Authors: Kaylee Ryan
Tags: #Romance, #New Adult & College, #Teen & Young Adult, #Literature & Fiction, #Contemporary Fiction, #Contemporary
All Rights Reserved.
This book may not be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the written permission of Kaylee Ryan, except for the use of brief quotations in articles and or reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, events, locations, businesses and plot are products of the author’s imagination and meant to be used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events throughout the story are purely coincidental. The author acknowledges trademark owners and trademarked status of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication and use of these trademarks is not authorized, sponsored or associated by or with the trademark owners.
The following story contains sexual situations and strong language. It is intended for adult readers.
Cover Design: Sommer Stein Perfect Pear Creative Covers
MY EYES ARE fixed on the red digits that light up my room from the bedside table. I watch as the numbers slowly climb and grow closer to the midnight hour. Tomorrow is a day I wish I could sleep through. I wish I could erase it from my mind. No, actually that’s not true. I wish she were still here. I wish I didn’t have to live through this day without her. In just twelve short minutes, it will officially be my mother’s birthday and she’s not here to celebrate it.
I hear my roommate and best friend, Nicole, pacing outside my bedroom door. She knows tomorrow is my mother’s birthday. Freshman year, I was a total basket case. I wasn’t ready to talk about that night, but I had to give her something. I told her about my mother dying, but I didn’t want to talk about the details. Nic is amazing and has never pushed me for specifics. She always just lets me know she’s there for me. There is no way I could have survived college without her. I know it bothers her that I haven’t opened up and given her the details. Honestly, it’s not that I don’t want her to know, but that I don’t want to think about it or talk about it more than I have to. I don’t want to explain the terror of that night, the terror that still haunts me. We’ve been inseparable for the past four years and I haven’t told her what happened. My chest aches with guilt that I’m keeping it from her. I just don’t talk about it to anyone, ever. Dad and I don’t even discuss it. We talk about her and how much we miss her, how much she would have enjoyed this or that. Never do we talk about that night. Neither one of us want to bring the pain that close to the surface. I know this day, her birthday, affects him just as much as it does me, but we still don’t discuss it.
Nic has an idea in her head; she knows that whatever happened to cause my mother’s death haunts me. I’m a twenty-two-year-old college senior and I don’t date. It’s hard for me to trust men and I can’t seem to find myself caring enough to put forth the effort. Tragedy does that to you. Makes you change the course of your life, your actions, and responses to normal every day activities.
Deep down, I realize my fear of dating and trust issues are irrational at best. I understand not all relationships turn out the way mine did. I also know that to me, it’s just not worth the risk. I get that my ex, Justin, is not to blame for what happened, but he was supposed to be there. I can’t help but think that if he would have been there, like he was supposed to, if I hadn’t been alone… I roll over onto my side and watch as the red numbers turn again.
Two more minutes.
I try to blink back the tears hot behind my eyes. As the second round falls, there’s a light knock on my door. She doesn’t wait for an invitation as she quietly pushes open the door. A gentle glow of light flows into the room. I bury my head in my body pillow, trying to burrow deeper. The bed dips behind me as Nicole climbs in and hugs me tightly.
“I’m here, Kens. You are not alone. I’m here.” Her soft voice filters through the room. Her words break me open even further and the warm flow of tears turns into a waterfall of emotion I usually keep locked away. This has been the norm for us. She is always there offering support. I often tell her she is getting the short end of the stick with this friendship. She just laughs and says friendships are not about quantity but quality. She assures me I give as much as I take. Although it may be true, I still feel bad for the drama I bring.
We lay there with nothing but the sound of my sobs for company. She never eases her hold, and I thank God every day that she was assigned as my roommate. Nicole Martin has brought me back from the dark side more times than I can count. She is my family. I will forever be by her side for anything she needs. Maybe that’s why when she asks, “Do you want to talk about it?” just as she does every time, I find myself wanting to finally tell her everything about my past.
“It’s okay, Kens. I don’t expect it, but I’m here for you,” she whispers into the night. “It might help to talk about it.”
I can’t talk about the details. I won’t. I do feel like I need to tell her something; she deserves that. It’s been four years of her picking me up and dealing with my emotional mood swings. I take a deep breath and spit out the words that I have avoided saying since the day we met. How I have lasted this long, I’m really not sure.
“My…” My voice cracks, so I stop to regroup. Nic doesn’t say anything; she just lies next to me patiently waiting for what I’m about to say. “My mom was murdered. She was protecting me and he killed her.” I barely get it out before I’m bursting into sobs for the third time tonight. This is going to be the norm for me over the next twenty-four hours. After that, I will wear my perfectly practiced mask into place and take each day at a time.
I hear her deep intake of breath. “Life sucks ass,” she says. I can hear the emotion in her voice. My best friend is always surprising me. I expected her to go with the norm. “I’m sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine what you are going through.” I cannot tell you how many times my dad and I heard that after… that night. I get that people don’t know what to say in these situations, but my bestie summed it up. Life sucks ass. Neither one of us says anything else. She gets me and I love her for it.
I have no idea how much time passes before I hear her breathing even out. I’m envious of the slumber she has slipped into. I know I will do nothing but toss and turn, so I slip from the bed, trying like hell not to wake her. Grabbing my Kindle off the bedside table, I quietly slip from the room. The apartment is eerily silent and I need noise. The silence makes it possible for the memories to flood my mind, to consume me. Grabbing the remote from the coffee table, I burrow into the couch, pulling the chenille throw over me. There is nothing good to watch at this hour, but I don’t care. I just need the background noise, something to fill the quiet void. Skimming through my Kindle, I find my next book boyfriend. I decide on
by HJ Bellus. Nic read it last week and insists I will fall in love with Lincoln. I have no doubt that she’s right. We have the same taste in books.
Settling in, I try to focus on the words, but no matter how hard I try, I just can’t stop my mind from racing, can’t stop the memories from that night. It’s not just the memories of what happened, it’s the worry that I carry with me every single day. I worry I will forget what her voice sounded like, the smell of her sweet perfume, and the way it felt to have her wrap her arms around me and tell me she loved me. I was always close with my mom. The day after prom my junior year, I admitted I had had sex for the first time. I was so afraid she was going to be disappointed in me. I should have known better. She asked me if I was safe and if it was consensual. Looking back now, I can see how she might think it might not have been. I was a sobbing mess when I told her. The fear of seeing the disappointment on her face had me an emotional mess. The guy, my first, his name was Greg and we were not even really dating. He asked me to prom; I accepted. He was one of the nicest guys you will ever meet and it was his first time as well. Neither one of us felt pressured; it was just something we wanted to do. Sort of a rip the Band-Aid off and get it over with kind of moment. One thing led to another, and well… you know. I don’t know why I even told her. Most teenagers go out of their way to hide that kind of information. She and I were sitting on the couch watching a movie and I just blurted it out. The following day, she called and made me a doctor’s appointment so I could start birth control. She talked to me about safe sex and how you should share the act with someone you love. That giving your body to another person was a gift, just like giving them your heart.
The memories and the worry take over again as more tears start to fall. My Kindle long since abandoned. The low filtering of light coming from the morning sun alerts me that it’s time to get my ass in gear. I always meet Dad for breakfast, even though neither one of us have much of an appetite, but that is how we always start this day together. After that night, neither one of us wanted to stay in that house in the same town. Dad rented us an apartment and put the house on the market. He started applying for jobs, and that’s what brought us to our new life. I enrolled in college close to home. I couldn’t muster the courage to go far away. Too much had changed too fast. I needed to know he was close if I needed him. Neither one of us looked back. We left the past and the haunting memories behind us and did the best we could to start a new life. Just the two of us.
I am an only child; my parents struggled with conceiving for several years and two miscarriages before I came along. My mom always used to tell me that she was blessed with a healthy baby girl and that was enough for her. I know she would have loved to have more children, but it just wasn’t in the cards for them. It’s a shame really; a girl couldn’t ask for better parents.
Tears once again begin welling up. I climb off the couch and head for the shower. My only hope is to occupy my mind with mundane tasks to get through the day.