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Unraveling You, Page 14

Jessica Sorensen


  “Because she’s our new singer,” Sage intervenes as he materializes from the back room with another brownie in his hand.

  “Really?” Nolan asks, glancing from Sage to Ayden, then his gaze lands on me. “You decided to follow in your father’s footsteps, then, huh? I’m crossing my fingers you can sing as good as him.”

  “Of course I can,” I say confidently, but my stage fright momentarily creeps in and puts the tiniest hint of doubt in me.

  “You knew who her father was, too?” Sage asks incredulously as he heads for the amp.

  Nolan shrugs. “I thought everyone did.”

  “I guess I’m the only idiot out of the loop, then,” Sage mutters as he nibbles on the brownie.

  “Are you cool with me being part of the band?” I ask Nolan, because I know enough about bands to understand my initiation will only work if they’re all on the same page.

  He briefly contemplates my question, but the hesitancy is more for show than anything. Because moments later, he grins and pats me on the arm. “Of course. Welcome to the band. Now, let’s get this show on the road and see what you got.” He plugs his amp in and twists up the volume.

  I try to catch Ayden’s eye as I move the microphone up to my mouth to sing, but he keeps his chin down, his eyes focused on the guitar strings.

  I spend the next hour singing my heart out with the guys, doing my best not to focus on Ayden and instead on the music. By the time we’re finished with practice, my lungs ache in the best way possible.

  The drive home is soundlessly painful, though. Ayden will barely utter a word to me. I grow more anxious that the kiss might have changed our friendship in a negative way, but at the same time, I’m excited that I was able to sing and finally found a band to be part of.

  By the time we pull up in the driveway, I’m ready to bounce into the house and announce the news to my dad.

  “That was so much fun,” I tell Ayden as he shuts the headlights off. “Thank you for letting me tag along. You should come up to my room and watch a movie with me. We can celebrate.” I cross my fingers, praying he will.

  He shakes his head, rotating around and reaching into the backseat for his guitar. “I can’t. I have homework.” He hurries out of the car and up the driveway toward the house.

  “Was it because I sucked?” I call out in desperation as I stumble out of the car and out beneath the stars. “Was Sage just being nice and I’m really not that good?”

  He pauses then gradually turns around. When the porch light hits his face, I can see the shock in his eyes.

  “Lyric, you have a fucking beautiful voice. It’s crazy how amazing it is … unreal. But I …” He appears completely terrified as he turns away and rushes into the house, shutting the door behind him and leaving his words echoing in my head.

  A beautiful voice.

  That someone can finally hear.

  Let my words spill out into the world.

  Let my soul drench the air.

  Let it change lives.

  Let it bring my best friend back.

  But he doesn’t come back, and I stand alone in the dark, desperate to chase after him, yet terrified what will happen if I do.

  I turn for the door and trudge into my house, less eager to tell my dad the news now. I honestly think about going straight up to my room, but my parents are at the kitchen table eating cake when I walk in.

  “Hey, sweetie,” my mom says, but instantly frowns when she sees the look on my face. It’s the same expression she wore when I had my meltdown the other day. They had both looked at me like I am going to liquefy into a crazy puddle on the hardwood floor. One day I will make her confess why she looks at me that way sometimes. “What happened?”

  Sinking into the chair, I reach across the table to steal a glob of pink frosting from her slice of cake. “Nothing. Ayden and I are just having a little spat.” If I can even call it that. I honestly have no clue what the hell is going on in that boy’s head anymore.

  “I’m sorry.” My mother discreetly glances at my father as he shovels a chunk of cake into his mouth. “But don’t worry, you two will get over it. Best friends always do.”

  “Ayden and I aren’t you and Dad, Mom.” I lick the frosting from my finger. “We just …” I trail off. We just what? Spend every waking hour together? Kiss in the darkness of the room. Sing solo performances while grinding on each other. “So, I have some news.” I change the subject. “I’m officially a singer in a band.”

  My dad’s back straightens, and he beams with pride. “Oh, really? When did this happen?”

  I shrug as I roam over to the cupboard. “Tonight. One of Ayden’s band members convinced me to sing, although Ayden was the one who actually helped me.” I grab a glass from the cupboard then open the fridge. “But it doesn’t matter. The important thing is I’m officially cured of my stage fright and can live out my lifelong dream.” When I remove the jug of milk out of the fridge, I notice how edgy my father is. “What’s wrong, weirdo Dad?”

  “It’s nothing?” He takes a swig of his milk. “It’s just that … I just want to make sure you’re careful. If you really get into this band thing … well, the environment is intense.”

  My mom nods in agreement. “It’s not that we don’t trust you, but we just want to make sure you don’t get into too much trouble.”

  “I get into trouble all the time,” I remind them as I fill the glass with milk. “But if you’re talking about drugs, sex, rock ‘n’ roll, and all that shit, you should know I’m good with staying away from that stuff.”

  “Okay, but there will be rules,” she says as she cuts into the slice of cake in front of her.

  “What exactly do you guys think I’m doing?” I ask as I take a seat again. “I just joined the band; I’m not starring on stage yet.”

  “But if it’s your lifelong dream, you will eventually,” my father chimes in. “And I just want to make sure you do things the right way.”

  “Like using my father’s awesome connections to get my foot in the door?” I grin sweetly at him.

  He tries not to smile, but it slips through. “Maybe. I’ll have to hear you play first.”

  I press my hand to my chest, mocking being offended. “Father, I’m shocked. You seriously don’t believe that with my awesome genetics, I don’t have the voice of an angel.” He wavers, and I throw a napkin at his face. “So insulting.” I rise from my chair. “I’m going to bed. I’ll let you two finish off your cake.”

  When I get to my room, though, I don’t go to sleep. I write.

  Kiss me goodnight. Throw me away.

  Hug me tight. Then let me fray.

  Pieces of you. Unraveling me.

  Weakening, so desperate to be free.

  Ready to break. Ready to tear.

  I can see you breaking, and it’s so hard to bear.

  I finish the last sentence then peek out my window at Ayden’s home. The lights in his room are off, but I’m only half convinced he’s asleep, since his room isn’t glowing with the black light I gave him.

  I move over to my desk and open up the webpage I was looking at earlier today before I went to band practice. I’d been so shocked when I found it that I actually had to get up and scream the lyrics of the most intense, angry song I could find, just to feel like I could breathe again.

  After months of investigating, I finally managed to find an article that I think was linked to Ayden’s past. It happened in San Diego, and there’s a mention of a woman that has the same last name as Ayden’s old one who died.

  After a complaint was made about noise disruption, police were led to a home where three abused children were found, appearing to be beaten and starved. No arrests have been made, but the case is heavily under investigation. While reports haven’t been confirmed, the case has been linked to three other abuse cases in the area over the last three years. All the victims suffered from the same injuries and subjection.

  It makes me wonder exactly what happened to Ayden. Makes me
afraid for him. Makes me wonder if the people who tortured him were ever captured.

  Is that why he’s always afraid?

  Or is it something else?

  Something worse.

  Chapter 13

  Ayden

  Even though it’s killing me, I’ve been keeping my distance from Lyric. It’s almost impossible, though, when she lives right next door and our families spend a hell of a lot of time together. Plus, there’s the whole band thing. Whenever we practice¸ she’s there, and Sage is there staring at her. The dude clearly has a thing for her. Thankfully, she doesn’t seem too interested.

  I’m not going to lie, I’m fucking miserable. I miss her way more than I thought was ever possible. But I can’t help my distant behavior.

  That night Lyric sang, jumping on my lap and touching me, caused me to shrink within myself, because I liked it. Wanted more. And it fucking terrified me as I remembered what more felt like.

  I remember the touches that singed my skin.

  The way they touched me.

  How I begged them to stop.

  But my voice was hollow.

  Resonating.

  A sound no one seemed to hear.

  The world was merely a shadow

  as they tied me up.

  Cuffed me.

  Used me.

  Drained my soul.

  Spilled my blood into the earth.

  Then left me for dead.

  To rot away with the others.

  Rot away with their sins.

  “Ayden, did you hear me?”

  I focus back on reality as I listen to my band members, trying to figure out a plan that will get our foot in the door of the music industry.

  “We should definitely have a talk with Lyric’s dad,” Sage puts in his two cents as he puts away his guitar.

  “Wow,” Lyric states, appearing offended. “Sometimes I feel like I’m being used for my dad’s connections.”

  Sage swiftly shakes his head. “No. Not at all.” He props his guitar against the wall then faces her. “You have a killer voice, Lyric. Seriously. We’re going to be badass.” He scratches at the corner of his bloodshot eye. “I’m just saying that we shouldn’t waste a good connection like that.”

  Lyric unplugs the microphone and winds up the cord. “Well, I’ll bring it up to him, but he won’t do anything until he hears us. We have to be good.”

  “We are good,” Sage presses, checking out her ass as she bends over to stick the microphone into a bottom shelf cupboard. When he notices that I catch him, he offers me a tense smile and shrugs, like what are you going to do?

  “Yeah, we’ll see.” Lyric stands upright, tugs the elastic out of her hair, and then combs her fingers through her locks as she ponders over something.

  Even though I’ve tried not to, I end up zoning in on her every move, the relaxed expression on her face, the way her chest arches the slightest bit, the way her glossy lips part …

  “What do you think, Ayden?” Lyric asks me as she gathers her hair back into a messy bun on her head and secures it with the elastic.

  I realize I’m staring at her, holding my breath, and clutching the life out of my guitar.

  “About what?” I ask her dazedly.

  She holds my gaze, silently begging for something I don’t fully understand, nor do I think I can give to her. “About asking my dad for help?”

  I shrug as I slide the guitar strap over my head. “If you want to, then do it. I’m sure he’ll be okay with it.” I don’t look at her as I speak. Instead, I concentrate on putting my guitar away, checking my phone, the clock, anything to keep me busy, hyperaware that she’s watching me, like she has every day at practice and at school. Our time has only been filled with formal conversation and polite smiles, and I think it’s starting to get to her. It’s definitely starting to get to me.

  “I have to go,” I lie when her stare becomes unbearable. “I have some stuff I’m supposed to do at home.”

  I continue to feel her eyes on me as I hurry across the room, grab my jacket, and dart out the door. Only when I step out into the cool night air can I breathe again.

  Lyric and I haven’t been driving to band practice or school together, so I make the short drive home by myself, with only my thoughts for company. I’m lonely. Sad. Lost.

  On the one hand, I want to remain in my little bubble, because it’s easier to breathe and exist. Then again, my bubble isn’t really giving me the shelter it used to. It was easier being lonely when that was all I knew. Now that I’ve gotten a taste of the other side, where I can coexist with people, putting myself in solitude isn’t as simple.

  By the time I arrive home, I’m miserable and sullen. Lila notices my depression the moment I trudge into the house—she has for the last couple of weeks now. Like always, she convinces me to help her out with something to keep me from locking myself into my room.

  “Help me bake Everson’s birthday cake,” she tells me when I wander into the kitchen, looking for something to eat.

  “I’m not that good at baking,” I point out as I hunt the cupboards for something to fill my appetite. “Remember when I tried to make those cookies?”

  She kindly smiles as she pulls out a carton of eggs from the fridge. “I’ll put you on egg duty. It’s hard to mess that up.”

  Closing the cupboard, I take a seat on the barstool and do what she asks, breaking and separating eggshells. Something in the process and the way the yolk falls out of the egg strikes up a distant memory.

  Thick, like yolk.

  I watch the blood drip.

  Over and over.

  A repeated pattern.

  Driving me mad.

  The way it splatters.

  Across the floor.

  The sound is like nails.

  Pounding into my skull.

  Drip. Drip. Drip.

  Even when I shut my eyes

  the dripping still exists.

  Over and over.

  Never a miss.

  I’d lift my hands.

  Cover my ears.

  Suffocating the dripping out.

  But my wrists are tied.

  Weighed to the ground.

  So I’m stuck

  with the torture

  weighing me down.

  “Ayden, did you hear me?” Lila asks.

  I flinch out of my daze, returning back to reality. What I’m supposed to be doing. The food on the counter. The eggs in front of me.

  “Um, no, I didn’t. Sorry.” I pick up an egg and crack the shell against the edge of the bowl while she turns down the heat on the stove.

  I’m not sure why I suddenly remembered the sound of the blood dripping, or who the blood even belonged to. I wish I could figure out why I’m having a sudden onset of memories so I could come up with a way to forget again.

  “I asked you if you wanted to go help Lyric and her dad work on the car he bought her.” She moves a pan of boiling water to an unheated burner. “I’m sure cooking is getting boring.”

  I split the egg apart and let the yolk drip into the bowl. “Nah, I’m cool here.”

  Trepidation creases her face. “Are you sure? Because you seem like you’re not having that much fun.”

  “I’m fine.” I set the eggshells down on the counter and wipe my fingers on a paper towel.

  She dithers, pulling a drawer open to retrieve a spoon. “You and Lyric seem … I don’t know. Did you have a fight or something?”

  “No.” It’s technically not a lie. We’re not exactly fighting. I’m just avoiding her. And she’s tried to get me to talk to her. A lot.

  “Then why aren’t you two hanging out anymore?”

  “I don’t know.”

  She’s growing frustrated, her cheeks reddening. “Well, I don’t care what’s going on.” She suddenly goes from kind, caring mom to annoyed, get-your-shit together mom, a side I’ve never seen before. She shoves a plate full of cookies into my hand and shoos me toward the door. “You will go over, and giv
e Lyric and her father some of these cookies.”

  She has got to be shitting me.

  “But—”

  “No buts,” she cuts me off, snapping her fingers as she points toward the doorway. “Either you go over there, or I make you go talk to the therapist. Maybe he can get to the bottom of why you two suddenly aren’t speaking to each other.”