Define Selfish

Chapter 6

Callie Jacobs

Indiana

Day 26

What are you afraid of?

Every time she closes her eyes, Callie begs the question and every time, she has a different answer. There are so many of them.

Right now, she's a little afraid a tornado is going to cut through the sheeting rain that is for all intents and purposes already drowning her, and sweep her off to some unpopulated flatland that she'll never find her way back from. Metaphorically speaking, she's worried that seeing Wyatt again is going to do the same thing. Then again, maybe she won't see Wyatt—Callie squints from under her hood, trying to make out something; anything in this storm...

The souls of her sneakers flop freely, hanging by a thread as she clomps through a puddle. This is worse than running. Having a destination is proving to be the worst possible scenario. When there's somewhere to go, you run the risk of not making it. Callie can think of any number of things standing in her way—namely herself. She doesn't know what she wants. Any attempt to force the life sucking ache wrapped around her spine into useful expression results in screaming frustration and an aching itch that Callie can't soothe. Something about it drives her—and turns her around daily. Ten steps forward and nine steps back.

Almost eight hundred ridiculous miles, and three very long days later, Callie is finally somewhere that she wants to be: if only she knew exactly where that is. She fell asleep in the car at an unremarkable point in her driver's obviously exaggerated story about his personal life, and missed the exit sign. He was a nice enough man—or he tried to be—nice enough, at any rate, to have picked her up in West Virginia and given her a ride this far.

She's been walking for hours, since before dawn, with no idea if she's going in the right direction, too determined…or maybe too ashamed, to duck into any of the businesses along the way and beg to use a phone.

Desperation: it's the feeling; the one that Callie can't express. She's trapped by it. Callie wants to run from it—but she knows it will never go away. Still, the desperation—or maybe it's the rain—cools her soaked skin and the hair on her arms stands up, sending shivers out over the rest of her body. Callie shakes like a dog.

"This's crazy." At least it's only been raining for the last forty-five minutes. Callie is soaked and cold, at the end of her rope. If she had a watch she'd be checking it every sixty seconds—like she has a deadline. Callie draws her own personal line in the sand at Speedway. She loiters for a minute under the roof that extends to the gas pumps and gives a passing thought to the bank next door. The image of herself in a ski mask with a fake gun in her pocket holding up the tellers warns her that she might be losing control—a passing, fancy: a delirious one. Callie sways on the spot, grateful for the shelter, knowing that this is as far as she's going to make it.

Losing control doesn't have to be a bad thing. The smell of gasoline triggers Callie's morbid appreciation for the journey: hasn't she been courting rock bottom all this time? Callie doesn't want to be responsible for Jude. Clearly, she isn't up to the task. She doesn't want to wear this face—the one that she's created for moments just like this: when she's terrified and so alone that all she wants is for someone to see it…while all she knows to do is make sure that no one does. It makes her mad: at the people who can't see; at herself for not being able to change.

It takes a minute—or maybe it's been a few—for Callie to realize that there are several people at the pumps staring. They seem reluctant to enter the attached store, as if they're waiting for her to go in and come out or just leave already. Right. She looks pretty bad. Maybe they think she's going to stick up the station.

Callie rolls her eyes at her own fiction and tugs on both glass doors, using all of her dwindling body weight to drag them open. She is so weak…and clumsy. The fuzz that's taken up permanent residence in the reasoning part of her brain must be spreading to the cognitive part. Callie sees the rack of candy before the counter but she bumps into it anyway.

"Sorry."

She isn't winning any points with the young cashier behind the counter. He won't even come around the front to pick up the candy.

"Can I help you with something?"

"Maybe." Callie tries to get it together, to make a coherent sentence into a persuasive request, "I need a phone."

She fails, miserably and wonders if her voice sounds as strange to her companion as it does to her. It's thick and slowed by Callie's clumsy, sticky mouth.

The long faced teen looks at Callie like she has three heads before he remembers, "I think there's an old payphone in the back…"

God, she hates those things. They're vindictive: mocking her lack of capital. They could get her what she needs, but for a price. They piss Callie off, along with a million other things these days. They're so outdated and this kid is so naïve if he can't figure out what's going on here. Callie doesn't have the energy to be mean, and she can't cry either, no matter how much she'd like to—not because she's too proud, but because her body doesn't have enough liquid left to let her waste it on tears. A meager attempt at sarcasm is all she can manage.

"Are you sure it still works?"

The idea doesn't seem to have occurred to the uncomfortable clerk. Callie decides to cut him a break, "Look, I don't have any money. I just need to make one phone call. Please, I don't have a way to get home. I just want to call someone to come pick me up."

It doesn't take a genius to figure out what she's asking.

The entry bell dings, ending the cashier's hesitation and giving him a false sense of confidence as another patron walks into the station, heading for the coolers in the back. Safety in numbers—and isn't altruism supposed to be a credit?

Callie waits—not patiently per se—but she doesn't really have the energy or the foothold to be anything else. Right now, in this moment, reality is very closely wound around her. Callie is here, nowhere else. The thick soupy air that is smothering everyone at this service area is just a reminder. The Fosters are not here. They're not anywhere near. There's no connection.

Her new 'friend' conspiratorially waves her around to the side of the counter, away from the register and hands her the cordless phone that he's been carting around the tiny store in his apron pocket, "Make it quick, ok?"

Callie ignores his disgusted look as she struggles to keep from dropping the phone while her clumsy fingers dial. What does she care? Oh but she does. She wishes he wouldn't look at her like that. Callie is spoiling for a fight—unfortunately she doesn't think she'd be able to finish what she started.

It's ringing.

Callie is changing and in her mind, so have the Fosters. Callie can't imagine them here or being with them. Even her brother is fading. She can't picture his face anymore, or resurrect the sound of Jude's voice.

…it's still ringing.

He isn't going to answer. Then that's it. Eight hundred miles is Callie's limit. She tried. Callie can rest easy, knowing that she tried.

"Hello?"

Wyatt…he answered.

She doesn't have to know Jude's face by heart—Callie knows what it feels like to have a brother. She will always know what it feels like to sacrifice for him; and to hurt him. Needing something or someone isn't something that can be forgotten, it isn't a conscious choice. Neither are Callie's feelings about Wyatt. Swallowing is painful, but Callie forces herself to speak to the boy who's already done so much for her.

"Wyatt? It's Callie. I'm in Indiana—I know, I can explain, I'm sorry—will you pick me up? Please?" Callie adds the last out of exhausted desperation. If Wyatt says no, if she's alienated him so completely, Callie doesn't know what she'll do. Wyatt is her early indicator. If she can't make things right with him, how can she possibly expect to work things out with the Fosters?

Oh.

Callie glances over at the cashier, contemplating the question that Wyatt has just asked before she decides to focus on the customer at the counter, "Excuse me—where are we, exactly?"

The customer looks at Callie with the same bewildered, confused look as the cashier, "You're in Zionsville."

Callie's eyes must look glassy or maybe she looks stupefied, because the customer shifts uncomfortably before adding as if he isn't sure, "On Oak Street? By the Boon Village Center…"

Callie doesn't know if Wyatt knows where that is and she doesn't care. He'll figure it out. Doesn't make much difference at this point; Callie can't help herself anymore.

"Thanks." She doesn't ask how long it will take him to get to her. It doesn't matter. Callie plans to go outside, throw herself on the ground against one of the big garbage cans she saw by the entrance and let her eyes close. Wyatt will see her when he gets here. Or he won't. Whatever.

What are you afraid of?

Callie's afraid that Wyatt will come for her. She's afraid that he won't. She's afraid of whom he'll find—who she'll be by the time he gets here.

"Thanks," Callie repeats herself as the phone passes from her hand back to the Clerk's side of the counter because she doesn't have the faculties right now to string a longer sentence together, but before she can make it to the front door, the costumer at the register calls out to her, "Hey, kid, are you hungry?"

Yes. Callie is very hungry...and thirsty.


Callie can't do this. She is doing this.

The girl wouldn't let Wyatt touch her after he finally managed to slap her awake at the gas station. Scared him half to death too—but Callie wouldn't go with Wyatt until she'd violently thrown up in the garbage can behind her. She shouldn't have eaten, not as much as she had, not after starving for so long. Food makes her sick. Water, Callie needed water in more ways than one. She didn't like Wyatt seeing her in this state. Threatening to go AWOL was the only thing that kept Wyatt from driving her straight to a hospital. He had to carry her to his car…and Callie had enough presence to wonder, would Brandon have done the same thing?

She knows the answer. Brandon would have taken her to a hospital, threats or no threats. He wouldn't have understood why she needed to take her chances; why fighting through this, regardless of the consequences, was so important to her. Brandon would have told her that she had to take this seriously—had to take her own wellbeing seriously. Brandon wouldn't have gambled with her life, not after what happened in Tijuana.

Wyatt respects Callie's wishes—this time, it doesn't cost her. This time, it saves her. Callie and Wyatt are so different. She hates that she used him—that she's still using Wyatt. Some things never change. In this case, the thought isn't a comfort.

Callie lets go of her knees to swipe at her dripping nose as Wyatt's showerhead rains down on her. You'd think she'd be sick of getting soaked. You'd think she'd be finished by now—shouldn't it be easier? Why is she sitting in Wyatt's shower, still fully clothed, and thinking about running again?

The sound of a quiet knock and the hesitant turn of the bathroom doorknob sends Callie's face into her knees and sucks the air out of her lungs. Don't come in here.

"I got you some clothes…" Wyatt's voice disappears behind the freshly closed door and Callie bites her lip, face pale and wavering. She's doing her best not to make any noise. She has to stand up. Or she could sit here and drown. Whatever decision she makes, she can't make a sound—if she starts, it'll escalate into wailing and Wyatt doesn't need his neighbors to think he's shacking up with a Banshee. For that matter, Callie doesn't want to wake his grandmother up either.

After all this time, all these years, and Callie still hasn't learned how to be alone with herself. Without distraction, she feels vulnerable. She is in here, all by herself. She doesn't have to worry about a roof over her head, or food in her stomach for now. Callie doesn't have to worry about Jude—she has to worry about Callie. It's an uncomfortable feeling. Callie used to think she was solid. It doesn't feel that way now.

She stands and peels off her sodden sweatshirt, dropping it into the corner of the shower. Callie moves like a robot, pulling off pieces of clothing and letting them sit until she stands under the shower spray, completely naked with a pile of bug infested clothes at her feet. Her toes curl, subconsciously trying to retreat from the disgusting mess. She wants to hurl again, but Callie holds it in and turns her face to the spray of warm water. Her shins ache with the strain of holding her body upright so soon, but the thought of being clean finally seems like enough of a motivator to make Callie move. She washes on autopilot. When Callie reaches for her hair, it's almost too much—touching air is devastating. Reaching for something that you thought would be there, but isn't, is demoralizing. It's distressing—destructive.

Callie's body falls against the shower wall and she jams her knuckles into her teeth to keep from yelling. What is she doing here? This is a mistake.

Jude. She can't even say she's going back for Jude, because she isn't. Callie doesn't know why she's doing this.

"…without you on our side, we will lose…"

Callie wants to rip Lena to shreds for saying those words. They’re what set all of this in motion, and they’re the ultimate bar that Callie knows she can't rise above. Stef and Lena are good people; genuinely good. Saying that they don't care about Callie is worse than an insult, its complete assassination of character and Callie can't do that. Why can't she do that?

Callie wants to be on their side, but being on their side means being on her own too and Callie has never been there. Come to think of it, Jude may be the only living person who knows what Callie's side consists of. For the first time, Callie wonders what's there—she wonders what Jude found, that Callie has never been able to see. There are no answers for her.

Getting out of the shower is hard. Knowing that she has to take care of her bugs makes it that much harder.

The blue duffel bag that Callie finds on the bathroom floor when she finally brings herself to step out of the tub burns her from the inside out.

Wyatt kept it. He kept her things after she took off without telling him, without a note, without a 'thank you' or a 'sorry'. Callie's legs won't support her for much longer. At the moment, she doesn't mind falling to her knees at Wyatt's absent feet; thanking him silently, but profusely for being exactly who he is—now and before…

One more for Callie's side: her grimace can't be stopped. She’s treated him pretty badly.

Callie doesn't bother to dry off before hunting for the zipper on the blue duffel while water drips down her back and from her chin.

Clothes. Familiar, clean clothes. Callie's clothes.

The water dripping from her face isn't from the shower anymore. Callie has lost all sense of perspective. They're just clothes. But they're more than that; they're a tangible product of her friendship with Wyatt. The ache doesn't go away, it flares, but somehow, it's more bearable knowing that Wyatt hasn't written her off. Callie needed something from him—she didn't know it—and he's given it to her: hope.

Callie hiccups between watery breaths as her hand hits something hard beneath the fabrics.

The teen rocks back on her heels with a cell phone in her palm: the cell phone.

This is it. Or at least, it could be it. Three and a half inches of screen take Callie's breath away. This is her lifeline.

…and she's dripping on it.

Callie scrambles to dry the phone with the towel Wyatt left for her, carefully setting it on top of the laundry basket away from the shower, away from the sink and away from Callie. The girl takes a deep breath, thoroughly charged, and opens the door wide enough to poke her head through, "Wyatt? Do you have any Mayonnaise?"

Wyatt is sitting on his bed, hands behind his head, as nonchalant as possible, but Callie bites back a grin as he jumps, completely unsettled by her verbal intrusion. He's trying so hard to be calm.

"Now you want a sandwich?"

Callie rolls her eyes, "Nice. Just get it for me, will you."

It's an old way—a cheaper way, of getting rid of lice that her mother taught her when Jude came home with it in grade school. The thought of her mother is distant, less concrete than a ghost. Callie frowns as she swamps her short hair with Mayo and ties a plastic bag over her head. She's lost track of her past, her mother, her father…the accident; Liam, Tijuana, the Fosters. Is she anything like her mother? No, Callie doesn't think so, but her mother might understand who Callie has become and why. The strange idea that Callie's mother might actually be proud—of certain aspects—of her daughter's personality, makes the runaway stand a little taller and feel a little less shaky. Take away this mistake—this gigantic, all-encompassing fuck up…and Callie might have been proud of who she was too. All of this time, she didn't think she had a chance: Callie never believed she had a future. Only Jude—his future is the only one she's seen and it's so stunning that Callie doesn't have the heart to mar it with the agony of her total departure. What was she thinking?

Callie might look ridiculous with this bag over her head, she might really be completely unstable but she feels a hell of a lot cleaner and for now, that's enough to make her giddy.

Wyatt isn't in his room when Callie finishes, but the bedroom window is wide open so Callie does her best to stay upright on protesting legs as she makes the walk of shame from one end of the room to the other and leans out. He's on the roof. Talk about hostile acts.

"Do you have a death wish or something?" Callie is joking, but her bare foot slips on the shingles as she tries to climb out. Normally, this would be easy.

Wyatt doesn't help. He does watch though, just in case. She isn't off the hook.

Callie decides it's safer to sit where she is instead of trying to make her way to Wyatt. Screw him if he won't come to her.

"You look ridiculous—I hope you have to wear that for days. It would go great with that dress." He's referring to the dress Callie wore at Mariana's Quinceañera. The memory is a well-deserved barb, but Callie fakes a moment of humor and tosses a stick at her friend.

"Thanks." She isn't referring to the insult and Wyatt knows it.

His tone is as serious as it can be with such a short, simple answer, "Yeah."

Callie follows his gaze, out across the roof tops of his new town and at the expanse of what's supposed to be his new life. She wants to ask how it's going, but it seems callous to expect Wyatt to let her back in so easily after everything she's done. Callie is beginning to realize that she has a lot to apologize for; a lot to make up for. There isn't time, not with Wyatt. This is just a way station, like so many that she and Jude passed through before. This is the first one that really, really hurts. So, Callie doesn't ask him how he's been and he doesn't ask her what she's done.

"Didn't think I'd hear from you again…"

Callie's face scrunches as she tries to consider where he's coming from. She never intended to contact him again when she left. She thought that was obvious. Wyatt knew, even without the details, what she was about when he let her get into his car. She assumed that he was on the same page.

"Why?" It's a fair question to ask—Wyatt clearly wants to talk about it.

Wyatt's hand runs through his hair. At least that hasn't changed. He's still the messy-sexy 'hair model' that Callie knew in San Diego.

"I called Lena. You know, I didn't know what else to do—"

Callie cuts him off, nodding her head and looking down at the shingles, "I know. It's cool. I talked to them."

Wyatt seems surprised. Clearly the communication loop doesn't travel both ways. A sympathetic twinge in Callie's chest makes her hate the look of masked anguish on Wyatt's face because it makes her feel guiltier than she already does.

"You did? So…are you going back?"

Callie opens her mouth to reply but she can't seem to get that one word out—the only one that matters right now. She wants to say yes. Just yes. Instead, she says, "I'm trying."

Wyatt watches her. She doesn't care if he disapproves. But he doesn't say, either way. His huge sigh seems like a concession though, as he stands up to move next to Callie.

"Do they know?"

Callie looks at Wyatt, and out at the world that she's crossed more of in the past month than she has her entire life. She hasn't really seen it though. It's different when you're in the thick of it; life is easy to miss that way. Up here, right now; from a distance, it's beautiful.

"No. I don't want to tell them yet. I'm not sure I'll make it," Callie tries to shrug as if it doesn't matter, "and I don't want to hurt them anymore than I already have."

"You realize that's like, an 'erroneous' statement, right? I'm pretty sure they hurt more everyday worrying about you. You didn't just uproot your life, when you left." Callie has no words to match Wyatt's petulant accusation, she just lets him continue. "You could give them some hope at least."

Callie knows Wyatt is right, but she isn't ready to admit that, "If I tell them—if I tell Jude I'm coming home, and then I don't make it…"

"Then you really break your little brother's heart." Wyatt's voice sounds so cold, but Callie chooses to believe that he's just being blunt, "So, don't mess up."

Wyatt says it as if it's that simple. Watching him look out over the town, Callie can almost believe him.

The question she asks comes as a surprise, even to Callie, "Did you call them tonight?"

Wyatt takes a startled second to decide if he should be defensive, or if he has a right to get pissed. He settles for grumpy, "I thought about it. Probably should."

Callie re-circles her folded legs with her arms and rests her chin on her knees, listening to the noncommittal tone in Wyatt's punishing voice. She can almost pretend that they're still in San Diego and that nothing has changed: that she didn't kiss Brandon, and Wyatt hasn't moved; that they're still who they were a couple months ago. It's too much to ask for.

"Listen…" Callie starts and knows how to finish. Words have a habit of coming to her when they're right, "I know what I put you through in Cali—and asking you to bring me out here with you—I don't know if it's worse for you, having me acknowledge it and apologize, or if it would be easier for both of us if I were really so self-involved that I had no idea what I was doing…but you are the best friend I've ever had. I'm sorry I used you," Callie's eyebrows go up as she cynically corrects herself, "I'm sorry I'm still using you."

If he's even listening, Wyatt clearly isn't going to make this easy. Callie tugs on his shoulder, "Thank you: for keeping my duffel bag. Thanks for wanting me to be happy. Thank you…for coming to get me today. I don't know if I would have done the same."

Wyatt turns his head, just enough to see over his shoulder and through his hair, "You would have." She already has. Callie kept him going—she understood something that no one else wanted to, "And for the record—I was a willing participant, so, if your new Mom wants to lock me up as an accessory, you know where I am."

Callie swallows an unexpected laugh, ignoring the twinge of grief that comes with Wyatt's choice of words. It feels wrong to laugh.

Wyatt nudges her, gently at first, with his elbow, and then harder—"You know I went through your underwear, right?"—until Callie loses her balance and falls onto her side, laughing. Wrong or right—Callie laughs anyway.


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