The Redemption of Callie & Kayden, Page 43Jessica Sorensen
I don’t ask questions when he takes my hand and walks up the driveway with me. He never said anything about coming inside, but I think in his own head he’s protecting me. We walk up the steps and I try not to think about the haunting memories inside out and out. Instead, I think about the good ones that I spent with Kayden and Seth.
By the time we reach the top of the stairs, my mother is swinging the door open. She has on an apron over a floral cream skirt and a white shirt trimmed with lace. Her hair is curled up at the ends and she has a string of pearls around her neck. She also has a plate of chocolate chip cookies in her hand and she’s smiling brightly. I can tell Kayden’s trying really hard not to laugh at the Leave It to Beaver theme she’s got going on.
“I’m so glad you decided to stop by,” she says and then pulls me in for a hug while balancing the cookies in her hand. She moves back and then hugs Kayden too. He pats her back, awkwardly exchanging a confounded look with me.
But all I can do is smile. At that moment, I love my mother, the cookies, and the 1960s dresses and all because I’m pretty sure no one has hugged Kayden like that besides me. She urges the plate of cookies at us, and shaking my head with a tiny smile, I take a one to make her happy. I had accidentally let it slip during on a phone conversation about my throwing-up problem and I’m pretty sure for the rest of my life she will probably try to overfeed me.
The good-byes are quick and my dad and Kayden even chat a little bit about football. They don’t ask him questions about what happened with Caleb or his dad, even though the gossip around town is spinning into stories full of suicide, attempted murder, and every felony charge imaginable.
We’re heading out to the truck when Jackson’s car pulls into the driveway. My initial reaction is to run away from him, because he’s usually got Caleb attached to his hip. But there’s no one sitting in the passenger seat so I relax and let out a loud breath.
“You coming?” Kayden asks, and I realize I’m standing in the middle of the driveway, staring at my brother.
I hold up a finger, indicating I need a minute. “Just a sec. ”
He eyes me with worry in his green eyes. “Are you sure?”
I nod as my brother climbs out of the car. He’s looking at me and I can’t read his stoic expression at all. “Yeah, I just need to talk to him. ”
Kayden nods and then he heads for the truck, passing Jackson along the way. They mutter a hello and then Kayden climbs inside. He never takes his eyes off me as I wander over to the steps and take a seat on the bottom stair, the light layer of frost on the cement seeping through the backside of my jeans.
Jackson walks up to me with his hands stuffed into his plaid hooded jacket. His brown hair hangs over his ears and his sideburns look like they could use a trim. He rocks back on his heels, appearing apprehensive as he looks at me.
“Look, Callie, I don’t even know what to say,” he starts. “I guess… I guess I’m sorry. ”
I’m a little shocked by his declaration and my gaze darts to the ground, my forehead creasing. “You don’t need to be sorry. It’s not your fault. ”
He drops down on the steps and stretches out his legs in front of him and then crosses his ankles. He smells like cigarette smoke and booze. I didn’t even know he smoked, but then again, I don’t really know him, not really. Even when we were kids, we were kind of competitive, and then when the thing with Caleb happened any hope of a brotherly-sisterly bond shattered.
“I turned him in,” he finally proclaims. His cheeks suck in as he inhales and then they puff back out as he releases a breath.
“Thank you,” I say. “But the police won’t do anything. They really can’t. It’s been too long and it’s basically just his word against mine. ”
He shakes his head and rubs his hand across his stubbly jaw.
“Not for that… I already knew that wouldn’t do any good. ” His hand drops to his lap. “I turned him in for growing pot in his parents’ basement. I even told the police where he keeps his own stash. ”
I’m stunned. Speechless. Unsure. Happy. Amazed. Thankful.
“So he’s… so he’s in jail?”
“No, not yet. ” He sighs heavily. “When mom told me about…”
He clears his throat at the uneasiness of the topic. “About what happened to you, I was at a party with him. As soon as I confronted him, he totally fucking bailed on me before I could even get in a good swing. He didn’t even try to deny it. ” His eyes glaze over as he recollects. “Anyway, he’s been dealing for a while, here and back home, so I thought I’d try to get him in trouble for something. If he ever shows up, he’ll be in deep shit. On top of growing, he had, like, five pounds stashed in his floorboards, which is considered drug trafficking. ” A ghost smile rises on his face at the thought.
“How did you know it was there? The weed?”
“Let’s just say I took a lucky guess. ”
“Didn’t the police question you?”
“I called in an anonymous tip. ”
I’m grateful, but also really sad. Warm tears force their way out from my eyes and I turn my head so he won’t see me cry.
Kayden starts to open the door, but I shake my head and then shut my eyes as the tears stream out. If Caleb ever comes back, he’ll be in trouble. If not, he’ll roam around free. Regardless, my brother did this for me and I’ll be eternally grateful.
“Thank you,” I whisper, wiping my tears away with the sleeve of my coat.
“Don’t thank me,” he mutters and I detect a hint of guilt in his tone. “It doesn’t fix anything. ”
“It’s not your fault,” I say, drying off the last of the tears and then I look at him. “It’s not. ”
He doesn’t respond, instead rising to his feet. “But it kind of is, you know. I feel like we all kind of saw what we wanted to see and I blamed you all that time for making everyone in the family stressed. ”
I stand up too and brush the snow off the back of my jeans.
“People generally do see what they want to see, but it doesn’t make them bad. ”
He presses his lips together and then runs his fingers through his overly long hair. “Yeah, I guess so. ” He huffs out a breath and then blinks as he looks at me, changing the subject. “So are you headed back to school?”
I nod and walk backward toward the truck, staying in my footprints to keep from sinking in the snow. “Yeah, school starts on Monday. ”
He gazes at the people in the truck. “Are you driving back with them?”
Smiling, I nod. “Yes. ”
“With a bunch of dudes?”
“Is that safe?”
My smile expands into a face-consuming grin. “I’m safer in that truck than I am anywhere else. ”
He crooks his eyebrows at me with cynicism. “Well, okay then. ” I wave at him as I start to turn, when he calls out, “I’ll let you know what happens. ”
Glancing over my shoulder, I nod again, knowing all I can do is hope everything will work out, that I’ll get a little bit of justice and Caleb will have to pay. But no matter what happens, I spoke up, made a voice for myself, freed the haunting memories that have owned me every day for the last six years. I found my courage.
Kayden “I don’t fucking understand” are the first words that leave my lips when I enter my house. It’s empty. Cleared of all the furniture, pictures, books, plates, and food, and the cars aren’t even in the driveway. The floor is bare of rugs and the few dressers that are left have been emptied out as well, including my clothes. My parents took them too, probably to punish me for existing.
“They even took the blinds down,” I say, astounded, turning in a circle in the living room. “Why would they do that? I mean, there’s no for-sale sign, no nothing. ”
Callie steps up beside me beneath the chandelier and right in front of the bulky marble fireplace and she threads her fingers through mine, giving my hand a squeeze. “Th
ey never mentioned they were moving?”
I shake my head slowly, her hand feeling so diminutive in mine, yet enormously comforting. “I haven’t even seen my dad since he beat the shit out of me. ” I think about the itinerary papers in the trash bin. “Did they just bail?”
“What about your brother?” she asks. “Could he still be here?
Maybe he knows where they went. ”
Shaking my head, I tug her with me as I rush toward the open front door. I trot down the stairs and round the corner of the house to the basement. Kicking the snow out of the way from the front door, I grab the doorknob.
It’s not like I’m upset I’ll never see them again. I’m pissed off because I was starting to warm up to the idea of pressing charges and now… “I have no idea what’s going on,” I mutter as I open the basement door and find that that room is empty too. The leather sofa Callie, Luke, and I played truth on is the only thing that remains. The mini fridge, the television, and the futon are missing. I walk in, still clinging onto Callie’s hand and it soothes the loneliness and feelings of abandonment rising up in my body.
I stand in the entryway with my jaw hanging open, just staring at the room I spent countless days hiding out in. “What the fuck?” I don’t move or breathe. I can’t even think straight as my thoughts become jumbled. There’s a crack in the wall just outside the farthest corner where my dad rammed my head through the Sheetrock and then didn’t patch it up correctly. I had a concussion from a “collision with another player on my baseball team” my mom had told the doctors. There’s a hole in the carpet that was once hidden by a recliner. Tyler had dropped his lighter when he was smoking weed and it had burned a hole. To cover it up from my dad, we’d moved the recliner over it.
“Can you try and call them?” Callie asks. “Maybe not your parents, but you could try your brother. ”
I shake my head in disbelief. How can this be happening?
How can he walk away to Puerto Rico or Paris or wherever he ended up? And why? It’s not like he’d definitely be in trouble if I spoke up. He could easily deny it.
“I don’t get it,” I mutter, turning back to Callie. Her hair is twisted in a clip at the back of her head and pieces of her bangs frame her face. Her lips are turning purple because the low temperature in the room almost matches the winter air outside.
“We should go,” I say, shaking my head as I attempt to sort through my rapid, disorganized thoughts.
She tightens her grip on my hand and holds me in place.
“Are you sure? We could look around and see if we could find some clues or something. ”
I sigh. “Callie, this is real life. There won’t be any clues, and even if there are, none of it matters. To anyone. It’s better if I just walk away from it… move on. ” I feel the hole inside my chest developing again and the need for infliction is surfacing. “I really just need to go. ”
She quickly nods, understanding what’s going on inside me, and she leads me outside. I stop to shut the door, watching the room slowly disappear, inch by inch by inch until the lock latches into place and the room vanishes.