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The Redemption of Callie & Kayden, Page 3

Jessica Sorensen

Page 3


  I bite at my fingernails. I’ve spent time with Luke, but I’m still uncomfortable being alone with guys, except for Seth. Besides, things are weird between Luke and me because we haven’t officially talked about what happened at Kayden’s. It’s the white elephant in the room, the massive, sad, heartbroken elephant. “I’ll think about it. ”

  “Good. And if you do, make sure to ask him about yesterday in Professor McGellon’s class. ”

  “Why? What happened?”

  He giggles mischievously. “Just ask him. ”

  “Okay…” I say, unsure if I really want to. If Seth thinks it’s funny then there’s a good chance that whatever happened might embarrass me. “Have fun with Greyson. ”

  “You too, baby girl,” he says and hangs up.

  I hit END and scroll through my contacts until I reach Luke’s number. My finger hovers over the DIAL button for an eternity and then I chicken out and drop the phone down onto the bed. I get up and slip on my Converses—the ones stained with the green paint—because they remind me of a happy time in life. I zip up my jacket, put my phone into the pocket, and collect my keycard and journal before heading outside.

  It’s colder than a freezer, but I walk aimlessly through the vacant campus before finally taking a seat on one of the frosted benches. It’s snowing but the tree branches create a canopy above my head. I open my journal, pull the top of my jacket over my nose, and begin to scribble down my thoughts, pouring out my heart and soul to blank sheets of paper because it’s therapeutic.

  I remember my sixteenth birthday like I remember how to add. It’s there locked away in my head whenever I need it, although I don’t use it often. It was the day I learned to drive. My mom had always been really weird about letting my brother and me anywhere near the wheel of a vehicle until we were old enough to drive. She said it was to protect us from ourselves and other drivers. I remember thinking how strange it was, her wanting to protect us, because there were so many things—huge, life-changing things—she’d never protected us from. Like the fact that my brother had been smoking pot since he was fourteen. Or the fact that Caleb raped me in my own room when I was twelve.

  Deep down, I knew it wasn’t her fault, but the thought always crossed my mind: Why hadn’t she protected me?

  So at sixteen, I finally got behind the driver’s seat for the very first time. I was terrified and my palms were sweating so badly I could barely hold onto the wheel. My dad had also had a lifted truck and I could barely see over the dash.

  “Can’t we please just drive mom’s car?” I asked my dad as I turned the key in the ignition.

  He buckled his seat belt and shook his head. “It’s better to learn on the big dog first, that way driving the car will be a piece of cake. ”

  I buckled my own seat belt and wiped my sweaty palms on the front of my jeans. “Yeah, but I can barely see over the wheel. ”

  He smiled and gave me a pat on the shoulder. “Callie, I know driving is scary, like life. But you’re perfectly capable of handling this; otherwise I wouldn’t let you. ”

  I almost broke down and told him what happened to me on my twelfth birthday. I almost told him that I couldn’t handle it. That I couldn’t handle anything. But fear owned me and I pressed on the gas and drove the truck forward.

  I ended up running over the neighbor’s mailbox and proving my dad wrong. I wasn’t allowed to drive for the next few months and I was glad. Because to me driving meant growing up and I didn’t want to grow up. I wanted to be a child. I wanted to be twelve years old and still have the excitement of life and boys and kisses and crushes ahead of me.

  “Fuck, it’s freezing out here. ”

  My head snaps up at the sound of Luke’s voice and I quickly shut my journal. He’s standing a few feet away from me with his hands tucked into the pockets of his jeans and the hood of his dark blue jacket tugged over his head.

  “What are you doing out here?” I ask, sliding my pen into the spiral of the notebook.

  His shoulders rise and fall as he shrugs and then he sits down beside me. He stretches his legs out in front of himself and crosses his ankles. “I got a random call from Seth telling me that I should come out here and check up on you. That you might need to be cheered up. ”

  My gaze sweeps the campus yard. “Sometimes I wonder if he has spy cameras all over the place. He seems to know everything, you know. ”

  Luke nods in agreement. “He does, doesn’t he. ”

  I return his nod and then it grows quiet. Snowflakes drift down and our breath laces in front of our faces. I wonder why he’s really here. Did Seth tell him I needed to be watched?

  “You want to go somewhere?” Luke uncrosses his ankles and sits up straight. “I don’t know about you, but I could really use a break from this place. ”

  “Yeah. ” I don’t even hesitate, which surprises me. Does that mean I’m getting over my trust issues?

  He smiles genuinely, but there’s intensity in his eyes; something that’s always there. I used to be intimidated by it, but now I know it’s just him. Besides, I think he hides behind it—maybe fear, loneliness, or the pain of life.

  I tuck my notebook underneath my arm and we get to our feet. We hike across the campus yard, heading toward the unknown, but I guess that’s okay for now. I’ll know where I’m going when I get there.

  Chapter 2

  #22 Make a decision that frightens you


  Whenever I close my eyes, all I see is Callie. Callie. Callie.

  Callie. I can almost feel the softness of her hair and skin, taste her, smell the scent of her shampoo. I miss her so fucking badly I can’t breathe sometimes. If I could sleep forever, I would, just so I could hold onto the one thing that makes me happy. But eventually I have to open my eyes and face the reality I put on myself.

  The torture.

  The brokenness.

  What’s left of my life.

  I probably don’t deserve to think about Callie, not after what I did, after she found me… like that. She knows my secret now, the darkest one I’ve hidden inside me since I was a kid, the one that’s the biggest part of me. The worst part of it is that she didn’t hear it from me. She heard it from my mother.

  It’s for the best, though. Callie can go on living her life and she can be happy not having to deal with my problems. I’ll stay here and keep my eyes shut and hold onto the memory of her for as long as I can because that’s what keeps me breathing.

  * * * I’d never been afraid of death. My dad started beating the shit out of me when I was young and an early death always kind of seemed inevitable. Then Callie entered my life and my acceptance of an early death was wrecked. I’m afraid of death now, something I realized after I cut my arms. I can remember watching the blood drip onto the floor and then staring at the bloody knife in my hand. All this doubt and fear had washed through me and I’d regretted it. But it had already been done. As I lay down on the floor, all I could see was Callie’s sad face when she’d hear the news that I was dead. There would be no one to protect her from the world if I was gone. And she needed protecting—deserved it more than anyone. And I was such a fuckup that I couldn’t even give her that.

  About two weeks after the incident, I was transferred to the Brayman’s Facility, which isn’t much better than the hospital. It’s located over on the side of town near the garbage dump and an old trailer park. The room is bare, with plain white walls, no decorations and a stained linoleum floor. The air smells a little less sterilized, but the garbage dump odor drifts into my room sometimes. There’s not so much death lingering over everyone’s heads, but people really like to talk about it. I’ve been here for only a few days and I’m not sure when I’ll be ready to leave yet. I’m not sure about a lot of things.

  I’m lying in bed, which I do a lot, staring out the window, wondering what Callie is doing right now. I hope something fun that makes her happy and smile.

  It’s almos
t time for my checkup so I slowly sit up in the bed, placing my hand over my side where I was stitched up. The knife miraculously missed my organs and it was actually the less severe of my injuries. I was lucky. That’s what everyone kept telling me. I was also lucky I didn’t cut any major arteries on my wrist. Lucky.

  Lucky. Lucky. The word keeps getting thrown around, like everyone’s trying to remind me how precious life is. I don’t believe in luck though, and I’m not even sure I believe that surviving means I’m lucky.

  Several times while I was in the hospital, I thought about telling someone what really happened, but I was so doped up on painkillers that I couldn’t seem to clear my head enough to get around to it. When the fog in my brain finally cleared, I saw the situation for what it was. I’d just kicked Caleb’s ass, I was considered unstable, and the scars on my body raised concern for self-mutilation. I’d be going up against my father and I’d lose, like I always have. There was no point in telling anyone what really happened. People would see only what they want to.

  The nurse enters my room with my chart in her hand and a cheery smile on her face. She’s older, with blonde hair and dark roots, and she always has red lipstick on her teeth.

  “How you doin’ today, hun?” she ask in a high voice, like I’m a child. It’s the same tone the doctors use on me because I’m the kid who tried to slit his wrists and then stabbed himself with a kitchen knife.

  “I’m fine,” I reply and take the little white pills she offers me. I don’t know what they’re for, but I think they’re some kind of sedative because every time I swallow them I fall in and out of consciousness. Which is fine. It numbs the pain, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted.

  Ten minutes after the pills go down my throat, drowsiness takes over and I lie down in the bed. I’m about to fall asleep when the familiar scent of expensive perfume burns at my nostrils. I keep my eyes shut. I don’t want to talk to her and pretend everything’s okay and that my father didn’t stab me. I hate pretending that she doesn’t know and that she’s worried about me.

  “Kayden, are you awake?” she asks in a sedated tone, which means she’s on something. She pokes my arm with her fingernail and the gesture is rough and scratches my skin. I shut my eyes tighter and cross my arms, wishing she would scrape it harder, cut the skin open and erase everything I’m feeling.

  “Kayden Owens. ” Her sharp voice is like nails on a chalkboard. “Listen, I know you don’t want to hear this, but it’s time to get your shit together. Get up, start eating better, and prove to the doctors that you’re okay to come home. ”

  I say nothing and don’t open my eyes. I just listen to my heart beat. Thump, thump. Thump, thump.

  Her breathing accelerates. “Kayden Owens, I will not let you ruin this family’s reputation. Now fix this mess. ” She grabs the blanket and flings it off me. “Get up, go to therapy, and prove you’re not a threat to yourself. ”