And I understand. When I first began dating, in high school, I had no idea what I was doing, or what I was feeling, and if my parents hadn't been so loving and supportive I don't know what kind of messes I'd have gotten myself into. So I know, a little bit, what you're going through. And I'll be patient."

"Thanks, Kar. You don't know how important that is to me. I know I care a lot about you. I know that. It ain't a maybe, and it ain't gonna change." In his concentration he was forgetting the lessons Karin had taught him. "More than that I can't say. I'm tryin' to figure out what to say, and how to say, at the same time, an' it's confusin' me."

"I know it is, Kevin. This point in a relationship is probably confusing for everyone, even those who have the education to better articulate their thoughts. And I won't press you. But I couldn't fight it anymore. I didn't even let myself realize it, and once I did, I couldn't hold back. Whatever happens with us, Kevin Farley, I wanted you to know the truth about my heart. Whatever you decide, you can't decide properly if you don't know where I stand."

He turned, facing her. He took her face in his hands, under the softness of her blonde hair, and slowly kissed her. "Karin Seguín, maybe when it's all over all I'll have is the mem'ry of your eye shadow – an' I gotta tell you that I love hot pink." A small smile quirked his mouth. "But I hope it's more than that. I ain't no pretty package, an' I ain't no prize. You might be better off without me – an' no, I ain't gonna make you chew me out about that again. I'm just tryin' to say that whatever happens, I ain't never, never, gonna forget you."

"I've heard more overtly romantic professions, Kevin, but I don't think I've ever heard one that was more sincere." She thought a moment, Kevin's hands still resting lightly on her cheeks. "I'll tell you what. Why don't you talk to Tyrone? Any of the elders could help you, probably, but I know that Tyrone fell head over heels in love with his wife and has been that way for years. I think that for the questions you have, he'll be best able to provide answers. Talk to Tyrone. He should be able to help you sort out your feelings." She raised her hands and pressed Kevin's palms to her face. "And if after that you decide that we aren't able to go any further ... I won't like it. It'll break my heart. But I'll understand."

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