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After lacing up my tennis shoes, I jot down a quick note to my parents letting them know I’m out for a run. Earlier Dad had an appointment with his cardiologist, and then they were going out to dinner.
“You should get out of the house,” Mom said, lifting a hand to caress my face but I moved away before she made contact. Hurt colored her gaze and as much as it killed me to shut her out, I didn't try to bridge the gap between us.
“I’m kinda tired, but you two enjoy the town.” The smile plastered on my face was a lie, but as long as they couldn’t see through it…
“If you change your mind, call us, sweetheart.” They left shortly afterward. I haven’t left the house much since I’ve been home. Maybe it was the fear of running into someone I used to know.
Only being home a few days and I already can’t wait to go back to seclusion. Yesterday, Mom asked if I had started looking at schools near or in Chicago—they’ve been on me for a while about going to college. Nothing interests me.
My sophomore year I dropped out of high school and got my GED. When my life spiraled downward I didn’t think I had a future. Why plan for a career I’d never have, right? So I started working as a waitress in my twenties. I’m pretty good at it too. The well-known Italian restaurant is an easy way to make good tips, and it’s easy to fake a smile or pretend to be someone else—someone who has a life and their shit together.
Outside, the air is hot and humid making my clothes stick to my sweat covered body. I stretch my arms over my head then bend down, leaning side to side stretching my legs. Turning on my phone, I open my music app and pull up my running playlist. Sticking my ear buds in, I trek out.
Over the years, along with prescribed medication, jogging became my anti-depressant. Whenever my thoughts turn dark and when the past weasels into my mind, I throw on my running shoes and jog.
I’ve got no real destination in mind; I just listen to my music and let my feet carry me where they want to go. I don’t really pay attention to my surroundings, which is so stupid and dangerous. Slowing my speed, I see the sign up ahead, Cross Creek Cemetery. Every instinct I have tells me to run right past it.
Is that what I do? No, instead I jog in the side entrance. I wind my way toward the back—memories assault me and nausea pools in my belly.
“Brylee, could you come out here?” Dad hollers from outside. I slip on my shoes before flying down the stairs and out the front door. Mom and dad stand by a red four-door car. “What do you think? It’s in good shape. Has some miles on it, but it’ll get you to school, work and out with your friends, at least for the next few years.”
I wouldn’t care at all if it was old and covered in rust. It’s so cool to have my own car now. “I love it,” I say reverently. “It’s perfect! Thank you so much.” I hug them both even though I just get an arm squeeze before taking the keys from my dad and climbing inside. The inside is tan and the seats are covered in fabric.
The radio has a touchscreen and a CD player. I turn it on as dad opens the passenger side door and climbs in. “It’s a Honda Civic. I got the plates and the insurance taken care of. You’ve got a full tank of gas. You really like it?”
I rub my hand back and forth on the steering wheel. “I do. It’s so great. Can I take it for a spin?”
“It’s your car. Just go grab your driver’s license.”
Nodding, I climb out of the car and bolt into the house, grabbing my purse off the counter. I head back outside and my parents are standing at the bottom of the stairs. I hug my dad and then my mom. Ugh, why do they get so weird when I hug them?
“Be careful. Call us if you stop anywhere.”
“I will. Promise.” I climb into my car, buckling my seatbelt. I wave goodbye to them as they watch me pull out of the driveway.
First I stop by Kaylee’s. As soon as I pull into her driveway, she comes running out. “Oh my God! This is so awesome. It’s so cute. I’m going to go ask my mom if I can go for a drive with you.” My bestie disappears into her house and moments later comes running back out and climbs in the passenger side.
Once she’s buckled in, I pull out of the driveway and we drive around town listening to music and talking. She turns toward me. “I have got some news for you. Okay, so Megan Daniels’s brother, Grayson, is best friends with Chase and…apparently he asked Grayson to ask his sister about you. He’s interested in asking you out.”
I don’t say anything at first. My heart is beating rapidly in my chest. That fluttery feeling begins in my stomach.
“Bry? Are you okay?”
Pulling onto a residential street, I throw my car into park. “Are you messing with me?”
“God, no. Megan knows you’ve been crushing on him, she couldn’t wait to tell you, but she didn’t have your number. If he calls you are you going to go out with him?”
I take a deep breath and then turn toward Kaylee. “I…I want to but I’m a virgin and he’s been with lots of girls. What if all he wants from me is sex? I don’t think I’m ready for that yet.”
“I don’t think that’s it. Megan told me that Grayson told her that he’s never seen Chase this interested in someone. He says you have the prettiest eyes.” She squeals, clapping her hands together excitedly.
“Really?” I whisper breathily. “Okay, yes if he calls me then I will definitely say yes to going out with him.”
“Crap, can you take me home? I have to work on my algebra homework.”
I drop her off and then decide to drive around a little bit longer. When I’m ready to head back home, I turn by the park and my purse falls to the floor. I turn my head quickly to grab it and that’s when the sickening sound of something hitting my car and then the windshield has me slamming on the breaks as a scream rips from my lips.
I stop in front of the headstone, tears silently run down my face. I read the name over and over: Kyle Jason Foster, the boy died two days later from brain trauma. He was only thirteen when I killed him. He’d been skateboarding, but hadn’t worn a helmet. I didn’t see him when he crossed the street because I hadn’t been looking. The screeching of rubber against the asphalt and the smell of burnt tires fill my mind. The memory as fresh as the day it happened.
“No, don’t go there.” Music continues to blare in my ears. I hug myself tightly, standing there but the wetness won’t stop running down my cheeks. A heaviness I haven’t felt in so long pours in. I never knew Kyle, but when I saw his picture attached to his obituary, an ache so deep and guttural stabbed at my chest. He was a cute kid with dirty blond hair and ice blue eyes.
I read the article and cried silent tears, I was the cause of so much devastation. Then I found the portion talking about who he was survived by: Chase, my school crush, was his older brother. I threw up.
My vision blurs as Weezer’s “Feels Like Summer” replays in my mind. I need to get out of here, but my legs feel like they’re full of lead. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and I go to turn and leave, when an arm wraps around my chest while a hand covers my mouth, muffling my scream.
The scent of motor oil and stale cigarette smoke fills my nostrils as a callused hand scrapes against my dry lips. The urge to vomit comes over me and I swallow it down.
The ear buds fall from my ears. The attacker doesn’t say anything as they drag me backward. Adrenalin spikes, and I fight. A grunt of pain escapes the person as I connect my palm with his bearded face. His grip loosens and I kick him in the leg, freeing myself.
She destroyed my family.
After ten years, Brylee Whitmore has returned to our home town, giving me my shot at revenge. I thought it would be simple, but she’s changed. I was supposed to make her pay for what she’s done, so why do I feel like I have to fix her instead?
Coming home was a mistake.
If my dad wasn’t sick, I would have stayed away. Chase Foster plans to exact his revenge, and I deserve it. I’m supposed to pay for my sins, but now he wants to fix me instead. Too bad there’s nothing left to fix.
Two broken people.
Can he forgive her?
Can she forgive herself?
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When the voices in her head give it a rest, she can always be found with her e-reader in her hand. Some of her favorites include, Aurora Rose Reynolds, (the queen) Kristen Ashley, Joanna Wylde, Madeline Sheehan and Harper Sloan. Evan finds a lot of her inspiration in music, movies, TV shows and life.
She’s a wife to Jim and a mom to Ethan and Evan, a cook, a tutor, a friend and a writer. How does she do it? She’ll never tell.
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