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The Redemption of Callie & Kayden

Jessica Sorensen

Page 16


  Seth’s shoulders jerk forward as he sputters a high-pitched laugh. “Oh my God, I’ve been such a bad influence on you. ”

  My mouth droops into a frown. “What did I say?”

  He stands up to shove his phone into his pocket.

  “Scandalous. That’s something I would say. ” He bounces back down on the bed.

  I shrug and shuffle my toe across the carpet in a half-circle in front of me, feeling silly. “So? It’s a compliment being like you. ”

  All the humor evaporates from his face and his honey-brown eyes. Within seconds he has me in his arms and he hugs me like I’m the most important thing in the world to him. “Don’t ever change, Callie Lawrence,” he whispers in my hair. “Promise me you won’t. ”

  I enfold my arms around him and set my chin on his shoulder. “I won’t. I promise. ”

  The printer starts making shrill noises as buttons glow and flash and Luke clears his throat. “I hate to break up your little moment, but I’m ready to share my plan. ”

  We break apart, but still hold hands as we turn to him. He swivels in the chair, back and forth and back and forth as the printer spits out pieces of paper stained with ink. When it stops, he collects the papers and holds one up. It’s a picture of a light-blue beach house that sits near the ocean. The sky is unblemished and the sunlight reflects off the water and makes it look like crystal.

  “You want us to go to the beach?” Seth squints at the photo as he bends forward, leaning in.

  Luke nods as he gathers the papers and lines them up by tapping them against the desk. “Yep, my father has a beach house in California that he hardly ever uses and I have a key and everything. ”

  “You want us to drive to California?” Seth gapes at him like he’s insane.

  Luke shuts off the computer, grabs the papers, and strolls toward his organized closet with the papers secured underneath his arm. “It’s only, like, ten hours. ”

  Seth glances at me with skepticism. “Really? Only ten hours?”

  “I’ve never been to the beach,” I admit. When Seth and Luke gape at me, I shrug. “What? My family doesn’t like to travel. My grandparents even live in Florida, but in the central area and every time we’ve been there my mom refuses to drive anywhere besides the closest grocery store. And my dad always just wants to watch the sports network. ”

  Luke blinks as he shakes his head, and then he begins yanking shirts off hangers, some falling onto the brownish carpet, but he doesn’t bother picking them up. “Well, that gives us even more reason to go. ”

  Seth bobs his head up and down in agreement. “Agreed completely. And might I say that it’s a brilliant plan. Much more brilliant than my lame old road trip I was planning to a cabin up at the sky resort. ”

  Luke throws a few shirts and pants into a large navy blue duffel bag that he gets from the top shelf and then he adds a pair of striped shorts and a pair of sandals and sets the bag onto his bed. “I’m just desperate to get away from here, man. That’s all. ”

  I wonder what he’s running away from. “How long are we going to be gone?”

  Luke’s shoulder moves up and down as he zips up the bag.

  “Until break’s over, I guess. ”

  I look at Seth to see if he agrees and he merely nods his head. “We have nothing better to do than hang out with your mom. ” He makes a disgusted face. “And I for one don’t want to do that. ”

  “Yeah, but telling my mother that I’m not going to be here for New Year’s… she’s going to flip,” I tell them.

  “Then don’t tell her,” Seth says simply. “Text while we’re on the road. ”

  I contemplate the idea for a briefer amount of time than I expected. “I can do that. ”

  Seth beams and points a finger at his chest. “I’m a very bad influence and I’m glad. ”

  Luke slings his bag over his shoulder, folds the papers neatly in fourths, and then stuffs them into his back pocket of his pants.

  “Ready to hit the road?” He walks toward the door, scooping up his car keys off the desk. “We’ll stop and pick up your things and then we’ll go get Kayden. ”

  “But how are we going to get Kayden?” I ask as Seth and I follow him across the room. “He wouldn’t even talk to me when I went to see him. And what if he doesn’t want to go?”

  His fingers wrap around the doorknob and he jerks the bedroom door open. “I don’t give a shit what he wants. He needs to go and get away from that fucking torture chamber known as his house. It’s fucked up that he’s there. ” He steps out into the hall and glances over his shoulder at me. “Besides, we’re going to teach you how to be a little bit more persuading. ”

  “We?” I ask, confused. I try to breathe through my mouth as I enter the hallway and the air becomes asphyxiating again. “As in…”

  He tips his chin at Seth, who flashes us a brilliant smile. “As in Seth and me. ”

  My shoulders slouch as we head down the gloomy hallway, the air pressurizing the farther down we go. “I just worry we’re going to do more harm to him by taking him away. ”

  Luke stops abruptly. Hitching his thumb underneath the strap of the duffel bag, he reels to face me and his bag bangs against the wood-paneled wall. “Callie, I’ve known Kayden for forever, and trust me, that house is going to do more harm to him than going away with us will. ”

  “All right,” I agree, but my stomach twines into thorny, firm knots. Not because I want him to stay at his home, but because I’m worried. Worried I’ll do something wrong—mess it up for him again. I worry he’ll end up lying on the floor in a puddle of his own blood.

  Unexpectedly, the front door slams shut and a bustle of banging sounds fill up the house. “Luke,” someone singsongs in a high octave.

  Luke’s body stiffens and his breath hitches. “Shit. ”

  “What’s wrong?” I whisper, but Luke doesn’t respond. He just stands there with his hands limp at his sides and grinding his teeth.

  The bag starts to fall from his shoulder and I reach for him and then withdraw as he turns on his heels and motions at us to move backward. Seth drags me by the shirt as I hurry backward and Luke takes energetic strides as he ushers us into the room and toward his bedroom window.

  “We’ll have to go out this way,” he insists as he unlatches the lock and boosts the window up. Artic air rushes in and breezes through my hair and kisses my cheeks.

  “What?” Seth peers down at the high mound of snow below the window. “Are you crazy? We’ll get stuck in the snow. ”

  Luke shakes his head as he backtracks to the desk. “No, we won’t. I promise. ”

  “Luke!” the woman shouts. “I know you’re here so come out, come out wherever you are. ”

  “Please,” Luke begs with dread in his large brown eyes as he scoops up the iPod from the desk.

  I’ve seen that kind of fear in my own eyes and in Kayden’s.

  Without any more hesitation, I swing my leg over the windowsill.

  Seth’s fingers fold around my skin as he snatches me by the elbow. “Callie, are you crazy?”

  I wiggle my elbow out of his hand, and before he can grab me again, I step up onto the windowsill. Bending over, I spring onto my toes and launch myself out the window. When I hit the ground, my legs sink knee-deep into the snow and the wetness instantly seeps through my jeans and into my shoes. Seconds later, Luke lands beside me. He doesn’t allow enough time to sink too deep as he bends his knees, falls forward, and summersaults down the hill. He lets go of his bag and climbs back up the hill, offering his hands to me. I take them, even though my initial reaction is to recoil. With a soft tug, my legs are freed and I slide down the hill on my stomach, my shirt riding up a little and the ice stinging my skin.

  When I roll onto my back and look up at the window, Seth’s feet are dangling out. He peeks over his shoulder into the room and then shakes his head. “What about the window?”

  Luke picks up his bag and
brushes the snow off it before fastening the handle over his shoulder. “What about it?” He hikes toward the side of the house and stomps his boots in a bare area of the yard. “Leave it open for all I care. I just want to get the fuck out of here. ”

  Seth sighs and then, giving a push with his hands, he dismounts from the windowsill and falls into the snow. Like me he sinks, but he shimmies his hips and gets his knees bent. He easily slips his foot out and drops down on his hands. He claws at the snow with his fingers and gets his other leg free, then rolls down the rest of the way.

  “Fuck. ” He flips onto his stomach and pushes up to his hands and knees, panting from the fall. “That wasn’t fun. ”

  “What do you think that was about?” I ask, giving a peek over my shoulder at Luke flicking his lighter and firing up a cigarette. He’s standing near the corner and raking his hand through his hair as he mutters to himself.

  Seth shakes his head. “I have no idea, but I have a feeling that this beach escape plan is to run away from whoever that was. ”

  I offer Seth my hand and he interlocks his fingers with mine.

  “I think it’s his mom. ” I pull him to his feet and then he holds onto my arm as we trample through the snow toward Luke, stomping the snow off our shoes when we reach a flat area near the corner.

  We don’t ask him questions because Seth and I both understand the need for secrets. If he wants to talk to us, he will.

  We understand thatWe step out onto the driveway, onto a thin sheet of ice and Luke leads the way down the fence line toward the road. When we curve around the last of the house where Luke’s truck is parked, my hand falls from Seth’s hand. Kayden is there and so is the motorcycle from the picture, dent and all.

  “Kayden. ” I gasp at the sight of him. His lips are tinted blue and he doesn’t have a coat on, just a hoodie. His brown hair is sticking up all over the place and his cheeks are bright red. He looks like a frozen ice statue and my instinct is to run to him, so I do, moving my feet quickly, completely forgetting that I’m standing on ice.

  Two steps forward, I slip and my feet shoot out from underneath me. I go flying in the air like an injured bird. Seth’s hands snap out to catch me, but he misses and I fall flat on my back and my head slams against the ice. It severely hurts and I don’t get up right away. But I’m not sure if it’s because of the pain or the fact that once I get up, I’m going to have to find out if he’s going to run away from me again.

  * * * Kayden I drive through town for what seems like forever, until I can no longer feel my fingers and my lips are as numb as the inside of me. Then I head for Luke’s because it’s better than going back home. For a split second I consider going to Callie’s house on the other side of town, but I can only imagine how that would go since her parents are so fond of the douche bag I beat the shit out of.

  Besides, I need to stay away from her. It’s important that I do.