The Redemption of Callie & KaydenJessica Sorensen
I jerk my arm, but he constricts his grip. “Jackson, let go of me. ” I bend my elbow and twist my arm again and jerk on it, but he won’t let me go. “Please, you’re hurting me. ”
His eyes are as icy as the snow beneath my feet and his fingers unwrap from my arm. I stumble to the side and press my hand to the side of the house to get my footing. “I’ve been best friends with Caleb since I was six, Callie, and you used to be friends with him too. ”
I back down the driveway away from him, shaking from the confrontation. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore. ”
“You never want to talk about anything, Callie. ” He bends his knee and steps up to the next stair without turning around. “You just shut down and go to your own weird little place. ”
“Because I have to!” I whirl around and sprint down the driveway. That weird little place he’s referring to is more of a home than this place will ever be. This place holds memories that stab at me every time I step foot inside it.
I hop into the truck and the warm air flowing out the vents comforts me. I climb over Seth’s lap, because he refuses to “sit bitch” and I settle in the middle. Once I’m situated and my seat belt’s buckled, Luke shoves the truck into reverse and backs down the driveway. My brother is standing at the top of the stairs, watching us with his hands in his pockets.
“What’s his deal?” Seth asks, nodding his head at Jackson.
“He’s upset about stuff. ” I position my hands in front of the heater vent to warm them up. I can feel Luke and Seth’s eyes on me, but I don’t want to look at them. With my head hung low, I breathe through my nose to force back the hot tears wanting to spill out.
The truck bumps up and down as Luke floors it over the small snowbank at the end of the driveway, and then he rams it into drive and we’re speeding down the snowy road. The radio plays peacefully in the background and the engine makes these clinking noises. Halfway across town, Seth and Luke take out their cigarettes and crack the windows so they can smoke. It’s chilly and smoky and my head is falling into a very dark place.
I wish I could do it. I wish I could walk into the house, when my mother and father and Jackson are all sitting down at the table.
I’d have a loud voice, not a shaky one, and I’d finally tell them.
They would hug me, comfort me, and tell me that it was all going to be okay.
But I know that’s not how it would go. It’s been six years since it happened and each year I spend in the shadows of silence is another weight added to my shoulder. It makes it harder to tell the truth and time makes it harder for people to understand.
Seth and Luke flick their cigarettes out the window as we turn into Luke’s driveway. Flakes of gray ash blow back into the cab and land on my clothes. I’ve seen his house before, when my mother was driving me to school, but I’ve never actually been there, nor do I know much about his mother and father, other than that they got divorced when he was young. It’s a smaller home, with green siding in desperate need of a paint job. There is a few feet of snow in the yard and a tree in the center near a salted pathway that leads up to the front porch.
Luke shoves the truck into park and turns the key, silencing the engine. He stares at his house as he removes the key from the ignition and stuffs it into the pocket of his black hoodie. “My mom’s not here,” he explains. “And I suggest we leave here before she comes back. ”
“What exactly are we doing here?” Seth wonders as he pushes his thumb on the buckle to unlock his seat belt. Then pushes the button on mine, releasing my waist from the strap.
“We’re making a plan,” he states with a pensive look on his face as he rubs his hand across his cropped brown hair.
Seth and I trade a look. “A plan?” we say simultaneously.
“To get out of this place. ” He flips the handle and pushes the door open. “I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of being here. It’s depressing. ”
“We’re would we go?” I wonder as Seth opens the truck door and hops out into the light layer of frost covering the slender driveway.
Luke jumps out and looks back into the cab at me with his hand resting on top of the door. “Anywhere but here. ”
I glance at his house, wondering what’s so bad about it. I scoot across the seat toward the open door where Seth is waiting for me with his hand extended for me to take. “Any exact ideas of where we’d go?” Slipping my fingers into his, I jump out and slip on the ice, but Seth catches me by the arm and saves me from a very painful fall.
“Somewhere cheap,” Seth says as he helps me get my balance. “I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty much broke after buying all those Christmas presents. ”
“I still can’t believe you bought all your Christmas presents from the Quickie Mart,” I tell him as he slams the door. I fiddle with the fifty-cent machine bracelet he gave me that has a gold teddy bear charm on it to remind me of “better times” he told me when he gave it to me. He was referring to the carnival where Kayden and I first kissed and where he also won me a teddy bear, which we dressed up and left with a Take me home sign on it.
“Oh, you know you loved yours. ” He smiles at me and then loops his arm through mine and we skip after Luke up the pathway to the front door of his house.
Luke shoves the door open and steps to the side to hold it for Seth and me. We turn sideways so we can fit through the doorway without letting go of each other and Luke follows us in and shuts the door.
I get the feeling that something’s wrong the moment I step inside. There are heavy striped curtains blocking the windows so it’s very dark and musty. The orange-and-brown-plaid couches are covered in plastic and there’s a plastic rug sprawled over most of the shaggy brown carpet. There are shelves built into the walls and each one is lined with rows of animal figurines that are coordinated by breed. Plants decorate the windowsills and are lined up from smallest to largest, but they’re all brown and dying.
It’s cold too and I can see my breath puffing out in front of my face and it mixes with the dust.
“What’s with all the plastic?” Seth asks as Luke makes his way to a hallway at the back corner of the room.
Luke shrugs as he flicks the thermostat with his fingers. “My mom’s insane. ”
We don’t utter another word. We leave the living room and head down the hall. I notice how bare the walls are, no photos, no pictures, no decorations, and it gets colder the farther back into the house we go. I’m getting kind of nervous, especially because the air is really dusty and it’s making it hard to breathe. When we reach the end of the hall, however, Luke opens a door and I step into the room and the air clears.
“So this is my room,” Luke tells me awkwardly and then cracks a joke. “You two are the only two people besides Kayden who have dared step foot into the shithole. ”
I turn in a circle as I take in the made bed, the band posters tacked to the walls, and the desk with a computer on it that looks like it’s from the nineties. Everything is very clean and very orderly, but not in an uneasy way like out in the living room. “It’s not a shithole,” I assure him. “It’s your room. ”
He seems happy with my response and his rigid shoulders relax a little. “Well, I’m glad you think so because I sure as hell don’t. ” He pats the front pocket of his jacket and takes his pack of cigarettes out. “Oh, and by the way, it’s fucking hilarious when you swear. ” He doesn’t light up a cigarette; he just holds the pack in his hand like it’s his security blanket.
Seth sits on the bed and bounces up and down a little and the mattress squeaks. “So what’s your brilliant plan?” he asks, crossing his leg over his knee.
Still holding his cigarettes, Luke rolls up his sleeves and scoots out a chair that’s in front of the computer. He presses the power button on the tower and then sits down in the chair, waiting for the computer to boot up. He holds up his finger and reaches for an iPod beside the computer. He hums under his b
reath as he scrolls through songs and I give Seth a questioning look.
Seth raises his eyebrows and twists his head toward Luke.
“So, are you going to tell us, or are we going to have to guess?”
“You’re going to have to guess. ” Luke sets the iPod down and a song clicks on, “Running Away,” by Hoobastank.
“Are we guessing by this song?” Seth’s face lights up with enthusiasm as he straightens up his posture.
Luke nods as he opens a search engine and types a few keys on the keyboard. “Yep. ”
Seth taps his finger on his chin, enjoying the game. “Are we running away?”
Luke pops a cigarette into his mouth and then claps his hand. “Bravo. Nicely done. ”
I shoot Seth a confused look and he just shrugs. “What? I love games. ”
I sigh. “Am I the only one who seems to mind that we’re talking about running away?”
They both shrug and I roam around the room looking at all Luke’s posters and little knickknacks scattered about. Seth takes out his phone and starts texting while Luke types on the keyboard and clicks the mouse. There are photos all over his room, some of him with a woman who looks a lot like him, and I think it’s his mother. There’s also another woman he’s in a few pictures with who’s a lot older than Luke, and she has the same brown eyes as him. Maybe it’s his aunt or his sister, but I thought she was much younger. There are a few of pictures of him with random girls and a handful where he’s with Kayden. They’re standing next to a black motorcycle and smiling and they look happy. The bike has a huge dent in it and Kayden’s arm is scraped and bleeding.
“He wrecked it,” Luke clarifies. When I turn around, I find that he’s watching me from the computer desk as he leans back in the chair. “He was trying to jump it over a hill and he wrecked it. ”
“I think I remember. ” I glance at the photo again. “That was the year he couldn’t play for a few weeks because he’d hurt his arm, right?”
“Yeah, that was the one. And we lost three games in a row because of it. ”
“My dad was so mad. ” I turn around to face him. “He used to chew him out during dinner. ”
“Oh, I bet. ” Luke’s mouth turns upward and I realize he doesn’t smile very much. “He used to chew us out all the time at practice. ”
Thinking of Kayden hurts my heart. “Maybe we should go see him,” I suggest.
“I was planning on it. ” Luke clicks the mouse on the PRINT PAGE button on the screen and the printer beside the tower illuminates. “Right after I plan our running away. ”
“Aren’t we a little too old to be running away?” Seth asks, looking up from his phone. “Isn’t it more like a road trip, which is something I suggested a few days ago?”
“It sounds more adventurous when you say running away,” I admit. “Like we’re doing something scandalous. ”