Chapter 2

Chapter 2

A Chapter by Kerry Yang

She had seen him before in her dreams.  Of that she felt certain.  In her dreams, she was barefoot, only wearing a flowing white dress reminiscent of a Grecian gown as she ran from something.  She could never remember what she ran from; just that she feared for her life.   As she ran, an enormous, black crow swooped down on her and picked her up in its beak and carried her into the sky.  Then, the bird changed into the shape of a man and with a long, lean face containing blue eyes and black hair.  It was his face.  She would recognize it anywhere.  Caleigh never imagined she would actually see him in flesh and blood.  On that day, she stayed late to finish the mural when she forgot her phone at the site and walked back to retrieve it.  When she reached the other side of the bridge, she saw him.

She saw him reach for a spray paint can and spray it against her mural.  She worked tirelessly on it for months by herself.  She painted the celestial bodies of the surrounding planets swirling around the luminescent sun, all connected and touching each other.  She loved Impressionism and the way Monet and Van Gogh were able to portray light, not as a fluid entity that silently passed through objects, but as a force that could change and influence things around it.  She couldn’t see his face clearly, so she walked closer until she knew the person standing before her and the person in her dreams were one and the same.  Caleigh had no idea what the dream meant, but at least it was better than the dream where managed to kill everyone close to her.

Caleigh picked up a hair tie on her dresser and tied her long, blonde hair into a ponytail as she looked into the mirror.  She never wore make-up, but her lips always looked pink and her cheeks flushed.  She threw on a thick, camouflage jacket despite the warm weather and looked around her room in case she forgot anything.  Posters of Monet, Manet, Degas, and other Impressionists hung on her walls next to posters of punk bands.  She kept her paintings hidden in the attic when she completed them.  She didn’t much like looking at them at times or explaining why she painted the scenes she did.  Even she didn’t know why sometimes.  Everything was neat and orderly in her room except for her books.  Books laid everywhere.  They rested on her windowsill, stacked on her desk, and splayed on her nightstand.  Sometimes, it was better to be in a different world than the one she lived in.

The sun shone brightly on the quiet cul-de-sac of pastel-colored houses like hidden gems in an Easter egg hunt.  The house rested high top of a hill, and Caleigh could see far down the slumbering valley of neatly lined streets and trimmed, green lawns.  Caleigh hopped into her yellow, rusted sedan she bought for 500.  She had been quite proud that she earned the money and picked out the car herself.  Her father offered to buy her a brand new one, but she knew that couldn’t be an option.  Her parents both worked as professors at the local university and she barely saw them, leaving her to the cavernous house by herself.  Caleigh drove down the busy main street when she could hear her engine sputtering and making strange noises.  She pulled over and popped open the hood.  Smoke and heat poured from the engine like the hiss of venomous snakes and she coughed.

She reached into her purse to find her phone and couldn’t feel the cool metallic cover that usually pressed into her skin.  Worry set in and she dumped the contents out on the sidewalk.  She meticulously cataloged her day-planner, a billion pieces of Wrigley Spearmint gum, pens she’d stolen from various places, loose change, a can of pepper spray, and her ids.  But there was no phone.  Caleigh sat on the curb and cursed her luck because she couldn’t even call in to her work to let them know she couldn’t go in.  And then they would be short a person.  And if she could get a hold of her parents, they would have to leave their work.  But if she couldn’t, she’d be stuck there all day.  She hated how she worried about everything and everyone until her brain couldn’t take it anymore.

A familiar, dark blue Mercedes-Benz sportster pulled up alongside her and she knew it was him.  Just what she needed.  She reluctantly pulled herself up and pulled her jacket over herself and forced a smile as he waved to her from inside the car.  “Hey Emery.”

Emery languidly stepped out of the car and slid off his aviator sunglasses.  “Hey Caleigh.  Looks like you might need some help.”

            He came closer and looked into the hood of her car.  She felt she had to do the same, so she looked at it with him.  God, he was so tall.  He towered over her 5’ 4’’ frame.  She remembered a time when they were about the same height and people confused them for brother and sister.  She blushed at the thought.  “I don’t know.  It just died all of a sudden.”

            He nodded.  “I think your car over heated.  It can rest a while, but you’ll eventually have to drive it to a mechanic.  You want me to call a tow truck?  I can take you home.”

            Caleigh tried to think quickly.  “Oh, no, my dad is coming.”

            Emery dropped the hood of the car with a resounding thud and Caleigh shuddered.  Emery brushed his hands off.  “That’s good.  I’ll wait with you.”

            That lie backfired.  “Oh, um, don’t you have somewhere to go?”

            Emery smiled.  “No, I was just running an errand for my mom.  She’ll understand.  She misses you, you know?  She asks why you don’t come by anymore.”

            Caleigh looked down.  “I’ve been busy.”

            Emery nodded.  “I’m sorry.  Where were you going?”

            “Oh,” Caleigh almost shouted as if she just remembered.  “I was just going to work.  It’s okay.”

            Emery laughed.  “Aren’t you going to be late to work?”

            Caleigh tried to avoid his gaze.  “They’re understanding.”

            “Come on.  I’ll give you a ride there.  Where do you work?”

            Caleigh grabbed her purse and begrudgingly followed him to his car.  “I work at Oasis Café downtown.  Do you know where that is?”

            Emery started the car and it roared to life.  “Yeah, I know where that is.”

            Caleigh suddenly felt nervous, so she asked the first thing that popped into her mind.  “This is a really nice car.  Is it yours?”

            Emery chuckled.  “Sort of.  It’s in my dad’s name, but when he upgraded to the newer model, he gave me this one.  It’s kinda nice.”

            “Umm, yeah, it’s nicer than most of our teachers’ cars.”

            Emery laughed.  “I miss that about you.  I know we haven’t talked in a while, but you can at least say hello to me in the hallways.”

            “We were best friends when we were 10.  Things change.  It’s okay.”

            He paused.  “It’s not okay.  I want us to be friends again, but every time I try to talk to you, you just push me away.”

            “Your girlfriend doesn’t help anything.”

            “What are you talking about?”

            “Emily Hope Smith. Head cheerleader.  Beautiful.  Ring a bell?  She makes it a point to let people know you are her boyfriend and I’ve gotten the message.”

            “What has she done?”

            “Nothing much.  Just high school drama.  I’m so over it.”

            “She’s not even my girlfriend.  We broke up over summer.  I didn’t know that.  I’ll ask her to stop.”

            Caleigh was mortified.  “You are SO not going to do that.  She’ll just be meaner than she already is to me.  Promise me you’re not going to say anything.”

            Emery briefly glanced at her.  “I won’t if you promise to come say hi to my mom some time.  She’ll make those short bread cookies you always love so much.”

            Caleigh smiled.  “I do love those cookies.”

 

            Caleigh entered the café and instantly felt better.  She loved the small café and the adjoining book store.  She felt like home there.  Where she could be herself and no one would care.  The café itself looked more modern containing an eclectic mix of tables and chairs spread across the floor with ferns and potted trees everywhere, making it look like a lush, jungle.  The owner even hung large paintings of jaguars, panthers, and exotic flowers on the walls.  The book store had dark mahogany bookcases that reached high to the ceilings on the walls, while sturdy, metal cases lined the middle.  It always reminded Caleigh of an old law office with the golden light fixtures and the dusty fans that blew overhead.  She loved the juxtaposition of the almost ancient bookstore with the exotically strange café.  It was perfect.

            After throwing her stuff in her locker, she found her way to the front counter.  It was pretty dead.  Only three customers sat in the café sipping on drinks and reading.  It usually picked up a little later, but she didn’t feel so bad being late to work now.  She saw her co-worker, Nate, rush hurriedly towards her with a tray laden with empty cups.  “Hey, Nate, did you get a date to homecoming yet?”

            He turned a bright shade of crimson as he shuffled his feet.  “Not yet.  How come you’re late today?”

            Caleigh sighed and leaned on the counter.  “My car broke down.  Luckily, Emery stopped by and gave me a ride.”

            Nate dropped off his tray in the sink and adjusted his glasses.  “The quarterback?  You know him?  You could’ve called me.  I would’ve picked you up.”

 He just happened to see me on the side of the road.”

            “Isn’t he dating that cheerleader?  Emily?”

            Caleigh turned around.  “I don’t know.”

            Nate tentatively stepped closer to her.  “Are you going to the homecoming dance, Caleigh?”

            Caleigh rolled her eyes.  “I hate those things and they only play music on the radio, but hey, my friend was thinking of going.”

            Nate cleared his throat.  “Who’s your friend?”

            “Becky Johnson.  You know her?”

            Nate shook his head.  “I don’t think so.”

            “I’ll have her stop by sometime.  She’s my best friend.”

            Nate shrugged.  “Sure,” he said and walked away.

            Caleigh had an inkling that Nate liked her, but she had no feelings for him whatsoever.  She felt bad about it because Nate was genuinely a really nice guy.  And she hated that old adage about nice guys finishing last.  She never really thought about anyone in that way.  The only boy she ever really liked was…Emery.  She stopped herself.  Emery wasn’t the same person anymore.  Neither was she, but she still thought about him from time to time.  About how they used to do everything together.   How he would try to protect her from bullies and make sure she was okay.  She had to stop thinking about him.  She just didn’t have room for him in her new life.  Her new life consisted of school, homework, painting, and trying to save money.  That’s all she cared about.

            Caleigh took out a worn pamphlet out of her back pocket and spread it on the counter, careful not to rip it.  The pamphlet pictured smiling students on the cover with the Eiffel tower in the background.  It was a year-long program to study art abroad in Paris.  She wanted to go so bad.  If she could live there, she would.  She took three years of French, and her French sounded pretty good.  It just came easily to her and he could really see herself visiting the Sienne and the Arc de Triumph.  Most of all, she wanted to paint there.  She wanted her paintings to be in the Louvre one day.  Everything she worked for was to eventually end up there.  Her parents, being college professors, didn’t really like her plan.  They wanted her to attend a college stateside and choose a more proper major.  Art was fine as a minor, but they couldn’t fathom their daughter throwing her life away on an art major.  So, she tried to appease them by getting good grades so she could graduate early and spend a year abroad before she started her collegiate life here.  It was so hard trying to make everyone in her life happy.

            The hours passed by quickly as the rush came and went with the setting sun.  Darkness settled in as they wrapped up the night and cleaned to prep for the next day.  She called her dad and confirmed he would pick her up, so she said goodbye to her co-workers as they drove off into the night.  Caleigh pulled her jacket closer to keep the cool breeze out as she stood outside the café.  She stood under the streetlamp and watched as countless cars sped past her, but she didn’t recognize any as her fathers.  She waited for an hour until she realized that he perhaps wasn’t going to come.  She couldn’t get back in the shop and there she couldn’t find a payphone around.  Charon wasn’t too bad of a town, but she did not want to be caught in the night on the streets.  She remembered that the bus depot laid a few blocks away, so she made her way there.

            In her mind, she rehearsed the harsh speech she would be giving her dad when she arrived home so he would feel guilty about leaving his only child alone on the streets.  She knew they were busy and sometimes forgetful, but how could they forget this?  Caleigh kept to the more well-lit streets when she heard a rustle behind her.  She quickly whipped around and stared at a completely pitch-black alley.  Get it together, she told herself and continued on.  She only made it one more block when she saw a figure out of the corner of her eye.  It was a dark shadow that blended so seamlessly into the night that she wasn’t sure if she really saw it or if her mind played tricks on her.  She froze in that moment, then bolted.  As she ran towards a busy building, she tripped over the upturned pavement and the contents of her purse flew everywhere.

            She quickly scrambled to grab things when she could feel a presence near her.  She found her bottle of mace and pointed it up.  “I will mace you!” she yelled.  The figure came out of the darkness into the light of the streetlamp and she saw it was him.  He had a funny grin on his face as he looked down at her.  Time seemed to stop in that moment, and those few seconds felt like hours as they simply looked at each other.

            Hunter crouched down and started to grab the pens that rolled everywhere.  “I think you have to take the cap off first.”

            Caleigh felt furious.  “Are you following me?”

            Hunter immediately turned around.  “Uh, kinda, but it’s not what you think.”

            Caleigh retrieved the last of her items.  “Then what is it?”

            Hunter handed her the pens and a book and she opened her purse for him to drop them in.  “I happened to be downtown and I saw you standing there.  It looked like you were waiting for someone, but they never came.  I just wanted to make sure you made it home safely.  That’s it.  I didn’t mean to creep you out.”

            She instantly felt relieved, but she was still mad at him.  “Well, you did.  Who goes skulking in the dead of the night?  That’s weird.”

            Hunter shoved his hands in his pockets.  “I like the night.  It’s not too bad.  Where are you headed?”

            “The bus depot.  I’m going to catch a ride back home.”

            “I don’t think so.  It’s too late and they only have limited service right now.  What street do you live on?”

            “Jefferson.”

            Hunter nodded.  “I know where that is.  It’s not too far.  About two miles.  I can walk with you if you want.”

            Caleigh eyed the building she originally planned to enter to use the phone, but changed her mind.  “I guess.  How come you’re not home?”

            Hunter paused.  “I only go home to sleep.  Sometimes, I don’t even sleep there.”

            Caleigh ventured a look at him.  “What do you mean?  Where do you sleep then?”

            Hunter shrugged.  “Sometimes under the bridge.  In parks.”

            The anger drained from her and her voice became softer.  “Why?”

            “I live with my foster father.  He only took me in for the money, and I’ll be 18 next year, so it’s not permanent.  He gets really drunk sometimes and it’s not good.”

            “Why don’t you tell someone?”

            “What am I going to say?  They’ll just stick me in another home or worse, an institution.  I’ve been in the system all my life.”

            “What happened?  I’m sorry, I don’t mean to pry.”

            “It’s okay.  My mom gave me up for adoption when I was three.  That’s what they told me.”

            “What about your dad?”

            “No idea.”      

            “Do…do you remember her?”

            Hunter paused.  “I do.  She had black hair and a pretty face.  She was always wearing this golden locket.  That’s about it.  What about your family?”

            Caleigh took a moment to refocus.  “Oh, um, it’s just me, my mom, and dad.  They’re professors and didn’t really have time for kids, but they wanted one to pass on their ‘knowledge.’” She chuckled at the last word.

            “No, that’s cool.”

            “I guess.  They just expect so much out of me and I hate disappointing them.  They pretty much let me do whatever I want as long as my grades are good.  Sometimes, they can be a little forgetful, like tonight.”

            Hunter laughed.  “I see. So you like to paint?”

            Caleigh found it so easy to talk to him.  “I do.  I love painting.  I want to go to Paris one day.”  She didn’t know why she told him that.  Only her parents and her best friend Becky knew about it, but she couldn’t stop.  “I want to study painting.  I could spend my whole day just painting and reading.”

            “What was the book you had?”

            “Slyvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.  I just picked it up.  It’s about how this young girl goes crazy because of the pressure she’s under.”

            “You feel like that sometimes?”

            Caleigh looked at him.  “I do.  It’s just too much sometimes.  I’m only 16 and I have to make all these life decisions.  I’m expected to be someone, and I don’t even know who I am yet.”

            “I understand.  If you don’t know who you are, you’re not going to know where you’re going.”

            Caleigh stopped at the front steps of her house.  “Well, thanks for walking me home.  I really appreciate it.”

            Hunter smiled.  “Anytime.”  Caleigh sprinted up the stairs and opened the door.  “Hey,” Hunter called out, “I was wondering if you were free sometime, I don’t know if you wanted to do something.”

            Caleigh looked at him.  “No.” And she shut the door.




© 2017 Kerry Yang



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Added on December 12, 2017
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Author

Kerry Yang
Kerry Yang

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Writing
Prologue Prologue

A Chapter by Kerry Yang


Chapter 1 Chapter 1

A Chapter by Kerry Yang


Chapter 3 Chapter 3

A Chapter by Kerry Yang