Unraveling YouJessica Sorensen
Unsure how to respond, I do as she says and start for the backdoor.
“Oh, someone got in trouble, didn’t they?” Fiona teases as we cross paths in the foyer. She’s got her dark brown hair up in butterfly clips, and her lips stained a fiery red that match her dress.
“Does Lila know you’re wearing that much makeup?” I ask as I maneuver the door open, letting the cool November breeze gust in.
She blows me a kiss. “Of course.” She’s probably lying, though, and will also lie her way out of it when Lila gets mad at her. “Oh, and make sure to make up with Lyric while you’re over at her house. I’m seriously getting tired of your sulking.” She flashes me a crafty grin then skips out of the foyer and into the kitchen.
Painfully aware of how much I’ve changed over the few weeks, I step outside and shut the door behind me.
The sun is setting, the sky a deep grey. Almost every house on the street is lit up with Christmas lights and flashing signs that promise Christmas cheer. I’m not a big fan of the holidays, but I’ve gotten better over the last year that I’ve spent with the Gregorys. I’ve gotten better at a lot of things while living with them. I just wish things could have remained that way. That the memories had stayed locked away, instead of clawing their way back into my mind.
The garage door of Lyric’s house is open when I round the fence. Light and music filters into the night, engulfing me the moment I step foot on the property. The sight of Lyric slams against my chest as the kiss we shared a month ago overwhelms me.
I almost spin around and run, but Lyric spots me and waves.
“Hey,” she says in astonishment when I approach the open garage. Her hair is braided, and she’s wearing a leather jacket, holey pants, and black lace-up boots. Her cheeks are flushed, and her lips are tinted blue from the chilly breeze.
“Hey,” is all I can think of to say back, because I can still feel it. That stupid flutter in my heart, the one that showed up after we kissed. And the emotions associated to the last time someone kissed me.
She sets down a wrench she’s holding and meets me around the back of the car. Her gaze drops to the plate in my hand. “Did you bring me cookies?”
I stare at her for way longer than necessary, only ripping my gaze away when she looks up at me. “Oh, yeah, Lila sent them over.”
“Can I have one?” she asks, acting coyer than normal. “A cookie, I mean.”
“Yeah, of course.” My fingers fumble as I lift the plastic off the plate.
She selects one of the snowmen caked in frosting and sprinkles. “These look so good.” She dunks her fingertip in the frosting and licks it off, causing a rush of adrenaline to pulsate through my body.
God, I want her.
I need to get out of here.
“Is your dad around?” I frantically scan the garage. “I was supposed to give the plate to him.”
She bites off the head of the snowman. “Nope, he ran out to get a part for my car,” she replies with her mouth full. “Hey, do you want to see my car? I know you’ve been … busy, and haven’t had a chance to see it yet.”
“I really need to get back to the house.” I set the plate of cookies on the trunk of the car, ready to bail.
“Ayden, please don’t leave,” she begs, nearly splitting my heart in two.
I freeze. It’s the last thing my sister said to me that day we were split apart.
When I glance over my shoulder and see the tears in her eyes, I whirl around. “Lyric, I don’t …” I trail off, my mind racing with what to say to her. When I come up with nothing, I cautiously inch toward her. “I’m sorry. Please don’t cry. I’m so fucking sorry.”
She sucks back the tears as she stares at the star dusted sky. “I just don’t understand,” she says, dabbing her fingertips under her eyes, wiping away some smeared eyeliner before she looks at me again. “You just stopped talking to me for almost a month, with no explanation. And I don’t know how to fix it—fix us.”
“It’s not your fault,” I promise her. “I’m just … confused.”
I let her twine our fingers together, even though her touch makes me ache all the way down to my bones.
“About what?” she asks. When I open my mouth to give her a vague answer, she cuts me off, like she knew what I was going to say before I spoke it. "You know you can tell me anything, right? I got your back, dude, remember?”
Unable to help it, I crack a smile. “Yeah, I remember. Anyone who messes with me gets a basketball to the face.”
She laughs then tugs me into the garage toward a rustic 1970 something Dodge Challenger with a dented fender, bumper, hood, dented everything really. “Come on. Come see my new ride. I’ve been dying to show it off to you.”
I allow her to lead me to the car and push me down into the passenger seat. Then she skips around the back, swiping another cookie before dropping down into the driver’s seat.
“So, what do you think?” She pats the top of the torn steering wheel. “Pretty beat up, right? But it makes it so much more super awesome. My dad promised that we’d have it finished before graduation.”
“Seven months, huh?” I cock a brow at the tattered backseat and caved in bodywork.
“Hey, he’s really good with cars.” She playfully pinches my arm then frowns when I flinch. Still, she manages to put on the nicest fake smile I’ve ever seen. “So is your dad.”
“Who …? Oh, you mean Ethan. Yeah, I’ve seen some photos of the cars he used to fix up. They're pretty cool.”
She rests back in her seat with her head turned toward me. “You should have him fix one up for you, then we can be twins.” She wiggles her fingers in my direction. “Remember the black nail polish we were both wearing the first day you came here.”
I smile at the memory. “You seemed so proud of the fact that we matched.”
“I was proud,” she admits, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. She flutters her eyelashes as she peers up at me, but I can’t tell if it’s intentional or not. “You were so intimidating that day. I needed something to say to you.”
“Intimidating?” I snort a laugh, the sound echoing around us. “You seemed so at ease. I was the one who felt intimidated.”
“But you kept staring at me.”
“Not at you. At your eyes. They were—are”—I shrug—“beautiful.”
“You’ve said that to me a lot lately,” she whispers softly. “At least, before you stopped talking to me.”
“I’m sorry, Lyric. It’s just …” I start to get choked up. “There are still so many things you don’t know about me—that I don’t even know about me. If you did, you probably wouldn’t want to be my friend anymore.”
“Try me.” When I gape at her, she sits up and props her elbows on the console. “How will you ever know the answer to that if you don’t tell me stuff?”
I scratch at my arm, feeling fidgety and erratic. “I can’t tell you everything. I can’t even tell myself everything. But … the whole touching thing freaks me out.”
“I know it does,” she says simply. “I could tell that from the first day we met.”
“I don’t even know why it does. I mean, sometimes I see things, and …” I jerk my fingers through my hair. “I just feel all wrong inside.”
“Ayden, I get that you’ve been through stuff, but I want you to always trust me. This whole fighting thing … well, it’s been killing me. The last month without you has been killing me.”
“I wasn’t fighting with you.” My voice weakens as she leans in, as if she’s about to hug me. All my instincts scream at me to back away, but I can’t move. All the emotions I’ve been running away from emerge and magnify, more potent and toxic than ever. “I was just confused … about stuff.” As she moves in to wrap her arms around me, something crumbles inside me—my self-control.
Before I can even comprehend what I’m doing, I angle my head to the side and press my lips to hers. She tenses, but only for a fleeting second, then she melts into my touch. I real
ize right then and there that I can keep running from her, but I can’t run away from my emotions. They’ll always exist under the surface, maybe even longer than I’ll admit.
“Oh my God,” she groans against my lips as I slide my tongue into her mouth.
She taste like frosting and feels so warm. My fingers begin to shake as I place my hands on her waist, needing her closer, yet fearing her closeness. I grab at her shirt, both pushing and pulling her against me while I kiss her with passion, heat, trying to suffocate the memories that scar my mind.
But they mix together.
Light and dark.
Fear and lust.
Liquid and fire.
I can’t get enough.
Yet I have too much.
About to combust.
I start to protest, push back, because my mind is going into overdrive, but suddenly Lyric scrambles over the console and straddles my lap. Her warmth drowns me, seeps through my skin, and singes my veins. And when she presses her chest against mine, all the cold inside me flares. I tangle my fingers through her hair, tugging at the roots, and slide my hand up the front of her shirt.
“Ayden.” She bites at my lip, causing my entire body to quiver.
I’m so confused.
My mind wants one thing.
My body the other.
She rolls her hips against mine, and I gasp in desperation. In desire. In a million things I don’t understand. My body feels like it’s about to explode as my fingers inch up the bottom of her bra, and then graze her nipple. I have no clue what I’m doing. Absolutely no idea. Want. I know that I want something, so I continue to caress her, gasping and groaning as her nipple hardens under my touch. She bites at my bottom lip again, stabs her nails into my arms, holding onto me, or holding me up—I’m not sure.
I’ve never purposefully touched a woman like this. Feared it for three years. Yet I want to touch Lyric more than I’ve wanted to touch anyone, so I cup her breast, feel her delicate flesh, and lick her soft lips. She tastes so good, her skin is so warm, and the whimpers coming from her make my heart slam against my chest, almost painfully.
I’m not sure how long it goes on, us in the car, exploring each other, but it feels like forever.
I could have gone on forever.
Eventually, Lyric pulls away, but keeps her forehead pressed against mine as she traces a finger up and down the back of my neck.
“I’ve missed you,” she utters with her eyes shut. “I’m sorry I upset you.”
“I’ve missed you, too,” I openly admit as I struggle to get oxygen into my lungs. “But it wasn’t your fault I got upset. I was—am just confused.”
Her eyelids lift open and she leans back. “About what?”
“About … stuff. There’s things about me, Lyric, that even I don’t understand sometimes.”
“You know you can tell me, right? Tell me anything.”
“I wish I could … but I can’t even remember everything myself.”
Strangely, she looks terrified, her eyes widening. “I’ve been trying to figure out how to bring this up to you, but right before you stopped talking to me, I found an article on the internet that I think is about you.”
I swallow hard, scared to death, yet needing to know. “What did it say?”
She secures her arms around me, as if she’s afraid I’m going to run. “It just talked about three kids being pulled out of a house. That they … had some injuries.”
“Lots of injuries,” I whisper, scared to death that this conversation is going to trigger what happened before I was pulled out of that house. “More than I think the reporters realized.”
Her chest rises and falls as she fights to breathe evenly, her sympathetic gaze drowning me in emotions I can barely comprehend. “Ayden, I …” She trails off as her gaze wanders to something over my shoulder.
“What are you looking at?” I track her gaze out the rear window and see a cop car pulling up to my home.
All the fear I had been battling suddenly explodes and smothers me.
For once, I can’t think of a single word to say. Can’t smile. Can’t breathe.
Everything had been so perfect for about five minutes. That kiss and those touches were the kind that artists crave, like a drug addiction. The moment was perfect, and a song was already forming in my head.
Then the cop car had pulled up to the house and everything went to shit.
I followed Ayden over to his house when he jumped out of the car. Then I sat in the living room with Lila, Ethan, and Ayden while the police started talking. My mom and dad quickly took Kale, Everson, and Fiona out of the house when they realized what the conversation was about.
They found Ayden’s brother. Not just found, but discovered his body in a ditch not too far away from their childhood home. And from what it sounds like, he might have been murdered. There is an ongoing investigation, and while they didn’t flat out say it¸ I got the impression that his brother’s death might have had something to do with whatever happened to them a few years ago, that there were some marks on his body that led them to believe this, along with some other evidence they wouldn’t divulge.
“If you can think of anything at all,” the taller of the two officers says, directing his question to Ayden as he hands a card to Lila. “I know in the initial investigation you told the detective that you couldn’t remember anything, but if you do, please call us.”
“Of course,” Lila replies, tucking the card in her pocket, struggling to keep it together.
“And you might want to be a bit more cautious over the next few weeks while we gather more evidence,” he tells Lila as she walks them to the door. “It’s just a precautionary measure, but it’s better to be safe.”
I try to catch Ayden’s eye as Lila finishes chatting with the officers, but he won’t look at me. Won’t look at anything, except the scars on his hands.
Lila is sobbing by the time she returns to the living room. Ethan looks like he’s about to throw up. And I feel as sick as Ethan looks.
“I’m going to go do my homework.” Ayden abruptly stands up from the sofa and walks out of the room at a normal pace with a relaxed expression.
Like nothing’s wrong.
Lila’s shoulders shake as she reaches for a tissue on the table, her eyes filled with tears, and her makeup running everywhere. “Oh my God, this is so horrible. I need to go check on him.” She starts to get up, but Ethan drapes an arm around her and pulls her back down. “Let Lyric do it, okay? You need to calm down before you talk to him.” He looks at me for help.
I nod, getting to my feet. “Of course.” I leave the living room and start up the stairs, but pause when I hear the two of them whispering.
“We knew this was a possibility when we took him in,” Ethan says in a gentle tone. “We knew that those people were never caught, and that something might happen one day.”
“But I never expected it to happen like this.” Lila sniffles. “And did you see the look on his face. It was the same look he had when we picked him up that first day. God, what if he goes back to barely speaking.” Tears flood her voice. “I just want him to be happy.”
So do I. More than I want my own happiness.
I rush up the stairs and pause in front of Ayden’s shut bedroom door, hesitating before I knock.
“Come in.” His voice sounds so hollow that I almost start crying as hard as Lila. Instead, I collect myself and push the door open.
“Hey,” I say as I tentatively enter.
He’s lying on his stomach on the bed with a math textbook opened in front of him, doing his homework just like he said, as music thrums from the speakers of the stereo. He’s grasping something in one of his hands.
He finishes writing out the p
roblem before he glances up at me. “Did you need something?” he asks, the life in his grey eyes dead.
I press my lips together. “I just wanted to see if you were okay.”
He shrugs, returning to his paper. “I’m fine. It’s not like I didn’t expect that to happen.”
“You expected your brother to die?” I question as I close the door. “Why?”