Before We Burn

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I Found

Wesley groaned in frustration as he curled a piece of paper into his fist, then threw it in the back seat.

“Fuck!” he yelled and slammed his hands against the steering wheel.

Another job application was denied again.

The time during and after his probation, getting a job was easy than expected. Ever since his dad was found guilty of the murders, it was impossible.

To get a good enough lawyer to fight the state meant money. To get his siblings back without fighting the state meant money.

He was running out of options. He had even checked the employers who would take in ex-cons, but they had also refused him because of how heinous his father’s crimes were.

He had only one last option, but it was one that had got him in trouble before.

If the law caught Wesley again, he was not going to be able to see his siblings. Possibly Oaklyn, too.

He didn’t want to rush into a decision yet and, especially one that could create more chaos instead of diminishing it.

Wesley pulled out his phone and called Oaklyn. He began to fuss the more he thought about how she hasn’t contacted him since a day prior.

“Wesley?” Oaklyn picked up on the second ring.

“Where are you right now?” he asked. He silently scolded himself for sounding too worried and eager.

Yet, she giggled at him through the phone.

“Where do you think I am?” she flirted.

His eyebrows quirked up, and he leaned back against the car seat.

He had noticed the more they talked on the phone or spent time with one another, the less shy she was, and the more she openly taunted him.

Even though their relationship was only a couple of weeks official, it was getting more and more troublesome to restrain himself around her.

“That depends on what you’re wearing,” he grinned shyly to himself.

“That is a good start.”

He smiled wider when he heard her laugh again. “Gah, you’re killing me here.”

“This view looks mighty fine up here,” she hinted.

A tinge of fear sat in his gut. The last time Oaklyn had been at the waterslides was when he had pulled her back from the railing.

He tried to convince himself she was only up there to get away from everything, but his mind wouldn’t ease.

Wesley quickly put the car into drive and kept her on the phone.

Though she sounded calm and joyful when she spoke to him, he couldn’t be too careful. She might have had learned how to hide her problems better than before.

“What if I bring blankets this time?” he asked after she inferred how quickly it’d become chilly. “There’s some in the trunk.”

“Okay,” she replied. “I approve of this idea.”

Wesley hurriedly grabbed the blankets from the trunk and practically sprinted toward the water slides after he locked the car.

“Good because I’m here.”

He saw her head peek out from the platform railings, and he smiled as he hung up the phone.


“How was family therapy?” Wesley asked after he took a puff from his cigarette.

Oaklyn shrugged as she took a sip of the beer she had brought.

“Same old. My mom talked about how difficult it’s been with my brother gone, and I don’t care about anyone. My dad was doing his song and dance of a doting husband and father,” she scoffed. “It’s all bullshit.”

He stayed quiet as he processed everything. He couldn’t believe the drastic change in both appearance and personality.

She was once so timid and closed off and wore frilly clothing. She began to harden her exterior and dress a lot more like him.

He didn’t know whether to make a note of it or admire it.

He wasn’t much of a fan of the tennis skirts she used to wear, but as long as she was to be herself, he didn’t care.

“Have you tried to do personal therapy?”

Oaklyn shook her head with a bitter grin.

“As if my mom would want to miss out on that kind of gossip material. She tore up the bear you gave me because I didn’t do things her way. I don’t want to imagine what else she might destroy.”

Wesley’s eyes widened, and his teeth clenched. “What? Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

Her face saddened as she remembered the fight she had with her mother. It had been the hump that broke the camel’s back.

“I knew it would have hurt you if I did. My mom had forbidden me to see you,” her voice became quiet. “I told her she was wrong.”

Though he was mad, the corners of his mouth curved upward at the idea that she had stuck up for him from the very beginning.

It just wasn’t fair that her mother had done that to her and was treating her like a child when she would bend over backward to do everything her mother wanted.

“How did the job hunt go?” she asked before she took another sip of beer.

Wesley groaned and fell back against the lump of blankets. He didn’t answer, only stuck his cigarette in his mouth.

“That bad?” Oaklyn couldn’t help but giggle.

He looked at her with narrowed eyes, then blew smoke from his lips.

“Every single one of them rejected me. I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Wesley sighed.

Before she could open her mouth, he held up a finger in the air.

“Don’t even mention your dad. I don’t want his help, and I doubt he would want to help me.”

Oaklyn raised her hands in surrender and pursed her bottom lip. “Okay. I won’t bring it up. Not a single peep.”

Wesley lifted his head. “You better not.”

Silence settled between them as they stared at one another.


“Nuh-uh,” he shushed her.



“What if-”

“No way, José.”

“Ugh,” she groaned in defeat. “You can be so difficult sometimes. You know that?”

Oaklyn finished her beer can.

He snickered beside her but was surprised when she reached toward him, then plucked the cigarette out of his mouth.

She took the last remaining hit off of it, then put it out against the grey concrete.

He hoisted himself on his elbows and watched her in amusement when she took out a pack from her small bag.

“When did you start smoking?”

She borrowed his lighter, then gave it back to him once lit.

“Since a couple of days ago. I can’t just drink all the time, or I’m going to get addicted,” Oaklyn answered innocently.

Wesley chuckled at her. “Oh, unlike cigarettes.”

Although he was making fun of her, he couldn’t look away from her every time she smoked.

The smoke billowed around her face and her wavy hair. It was a perfect image for a painting.

Whenever Wesley was around her, his inspiration would fly off the charts.

There were nights where he couldn’t sleep because of how Oaklyn looked at some point during the day, and he needed to illustrate her.

“It’s either pills, alcohol, or nicotine. Take your pick,” Oaklyn teased.

He gently tugged her by her wrist and straddled her on his lap.

“What about me?” he murmured over her lips.

She glanced down at his mouth, then back up at his eyes.

“What about you?” Her eyebrow quirked playfully.

“Pick me,” he answered as he tenderly kissed along her jaw.

She giggled, and her hair blew in the evening breeze.

“I don’t know. You might be the most dangerous,” Oaklyn breathed when he began to kiss her neck.

His hand traveled toward her fingers that held her cigarette.

“So are you,” he laughed by her ear.

He pulled away to stare at her, then took a long drag. He put the filter against her lips for her to do the same.

Wesley flicked it to the side, then linked his lips with hers. His hands worked quickly to tear off her shirt, then allowed her to yank his over his head.

Once he felt her shiver against him, he laid her down and covered them with the blankets.

“Are you sure?” he asked her as he studied her face for any sign of doubt. “Not moving too fast, am I?”

Oaklyn shook her head as she gazed up at him in awe.

She replied in a whisper, “I’m more than sure.”

A smile erupted on his face, and he kissed her passionately.


Wesley watched her sleep next to him in his bed.

When they had come back to his place, it was hard to keep their hands off one another again.

It was as if the flood gates had opened to something sacred.

He caressed her dark hair. He wondered how often she was able to sleep well during the night by her talk about nightmares.

Oaklyn stirred, and her eyes fluttered open.

He softly grinned before he settled a tender kiss on her bare shoulder.

“It’s hard to sleep when you keep touching on me like that,” she murmured with a teasing smile.

Wesley chuckled as he shifted closer to her. “I’m sorry. You’re just too beautiful not to touch.”

She stared at him for a moment before she placed her lips onto his.

Before it could turn more heated, her phone went off on top of the nightstand. She groaned in irritation and dropped her head onto the pillow.

“I swear to God,” Oaklyn muttered. “I don’t want to hear it.”

Wesley nibbled his lip as she reached for her phone, then glanced at the text messages.

She turned her phone off and placed it back on the table.

“What did she say?”

“How dare you stay out so late? What has gotten into you? You’re disrespectful. Blah, blah, blah.”

He pulled her into his chest and caressed her skin with his fingertips.

“It seems like she’s getting worse,” he said, anxiety compressed his gut.

The woman was verbally and emotionally attacking her. It was not right.

Yet, he had no place to do anything other than to observe and listen.

He just worried about what it was doing to her mentally. He had witnessed the deterioration firsthand when it came to his mother and himself.

“It’s because I’m no longer abiding by her rules. I expected it to happen,” she sighed heavily.

He noticed her mood change dramatically, no matter how much she tried to withhold it from him.

“It’s going to be okay,” Wesley whispered.

Oaklyn looked up at him and lifted her mouth into a smile, though forced.

“Yeah,” she replied, then looked away from him. “Yeah, I know.”


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