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The Redemption of Callie & Kayden, Page 36

Jessica Sorensen

Page 36


  It’s late and colder than hell, the air stinging at my skin like needles. I let the phone ring, walking back and forth across the sidewalk, thinking about what this means. For as long as I can remember, it’s always been about doing what my father wanted, with sports, with rules, with life. I’d always felt this obligation to go back to that house, no matter what. I don’t know why and maybe I never will. But I’m hoping this is the first step to cutting the ties with that God damn house that’s haunted by nothing but terrible memories and the soulless monster who put them there.

  It’s gratifying to think about.

  I’m about to hang up after the phone rings for the fifth time, but then someone says, “Hello. ”

  “Umm…” I can’t tell if it’s him or not. “This is Kayden… Is this Doug?”

  “Oh, yes, Kayden. ” There’s some ruffling in the background followed by some voices. Then it goes quiet. “Are you okay?”

  “Yeah, well, no. ” I’m struggling and it feels like someone has their hands around my neck. But I mentally pry them off, shutting my eyes and picturing Callie. “I know it’s late, but I need to talk about what happened that night. ”

  There’s a pause. “The office is closed but I can meet you at Larry’s twenty-four-hour diner in about half an hour. ”

  I take a deep breath and the cold air sends relief to my lungs.

  “All right. ”

  We hang up and just like that I’m heading toward the starting line of my recovery.

  The diner is not too far away and I choose to walk there even though I’m frozen and my fingers are turning blue. I get there earlier than Doug and order a cup of coffee. It’s late enough that no one’s there except a few guys with trucker hats and grease on their jeans and the cook and waitress. I select a corner booth away from them, the counter, the kitchen. I don’t want anyone else hearing what I’m going to say—it’ll be hard enough getting the words out of my mouth.

  I start flicking the rubber band, wishing Callie were here holding my hand, just like we’d planned, but I know it’s better being solo and leaving her out of this mess. The waitress is bringing me coffee when the bell on the front door rings. An icy breeze sweeps through as Doug walks inside, but it’s okay. It kind of makes it all real and forces me to feel everything.

  I rest my arms on the table as he heads over and I stab my fingernails into the tops of my forearms. He has on a jacket and a pair of jeans, along with a beanie. It’s a little out of character for him, since I’m used to seeing him in suits, but then again it’s eleven o’clock at night.

  “Hello, Kayden,” he says in an exhausted voice as he lowers himself into the booth across from me, taking his beanie off. His thinning hair stands up in every direction.

  “I’m sorry for waking you up,” I tell him and take a sip of coffee, feeling the burn all the way down to my stomach. “I was just worried that if I didn’t call… that I’d back out or something. ”

  “I’m glad you woke me up,” he replies and slips his arms out of his jacket. “It’s better not to wait on these things. ”

  I wonder what he’ll say when I tell him everything. I set the cup down and fold my arms on top of the table, returning my fingernails to my skin. “You were right,” I hurry and say before I pussy out. My fingernails burrow farther into my skin and split sections open. Blood trickles out.

  “About what?” he asks, but I think he really knows. He eyes the blood on my arm but doesn’t say a word about it.

  I flex my fingers and take in the bloody, crescent-shaped marks on my arms. “About what happened that night. ”

  He crosses his arms on top of the table. “I don’t recall ever saying what happened that night. ”

  “Yeah, but you… you thought that my father…” God, this is so fucking hard. Why is it so hard? My dad’s a fucking dick. He beat me all those years. Just say it. “He’s the one who hurt me that night. Well, I mean I did stuff to myself too, but he…” I sound like a fucking kid. I tuck my fingernails into my palms, stabbing them into my skin. Every part of my body wants to escape, be alone, find something sharp and bleed the pain out of me. But I keep reminding myself Callie, Callie, Callie. “He stabbed me. That’s where the cut on my side came from. He was pissed off because I’d got in a fight with Caleb and he had to pick me up from jail and everyone knew. So he took me home and started hitting me, which he’s done a lot. But I hit him back, which I’d never done before.

  And then things got out of hand. We knocked some knives onto the floor and the next thing I knew he’d stabbed one into me. I’m not even sure if he meant to do it or if it happened by accident. ”

  The words pour out of me like blood, and with each breath I take, my lungs start expanding wider and more powerfully. I feel like I’m free for the first time in my life. Free from my childhood. Free from my scars. Free from the cuts, the bruises, the razors, the pain.

  By the time I’m finished, I’ve stopped clenching my fists and my fingers are stretched out in front of me. I wait for Doug to say something, but instead he flags down a waitress with his hand.

  She’s a middle-aged woman with blonde hair braided at the back of her head. She’s wearing a bright blue dress and a white apron. In her hand are a pen and an order book. “What can I get ya two lovely gentlemen tonight?” she asks, poising her pen over the notebook.

  “I’ll have some pancakes, toast with strawberry jam, and a tall cup of milk,” Doug says and looks at me with a small smile.

  “Kayden, go ahead and order whatever you want. And make sure it’s enough to get you through the next few hours. ”

  “The next few hours?” I question. “Is that really necessary?”

  He nods. “Yeah, I want you to tell me everything that happened. ”

  “Everything?” It’s an unfathomable, unreachable idea to me.

  “Like what? You want me to pour my fucking heart and soul out to you. ”

  The waitress frowns at my language and also probably because the conversation has headed in a strange direction. I wonder who she thinks we are. And why we’re here. I’m kind of wondering the same thing myself.

  “Everything. I want you to start from the beginning,” he says and sets a menu down in front of me, giving it a tap with his finger.

  I order a large stack of pancakes, bacon, and toast and the waitress smiles before walking away. I say nothing at first, fidgeting with the salt and pepper shakers to keep myself from scratching at my skin. I keep waiting and waiting for Doug to speak, but he just sits there silently, watching a television over my shoulder.

  The silence eventually rips my sanity open and I trace the cracks in the table. “How far do you want me to go back?”

  “Back to the very first time your father hurt you,” he speaks calmly, looking away from the television to me.

  My lungs expand as I inhale, preparing myself for what I’m about to do. “That was about fifteen years ago. You really want me to go all the way back?”

  He has this comforting smile on his face. One I’ve never seen on any of the adults I’ve known. “I want you to tell me everything.

  Don’t hold back. Let it all out. ”

  I open my mouth, knowing that when I let it out everything will change. And I pray to God it’s a good change.

  Callie Seth and I are getting ready for bed, not saying much to each other, and Luke walked out to smoke and fill up the ice bucket. It’s been about an hour since Kayden took off and I can’t stop thinking about him and what he’s doing; if he’s really talking to his therapist like he said, and if so, if it’s going well.

  Seth walks out of the bathroom as I’m getting underneath the covers. He’s wearing green and navy blue plaid pajama bottoms and a white T-shirt, and he’s brushing his teeth.

  For a second he just watches me. “I called Greyson,” he announces, his voice a little jumbled because he has a mouthful of toothpaste.

  I fluff the lumpy pillow and then tur
n on my side. “Did you work everything out?” From under the blanket, I cross all my fingers, hoping he did.

  He nods, returning to the bathroom to spit out the toothpaste. He rinses his toothbrush off, sets it on the counter, and then climbs into bed with me. He rolls to the side, turns the television on, and clicks the lamp off.

  “I told him I loved him,” he says inaudibility and it takes a minute for his words to register inside my head.

  “You love him? You never told me that?”

  “I do. Like a lot. ”

  I uncross my fingers. “And what did he say?”

  “I love you too,” he says and I hear the smile through his voice. He’s happy, which makes me happy even under the circumstances.

  I’m a little envious of him, for being able to say the truth and put himself unconditionally out there to someone. “Seth… I’m really happy for you. ”

  Laughter flows from him. “I’m really happy for me too. ”

  The room stills and a little while later Luke walks in and climbs into bed. It makes me a little uneasy with him sleeping in the same room as me, but it’s not as bad as I thought when they first mentioned sharing a room—to split the costs—back when we were in the truck.

  I toss and turn for another hour or so. The clock is glowing against the darkness and snowflakes start to strike the window.

  The heater is clanking and there’s banging coming from the room next door. I can hear Seth’s loud breathing—I can hear everything.

  It’s almost one o’clock in the morning when I decide it’s time to face one of my fears. I’m not even sure what brings me to the conclusion. Maybe it’s Seth’s bravery or maybe it’s that I really need to get it off my chest. I’ve been placing too much on it already and perhaps it’s time to clear the pressure completely.

  I’m going to tell Kayden how I feel. Because he deserves to know that someone loves him, even if he doesn’t love me back. I grab my phone and notebook from the nightstand and tiptoe over to the bathroom. Flipping the lights on and then shutting the door, I dial his number and open my notebook to his letter. It goes straight to his voicemail like it has the last few times I called him. I take a deep breath and begin reading out loud what I feel, admitting the truth and putting myself out there, even though it terrifies me.

  Maybe, if I’m lucky, this step will help me get to the next admission in my future.

  Kayden Doug and I are still at the diner when the sun starts to ascend from behind the snowy mountains. The waitress starts pulling the shades down on the windows as the sunlight shines into the restaurant. She flips off the neon signs both inside and out, preparing for another morning.

  I sit across from Doug, finishing up a very long story, preparing myself to leave the comfort of the table. I haven’t told him nearly everything, especially the darkest times that are locked deep away in the back of my head, the one’s I won’t let myself think about. Doug said that’s okay and that I have time. It baffles me. I’d never really thought about my time. I took things day by day and was basically living the life my father wanted me to live.