Note: This is the seventh in a series. The series starts here: Steve Stalks Kayla
Steve and Kayla grew closer in the crucible of the Stockholm adventure, but as we’ve seen, Steve is at his best in a crisis. What happens when the crisis is over? This is what Kayla is struggling with. How does she turn the Steve she sees in moments of crisis, or enchantment, or desire, into the reality? This is a man who very well might have that “good side,” but still might be impossible to communicate with or depend on in the cold light of everyday life.
The next time she sees him after their first kiss, Kayla happily asks him to spend the day with her. But he is rude and snidely tells her nothing has changed between them and never could: “I like variety too much.” He tells her to be careful what she wishes for. He tells her she can’t handle him. And we witness Kayla’s frustration and hurt over this step backward.
But she isn’t ready to give up. If the old tactics don’t work, try something else. One morning she is reading the newspaper at Shenanigans when Steve comes in. He sees her and tries to slink away. “I won’t bite, you know,” Kayla says blandly. This is a new Kayla, not angry, not pleading, not hurt. Instead she’s cool, and challenging. And sexy. Can she dare him to be with her?
He takes the bait. He swaggers over, sits down, begins to make a suggestive comment, breaks off, and mutters, “Never mind.” Round one: Kayla.
Having hooked her fish, Kayla is expectant and eager to enjoy his company. She orders the same breakfast he’s having, without knowing what it is. When it turns out to be a beer with a raw egg in it, she downs it gamely. (Mary Beth Evans is delightful in these scenes.)
Steve calls her on her strategy. “You’re trying to prove we’re not so different,” he says. He’s obviously warmed by her attention, and while he insists, “We don’t have anything in common,” it is without the heat, and the cruelty, of the day before.
Having scored a victory, Kayla presses her advantage by showing up unannounced at the Cheatin’ Heart with the professed intention of shooting a few games of pool. She proves to be so inept that Steve is forced to give her some (very hot) lessons, putting his arms around her from the back to show her how to hold the cue stick and line up a shot. Afterwards, Steve walks her back to the loft, and she presses him to stay so many times, and in so many ways, it’s both comical and endearing. He’s drawn into the room almost without realizing it, and before you know it, he’s kissing her.
After, he finally says what we’ve suspected about his motives (but it’s nice to hear it). Ruefully acknowledging his own weakness where she’s concerned, he says, “I’m trying to do something that’s halfway right here, and you’re not making it very easy.”
And Kayla has the perfect response: “This is right.” Another kiss. An attempt to break off to make some coffee, but … forget it. More kissing. And … Timely Interruption #3. Dr. Tom Horton, calling with news of Marlena’s “death.” Steve stays the night, to comfort her and protect her in case Orpheus is again on the loose. But when Caroline sees him there the next day and expresses her disapproval, it sends him scurrying away again.
Next, though, for a refreshing change of pace, Kayla gets mad at Steve—for taking Max to the Cheatin’ Heart when he’s babysitting him. Steve turns her anger back on her (a very annoying tactic he was to use many times). “You see why I back off every time you say you want me?” This is a major issue they keep circling around. Their conversation about it runs something like this:
Steve: We’re too different.
Kayla: We’re not so different.
Steve: Oh, yeah? (points to some recent example of how different they are)
Kayla: That’s not what you’re really like.
Hee! How do you argue with someone like that?
Well, he tries. He says he’s just trying to protect her … they don’t belong together … he’s no good for her. But Kayla insists that he’s not trying to protect her, he’s trying to protect himself. She says they have something really special and it would be stupid to throw it away. She’s crying now. “I need you, Steve.” She challenges him to look her the eye and tell her he doesn’t care.
And he can’t do it. So he admits it, finally. “I care about you. And I want you.” The words sound so raw, like they’re being torn out of him.
None of their arguments get resolved. Steve is still convinced that pushing her away is the right thing to do. But as he says: “I can’t fight you anymore, Kayla.”
So they are starting … something. Maybe. A few days later, Kayla gives Steve a present, a pool cue, and he is completely flummoxed. “Hasn’t anyone ever given you a present for no reason?” Kayla asks. And Steve shakes his head, turns away, and just manages to say, “No.” He’s so touched, overcome, almost, he has no choice but to beat a hasty retreat. He admits as much when she asks him to stay the night: “If I love you, I don’t think I’d be able to leave.” This is as close as he’s come to admitting the fear he has of getting close to her, the fear she’s always accusing him of.
By New Year’s Eve, everything is going swimmingly. Steve initially turns down her invitation to a formal party, but then he shows up anyway in a tux. She puts on her formal dress, and before they leave she leads him over to the mirror, just as he did in Stockholm months ago. Just as he said then, she tells him, “This is reality.” He says, “No, it’s a fantasy … it’s my fantasy.” Like Cinderella, this is Steve’s night out at the ball. Also like Cinderella, he will end the evening in sackcloth and ashes.
They begin walking to the party. But everything is too perfect between them to spend their evening with a crowd of other people. They turn around and go back to the loft, to spend the night, alone, together, at last.
In front of the fire, they kiss and talk quietly. Kayla asks him why he kept her waiting so long. “Maybe I was … scared of you,” he says softly. Kayla is turning around to let Steve unzip her when there’s a knock at the door. (Timely Interruption #4.) It’s a messenger with a file for Kayla. Then a rock comes through the window, which sends Steve out to investigate. This gives Kayla a chance to open the folder that was important enough to deliver on New Year’s Eve.
It’s a collection of reports, neatly typed, of Steve’s shadowing job for Victor Kiriakis last summer.
When Steve returns, Kayla questions him: “Do you remember the first time you saw me?” And for once Steve lies to cover up the ugly truth. It’s excruciating to watch Steve here, so clueless, though he is in the wrong. It is grotesque to see him still in his tuxedo, disheveled from their makeout session in front of the fire. It emphasizes his dislocation and makes a mockery of their enchanted evening.
Kayla shows him the reports, and then puts the pieces together that he was the one who stalked her and trashed her apartment in Cleveland. Her shock, and hurt, throw him so completely off balance that he falls immediately back into cynical tough guy mode. “I guess someone did you a big favor,” he sneers, and worse, “Didn’t I tell you? Why didn’t you listen?” And Kayla cries, “Maybe I should have. But I listened to my heart.”
He hesitates a beat, but plunges on, saying, “I guess your heart played a nasty trick on you.” Just like in the emeralds fight, just like in the fight over taking Max to the Cheatin’ Heart, he’s throwing it back at her. It’s not my fault, it’s yours for expecting better.
But this time it’s too much. Steve’s reaction is so completely inadequate that it points up his inability to face, and deal with, the consequences of what he did. Yes, Kayla is shocked, but she correctly identifies the larger problem. “Why can’t you just tell me you’re sorry?”
He can’t. So Kayla, who started out the evening so sure, so confident (“This is reality”) ends by whispering, “I don’t know what’s real anymore.”
Then Steve does a curious thing: he tries to defend himself, a little. ‘It’s all real, Kayla,” he says, then tentatively, “the good parts … ” This is wiser than he knows, because generally it is he who cannot accept that “it’s all real.” He either wallows in his bad side, or he lives in denial of it. When he is with Kayla, he indulges in the fantasy that he is the man she believes in, but it all hinges on her belief. If she is angry at him, it means that good side doesn’t exist, that the bad side is all there is. And all he can do is say I told you so.
Kayla asks him to go, and he does. It’s midnight, and the ball is over.
We next see them at Shenanigans, where Kayla is eating with Max, and they assiduously avoid each other, until Max insists on Steve joining them. (Poor Steve and Kayla had only little Max to pimp their relationship at this point.) Kayla overhears Steve express to Max his regret over their fight. He takes the blame and says how much he still likes (loves) Kayla. Everything he wouldn’t say to her.
Later she attempts to confront him a second time. “You can solve all the differences between us by just opening up.” She says, “I am sick of telling you who you are, what you think, and how you feel.” She perhaps doesn’t recognize how much Steve depends on her to do exactly that.
So he refuses. “There are some things in my past that I can’t face,” he says.
So although Steve won’t apologize, she knows he is sorry. Though he refuses to talk, he at least gives her a hint at a reason. She also recognizes that his attempt a few days later to steal the evidence against her sister Kim (she’s on trial for murder) is a way of making it up to her, as is his attempt to put it back. For Kayla, that will be enough—for now, anyway.
But if the immediate lesson of New Year’s Eve is that the past always comes back to haunt you, the larger lesson—one that Steve hasn’t learned, one that he stubbornly insists he won’t learn—is that the only way to escape your past is to face it and deal with it. This issue will loom larger and larger in the coming months, because a much bigger skeleton is about to come tumbling out of the closet.