Karen starred at Kyle as he babbled excitedly at all the animals they were sure to see when they got out of the reptile section and towards the marine park. They were at the zoo for the end of school year trip and they had officially been friends for a whole year. Karen had never had a friend that long. The most was usually a few weeks before her friend wanted to go play with someone else. They usually told her to 'wait right here!' before running off. Karen would always wait but they never came back. By the time both recess was over and the end of school bell rang Karen would eventually stop waiting and go home assuming they forgot. But when she went to talk to her friend the next day, they would only giggle and point at her before quickly running off. Karen didn't think she was that funny.
She watched as Kyle excitedly tugged on her wrist, practically dragging her to the entrance of the marine park. His cheeks were flushed and his green blue eyes were lit up behind his newly repaired glasses. They didn't have the tape anymore. Karen missed it. She was sure it was lucky because if it weren't for those glasses, she and Kyle wouldn't have become friends. If it wasn't for that lucky tape-
He said it again.
Karen silently allowed herself to be pulled down into the dark marine section that was only lit by strange bluish light that seemed to come through the water. She noticed immediately that the walls seemed to be made of water. She slowly reached out to touch one and was disappointed by the feel of glass underneath her fingers. She pouted slightly and turned back to Kyle and was surprised to see that he was staring at her. Karen was usually the one that starred. He had a small smile on his face while he starred and Karen felt her face heat up. Was she doing something funny?
But as fast as he started Kyle stopped starring at her and began to tell her the habitat and characteristics of the killer whale. She watched as he almost pressed his nose up to the glass wall in fascination. He really was a different person when talking about animals. On the bus he wouldn't even look up from his book and since other kids were there, he would only murmur the answers to Karen's questions. Even when they were coming into the zoo, Kyle had his head down in his book, though his cheeks were flushing slightly in anticipation. But when they came in and saw the giraffe, 'Happy Kyle' came out automatically. He became talkative, explaining to her why giraffes had such long necks and why they're tongues were purple. The kids in the class were surprised and Karen was happy. Someone other than herself had seen 'Happy Kyle' and how cool Kyle could be. As soon as Ms. Jenkin's said they were allowed to go off by themselves for a little bit, Kyle had dragged her to absolutely every exhibit he could find, talking about each animal they saw in detail. On the very few times he didn't know what an animal was or any information on it, he would hunt down a zoo employee and barrage them with questions. It was nice to see Kyle happy and Karen thought they should stay at the zoo all day, just to make Kyle smile a little longer. But they had to leave at 2:15, so here they were, at the last exhibit of the day so Karen decided to enjoy every minute of 'Happy Kyle'.
Karen turned away from Kyle right then and turned to the killer whale display. She flinched when she saw the large animal right in front of her, taking up almost all the space I front of her. She stared at its black and white slippery skin and her hands hesitantly touched the glass. She moved her face closer until she was staring into what she thought were its eyes.
"Hello…" She murmured softly as she stared at 'Stevie the Killer Whale!' as the sign proudly named him. Stevie almost seemed to smile at her and Karen could feel a small smile tugging on her lips. She took a step back in shock as she saw Stevie move a single eyelid down as if he were winking at her. Karen stared in shock for a moment. Stevie had winked at her. Her grin grew until it took up most of her face. A killer whale had winked at her!
She turned excitedly to Kyle, her eyes bright and shining.
"Did you see that Kyle? He winked at me! Me! I think he likes me!" She said breathlessly as she fixed herself firmly in front of the glass, staring affectionately at the large beast in front of her. Stevie almost looked amused and Karen's grin grew even more, to the point where it could have broken her face. In her excitement she missed the small fond smile Kyle was giving her as she grinned madly at the whale. His smile broke into a grin when she began cooing softly at the animal and before long he was chuckling softly to himself.
"Would like some ice cream Karen?"
Karen looked up from Stevie to see Kyle smiling at her. She smiled back and nodded, shifting through the purse her mum had made her bring for the money she had been given. Pulling out a five dollar bill she carefully placed it in Kyle's palm. Kyle's fingers slowly closed around the bill as he starred at his hand in thought. He reopened his hand and placed the bill back in Karen's. He closed her fingers over the crumpled bill with a soft smile. "My treat Karie. I'll be right back so wait right here."
Karen felt here heart clench in happiness as Kyle walked away. Turning to Stevie she grinned wildly at the whale.
"Did you hear that Stevie? Karie!" Karen's grin grew as the whale seemed to share her excitement. She smiled affectionately at him before Kyle's words properly registered.
Wait right here.
Karen turned towards the direction Kyle had gone in alarm. Here wide eyes searched the crowd but he was nowhere to be seen. She licked her lips and craned her neck to see over the crowd but she couldn't see his blonde hair anywhere. Karen eyes began to fill with tears as she stared in the direction her first real friend had gone. Her best friend.
Wait right here.
He wasn't coming back.
Karen slowly began to crouch onto the floor. She sat there in disbelief for a few moments before she gave feeble sniff. Stupid. She was so stupid. This always happened. So why was she crying? She should know that this was going to happen. So why.
Karen gave a small hiccup as she sat on the floor, her arms wrapping around her legs. She rubbed her eyes into her knees until she began to see stars.
She sniffled loudly as she thought of her Daddy, the only one to ever call her that except Kyle.
I'll be right back Karie-Bear so stay right here and wait for Daddy. Do you understand? Daddy will be right back so don't cry sweetheart. I'm just going to drive around the corner and get some milk so stay right here and wait for me. Can you do that Karie-Bear? I want to see you smiling when I get back y'hear?
He never came back. He couldn't come back. Cause dead people can't drive. But Karen didn't know that. So she waited. And waited.
But Karen was tired of waiting for everyone to come back when she knew they weren't.
So Karen sat there for who knows how long and cried. Cried for her daddy. Cried for the loss of her first friend. She cried for herself. She sat and sniffled and hiccupped, ignoring the kind adults who asked if she was okay. She wasn't supposed to talk to strangers after all. Karen started to wonder if a person could run out of tears and actually opened her mouth to ask Kyle the question but the only thing that came out was a soft sob.
He wasn't coming back.
Karen looked up abruptly, starring wide eyed at Kyle in all his messy-haired-blue-green-eyed glory. He looked slightly startled and thoroughly worried as he looked at her but Karen couldn't stop starring. Kyle had two vanilla ice cream cones in his hands and he held them close to his body as if to protect them. He had a little bit of ice cream dripping messily onto his shirt but he didn't seem to care. Kyle quickly and awkwardly began to sit down, trying to keep the ice creams out of harm's way. When he was finally sitting, though in a totally uncomfortable looking position, he turned to her.
"What's wrong Karen?" He asked softly as he attempted to hand her the ice cream. Karen took it, offering him a watery smile. She slowly began to lick the half melting ice cream and was surprised that it was slightly salty before remembering her tears from earlier. "Did somebody pick on you? Did you hurt yourself?"
Karen continued to quietly lick her ice cream. Her eyes roamed over Kyle in slight shock. Kyle gave a small sigh, licking his dripping ice cream before turning back to her.
"If you don't tell me what's wrong then I can't help you Karie."
That's what did it for Karen. She began crying again in earnest, much to Kyle's shock. She clutched her ice cream cone in both hands as she sobs wracked though her body. She hiccupped when Kyle slowly began to rub circles on her back to calm her down. Soon his hand moved from her back to her hair, patting her like she was a cat. Karen laughed though it came out watery and sad sounding. She leaned into his touch and quietly began to berate herself.
She was so silly.
Karen sobs died down slowly but before long she was had resulted to only sniffling every few moments. Somehow her head had ended up on Kyle's shoulder but Karen wasn't complaining. Kyle smelt nice, like soap and ice cream and grass. She let her eyelids droop for a moment, enjoying Kyle's petting and his comforting smell before she got off of him and took a shaky breath to settle herself. After a few more sniffs, Karen nodded to herself. She was okay. She began to lick her ice cream once again. Starring at the air in front of her face as she thought about how completely ridiculous she was being to think that Kyle would leave her all alone in the zoo. He would probably come back to help her get to the bus stop if anything, since he knew how easily she got lost.
Karen stopped licking her ice cream to look questioningly at Kyle who had a worried expression on his face. She was startled to see a large wet mark on his shoulder and automatically lifted the hem of her dress to try and rub out the stain as she apologized profusely. Kyle looked like he was going to speak before her glanced down and blushed deep red. He gapped for a few moments, mouth opening and closing like a fish before he grabbed her the skirt of her dress from her hand and placed it firmly onto her lap. Karen watched him in confusion as he looked frantically around at the crowd of people. After he was apparently satisfied he turned back to her, licking his lips before he spoke.
"Karie…you just can't lift your skirt like that." He whispered softly as his eyes flitted between her and the people passing by. Karen's head cocked gently to the side.
"Why not?" She asked as she took another lick of her ice cream. She began to gently rub at the wet stain on Kyle's shirt with her hand though she was not sure if it would help.
"B-because people can see your underwear!" Kyle said quickly as he stared at a particularly large man who seemed to be starring their way. Karen turned to look at the guy as well, slightly confused. The man was round and chubby and his face was flushed as he stared open mouthed at the two of them. Kyle's eyes narrowed as he gently pulled on Karen's arm. Karen scooted over obediently until she was so close to Kyle that she was almost in his lap. All the while Kyle glared at the man. The guy let out what seemed to be a frustrated sigh as he turned and walked off. As soon as he left Kyle seemed to deflate, a sigh of relief escaping his lips. "I don't know what I'd do if he came over here…" Kyle said quietly as he starred after the guy. He only relaxed when the man was successfully out of sight. "You see Karen, if you show people your underwear people like that man will try to…do things to you. They might even try to take you. That's why you have to be careful okay?" Kyle stared worriedly at her for a few moments before Karen nodded. His eyes lit up slightly and he smiled before his face became sullen again. "Karen why were you crying? Was anyone bothering you? Did something happen when I left or was it something I-"
"It's okay now Kyle. I was just being silly." Karen said softly. She watched as Kyle's eyebrows furrowed in worry.
"You called me Karie." She said softly. Kyle seemed to stiffen for a moment before the color rushed to his face. He gapped for a few moments, mouth opening and closing silently.
"I-I-I-I…s-sorry I-I didn't…i-it just…sorta came out…" Kyle was staring at the floor his ears turning a deep red. Karen smiled at Kyle as she gently brushed his ear with her fingers. That got his attention immediately as his head shot up and he turned to gape at her once more. Karen only smiled again as she gently brushed his long bangs from his eyes.
"I like it." she said softly. It was true. If anyone were to ever call her Karie again after Daddy she wanted it to be Kyle. She liked Kyle. He was her friend and he didn't leave her like everyone else. "You can call me Karie if you want." She said softly. Kyle starred at her for a moment before smiling.
"Alright," He said just as softly as she had. His smile grew slightly and he said as an afterthought. "Karie."
Karen smiled and gave her by now soppy ice cream a lick. Yes. If anyone it definitely had to be Kyle.