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The Redemption of Callie & Kayden, Page 41

Jessica Sorensen

Page 41


  “But it is,” I say, and she stares at me through her tears.

  “Sorry, but it’s the truth. ”

  “How can you be so calm?” Her voice is wobbly. “I don’t understand. ”

  “I’m not that calm,” I correct her as my hand leaves my dad’s arm. “I’m just… I’m just trying to move on. Besides…” My eyebrows knit as I realize how strong I’m being at the moment. “I’ve been weak for long enough and I don’t want to crumble anymore. ”

  She takes her phone out of her pocket and starts punching away at buttons. “This is so ridiculous. This is not happening. No, it can’t… It can’t…”

  “Mom, what are you doing?” I ask, and when she doesn’t answer, I trade a questioning glance with my father.

  He wipes the tears away from his eyes with the back of his hand. “Honey, I think the texting can be put on hold for a moment. ”

  She shakes her head and she hits the last button. “I’m telling Jackson to come home. ”

  “Why?” I ask warily.

  “Because he’s part of this… this… this… I don’t even know what this is. ” Tears flow from her eyes and drip to her lap, staining her slacks. Her eyes are swollen, and if she keeps crying, she won’t be able to see.

  I glance up my dad. “She doesn’t need to cry, Dad… Help her stop. ”

  He pats my arm in a comforting gesture. “She’s upset. ” His jaw tightens and he looks at me. I wonder what he sees. “And so am I. No, I’m fucking pissed. This is such bullshit. All this time… under our roof…” He starts muttering incoherently under his breath, the veins in his neck bulging. He paces the floor and I stand there in front of the couch and watch the madness unfold like a building getting knocked down.

  Finally, my mom gets up and crosses the room, heading for the doorway with a determined look on her face. “That’s it…”

  “Where are you going?” I chase after her. “Mom?”

  She dabs her eyes with the bottom of her sweater. “I need to do something… I need to fix this somehow… I just need a minute. ”

  Shaking my head, I position myself in front of her with my hands out to the side. “You can’t fix it, Mom. It happened. There’s nothing you can do about, except for be my mom right now. ”

  She analyzes my face for a moment and then returns to crying again, throwing her arms around me. It’s been forever since I let her hug me and I stand awkwardly, telling her it will be okay.

  When her eyes dry, she backs up into the chair, with her face in her hands and her shoulders hunched. The denial and the crying goes on well into the late hours of the night. My dad starts yelling again, going on and on about how Caleb’s not going to get away with this. There’s no conclusion at the end of the crying and ranting.

  Caleb still raped me and six years have gone by while he walked around getting away with it. There’s nothing that will change that, not even from saying it out loud. But it changes me, alters my life in an irreversible way. It shatters the chains around my wrists and finally I’m free.

  Jackson never does come home and I’m not sure what that means. I eventually get up from the couch to leave the house, despite my mother’s protests. She wants me to stay there and let her cry over me while she figures everything out. She’s so determined that she can erase it somehow, but I’m not naïve enough to believe that’s possible. Besides, I’ve got somewhere else I need to be—want to be. Someplace where I can be happy.

  “Wait, Callie, please don’t go,” she begs, getting up from the couch to follow me to the kitchen. “We can stay here and talk about it some more. ”

  I shake my head as I walk for the door. “Mom, as much as I know how you need to try and work through this, I’ve already found a way to cope and I kind of need it right now. ” I more than need it actually. I have to be with him.

  She keeps shaking her head and my dad gives me the keys to the truck so I don’t have to walk and then tells me he’s still going to call the police, just so they know. His eyes are red and puffy and his lips are chapped. I tell him okay, because that’s what he needs to hear at the moment. As I step out the door, I wonder what will happen, if Caleb ever shows up again, if he was with Jackson when my mother told him.

  Once the door is shut behind me and I’m by myself, I spread my hands to my side as I stand on the top of the porch, underneath the light. The sky is clear, the stars twinkling against the black backdrop. What will happen with my life? I don’t know.

  But I’m eager to find out because for once I’m looking into my future, not my past, and I smile at the endless possibilities.

  Chapter 18

  #65 Watch fireworks with someone you love


  “I still really wish I could have been there with you,” I say. It’s been a couple of days since she told her parents and she seems okay, stronger, more confident. But even though I’m glad she did it, I wish I could have been with her, to support her, comfort her, do whatever she needed.

  We’re sitting outside on the hood of her father’s truck that’s parked near the lake. There’s a New Year’s Eve party going on a ways down and I can see the bonfire through the trees. The stars are out and the sky is a little hazy but the moon shines full. It’s way below zero, and the trucks hood is glazed with snow, but we have a blanket draped over us and the warmth of our bodies to keep us warm. “I wanted to be there for you. ”

  “But I had to do it alone,” she says, staring at the sky.

  “Besides, it’s over now and I’m ready to move on. ”

  When I’d woken up in the hotel room by myself, I’d nearly panicked and the feeling multiplied when I read her note. She’d gone to tell her parents what happened by herself. The idea of Callie standing there telling them alone crushed me. I wanted to be there with her, help her, comfort her, but in a way, I guess I understood why she did it alone. I think Seth’s always been right.

  She’s a lot stronger than she looks.

  “How do you feel?” I ask her, wrapping my arms firmly around her waist while she presses her cheek against my chest. I get a whiff of her hair, strawberries and something else that’s only Callie.

  She considers my question in silence. “Weightless. ”

  I smile. “Me too. ” I had my Monday appointment with Doug yesterday and I feel even lighter than after our meeting at the café.

  I wonder how much lighter I’ll feel down the road after more therapy.

  “There’s still so much stuff to deal with, though,” she adds, turning her head so she can look up at me. “And I worry what Caleb will do when he finds out I told. ”

  My muscles vine into blistering knots. “He’ll never hurt you. I won’t let him. ”

  “I know you won’t,” she says, surprising me by how much she trusts me. She nuzzles her face against my shoulder and her warm breath seeps through my coat. “I think… I think we should try and find your brother. ”

  “Dylan?” I tilt my chin down to look at her. “Why?”

  She angles her face up and her lips are close enough for me to kiss and the feel of her breath is comforting. “Because, I think it’ll help you with your father… when you decide to press charges. ”

  I try to contain my breathing as I think about actually going through with it. What if he gets mad? What if nothing happens and he hunts me down and hurts me? What if he kills me? The idea of death isn’t very settling anymore, which confounds me. “I’m not sure if I can. ”

  She inhales and a sigh escapes her lips as she releases a breath. “Yes, you can… I know you can. ”

  I’m uncertain if she should be so confident about my confidence. “And what if I don’t? Will you…” I trail off, clenching my hands and then flexing my fingers, and then I shake out my hand.

  “Will you still love me?”

  She lowers her head back onto my chest and rotates onto her back. “I’ll always love you. ”

  I breathe in the sound of the words
and her voice and I have to stop the tears that appear from the overpowering feeling it sends through my body. I wish I could say it back to her. I even get my lips to part, but no sound will come out. “I want to say it,” I say quietly.

  She shakes her head. “Don’t. Only say it when you really mean it. ” She slides her hand down my chest and interlaces our fingers on top of my stomach.

  We breathe through the chilled air, underneath the stars, listening to the sounds of laughter and music from the party.

  Minutes later, the sky lights up with an explosion of colors. Every year, this town puts on a huge firework show over the lake. When I was a kid, I used to watch it, wondering what the hell the big deal was. Fire in the sky. Okay. I didn’t get it. But now, lying here with her in my arms, it’s starting to make sense. Freedom. Things are starting to make sense.

  “Happy New Year,” I whisper to the air as sparks rain down on the lake.

  Callie I’m having a moment. I’ve been having a lot of them lately.

  The kind where everything connects: pieces puzzling together, stars shining in sync, hearts beating rhythmically. Everything is perfect and although I in no way believe that it will last, I’m going to cherish the moment forever.

  “Happy New Year,” Kayden whispers underneath his breath as fireworks boom and drift to the water in front of us.

  “Happy New Year,” I reply, even though I am pretty sure he’s just thinking aloud. I prop my chin up on his chest as fireworks boom. “What’s your New Year’s resolution?”

  He makes an outline around my lips as he contemplates my question. One of his lean arms is tucked behind his head and his hand is in mine. “To not think about the past. ”

  “That’s a great one,” I say with a smile. “Can I make it mine too?”

  A grin forms on his lips and he shifts his arm, moving his hand out from behind his head. He holds out a fist in front of him.

  “Pound on it. ”

  I contain a giggle as I remove my hand from his and move to bump fists, but he pulls his hand back at the very last second and I frown. “What’s wrong?”

  He bites on his lip as he sits up and my head slides to his lap.

  His eyes mirror the colorful fireworks as he lifts me up off his chest and then pushes on my shoulder until I’m lying on my back, against the windshield. The frost nips against a spot of my skin on my lower back where my shirt has ridden up but I don’t move as he leans over me, propping an arm on each side of me. Lowering his mouth toward mine, I wait in anticipation for him to kiss me, but right as he’s there, right as our lips are about to make contact, he pauses.

  “This is nice, right?” he asks and I nod, resisting the urge to grab the collar of his shirt and jerk him down to me. “We should make it a tradition for next year. ”

  My stomach flutters with a thousand enthusiastic butterflies as I think about being with him for an entire year. “Okay. ” I cross my ankles over each other, trying to contain the nervous energy created by the flush of our bodies.