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The Redemption of Callie & Kayden

Jessica Sorensen

Page 11


  There’s another scar on his cheek and a bandage on his wrist along with an array of rubber bands. His body looks solid, but his expression looks breakable and fragile.

  “Callie,” he says, looking stunned and a little upset to see me.

  His bag falls down his arm and hits the floor.

  “Hi. ” It seems like the silliest thing I could ever say, but it’s the first word to pop into my head.

  The corners of his lips start to turn up, but then it vanishes and I question if I ever really saw it. “You shouldn’t be here,” he says.

  My heart tightens, twines into knots, binding so tightly it begins to wilt into pieces. I don’t know what to do or say so I tell him about my road trip. He’s not happy and suddenly he’s leaving, walking past me with barely a glance. Then I’m alone, unable to move or breathe. All I can think is that this is the end of it. The end to my happiness.

  After standing in the middle of the room for an eternity, Seth finally walks in. He approaches me like I’m a skittish cat and I glance down at my nails, wondering if he thinks I’m going to scratch him.

  “Hey. ” He stuffs his hands into his pockets and takes cautious steps until he’s right in front of me. “You want to go get that breakfast? The first set of pancakes is on me. ”

  I love that he doesn’t ask what happened. If I had to speak I’d probably crumble into teeny tiny pieces that would get stuck in the dirty cracks of the floor. I nod and he swings his arm around me and leads me outside, holding me together.

  * * * The restaurant is crowded and filled with the voices of people enjoying their breakfast with their families. Dishes clank in the kitchen and the air smells like coffee and waffles. Luke came with us, but he’s been distracted by one of the waitress behind the counter pretty much since we walked through the door. I wonder if he did it on purpose, to distract himself from what happened at the clinic. Luke actually tried to chase Kayden down after he ran out of the room, but he came back minutes later, looking upset, but he never said what happened.

  “You know what I just realized?” Seth points a syrupy fork at me as he chews a mouthful of pancakes. “This needs to be added to our list. ”

  I glance down at the barely touched stack of pancakes on the plate in front of me. “What? Eat pancakes?”

  His neck muscles move up and down as he forces the overly large mouthful of pancakes down. “No, eat a lot of pancakes. ”

  I pick up the bottle of strawberry syrup that’s in the tray at the end of the table. I press my thumb down on the handle, tip the bottle, and douse the pancakes with red syrup. “That doesn’t seem significant enough for the list. ”

  Seth stabs his fork into his pancakes as he shakes his head.

  “No way. Everyone in the world should sit down and stuff themselves with pancakes at least one time in their life. ” He shoves a bite into his mouth and then closes his eyes and inhales deeply.

  “Especially ones this damn good. I swear I’m having a foodgasm. ”

  A laugh flees from my mouth and he opens his eyes looking happy. It’s the first time I’ve shown a sign of life since I left the facility. “Foodgasm?” I ask.

  He nods his head and swallows his food with a forceful gulp.

  “The gasms of champions. ”

  “Champions of what?”

  “Life. ”

  I can’t stop smiling as I shovel up a forkful of pancakes and stuff them into my mouth. “All right, we can add it to the list and then cross it off because we’re doing it right now. ”

  He grins from ear to ear, then grabs a napkin from the tin case and dabs the syrup off his lips. His fingers circle the glass of milk in front of him and he wraps his lips around the straw and takes a sip. He sets the glass down, wipes his mouth off with the sleeve of his shirt, and then leans back in the booth and drapes his arms over the back of the seat. He watches me eat with an anxious expression on his face.

  I cram my mouth with pancakes and then look up at him.


  His shoulders move up and down as he shrugs. “I was just wondering if you wanted to talk about what happened. ”

  I extend my hand toward the butter in the middle of the table beside a plate full of toast and a bowl full of jam packets.

  “With Kayden?” I ask and he nods. I grab the knife and slide it through the butter, getting a thin slice on the blade. “Nothing. I just messed up. That’s all. ”

  “You looked like you were going to cry,” he says. “And Kayden, well, he looked upset when he walked out. I mean, he practically ran away from me when I said hi. ”

  I smear the butter all over the pancakes and it makes a mess with the syrup. “I just didn’t approach him like a skittish cat. I threw the road trip idea out there way too quickly and he freaked out. At least I think that’s what happened. ”

  “So he just decided to go home to his mother and father. ”

  Seth lowers his hands down from the back of the booth and rests his elbows on top of the table. “Why would he do that?”

  I divide the half-eaten stack of pancakes as I prop my elbow onto the table and rest my chin in my hand. “Maybe he’s not ready to admit the truth aloud yet. ”

  “Are we speaking about you or him now?”

  “I’m not sure. ”

  I continue to demolish my pancakes with my fork, trying to figure out what could be going through Kayden’s head. If his dad did it to him then maybe fear, but why would that make him afraid of me? I think about the bandage on his wrist and the rubber bands.

  I drop the knife onto the table. “Seth, why would someone have rubber bands on their wrist?”

  He shrugs as the waitress walks up to the table with the bill.

  He takes it from her and she smiles at him.

  “Thanks for coming in. ” She coils a strand of her blonde hair around her finger as she chomps on her gum and tries to dazzle him. “I hope you’ll come back. ”

  Seth shakes his head as he reaches his hand into his pocket to get his wallet. “As much as I loved the pancakes, I probably won’t be coming back. ” It’s his attempt to politely turn the waitress down.

  She pouts out her lip and takes the bill and Seth’s credit card when he offers it to her. “Well, okay then. ” She pierces me with a death glare, and then stomps off in her bubblegum-pink pumps and matching waitress uniform.

  “You know, I’m starting to wonder about the female sex,”

  Seth remarks as he sets his wallet down on the table. “Always looking for love in the wrong places. ”

  “Am I included on that list?” I sip my orange juice and then place the empty glass back on the table.

  He rolls his eyes like it’s the most ridiculous thing he’s ever heard. “Absolutely not, darling. You just need a better way to approach it. ” He fiddles with his watch, twisting it around and around as he watches the time. “Why did you ask that question about the rubber bands?”

  I circle my fingers around my wrist and rotate my arm.

  “Because Kayden had a whole bunch on his wrist. ”

  Seth thrums his fingers on the table and then his brow knits.

  He retrieves his phone from his pocket and runs his finger along the screen before typing something in.

  “What are you doing?” I ask, reaching for my purse.

  He holds up a finger as he taps the screen. “Just a sec. ”

  I take out a few dollar bills and lay them on the table for a tip, then drop my wallet back to my purse. I eye the waitress over at the counter who’s whispering something to another waitress.

  They both glance over and glare at me like I’m the devil.

  “I think they think I’m your girlfriend,” I say, slumping down in the chair.

  Seth glances at them, then shrugs and starts reading the screen again. “Then it was really wrong of her to hit on me. ”

  “I guess so. ” I direct my attention to the flurry of snow outside. It’s ever
ywhere, white and crisp and completely innocent looking as it shines under the sun. It’s a false innocence though, because the icy roads here have caused many accidents and taken many lives.

  Seth slaps his hand down on the table and the ice in the glass shakes as I jump, startled. “I knew it sounded familiar,” he mutters. Shaking his head, he puts his phone down on the table. “I know what the rubber bands are for. ”

  “What?” I sit up in my seat.

  He reaches across the table and takes my hand in his. “It’s a form of treatment used on cutters and people who self-mutilate. ”

  I already knew that Kayden might have hurt himself, but now it seems real. I slip my hand out of Seth’s and fold my arms over my stomach as I curl inward. “I don’t feel good. ”

  “Callie, it’ll be okay,” he reassures me and seeks my hand again.

  I recoil, shaking my head as I get to my feet. I feel the vile burn in my stomach and it aches like a forming bruise. “I need to use the restroom. ” Before he can respond, I get up and run across the café, bumping into one of the waitresses on my way there. I knock her tray out of her hand and feel bad, but I don’t have time to apologize.

  As I run passed the counter, where Luke is sitting, I hear him call out, “Callie… what’s wrong?”

  I don’t respond. I need to get it out. Now. I need to get rid of the vile feeling in the pit of my stomach.

  I slam my hand against the door and fling it open. I run to the nearest stall and collapse to my knees. I start to shove my finger down my throat, when suddenly I see Kayden lying on the floor. Helpless. He needs help. He needs someone who can help him. It hits me hard, like a kick to the stomach, what I need to do.

  Maybe I can change that wish I’m always dreaming about, the one where I erase everything that happened to me on my twelfth birthday. I might not be able to take away Kayden’s past pain, but maybe I can help with his future pain. I just need to be strong. I move my finger out from my mouth and it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I’m shaking and sweating as I sit back and lean against the wall, letting my head fall back. Then I just sit there. Not feeling better, but knowing it’s for the best.

  Chapter 6

  #35 Walk, don’t run


  Seth and I have been spending a lot of time at the café, partly because Seth thinks we need to eat pancakes all the time and partly because we’re avoiding eating breakfast at my house as a result of my mother and Seth’s first meeting. It was nothing but awkward right from the very beginning.

  “It’s nice to meet you, Seth. ” My mom stuck her hand out and Seth politely shook it. She was wearing a white apron over a floral dress, looking very 1960-ish. The kitchen smelled like cinnamon and the pans hissed on top of the oven.

  “It’s nice to meet you too. ” Seth let go of her hand and took in the excessive amount of Christmas lights strung around the top of the walls and the Santa and reindeer figurines all over the shelves and counters. “You like to decorate, huh?”

  My mother flipped the eggs in the pan, then picked up a mixing bowl from the counter and began to whisk the batter. “Oh yes, I love the holidays. They’re so much fun. What about you?”