The Redemption of Callie & KaydenJessica Sorensen
I tuck a strand of her hair behind her ear as her palms travel up my arms. “How about I go in and get your jacket while you call Seth because I don’t want you riding on that bike. ”
“But what will you do?”
I cup her cheek with my hand, desperately needing to touch as much of her as I can. “I can put the bike in the back of the truck and then we can go for a drive or something. ”
There’s a trace of a smile on her lips. “Where will we go?”
I return her smile as I sketch my finger across her yielding bottom lip. “Wherever you want. ”
A sly look comes over her and then she stands on her tiptoes and kisses my cheek. “How about the beach?”
I cock my eyebrow and give her a funny look as she moves back, and then I glance around at the mounds of snow in the parking lot, near the fence line, and below the roof where the snow is sliding off. “The beach?”
She glides her hand down my arm and places it in mine.
“Yeah, I’ll explain when Seth and Luke get here. ”
I don’t know what she’s up to and I’m scared to find out. I had a plan. I was going to stay away from her, but she’s standing here and she understands me so much more than anyone ever has and I’m not ready to let that feeling go just yet. “All right, you call them and I’ll go get your jacket from inside. ”
She nods and starts to take her phone out of her pocket as I head inside. A few of the people at the tables give me notable glances as the door swings shut behind me. They’re probably the ones who have heard the story. Gossip spreads quickly around here and I wish I could get the hell away from their stares. From the snow, from the town, from my home, from life.
I hurry up and grab Callie’s jacket and ignore Jenna’s penetrating stare as I wind around the tables and hurry out the door, relieved when it swings shut behind me. Jenna was a friend of Daisy’s and I don’t want word to get back to Daisy that Callie and I are together. I’m worried Jenna’s already called Daisy and she’ll show up here in any minute. That’s the last thing I ever want Callie to have to deal with.
I immediately bust up laughing as soon as I see Callie. I haven’t laughed in forever and it cramps up my chest. “What are you doing?”
The sky has blackened and snow showers down from the vapory gray clouds. Callie has her hands on the handle of my bike, trying to push it forward so it’s underneath the shelter of the carport and out of the snow. Her feet are slipping against the ice and she’s barely getting it to budge.
I step up behind her and feel her tense as I place my hands on top of hers. “You’re going to hurt yourself,” I say, dipping my head forward and sneaking a smell of her hair, remembering the first time I did it. I lift her hands off the bike and step back, guiding her with me. “The snow’s not going to hurt it. ”
She leans back, tips her chin up, and looks up at me. “Are you sure? I thought I read somewhere that motorcycles were not made for snow. ”
I press my lips to her forehead and leave them there for a moment, savoring the feel of her skin before pulling back. “Where on earth did you hear that?”
She shrugs. “I don’t know. Somewhere, like in a magazine or something. ”
Shaking my head, I smile and hold up the jacket for her to put her arms in. It’s been so long since I’ve smiled that the muscles around my lips kind of hurt. She turns to the side and slips her arm through the sleeve, then rotates to the other side and puts her other arm in.
I let go of the jacket and glide my palms down to her waist.
Pressing my fingertips into her, I spin her around to face me and her eyes snap wide. I inch my fingers around to her stomach, never taking my eyes off her as I pull the zipper up to her chin and her breath eases out in a thin fog. My fingers shiver as I draw them away, and then I bend forward and kiss her forehead, shutting my eyes as I inhale her, fighting to keep my eyes open. I’ve missed the feel of her skin over the last month and touching it instead of dreaming about it is surreal. But it’s also wrong. I’m not the best thing for her and she should have the best. More than that. She should have everything and I am far from everything. Numbness drains through my body as I realize that eventually I’m going to have to let her go.
“Seth and Luke will be here in a minute,” she whispers, clinging onto the bottom of my shirt, with her face pressed into my neck.
I can’t feel my fingers, my arms, my heart. “Okay. ” I feel fucking helpless, but all I can do is stand and shiver and pretend like it’s just from the cold.
#6 Run away—run to the beach
I’m confused. I can tell that Kayden wants to hold me, but he keeps pulling away, fighting the urge to touch me. What we need is a long talk so I can understand what he’s thinking and what he wants, and so he can understand what I want because I don’t think he knows. We need a week at a beach house with plenty of alone time, which is what Seth and Luke are trying to give us.
Later that day, we’re in Luke’s truck, which is parked out back of the grocery store. It’s getting dark, but the lampposts light up the snow dancing from the sky. It’s the day after Christmas but it still looks and feels like Christmas. The buildings around us are decorated with various colored twinkle lights and the sidewalk has flashing candy canes and wreathes bordering it.
“I thought Callie was joking about that,” Kayden says. I’m sitting on his lap with my back leaning against the door. The window is wet and my hair keeps sticking to the glass. “But by the serious looks on your guys’ faces I’m guessing I was wrong. ”
Seth squirms his shoulders forward and squeezes out from between Kayden and Luke. He reaches in front of Luke, sticks the end of his cigarette out the window, and ashes it into the snow.
“Why would we ever joke about going to the beach?” He turns around and leans against the dash, angles his head back, and stares up at the cloudy sky. “Does it constantly snow here? I swear I haven’t seen it stop since I’ve gotten here. ”
“From December to April,” I clarify as Kayden’s fingers sneaks up to my face and he smooths his hand over my head. I can’t stop my eyes from closing and an almost noiseless but embarrassing sigh slips out. My cheeks start to heat, so I keep talking to distract everyone. “So are we going to do it?”
“Go to the beach? To San Diego?” Kayden asks with doubt in his voice. I nod my head and soak up the comfortable feeling of his hand on my cheek. “I’m not sure I can. ”
My eyes open and he’s watching me. “Why not?”
He shakes his hand. “There’s just stuff… things I need to deal with. ”
“Can’t you deal with them at the beach?” Seth sits forward in the seat and lowers his feet back onto the floor, and then he nods his head at me. “With this beautiful girl over here?”
Kayden looks torn as he glances from me to Seth and then out the front window and into the night. “I have something on Monday that I have to be here for. ”
“We can be back on Monday,” Luke chimes in, rotating the defroster up as the windows fog. “That’ll give us four days of freedom and that’s four days we don’t have to spend here. ”
I stare into Kayden’s eyes and see something I don’t like—overpowering fear. “We don’t have to go,” I say to him because he’s the only one who matters at the moment and I can tell something’s wrong.
He rubs the pad of his thumb across my bottom lip, flipping it down a little. “Do you want to go?”
“Only if you want to go,” I reply, and to add emphasis, I lean in and whisper, “And you can go. ”
He stares at me with the strangest expression, like I’m this amazing, unique creature that no one knows about, and then his mouth tilts up into a small but breathtaking smile. “I can go until Monday. ”
Seth squeals, claps his hands, and kicks his feet against the floor as he screams, “Road trip, here we come!”
“Thank fucking God. ” Luke sighs wi
th relief. He cranks the heat up and then flips the lever next to the steering wheel, turning the wipers on. They move back and forth and back and forth, wiping away the snow from the glass and making it dewy. “Now we just have to go get everyone’s shit. ”
“I’m good,” Kayden says as I sit up and put my feet on the floor. He combs his fingers through my hair, gazing out the window with his eyebrows knit. “I’ll just get some clothes and stuff when we get there. ”
None of us press him because it’s obvious he doesn’t want to go home. “What about your bike?” Luke turns around and puts his arm on the back of the seat, looking in the bed of the truck at Kayden’s motorcycle obscured by a sheet of fluffy snowflakes. “You want to take it?”
Kayden shrugs. “All I want is to not have to go home yet. ” His fingers fall from my hair and settle on my hip where he delves into my skin just beneath the hem of my shirt. “So we can take it or ditch it somewhere. ”
Luke rotates back around in the seat and shoves the shifter forward, the gears grinding a little before slipping in. “We’ll just take it. ” He presses on the gas, inching the truck forward. “What about you?” He looks at me and then at Seth. “Do you guys need to go get your stuff?”
I start to open my mouth to say no, but Seth interrupts. “I don’t go anywhere without my kit. ”
Luke doesn’t even bother asking. He just rolls his eyes and aims the truck in the direction of my house. I watch the homes zip by as I sit on Kayden’s lap, hoping I’m not doing anything wrong, hoping I’m not doing more damage than good. Really, I don’t know what I’m doing and all I can hope for is the best. It’s the worst feeling in the world because hope has never been that kind to me.
* * * I rapidly get thrown into a state of anxiety when Seth and I climb out of the car. There are four figures that I can see through the kitchen window of my house and I recognize that the dark-haired fourth member isn’t part of my family. My mom, my dad, Jackson, and Caleb are sitting at the kitchen table as I walk up the driveway to the garage and Kayden is in the truck with Luke at the end of the driveway.
I smell a storm coming in, like the aroma of rain that laces the air before a thunderstorm. But the scent I smell is foul, like dirty water that stains the grass after the rainstorm.
“What are you looking at?” Seth says, tracking my gaze to the window of the kitchen. The lights are on and the inside can be seen clearly. My mother is serving everyone, my dad is talking heatedly, and Caleb and Jackson are laughing at him.
I shake my head, wrap my hand around his upper arm, and haul him up the driveway. Seth is looking at me like I’ve lost my mind, but I keep walking, step by step until we’re inside the room above the garage. I flip on the light and shut the door, panting as I lean against it.
“This is so bad,” I whisper and then hurry for my bag. “We have to get out of here now. ”