The redemption of callie.., p.28
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       The Redemption of Callie & Kayden, p.28

         Part #2 of The Coincidence series by Jessica Sorensen
Page 28


  “But sometimes it is. ”

  That gets him to smile. “Look at you. Being all wise. ” He swings his arm around my shoulder. “I think it must be from all the time you spend around me. ”

  I crack a smile as I unlatch the door. “It must be. ”

  By the time we walk out of the bathroom, the room is even more crammed. I don’t like it. It makes me feel anxious and ashamed about the dress I’m wearing. Each time someone brushes up against me, I cringe internally.

  I grasp Seth’s hand as he guides me to our table where Luke is talking to some girl in a tight black dress. Her blonde hair is done up, her cleavage is nearly popping out of her dress, and she’s sitting in my seat. As we approach the table, her eyes scale me and then she looks away, disregarding me.

  “Hey,” Seth says before she can say anything. He reaches across the table and grabs two tall shot glasses from the eight that are circling the middle of the table. “I think Callie and I are going to take shots and dance. ”

  Luke nods and then starts chatting with the girl. I step behind Seth and he turns to me and offers me a shot. I’m distracted, and without even thinking, I put the rim up and tip my head back. The alcohol burns and tears at my esophagus.

  “Blah. ” I gag, shoving the empty glass back at Seth. “I didn’t mean to drink that. ”

  Seth giggles at me and angles back his head, knocking the shot back. He takes my glass and his and puts them back on the table. One tips over, but he doesn’t bother picking it up. He holds my hand and tugs me toward the dance floor.

  “Do we really have to?” My head’s a little blurry and my legs feel like rubber. “I don’t feel very good. ”

  Seth nods as he spins around, doing a little wiggly thing with his hips before striking a pose. “You and I need to relax. ”

  I glance around at the people surrounding us who are grinding against each other to the low beat of the sultry song.

  “Dancing’s never been relaxing for me. ”

  He shuffles toward me, snapping his fingers and rocking back and forth. “Come on. I saw you dancing in the car ride when we were heading to Afton. ”

  I shake my head, but my lips turn upward. I start to dance with him, not going too overboard, but enough that I feel my mood lifting. When the song switches to a slow one, Seth inches in and puts his hands on my hips. As we rock to the rhythm of the song and with each sway, a weight builds on my chest. My mind is going back to when Kayden and I danced and for a moment everything seemed like it was going to be okay. But it’s not okay.

  Nothing is. Kayden won’t talk to me and all I can ever picture is how he looked lying on the floor, pale as snow with a dying pulse.

  I can see the slits on his wrist and on his side. I can feel my terror and worry about him dying. How I don’t want him to die. How I need him. How I need him forever. The weight on my chest bears down and I swear my ribs will splinter.

  “Callie, what’s wrong?” Seth brings his finger up to my cheek and grazes a tear that escaped my eye.

  “I don’t want him to die,” I say through a choked sob. “I don’t. ”

  His eyes widen. “He’s not going to die, Callie. He made it out alive. ”

  “I know that,” I say, knowing he won’t understand. Kayden is like me in so many ways. He’ll hide it inside himself until he breaks.

  And if he breaks, I might not make it to him in time.

  Then what? I can’t go on living my life without him, fighting through the pain every day. I felt what it was like to lose him back when I saw him on the floor. I thought he was dead and my chest nearly crushed into my heart as the pain slammed into my ribs.

  I can’t do it without him. I need to save him and myself and make us happy together.

  Kayden When I realize she’s crying, I move for her, shoving anyone who gets in my way. Seeing tears come out of those stunning blue eyes rips my heart in half and I no longer care about anything else but making her better.

  When she sees me, her eyes enlarge and she reaches up to wipe the tears away from her cheeks. Seth turns and looks at me and then he lets go of her waist and backs away.

  “You got it from here?” he asks me and I nod. He moves through the crowd and I take his place, positioning myself in front of Callie.

  Her fingers start to slide down her pink cheeks to wipe the tears away, but I catch her hand and move it away. Bringing my free hand to her cheek, I trace my thumb down each tear and erase them.

  “What’s wrong?” I ask, pulling her closer. “Did something happen?”

  She shakes her head, her eyes blinking fiercely as more tears threaten to spill out. “I’m okay, just a little tired. ”

  “Callie, please tell me what’s wrong so I can try to make it better. ”

  She shakes her head and her throat is jerking as she works back a choke. “It’s really… nothing. ” She starts to sob, her shoulders quivering with each tear.

  My arms loop around her and I pull her against my chest.

  She buries her face into my shirt, clutching onto the bottom, and her tears are soaking through the fabric. I don’t dare move, even though everyone around us is dancing. I run my hand along her back and down her hair.

  “Shh…” I say, as I work not to cry myself. I don’t know why, but I can feel her pain, even though I have no idea what’s causing it. I try to hold the tears back. I focus on the open wound on my wrist and concentrate on the lingering burn. But it’s not working and soon I know I’m going to crumble—we both are.

  I pick her up and she doesn’t even look at me or seem stunned. Her legs hitch around my back and her arms slide up my chest and she secures her arms around my neck. People watch us in wonder as I shove my way through the crowd, making sure to hold the back of her dress down and keep her covered up. When I step outside, she moves to get down, but I tighten my arms and force her to stay against me. Now that I’ve got her, I can’t let her go.

  Holding onto her, I flag down a cab. The driver looks at me funny as I duck my head in, still carrying her, and sit down in the back seat. “552 Main Beach Drive,” I tell him as I reach forward, rising up a little, and glide the door closed.

  He’s an older man, and I catch him eyeing us a few times through the rearview mirror. I bring one of my hands up and cup the back of her head, while the other I keep at her waist. She’s still crying and her tears are making my shirt damp.

  The cab moves forward and the meter up front begins to tick. I hold as still as I can and rub her back with my cheek pressed against the side of her head. About halfway home, when the streetlights from the main road change into porch lights, she raises her head and rests her chin on my shoulder, staring out the back window. I don’t ask her what’s wrong and she doesn’t tell me. She just watches the twinkling lights blur by as we drive forward, into the night, knowing that eventually we’ll reach the end and one of us will finally have to break the silence.

  Chapter 13

  #89 Admit the truth and accept what it means


  The song playing from the cab stereo is cheerful and the singer is professing his love to a girl he ran away from. I envy him because he can admit it to the world. I, on the other hand, just realized that I might be in love with Kayden and that there is no way I’ll ever be able to tell him. Not just from fear of rejection, but from fear of the unknown. I’ve never been in love before. Never understood it. But I realize now that the worry and heartache I’ve been carrying inside me might just be love.

  I clutch onto him, feeling his chest rise and fall underneath me as I watch the Christmas lights blur by in streaks of gold, silver, red, and green. It’s such a pretty time of year, but I’ve never been a fan of it. It reminds me of a time when I used to get excited and run out to the tree to rip presents open. However, the Christmas I was twelve, presents only reminded me of my birthday and the terror that came with that memory would always surface.

  I remember the fir
st Christmas after it happened. I’d lie awake in my bed all night with my eyes open and my gaze fastened on the ceiling, wishing I’d hear reindeer on the roof, like I imagined I did when I was little. But there was no imagination or magic left inside me and all I heard was the dead silence of nighttime and the secrets lying in my heart.

  When I heard my mother walk into my room that morning, I pretended to be asleep.

  “Callie,” she’d whispered. “Callie darling, wake up. ” She gave my shoulder a little shake. “Sweetie, I think Santa brought you some presents. ”

  My eyelids lifted and I met her gaze. She was wearing a pink satin robe and her hair was braided at the nape of her neck. Her makeup wasn’t on, but I thought she looked better without it.

  “Good morning,” she said with a cheerful smile. “Are you ready to go see what presents you got?”

  I was exhausted from lying awake all night and I rolled onto my side, situating my hands beneath the pillow. “I’m not in the mood for presents. ”

  She placed a hand on my back and I jumped, thinking about the last time someone had put a hand on me while I was lying in the bed. “Callie, are you all right? You’ve seemed so sad the last few months. ”

  “I’m fine,” I snapped. “I’m just sick of Christmas and pretending that I believe in things when I really don’t. There is no Santa, Mom. I haven’t believed in him since I was eight. ”

  “Well, of course I know that,” she replied, lifting her hand from my back. “But it takes the magic and fun out of it if we don’t all play along. ”

  “Magic and fun doesn’t exist,” I said, wiggling away from her.

  “And I’m tired of playing along… I’m going to go back to sleep. I’m tired. ”

  She sat there for an eternity, breathing in and out, and then finally she rose to her feet, the mattress rising as her weight left it.

  “All right. ”

  That’s all she said. Then she left and the room and the haunting memories took over again. Even now, I wonder why she never said anything. She had to be able to tell that something was wrong. One of these days, I’ll find the courage to ask her. I have to.

  Otherwise I’ll never know and the answer will always haunt me.

  “Callie. ” Kayden’s voice echoes through my thoughts. I lift my eyes, realizing I’ve dozed off. I elevate my head and glance around at the darkness outside and the ocean in the distance.

  “Did I fall asleep?” I blink my eyes and then let go of his shoulders to rub the dreariness away.

  He nods, sweeping a lock of my hair out of my face. “You did, but that’s okay. ”

  My cheeks and eyes feel swollen from the sting of tears. “I’m sorry. ”

  His fingers linger on my cheekbone and he’s looking into my eyes, terrified. “I said it was okay, Callie. And I promise it is… I liked holding you… It made me feel calm. ”

  I suck back the tears that still want to come out. “Okay. ”

  He nods and there’s a silent agreement that we’re both okay for the moment and that being together is okay. I start to climb off his lap, but he grabs my waist and shifts me aside so I slide onto the seat. I put my feet on the floor, confused as he reaches for his pocket. He takes out his wallet and pulls out a twenty, and then he leans over the seat and hands it to the driver.