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The Redemption of Callie & Kayden, Page 21

Jessica Sorensen

Page 21


  It’s the deepest conversation we’ve had and I think I know why we’re having it. Luke’s older sister, Amy, took her own life.

  Right after it happened, he got really wasted one night and started crying in front of me, blaming himself because he didn’t notice any signs.

  I nod. “I promise I’m good. ”

  Luke and I stay quiet until Callie and Seth come out and I start to relax again. Then all hell breaks loose as the side door to the house swings open.

  “No fucking way,” Luke says as Caleb steps outside. “Shit, Kayden…”

  I’m already climbing out. My fists are balled, adrenaline is thrashing in my body, and I don’t know what I’m going to do.

  Every emotion I felt that night consumes me again, the good and the bad ones. Caleb sees me and smarts off, adding fuel to the flames raging inside me. I’m about to do something that’ll probably ruin my life forever when Callie throws herself onto me.

  She keeps begging me to stop, for her, please. But Caleb keeps going, calling her a slut, and I want to kill him. I actually feel it, the need to beat him to death, and for a divided second it’s all a feel, possessed to make it happen.

  Then Callie’s gazing at me with her beautiful blue eyes and she looks like she’s about to cry. She utters six little words that change my life and scar my soul forever.

  “I can’t do this without you,” she whispers, hugging me like I’m her lifeline.

  All of a sudden I know I can’t do anything to him, because it’ll hurt her more than it’ll probably hurt Caleb. So I back away and climb into the truck, holding onto her to keep myself from falling into the darkness.

  * * * No one speaks for most of the drive. It’s like we’re all too afraid to be the first voice heard and too afraid of what might come out of our mouths. Callie has her head resting on my shoulder and she keeps running her finger along the inside of my wrist. I know she can feel the healing scars on my skin and it makes me uneasy, but I don’t pull back. If she needs to touch me, then she can touch me.

  Her phone keeps going off, playing Blue October’s “Hate Me,” but she keeps silencing it.

  “It’ll be okay,” she whispers, and then minutes later she drifts asleep, practically balling herself onto my lap because there’s barely any room to move with four people squished in the single cab. But it is what it is and we don’t need any more.

  Luke drives for half the night, determined to get there as quickly as possible. I offer to drive a few times, but he declines each time. The radio is blasting a little Chevelle and the clouds fade the closer we get to the ocean and the stars dot the sky. I wonder if it’s possible to fix myself and turn into someone else.

  Someone I’ve never known. Someone who doesn’t cut themself, who doesn’t want to feel pain over emotion, someone who can be worthy to hold her like I am right now.

  I glance down at Callie in my arms. Her hair is hanging in her face and she’s hitched her leg over mine. One of her hands is on my lap and she holds the other one against her chest. I know I need to tell her everything but I’m not sure how she’ll handle it.

  She’s barely said her own secrets aloud, which is why I took matters into my own hands, why I beat up Caleb, and why I was willing to beat him up again in the snap of a finger.

  And I don’t regret what I did.

  I never will.

  * * * “Rise and shine, Sleeping Beauty. ” Something heavy slams into the side of my head. I jolt awake, flinging my arms in the air.

  The sunlight strikes my eyes and I blink several times against the brightness. Luke is standing to the side of me with the door open and a shit-eating grin on his face. “Shit, I thought you were never going to wake up. ”

  I glance to my side at the bag he must have thrown at me and then at the sand stretching out in front of me that connects with the ocean. The backdrop of the bright blue sky mirrors the water and blinds the hell out of my eyes. I’ve been to the beach before, during the few times my mother and father decided we needed to try and be a family. It always ended shitty, with someone getting pissed off, and the trip would get cut short.

  “How long have we been here?” I yawn and I set my feet to the ground and climb out and stretch my arms above my head.

  Luke leans into the cab, grabs the duffel bag, and slams the door shut, swinging the keys around on his finger. “Like ten minutes. Callie told me to let you sleep, but I didn’t see the fun in that. ”

  I’m glad that he’s being an ass and not treating me like a suicidal freak. “Well, thanks, I guess. ”

  He lifts his eyebrows as he heads for the front of the truck.

  “No problem. ”

  The beach house belongs to Luke’s father—I know that much. What I’ve never got was how his father could afford it, and yet he couldn’t afford to pay for Luke’s tuition for school, among other things. I asked him about it once and all Luke did was shrug.

  He doesn’t like to talk about his dad, even before his parents’ got divorced. I’ve met him only once, when I was six, right when Luke and I became friends. He seemed a little off, like he didn’t know what to do with himself or Luke. A week after I met him, he packed his stuff and left. Luke’s probably visited him, like, ten times since then and each time he comes back, he never talks about his trip.

  And I never ask.

  The wooden porch bounces slightly as I walk on it, heading toward the side door of the house. The screen is shut, but the door behind it is agape, so the warm air can flow in. I hear the waves of the ocean rolling against the sand and music playing from inside that mixes with the sound of Callie’s laughter.

  “Warning,” Luke says as he pulls open the screen door. “Seth has already claimed one of the two rooms that has a bed. Callie says she’ll bunk up with him, but there’s no way in fucking hell I’m sharing with you. ”

  I walk inside and the door swings shut behind me. “I’m fine with sleeping on the couch. ” As much as I would love to share a bed with Callie, hold her, spend the night with her, it’s probably better if I don’t, because I’m unsure how close I want to get to her yet.

  “Good, because I hate sleeping on the couch. ” He heads across the kitchen to the hallway with his bag slung over his shoulder and I’m left standing alone. There are a few barstools around a small island and a sitting window that shows the view of the beach. I take a seat on a stool and pull one of my legs up, resting my arm on top of my knee. I remember when I was little the ocean was one of the most amazing things I’d ever seen. I was fascinated by the way the waves rolled up and washed away the sand, leaving their imprint on the world. Sometimes I would stand right at the edge and let it crash against my feet as I considered taking one more step and my feet would eventually move forward.

  One more step and it’d take me away— “Kayden. ” Callie’s voice rises over my shoulder. I hear her walk closer to me and feel the warmth of her body when she’s right behind me. “Are you okay?” She places a hand on my shoulder and there’s a tremor in her fingers.

  I remember the first time I kissed her, up in that playground carnival ride, on the bridge, pressed up against the net. She trembled under my touch and I loved every second of it, yet hated it because it made me feel things I wasn’t ready for.

  “I’m fine. ” I plaster a fake smile on my face and turn around.

  “I was just thinking. ” I reach up and move her hand off my shoulder, slipping my fingers through hers as I get to my feet.

  “About what?” she wonders with a tilt of her head and strands of her brown hair fall into her eyes. “About what happened last night… with…” She struggles to say his name and I quickly let her off the hook to remove the pain in her eyes.

  “No, not that. ” I sweep her hair back with my free hand and then let it drift down to her cheek and I enjoy the feel of skin. “The last time I was by the ocean. ”

  She lays her hand over mine as it lingers on her cheek. “How o
ld were you?”

  “Twelve. ” My mind flashes back to the feeling of the ocean and the power of the violent waves. I shake the feeling from my head. “You know what? I don’t really want to talk about it. ” My hand drops from her face and I bring her hand down with mine.

  “What do you want to do today?” It seems like such a stupid question when we have so much shit hanging in the air.

  But she just smiles as she swings our arms and plays along with me, giving me what I need. “We should probably go shopping so you won’t have to wear the same clothes the entire time. ”

  “Shopping, huh?” I arch an eyebrow and sigh. “All right, let’s go shopping. ”

  Callie What an insanely ordinary thing to do, I think as we walk up the busy street fenced by buildings and neon-colored shops and a mob of people who are dressed in beachwear. I feel overdressed in my fitted blue shirt and skinny jeans. My Converses are not made for a sidewalk that has sand in it and I keep wishing I’d brought my sandals the way Seth had suggested when we were packing.

  I thought it was an absurd thing to say, but now looking at the sand everywhere, I do want to sink my toes into it. I’m staring at my feet as I walk and dodge from left to right through the crowd. I’m never comfortable in crowds because I always wind up getting touched, no matter how hard I try not to be. But as I keep getting prodded in the shoulder by men and women I realize my internal cringing instinct has diminished over time.

  “I told you,” Seth whispers in my ear.

  I blink up at him and he has a huge smile on his face. His eyes are hidden behind silver sunglasses and he has on a thin red T-shirt, jeans, and sandals. “Told me what?”

  “That you’d regret not wearing sandals. ” He sticks his arm out for me to take and I loop it through mine, like we are two ordinary people taking a nice stroll down the sidewalk. Only we’re not and I’m reminded of that when he opens his mouth again.

  “Do you… do you want to talk about it?” he asks as we pass by a store displaying a collection of sunglasses in the window.

  I shake my head, taking in the stores beside me, trying not to think about how I felt seeing Caleb again, the things he said to me, or the fact that my mom has called and text me a least a hundred times and left me countless messages I refuse to check. “I’m okay,”

  I say. “And despite the fact that I don’t have shorts or sandals, I’m enjoying the sun and sand. ”

  He grins at me and it beams in the sunshine. “Well, I’m glad. ”

  The smile fades. “But if you need to talk…”

  “Then I’ll come to you. ” I point to the candy canes hanging on the streetlamps just above our heads. “It’s kind of strange seeing Christmas decorations without snow on the ground. ”

  “Indeed it is. ” His phone rings inside his pocket and he reaches his hand in to silence it without even looking at it.

  I eye him over, but he only smiles, and I don’t press, returning the favor of limited questions because that’s what he’s doing for me.