Decree of Hope

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Kailee

Three days had passed since I admitted the truth to Abe that night, and I felt like a weight had been lifted off of me. Yes, I’d done things I regretted, but not all of the things—no—most of the things people said about me weren’t true. I wasn’t a whore. Only a girl that had made mistakes. And the way he held me after I confessed that night told me more than words could have said. He still cared about me. When he looked at me, he saw more than past mistakes. I felt like a new person—one with worth.

Lacey and Farrah were angry with me because I hadn’t been hanging out with them. I was taking lunch in the library most days, and I spent my time after school with Abe or studying. But I couldn’t listen to their “raghead” jokes, and they were always plotting to help me get back with Caleb. I thought the plots were really to help Farrah get rid of Mirriam, so she could get with Caleb. But either way I’d told them Caleb was a done deal, and they wouldn’t drop it. And I was looking forward. Not back.

Officer McGarrett called me daily now, but I didn’t care about that either. If Jackson did something wrong, he could deal with it. He was my brother and I loved him, but I couldn’t make his decisions for him. If he had never learned his lessons after all the times I’d bailed him out—sometimes literally—it wasn’t my fault.

But friend drama and snooping cops would have to wait, because I was working on a special fashion display for Abrahem. I needed a certain scarf to complete it and realized I’d left it at Caleb’s while we were dating. The thing about vintage pieces was they were almost impossible to find. Especially around here, I’d have to drive to Austin or Dallas and hope to get lucky. I swallowed my pride and dialed a number I had hoped to never call again.

The jerk sent it to his voicemail. Thanks, Caleb. You can’t even give me my stuff back? That scarf was Morrocan silk. I wasn’t giving up this easily. I pulled out my laptop to log in to Facebook for the first time in forever. I was going to message him and tell him to give my scarf back. But I got an error message that said my password was incorrect. I tried a couple of more times with the same results. Finally Facebook locked me out of my account, and I had to request an email to change my password.

When I finally did get logged in, I was in for another surprise. My profile picture used to be me hugging a giant teddy bear and looking super sexy while doing it. Now an image of Abrahem’s garage with metallic pink lettering “Ragheads Go Home!” stared at me. I sighed. Farrah was such a beyotch. I understood she needed to get Mirriam out of the way because she had put so much time into getting me out of the way, but how would destroying me help her mission? The worst part about it was she was so damn underhanded I couldn’t even call her on it. I couldn’t say, “Leave me alone.” She’d just deny doing anything. There was no way she’d ever admit this, but my best friend since the third grade was the only other person in the world who knew my password. She was also one of three other people who knew about the garage.

And this picture had been up long enough to attract attention. I had a comment from Caleb calling me a bitch and telling me how much prettier Mirriam was. I wasn’t worried about what Caleb thought about me anymore, but I was worried about what Abe thought. And I wasn’t sure how he’d feel about this picture being on my Facebook. He may have cared about me, but he wouldn’t be able to put up with much more. I sighed and grabbed my keys. I wasn’t waiting for him to find out. I was going to talk to him. Tell the truth. He would find out about it sooner or later. I didn’t know how long this picture had been up, and in a town this size people talked.

I dropped the keys on my desk. I needed to change the picture first. I wished I had a picture of me and Abe together, but I didn’t. Abe didn’t like it when I dressed revealing, so most of my old pictures were a no-go. I held my phone up and snapped a headshot then made it my profile picture. Picking my keys up a second time, I headed out the door.

Today was one of those rare Texas rainy days, but I didn’t slow down. It was late and no one was in the store when I swung through the glass doors.

“Are you okay?” he asked, hopping up from the stool he sat on.

“Can we talk?”

“Of course.” He rushed to the open end of the counter and grabbed me. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” I stepped back out of his embrace, because I didn’t want to tell him this. I knew I didn’t take the picture, or upload it, but if I hadn’t tagged his garage that night, it wouldn’t have happened. “Oh, God. I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what?”

“She put your garage on my Facebook. I haven’t been on Facebook since we met. I didn’t know it until today. I’m so sorry.”

He sighed. “She put the garage with the painted door on Facebook?”

I nodded.

“Okay, so who is ‘she’?”

“Farrah.”

“Your friend?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

“They’re mad at me because I quit hanging out.” Because I’m spending so much time with you.

“Well, she’s a bitch. Why would I care?”

I bit my lip. “She put it on my Facebook. She made it a profile picture. I changed it as soon as I saw it.”

“Has Mirriam seen it?”

“I don’t know.”

He groaned. “I’m going to have to tell my family about you sooner or later. If Mirriam saw that, it’s not going to make it easier.”

“I’m sorry,” I said out of reflex, but what I really wanted to ask was when are you telling your family about me? I fought with my brother for you, and he’s the closest thing to “family” I have.

“Kailee, I hate for you to be out alone so late. You should have just called.”

I shrugged. “I thought I should talk to you face to face. It seemed important.”

He brushed his lips across my forehead. “I appreciate that, but don’t go out alone this late again.”

I smiled. “You’re not supposed to tell me what to do. You need to keep working on that adjustment thing.”

“Not happening. I’ll take knowing my girl is safe over being a nice guy.”

The blood rushed under my cheeks, and when he chuckled I knew he’d noticed how red my face was. His girl. I liked that.

I shifted my weight onto the edges of my feet and stared at the floor, because I was embarrassed of my flushing face. “I should go.”

“You should,” he agreed. “Hey, Kailee, before you go, is Mirriam having a hard time at school?”

“With classes?”

He laughed. “My little sister is overly educated. With people? She needs more work there.”

I shrugged. “No one is that nice to her except for Morgan, who is also a freak, but I haven’t heard anything.”

He grinned. “Are you mean to my little sister?”

I shook my head and let my gaze reach his eyes. “No. And some days I’d really like to be, but she’s your sister.”

His grin changed to a soft smile. “Thank you.”

Then I remembered she skipped school today. I wasn’t going to say anything about it though. Maybe if I didn’t rat her out when Abe finally told his family about us, I could use it as leverage to get her to like me. Or at least not hate me.

“Kailee, what happened?”

“Nothing.”

“You just thought about something. I saw it in your eyes. What happened?”

“She skipped school today.” So much for that plan.

“How do you know?”

I shrugged. “She was there in the morning, but not the afternoon.”

“But I was home most of the afternoon. At least until you got out of school. She never came home.”

I was willing to bet I knew where she was.

“Where could she have gone that she needed to skip school?”

Duh. “I don’t know.”

“The next time she isn’t at school, tell me.”

“Hey, I’m not your detective.”

“I’m not asking you to be, but if you notice my little sister is MIA, tell me.”

I should have made my own demand. Tell your family about me, but I didn’t. “Just curious, why did you ask?”

“She moped around the house for a week, then she was the happiest I’ve ever seen her, and now she’s moping again. If I didn’t know better, I’d think she’s bipolar.”

No. She was on the drug Caleb Miller, and it was almost as bad.

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