The Coincidence of Callie & Kayden, Page 7Jessica Sorensen
It was the worst beating I ever had, like he had channeled all his frustration with my brothers and directed it all on me. My mom kept me out of school for two weeks while I healed, telling the school, family, friends, neighbors—anyone who asked that I had strep throat and was highly contagious.
I lay in bed almost the entire time, feeling my body heal, but my mind and will to live died, knowing it would never get better, that this was it for me.
I blink the thought away as I sit down on the floor and lift up my shirt. I vowed when I went to college that I’d give it up—stop the fucking habit. But I guess it owns me more than I thought.
The next day in Biology I’m trying to hold as still as possible to keep the pain on my stomach contained, but I keep glancing behind me at Callie, who seems oblivious that I’m turning into a stalker.
Professor Fremont takes his sweet time wrapping up his lecture. By the time I make it into the hall, it’s crammed with people. I’m blocking the doorway, trying to determine whether I want to skip my next class or not, when someone slams into my back.
“Oh my God. I’m so sorry,” Callie apologizes, backing away from me like I’m a criminal. “I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going. ”
“You don’t have to apologize. I promise I’m perfectly fine, even though you ran into me. ” I flash a grin at her as I move to the side, so people can get by. As my midsection turns, my muscles burn.
“I’m sorry,” Callie repeats and then shuts her eyes, shaking her head at herself. “I just have a bad habit of saying sorry. ”
“It’s okay, but maybe you should work on breaking it,” I suggest, bracing my hand on the doorframe. Her brown hair is pulled up and thin wisps hang around her face. She’s wearing jeans, a plain purple t-shirt, and minimal makeup. Her tits aren’t hanging out of her top and her jeans aren’t skin tight to show off her curves, like how Daisy dresses every day. There’s nothing to check out, yet I find myself really looking at her.
“I’m trying, but it’s hard. ” She looks down at the brown carpet, so shy and innocent. The girl looks like she needs a thousand hugs to erase all the sadness she’s carrying around on her shoulders. “Habits are very hard to break. ”
“Can I take you out somewhere?” I ask without even thinking about what I’m doing or what the consequences will be. “I really want to say thank you for, well, you know, for what you did. ”
Her eyelids flutter open and my heart skips a beat. That’s never happened before and it tosses me into a momentary state of vertigo. “I’m actually supposed to meet Seth in just a few minutes, but maybe some other time,” she says evasively and starts down the hall, swinging her bag over her shoulder.
I fall into step with her. “You know, he’s an interesting person. I have him in my English class and he always raises his hand, just to give the wrong answer. ”
A faint smile touches at her lips. “He does it on purpose. ”
Pressing my palm against the glass, I hold the door open for her. “Why?”
She blocks the sun from her eyes with her hand as she steps outside. “Because it’s on the list. ”
I pause just outside the doorway, cocking an eyebrow. “The list?”
“It’s nothing. ” She waves her hand at me dismissively. “Look, I have to go. ”
She picks up the pace, her thin legs moving quickly as she leaves me in the campus yard, her head tucked down and her shoulders hunched as if she’s doing everything she can to be nonexistent.
My dorm room is located in the McIntyre building, which is the tallest of the residence halls. I swipe my ID card to get into the hall and then push a code to enter my room. From out the window, the people look tiny, like I’m a bird seeing everything from an Aerial view.
I pull out my journal that I keep hidden beneath my pillow and grab a pen. I started writing in it when I was thirteen, as a way to put my thoughts down on paper. I wasn’t planning on making it a lifelong hobby, but I feel so much better when I write, like my brain is finally free to say whatever it wants.
The edges of the cover are tattered and some of the pages are falling off from the spiral. I sit down with my legs crisscrossed, and press the tip to a clean sheet.
It’s amazing how the things you remember forever are the things you’d rather forget and the things you desperately want to grasp onto seem to slip away like sand in the wind.
I remember everything about that day, like the images have been burned into my brain by a branding iron. But I wish they would blow away in the wind.
There’s a knock on my door. Sighing, I hide the notebook back under the pillow before answering the door. Seth strolls in with two iced lattes and he hands one to me.
“You sounded like you could use one of these. ” He shucks off his jacket, drapes it over a chair that’s in front of the desk, and sinks down on the bed. “Okay, spill your guts. ”
“I don’t know why he’s talking to me and asking me to go places. ” I pace the floor in front of my bed and sip on the straw. There are sketches and a poster of Rise Against on my roommate’s side of the wall, and her bed is covered in dirty clothes. “He’s never really talked to me before. ”
“Who, Kayden?” Seth asks and I nod. He flops onto my bed and scrolls through my playlists on my iPod. “Maybe he likes you. ”
I stop in the middle of the room and shake my head, the ice swishing in the cup. “No, that’s not what it is. He has a girlfriend—a super slutty girlfriend who he can touch. ”
“He would probably touch you, if you’d let him,” he says and my breath catches in my throat. “Okay, so we’re not there yet. ”
Setting the coffee on the desk, I sink down on my bed and tuck my hands under my legs. “I’m not sure I’ll ever be there. I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I won’t ever be able to handle going that far with anyone. I may end up being one of those old ladies with a thousand cats and eating cat food straight out of the can. ”
“First of all, gross, I would never let you turn into that. And second of all, we should add it to the list. ” He sits up and reaches for a pen on my nightstand.
“Just because it’s on the list, doesn’t mean it will happen,” I say as he stands up and marches to the board on the back of the door where our list is written.
“Yes, it does, Callie. ” He grins, flipping the cap off the pen with his thumb. “Because it’s a magical list, full of possibilities. ”
“I wish that were true. ” I stare out the window at the people flooding the campus yard. “I really do. ”
The pen squeaks as he scribbles something down. When I return my attention to him, he’s added, #52 Take a Chance For God’s Sake to the bottom of the list. He clicks the cap on, cocks his head, and smiles with pride at his cleverness.
“I do amaze myself sometimes. I’m going to have to add this one to my copy of the list when I get back to my room. ” He tosses the pen onto the dresser and sits down on the bed. “So what’s your chance, Callie? Because I know you’re strong enough to at least try one. ”
“But what if I take a chance and everything crumbles?” I ask. “What if I trust someone again and they steal something away from me. I don’t really have that much left before I’m hollow. ”
“Take an easy chance,” he singsongs. “Come on, Callie, do it. ”
“Are you trying to peer pressure me?”
“Yeah, is it working?”
“Not really, since I don’t know what you want me to do. ”
He rubs his hands together with a devious gleam in his eyes. “I have an idea. You should call Kayden and take him up on his offer. ”
“No, Seth. ” I pull my knees up and rest my chin on them. “I can’t be around people like him. They make me nervous and remind me too much of high school. Besides, soon it’s going to dawn on him how much his girlfriend hates me and he’s going to back off. ”
“He seems ni
ce. ” Seth removes his cellphone from his pocket and checks the screen. “I even have his phone number in my phone. ”
My brows knit. “How?”
“Because I’m scandalous. ” He swipes his finger over the screen to turn it on. I dive for him with my arm out, but he jumps out of my reach and runs for the door. “Here we go. ”
I stand up and put my hands on my hips, digging my fingers into my skin as I hunch over and force air through my lungs. “Seth, please don’t. I can’t. I don’t do well around guys. ”
He puts the phone up to his ear with a stern look on his face. “Callie, you have to remember that not all guys are him…. Hello, is this Kayden?” He pauses. “Yeah, this is Seth. Hold on just a second. Callie wants to talk to you. ” Covering the mouthpiece with his hand, he extends the phone toward me. “Take. A. Chance. ”
I remove my hands from my hips and my skin is dotted with red-crescent moon marks from my fingernails. I take the phone from him, my pulse erratic through my fingers, my wrists, and my neck as I raise it to my ear.
“Hello,” I say, my voice barely a whisper.
“Hi,” he replies, sounding lost, but intrigued. “Did you need something?”
“Hey, I was thinking that maybe… I could still take you up on that offer to go somewhere,” I explain, and Seth motions his hand at me encouragingly. “We don’t have to do anything right now, but maybe later. ”
“I was just getting ready to leave to explore the town,” he says as I bite on my fingernail. “Do you want to go with me?”
I nod, even though he can’t see me. “Yes, that sounds nice. Should I meet you outside or something?”
“Do you know what Luke’s truck looks like?” he asks.
“Is it that rusted one he used to drive in high school?”
“Yeah, that’s the one. Why don’t you meet me by it in like ten minutes? It’s parked near the side entrance of the quad. ”
“Alright, sounds good. ” I hang up and scowl at Seth.
He claps his hands and does a little dance. “See, taking a chance isn’t so bad. In fact, it can turn out really good. ”
“What if I panic, though?” I hand him the phone back and grab a hoodie from my dresser drawer. “What if I do something really weird? I’ve never been alone with a strange guy before. ”
“You’ll be fine. ” He puts his hands on my shoulders and looks me in the eyes. “Just be the Callie I know. ”
I zip up my jacket. “Okay, I’ll try my damn hardest. ”
He laughs and then encloses his arms around me, drawing me in for a hug. “And if you need anything, you can call me. I’ll always be here for you. ”
Kayden isn’t out in the parking lot. As I wait by Luke’s truck, I watch the other students hurry to and from class and I almost bolt. As I step up onto the curb to head back to my dorm, Kayden exits out the side doors of the building. He’s talking to a girl with wavy black hair that runs all the way down her back.