The best way to start off a birthday was definitely with a
midnight breakfast. Dr. Solace and Miss Naomi were both too tired, and
suggested they go alone. They would celebrate with Will throughout the day
after a good rest. Kayla, of course, begged to tag along, and although her
parents tried to pry her away, Nico and Will both said it was fine if she went.
There was a Denny’s nearby, and it was late enough on a
weekday that it wasn’t very full. Nico wondered how Kayla was awake this late,
and how she still managed to wake up at ungodly hours. She jumped excitedly at
the sight of a crane machine offering stuffed animals, but Will prodded her
along, promising he’d get some change later to let her play.
It felt nice to be out with just Will and Kayla. It felt
like he could finally breathe and relax. The Solaces weren’t rude to him. Miss
Naomi was so kind, it made Nico feel strange and wistful. Dr. Solace was
pleasant, but obviously still felt guilty over the argument he had caused and
the things he’d said. Still, it felt like they constantly observed him. They
were careful and analytical, watching him and his interactions, like they were
trying to figure him out. It made Nico nervous and tense, but he didn’t say
Now, with just Kayla and Will with him, he felt more relaxed
than he’d felt all week. Part of him was anxious to go home that weekend, but
he also knew Will would be leaving for a final group of orientation.
Kayla sat beside him and began pointing out all the things
she liked to eat, which was most of the adult menu. While he helped her color
in her child’s menu, he glanced up and saw Will looking at him with a strange,
misty-eyed expression. “What?” he asked.
Will shrugged and smiled. “Nothing.” Nico frowned and raised
an eyebrow, but Will just kept smiling fondly.
After a while, once they’d ordered and had their drinks,
Will’s hands encased Nico’s. Kayla was distracted by the whipped cream on her
hot chocolate. “I remember,” he began softly, “we went to a park once, and you
said you didn’t think you could be good with kids.”
Saying that spending time with Will and his family was
awkward would have been an understatement. Nico had no idea what Will had told
them about their relationship, but he knew they knew Will and Nico had dated.
He couldn’t help but feel like both Mr. and Mrs. Solace didn’t like him or
wanted to investigate everything they could about him.
The only relief Nico had from their blue-eyed gaze was the
small redheaded girl who liked him from the moment she’d realized he was the
same person who’d helped with her bear. She liked to sit on Nico’s lap and she
liked to play with his rings and play with his hair or cover his faded scars in
Band-Aids and stickers.
Will insisted on having Nico join him and his family for the
week of their stay and his parents assured him he was welcome. Nico wondered if
maybe it was all in his head that they didn’t like him. But sometimes he caught
Will’s dad looking at him like a puzzle and a threat until his wife or Will or
Kayla pulled his attention away. And Will’s mom didn’t ask Nico much about
himself. It was like Nico either wasn’t there or wasn’t an important presence.
It made Nico anxious, and he decided instead to stay beside
Kayla and Will whenever possible.
It was the last day they were here and Nico was slightly relieved,
but he didn’t show it because he knew Will would miss his family.
“Thank you guys so much for coming,” Will said as he hugged
them goodbye. “I’ll miss you so much.”
“We love you, sweetheart. Hopefully you can come home if
only to visit soon,” Naomi said, giving her son a warm smile that made Nico
have to look away. He didn’t want to join that day because he figured he’d be
intruding, but Naomi had said Kayla wanted to say goodbye to him too.