“Leave the key,” I called out to him as he left.
On Sunday afternoon, I was laying out tanning in the backyard when K.C. arrived and plopped down in a chair at the patio table.
“Liam’s been cheating on me,” she cried. Her head was in her hands as she sniffled.
“What?” A shriek sprang out of my throat as I popped my head up. I pushed myself up off my stomach and walked over to sit next to her.
“I saw him last night wrapped around another girl. Apparently, he’s been double dipping for a while! Can you believe it?” She wiped away tears but more fell. Her long, dark hair looked as if she hadn’t brushed it today. K.C. was always dressed to impress and never left the house without hair and makeup done. Red splotches covered her face, so I knew she’d been crying for a while. Probably all night.
“What did you see exactly?” I asked, rubbing circles on her back.
“Well,” she said, wiping her tears and taking a breath, “I was at the Loop, and he was there. Jared said he was racing last night, so I showed up to surprise…”
“Wait, what? Jared?” Confused, I interrupted her. “What are you talking about? You’ve talked to him?” I hadn’t seen Jared for two days. He and K.C. were hardly chummy. What the hell?
“Yeah…no,” she answered vaguely. “I just ran into him at work yesterday. I was at the theater, and he came in to see a movie. He mentioned that Liam was getting a shot at racing last night and that he’d be happy to give me a ride to surprise him.”
Ugh! Was she seriously that stupid? “That didn’t seem a little convenient to you?”
“Tate, what do you mean?” K.C. looked confused as she blew her nose with a tissue from her bag. I instantly felt guilty for taking the focus of the conversation off Liam and turning it to Jared. But I couldn’t let it go.
“Jared, nice guy that he is, offers you a ride to surprise your boyfriend who you conveniently discover has been cheating on you. K.C., Jared knew what Liam was up to.” I’m sure it’s some code with guys that you don’t get them in trouble with their girlfriends. So why would Jared do that?
Looking puzzled and flustered, K.C. threw her tissue on the table. “Okay, but it doesn’t change the fact that Liam was being unfaithful. I mean honestly, Jared seemed just as shocked as me. He was really nice about the whole thing.”
Of course he was. Jared broke up Liam and K.C., which was a good thing considering, but his actions didn’t spring from the goodness of his heart. He definitely wasn’t protecting K.C. So what was his angle?
“Alright,” I offered, “so how do you know for sure that Liam was cheating regularly? Did you talk to him?”
“Yeah,” she almost whispered. “I had gotten out of Jared’s car. He picked me up since you can only enter by invitation, and we circulated, looking for Liam. I saw him leaning against his car with a really sexy looking girl in super-slutty clothes. They were kissing, and he had his hands all over her. There was no mistake.” Her chin started wobbling, and her eyes filled with tears again, so I dug in her bag for more tissues.
She continued, “We got into it, and that girl rubbed it in that they’d been hooking up for months! Months! I’m sick to my stomach. I gave that guy my virginity, and now I have to go get checked for STDs.” She continued to cry, and I held her hand while she let it out.
Liam had always treated me respectfully, and I was a little heartbroken for K.C. What an ass! We’d all hung out for years, and there were few people in this town I could call a friend. Now he was just one more person that couldn’t be trusted. I was jaded when it came to people, but K.C. wasn’t, and I hated that she was being hurt. She was completely blindsided.
Two things could be safely assumed, though: Jared probably knew Liam was cheating for a while but didn’t interfere until now and K.C.’s breakup with Liam served a purpose in his trying to antagonize me.
“Well, I hate to ask a silly question, but how was the race? Did Liam win?” He probably hadn’t raced. Another ploy on Jared’s part to get her to the Loop.
“We stayed for a while, but Jared raced, not Liam.”
Exactly. “How come? It might’ve been nice for you to see his ass left choking in the dust.” I tried to sound like I was just lightening her mood, but I really wanted information.
“Oh, it turns out he wasn’t racing last night. Jared misunderstood.” She waved it off.
“But Jared did say he would make sure Liam is on the roster for next week, and he’ll beat him for me.” K.C. let out a small laugh, as if that would make her feel better.
“Are you going to be okay?” The end of a two-year relationship by the time you’re seventeen was going to take time to get over.
“I’m sure…eventually. Jared was really attentive and brought me home early. I think he felt bad that I’d had such a horrible time. Really, Tate, even if he did know, he did me a favor.” Leaning back in her chair, she pulled out another tissue.
K.C. stayed a while. We lay under the sun, trying to cheer each other up. She obviously needed to come to terms with the fact that she gave her virginity and two years to that lothario, and I’d had a less-than-stellar first week of school.
Liam had cheated on K.C. I still couldn’t wrap my brain around it. If ever there was a case for longevity in a high school romance, Liam and K.C. were it. So why was I preoccupied with Jared’s role in all of this? K.C. clearly believed he was on the up-and-up, but I knew he had a plan. Would she listen if I tried to steer her away from him?