Decree of Hope

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Kailee

Tomorrow was going to suck. My head already rang, and I was still buzzing. I couldn’t believe what I’d done. And of course, as soon as they saw the car coming Farrah and Lacey bolted on me.

I let my back sink into the leather bucket seat of my convertible, wiped tears from my eyes, and pushed disheveled hair out of my face. I glanced at the guy driving me and sighed. “Thank you,” I said. I’d already told him once, but it didn’t seem like enough. He said that camel jockey was his sister. It was his house. He caught me vandalizing his house and offered to drive me home, because I shouldn’t be driving. He was right. I shouldn’t. Farrah was supposed to drive, but she bailed.

“You’re welcome.”

I stared straight ahead, still disgusted at how low I’d sunk. It was official. I had let Caleb Miller break me. And somehow that realization made everything worse. I sobbed uncontrollably again. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I didn’t even apply for college, because he wanted to join the stupid military. I was waiting until we were wherever he got stationed before I started taking classes. I’m going to be in my room next year instead of at college. I could have been the next Coco Chanel. And we would have gotten back together. I know it. But she showed up, and he’s completely different now. He’s not even the same person. I don’t even know him anymore. I’ve known him since the first grade!” I sighed and let my head drop to the passenger side window. “I’m so stupid! I should have just applied for the schools I wanted to go to. I knew it!”

My driver shook his head, and for an instant his eyes darted from the dark road to me. “You were planning on marrying this guy?”

I sighed. “That’s how it was supposed to be.”

“Why?” He asked incredulously.

“I—” I started to answer him and realized I had no idea, but I knew that was the plan. “I love him.”

He gave a slight shrug. “You can love anyone.”

“That’s not true. God made one person for all of us.”

“Where I’m from, you learn to love someone. It’s not that hard. Most decent people are easy to love. You could love someone else.”

I shook my head. “I didn’t choose to love Caleb. I just do!”

“No, you thought he was hot, so you started hanging around him. You spent too much time with him and you developed feelings for him.”

That was almost how it happened. Almost. We’d been friends forever, but one day he went from being that skinny little kid that used to pull my hair to a buff football player, and I made sure I was with him whenever possible so other girls wouldn’t try to talk to him. I couldn’t remember when I fell for him, but I did. “Whatever.” I didn’t know what else to say.

“What’s your name?”

“Kailee.”

“That name sounds familiar.”

“Yeah. Your sister hates me. I’m sure she’s mentioned me.”

“Kailee, you’re too good for him. You could do better. Your dad really shouldn’t have let you date him anyhow. And as soon as you realize that, you’ll feel better.”

I laughed. “My dad has no idea who I’m dating.”

“But you said he’d be angry if you came home without your car or if…”

“Oh, yeah. If I left this fifty thousand dollar car somewhere, or my name got recorded in a police report, he’d freak. I can’t make him look bad. But other than that he doesn’t care what I do.”

He nodded. “Well, either way, don’t waste your time on Caleb. He’s not worth painting houses for.”

“I’m really sorry about that. But your sister drives me insane.”

He laughed. “Don’t make this about Mirriam.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. Quit apologizing.”

“How can you say it’s okay?”

“You wanna tell me where we’re going?”

I gave him my address and sunk into my seat again.

We drove in silence for a couple of minutes, before the violent sobs started again as I remembered what this guy had said earlier. She’s at the hospital with her friend. It had to be Caleb. No one else even talked to her. Something was wrong with the boy I loved. She knew about it and I didn’t. She was there, and I wasn’t. And the worst part? That was what he effing wanted. If I were being honest, he never cared about me. “Sometimes, I wish I was dead.”

The guy driving the car turned his head to look at me. “You cannot be serious.”

Sadly, I was. I didn’t have Caleb. He broke up with me, and though I didn’t think he told anyone he was the one to end it, everyone knew. The social status I’d worked for four years to build had taken a hit. I was no longer the envy of the B-list girls, let alone Lacey and Farrah. And Farrah denied it, but she was waiting on the chance to snag Caleb.

I shrugged. “What is your name?”

“Abrahem.”

“That’s a funny name.”
“I guess.”

“Sorry.” I slumped to the side in my seat. My head hit the window so loud it made a thud.

Silence slipped between us, and he broke it. “Kailee, tell me you didn’t mean what you said.”

Of course, I meant it. Jackson, my brother, came back from Afghanistan crazy, dad was never around, Caleb used me and ditched me, and every day was worse than the one before. I sighed. “I didn’t mean it.”

“That wasn’t very convincing.”

“Sorry.”

“No more one word answers. If you’re this upset over Caleb, I can tell you Mirriam is not dating him. I’m not even sure she likes him.”

“Whatever.”

“I really don’t think you have anything to worry about, at least as far as my sister is concerned, but if you’re worried about it, I’ll talk to her.”

It was a slap in the face. The only way I stood a chance with the same guy that was falling all over me a couple of months ago was to have the new girl forbidden to see him. And how pathetic was this? I would take it. “Thanks.”

“He’s not worth it.”

I’m not convinced of that. “Whatever.”

As we turned on my road, I looked at him and said, “Abrahem, it was nice of you not to call the police, and nicer to take me home. So now I’m going to be nice to you. Caleb Miller wants one thing. In six months, she’ll be used up and burnt out.” She’ll be me.

He blew out a puff of air. He swore they weren’t dating, but the way his jaw clenched and the color drained from his face said he wasn’t so sure. He gripped the wheel tighter. “Mirriam isn’t easily talked into things.”

I rolled my eyes.

He pulled into my drive and the massive house I called home was empty. Daddy wasn’t home and neither was Jackson. In a way, it was good. Abrahem could wait on his cab inside with no questions and no explanations. On the other hand, I really didn’t want to be in that huge house by myself tonight.

“Come in,” I said. “We’ll call your cab.”

“Your dad will freak.”

“No one’s home.”

“How do you know?”

“Do you see a light on?”

“It’s late. They’re probably asleep.”

“My dad never sleeps. He just works. And if Jackson were home, we’d have heard the music two blocks down the street.”

“What about your mom?”

That question would come up. “She’s not here. She’s never here.” The words came tumbling out before I could stop them. His eyes connected with mine, and I knew I’d said too much. He expected the rest of the story. I stared straight ahead because of what I had to admit. “She left when I was three. I haven’t seen her since.”

He sighed, but he put a hand on my back to help me stay steady and followed me in. I closed the door behind us. “You wanna see the place?” I asked as I spun around to face him. But the ground beneath my feet spun in a different direction. I hit my knees again. I managed to slap the carpet with my hands before my face hit the floor. My stomach lurched as I tried to push myself up. My body ejected the three margaritas and one slice of pizza from earlier. Abrahem was on the floor beside me taking my puke covered hand and standing me up.

Why? Why would he do that? Gross.

He wiped his hand on his pant leg. “Are you okay?”

I nodded as my body ejected its insides a second time. The guy who brought me home—a guy I didn’t know—pulled my hair behind my face. He opened the front door and turned me to face the porch. I broke away from him and walked to the banister. Placing my hands on it, I leaned over and threw up in the bushes.

When there was nothing left inside me to splatter against the bushes, I squeezed my eyes shut and took deep breaths until my stomach calmed. I opened my eyes to find Abrahem standing beside me with a roll of paper towels. He pulled several sheets from the roll and handed it to me. God, who is this guy? I didn’t know if this was humiliating or sweet, but at the moment I was in no position to argue. I took the towels and wiped the puke from my fingers before holding my hand out for more to clean my face.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered.

“How much did you have to drink tonight?”

“A few margaritas.”
“Did you eat anything?”

“Yeah. I’m fine. I don’t need your sympathy.” Why was I attacking him? This was about the nicest thing anyone had ever done for me.

He stared me in the eye. “You need something.”

I held his gaze for a second before scanning him up and down. He was muscular—strong—with a chiseled face and caring eyes. And puke on his shoes! Oh my God! I saw Caleb Miller with another girl and got pissed and drunk and threw up on the hottest guy.

“I called a cab. Do you think you can make it to the couch okay?”

“Watch a movie with me?”

“What?”

“Don’t go yet.”

“Kailee, it’s late. I need to get home, and you need to get to bed.”

I bit my lip. “Just stay a little bit. Please?”

“Okay,” he said.

We’d been watching music videos for about ten minutes, when I asked, “Do you mind if I get cleaned up?”

He laughed. “No. Are you sure you don’t need to go to bed?”

“Positive.”

I went to my room and took a two-minute shower. Literally, two minutes. It was like the quickest shower I’d ever taken. I pulled my hair back so it would look less wet, brushed my teeth, and dressed in cute sweats. When I slid on the couch beside Abrahem, I rested my hand on his leg. He didn’t pick it up or touch it the way I expected him to, but he didn’t move away either.

He leaned his head closer to mine. “I should go, but if you need to talk, you can call me.”

Wow! He drove me home and held my hair back so I could puke, and he was completely uninterested. All of the sudden, Caleb was gone from my mind. Desire washed over me. All I wanted was this guy. But I’d been through enough guys to know what guys wanted. I put my hand on his cheek bringing his face closer to mine. I moved my mouth to his, parting his lips with my tongue. He wasn’t as uninterested as he thought, and I planned to help him realize it. Except when his tongue flicked against mine, it was soft. When he moved his hands, he rested them on either side of my face. The way he kissed me was sweet. And it was still hot. This was the best kiss I’d ever had, and it ended too soon. Because the hands that cradled my face moved to my shoulders, stilling me as he pushed away from me.

He panted for a second. “Why did you do that?”
I closed my eyes. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. It takes two to kiss.”

My mouth dropped. Something I never expected to hear from a guy. Definitely not a Muslim guy.

“I should go, though. It’s late.”

“But—”

“Kailee, you’re drunk, and you’re hurt. Go to bed. You’ll feel better in the morning. Besides, I’m not interested in being Caleb’s substitution.”

“You said I could call you.”

He nodded. “I left my number on the Post-it pad on the coffee table.”

Rejected twice in one night. A new low.

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