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The Coincidence of Callie & Kayden, Page 25

Jessica Sorensen

Page 25


  My mom and dad sit in the center, and my two older brothers and I stand around them. We’re smiling and look like a happy family. But Tyler has a tooth missing from where he banged his face on the table when my dad was chasing him. Dylan has a brace on his wrist from falling out of a tree when he climbed up it to hide from my father. Even though it isn’t visible in the picture, I have a bruise on my shin the size of a baseball from getting kicked by my dad after I accidentally spilt cereal all over the floor.

  I wonder why no one questioned our injuries, but maybe that’s why we were always playing sports. As soon as we turned the right age, we were thrown into soccer, t-ball, and when we got a little older, basketball and football. These were good excuses that my mom gladly passed around.

  I thought about telling someone a few times when I got old enough that my brain could grasp the idea, but the fear and embarrassment stopped me. Besides, I shut down at an early age. After that pain was just pain. I can do pain. That’s the easy part of life. It’s everything else, happiness, laughter, love, that’s fucking complicated.


  “I’m nervous about seeing Kayden,” I admit to Seth as he walks me to my room. Neither of us have class this morning, so we decide to go out to breakfast, just him and me so we can talk.

  Fortunately, the scarf isn’t on the doorknob and when I open the door, Violet isn’t in the room. Although, she’s left soda cans everywhere and there’s a nasty looking sandwich on the desk.

  “Can I make a suggestion?” Seth says, observing Violet’s unmade bed. “Please spray disinfectant everywhere. ”

  “Suggestion taken. ” I grab a plaid shirt and a pair of jeans out of the dresser. “Can you step out so I can change?”

  Nodding, he backs out the door. “Hurry up though, I’m starving. ”

  When he shuts the door, I slip out of my shirt that smells like cotton candy mixed with cigarette smoke. I inhale the scent, remembering how it felt when Kayden kissed me, before I toss the shirt on the bed and insert my arms through the sleeves of a plaid shirt. I pull on a pair of jeans and then grab a brush to put my hair up, but pause, thinking about my fears and how Seth told me this morning that I should tell them to fuck off.

  After the incident last night, before I returned to Seth’s room and went back to bed, I promised myself it would never happen again. When I woke up, I felt better.

  I slip the elastic out and let my hair hang down to my shoulders. “You can do this,” I mutter, grabbing my bag. “You made out with a guy for God’s sake. ”

  When I step out the door, there’s a smile on my face, but my happiness vanishes when I see Seth talking to Luke, and neither of them look happy. Luke is wearing black jeans and a black fitted t-shirt. It’s a lot of black, but it works for him

  When Seth catches my eyes, his expression is filled with sympathy and pity.

  My eyebrows furrow as I stroll up to them. “What’s wrong?”

  Luke has a guilty look on his face as he turns around. “Hey, Callie, what’s up?”

  I fiddle with the strands of my hair, tucking them behind my ear. “Nothing much. Seth and I are just heading out to get some breakfast. ”

  “Yeah, we were just talking about that. ” Luke hurries backwards down the hall, like he’s desperate to get away from me. “I was asking Seth if I could borrow his car, but I’ll just find someone else. ”

  “Why? Where’s your truck?” I ask, and his shoulders stiffen as he pauses in the center of the hall.

  “Kayden took it somewhere. ” He waves at me, before spinning on his heels and hurrying off. “I’ll catch up with you two later. ” He disappears between a group of cheerleaders, dressed in their uniforms.

  I turn to Seth, confused. “What was that about?”

  He stares at me contemplatively, then sighs and loops his arm through mine. “We need to talk. ”

  We step out into the crisp autumn air and beneath the cloudy sky. The liveliness of the campus yard surges around us and yellow and orange leaves skitter across the dying grass.

  “Are you going to tell me why you’re looking at me like you’re about to tell me my dog died?” I wonder as we step off the curb of the sidewalk and down onto the asphalt of the parking lot.

  He looks left and right, before we hurry over to his car. “I have something to tell you and I don’t know how you’re going to take it. ” He frees my arm and we part ways, going to opposite sides of the car.

  When we get in and shut the doors, he turns the key in the ignition and pauses as he scrolls through his playlists on an iPod. “Kayden borrowed Luke’s truck. ” A song pops on as he places the iPod back into the stand on the dashboard. “To go back home for a few days. ”

  I fasten the seatbelt over my shoulder. “Okay, why are you acting weird?”

  He shoves the shifter into reverse and looks over his shoulder as he backs out of the parking space. “Well, because he didn’t say anything to you. ” He straightens the wheel and merges the car out onto the road. “Wait a minute. Did he tell you?”

  “No, but why would he? We barely know each other. ”

  “Callie, you made out with him last night and let him feel your boob. ”

  “Hey, I told you that in confidence. ”

  He raises his fingers up from the wheel. “Relax, I’m just pointing out that that was a big step for you—an important step. You wouldn’t just do it with any guy. ”

  “I like Kayden,” I admit. “But it doesn’t mean he has to tell me everything he does. I’m not his girlfriend. ”

  “So what?” Seth turns down the volume of the stereo. “He should have said something instead of just taking off. He knew you’d probably want to see him. You know his darkest secret, Callie, which is the hardest part about getting to know someone. ”

  He’s quoting his Psych 101 on me, so I fold my arms and stare out the window, watching the leaves blow across the street and into the gutter.


  When I get back to my room later that day, I write until my hand hurts, needing to get it out, but only daring to tell it to a blank sheet of paper. There are no accusations with writing, no judgment, no shame, only freedom. As the pen touches the paper, for a moment, I’m alive.

  The day I changed is like a scar. It’s there, a memory in my mind, something I always remember and can never erase. It was the week after my birthday party. I’d locked myself in the bathroom and stared in the mirror for an eternity. I used to love how I looked, the length of my hair, perfect for braiding. I had always been tiny for my age, but suddenly I wanted to be smaller—invisible. I didn’t want to exist anymore.

  I grabbed a pair of scissors out of the drawer and without even thinking, began hacking off my long brown hair. I didn’t even bother trying to make it look nice, I just cut, even shutting my eyes sometimes, letting fate take over, like it had done with my life.

  “The uglier the better,” I whispered with each snip.

  When I was finished, I didn’t look like myself. I hadn’t been sleeping very well and my blue eyes had dark circles under them and my lips were chapped from dehydration from all the vomiting. I felt ugly and the thought formed a tiny smile on my face, because I knew no one would look at me and want to come near me again.

  When I walked into the kitchen, with my brother’s jacket on and the baggiest pair of jeans I could find, all the color drained from my mom’s face. My father had been eating his breakfast at the table and looked up at me with horror in his eyes. My brother and Caleb stared at me too, making repulsed faces.

  “What the fuck happened to you?” My brother said with wide eyes.

  I didn’t reply. I just stood there, blinking at him, wishing I could be smaller.

  “Oh my God, Callie,” my mom breathed, her eyes so wide they looked like marbles. “What did you do?”

  I shrugged and grabbed my bag off the doorknob. “I cut my hair. ”

  “You look… you look. ” She took a deep
breath. “You look hideous, Callie. I’m not going to lie. You’ve ruined yourself. ”

  I’m more ruined than you think, I wanted to tell her. But she kept looking at me in disgust, like she wished for a second I didn’t exist and I felt exactly the same way. I bottled everything up, knowing I could never tell; that she would look at me with even more hate and revulsion if I told her.

  For the first few years of my turmoil, she tried to understand. And I give her credit for that. She asked questions, took me to talk to a counselor, who told her that I was acting out because I needed more attention. He was a small town shrink and had no idea what he was talking about, although I didn’t try to help him understand either. I didn’t want him to know what was living on the inside. At that point, all the good and clean had been spoiled and was rotten like eggs left out in the sun.

  The thing about my mother is she likes things happy. She hates seeing bad things on the news and refuses to watch it. She won’t read the headlines of the newspapers and doesn’t like talking about the pain in the world.

  “Just because the world is full of bad things, doesn’t mean I have to let them bring me down. ” This is what she would say to me all the time. “I deserve to be happy. ”

  So I let my shame own me, kill me, wilt me away into a thousand dead flakes, knowing if I kept it all in, she would never have to learn the dirtiness that was forever inside me—the bad, the ugly, the twisted. She could go on living her life happy, just like she deserved.

  Eventually, she stopped asking me so many questions and started telling everyone that I was suffering from teenage angst, just like the therapist told her.

  I heard her tell the neighbor once, after he accused me of stealing his garden gnomes, that I wasn’t that bad of a kid. That one day, I would grow up and look back at my silly little time spent locked away in my room, writing dark words, wearing excessive eyeliner and baggy clothes as something I wished I’d never done. That I’d regret my lonely adolescence, learn from it, and grow into a beautiful woman who had a lot of friends and smiled at the world.

  But the thing I regret—will always regret—is going into my room on my twelfth birthday.

  Chapter 10

  #49 Tell the Truth to Yourself


  I’ve been at my house for two days now, and I’ve almost returned to the place I ran away from. My dad hasn’t hit me yet or anything, but I’m afraid of him, just like when I was a child.

  “Why the fuck did you leave that piece of shit truck parked out front?” he asks when he walks into the kitchen. He’s wearing a suit, even though he doesn’t have to work today. He just likes looking important.

  “Because the garage is full. ” I butter my toast as quietly as possible because my dad hates the noise the knife makes against the dry bread.

  “I don’t give a shit. ” He opens the cupboard and takes out a box of cereal. “You need to get it out of here. It’s leaking oil all over the driveway. ”

  “Fine. ” I bite into my toast. “I’ll find somewhere to put it. ”