Shaken: Conflicted Encounters #3
Chapter 2 Excerpt
Saturday morning, I woke up cranky. It was almost noon and I was off work today. The only thing on my to-do list was the bonfire tonight at Logan's. We never missed a bonfire. It was tradition.
My brother and I met Logan in the second grade. Logan pulled my hair and said I looked like a witch. Ryder beat him up and ended up in the principal's office for it. My brother forced him to apologize, and they’ve been BFFs ever since.
Logan was as much a part of my family as Ryder was. Every fond memory I had from growing up included our best friend. He never teased me after that day in the playground and took up the role as another big brother to me. Between the two of them, later joined by Caleb, I was never messed with.
Logan was the one I could always go to talk to. He was a quiet and thoughtful guy, always locked away in his head. He would reward me with something deep and meaningful to make any problem better. Logan was also loyal and never told my brother anything I wanted kept secret.
Between the three boys, I had all I needed. The physical stuff I would just find elsewhere.
I stomped into the kitchen, startling Kallie in the process. Her tiny body jumped and her hands dropped the solder gun she was holding. I grabbed the coffee pot, lacking any grace, and clumsily started another pot.
"Morning, sunshine," Kallie greeted as I leaned against the counter.
"Yeah," I grumbled. I hated mornings, or afternoons in this case.
"You okay?" she asked with her concerned eyes on me.
She shrugged. "You just seem a little off, that's all."
"Well, I'm good. Fire tonight?" I changed subjects.
I nodded and turned to the coffee maker to pour a cup. I liked my coffee black, so in no time I was lounging in the recliner and digesting the caffeine. Kallie continued her work on some kind of masterpiece. She could take random garbage, and I'm not exaggerating, most is actually garbage, and could turn in to something of beauty. Our apartment now smelled like burnt metal most of the time.
"I know you don't want to talk about it, but that's just too bad," Kallie said unexpectedly.
I raised my eyebrows at her over the rim of my coffee cup.
"The last six months, since Adam, you've been," she paused, looking for the right word. "More reckless."
I flinched at the sound of his name. Adam was my biggest mistake. The man I knew as Adam for our entire relationship was really named Jacob. I broke my own rules and let myself love someone other than the short list of pre-approved people I had set in stone. Jacob was a con artist and a criminal that left me broken hearted the day before our destination wedding.
"I'm fine, Kallie. I love you, but you don't need to worry about me," I told her. My heart warmed at her concern.
"It's understandable for you to be upset. He betrayed you," she whispered.
"I know." And I did. I just refused to let him hurt me anymore than he already had.
I used to think I was pretty cynical for being a girl in her early twenties. I may go out of my way to help others, but they needed to earn my loyalty. Trust wasn't something I gave easily. So how Jacob weaseled his way into my safe zone and completely blindsided me is a mystery to me. Never once did I think he was lying to me. I never thought that he wasn't honestly in love with me.
In reality, the Adam I loved never cared for me and was just using me. He would take various jobs at different businesses as an accountant. He would then launder their money and disappear. Kallie hired a private investigator that told us there were other women that fell for his sham. He would find a woman and they would move in together. On the outside, he looked like a normal guy with a house and wife. No one suspected he was cooking the books.
The other women, like me, had no idea what he was really up to. We thought he was a wealthy business owner. We didn't know about his meager salary and his illegal transferring of funds. We had no clue of his gambling problem of his multiple personalities. We were just tools in his plan to seem like the unsuspecting normal guy and keep him entertained for a while.
I sucked in deep breaths, trying to calm myself. How could I have been so utterly stupid? How did I not see the lies? Why did I let myself fall for anyone, let alone someone that wasn't even real? How did I make myself think there was a prince out there for me? I now had a new found determination to never let that happen again.
People wanted you to believe that there was someone out there for everyone. Fairy tales and Disney movies lead us to believe that one day you will find the love of your life and live happily ever after. Soul mates were a fucked up myth. There was no such thing as love at first sight, and not everyone was meant to fall in love.
My life could be lived moving from one bed to another. I could concentrate on my art and family without the distraction of a needy boyfriend. I had the best friends a girl could ask for. I had Logan and Caleb to protect me. I had my brother and mother to love me till the end of time. Kallie was the girl I could always count on. I didn't need anything, or anyone, else in life.
"I just worry about you, Scar. You've been drinking more and staying out most nights," she said with sad eyes.
"I'm just trying to have fun and live life, Kallie. I'm fine and I'm happy," I told her with the most convincing smile I could force. I hated that she worried about me.
Kallie smiled at me but didn't look at ease in the slightest. She continued her creation while I watched silently. She got wrapped up into her work like I did with my sketching. We were transported to another place when we worked with our art.
After getting my caffeine mix, I agreed to do Kallie a favor. I told her I would deliver a box of new pieces to the consignment store on Main Street. Yes, we had a Main Street. We also had a water tower that teens spray painted, an entire town that loved our high school football, and everyone knew everyone. We had small town charm down to art here in Southern Ohio.
I waved to Hank when he came out of Minnie's diner as I walked down the walk to Marie's shop. She's been selling some of Kallie's "up-cycled" jewelry for a few months now. They were a huge hit with the teens, and Kallie was constantly stressed about keeping the store stocked.
I dropped off the box after I picked out a bracelet made of a bike chain for myself. I usually looked through the pieces before they went on sale, but it was a busy week. I hit the new bar built on the river a few times this week and attended the college party as well. I wasn't on the same sleeping pattern as my roommates, so I didn't get to see what Kallie was working on.
I strolled down the sidewalk in my tiny hometown to my car. Benches flanked with flower pots lined the skinny road that ran through the center of the town. Brick buildings flanked the road filled with shops and apartments or offices on the top floors. We took pride in our historical heritage and the center of town perfectly displayed the past. We didn't have a Wal-Mart or a mall, but we had small town charm, low crime, and quiet life.
We did have a small grocery store where I bought a few bottles of soy sauce and twenty-ounce bottles of Diet Coke and Sprite. The clerk stared at me as she rang up my odd items, but I just smiled. Internally, I was rubbing my hands together and cackling in an evil laugh.
Once I returned to the apartment, I showered and spent an ungodly amount of time straightening my long hair. I was blessed with think, dark hair, but it was difficult to tame. Although the bonfires were usually filled with the same people I've known my whole life, I always got primped for them. Who knows, maybe someone would bring a cousin or a friend from out of town that I could befriend for the night.
Ryder walked in the door, tossing his keys in the bowl. Kallie flew by me in a flash and jumped into his arms. He groaned and pushed her against the door as he kissed her like it'd been longer than eight hours since they’d last seen each other. He carried her off to the bedroom while I sat there like an awkward outsider.
While I waited for Ryder and Kallie to be ready to go, I opened the bottles of diet coke and emptied them in the sink. I filled each of them up with soy sauce, and then added Sprite to give it the right consistency. As a “thank you” for picking me up the other night, I wanted to bring Logan some of his favorite drink.
Available Feb. 24th.