chapter 16 || ryder
I hold a picture of Emma and me in my hand, reminiscing about the day it was taken. It was our 6 month anniversary, where we went on a picnic at the same park we had our first kiss at.
The picture was taken by a random stranger who happened to walk by with a small Yorkie. Emma saw the miniature dog and immediately ran to pet it. I ran behind her, knowing very well that she wouldn’t even ask the owner if she could pet the puppy. The stranger didn’t mind a bit, telling us that the Yorkie loved people. Despite that, I tried to drag Emma away but when I finally did, she started to pout looking up at me. I pouted back before kissing her. And then I heard a snap go off, both of our heads flying to the noise. We both forgot that the stranger was still there and took a picture of us. After Emma left to go back to the picnic, I asked the lady with the Yorkie if I could have the picture, which she was more than happy to give me, telling us how cute we were.
Everyone told me that we wouldn’t last because high school relationships never do; at least not more than a couple of months. Not to mention I faced endless amounts of bullying from my soccer team for dating Emma. As a few of them put it, I “was whipped for the chick”. But I didn’t care. Not a bit. The guys were right, I was whipped for her, but I didn’t mind. She made me laugh and smile like no one ever has before
So here I am, clutching the picture of our 6 month anniversary, trying to figure out where I went wrong and thinking about Callie’s words from earlier, how I will find love again.
The question is, will I ever be able to love someone who isn’t Emma? And if by some miracle I do, will I ever stop searching for her in other girls?
I’m so lost in my thoughts that I don’t even hear the door open. My head snaps up at the sound of the door closing, quickly shoving the picture away, thinking it’s one of my roommates. Instead, I’m greeted by Kai, who is walking toward my bed.
“What’s wrong?” I immediately ask after taking one look at Kai’s face. Her face looks like if she bit into a lemon but poured sugar into her mouth right away too to get rid of the sourness.
A mix of emotions.
“Um,” she fiddles with her thumbs, something she does when she’s trying to figure stuff out. “I kissed Hayden?”
She did what now?
I shoot up from my bed and onto my feet, taking quick steps towards Kai. She backs against the wall to the point where I was no further than a foot away from her face. Well, more like her the top of her head. Her face reaches at the base of my neck, making me a whole head taller than her.
“You did what?” I said slowly, making sure I heard her right.
“I kissed Hayden.” She places a hand on my chest, pushing me back and away from her. “Calm your tits.”
“I swear to god, I’ll kill that son of a bitch. He can’t just go kissing you like that!” I head for the door but Kai darts in front of me, blocking my way to kill Hayden.
It’s no surprise that I’m overprotective of Kai. I know what guys my age do to girls. I know what goes on in the streets. Every day there’s a new horror story of a girl getting raped or killed. My mother always told me to look out for the women in my life and I’d be dammed if I didn’t.
Hayden seems alright, but you can never be too careful. We’ve been here not even a full week and there’s no way I trust him.
“Calm the fuck down, Ry. Take a breath.” I glare at Kai who glares straight back at me. I back away from the door, taking a breath as requested. “Thank you. And you can’t go hurt Hayden, alright? You’re not my dad.”
“I don’t give a fuck if I’m your dad or not. You shouldn’t be getting into relationships right now. We’re at a grief camp for fuck’s sake!”
“Why shouldn’t I get into relationships right now?” Kai snaps at me, taking a step forward, this time pushing me back.
“Kai, look where we are! We’re here ’cause we fucked up after Emma died. We’re here for Emma, not to find love,” I growl. This place is for getting over dead people, not getting into relationships.
“Emma was your girlfriend and but she was my best friend. If she was here right now, she’d be happy for me.” Under different circumstances, I would be happy for her too. But we’re in a grief camp where we’re all trying to fix our broken selves.
How can she ever love someone else who’s just as broken as her?
“If she were here right now, we wouldn’t be here.” I point out. Kai’s fist clenches closed so hard that I can see her arm shaking.
“I think-” Kai starts, “No, I know, you’re jealous. Jealous that I’m getting into a relationship while your own girlfriend is dead. You know that you can’t ever get over Emma or ever find love again and you’re jealous of me for that.
My eyes narrow and my own fist starts clenching. “Don’t bring her into this.”
“You may not want to betray Em, but it doesn’t mean I have to do every fucking thing like you, ” Kai continues, ignoring what I said. “I know you coped with her death by making out with every girl within your sight.” I flinch at her words, a small stinging sensation starts in my chest.
“You feel like you betrayed Em, don’t you? She was gone and you turned to the first girl you saw as if Emma was never even here. But guess what Ryder? Emma’s dead. Your girlfriend isn’t coming back, but I’ll be damned if I let your jealousy stop me from finally having a chance at an actual relationship and not just a fling,” Kai rages with fury in her eyes.
“I’m not fucking jealous of you. I’m trying to look out for you here Kai,” I say with a scoff. Yeah, I made mistakes. I know Emma isn’t coming back, I know that damn well. But there is no chance in hell that I’m jealous of Kai getting into a relationship.
She’s going to get hurt. Hayden is going to hurt her, and if he somehow doesn’t, she’ll get hurt when we all go our separate ways at the end of summer. I can’t stand by and watch as she gets hurt and do nothing about it. Kai is my best friend and it hurts when you watch your best friend go through the shit over and over ending up in so much pain and you can’t do anything about it.
I don’t want it to happen again. It happened with Emma when her mom died and I don’t want Kai to get hurt either.
I can’t lose Kai too.
“Ryder I’ve known you long enough to tell you exactly how you feel,” she seethes, narrowing her eyes at me.
“Go fuck yourself, Kai. You might’ve known me your entire life, but you don’t know half the shit that goes on in my brain.”
Kai scoffs, looking around the room wearing an unbelievable look on her face. “You’re such a jackass.” She turns around and stomps toward the door, slamming it shut so hard that the picture frame on the wall shakes as she leaves, not looking back once.
Watching her walk out triggers something inside of me. I turn around and punch the wall beside me, over and over again.
My fist starts hurting like hell, but I don’t stop. I keep punching the wall, listening to the thud of bone connecting with wood over and over, wishing I could get some alcohol in my system.
Kai and I have never had a fight this bad before. Sure, we’ve had some major fights where we don’t talk to each other for hours, but Emma was always there to help. She was always the neutral barrier; the voice of reason.
And now it’s just me.
And I don’t know what to do.