Sweet oblivion (sweet se.., p.48
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       Sweet Oblivion (Sweet Series #1), p.48

           Bailey Ardisone


  I couldn’t stop thinking about what Rydan had said as I walked back to my house. When I had asked him what he meant, he told me to forget it, which was impossible for me to do. He then said my painting was beautiful and thanked me for it, but the pain in his voice had been evident.

  I had felt like a failure. He had pulled me into a hug and explained that he loved it; he just had a lot on his mind and apologized for giving me the wrong impression. It did make me feel better, but try as I might, I could not get over the strange feeling his confession had left me with.

  He had been dreaming. Which sounded innocent in itself, but the way he explained he had never once experienced a dream before now and how he said it made me extremely worried. Maybe I was being silly; I didn’t know. There was just something about his expression and the way he acted. It was like he was tortured emotionally but tried to hide it. I wished he would just tell me what was going on. He never indulged me with his feelings or serious things about his life. It drove me crazy!

  When I reached the start of my driveway, my heart completely broke in two. Mycah stood against a tree, hands in his pockets, waiting to say goodbye to me. I didn’t want this moment to come. But here it was, whether I liked it or not, and there was nothing I could do about it. I shouldn’t let it affect me. I couldn’t...

  The sun was setting, and as he looked at me from under his eyelashes, the glowing light from the sky caught the color of his ocean irises in such a way that I had trouble breathing. His midnight blue hair ruffled in the wind, his chiseled jaw clenched with some unnamed expression.

  I didn’t realize I started walking toward him—an invisible force drawing me in without any thought to it. He pushed off the tree, and before I could say a single thing, he grabbed my left arm and pulled me backward, switching places with me. He pinned me against his body and the tree, jarring me from concentration.

  I couldn’t breathe.

  His sweet breath was ragged, causing his chest to move up and down, but I couldn’t feel it against my face. He was inches away and stared right into my eyes.

  I started to get lost in the multi-facets of color in his eyes, the sun accentuating every detail. It looked like he wanted to say something. He furrowed his eyebrows, opened his mouth to talk, but quickly shut it again. It was quiet—only the sound of the wind-rustled leaves that surrounded us and my frantic heartbeat thrumming in my ears bound me to reality.

  His gaze moved from my eyes to my mouth, and immediately my heart skipped a beat. My hands began to shake as he looked back up into my eyes and slowly tucked hair behind my ear, making my head spin. Please don’t say goodbye...

  Blood accelerated under my skin as he moved his strong but gentle hand to the nape of my neck just before running his fingers up through my hair, cradling my head. His other hand wrapped around my waist, pulling me in closer. My body trembled from his touch.

  He leaned in and slowly pressed his soft lips against mine, almost as if he were afraid I would shatter from the contact.

  With my eyes closed, my heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest as I brought my hands up and knotted my fingers in his hair, clutching him tighter and tighter to me, not seeming to get close enough. The force made him crush his lips to mine, melding them together, fueling the fire between us and igniting a frenzy. I could taste the salt of my tears as they freely fell down my face. Yep, this was goodbye.

  As my burning lips parted, my breathing became erratic, almost matching my pounding heartbeat that drowned out all other sound, taking in his amazing woodsy scent that now surrounded me. He caressed the length of my jawline with his thumb and then held my chin as he continued to wildly kiss me.

  Time seemed lost—like it never existed. I could feel his heartbeat against my chest and realized it was in sync with mine. I felt like I was soaring through space, seeing stars speed by and explode in the distance. I had never been kissed before and wondered if this was what it was like for everyone. I wanted this moment to last forever.

  He reluctantly pulled away, and I already felt the loss of his lips rip a hole in my heart. His eyes were wild, bright, and his expression was radiant, matching the kiss perfectly.

  “I’m sorry,” he said roughly. “I...have wanted to do that for a long time. I couldn’t hold back anymore. I don’t want to.”

  My heart soared as the words he just spoke slowly sunk in. I didn’t know what to say or how to respond. I wasn't even sure I comprehended what was happening right then—my brain didn’t seem to want to catch up.

  He wiped the wet streaks my tears left behind with his thumbs and took my head in his hands while lightly kissing my forehead just where my hairline met my skin. I closed my eyes and didn’t want to open them again.

  “I don’t want you to go,” I confessed while keeping my eyes closed.

  “I have to protect you. It’s the only way you’ll stay safe,” he breathed in his velvety smooth voice. My body still trembled.

  “I don’t need protection. And if you’re here, nothing will happen to me,” I appealed, believing every word. My voice was thick and filled with emotion.

  “You have it backwards. You’ll only need protection if I stay.” His accent was alluring, making me step closer into him, if that was even possible. I nodded my head, still not knowing what to say or do. He caressed my cheekbone with his index finger before sliding his hand through strands of hair along my face. He smiled guiltily at me just before pulling away.

  “I don’t care if you bring danger because you’ll be there to protect me. So it doesn’t matter, right?” I could feel myself panicking from the distance, not wanting to let him go.

  “I may not be able to protect you. There are forces way more evil than you can even imagine. Secret underground organizations you happened to meet are child’s play in comparison,” he explained solemnly, eyes to the ground. I didn’t understand what he meant, and as my mind tried to register what he just said, I was left speechless. He started walking backward away from me, but I followed instinctively. “I’ll come back for you. When I finally take back what is rightfully mine, I’ll come back to fetch you. I promise,” he affirmed cryptically.

  “I don’t understand what you’re saying,” I exclaimed, my breathing once again erratic, knowing he was slipping away. I reached out, trying to grab him in an effort to keep him from leaving.

  “Don’t do this. Please. I can’t—” he stopped talking as he skipped forward, planting fiercely one more kiss on my lips. It distracted me, because when I opened my eyes a second later, he was gone.

  I stood there in my driveway, holding my swollen lips in my fingers. I could feel my heart crumbling, but I had known this was coming. What I didn’t expect, however, was the amount of pain that descended upon me.

  I ran inside the house completely lost and confused. He was gone. All I had left of him was a promise that he would come back, but when? When would that be? I flung myself onto my bed, desperately wanting to find solace in sleep. It was my only escape from pain—something I learned to do at a very young age.

  I threw my blanket over my head and buried my face in my pillow, not able to keep the oncoming tears from falling a second more. And boy did they fall, like a never-ending stream, working to wash away all thoughts and feelings of Mycah. As my brain tried to purge his touch, his kiss, his smell, all-things-Mycah out of my heart, I knew it would never succeed.

  I sobbed and sobbed until eventually I fell asleep.

  I woke the next morning utterly spent and numb. Thoughts of Mycah lingered in the back of my head, but I refused to dwell on them. I pushed them back deep in the recesses of my mind where they wouldn’t hurt me. Where I could forget them. Zaylie called, confirming to pick me up at five this evening for the Homecoming Carnival. I didn’t want to go but couldn’t tell her no.

  I tried to climb out of bed and instead fell to the floor, clutching my heart. Was I having a heart attack? It felt like something was missing inside of me, something I co
uldn’t live without. It was painful, as if a very piece of me was ripped away, brutally stolen from the tiniest parts of my marrow.

  What was wrong with me? This couldn’t be normal. I slowly inhaled and exhaled, trying to steady my breathing. I needed to get a grip. This was completely ridiculous.

  Suddenly, the sound of my phone ringing sent me lurching into the air. My god…I abruptly grabbed it, cursing under my breath. I was pretty sure I was traumatized. That was the only explanation for my insanity.

  “Hello?” I answered without looking to see who it was first.

  “What time do you want me to pick you up?” Rydan drawled with his deep voice on the other end of the line. I forgot he was going with me to the carnival.

  “Oh, my friend Zaylie is picking me up, actually. We’re all going to the carnival, if that’s okay. Do you just want to meet us there? Or you can come here and we can all go together.” I hoped he chose the latter.

  “What time?” he asked again.

  “They’ll be at my house at five,” I answered, hopeful.

  “I’ll be there. See you in a few hours,” he replied before hanging up. I looked at the clock and realized I had four and a half hours until then. That wasn’t much time. I hurried into the kitchen and found something to eat before starting on my mission. I’d have to quickly find a dress within my mom’s packed away clothes and just hope it didn’t take too long to come up with something good for the dance tomorrow night.

  I could still feel the pain throughout my body, like it was part of my blood that pumped in and out of my heart, and it was all I could do to ignore it. It hurt, deeply and excruciatingly, but I couldn’t let anyone know. I had to learn to live with it. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I’d be darned if I let it affect my life and my new friendships.

  Thankfully, Operation: "Find and Create Dress Pretty In Pink style," was a huge distraction from the crippling pain that lurked in my chest. I went upstairs into the attic and ran my fingers across my mother’s things. I opened gingerly one of her boxes marked "Dresses." Bless my organizational skills!

  The smell of her perfume floated over me as I sifted through several of her dainty dresses, halting me. My eyes closed, and I took in a stronger inhalation of air through my nose. I had almost forgotten her scent, but now that it filled my lungs, I could swear she stood right next to me. I fought back tears and trudged on. If I let myself dwell on her, I would end up spiraling out of control over her and other depressing thoughts—thoughts I could never let myself think about if I wanted to get through today. All I wanted to do was forget. I spotted a simple black cocktail dress and pulled it out. It would work.

  I grabbed the sewing machine and essential tools needed to complete the process and got started. I set my alarm to remind me to stop in three hours.

  After doing all I could with the dress in the allotted time I was given, I jumped in the shower and started to get ready for the carnival.

  I put on the first pair of dark wash jeans and long-sleeved shirt I saw, then threw my hair up into a messy bun on top of my head after drying it. The last thing I cared about was how I looked, and I didn’t feel an ounce of motivation to get ready. I had to force myself, wondering if the entire night was going to be like that. Or maybe the rest of my life…

  A knock on the door signaled they were there, so I grabbed my coat and slipped on my faux leather boots. I opened the door to a grinning Zaylie, all done up and pretty.

  “You look great!” I complimented her, admiring her beauty. She had a part of her dirty blonde hair in a braid with the rest left falling down in perfect ringlets and had simple makeup that complimented her features.

  “Thanks! And you look…sad. Are you okay?” she asked full of concern, worry crinkling her face as she pulled me into a hug. Crap…I thought I was hiding it.

  “Oh, I’m fine. Don’t worry about it. Ready to go?” I lied, not wanting to think about it. I looked past her to the truck sitting in my driveway that blared punk music as Desmond and Liam bounced up and down.

  “Sure,” she said skeptically, not believing me. Just then, Rydan pulled up on his motorcycle as I finished locking the door behind me. He wore his dark canvas jacket and black jeans that hung loosely from his hips, exuding suaveness, per usual. I practically ran to him, needing his calming effect, and pushed my body into his. He returned the gesture, rightly discerning I needed it. I didn’t care that there were other people around watching us. He was my best friend, and only he could make me feel better.

  “Rydan, this is Zaylie. Zaylie, this is my best friend Rydan.” I let go of Rydan and introduced them once I felt Zaylie walk up behind us. Liam and Desmond got out of the truck after they saw him pull up, so I introduced Desmond too.

  “It’s nice to meet you,” Zaylie said while both boys said “hey” and shook Rydan’s hand.

  “I’ve heard a lot about you,” he said to Zaylie and Desmond. “And it’s been a long time, Liam. How’s it going?” He acknowledged that he remembered Liam from before when we all used to go to school together—back before Liam moved away.

  “It’s been good, man. How 'bout you?” Liam replied.

  “Just great,” he answered with a half smile, but only I noticed the sarcasm. Rydan had been hiding something from me for a while, and it hurt each time I noticed it. But now I was hiding something from him as well, making us even.

  We all got in the old blue pickup truck that Desmond and Zaylie shared. Zaylie drove with me in the middle and Rydan in the passenger seat while Desmond and Liam sat in the bed, having way too much fun. They were like dogs enjoying the wind, and Zaylie swerved every now and then, sending them sliding across each side, encouraging their crazy antics. Before last night I would have found it hilarious, but today I had to force myself to laugh along. I took Rydan’s hand and intertwined my fingers with his, desperate for his touch. He kissed the top of my head in a brotherly way and chuckled when Zaylie took a sharp turn that sent Desmond almost falling over the side and screaming like a girl. I rolled my eyes, not able to keep from genuinely laughing that time.

  After parking, we admired the waves that crashed against the rocky shoreline. The carnival was set up near the water at a park on the south end of Ocean Avenue. The wind whipped around my face and briny salt-water air filled my lungs. I loved it.

  I could hear a live band playing music from a place nearby and the loud sounds of games and carnival rides as we drew closer to the entrance.

  “Whoa, I think everyone and their brother decided to come to Kennebunkport today,” Zaylie exclaimed as we made our way to the ticket counter and stood in line. “This place is packed.”

  “Welcome to the carnival,” I said laughing.

  “Look at that bloke over there,” Desmond practically shouted, pointing with his finger. “He’s wearing a Batman costume. Seriously, dude, it’s a school carnival, not a comic book convention.” We all laughed.

  “Lots of people dress up around here for the carnival. You'll find people like that all over the place…Look, over there is Darth Vader by the trashcan,” Liam commented as he jerked his chin toward the man and nudged Desmond in the side.

  “I ain’t ever seen the likes of this before,” he replied, making us all laugh again. We finally got to the window and paid for our tickets.

  “Come on, let’s go eat. I just love carnival food!” Zaylie shrieked with excitement. It was catching, and I found myself growing excited too. It felt good to be around people who were happy and playful.

  Zaylie, Desmond, and Liam all stood in line for the famous pulled pork sandwich that Desmond said smelled like heaven. Rydan and I sat at a picnic table, saving it for them. Rydan was a vegetarian, and I already ate before coming, knowing I didn’t have any money.

  “This pulled pork is the bee’s knees,” screeched Desmond.

  “What? Do bees actually have knees?” Liam asked sarcastically.

  “I don’t know, but this pork is amazing!” Zaylie chimed in.

It is pretty good. I guess I’m used to it. I eat these all the time,” Liam replied, inhaling the food like a hungry-hungry-hippo.

  “I want onion rings,” Zaylie blurted suddenly. “I heard that Fat Sue’s uses this amazing tempura beer batter. I have to try some!”

  “Fat Sue’s sets up shop a little ways down,” Rydan told her. “We can walk that way next.”

  Desmond sighed, and then all of a sudden looked at us with a huge grin across his face.

  “Des, no! This whole place is covered with food,” Zaylie exclaimed. She sighed at the same time Liam said “Dude!” in awe. He followed Desmond, who had already gotten up to get another sandwich.

  I laughed when both Desmond and Liam returned, shrugging as they walked back stuffing their faces. “What can we say, we’re growing boys,” Liam grinned through a mouth full of food.

  “Oh yuck! Learn some manners, dipstick,” Zaylie barked, not amused.

  “What did you call me?” he asked, offended.

  “You heard me!” she retorted, standing on her tippy toes in an effort to meet his eye-level, but couldn’t.

  “Chill out, you two! Crikey…” Desmond interjected, getting between them. I tried not to laugh, but they were so funny together. “Come on, let’s go get some fairy floss,” he tried appealing to his sister.

  “What the heck is fairy floss?” I asked.

  “That pink fluffy stuff. I saw it over there.” He pointed to a cotton candy truck.

  “You mean cotton candy,” I critiqued, laughing.

  “To you, maybe.” He winked, walking toward the truck. We followed, Zaylie moving as far away from Liam as possible. I noticed then that Liam kept glancing over at Zaylie, looking a little lustful. Hmm…

  Zaylie had gotten her onion rings next and was so full afterward that she vowed to never eat again. Ten minutes later she was eating a bag of warm cinnamon and sugar almonds. Rydan bought me a lemon shake-up as a surprise, knowing it was my must-have at carnivals.

  I promised to share an "Elephant Ear" with Zaylie later after she saw one and wanted to know what it was. Liam corralled us toward the rides and games, saying he was sick of wasting time on food. Desmond bought us all ride tickets, and Zaylie shrieked when she saw the tilt-a-whirl. We both laughed as we took the tickets and literally ran to stand in line. Zaylie bounced up and down, hardly able to contain her excitement. Liam joined us while Rydan and Desmond waited by the exit. When it was our turn, I forced Zaylie to sit in the middle, developing a hidden agenda, despite her protest of having to be near Liam. All three of us screamed, which then made us girls laugh at Liam who sounded ridiculous.

  Rydan and Desmond looked to really hit it off. I could hear them talking about guitars as we made our way toward them and was surprised to find Desmond so into that. I had no idea. Liam fit in the conversation effortlessly since he also was into playing music. As we walked to the next attraction, I learned that Desmond and Liam started a band and wanted Rydan to join them. He said he’d think about it as he put an arm around me after seeing me shiver from the cold wind.

  It was turning dusk, which Zaylie said was the perfect time to go on the Ferris wheel. I, however, had sworn to never go on one again after riding one by myself last year. It had completely freaked me out stopping at the top, swinging back and forth, as people got off and got back on. I had realized then that heights were not my thing.

  Rydan offered to sit with Zaylie while Desmond and Liam begrudgingly sat together, worried that girls would get the wrong idea and ruin their reputation.

  I stood at the bottom, watching with amusement as Zaylie laughed at something Rydan must have said as they moved closer to the top.

  “Don’t you look cute.”

  My breath caught in my throat, heart doing complete somersaults, at the sound of Mycah’s velvety accented voice. I whirled around, not believing my ears.

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

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