The following months held much change, stress and confusion for Chase.
He attended two weddings.
That of his best friend Charlie Abernathy and his girlfried of two years, Natalie.
Those two purposely skipped over the engagement period, bought a house, right next door to Charlie’s parents and sister in Newcrest, and when Chase got the tour he felt funny being presented with a fully furnished nursery. He learned they were already trying for a baby.
The other wedding was that of his own little sister Kiera and Logan.
It all seemed so surreal to Chase, like a dream in a way, although he wasn’t so sure it wasn’t the beginning of a nightmare.
Immediately after the wedding Kiera officially moved out of the Beach House and in with Logan, even though Chase could literally see her new home from his bedroom window, it was clear that a chapter of his book had been irreversibly closed.
Naturally Chase had tried his best to be happy for his little sister, whom he loved very much, and evidently he was so convincing that she entrusted him with a secret that would end up weighing heavy on his mind. She and Logan were going to start trying for a baby during their wedding night.
Even if she didn’t get pregnant right away, in probably less than one year Chase would be an uncle and the old life would be gone forever.
Bri was about to give birth soon, so far no more scary moments happened for them, and from the looks of it, they were about the have a completely healthy baby girl.
All this occupied Chase’s mind, taking over, like a fast growing vine.
One Friday night, at Piper’s apartment, snuggled up atop her bed, he couldn’t help it.
“Piper, do you want kids?”
“Oh boy! What a question out of left wing! I don’t know. Maybe, at some point, many years from now. Definitely not before I am 30 or so. Truth be told, I cannot really see it now, but you just never know. Why?”
“Just wondering. Everybody seems to be settling down and I still live at home …”
“Well, that is something you maybe could start working on. It really is a bit odd. Here you are, a brilliant scientist with the drive to work hard and succeed. So much so, that you got promoted so many times even in the short time we have been together now, that I lost count. And the logistics for us to be together, undisturbed, just to be able to be romantic as we please – uninhibited – are tedious, since we live so far apart. A bit too much of a ‘Sesame Street’ aftertaste, when we should be at ’50 Shades of Gray’.”
“Right. But I just don’t know where to even begin. So, look for my own place I guess, but how and where? Close to work? But it’s all desert there. I am from the coast and don’t want to live in the midst of nothing but sand and cacti. There are no available places at all in Brindleton Bay. Leaves moving closer to you to San Myshuno, but it’s so expensive here and places are hard to find.”
“Move in with me and see how it works for you. Just temporarily, while you look for your own place.”
And so it happened. But not without hiccups.
The first one happened already the next day back home at the Beach House when Chase presented the idea to his parents.
“No! I think it’s a mistake! Terrible idea! If that idea could, it would commit suicide to put itself out of its misery, it’s so bad.” Blake said firmly.
“Dad … come on. I have to start somewhere. It’s only temporarily until I find my own place. Or did you expect me to live at home till you’re 90 or something?”
“With the grief this family bestows upon me, I will never see anything past 60! Where is this coming from? You have only been dating that girl for what, 4 months and you want to move in together?”
“Almost 6 months and yes. Why not? I am almost 25!”
“Because the idea is half-baked and extremely doughy in the center! You do not move in with a girl after a handful of months as a couple, especially with that weekend style relationship you guys are limited to. Too soon, too much, too rash. That’s why.” Blake explained firmly.
“Maybe to you! Not to a normal person!” Chase snapped.
“What is THAT supposed to mean?” Blake barked, now truly angry.
“Guys … come on …” Hailey tried to avert disaster.
“No, Hailz, I want to know what my son thinks he knows about me and about not being ‘normal’! So lay it on me, Mr. Genius!”
“OK! Not everybody wants to be like you and put screwing a bunch of hoes over being with the woman who truly loves them like you used to do to mom when you were still famous, back when the dinosaurs still roamed!”
“WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY TO ME!?”
“Blake, calm down, he didn’t mean it! Chase, apologize!”
“NO!” Chase insisted.
“Then take your shit and get out!” Blake told him.
“Blake!! Daddy doesn’t mean that!” Hailey tried to diffused what had been put in motion.
“Oh, but daddy does! Take your shit and get out of my house, you ungrateful brat, or daddy will pack for ya, and you won’t like the way I do that, this I promise you! I am tempted to use your rear end as a duffel bag for your stuff!” Blake warned.
“FINE! You got it! I am out! And I am NEVER coming back!” Chase rushed off, slamming his door, throwing the few things he owned into a big box and ran down the stairs and straight out the front door without another word.
Hailey was pleading with her still fuming son but all she could do was watch him toss the box into the trunk of his car and drive off.
For the first few days things went well for Chase and Piper living together at her apartment, until the first clashes happened, which became increasingly more frequent.
“Chase, you are still on that computer game?!” she hissed.
“I am about to beat that level! Tough one, been working on it for three hours!”
“That statement alone is concerning coming from anyone over the age of 13! How can a grown man be this immature? You are borderline schizophrenic, a genius at work and a pre-pubescent at home!”
“Yeah, yeah …”
“All right, then the hard way! I’ll teach you to blow me off!” Piper said and turned off the computer.
“What the FUCK Piper!” Chase couldn’t believe it and was beside himself, glaring at Piper, who held his stare.
“You have been on that thing for hours. I want to go out. You know, like people our age do! There is a Spice Festival with delicious samples from around the world. Let’s go and enhance our palates! Try something new.” she complained.
“You mean get a case of the trots?! You never know what’s even in that crap. Could be dog or cat or whatever other hapless pet wasn’t fast enough!” Chase argued angrily.
“That’s just disgusting and so immature! Fine, you have put me off my appetite, now make a better suggestion!”
Chase was saved by the bell, or better, a knock on the door. But only for a moment, until everything got even more uncomfortable for him.
Chase felt queasy, standing there, helpless, while Emma entered Piper’s apartment, and now smiled at him.
“Hi Chase. Long time no see. I missed you.”
“Oh, you two know each other?” Piper asked.
“I’d say! Don’t we Chase?” Emma purred, grinning knowingly. She was toying with him.
“We used to be housemates in college for about a year.” Chase downplayed.
“Ah, I see.” Piper’s tone promised this was not the end of that discussion.
Emma just smiled a certain smile.
When she left soon after with a borrowed book, Piper shut the door behind her, then turned to Chase.
“The FULL story – and don’t even dream of lying. How much more was there?”
“All right, she was probably something like my first girlfriend. She is four years older than us. At some point she just came onto me, and I let it happen. Then that’s what we did every so often afterwards until she graduated and just left.” Chase summarized.
“That’s it?” Piper wondered.
“Pretty much.” Chase confirmed.
“You want to tell me after years she finally sees you again and that was her reaction? Come on, Chase. I guess I could always ask her directly.” Piper’s tone left no doubt that she didn’t believe him.
“Please don’t! Okay, so the guy I shared the room with in college and I bonded and are still friends, and he now rooms with the other guy who was our housemate, with Emma there were four of us total, just about a block from your apartment. I was invited to their housewarming like a year ago and ran into Emma there after not having seen her in years. We may have picked up where we left off for a while, but that ended as soon as you and I became serious. It wasn’t until I took you home after our first date that I realized you two are neighbors. I swear it, that’s the truth.”
“I would have never taken you – or her – for the type that goes the friends-with-benefits route. Are there any other girls I should be concerned about?” Piper demanded to know.
“No. Well, maybe. I told you I went out on a few dates, that never went far. That girl. But that was all, I swear.”
“Does ‘that girl’ know about me?”
“I don’t think so. Haven’t seen her since we became serious.”
“You should meet with her and tell her that you are officially off the market. Don’t be that douche that just disappears or dumps her with a text or something like that.”
“Dump her? We weren’t anything serious, Piper. We never ever …”
“Chase, were you ever invited into her home?”
“Then she thought there was more. Meet with her and clear the air. It’s the courteous thing to do, for her and for me.”
“All right, I will.”
The look Kaydence gave him broke Chase’s heart. He hated having to hurt her. Kay was so outgoing and spunky, he always felt like some anchor tied to her whenever they were out. Not today though. She seemed like someone let all the air out of her.
“So, what does she have that I don’t have?” she asked him, her tone sad as could be.
“It’s not like that Kay. I just connect with Piper on a different level.”
“So, are you saying she is smarter than me?”
“No, that is not what I mean. Look, if you want to stay friends, I’d like that a lot. But it’s just not … more between us. Sorry.”
“Does she know about us?”
“Yes. This was actually her idea. To be fair to you about what is going on. Clear lines.”
“Fair? You think she did that to be fair? She is staking claim, that’s what she is doing. Well, I guess we will eventually run into each other at one of Zach and Bryce’s parties then, unless she is making you cut ties with them too.”
“Piper is not like that. She just wants us to have a real chance, without blurry lines.”
“So now I am a blurry line to you?”
“Kay, no! Please stop twisting my words.”
As heart wrenching as it all was and as uncomfortable as it made Chase, the coffee meet still went better than Chase had expected, Kaydence was calm and mostly composed throughout, somehow he had expected her to loose her temper, yell, insult him, maybe slap him, but she never did any of that. Just looked and sounded … sad.
They hugged as they said goodbye.
Chase felt both, regret and relief as he watched her walk away.
Nothing could have prepared him for the next level of adulting complications.
After yet another night spend without any sleep but lots of fighting, Chase simmered on it all day at work, barely able to keep it all together. He came to the conclusion that he was going to man up, apologize to Piper, even though he didn’t really think it was his fault, at least not all of it.
So he made dinner reservations at one of her favorite restaurants, and just went by Piper’s office to surprise her.
He arrived at her office, was about to knock, but decided to scare her a little instead.
Bursting through the door like the Kool-Aid man through walls, he exclaimed”BOO!”
But it all backfired badly.
“PIPER!?!” Chase nearly shrieked her name in terror of the unmistakable scene before him.
-to be continued-