The Redemption of Callie & KaydenJessica Sorensen
He laughs incredulously. “Life’s called beating the shit out of someone?”
“It was our life for a while,” I say and he fidgets uncomfortably. I crack my knuckles and my neck, resisting the urge to ram my fist into the table in front of me. “I didn’t beat the shit out of him. I broke his nose, knocked out a few teeth, and bruised the shit out of his face. That’s it. ”
“Yeah, but what did Caleb Miller do to you?” he presses. “The last time I was here, he seemed like an okay guy. ”
I pop my knuckles again, pushing on them as hard as I can, until the skin feels like it’s going to split open. “He’s a fucking prick who got away with something he should be in jail for. What I did to him was minor compared to what should be done to him. ” I get up because I don’t want to talk about it anymore.
He turns around in the chair, following me with his bloodshot eyes. “Didn’t you beat him unconscious?”
I shake my head as I jerk open the door. “Nope. ” I thought I did, but it turned out he was just playing it up. Yeah, his face looked like a fucking lumpy blueberry, but by the time the police put me in the back of the car, he was up and milking it for all it was worth.
I walk outside, done with the conversation. I don’t have a coat on, just a hoodie, but I welcome the cold as I hike across the icy front yard, tromping through the snow, with my arms at my sides. Both cars are gone from the driveway, but the motorcycle is in the garage with the key in it. I run my hand along the leather seat, thinking about the last time I rode it and how I wrecked it trying to jump it over a hill. It’s black, sleek, and not made for jumping, but I was showing off for a bunch of girls and ended up skidding into the dirt and giving myself killer road rash. It was minor compared to some of the things my father’s done to me and even some of the things I’ve done to myself.
Rolling my wrist and feeling a slight pain inside the muscle from my cuts, I swing my leg over the seat, turn the key, and floor the throttle while I hold down the brake. The engine and exhaust huffs to life and for a split second I feel alive. I pick up my feet, release the brake, and fly out of the garage onto the road. It’s colder than hell, but it could be worse. It’s actually a warm day for Afton and the roads are clear. I can deal with it as long as I drive slowly. I just need to go somewhere.
Anywhere, but here.
Callie It’s been a little less than a week since I saw Kayden at the café. I’ve texted and called him a couple of times and always end up crying because he won’t answer. I can’t stop thinking about the emptiness in his eyes and the anger in them when he pulled away.
Seth’s texted him a few times, but it always goes unanswered. It kills me that there’s been no contact with him and that he’s up in that house, alone with his terrible family, keeping silent about his life. Silence. Silence. Why is it always about silence? I wish both of us could tell the world and be free from the chains we drag around.
Seth and I have been spending a lot of time away from my house, hanging out at the café, eating too many pancakes, and driving the roads aimlessly, anything that will keep me away from my mother. It’s not like she’s been terrible, but she keeps reminding me about my obligation to my brother and Caleb, since they’re a “package deal. ” But yesterday was Christmas, and she forced us to hang out at the house all day. It didn’t go very well and we ended up getting into an argument when she pulled me away and told me she thinks I shouldn’t hang out with Seth anymore.
“He has quite a mouth on him,” she’d said. “And I don’t like his attitude. ”
“You don’t have to like it, mom,” I’d replied. “But he’s my friend and he’s going to stay my friend. ”
That didn’t go over very well and she started lecturing me about the little girl she lost, the one who didn’t sass off.
“What are you thinking about?” Seth asks. We’re up in the room above the garage. It’s a fairly nice day, the sunlight spilling all over the snow and ice and melting it. I’ve been analyzing it for a while, watching it reflect against the ice, looking so perfect, yet I know if I step outside, the cold and slipperiness won’t hold up the perfection. “You have this strange look on your face… like you’re thinking about killing someone. ”
I’m standing next to the windowsill kicking a punching bag with my bare foot. My dad hauled it up into the room a few days ago, after my mom gave it to him for Christmas as a way to “get into shape. ”
“I’m just thinking about stuff. ”
He flips a page of the magazine he’s looking through as he lays on his stomach on the bed. “Like what?”
I shake my head and ram my fist into the bag, barely budging it. Sweat beads down the back of my neck and my ponytail is slipping loose from the elastic. “Nothing. It’s nothing… just the weather. ”
He cocks an eyebrow as he peers up from the magazine. He’s got on a pair of jeans and a striped shirt and this leather string necklace around his neck. “The weather?”
I shrug, pivot my hip to the side, and then spring my knee up, flattening my foot against the bag one more time. Breathless, I pad over to the bed, the concrete floor cold against my bare feet, and I hurry and hop onto the mattress. “Yeah, sometimes I like to analyze it and what it all might mean in relation to life. ”
He turns a page as he gapes at me. “You’re a very strange girl. You know that?”
I nod as I tuck my feet underneath the blanket. “I’ve been told that a few times. ”
He sighs and then eyes my outfit. I still have my pajamas on, no makeup, and I smell like sweat. “Are you planning on staying dressed like that all day? I was hoping we’d go out. ”
I lean back against the wall, fanning my hand in front of my face to try and cool off. “To where?”
“Anywhere but here. ”
“This place is already wearing on you, huh. ”
He shakes his head and starts reading the page in front of him. “No, but this room is and the fact that you keep dazing off into Callie la-la land. You’re bumming me out… You’ve been bumming be out since that day you ran into Kayden at the café. ”
He peeks up at me through his long black eyelashes. A strand of his hair falls into his eyes, but he doesn’t bother brushing it back.
He looks like he’s waiting for me to tell him something.
“What’s wrong?” I ask, draping my arm across my stomach.
He scowls at me as he roughly flips another page and he accidentally rips the corner. “You’re keeping something from me that happened at the café… when you ran outside. ”
“No, I’m not,” I lie because I’m afraid to talk about it, afraid of what Seth will tell me it means.
He points a finger at me with his eyes narrowed. “Don’t you lie to me, Callie. Just tell me you don’t want to tell me. Don’t lie. ”
My face sinks as I frown. “I’m sorry. I just really don’t want to talk about it. It’ll be too hard… to find out what it means… to find out how I feel. ”
He pauses as he assesses me and then his gaze glides to the window where my notebook lays. “Have you written about it?”
I shake my head and wipe some of the sweat off my face with the back of my hand. “And I don’t want to. ”
“Have you ever written about how you felt that night… about Kayden?”
“I haven’t,” I tell him. “And like I said, I really don’t want to. ”
He straightens his arms and pushes up from the bed. He kneels and scoots closer to me until he’s by my side. “Maybe you should. Maybe you should write Kayden a letter, telling him how you feel, not just about what happened, but how you feel about him. ”
“Seth, I don’t think I can. ” I roll onto my back and stare up at the patches on the ceiling. “I’m afraid of what I’ll end up writing… I’m afraid of what I really feel and how he’ll react it. ” I’m afraid that what I’m forcing to stay locked away inside my heart will break free and I’ll have to deal with it.
He takes my hand in his and one side of his mouth quirks upward. “Callie, honey, I think if both of us have learned anything in our lives it’s that being afraid is not the way to live. ”
“I know,” I say softly, realizing just how much I’ve been holding in. Ever since it happened, my chest and feelings and heart have been vined into this warped knot. “But what if I find out something that I don’t want to?”
“It’s better than hiding it and repressing it, isn’t it?”
I smash my lips together and listen to the space heater hum as I consider his words carefully. Then I compel myself to sit up.
“You’re a very wise man, Seth. ”
“Well, duh. ” He rolls his eyes and smiles. “That’s clear to everyone who meets me. ”
My smile grows because despite whatever ends up coming out on that paper when I jot down my thoughts, I’ll have Seth and I know that unlike in the past, I won’t be alone.
I retrieve the notebook from the windowsill and curl up in a ball on the bed holding the tip of the pen to the paper, ready to admit what really lies inside the darkest spots of my heart, the things I’m afraid of but want more badly then anything in my life.
* * * An hour later, I walk out of the garage, feeling lighter, almost like I’m flying. Seth was right. Writing down everything I’m feeling was a good idea. I feel much better. It’s strange because I write about Kayden all the time, but it was different actually writing to him because I know that one day, if I ever get the courage, he might read it.
I’m headed out to the driveway where Luke is waiting for me in his truck, ready to take Seth and me away for a little bit. Seth beat me out already and as I head down the steps he’s laughing about something and it makes me smile. It’s a breezy day, the clouds heavy. It isn’t snowing yet, but it probably will be by the end of the day.
I’m halfway down the driveway, eager to get away from the house for a while, when the door to the house swings open and Jackson walks out.
His brown hair is damp and he has on a heavy green coat, jeans, and a pair of boots with the laces undone and dragging in the snow. “Hey, I need to talk to you. ” He trots down the steps, trailing his hand down the railing.
I slow down and wait for him near the stairway, drawing the hood of my coat over my head and tucking my hands into my pockets. “About what?”
He halts on the bottom step and I crane my neck to look up at him. “About your loyalty to this family,” he says.
The icy breeze pinches my cheeks. “I am already loyal to this family. ”
He shakes his head and targets his finger at Luke’s rusty 1980s Chevy truck parked at the end of the driveway. “Not if you’re hanging out with him. ”
“With Kayden’s best friend. ”
I start to walk away, but his fingers snag my arm and he stabs his nails aggressively into the fabric of my coat as he wrenches me back toward him. “You know he was there that night?” he growls. “Luke was, when Kayden beat up Caleb and he didn’t even try to stop him. ”