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The Coincidence of Callie & Kayden
By Jessica Sorensen
Grand Central PublishingCopyright © 2013 Jessica Sorensen
All rights reserved.
#4: Wear a Shirt with Color.
4 months later ...
I often wonder what drives people to do things. Whether it's put into their minds at birth, or if it is learned as they grow. Maybe it's even forced upon them by circumstances that are out of their hands. Does anyone have control over their lives or are we all helpless?
"God, it's like spazzville around here today," Seth comments, scrunching his nose at the arriving freshmen swarming the campus yard. Then he waves his hand in front of my face. "Are you spacing off on me again?"
I blink away from my thoughts. "Now don't be arrogant." I nudge his shoulder with mine playfully. "Just because we both decided to do the summer semester and we know where everything is, doesn't make us better than them."
"Uh, yeah, it kind of does." He rolls his honey-brown eyes at me. "We're like the upper-class freshmen."
I press back a smile and sip my latte. "You know there's no such thing as an upper-class freshman."
He sighs, ruffling his golden blond locks, which look like he gets them highlighted in a salon, but they're actually natural. "Yeah, I know. Especially for people like you and me. We're like two black sheep."
"There are many more black sheep than you and me." I shield my eyes from the sun with my hand. "And I've toned it down. I'm even wearing a red T-shirt today, like the list said to do."
The corners of his lips tug upward. "Which would look even better if you'd let those pretty locks of yours down, instead of hiding them in that ponytail all the time."
"One step at a time," I say. "It was hard enough just letting my hair grow out. It makes me feel weird. And it doesn't matter because that has yet to be added to the list."
"Well it needs to be," he replies. "In fact, I'm doing it when I get back to my room."
Seth and I have a list of things we have to do, even if we're scared, repulsed, or incapable. If it's on the list, we have to do it and we have to cross off one thing at least once a week. It was something we did after we confessed our darkest secrets to each other, locked away in my room, during my first real bonding moment with a human being.
"And you still wear that God-awful hoodie," he continues, jerking on the bottom of my gray faded jacket. "I thought we talked about that hideous thing. You're beautiful and you don't need to cover up. Besides, it's like eighty degrees outside."
I wrap my jacket around myself self-consciously, gripping at the edge of the fabric. "Subject change please."
He loops arms with mine as he leans his weight on me, forcing me to scoot over to the edge of the sidewalk as people pass by us. "Fine, but one day we're going to talk about a complete makeover, in which I will supervise."
I sigh. "We'll see."
I met Seth my first day at UW during Pre-Calculus. Our inability to understand numbers was a great conversation starter and our friendship kind of grew from there. Seth is the only friend I've really had since sixth grade, besides a brief friendship with the new girl in school who didn't know the "Anorexic, Devil-Worshipping Callie" everyone else saw me as.
Seth abruptly stops walking and swings in front of me. He's wearing a gray T- shirt and a pair of black skinny jeans. His hair is stylishly tousled and his long eyelashes are the envy of every girl.
"I just have to say one more thing." He touches the tip of his finger to the corner of my eye. "I like the maroon eyeliner much better than the excessive black."
"I have your approval on that." I press my hand dramatically to my heart. "I'm so relieved. It's been weighing on my mind since this morning."
He makes a face and his eyes scroll down my red T-shirt that brushes the top of my form-fitting jeans. "You're doing great in every department, I just wish you'd wear a dress or shorts or something for once and show off those legs of yours."
My face plummets along with my mood. "Seth, you know why ... I mean, you know ... I can't ..."
"I know. I'm just trying to be encouraging."
"I know you are and that's why I love you." I love him for more than that actually. I love him because he's the first person I felt comfortable enough with to tell my secrets to, but maybe that's because he understands what it's like to be hurt inside and out.
"You're so much happier than when I first met you." He tucks my bangs behind my ear. "I wish you could be this way around everyone, Callie. That you would stop hiding from everyone. It's sad no one gets to see how great you are."
"And vice versa," I say, because Seth hides as much as I do.
He takes my empty Styrofoam cup from my hand and tosses it into a garbage can beside one of the benches. "What do you think? Should we hit up one of the tours and make fun of the tour guide?"
"You know the way to my heart." I beam and his laughter lights up his entire face.
We stroll up the sidewalk in the shade of the trees toward the front doors of the main office, which is a few stories high with a peaked roof. It has a historical look to it, tan brick with a lot of wear and tear, like it belongs in an older era. The yard that centers all the buildings looks like a triangular maze with randomly placed concrete paths that cross the lawn. It's a pretty place to go to school, lots of trees, and open space, but it took some getting used to.
There is confusion in the air as students and parents attempt to find their way around. I'm completely distracted when I hear a faint, "Heads up."
My head snaps up just in time to see a guy running straight for me with his hands in the air and a football flying at him. His solid body collides with mine and I fall flat onto my back, cracking my head and elbow against the pavement. Pain erupts through my arm and I can't breathe.
"Get off me," I say, writhing my body in a panic. The weight and heat off him makes me feel like I'm drowning. "Get off now!"
"I'm so sorry." He rolls to the side and quickly climbs off me. "I didn't see you there."
I blink the spots away from my eyes until his face comes into focus; brown hair that flips up at the ears, piercing emerald eyes, and a smile that will melt a girl's heart. "Kayden?"
His eyebrows furrow and his hand falls to his side. "Do I know you?" There's a small scar below his right eye and I wonder if it's from where his dad hit him that night.
A tiny prickle forms in my heart that he can't remember who I am. Getting to my feet, I brush the dirt and grass off my sleeves. "Um, no, sorry. I thought you were someone else."
"But you got the name right." His tone carries doubt as he scoops the football off the grass. "Wait, I do know you, don't I?"
"I'm really sorry for getting in your way." I snag Seth's hand and haul him toward the entrance doors where there's a big "Welcome Students" banner.
When we're in the corridor by the glass display cases, I let go of him and lean against the brick wall, catching my breath. "That was Kayden Owens."
"Oh." He glances back at the entrance as students swarm inside. "The Kayden Owens? The one you saved?"
"I didn't save him," I clarify. "I just interrupted something."
"Something that was about to get ugly."
"Anyone would have done the same thing."
His fingers seize my elbow as I attempt to walk down the hall and he pulls me back to him. "No, a lot of people would have walked by. It's a common fact that a lot of people will turn their heads in the other direction when something bad is happening. I know this from experience."
My heart aches for him and what he went through. "I'm sorry you had to go through that."
"Don't be sorry, Callie," he says with a heavy-hearted sigh. "You have your own sad story."
We make our way down the slender hallway until it opens up and there is a table stacked with flyers and pamphlets on it. People are standing in line, staring at schedules, talking to their parents, looking scared and excited.
"He didn't even recognize you," he comments as he works through the crowd to the front of the line, cutting in front of everyone, and grabs a pink flyer.
"He barely recognized me ever," I shake my head when he offers me a cookie from a plate on the table.
"Well, he should recognize you now." He picks up a sugar cookie, scrapes the sprinkles off, and bites off the corner. Crumbs fall from his lips as he chews. "You did save his ass from getting beat."
"It's not that big of a deal," I say, even though it does stab at my heart a little. "Now, can we please change the subject to something else?"
"It is a big deal." He sighs when I frown at him. "Fine, I'll keep my mouth shut. Now come on, let's go find a tour guide to torture."
I've been haunted by a nightmare every single God damn night for the last four months. I'm curled up near the pool house and my dad's beating the shit out of me. He's madder than I've ever seen him, probably because I did one of the worst things imaginable to him. There's murder in his eyes and every ounce of humanity is gone, consumed by rage.
As his fist hammers against my face, warm blood pours along my skin and splatters against his shirt. I know this time he's probably going to kill me and I should finally fight back, but I was taught to die on the inside. Plus I just don't seem to care anymore.
Then someone appears from the shadows and interrupts us. When I wipe the blood from my eyes, I realize it's a girl terrified out of her mind. I don't quite understand it, why she intervened, but I owe her a lot.
Callie Lawrence saved my fucking life that night, more than she probably realized. I wish she knew, but I never could figure out how to tell her, nor have I seen her since it happened. I heard she went off to college early to start her life and I envy her.
My first day on campus is going pretty well, especially after my mom and dad left. Once they drove away, I could breathe for the very first time in my life.
Luke and I wander around the busy campus trying to figure out where everything is, while tossing a football back and forth. The sun is bright, the trees are green, and there's so much newness in the air it gets me pumped up. I want to start over, be happy, live for once.
On a particularly long throw, I end up running over a girl. I feel like an asshole, especially because she's so small and fragile looking. Her blue eyes are enlarged and she looks scared to death. What's even weirder is she knows me, but takes off running when I question how she does.
It's bugging the hell out of me. I can't stop thinking about her face and the familiarity. Why can't I figure out who the hell she is?
"Did you see that girl?" I ask Luke. He's been my best friend since second grade when we both realized how mutually screwed up our home lives were, although for different reasons.
"The one you just ran over?" He folds up the schedule and tucks it into his back pocket of his jeans. "She kind of reminds me of that quiet girl we used to go to school with—the one Daisy was dead set on torturing."
My eyes move to the entrance doors where she disappeared. "Callie Lawrence?"
"Yeah, I think that was her name." He blows out a stressed breath as he turns around in the middle of the lawn trying to get his bearings. "But I don't think it's her. She wasn't wearing all that black shit around her eyes and Callie had a haircut that made her look like a guy. Plus, I think that girl was thinner."
"Yeah, she did look different." But if it is Callie, I need to talk to her about that night. "Callie was always thin, though. That's why Daisy made fun of her."
"That was one of the reasons she made fun of her," he reminds me and his face twists with repulsion at something behind me. "I think I'm going to go find our room." Luke hurries off toward the corner of the school building before I can say anything.
"There you are." Daisy comes up from behind me and I'm overwhelmed by the smell of perfume and hairspray.
Suddenly I understand why Luke ran off like there was a fire. He doesn't like Daisy for many reasons; one being that he thinks Daisy is a bitch. And she is, but it works for me because she allows me to stay detached from feeling anything, which is the only way I know how to live life.
"I sure hope you weren't just talking about me." Daisy wraps her arms around my midsection and massages my stomach with her fingertips. "Unless it was something good."
I turn around and kiss her forehead. She's wearing a low-cut blue dress and a necklace that rests between her tits. "No one was talking about you. Luke just went to find his room."
She bites down on her glossy lip and bats her eyelashes at me. "Good, because I'm already nervous about leaving my ridiculously hot boyfriend. Remember you can flirt, but you can't touch." Daisy gets bored easily and says things to start drama.
"No touching. Got it," I say, holding back an eye roll. "And again, no one was talking about you."
She twines a strand of her curly blond hair around her finger with a thoughtful expression on her face. "I don't mind if you talk about me, just as long as it's good."
I met Daisy when I was in tenth grade and she moved to our school. She was the hot new freshman and was very aware that she was. I was pretty popular, but hadn't really dated anyone, just messed around. I was more focused on football, like my dad wanted me to be. Daisy seemed interested, though, and a couple of weeks later, we were officially a couple. She's self-involved and she never asks where all my bruises, cuts, and scars come from. She brought it up once, the first time we fucked, and I told her it was from a four-wheeling accident when I was a kid. She didn't question the fresh ones.
"Look, baby, I got to go." I give her a quick kiss on the lips. "I have to check in and unpack and figure out where the hell everything is."
"Oh, fine." She pouts out her bottom lip and runs her fingers through my hair, guiding my lips back to hers for a deep kiss. When she pulls away, she smiles. "I guess I'll go back home and try to fill up my time with boring old high school."
"I'm sure you'll be fine," I say to her as I back toward the doors, maneuvering between the people flooding the sidewalk. "I'll be back for homecoming."
She waves as she turns for the parking lot. I keep my eyes on her until she's in her car and then I go into the school. The air is cooler inside, the lights are faint, and there's a lot of shouting and disorganization.
"We don't need a tour." I walk up to Luke, who's standing near the sign-up table, reading a pink flyer. "And weren't you going to find your room or was that your excuse to escape Daisy?"
"The girl drives me fucking crazy." He rakes his hand through his short, brown hair. "And I was headed there, but then I realized it'd be much easier if I went on a tour so I know where everything is."
Luke is a very structured person when it comes to school and sports. It makes sense to me since I know about his past, but from an outsider's point of view, he probably looks like a troublemaker, who failed out of school.
"Fine, we'll do the tour." I write our names down on the paper and the redhead sitting behind the table smiles at me.
"You can go join the one starting now," she says shamelessly pushing her cleavage up with her arms as she leans forward. "They just stepped into the hallway."
"Thanks." Grinning at her, I strut off with Luke toward where she directed us.
"Every time," he says amusedly as he sidesteps around a smaller table with plates full of cookies on it. "You're like a magnet."
"I don't ask for it," I reply as we approach the back of the crowd. "In fact, I wish they'd stop."
"No you don't," he states with a roll of his eyes. "You love it and you know it. And I wished you'd act on it, so you could ditch the bitch."
"Daisy's not that bad. She's probably the only girl who doesn't care if I flirt." I cross my arms and stare at the nerdy tour guide with thick glasses, scraggily brown hair, and a clipboard in his hands. "Do we really need to do this? I'd rather go unpack."
Excerpted from The Coincidence of Callie & Kayden by Jessica Sorensen. Copyright © 2013 Jessica Sorensen. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing.
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