chapter 15 || kai
Sitting by the big oak tree where we had our first group, I fiddle with the bracelet Emma gave me all those months ago.
I’m glad I found it again. In a weird way, it’s made me feel closer to her than before; a good reminder that she’s still there with me. It’s comforting to have something that reminds me of her in a place where there’s no trace of her.
She isn’t here physically, but if Emma’s theory is right, she’d be in the stars.
I could almost hear Emma repeating one of her favorite facts about our solar system. Right now, she would say, “Even though it’s bright outside, the stars are still there.”
Just like Emma. She’s still here, even if she’s gone.
God, I’m becoming soft and cheesy. This place is doing wonders. If I told Emma how I’ve changed, she would look at me like I was crazy. When I came here, I wasn’t expecting much. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t want to be here and share my secrets with everyone, but a small a part of me is glad I came.
“Hey.” A voice says. I look up from my wrist to find Hayden with his hands in the pocket of his hoodie, swaying on his feet.
“Hey,” I say back, making eye contact with him. He doesn’t say anything else, but he quickly moves to the right of me and sits down. “Yeah, you can sit there. Sure, no problem,” I retort, rolling my eyes.
“Can I sit? Cool, thanks,” he responds with a slight smile. I’m tempted to scowl and leave, wanting to be alone with my thoughts for a while. Against my better judgment, I stay seated, curious to what he has to say.
Glancing at Hayden, I notice his hoodie, which is the same one he’s been wearing for the past couple of days. My eyes travel up his body to his head, which is a mess of golden-brown hair.
I watch as his eyes travel down to my wrist; the one with Emma’s bracelet. I go to move my sleeve over the bracelet, but Hayden stops my hand. I glance up, confused about what he’s doing.
“Don’t. It’s a pretty bracelet.” He finally looks up at my face and I see the sunlight bounce off of his green eyes, making them sparkle.
“Thanks,” I say without breaking eye contact.
“Did your boyfriend give you that?” he asks, still holding onto my wrist lightly.
I refrain from laughing out loud, but a slight chuckle escapes my lips anyway. “I don’t have a boyfriend.”
I’ve never had a boyfriend that lasted more than a few weeks. They all thought they could handle me, but a couple of days in and they all realized that I was not for them. All they wanted was a girl who would fall at their feet.
That was not me.
“Really?” Hayden asks, shock written all over his face. “Bu-but you’re so pretty!”
I feel my eyebrows shoot up. Where was this coming from?
“Thanks, but guys want a girl who won’t fight back. At least the ones at my school,” I say honestly. “You seem like the type of guy to have a girlfriend,” I say nonchalantly. If he’s going to be picking at my love life, I sure as hell am going to pick back.
“Not anymore.” His green eyes darken at the mention of a girlfriend and his grip on my wrist-which I forgot he was still holding- tightens.
“Why?” I pry, needing more information than that. Hayden seems like the type of guy who can get any girl he wants and the idea of him not having a girlfriend is unbelievable. But then again, death makes people different.
“After Sydney died, everything went to shit. I came home everyday sporting a new bruise or reeking of alcohol or pot from some party or another. I broke up with my girlfriend and had meaningless sex. I didn’t know what to do without Syd by my side. She kept me grounded. I was a good kid because of her.” Hayden runs his hand through his hair, tearing his gaze off of mine.
“Hey, it’s alright. Death makes people do shitty things they don’t mean.” His hand is still on my wrist, so I maneuver mine over his in order to hold it and give it a squeeze. I go to drop my hand, but Hayden clutches it tighter.
“What’d you do?” he asks, his voice throaty, as if he’s holding back tears.
“Drank like there was no tomorrow and got into a fight with this huge dude,” I chuckle dryly, recalling the memories of not even a month ago. I wish I could say they were the good ’ole days but that would be the biggest lie to ever come out of my mouth.
He turns to look at me, finally dropping my hand. “I can totally see you fighting a dude bigger than you. It’s a thing you would do.”
“Yeah, well, Emma’s death fucked me up big time.” I lean into Hayden a bit more and rest my head on his shoulder, the talk of Emma getting to me. He adjusts himself before putting his own head on mine.
“Not a day goes that I don’t think of her.”
“Same with me and Syd.” I close my eyes, letting Hayden’s warmth surround me. I hone in on his breathing, feeling the slight rise of his shoulders every time he inhales.
The weight of his head shifts off of mine and I pick my own head up from his shoulder quickly.
“You’re a good person, Kai.”
I turn to him and give him a smile, which for the first time in a long time, feels genuine. “You too Hayden.”
Once again, I look straight into his green eyes which happen to be looking at me already. His eyes drift down, landing on my lips and then back into my eyes. Hayden leans in closer and I can smell the faint smell of Axe, the same one Ryder used to use in middle school, but on Hayden, it smells good. His hand makes its way to my chin, tilting it up slightly.
Holy fuck I really want to kiss this boy, I think to myself, the urge to do so completely taking over me.
I close the gap between us and Hayden presses his lips against mine ever so gently. My eyes close quickly like a reflex. I take it a step further and run my tongue on his bottom lip, asking him to open, which he does and dart my tongue in and out.
I swear if I was standing upright right now my knees would’ve buckled underneath me.
He pulls away first, preventing it from going any further and rests his forehead against mine, brushing his thumb against my lips.
“Damn,” I whisper.
“Damn,” he whispers back in a hoarse voice. “That was a helluva kiss there Kai.”
I pull my forehead and back away quickly. “What now?” I ask, pulling my knees to my chest.
As much as I enjoyed that kiss, I know things will be different. How could I have been so stupid? I never do these kinds of things sober; this is something drunk me would do.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, what happens now? If we had a friendship, that’s gone after that kiss.” I was finally starting to think of him as a friend; someone other than Ryder or Emma in my life.
Kisses ruin things.
“Well,” Hayden looks down at his hands, “A relationship?” He looks back up at me, almost pleading with his eyes.
“Look, I- is a grief camp really the best place to start a relationship?” I came here to get over Emma, not fall in love. And he came here to move on from his twin. We’re both just different levels of fucked-up so even if we did have a relationship, how would it work?
“Maybe not, but Kai-” he reaches over to hold one of my hands “-I really like you. Like, really like you.”
His thumb strokes the back of my hand, his grip tightening slightly. I down at both our hands and back up at his face. I do like Hayden and I do want to date him but everything my body says not to; that now is not the place or time.
“Can I sleep on it?” I ask, deciding on giving him an answer later once I’ve had some time to think.
Hayden’s grip loosens and lets my hand fall out of his. “Yeah. Of course.”
With that, I push myself up off the ground, leaving him by the big oak tree alone.