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The Redemption of Callie & Kayden
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The dark secret Kayden has kept hidden for years is finally out. Worse, he’s facing charges for battery. The only way to clear his name is for Callie to speak up-something he’ll never ask her to do. Instead, he’ll do whatever he must to protect her . . . even if it means letting go of the only girl he’s ever loved.
Callie knows Kayden is going back to his dark place and desperately wants to save him. But that means facing her greatest fear and admitting her own painful secrets aloud. The thought of breaking her silence terrifies her-but not as much as the thought of losing Kayden forever.
Deep in her heart, Callie knows the time has come for her and Kayden to forget the pain of the past. With the help of her friends Seth and Luke she makes a plan to show Kayden the life they could have. But can she convince him they can make a fresh start together-or is she already too late?
Table of Contents
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#62 Don't break apart
I spend a lot of time writing in my notebook. It's like therapy for me, almost. It's extremely late in the night and I'm wide awake, dreading going back to campus tomorrow morning and leaving Kayden behind. How am I supposed to just leave him, bail out, move on? Everyone keeps telling me that I have to, like it's as simple as picking out an outfit. I was never good at picking out outfits, though.
I'm in the room above the garage, alone, tucked away in the solitude with only my pen and notebook for company. I sigh as I stare at the moon and then let my hand move across the paper almost on its own accord.
I can't get the image out of my mind, no matter how hard I try. Every time I close my eyes, I see Kayden, lying on the floor. Blood covers his body, the floor, the cracks in the tile, and the knives that surround him. He's broken, bleeding, cracked to pieces. To some people he probably seems like he can't be repaired. But I can't think that.
I was once shattered to pieces, destroyed by the hand of another, but now I feel like I'm beginning to reconnect. Or at least I did feel that way. But when I found Kayden on the floor it felt like part of me splintered again. And more of me broke when his mother told me he did it to himself. He cut himself and has probably been doing it for years.
I don't believe it.
I can't believe it. Not when I know about his dad.
I just can't.
My hand stops and I wait for more to come. But that's all I seem to need to write. I lie down in the bed and stare at the moon, wondering how I'm supposed to move forward in life when everything important to me is motionless.
"Wipe that sad frown off your face, Missy." Seth is holding my arm as we walk across the campus yard. It's cold. Rain is drizzling from the gloomy clouds and the sidewalks are covered in murky puddles. There's practically a river running off the rooftops of the historic buildings that enclose the campus. The grass is sloshy beneath my sneakers and the icky weather matches my mood. People are running to and from class and I just want to yell, Slow down and wait for the world to catch up!
"I'm trying," I tell him, but my frown still remains. It's the same frown that's been on my face since I found Kayden a little over a couple of weeks ago. The images hurt my mind and my heart like shards of glass. I know part of this is my fault. I'm the one who let Kayden find out about Caleb. I barely even tried to deny it when he'd asked me. Part of me had wanted him to find out and part of me was glad when Luke had told me Kayden had beat up Caleb.
He nudges me with his elbow and constricts his grip when I trip over my feet and stumble to the side. "Callie, you need to stop worrying all the time." He helps me get my balance. "I know it's hard, but always being sad isn't a good thing. I don't want you going back to the sad girl I first met."
I stop in my tracks and step right into a puddle. The cold water fills my shoes and soaks through my socks. "Seth, I'm not going back to that." I slip my arm out of his and wrap my jacket tightly around myself. "I just can't stop thinking about him… how he looked. It's stuck in my head." It's always in my mind. I didn't want to leave Afton, but my mom threatened me, saying if I failed the semester she wasn't going to let me stay at the house for Christmas break. I'd have nowhere to go. "I just miss him and I feel bad for leaving him there with his family."
"It wouldn't have mattered if you had stayed. They still won't let you see him." Seth brushes his golden blond hair out of his honey brown eyes and looks at me sympathetically as rain drips down on his head and face. "Callie, I know it's hard, especially when they said he did it to… he did it to himself. But you can't break apart."
"I'm not breaking apart." The drizzle of rain suddenly shifts to a downpour and we sprint for the shelter of the trees, shielding our faces with our arms. I tuck damp strands of my brown hair out of my face and behind my ears. "I just can't stop thinking about him." I sigh, wiping away the rain from my face. "Besides, I don't believe that he did it to himself."
His shoulders slump as he pulls down the sleeves of his black button-down jacket. "Callie, I hate to say it but… but what if he did? I know it could have been his dad, but what if it wasn't? What if the doctors are right? I mean, they did send him to that facility for a reason."
Raindrops bead down our faces and my eyelashes flutter against them. "Then he did," I say. "It doesn't change anything." Everyone has secrets, just like me. I'd be a hypocrite if I judge Kayden for self-infliction. "Besides, they didn't send him. The hospital transferred him there so he could be watched while he heals. That's all. He doesn't have to stay there."
Seth offers me a sympathetic smile, but there's pity in his eyes. He leans forward and gives me a quick kiss on the cheek. "I know, and that's why you're you." He moves back from me, turns to his side, and aims his elbow at me. "Now come on, we're going to be late for class."
Sighing, I link elbows with him and we step out into the rain, taking our time as we head to class.
"Maybe we could do something fun," Seth suggests as he opens the door to the main building on campus. He guides me into the warmth and lets the door slam shut behind us. He releases my arm and shakes the front of his jacket, sending raindrops everywhere. "Like we could go to a movie or something. You've been dying to see that one…" He snaps his fingers a few times. "I can't remember what it's called, but you kept talking about it before break."
I shrug, grabbing my ponytail and giving it a good wringing so the water drips out of the end. "I can't remember either. And I don't really feel like seeing a movie."
He frowns. "You need to quit sulking."
"I'm not sulking," I say and massage my hand over my heart. "My heart just hurts all the time."
His shoulders lift and descend as he sighs. "Callie, I—"
I raise my hand and shake my head. "Seth, I know you always want to help me out and I love you for that, but sometimes hurting is just part of life, especially when someone I lo—care about is hurting too."
He arches his eyebrows because of my almost-slip. "Okay then, let's go to class."
I nod and follow him up the hall. My clothes are wet from the rain and there's water in my shoes. Even though it's cold and the water sticks my clothes to my body, it reminds me of a beautiful time full of magical kisses and I need to hold onto that.
Because for now, it's all I've got.
Time drags on. Classes are ending, wrapping up for winter break. I've been staring at my English book for so long it feels like my eyes are bleeding and the words look identical. I rub my eyes with my fingertips, pretending like the room doesn't smell like pot and that Violet, my roommate, isn't passed out in the bed across from mine. She's been like that for the last ten hours. I'd be worried she was dead, but she keeps muttering incoherently in her sleep.
On top of studying for the English exam, I'm supposed to be writing an essay. I joined a creative writing club at the beginning of the year, and at the end of it, I'm supposed to turn in three projects: a poem, a short story, and a nonfiction piece. As much as I love to write, I'm struggling with the idea of putting truth down on paper for other people to read. I'm afraid of what might come out if I really open up. Or maybe it's because it seems silly to write a paper about the truth of life when Kayden's in an institution living the truth. All I've typed so far is: Where the Leaves Go by Callie Lawrence. I'm uncertain of where I'll go with this.
The rain from earlier has frozen into fluffy snowflakes that sail from the sky and a silvery sheet of ice glistens across the campus yard. I tap my fingers on the top of my book, thinking about home and how there's probably three or four feet of snow and how my mom's car is probably stuck in the driveway. I can picture the snowplow roaming the town's streets, and my dad doing warm-ups inside the gym because it's too cold to be outside. And Kayden is still in the hospital under supervision because they think he tried to kill himself. It's been a few weeks since it happened. He was out of it for quite a while from the blood transfusion and lacerations to his body. Then he woke up and no one could see him because he's considered "high risk" and "under surveillance" (Kayden's mother's words, not mine).
My phone is sitting on my bed next to a pile of study sheets and an array of highlighters. I pick it up, dial Kayden's number, and wait for his voicemail message to come on.
"Hey, this is Kayden, I'm way too busy to take your call right now, so please leave a message and maybe you'll be lucky enough that I'll call you back." There's sarcasm in his voice like he thinks he's being funny and I smile, missing him so badly it pierces my heart.
I listen to it over and over again until I can hear the underlying pain in his sarcasm, the one that carries his secrets. Eventually, I hang up and flop back on my bed, wishing I could travel back in time and not let Kayden find out that it was Caleb who raped me.
"God, what time is it?" Violet sits up in her bed and blinks her bloodshot eyes at the leather-band watch on her wrist. She shakes her head and gathers her black-and-red-streaked hair out of her face. She gazes out the window at the snow and then looks at me. "How long have I been out?"
I shrug, staring up at the ceiling. "I think, like, ten hours?"
She throws the blanket off herself and climbs out of bed. "Fuck, I missed my chemistry class."
"You take chemistry?" I don't mean for it to sound so rude, but the shock of her taking chemistry comes through in my voice. Violet and I have shared a room for three months, and from what I can tell, she likes to party and she likes guys.
She gives me a dirty look as she slips her arm through the sleeve of her leather jacket. "What? You don't think I can party and be smart?"
I shake my head. "No, that's not what I meant. I just—"
"I know what you meant—what you think of me, and everyone else thinks of me." She snatches her bag from the desk, sniffs her shirt, and shrugs. "But some advice: Maybe you shouldn't judge people by their looks."
"I don't," I tell her, feeling bad. "I'm sorry if you think I judged you."
She collects her phone from the desk and tosses it into her bag, then heads for the door. "Listen, if some guy named Jesse comes by, can you pretend that you haven't seen me all day?"
"Why?" I ask, sitting up.
"Because I don't want him to know I've been here." She opens the door and glances back over her shoulder. "God, you've been a little snippy lately. When I first met you, I thought you were like a doormat. But lately, you've been kind of cranky."
"I know," I say quietly, with my chin tucked down. "And I'm sorry. I've just been having a rough few weeks."
She pauses in the doorway, eyeing me over. "Are you…" She shifts her weight, looking uncomfortable. Whatever she's trying to say seems to be hard for her. "Are you okay?"
I nod and something crosses over her face, maybe pain, and for a second I wonder if Violet's okay. But then she shrugs and walks out, slamming the door behind her. I release a loud breath and lie back down on the bed. The need to shove my finger down my throat and free the heavy, foul feelings in my stomach strangles me. Damn it. I need therapy. I reach for my phone without sitting up and dial my therapist's number, aka Seth, and my best friend in the whole world.
"I love you to death, Callie," Seth says as he answers after three rings. "But I think I'm about to get lucky so this better be important."
I scrunch my nose as my cheeks heat. "It's not… I just wanted to see what was up. But if you're busy, I'll let you go."
He sighs. "I'm sorry, that came out a lot ruder than I planned. If you really need me, I can totally talk. You know you're my first priority."
"Are you with Greyson?" I ask.
"Of course," he replies with humor in his tone. "I'm not a man-whore skank."
A giggle slips through my lips and I'm amazed how much better I feel just from talking to him. "I promise I'm fine. I'm just bored and was looking for an escape from my English book." I shove the book off the bed and roll onto my stomach, propping myself up onto my elbows. "I'll let you go."
"Are you really, really sure?"
"I'm one hundred percent sure. Now go have fun."
"Oh, trust me. I'm planning on it," he replies and I laugh, but it hurts my stomach. I start to hang up when he adds, "Callie, if you need to hang out with someone, you could call Luke… You two are kind of going through the same thing. I mean, with missing Kayden and not really understanding."
I bite at my fingernails. I've spent time with Luke, but I'm still uncomfortable being alone with guys, except for Seth. Besides, things are weird between Luke and me because we haven't officially talked about what happened at Kayden's. It's the white elephant in the room, the massive, sad, heartbroken elephant. "I'll think about it."
"Good. And if you do, make sure to ask him about yesterday in Professor McGellon's class."
"Why? What happened?"
He giggles mischievously. "Just ask him."
"Okay…" I say, unsure if I really want to. If Seth thinks it's funny then there's a good chance that whatever happened might embarrass me. "Have fun with Greyson."
"You too, baby girl," he says and hangs up.
I hit END and scroll through my contacts until I reach Luke's number. My finger hovers over the DIAL button for an eternity and then I chicken out and drop the phone down onto the bed. I get up and slip on my Converses—the ones stained with the green paint—because they remind me of a happy time in life. I zip up my jacket, put my phone into the pocket, and collect my keycard and journal before heading outside.
It's colder than a freezer, but I walk aimlessly through the vacant campus before finally taking a seat on one of the frosted benches. It's snowing but the tree branches create a canopy above my head. I open my journal, pull the top of my jacket over my nose, and begin to scribble down my thoughts, pouring out my heart and soul to blank sheets of paper because it's therapeutic.
I remember my sixteenth birthday like I remember how to add. It's there locked away in my head whenever I need it, although I don't use it often. It was the day I learned to drive. My mom had always been really weird about letting my brother and me anywhere near the wheel of a vehicle until we were old enough to drive. She said it was to protect us from ourselves and other drivers. I remember thinking how strange it was, her wanting to protect us, because there were so many things—huge, life-changing things—she'd never protected us from. Like the fact that my brother had been smoking pot since he was fourteen. Or the fact that Caleb raped me in my own room when I was twelve. Deep down, I knew it wasn't her fault, but the thought always crossed my mind: Why hadn't she protected me?
So at sixteen, I finally got behind the driver's seat for the very first time. I was terrified and my palms were sweating so badly I could barely hold onto the wheel. My dad had also had a lifted truck and I could barely see over the dash.
"Can't we please just drive Mom's car?" I asked my dad as I turned the key in the ignition.
He buckled his seat belt and shook his head. "It's better to learn on the big dog first, that way driving the car will be a piece of cake."
I buckled my own seat belt and wiped my sweaty palms on the front of my jeans. "Yeah, but I can barely see over the wheel."
He smiled and gave me a pat on the shoulder. "Callie, I know driving is scary, like life. But you're perfectly capable of handling this; otherwise I wouldn't let you."
I almost broke down and told him what happened to me on my twelfth birthday. I almost told him that I couldn't handle it. That I couldn't handle anything. But fear owned me and I pressed on the gas and drove the truck forward.
I ended up running over the neighbor's mailbox and proving my dad wrong. I wasn't allowed to drive for the next few months and I was glad. Because to me driving meant growing up and I didn't want to grow up. I wanted to be a child. I wanted to be twelve years old and still have the excitement of life and boys and kisses and crushes ahead of me.
"Fuck, it's freezing out here."
My head snaps up at the sound of Luke's voice and I quickly shut my journal. He's standing a few feet away from me with his hands tucked into the pockets of his jeans and the hood of his dark blue jacket tugged over his head.
"What are you doing out here?" I ask, sliding my pen into the spiral of the notebook.
His shoulders rise and fall as he shrugs and then he sits down beside me. He stretches his legs out in front of himself and crosses his ankles. "I got a random call from Seth telling me that I should come out here and check up on you. That you might need to be cheered up."
My gaze sweeps the campus yard. "Sometimes I wonder if he has spy cameras all over the place. He seems to know everything, you know."
Luke nods in agreement. "He does, doesn't he."
I return his nod and then it grows quiet. Snowflakes drift down and our breath laces in front of our faces. I wonder why he's really here. Did Seth tell him I needed to be watched?
"You want to go somewhere?" Luke uncrosses his ankles and sits up straight. "I don't know about you, but I could really use a break from this place."
"Yeah." I don't even hesitate, which surprises me. Does that mean I'm getting over my trust issues?
He smiles genuinely, but there's intensity in his eyes; something that's always there. I used to be intimidated by it, but now I know it's just him. Besides, I think he hides behind it—maybe fear, loneliness, or the pain of life.
I tuck my notebook underneath my arm and we get to our feet. We hike across the campus yard, heading toward the unknown, but I guess that's okay for now. I'll know where I'm going when I get there.
#22 Make a decision that frightens you
Whenever I close my eyes, all I see is Callie. Callie. Callie. Callie. I can almost feel the softness of her hair and skin, taste her, smell the scent of her shampoo. I miss her so fucking badly I can't breathe sometimes. If I could sleep forever, I would, just so I could hold onto the one thing that makes me happy. But eventually I have to open my eyes and face the reality I put on myself.
What's left of my life?
I probably don't deserve to think about Callie, not after what I did, after she found me… like that. She knows my secret now, the darkest one I've hidden inside me since I was a kid, the one that's the biggest part of me. The worst part of it is that she didn't hear it from me. She heard it from my mother.
It's for the best, though. Callie can go on living her life and she can be happy not having to deal with my problems. I'll stay here and keep my eyes shut and hold onto the memory of her for as long as I can because that's what keeps me breathing.
I'd never been afraid of death. My dad started beating the shit out of me when I was young and an early death always kind of seemed inevitable. Then Callie entered my life and my acceptance of an early death was wrecked. I'm afraid of death now, something I realized after I cut my arms. I can remember watching the blood drip onto the floor and then staring at the bloody knife in my hand. All this doubt and fear had washed through me and I'd regretted it. But it had already been done. As I lay down on the floor, all I could see was Callie's sad face when she'd hear the news that I was dead. There would be no one to protect her from the world if I was gone. And she needed protecting—deserved it more than anyone. And I was such a fuckup that I couldn't even give her that.
About two weeks after the incident, I was transferred to the Brayman's Facility, which isn't much better than the hospital. It's located over on the side of town near the garbage dump and an old trailer park. The room is bare, with plain white walls, no decorations and a stained linoleum floor. The air smells a little less sterilized, but the garbage dump odor drifts into my room sometimes. There's not so much death lingering over everyone's heads, but people really like to talk about it. I've been here for only a few days and I'm not sure when I'll be ready to leave yet. I'm not sure about a lot of things.
I'm lying in bed, which I do a lot, staring out the window, wondering what Callie is doing right now. I hope something fun that makes her happy and smile.
It's almost time for my checkup so I slowly sit up in the bed, placing my hand over my side where I was stitched up. The knife miraculously missed my organs and it was actually the less severe of my injuries. I was lucky. That's what everyone kept telling me. I was also lucky I didn't cut any major arteries on my wrist. Lucky. Lucky. Lucky. The word keeps getting thrown around, like everyone's trying to remind me how precious life is. I don't believe in luck though, and I'm not even sure I believe that surviving means I'm lucky.
Several times while I was in the hospital, I thought about telling someone what really happened, but I was so doped up on painkillers that I couldn't seem to clear my head enough to get around to it. When the fog in my brain finally cleared, I saw the situation for what it was. I'd just kicked Caleb's ass, I was considered unstable, and the scars on my body raised concern for self-mutilation. I'd be going up against my father and I'd lose, like I always have. There was no point in telling anyone what really happened. People would see only what they want to.
The nurse enters my room with my chart in her hand and a cheery smile on her face. She's older, with blonde hair and dark roots, and she always has red lipstick on her teeth.
"How you doin' today, hun?" she ask in a high voice, like I'm a child. It's the same tone the doctors use on me because I'm the kid who tried to slit his wrists and then stabbed himself with a kitchen knife.
"I'm fine," I reply and take the little white pills she offers me. I don't know what they're for, but I think they're some kind of sedative because every time I swallow them I fall in and out of consciousness. Which is fine. It numbs the pain, and that's all I've ever wanted.
Ten minutes after the pills go down my throat, drowsiness takes over and I lie down in the bed. I'm about to fall asleep when the familiar scent of expensive perfume burns at my nostrils. I keep my eyes shut. I don't want to talk to her and pretend everything's okay and that my father didn't stab me. I hate pretending that she doesn't know and that she's worried about me.
"Kayden, are you awake?" she asks in a sedated tone, which means she's on something. She pokes my arm with her fingernail and the gesture is rough and scratches my skin. I shut my eyes tighter and cross my arms, wishing she would scrape it harder, cut the skin open and erase everything I'm feeling.
"Kayden Owens." Her sharp voice is like nails on a chalkboard. "Listen, I know you don't want to hear this, but it's time to get your shit together. Get up, start eating better, and prove to the doctors that you're okay to come home."
I say nothing and don't open my eyes. I just listen to my heart beat. Thump, thump. Thump, thump.
Her breathing accelerates. "Kayden Owens, I will not let you ruin this family's reputation. Now fix this mess." She grabs the blanket and flings it off me. "Get up, go to therapy, and prove you're not a threat to yourself."
My eyelids gradually open and I turn my head toward her. "What about Dad? Is he still a threat to me?"
She looks like shit, dark circles under her eyes and she's wearing a heavy amount of makeup to try and cover it up. She's still all done up in a fancy red dress, with jewelry and a fur coat, her elaborate façade to hide the ugly in her life. "Your father did nothing wrong. He was just upset at what you did."
"You mean beating the shit out of Caleb," I clarify as I put my hands on the bed, push myself up, and lean against the headboard.
Her eyes turn cold. "Yes, I mean that. Getting into fights is not acceptable. You're lucky Caleb's okay. Although he's still deciding if he's going to press charges. Your dad's working on trying to make a bargain with him."
"What?" It feels like a thousand razor-sharp needles have slid underneath my skin. "Why?"
"Because we're not going to let you drag this family's reputation down the drain with your pathetic life. We're going to keep this as quiet as we can."
"So you're bribing him with money," I utter through clenched teeth. Fuck. I want to hit something hard, ram my fist into a metal wall, split open my knuckles, and watch them bleed. I don't want my father taking care of this. I don't want to owe him anything. He'll hold it over my head for the rest of my life. Fuck. This whole situation is so messed up.
"Yes, with money," she snaps and takes her makeup compact out of her purse. "Your father's hard-earned money, which you should be very grateful for."
"Let Caleb press charges." I honestly don't care anymore. Almost every part of me has died and what's still alive is just waiting until the next incision. "I don't give a shit. It'd be better than letting Dad pay him off."
She checks her reflection, pursing her lips, and then clicks the compact shut. "You're so ungrateful." She storms toward the door, her high heels clicking against the dingy linoleum. "You're the most frustrating child in the world. Your brothers never gave me problems like this."
- "Romantic, suspenseful and well written---this is a story you won't want to put down."—RT Book Reviews on The Coincidence of Callie & Kayden
- "Sorensen's portrayal of... relationships and long-distance love, as well as the longing to escape one's past, raises her above her new adult peers."—RT Book Reviews on The Secret of Ella and Micha
- On Sale
- Feb 11, 2014
- Page Count
- 416 pages