The redemption of callie.., p.18
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       The Redemption of Callie & Kayden, p.18

         Part #2 of The Coincidence series by Jessica Sorensen
 
Page 18

 

  When I step inside, I realize how frozen I am. The coziness of the warm air encloses me and prickles the life out of my cooled skin. It’s not very crowded today in the café, but we still pick one of the corner booths hidden away at the back to get as much privacy as we can. Christmas tunes play from the speakers in the ceiling and on each table are unlit silver and white candles. It’s that time of year where people are happy and they try to sprinkle things with magic. I wish they would sprinkle some on us.

  Once I’m in the booth, I wiggle my arms out of Seth’s jacket, ball it up to the side of me, and then remove my own jacket that was beneath it. I’m a little disappointed that Kayden chose to sit across from me, but I just remind myself skittish cat, skittish cat.

  He instantly reaches for the saltshaker and rotates it between his hands, channeling his nervous energy. It’s quiet, except for the flow of chatter and the clinking of glasses and pans coming from inside the kitchen. I struggle to think of something to say as Kayden stares at the saltshaker in his hands. I retrieve a menu from the stack on the table near the napkin dispenser and begin reading it over.

  The waitress comes to take our orders. She’s the same one who flirted with Seth and she gives me this knowing look, like I’m a slut. Her hair is braided to the side and her name tag says “Jenna. ”

  I think I remember her from school. She was a grade lower than me and was friends with Daisy McMillian.

  “Hey, Kayden,” she says, adding a giggle at the end.

  He glances up and then shoves the saltshaker to the side.

  “Hey, Jenna. ”

  “How are you?” She touches his arm with her manicured fingers, petting his muscles like he’s a dog. I have this insane impulse to slap her hand away. I don’t like it because it’s not me. “I heard you were in a car accident or something. ”

  Kayden rolls his eyes and mutters, “Yeah, or something. ”

  She laughs, but her eyebrows knit. “You’re so funny. ”

  Kayden looks at me as he stretches his arm toward the stack of menus and my gaze darts to the table. I tuck my hands between my legs and focus on the list of appetizers.

  Kayden and she start conversing about their old high school days and how everyone’s missed seeing Kayden play and hanging out with him at parties. Kayden smiles at her every once in a while and it hurts a little because he’s barely said anything to me since I’ve seen him.

  “You know she misses you,” Jenna says, smacking on her gum with the pen poised against the order book.

  Kayden peers up from the menu at her, his eyes glazed over, looking lost. “Who?”

  She pops a pink bubble in out of her lips and glances at me from the corner of her eye. “Daisy. ”

  I inch lower into the booth, wishing I were smaller or invisible, and position my hand to the side of my face, pretending to be fixated on the beverage list.

  “Yeah…” Kayden focus on the menu. “I think I’ll have the pancakes. ”

  I smile, thinking of Seth and our pancakes endeavor and a little bit of courage surfaces in me. I sit up a little straighter and scoot my menu to the side. “I’ll have pancakes too, and coffee. ”

  Her nose scrunches as she writes down my order and then smiles charismatically at Kayden. “Do you want anything to drink?”

  Kayden closes his menu. “I’ll have a cup of coffee too. ”

  She scribbles that down, flashes a grin at him, and when she turns around to head to the counter, she scowls at me. I look away from her and focus my concentration on Kayden. I have more important things to worry about than Jenna and Daisy.

  “I want to talk to you,” he starts, looking at the cracks in the table. “I just don’t know how. ”

  “You don’t know how to talk to me?” I don’t know how to take what he said. I always thought we were great at talking, which is why I shared my secrets with him. “Why?”

  He traces his fingers along the oval-ringed patterns in the wood as he reaches up with his other hand and draws his hood off his head. He rakes his fingers through his hair and rearranges his brown locks into place so they’re out of his eyes and flipping up at his ears. “Because you saw me like that. And I’ve never wanted anyone to see me like that, especially you. ”

  I pick at the cracks in the table, knowing I have to choose my words wisely. “Kayden, I’ve told you a thousand times that I’ll never judge you and I mean it. ”

  “It’s not about judgment, Callie. ” He glances up at me and the misery in his eyes matches what lies inside my heart. “It’s about what you deserve. ” He sighs, rolls up his sleeves, and traces his finger along a fresh scar running vertically down his forearm. “You deserve better than this. ”

  “No, I don’t. ” I think about the last time I threw up in the bathroom because I couldn’t deal with the pain, something I’ve done for years and years. “You and I aren’t that different. ”

  He looks even gloomier as he jerks his sleeve back down and covers up the scars. “We’re nothing alike. You… you’re beautiful and amazing and the sadness and pain in you was put there by someone else. ” He lowers his voice and sucks in a breath. “I put the pain there myself. ”

  I keep my voice soft as I lean over the table. “No, your father does. ”

  He shakes his head, staring at the counter. “I cut myself that night. ”

  My chest compresses and squeezes my heart into a miniature ball. “All of the cuts?”

  He doesn’t answer and his scruffy jaw goes taut. Carefully, so I don’t scare him, I slide my hand across the table and place it over his. “What happened isn’t your fault. It’s mine. It all started because of me. ”

  His head snaps in my direction and the fire in his eyes makes me recoil. “In no way is this your fault and in no way do I regret doing what I did to him. ” His gaze is piercing, but his voice is calm.

  “Are you mad that I did it?”

  I promptly know the real answer because I feel it every time I think of Caleb getting beat over and over again. “I wish I could say that I was, because I never ever wanted you to be the one to do that, but I can’t be. ” Tears start to pool in the corners of my eyes, but I force them back because it’s not the right time or place to cry. “I’m sorry, Kayden. I’m so sorry for bringing you into this mess. ”

  He edges his hand out from under mine and positions it on top of my fingers. “You have nothing to be sorry about… I’m the one who should be sorry, for bringing you into this mess. I can’t… I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been to walk in on me when I was like that. ”

  I shake my head and focus on the unequal beat of his pulse in his hand. Everything is real and it’s hard to keep up. “It was only hard because I… because I thought you were dead. ”

  He looks like he’s about to splinter apart and I’m verging into the same place. I want to clutch onto him. I want him to clutch onto me, because I know if we can just hold onto each other then we can make it through this. But suddenly he’s pulling away and getting to his feet and I don’t know what to do or say.

  “I need to walk away,” he says, not looking at me but at the door at the front of the café. “It’s better for you… You don’t deserve this… I don’t deserve you. ”

  Just as quickly as I found him again he’s walking out of my life. I watch him weave around the tables and then he’s out the door, leaving me. I need to make him understand that I understand him. I need to make him see that he deserves to be happy and that he doesn’t ruin me. I get up and hurry around the tables, not caring that everyone is looking at me like I’m crazy. I slam my hand against the glass door and throw myself out into the cold, completely defenseless without my jacket on.

  “I sometimes make myself throw up,” I stammer as I run up to the bike with my feet slipping on the snow.

  He freezes with one foot on the ground on one foot off and turns his head. His eyes scroll across my body and I feel naked and exposed. “You what?”
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br />   I press my fingertips to my nose and shake my head because I can’t look at him when I say it again. “I sometimes make myself throw up. ” I give him a moment and then I drop my hands to my side. “And not because I think I’m fat. It’s because…” I take a step toward him and angle my head back, looking up into his emerald eyes. I can see the reflection of myself in them and I look as scared as I feel. “It’s because I’m trying to get rid of all the vile, foul feelings inside me. The ones I can’t deal with. ”

  He’s looking at me, and I mean really looking at me, and there’s this connection, this understanding that we are two people who have been fractured, not by ourselves but by someone else and we’re doing everything we can to not shatter to pieces.

  I wait for him to react and when he doesn’t budge I decide to do it for him. I walk up to him, getting close enough that I can feel the heat emitting from his body. Then I stand on my tiptoes, throw my arms around his neck, and hug him, praying to God he’ll hug me back, because even though it’s a simple gesture in theory, sometimes hugging is complex.

  His arms stay slack at his side as his chest rises and falls. I’m about to give up, back away, and allow myself to cry when his arms wrap around my waist. He grips me tightly and it gives me hope that maybe there might be some hope left.

  He holds me for what feels like forever, nuzzling his face into my hair. At some point it starts to snow, but we don’t move. We are frozen in a moment neither of us wants to leave.

  “For how long?” he finally asks, his breath warm against my cheek.

  I shut my eyes and bask in the feel of him. “Since it happened. ”

  His arms tighten around me and he presses my body against his. “I’m sorry. ”

  “It’s not your fault. ” I tenderly run my fingertips up and down his back, working up the courage to ask. “Kayden?”

  “Since I was twelve. ” He reads my mind and trusts me enough to answer.

  I constrict my arms around him, sealing us together in every way possible. Maybe if I try hard enough, we’ll fall into each other and become one single person and we can share our pain instead of carrying it by ourselves.

  Kayden I’m shocked by what Callie tells me and at first I don’t understand. She makes herself throw up. Tiny, barely there Callie makes herself throw up. But then she explains why and it makes more sense to me than anything else in my life. I realize how perfect we are for each other and also how disastrous we could end up being. Because even though we can help each other pick up the pieces of our lives, we could also break at the same time and then nothing would be left to catch us as we crumble.

  “Maybe we should go inside,” I finally say even though I don’t want to. I want to stand in this very spot and hold onto her forever, but we’d freeze to death.

  She puts a sliver of space between us as she leans away and slants her chin up to look at me, her hair falling back from her eyes and forehead. “I’m not sure I want to go back in after I ran out like that. ”