Kaci put her head in her hands and began to doodle absentmindedly on the piece of paper in front of her. She hadn't told anyone, but something wasn't right with her mom. Whenever Kaci had called her recently, she'd been 'too busy to talk' and when Kaci had finally spoken to her, her mom had sounded exhausted. She'd brushed it off as working too hard, but it wasn't long before she'd pass the phone back to Cyran and he'd completely deny anything was wrong before swiftly changing the topic. Mortimer squeezed her leg softly under the table distracting her from her thoughts as Sandi announced that dinner was ready.
"This taste's amazing San", Malcolm grinned with a mouth full of food. Sandi squealed, "Do you mind?! I don't need to see what it looks like chomped and chewed thank you very much!" Malcolm mimicked her as he took a sip of his drink causing her to kick him under the table. Mortimer laughed at the high pitched wince Malcolm involuntarily let slip. It didn't go amiss that Kaci had heard none of this interaction. The two boys looked at each other, having secret conversations without saying a word. "Kace..." Sandi said softly, gently nudging her best friends arm, "You're not eating, your going to waste away if your not careful" she joked. "Oh, sorry" Kaci half smiled, "I'm just not that hungry right now, I'll save it for later" she continued getting up from the table. Sandi turned back to the boys and shrugged, Malcolm looked concerned and Mortimer's eyes flicked back to Kaci and stayed focused on her. Sandi was about to whisper something but Kaci came and joined them at the table, "Now, what was all the fuss about?" she smiled.
"Shh, we're not sure yet!" Mortimer hissed, glancing over Malcolm's shoulder. Malcolm looked at him confused until he realized what or rather who Mortimer was talking about. "Hey guys", Bella drawled seductively. Why is this chick always hovering around? Mortimer wondered, glancing at Bella from the corner of his eye, he hated having to check who was about before they had any serious discussions in the house, but if he and Malcolm had their way, they wouldn't be doing it for much longer. "Not sure about what?" she asked, feigning innocence. "You make a habit of listening to conversations you're not part of?", Malcolm said sarcastically.
"You make a habit of being a dick?" Bella shot back as she sat at the table and began to eat. They all fell silent. Not wanting to sit together but all too stubborn to move. Eventually Mortimer had enough of the tension and after washing his bowl, headed upstairs to do anything besides be in the same room as Bella. "Later?" he said to Malcolm, the word loaded with some meaning Bella knew nothing about. "Definitely", Malcolm nodded, his reply just as cryptic.
"So, you really think it's good idea?" Kaci asked pondering what Mortimer and Malcolm had just explained to her, Sandi and Darlene. It almost felt like they were just running away from their problems but at that moment in time it felt so right to Kaci she didn't see how they could say no.
Sandi scored a strike and let out a loud woop. "Take that!" she yelled at no one in particular. "San, what do you think?" Kaci asked. "I think it's a freaking awesome idea, no more Tweedle Dee and Dum, well for you guys anyway" she added dryly. "Yea, about that" Malcolm interrupted, "If we go, you're coming too. We looked into it, you can literally take any class for a year, that way you'd be on campus with us" he explained. "We would never leave you with those two idiots" Mortimer actually looked a little offended. "Aw, you guys!" Sandi said flashing a brilliant smile and fluttering her eyelashes. "What would we do about rent though?" Darlene asked, not meaning to burst their bubble but doing so all the same. Darlene was right, Kaci thought. They couldn't break the lease, but how could they afford to pay rent on the house and whatever accommodation they would stay in on campus? "Ahem, I might have the solution to that" Mortimer coughed as he picked up a ball to bowl.
There was silence for a few seconds until Sandi spoke up, "Dude? You can't leave us hanging like that!" she exclaimed. "...Okay, okay, thing is, I have a lot of money that my, uh, dad, handed over to me when I turned 18 and um, what I'm trying to say is. . . paying for all of us to stay on campus for a year won't even touch the interest that money makes" he said, turning a slight shade of red. Kaci had never seen him be so bothered by something. She knew it must have taken a lot for him to even consider touching that money. Malcolm's father had paid for Malcolm's tuition to Medical School, whether Malcolm wanted it or not, he'd had absolutely no say in the matter. Mortimer on the other hand, had paid for it himself, purely because he didn't want his dad's help. "You can't do that!" Sandi protested. "I can and I am" Mortimer responded.
He bowled the ball and then he turned to face them. Kaci could see him turning back into his old confident self right before her eyes. "We should be enjoying ourselves right now but we're not because we're stuck in a house where no one's happy and its suffocating us. This is going to be our last year together, like really together before we're officially adults and all leading separate lives where we only get together on weekends, or kids birthdays or whatever. Lets enjoy it now, together, away from them", he said. "So, it's not up for discussion, tomorrow we go get Sandi enrolled in a course to start the new academic year and I go pay rent on our new digs" he smiled. Darlene was the first to move, surprising them all by giving Mortimer the tightest hug she ever had. Then, Kaci joined, then Sandi, and finally Malcolm. They stood in the middle of the bowling ally laughing and screaming like a bunch of big kids but finally happy and not caring who knew it.