The Coincidence of Callie & Kayden, Page 9Jessica Sorensen
I eye his hand like it’s the devil, because that’s what hands can be; they can own you, pin you down, touch you without permission. Biting my lip, I shake my head. “I can do it on my own. I was just thrown off for a moment. ”
He sighs and the muscles in his arm relax. “You’re afraid of heights, aren’t you?”
I lean inward until my body is pressed against the jagged rocks. “Slightly. ”
“Give me your hand,” he repeats, his voice is soft, but his eyes are demanding. “And I’ll help you to the top. ”
The wind increases and dust stings at my cheeks. My body heats with my nerves as I shut my eyes and place my hand into his. Our fingers entwine, a shock zips through my arm, and my eyes lift up to him.
Tightening his grip, Kayden hoist me up, the muscles of his arms flexing until I’m on the next stair. I plant my shoes against it and he gives me a moment before tugging on my arm again and lifting me to the next one. When he reaches the top, he lets go, but only to heave himself up. Then he extends his hand over the ledge and I grab it, trusting him again as he pulls me up. I stumble and my shoes scuff against the dirt as I work to regain my steadiness.
His hand comes around my back and touches me just above the waist to steady me. My body stiffens as a mixture of emotions gust through me. I like that he’s touching me, the gentleness of his fingers, and the warmth of his nearness. But then my mind flashes back to a big hand shoving at my back until I land on a bed.
I whirl around with my eyes amplified as strands of my hair float in front of my face. “Don’t touch me, please. ”
“It’s okay,” he says with his hands out in front of him and a cautious look on his face. “I was just helping you get your balance. ”
I reach up to secure the elastic in my hair. “I’m sorry… it’s just that… that had nothing to do with you, I swear. I just have issues. ”
He lowers his hands to his side and watches me for the longest time. “I don’t want to be pushy, but you seem kind of jumpy. Can I… Do you care if I ask why?”
I aim my gaze to the view over his shoulder. “I’d rather you not. ”
“Okay,” he says simply and faces the opening of the cliff.
I move up beside to him, leaving a small gap between us. The hills roll for miles; green, flourishing, dotted with trees and hikers. The blue sky is endless and the sun illuminates through the thin white clouds. There’s a breeze coming upward and also across and as they collide it makes me feel as if I’m flying.
“It kind of reminds me of that painting Mr. Garibaldi had on his wall. ” Kayden rubs his scruffy chin thoughtfully.
“The one he was so proud of? And talked about all the time?” I leave my hands at my hips but bring them out a little and put my palms flat as I imagine what it’s like to be a bird, flying up high and free.
He laughs and his head falls forward, his hair falling across his forehead. “Did he tell that story to every class?”
I roll my tongue around in my mouth as I restrain a smile. “I think it was a tradition. It was his way of bragging that there was a time in his life where he wasn’t stuck in a classroom. ”
He raises his head back up and exhales gradually. “How long do you want to stay up here?”
I shrug and turn for the ledge. “We can go back, if you want. ”
“I don’t want to go back,” he says and I pause. “Unless you do?”
I glance back out at the hills. “I’d like to stay here longer if that’s okay?”
“It’s perfectly okay. ” He sits down in the dirt and crosses his legs as he stretches them out in front of him. Then he pats the spot next to him.
I stare at it for a long time before I drop to the ground and cross my legs too. My muscles constrict at the fact that our legs are so close, but I don’t move over.
“I kind of hate football,” he reveals as he pulls one of his legs up and drapes his arm on top of his knee.
“Oh, yeah,” I say, startled. “How come?”
His finger trails along the scar that runs down half his cheekbone. “The violence sometimes gets to me. ”
I rest back on the palms of my hands. “I don’t like football either. There’s only one purpose and that’s to dominate. ”
He laughs, shaking his head. “I wouldn’t go that far, but I get your point. I’m the quarterback, though, so all I really do is throw the ball. ”
I drag my pinkie back and forth in the dirt. “I know what position you play and what a quarterback does. My father’s a coach and therefore I got to listen to a recap of every game and practice when we were eating dinner. ”
“Your dad’s a nice guy, though,” he states, cutting me a sideways glance. “I like him. ”
I know I shouldn’t ask, but I can’t help it. It’s been bothering me for months that I just left him after he’d been beaten up. I never really believed that it was the only time his dad hit him. That much rage doesn’t just come once and then dissolve.
“Kayden, what happened that night? That night I was at your house… and your dad, well, when he hit you. Did that ever happen before?”
“I think it’s your turn to tell me something about you,” he evades the question, his hands balling into fists, and his knuckles are so white the scars on them blend away.
“I don’t have much to say about myself. ” I refuse to look at him as I shrug. “Nothing particularly interesting anyway. ”
He raises his hand, making a pinching position with his finger and thumb. “Come on. Just one tiny detail. That’s all I’m asking for. ”
Frowning, I rack my brain for an intriguing detail about me that won’t be very personal. My shoulders rise up and down as I shrug. “I like to kick box down at The Tune up Gym sometimes. ”
“Kick box?” he questions, his forehead creasing. “Really?”
I pick the dirt out of my cracked fingernails. “It’s a good way to relax. ”
His eyes scan my body from my toes to my face and my cheeks heat. “You look too tiny to be a kick boxer. I can’t picture those little legs of yours being able to do very much damage. ”
If I were braver, I would challenge him to a match right here, just to prove him wrong.
I angle my chin up to the sky and place my hand in front of my eyes to block out the brightness of the sunlight. “I don’t do it for sport, just for fun. It’s a good way to… I don’t know…” I trail off because the rest is too personal.
“To take your inner anger out,” he says it more to himself than me.
I nod. “Yeah, kind of. ”
“You know what?” He looks at me with a smile expanding at his full lips. “The next time you go, you should call me. My coach, who’s kind of a dick compared to your dad, has been hounding me to get into better shape. Then you can show me how much damage that little body of yours can do. I’ll even tone it down and give you a chance to pin me down. ”
I bite on my lip to keep from smiling. “Alright, but I don’t go that often. ”
“Only when you feel like kicking some ass?” he teases with a crook of his eyebrow.
My lips twitch to a tiny smile. “Yeah, something like that. ”
He turns sideways so he’s facing me and crisscrosses his legs. “Okay, I have another question. I actually just remembered this. I think it was back in fifth grade and your family was over at my house for one of those stupid barbeques my dad has every Super Bowl. Somehow a collector football disappeared from my dad’s display case and everyone thought it was my brother Tyler that did it, because he was acting weird, but really he was just wasted. But I swear to fucking God I saw you walking out to your car with it under your shirt. ”
I tuck my feet under my butt as I cover my hands over my face. “My brother told me to do that. He said if I stole it for him he wouldn’t tell my mom that I was the one who broke one of her silly little collector unicorns. ” I pause and it gets really quiet. Finally, I work up the courage to peek between the c
racks in my fingers. “I’m really sorry. ”
He scrutinizes me and then a slow smile forms on his face. “Callie, I’m just messing with you. I don’t care if you did it. In fact, it’s kind of funny. ”
“No, it’s not,” I say. “It’s horrible. I bet your brother got into trouble. ”
“Nah, he was eighteen. ” He draws my hand away from my face. “And when my dad started being a douche, he just left. ”
“I feel like a douche. I think my brother still has it in his room. I should make him give it to you. ”
“No way. ” He’s still holding my hand as he guides my arm toward my knees. I’m very aware of his fingertips touching my wrist right above my hammering pulse and I’m conflicted on whether or not to pull away. “My dad can go without some of his shit. ”
“Are you sure?” I can’t take my eyes off his hand on my arm. “I swear I can give it back. ”
He laughs softly and then his fingers graze the inside of my wrist, causing my entire body to shiver. “I promise. No harm, no foul. ”
“I’m really sorry,” I repeat.
He looks at me with this strange expression, like he’s conflicted about something. He licks his lips and then presses them together, holding his breath.
I’ve often wondered what a guy would look like when he was about ready to kiss me. Would it be the same as my first and only kiss; a glimmer of conquer blazing within the pupils? Or would it be something else entirely different? Something less terrifying? Filled with more passion and desire?
Turning back to the cliff, he frees my wrist and his hand begins to tremor. He flexes it, elongating his fingers and letting out a sigh.
“What’s wrong with your hand?” I ask, struggling to maintain a steady voice. “Did you hurt it climbing up?”
He balls it into a fist and places it on his lap. “It’s nothing. I just broke a few bones a while ago and it gets that way sometimes. ”
“Does it effect how you play?”
“Sometimes, but I can handle it. ”
I stare at the scars on his knuckles, remembering the night when they were split open. “Can I ask you a question?”
He stretches out his legs and leans back on his hands. “Sure. ”
“How did you get the scars on your hand?” I reach out to touch them, the need to feel him so intense it temporarily overpowers my doubts, but life catches up with me and I swiftly move my hand away.
Putting his weight on one arm, he elevates his hand out in front of him. At the bottom of each finger is a thick white scar. “I punched a wall. ”
“Not on purpose,” he adds, and then makes a path with his finger along each bump and groove. “Accidents happen sometimes. ”
I recollect his dad slamming his fist into his face. “Yeah, I guess they do, but sometimes bad things happen on purpose by the hands of bad people. ”