She cried until she vomited. I held her hair back. It was like the night we met all over again, except today she wasn’t crying over Caleb Miller, and I wasn’t holding her hair back because I felt sorry for her.
When she was able to hold her head up, she collapsed on the couch. I waited for her to yell at me, call me names, something. But she didn’t, only lifted her feeble head and said, “You should go,” so low it was barely audible.
Looking at the crushed girl lying on the couch, it was hard not to think she was right to hate me. I did it to protect her. I wanted to take care of her, but she was right. Jackson was her only family. Her mom abandoned her, and her dad really had, too. I thought she was more loyal to her brother than he deserved. When the tables were turned, he didn’t care. He knew what happened, and he didn’t care. But that wasn’t my decision to make.
I shook my head. I couldn’t leave her like this. I couldn’t leave us like this. I picked up her legs up, sat down on the couch, and placed them on my lap. “Kailee, are we okay?”
“I don’t think so,” she whispered.
“Because I got you out of jail? You don’t think you’re being a little unreasonable?”
“A week ago, you didn’t want your family to know about me. Tonight you put my whole family in jail. I don’t know.”
“Kailee, I wasn’t out to get your brother. I went to the mosque, and I pilfered through dirt and ash forever. I found his dog tag. What was I supposed to do?”
She sat up. “That’s it? He’s in jail because you found his dog tags?”
“He didn’t do it.” She smiled.
“He lost his dog tags in Afghanistan. He got written up for it, because he wasn’t supposed to take them off. He didn’t do it.”
I sighed. “Sweetheart, he did it.”
“Someone else was there. Jackson didn’t have the dog tags.”
“I told you. There was a Muslim girl there. They were involved, and he was trying to get rid of her. He set the fire. There is a video.”
She rubbed her eyes. “You said that earlier. How would a video survive the fire? It doesn’t make sense.”
“It was on his cell phone.”
Her mouth dropped. “You took my brother’s phone to get him arrested? I hate you!”
“It was the only way to get you out.”
“It would have been better to leave me there. How did you get it anyhow?”
The right thing to do was tell her the truth, but something told me it would only make things worse. “I stole it from his room.” I winced.
She glared at me. “You are not the person I thought I knew.”
“Maybe, but I’m the only person who cares about you.” I pushed her feet out of my lap and stood. She looked rough, but I’d had all I could take. Guilt consumed me for leaving her like this, but I couldn’t listen to any more. I wasn’t sure that I had done the right thing anymore, but I was just trying to help.
“Where are you going?”
“You wanted me to leave, right?”
She nodded but burst into tears. I’d never been able to watch Kailee cry, even before I knew she was the love of my life. Before I ever believed in the whole “love of your life” concept. Any resolve I had to walk out the door disappeared. Instead, I knelt in front of the couch and slid my arms around her. “Not telling my family about you—Ommy is going to make me choose your or my family—you’re not getting rid of me, but I wanted to postpone losing my family. Putting your brother in jail—Kailee, I don’t know if I’m sorry for that one. You looked broken. I wanted to take care of you. I wanted you home. And before you decide he didn’t do it, maybe you should see the video.”
“I should have never told you the cops were harassing me. I shouldn’t have given you any details of that day, and you wouldn’t have known where to start. We would still be fixable.”
All I heard was what she didn’t say. We weren’t fixable, but I wasn’t willing to give up.
“If I get your brother out of jail, then could we be fixable?”
“Honestly? I don’t know. I—I need to be able to trust you.”
She could. That was the problem. I took care of her. She just didn’t like how I did it. But really if her brother burned down a mosque, why was I responsible for it? What was I supposed to do? Let her take the fall for it?
I shook my head. “Kailee, I did the right thing. You were innocent, and I proved it.” I popped the memory card out of my phone. “Before you insist your brother didn’t do it, watch this. If you still think he’s innocent and want help, call me. But I’m done begging for forgiveness.”
I walked to the door and looked back at her. This girl was about to make me cry. Again. I hated how easy it was to lose control around her.
“Wait,” she said.
And I did, because since the night I met her, I’d had a hard time telling her no.
She walked to the front door and held her arms out in front of her. I took a step forward, and she closed her arms around me. She pressed her body to mine and sighed, and I wondered how I was supposed to let this—let Kailee—go.
“It’s been a bad day for both of us. I want you to help me get my brother out of jail, but can we talk about it tomorrow? I need food and sleep.” She closed her eyes. “And time.”
For the second time, the only thing I heard was what she didn’t say. She hadn’t given up on us either. I nodded. “Whatever you need.” I brushed my lips to the side of her forehead, squeezed her tightly, released her, and left.
My phone rang as I walked to the car, and I was shocked. The only person whoever called me was here. I didn’t recognize the number on the faceplate, but with everything that had happened the past week, I was afraid not to answer it. “Hello?”
“Are you very angry with me?” A girl who drove me crazy in a completely different way asked.
I laughed. “You stood up my best friend and made a liar of me.” I paused, expecting her to scream at me, but she didn’t. “I’m angry that you waited so long to call. More than anything, I wanted to know you were okay.”
“I am. I’m good. I wanted to call sooner, but I thought you were mad at me.”
“Mirriam, I was wrong to try to marry you off. I realize that now. I don’t know that you should have married Caleb, and I don’t agree with your decision. But it was your decision to make. When it blows up in your face, don’t tell me about it though.”
“What if it doesn’t?”
“That would be good.”
“Thank you. How is Ommy?”
Ah. “I said I wasn’t mad. She says we both betrayed her. She’s wished for death a few times.”
Mirriam went quiet then sighed. “Should I try to talk to her?”
“I don’t know that it would help.”
“Abrahem, I need to come home and get my stuff. Will she be mean?”
“Yeah. Come during the day when I’m home. I’ll do what I can.” I was still cleaning up her messes, but that was okay.
“Bring your shithead husband, too.”
“Caleb can come?”
“I think it’s about time he talks to me. Don’t you?”
“Agreed. But if you punch my husband, I’ll kick your ass.”
I rolled my eyes. “I’m so scared.”