The last week of summer school was heavenly. I graduated—without a ceremony of course—and now would have the rest of the summer to myself. Summer school didn’t bother me much, though; it gave me something to do, and I’d see my best friend everyday.
I went over to Cade’s new house one afternoon when Marcia and Dani were working on some big college project Dani had to work on before classes started, putting off unpacking the rest of their things.
Cade and I were relaxing on the backyard’s lounge chairs with ice cold lemonade in our hands, hoping to relive the bliss we had at the resort.
Trace came home with a couple of buddies momentarily without greeting anyone in the house.
“Where’s he running off to?” My eyes follow him and his little posse of leather-jacketed good-looking guys to the red Convertible waiting out front for them. I admit, I’m a sucker for bad boy clichés, and Trace and his friends were almost at the highest standard for it.
“Wannabe Hells Angels.” Cade suns up, sipping on his lemonade.
“My type of wannabes.” I comment under my breath, and he shoots me a look of judgement. “Jokes.”
“Mhm.” Cade got up to pour himself another glass.
I happened to look out into the neighborhood from my view, and my heart sank when I saw Zander walking down the cul-de-sac to his own home.
Not now. Please. No tears. Not now.
“Whoa, you alright?” Cade put down his drink and sat with me on the chair.
I didn’t even notice I was crying, a ton of tears already marking my summer onyx romper-dress. I quickly wiped my tears away and answered, “Yeah, sorry. Allergies.”
“You were just about ready to start sobbing, Ellis.” Cade sounded as serious as ever. “What’s going on?”
I laughed at my pathetic excuse. “Sorry. I’m not a good liar when it comes to making up things for my tears.”
“So you cry a lot in public too?” Cade enthusiastically shot up.
I began crying again while laughing.
“So bad it’s good?” Cade pat my back. “Joking aside. What’s wrong?”
“Zan...” I pointed to the baby blue house that I once spent every single day at.
Cade was confused for a second before realizing what I meant. “Ah.”
I sniffled a bit and said, “Yeah.”
After a brief silence passed until Cade threw caution to the wind and asked, “What even happened to you two? If you don’t mind me asking. It’s totally cool if you tell me to fuck off and mind my business.”
I giggled. “No, it’s okay. I trust you.”
Cade beamed at my statement.
“I dunno,” I lay down on the lounge chair and close my eyes. “A bunch of things. But there was a lot of love. A ton of love. A fuck load of love.”
“So... why’d you guys end things?”
I squeezed my eyes shut, feeling the tears still slipping through. “He just... he’s going through a lot.”
“So he pushed you away when he needed someone most?”
I always said this to myself, but never out loud. I didn’t want to see Zander as “pushing me away when he needed me most”, but that’s how it was.
I wiped tears away from my cheeks. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Caden nodded, sympathy in his eyes. I could tell he truly felt for me.
“Well, you’re not the only one who feels that way.”
Caden was looking down at the lounge chair, picking at a loose thread from the cushion.
I urged him to continue with an eyebrow raise.
“This girl. Alisha.” Cade chokes up for a second. “She and I grew up together. We liked each other, there was no denying that. But we never said anything.”
“That’s so cute.” I hug my knees to my chest. I’ve always been a sucker for childhood sweethearts.
He gave a weak smile. “One night, my dad hit my mom for the first time, and Ali was there. They didn’t know she was there because she snuck in; it was something we did regularly. He was drunk. We both heard the slap. You could hear it for miles, basically. So he left. And so did Ali.
“I didn’t hear from either of them for days. I got worried when Ali didn’t answer my video chat calls. So I went over. No one was home except her mother. Her mom answered, and when she saw me, she broke down and told me. Drunk driver hit her when she was on her way home.”
I felt a gut wrenching sensation. I already knew where this was going.
“It was Dad.” Cade was trying so hard not to cry, and it was heartbreaking. “They arrested him. Trace released him somehow. That’s when we found out he was a dealer. Both of them, actually. That’s how he got the bail money.
“That’s when it all started to go downhill.” He had a blank expression on then. “I never talk about it with anyone. It hurts a lot.”
I move over to Cade’s chair and hug him tightly. “You’re a strong and brave guy.”
There was a little muffled sob, then a “Thank you”. We sat together, hugging, for a while until his mother called for him to order dinner.