Unraveling You, Page 11Jessica Sorensen
His gaze bores into me. “Whose do you think it is, Lyric?”
My heart beats wildly inside my chest. “You didn’t have to hit him. I kicked him plenty of times.”
“Yeah, I did. He hurt you.” An uneven breath slips from his lips. “I should have done worse to him.”
I tell myself to breathe, but my lungs can’t seem to figure out how to get the oxygen they need. “But it was kind of my fault. I mean, I had a bad feeling the moment I got into the car with him, but like you said, I don’t always think with my head, and I trust people too much.”
“Hey.” He delicately cups my wounded cheek, his fingers splaying across my flesh. “Bad decision or not, none of this was your fault. He can’t put his hands on you just because he’s stronger than you. He had no right to touch you.” His throat muscles move as he swallows hard then promptly removes his hand from my face. “No one does unless you want them to.”
I’m suddenly hyperaware of how long his eyelashes are and how perfectly kissable his lips look. When did he get so beautiful? I mean, he was always beautiful, but never this beautiful.
I rapidly shove the thought from my mind. Jesus, Lyric, what the hell is wrong with you? Totally inappropriate.
“Thank you, Ayden.” I throw my arms around his neck and latch onto him. “You’re the best friend I could ever ask for. No, you’re more than that. Way, way more than that.”
For the first time ever, he hugs me back. Honestly, it’s kind of an awkward hug, because he keeps moving his hands around, unsure where to put them, until finally he decides to circle his arms around my waist.
As his warmth encompasses me, I inhale with a faint smile on my lips. I can almost feel it, the potential for a song surfacing in the back of my mind. Not about this night. Not about William. No, oddly enough it’s about this hug.
“We should get you home,” he whispers in my hair.
I pull back to look at him. “I don’t want anyone seeing me like this.” I glance down at the torn strap of my dress and the top of my bra sticking out. “And I lost my jacket, so I can’t even cover up.”
“We can fix that.” He shucks his hoodie off and holds it out for me to put on. After I slide my arms in the sleeves, he snatches up one of the hand towels, gets it wet underneath the faucet, and begins carefully cleaning the smeared makeup from my face as I sit down on the counter, letting my legs dangle over the edge.
I watch him as he works, his intense gaze fixated on what he’s doing. I notice the slightest quiver in his fingers and wonder what’s causing it. If he’s afraid, worried, angry, what? With Ayden, it’s always complicated, like trying to figure out a story in a closed book.
“There.” He moves back from me and tosses the towel into the sink. “That should be good enough to get you out of here without too many questions.”
I twist around and peer at my reflection in the mirror. Besides the welt and cut lip, my face is seamlessly clean, as if tonight never happened. As if it was erased.
At least on the outside.
On the inside, the night scorches vividly inside my mind.
Tears begin to sting at my eyes again as the shock wears off.
Ayden tangles his fingers with mine and helps me down from the counter. “Come on, let’s get you out of here.” He steers us out the door, saying something to Sage before we start toward the bottom floor.
I stay close to him, clinging to his hand, with my face pressed against the back of his shirt that smells like his cologne. I focus on his scent as we make our way through the house, counting each step, each racing beat of my heart, each unstable breath.
I only feel safe again when I’m in the passenger seat of Lila’s car and Ayden is driving down the road, away from that house, away from the party, away from William and this night.
“I’m going to think with my head more from now on.” I rest my swollen cheek against the cool window. “And not trust people so damn much.”
“Lyric, that’s not what I meant when I said that.” He turns down the stereo’s volume, so the only noise filling the cab is the humming of the engine and the softness of our breathing. “I love that you don’t always think with your head. It makes life interesting and keeps me from going crazy. And if it wouldn’t have been for you being so damn trusting toward me, I would have … well, life would have been a lot harder.”
I rotate my head toward him. “Really? You even feel this way when it gets you into trouble? Like fights. And crashing bikes. Drinking.”
His jaw clenches. “It’s not the first fight I’ve been in, or the first time I’ve drank.”
William’s blood still stains his knuckles and his scars. I’ve never flat out asked him where he got the scars from, and quite honestly, I’m afraid to after what happened with the tattoo thing earlier—afraid I’ll scare him off again—so I opt for a different route.
“What kind of fights did you get into?” I watch him through the darkness with my knees pulled up, my head resting against the leather of the seat.
When he smashes his lips together, I figure he’s going to remain silent and shut down like he normally does, but then his lips part.
“When I was fourteen, this guy from school came after me with a knife because he thought I hooked up with his girlfriend,” he starts, staring out at the winding road ahead of us. “I clocked him in the face before he could cut me, but ended up splitting my knuckles open.”
I hesitate before I ask, “Is that where the scars on your hand came from?”
His knuckles whiten as he grips the steering wheel. “No, someone else did that to me … the same people who put the tattoo on me.” His grip tightens even more. “I don’t even remember what was done to me, though, so it doesn’t matter.”
It does matter, though.
Everything about him matters.
His voice is colder than I’ve ever heard it, so I drop the subject, not wanting to push him any further tonight.
“I can’t believe a guy tried to stab you when you were fourteen.” I trace circles on the console, wondering what it must have been like for him. “I barely used curse words when I was that old.”
He gives me a sidelong glance. “You’ve had a good life. You shouldn’t be sad about it. I know that you wish your life was more complicated so you could write better, but trust me, it’s not worth the sacrifice.”
“I’m not sad right now because of that.” I face forward in my seat and wrap my arms around myself. “I’m sad because you haven’t always had a good life; you deserve to have the best.”
A beat of silence goes by.
“Life is getting ... easier for me.”
Before I can say anything else, he cranks up the radio again.
We don’t speak for the rest of the drive home. I rack my brain for a way to make him feel better. But by the time we’re pulling up to our houses, I still have no clue what to do or say.
All the lights are off at my house so I have some time to think about what I’m going to tell my mom and dad about tonight without them losing their shit.
“You want me to come up and hang out with you until they get home?” Ayden asks, parking in front of his garage and silencing the engine.
I nod then unfasten my seatbelt and drag my butt out of the car.
While we’re heading up to my bedroom, I text my parents to find out where they are. Turns out, my mother had to work late and my dad went down to the gallery to spend time with her. The two of them are so adorable that it makes me sick. And envious. I know their story. They grew up together. Were best friends who fell in love. They wrote songs about each other, and painted portraits of their undying love. Usually this makes me smile, but tonight, gag me. Seriously. I feel so bitter.
“I just want to go to bed and forget this night ever happened.” I kick the bedroom door open and wrestle the hoodie off. “I should probably take a shower first.”
Ayden clicks on the lamp, sits down on my bed, and collects my iPod from my cluttered nightstand. “I’ll
chill out on your bed and go through your song collection, preparing for your next music quiz.” A small trace of a smile graces his lips.
Relief sweeps through me like a gentle breeze. Maybe I didn’t break him after all.
After I grab some clothes from the dresser, I duck into the bathroom and take a quick shower, scrubbing my skin until it’s raw and red, trying to cleanse the icky feeling off. I know tonight could have been a lot worse, but what happened still makes me feel sick to my stomach. Everything aches and my heart feels so dark. I hate the feeling. I want my sunshine back.
Tears spill from my eyes as I sink down into the bathtub and hug my knees to my chest. By the time I return to my bedroom, I’m exhausted, my eyes are puffy, my face hurts, and I'm ready to go to sleep.
Ayden is still in my bed like he said he would be, stretched out on the mattress with his back resting against the headboard. He has my ear buds in, and he’s bobbing his head to the music as he thrums his fingers against his knee.
I collapse face first beside him and he quickly tugs on the cord, pulling out one of the earbuds. “Feeling any better?”
I bury my face into the pillow. “Kind of. I just want to go to sleep.”
He lies down and rotates on his side, facing me. “Then go to sleep. I’ll stay with you until your mom and dad get home.”
I close my eyes. “I feel so icky.”
There’s a pause then he lightly places his hand on my back. My eyelids flutter open at the contact of his warm fingertips. He’s so close that his warm breath dusts my cheeks.
“You shouldn’t feel icky,” he says softly, his hand starting to massage the throbbing muscles of my back. “You did nothing wrong, but trust people too much. That’s never a bad thing. Don’t ever lose that.”
“I’ll try, but ...” I sink deeper into the pillow as tears sting my eyes again. “But he stuck his tongue down my throat, and it was the most disgusting kiss ever. I rinsed and brushed my teeth, but I swear to God, I can still feel it on me.”
When he grows silent again, I crack an eyelid open. He’s dazing off over my shoulder with undiluted pain in his eyes. The realness of him causes my heart to stutter, and my fingers yearn to jot down unwritten words.
God, what has he been through to create such a look?
When his focus lands back on me, his eyes burn fiercely, as if he’s terrified out of his damn mind “Shut your eyes,” he whispers, almost horrified.
I do as he says without question, trusting him completely, even though his intensity is enough to make the calmest person in the world feel disconcerted.
He sticks the earbud in my ear and the gloomy, unhurried beat of Radiohead’s “How To Disappear Completely” soaks through my wounded soul.
“You picked the perfect song,” I mutter as the music engulfs me. “This is exactly what I—”
His lips brush mine, stealing the words right from my mouth. My breath catches in my throat. My first instinct is to pull away, but I don’t want to. I want to stay. Let him erase that last few hours from my mind.
I keep my eyes shut, too afraid to open them as his lips timidly start to move against mine. Just a whisper of a graze. A heart-stopping brush. A soul-drowning taste. He does it again and again, taking his time, erasing all the ickiness from tonight.
As I absorb each soft graze, his tongue slowly follows, slipping into my mouth. I gasp, but still don’t open my eyes. I barely move. Can hardly think. And when he pulls back, gently biting at my bottom lip, I stop breathing all together.
That burn songs promise.
Blazes in me.
Hot and scorching.
So sweltering and mind-numbing.
I feel it in my veins.
Driving me insane.
And the bar set so high.
Ayden has soared over.
Past the heavens.
And captured me eternally.
“Go to sleep, Lyric,” he whispers, his breathing ragged.
I nod, still terrified to open my eyes. Terrified I’ll lose this moment.
A moment I know I’ll be able to fill pages and pages with the most powerful lyrics I’ve ever written. All about him and that kiss.
Therapy did not go well today, but maybe that’s because I was a basket case while I was there.
“Ayden, are you sure there’s nothing else you want to talk about?” my therapist had asked, chomping on a mint—the dude always has one in his mouth.
I had raked my fingers through my hair for the millionth time in the last hour. “Yeah, I’m good.”
“Are you sure?” he pressed, while jotting notes down. “Are your nightmares troubling you again?”
I gripped at the wooden armrest of the chair I was sitting in. “No, they’ve been … fine.” A lie, but I didn’t want to talk about them, because then we would have had to talk about other stuff—Lyric stuff.
He had set the pen he was writing with down. “What about flashbacks? Are you having any of those?”
I shook my head. “No, not for a while.”
He overlapped his fingers on top of his organized desk, considering something. “You know I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me.”
I wiped my sweaty palms on the front of my jeans. “I’m just stressed out over school,” I had lied, to avoid what was really bothering me. Lyric. That kiss. The way our lips touched. The way my heart races in panic every time I even think about it. I could only imagine what would happen if I spoke about it aloud.
He sighed, something he did when he was letting my silence slide, yet wasn’t thrilled about it.
An hour later, I’m running around my room like a chicken with its head cut off, searching for my guitar. I can’t remember where I left it last night, can’t remember much of anything over the last week. My thoughts are scattered, my dreams more vivid, my control gone.
All this from a kiss I can’t get out of my head.
But it wasn’t just the kiss. It was …
Lips. Aching. A touch.
The contact. The connection.
It brought my soul back
And I’m fucking terrified.
I haven’t kissed anyone since before I was put into the system. Haven’t kissed anyone because I wanted to. I’ve been kissed a few times—I remember that much about my past—but I can’t remember exactly how they happened. Won’t remember.
I had cracked open Pandora’s Box with the dancing at the club, but it flew right open with the kiss. A kiss I clearly wasn’t ready for, even if it was the best kiss I’ve ever fucking had. Life would have been a lot simpler if all my kisses were like that.
But they weren’t.
And life isn’t simple.
Now, I’m trapped in a scarred body that cringes whenever it has to endure human contact, except for when it comes to Lyric. I didn’t cringe during that kiss. Not once. Which was good. The whole point of it was to try and erase the pain William caused from her eyes. If I could just get over the helpless, out of control fear I feel whenever I’m around her now, things will be golden.
But my soul is out.
Surfaced above the years of pain.
Fuck. I need to stop thinking.
Focus on finding my guitar. Yes, find the guitar. Much more simple.
I look out my window toward Lyric’s house. Maybe that’s where I left it. But am I that desperate to go over there and find out?
Lyric suddenly appears through her window, jumping around and singing at the top of her lungs. I still have yet to hear her sing, but I can imagine the warm sound of her voice and those incredibly soft lips of hers creating striking songs.
That I want to drink out of her.
Fuck, I’m losing my Goddamn mind.
My phone rings from my back pocket, and I let out a breath in relief at the distr
action. I fish it out, figuring it’s Sage calling to see if I’m on my way to band practice.
“I’m on my way now,” I answer without checking my screen as I reach for my wallet on the nightstand.
“That’s super awesome.” It’s Lyric’s voice that fills the line and my heart flutters. Actually fucking flutters, like I’m some lovesick puppy. “But I just called to ask why on earth you’ve been staring at my bedroom window. You’ve been doing it for like five minutes, and it’s starting to get a little bit creepy.”