chapter 17 || kai
After leaving Ryder’s cabin, I storm all the way back to the oak tree where I left Hayden, who is still there, writing in his notebook.
“Woah whoa whoa,” he says when I reach him. “Are you alright?” He gets up from his spot on the ground, cupping my face in his hand and inspecting it.
I stare at his face without saying anything before I finally smash my lips onto his. He doesn’t kiss back at first but eventually moves into the rhythm. I kiss him harder, trying to get all my anger out.
How dare Ryder tells me what to do. How dare he tells me to go fuck myself.
Just because he is jealous that I didn’t lose the love of my life and nothing is stopping me from falling in love doesn’t mean he can control me like that. Yeah, he made bad decisions right after Emma died and I knew he would later regret making out with every girl insights but I still tried to be there. I’ve always supported Ryder, and when he made bad decisions I was the one there helping him.
So why can’t he just support me on this one decision I made?
Hayden pulls away, holding me at arm’s length, his eyes darting across my face. “Was that a yes?”
“I don’t. Let me see again.” I kiss him again, my anger at Ryder lessening the more I kiss Hayden. I’m still pissed at Ryder, but just being around Hayden helps. A nice distraction.
Hayden pulls away again and scans my face, holding me at arm’s length. “Are you absolutely sure? Because you weren’t gone very long and that first kiss was kinda aggressive.”
“Why can’t I just decide something and everyone just accept it?” I growl, ripping my arms out of his grasp. First Ryder and now Hayden.
Boys with their stupid need to be overprotective all the time. For once, I’d like to do something without getting questioned or judged.
“Kai, it’s not like that. I just don’t want to get into something if you’re not sure.”
“I’m sure, alright?” I hold eye contact with him, refusing to look away first. I think that I would know what I would need or want better than anyone else.
“Okay.” He takes a step closer, a smile growing on his face. “So, girlfriend, what would you like to do before we have to go to group?”
“Well, boyfriend, group starts in 30 minutes and I’m sure we can find something to occupy that time.” I wrap my arms around his neck, leaning in closer, my hands snaking their way into his hair.
“Oh, I’m sure. we could.”
I walk to our next group session holding hands with Hayden. Despite having an entire half an hour together, we didn’t make out the entire time because a couple of little kids accidentally walked in on us. We immediately pulled away and started to laugh after they left, which killed the mood.
We ended up talking about our home life. He told me about his family and his friends back home. He has a 7-year-old sister named Leah and his best friend after his twin is Jeremy, who he met in 3rd grade after their teacher held them in for recess.
By the time we reach, everyone else is already there. Callie sees me first, eyeing our hands but thankfully not saying anything.
“Hey guys!” she says, shifting her gaze to my face with a smile. The second she greets us, Ryder’s head snaps over to Hayden and I. He keeps his eyes trained on me; not a single emotion crosses his face, his poker face intact. I hold his gaze as Hayden and I sit down across the circle from Callie and Ryder and next to Zack.
The anger I pushed down earlier comes bubbling back up. I don’t want to see his face at all right now. Just to piss him off, I rest my head on Hayden’s shoulder. Ryder realizes what I’m doing and turns away, his face hard. I smirk to myself, oddly proud.
I don’t feel bad at all. I’m not the one who got mad for no reason.
Jayden arrives, holding a basket in his hands. He sits down and greets us, placing the basket in the middle. Everyone eyes the basket before sharing similar looks. There is no way this is going to be an easy session.
“Hey y’all. Hope you guys had a good rest of the afternoon. If anyone would like to share anything now’s the time or we could jump right into the activity.” Jayden looks around the circle of misfits and when no one speaks up, he does as promised.
“Alrighty then. In the basket, there are questions folded onto paper. When the basket makes its way to you, pick out a piece of paper and answer it. If anyone else wants to add on or make a comment, go for it. This is a safe space. When you’re done, pass the basket to your right.” He hands the basket to Hayden first. He gives my hand a final squeeze before letting go and reaches into the basket.
“Describe what it was like to visit the cemetery,” Hayden says. “Oh god.” He lets out a shaky breath, looking up at the sky.
“Take your time, Hayden,” Jayden reassures. I put my hand on Hayden’s knee, giving it a light pat, hoping that he knows I’m here for him.
He looks at his knee where my hand rests before looking at the ground in front of us. “When I went with my family, I was numb. I didn’t feel anything. It almost felt like it was a dream; like none of it was really real. The first time I went by myself I broke down. I sat by her grave for hours in the pouring rain with a bottle of vodka next to me. It’s gotten better now. I usually go to talk to her as if she’s still there. Just this time she doesn’t respond.”
“I feel the same way with my uncle,” Zack shares. “I didn’t feel anything at my uncle’s funeral. I thought something was wrong with me at the time.”
“Feeling numb is a perfectly common feeling after a loved one dies,” Jayden inputs. I remember when I first went to Emma’s grave by myself. I had my flask filled with vodka and I just sat there and drank. Over time, I started talking to her just like Hayden did.
Hayden hands the basket over to me. Reaching in almost feels like a death sentence. I know whatever question I get it’s going to be difficult. I close my eyes and pull out a question, praying that it’s one that won’t make me break down.
“What was your biggest fear before the death?” I let out my breath. I can do this one.
“My biggest fear before Emma’s death,” I start off. “It sounds kinda stupid but my biggest fear was missing out on life. I never wanted to live a half-assed life; I always just went for things. Until she died. After that, I started drinking myself senseless and wasted a solid few months of my life. I started to fear losing everyone I loved- my family, my other friends. Emma’s death to me was unexpected and it really shook me up.”
“When I lost my parents, the same thing happened with me,” Callie adds. I shift my gaze over to her. “It was so unexpected that it made me realize that everything could be taken away like that. No one knows when you’re going to die or when someone you love is going to die but you know it’ll happen eventually. You just don’t expect it to be so soon though. It still hurts equally. I’m sure everyone here feels that same fear.”
Everyone nods their head in agreeance, including Jayden. Looking around the circle, it becomes clear that no one was expecting their loved ones to die so soon.
Life can take away every happiness it gives any time it wants too.
That is the scariest thing to ever exist.