The Redemption of Callie & KaydenJessica Sorensen
I park my motorcycle next to the curb, relieved to see that Luke’s truck is out front. But my face falls when I see his mom’s Cadillac parked next to it. I don’t want to talk to anyone and Luke’s mom is weird and likes to talk about nonsense. She’ll want to talk too, especially if she’s heard the rumors about me.
I pry my frozen fingers from the handlebars and climb off.
Then I stand there, staring at the house, deciding if I really want to go in. It’s not like Luke would press me for what happened, but it’d be hanging in the air.
I’m about to climb back on the bike and drive away when Luke comes strolling around from the back of the house with a bag on his shoulder. I start to walk toward him when Callie and Seth step out behind him. They’re holding hands and Callie looks like she’s struggling to walk across the ice. Her attention is focused on her feet, but her blue eyes slide up from the ground and land on me. They widen and her hand falls from Seth’s. Her brown hair waves in the wind as she starts to run toward me. I begin to back away, but she hits a patch of ice and her feet go flying out from underneath her. In a few lengthy strides, I’ve made it across the snow-packed front yard and to her. Her hair is spread around her head and he eyes are enormous and glossy. The pale, smooth skin that I know covers her entire body almost matches the shade of the snow. She blinks up at me as she clutches her head and lets out an agonizing groan that tears at my heart.
“That hurt. ” Her chest ascends and falls as she sighs with her lip pouting out.
It’s the most fucking adorable thing I’ve ever seen and it briefly flings me back to that place in her bed where she’s looking up at me and trusting me as I thrust inside her. But as I reach my arm out to her, I catch a glimpse of the scar on my arm and I’m back on the floor at my house and my father is stabbing me. I’m cold and helpless and I don’t know where I’m going to end up.
Callie puts her hand in mine and warmth envelops my body. I pull her to her feet, and unable to help myself, slip an arm around her waist and balance her in my arms. It feels so good to hold her and I start to choke up. What the fuck is wrong with me?
She tips her head up and peers at me with her big eyes. “Hi. ”
She bites on her lip, like she’s embarrassed by her word choice.
This time I decide to do better than the last time she said this to me. “Hi. ” I run my hand through her hair, brushing some snow out of it.
Her lips tug up into a smile. “Are you okay?” She skims across my frozen skin and her lips go slack. “You look frozen. ”
I can’t help but smile. “You just fell and slammed your head on the ice and you’re wondering if I’m okay?”
She nods like it’s not a strange question. “Did you drive your bike here?” She glances over at the motorcycle and then back at me. “Without a coat on?”
My fingers dig deeper into her hips, mainly because I’m looking for an excuse to cling onto her. “Maybe. ”
She frowns. “You have to be cold. ”
“Not really,” I lie.
“Ummm… guys?” Luke interrupts and Callie and I blink out of our own little world.
I look at him, pulling Callie closer to my chest. “What?”
Luke signals at his house where his mother is staring at us through the front window that’s surrounded by icicles. “Do you mind if we head somewhere and talk. I’d like to get the hell away from here. ”
“Yeah, of course, man. ” I start to let go of Callie, but she slides her hand from my shoulder and down my arm.
“I’m going with you,” she says as she laces her fingers through mine.
I shake my head and try to remove my fingers from hers. “No way. You’ll freeze to death. ”
She straightens her shoulders and fixes me with a look of determination. “Yes, I am. ”
I look at Seth, who’s fiddling with the strings on the hood of his jacket. “You mind helping me out with this one?”
“Sure. ” Seth unzips his jacket and slips his arms out of the sleeves. “Put this on. ” He chucks the jacket to Callie and she catches it with a smile on her face.
“She’ll freeze to death,” I say as Callie puts her arms through the sleeves. The jacket nearly swallows her tiny body.
Seth raises his eyebrows as he yanks down the sleeves of his black shirt, and then he backs toward Luke’s truck. “She’ll be fine.
She’s a lot tougher than you give her credit for. ”
Callie zips the jacket up all the way to her chin and then gathers her hair at the nape of her neck and pulls the hood over her head. She looks up at me and her eyes are filled with so much willpower I’m not sure what to do with it. She’s usually so fragile and vulnerable.
“Are you sure?” I ask, hoping she’ll change her mind.
“Because it’s colder than hell. ”
She steps past me toward the bike with her chin elevated even when her small legs sink deep into the snow concealing the front yard. “Absolutely. ” A smile touches her deep-red lips and humor creeps into her voice. “Besides, hell is warm. ”
I restrain a laugh and walk behind her, the snow up to my ankles. “Okay, if that’s what you want. ”
“Kayden. ” Luke calls out my name and I reluctantly turn around.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” he says, and for a second everything’s normal between us. He’s just my friend, not the guy who saw me lying on the floor in a pool of my own blood and cuts on my arms that I put there myself. He tosses me one of his spare coats, a thick tan one with a thermal insulated layer that he keeps in the truck in case it breaks down. He likes to always be prepared.
I catch it and put it on, even though I was enjoying freezing the pain out of me. I pull the hood over my head and when I turn around Callie is sitting on the bike. She looks good on it, like she belongs there, and it makes me uneasy because I don’t want her to belong with me. I want her to belong with someone who will make her happy, even if it means I have to hurt for the rest of my life.
I proceed to the bike cautiously, deciding if I should put her in front of me or behind.
She slides back without looking at me and runs her fingers along the dent in the side of it. “You wreck this once?” Her eyes are massive when she glances up at me.
I swallow the rock-size lump in my throat and resist the overwhelming impulse to lean forward and kiss her. “Yeah, it was a while ago though. I promise I’ll drive safely, especially with you on the back… I would never let anything hurt you. ” I feel stupid for saying it because I’ve hurt her many times.
She gives me a dead-serious look as she says, “I know you won’t. ” She swivels her hips and inches back a little farther with her hands on the seat. “I trust you, Kayden. Even if you don’t want me to. ”
She doesn’t know enough about me to trust me so much, but I can see in her eyes there’s no use arguing with her. I hop on and rev the engine. She scoots forward until her chest is pressed up against my back and the fronts of her legs are touching the backs of mine. Her arms circle my waist and she buries her face into my back. It’s the most contact I’ve had with someone since it happened and I swear my heart practically ruptures and bleeds out into my chest. I wish I could die right there with her holding onto me, because it would be a very peaceful death. I wouldn’t be alone and empty inside. She would be there with me and she’d be the last thing I’d ever feel and breathe.
I start to panic at how calming the thought is, but I shove it way down where I can’t feel it. I stop overthinking everything and give the motorcycle some gas, before releasing the brake. We take off, just Callie and me and the wind.
#16 Make someone understand that you understand them
no matter what it takes
I thought I’d be more scared than I am. The roads are icy and there’s nothing but two wheels and a small amount of metal between the ground and my b
ody. But I’m holding onto Kayden and my head’s resting against his back and I’m happier than I have been in the last month. I let the cold air flow over me as he winds back and forth, following the curves of the road. We pass people in cars and on the sidewalks in front of the stores bordering the main road in town. They look at us like we’re insane. But that’s okay. We can be insane together.
I shut my eyes and block everything out, breathing in the smell of the crisp winter air as I tighten my arms around Kayden’s waist. I feel his chest contract, like he gasped, but the lull of the engine is all I hear.
When the motorcycle starts to decelerate, I open my eyes.
We’re pulling up in front of the café where Seth and I get our pancakes almost every morning. I don’t move right away. I don’t really want to.
Kayden parks the bike at the front, near the entrance doors.
Red and green twinkly lights are flashing and reflect across the snow. The air smells like sausage and coffee and it makes my stomach growl.
“You alive back there?” Kayden asks, turning his head and looking over his shoulder at me.
I nod, but don’t move my face away from his back. I’m afraid if I do he’ll disappear.
“Callie?” Kayden says. “Are you okay?”
My shoulders lower as I let out a breath and then force myself to let him go. I lean back and look him in the eyes. “Yeah, I’m fine. ”
He frowns and draws a line across my cheek with his finger.
“You look frozen. ”
I touch my cheeks and either they’re numb or my fingers are.
“Maybe we should go inside. ”
Kayden swings his leg over the bike and gets to his feet. I start to climb off when my phone vibrates inside my pocket. I take it out and scroll through to check my messages.
Seth: We’ll b there in a bit. We had to stop at the store.
Me: For what?
Seth: For stuff.
Me: Is something wrong?
Seth: No… we just think you two might need a few minutes to yourselves.
Me: When will you be here?
Seth: Soon. And remember: skittish cat.
“Skittish cat?” Kayden says.
I look up at him and realize he’s leaning over me, reading the screen. “It’s nothing. ” I shove the phone into my pocket, bend my knee up, and draw my leg to the side to get off the bike.
Kayden lifts an eyebrow as he circles his fingers around my wrist and helps me off the bike. “So they’re giving us time?”
Damn it. Why did he have to read the message? He lets go off my arm and I lower my chin down into the jacket and tuck my hands into the pockets. “Seth’s just being weird. ”
He eyes me with suspicion and I’m worried I’ve already messed my chance up. But then he says, “Isn’t Seth always weird?”
And I feel like his giving me an easy exit because maybe he wants a few minutes with me.
I nod. “Yes, he is, but he wouldn’t be Seth if he wasn’t weird. ”
He returns my smile and then moves his hand toward mine, hesitating momentarily before he interlocks our fingers, slipping his large ones through my tiny ones. I glance up at him and his chest puffs out as he liberates a stressed breath from his lungs. We don’t say anything else. We just cling onto each other as we head toward the front door of the café that’s decorated with a picture of Santa holding a bag of toys.