The coincidence of calli.., p.8
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       The Coincidence of Callie & Kayden, p.8

         Part #1 of The Coincidence series by Jessica Sorensen
 
Page 8

 

  He’s wearing jeans that hang low on his hips and a long-sleeve, dark grey Henley. The way he moves is captivating. He’s got a lot of swagger in the movement of his hips, yet his shoulders bend in and his whole stomach area looks stiff, as if walking causes him pain.

  I step back to the truck and wait with my arms crossed over my chest. When he sees me, his lips turn upward and he waves good-bye to the girl, who I think is in my Philosophy class.

  “Sorry I’m late. ” He hitches his thumb over his shoulder at the girl walking away. “Kellie needed help with an English assignment. Were you waiting here a long time?”

  I drop my arms to my side then fold them over my chest again, unable to figure out what to do with them. “Not for too long. ”

  He steps off the curb and I began to recoil as he reaches toward my side. But he grips the door handle and I relax, sidestepping so he can open it.

  “Are you okay?” He pulls the door open and the hinges creak as bits of rust fall off the edge.

  Nodding, I put one foot up on the floor of the truck, and hop in. The vinyl fabric of the seat is frayed and pokes through my jeans, scratching at my skin. He slams the door and I wring my hands on top of my lap. It’s the first time I’ve been alone with a guy in a car before, except for Seth, and my heart challenges my chest to endure its wrath.

  “Callie, are you sure you’re okay?” he asks with his hands on top of the steering wheel. “You look a little pale. ”

  I force my eyes to concentrate on him, trying not to blink too much. “I’m fine. I’m just a little tired. College wears me out. ”

  “I completely agree on that. ” He offers me a smile that crinkles around his eyes as he starts up the engine. It chugs and then backfires. “Sorry, Luke’s truck is a piece of shit. ”

  I spread my sweaty palms flat on my knees. “What happened to your car? The one you used to drive to school. Did you leave it at home?”

  His throat muscles work to swallow a lump in his throat. “My dad has a rule that once we leave the house, we’re on our own. The car was bought by him, so therefore it’s his. ”

  I nod, reaching over my shoulder to grab the seatbelt. “I don’t have a car either. My parents offered to give me my brother’s old car, but I declined. ”

  “Why?” He shoves the shifter into gear and the tires roll forward. “It seems like life would be easier if you had one. ”

  I click the buckle into the lock and then watch the leafy trees zip by as we pull out onto the street and away from the campus. “It seemed like too much responsibility, I guess. Besides, I wasn’t really planning on leaving the campus very much. ”

  He turns on the wipers to wash the grime off the windshield. “I kind of have a question and feel free not to answer it. ” He dithers. “How come you never hung out with anyone in high school? After I started thinking about it, I just don’t remember you doing anything. ”

  I scratch at the back of my neck until it stings. “That’s because I didn’t do anything. ”

  He watches me, waiting for me to elaborate, his eyes on me instead of the road, but I can’t tell him anything. It’s my secret and I’ll take it to the grave of shame.

  “There’s this really awesome place I heard about where you can stand up on the hills and see the whole town,” he says. “I was thinking we could go there. It’s not too far of a hike. ”

  “A hike?” I question. “Like we would walk up a mountain?”

  He laughs and I feel like a moron. “Yeah, like we’d walk up hills and everything. ”

  I scrunch up my nose at my brown boots that fold down at the top. They’re a size too small and just walking around campus gives me blisters. “Okay, I guess we can go on a hike. ”

  His lips part as he starts to say something, but his phone rings from inside his pocket. His brows decline as he reads the name on the glowing screen. “Can you be quiet for a second?” he asks with a guilty face.

  I nod, eyeing his phone. “Sure. ”

  “Hey baby, what’s up?” he answers and I can hear Daisy’s voice on the other end.

  “Then don’t say that to them and maybe they won’t get mad. ” Kayden pauses. “Yeah, I know. I miss you too. I can’t wait until homecoming…. No, I haven’t got a tux yet. ”

  A hint of jealousy burns in my heart. When I was younger, I dreamt of going to prom and wearing a pretty dress with lots of sparkles on it. I even wanted a tiara, which seems silly now.

  “I love you too. ” He says flatly and then quickly hangs up the phone.

  My jealousy lifts and I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding.

  He tosses the phone onto the seat between us. “That was Daisy… you know Daisy McMillian, right?”

  “Yeah, a little. ”

  “By your tone, I’m guessing you don’t like her. ”

  “Why would you guess that?”

  His hands grip the wheel as his eyes evaluate me. “Because most people don’t. ”

  “If that’s the case, then why do you date her?” I ask, wondering where the forwardness is coming from.

  He shrugs, his jawline rigid. “She’s a nice girlfriend. She keeps me happy for the most part. ”

  “Oh, sorry. I’m being pushy, aren’t I?” I grip the edge of my seatbelt as he turns onto a dirt road with large potholes and a very sharp drop off on the side of it. It weaves up into the mountains that are green with trees and grass.

  “You weren’t being pushy. I was asking you questions first. ” He grinds his jaw and his fingers tighten on the wheel.

  We’re quiet for the rest of the drive and I can tell something must have upset him. The wheels in his head are turning as his mind sorts through something complex.

  A ways up the hill, he cranks the steering wheel to the right and veers the truck toward a turnout. A long ditch sections across the entrance and he gradually slows down. The truck bumps and then slants as he pumps the gas again and ramps back up, jolting us from left to right. When we’re on flat land again, he directs the bumper at the trees and inches it forward until it’s close, then shoves the shifter into park and turns the engine off.

  A steep hill slopes up in front of us and there is graffiti on the side of a rock in various colors marking dates, lyrics, poems, and declarations of love. There are other vehicles parked next to us and on the road. People are on the path and up on top of the hill. I’m glad we’re not alone, but don’t like that there are a lot of people. It’s kind of problematic.

  He flips the handle and prods the door open with his elbow. “I promise it’s not that far. At least that’s what I’ve been told. If it ends up being intense, just let me know and we can turn back. ”

  “Okay, I will. ” I push my door open and swing my feet out, avoiding a puddle. I meet him around the front of the truck and tuck my hands into my pockets that are lined with soft fabric and the feel of it brings me comfort, because it reminds me of a teddy bear.

  We walk up the dirt path and pass by a couple sitting on a boulder in hiking boots with backpacks on. They wave at us and Kayden returns the wave while I stare up at a rock that is stained with paint.

  “What is that?” I wonder aloud and read one of the quotes. “Seize the day, take hold of it, and make it whatever you want. ”

  He dodges to the side of the path to avoid a large hole and his shoulder accidentally bumps into mine. “I guess it’s a tradition for the seniors at UW to come up here and write words of wisdom to all future seniors. ”

  “Rock on and prosper. ” I glance at him, my lips quirking. “That’s very deep. ”

  He laughs and lines form around his mouth. “I never said they were all words of wisdom, only that I heard that’s what they are supposed to be. ”

  I scoot over toward the rocky hill to gain a little distance between us. “It seems like a good idea, kind of. To mark the end with whatever you want. ”

  “It does, doesn’t it?” He hops over a massive rock, his len
gthy legs stretching as he lands on top of it, and then leaps off the other side. He’s panting, smiling, and proud of himself. “It’s kind of like the whole bonfire thing back in Afton, where we write down our thoughts on a piece of paper and then burn it. ”

  “I never went to that,” I admit, clenching my hands into fists. If I had, I would have been tortured by people whispering that I was a devil worshiper who never ate anything. Because my hacked job hair, excessive black eyeliner, and antisocial behavior could have only been the work of the devil.

  “Oh. ” He examines me for a while as I pretend not to notice. “Callie, I’d like to get to know you. I mean, you saved my ass and I barely know anything about you. ”

  I pluck a leaf off a bush and peel at the waxy edges. “There’s not much to know, really. I’m kind of a boring person. ”

  “I doubt that’s true. ” He kicks a rock over the ledge of the cliff. “How about I’ll tell you something about me and then you can tell me something about you?”

  “What kinds of things?”

  “Whatever you want. ”

  We halt as we reach the end of the path. It widens to an area bordered by hills and boulders and there’s an enormous cliff paved by edges that look like stairs. It’s steep, but climbable.

  “How do we get up?” I drop the leaf onto the ground and tip my head back to look at the top.

  Rubbing his hands together, he grabs a hold of one of the stairs and props his shoe onto the lower one. “We climb up. ” With a bounce of his knee, he jumps up, like he’s ascending up a rock wall. Once he’s halfway up, he looks over his shoulder at me. “Are you coming?”

  I glance behind me at the path curving down the hill, and then back up at the cliff. Take a chance for God’s sake. Even though I’m afraid of heights, I grip the coarse edge, bounce onto my toes, and heave myself up. Positioning each of my feet on a ledge, I maneuver my way up to the next one, getting lightheaded the higher I climb. When I look down, I freeze with the fear of splattering against the rocks below. The wind sneaks through my hair and pieces slip loose from the elastic.

  “Are you going to make it?” He stands at the top with his hands on his hips like he’s the king of the world, which would be an awesome job, if it existed. I could wear a crown and everyone would have to listen to me. If I said stay away, then they would.

  I inhale through my nose and move my hand to the next step. “Yeah…” As my fingers slip, I squeeze my eyes tightly and my back bows inward. I’m not going to fall, but it makes me feel helpless and I can’t move.

  “Fuck, Callie,” he says. “Give me your hand. ”

  My fingers snag another ledge and I dig them in as my airflow decreases. Dizziness swarms through my brain and my knees tremble, about to buckle underneath me.

  “Callie, open your eyes,” Kayden says in a soft, but commanding voice and I crack an eyelid open. He’s climbed down and his feet are just above my head with his long arm stretched toward me. “Give me your hand and I’ll help you get up. ”