Decree of Hope

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Kailee

We were standing in the checkout line with everything we needed for fried chicken when my phone rang.

“It might be Caleb,” Abe said.

I shrugged. “He can wait. I’m busy.” I was amazed at my words. I knew without checking the faceplate it wasn’t him, but this was the first time in the four months since we broke up I didn’t check it just to make sure.

As we walked to the parking lot where our cars were parked side by side, I checked my voicemail. “Hello, Ms. Hill. This is detective McGarrett from the Austin Police Department. I need to speak with you concerning a matter of urgent importance. Please give me a call at…” The numbers rattled off so fast my chest squeezed together as I powered the phone off and dropped it into my purse. Oh God, Jackson! What have you done now?

“What’s wrong?” Abe asked.

“Nothing.”

“Something happened.”

“What?”

“I’ll tell you at home,” I whispered.

He nodded.

Back at my house, I slipped through the door and held it open for Abrahem, who was carrying all the bags. “Take them to the kitchen.” I closed the door and led the way.

He set the bags down on the counter, and I started pulling things out. I took the flour from the pantry and put a pan on the stove.

“Kailee, who called earlier?”

I took a deep breath. “Austin police.”

“Why?”

“I have no idea, but I’m sure it has something to do with my brother. I don’t know what to do. I’m not going to talk to them.”

“What did your brother do?”

“I don’t know. Something. I don’t have cops looking for me for anything I’ve done.”

“How do you know?”

“The only thing I’ve ever done to have police looking for me is tag your garage. But I think if you had called the police on me, we wouldn’t be making chicken tonight.”

“Kailee, the way you take care of your brother—it’s sweet, impressive even, but don’t get in trouble. Please?”

I nodded. “So do you wanna learn how to make chicken or not?”

I mixed the batter and made Abe dip the raw meat in the egg and then seasoned flour while I peeled potatoes and chopped them into chunks. I put them in a steamer and took out a mixing bowl. “When I cook for Jackson and my dad, I use biscuits from a can. But I’m going to need more study sessions to pull off a B in chemistry, and I think if you help me, I might make an A, so I’m making you real biscuits.”

He smiled, but that look in his eyes did something to me, made my pulse race. I didn’t dare tell him that after the way he rejected me before. Besides, I was just an airhead cheerleader. “Thank you,” he said.

We made fried chicken, mashed potatoes with jalapeno gravy, corn on the cob, and homemade biscuits. If my grandmother were around to see this, she’d be proud. “When do you think we can work on chemistry again?”

He shrugged. “The next time you need help. This is the best fried chicken. Way better than KFC. When are you going to Austin again?”

“Probably Saturday. Why?”

“Can I come?”

I almost choked on my chicken bone. “You want to come searching for abandoned clothes with me?”
He laughed. “If you spend two hours looking at shoes, I might find something else to do, but that blog looks like a lot of work, and I’d like to see you in action.”

“You like my blog?”

“I’m not going to start reading fashion blogs, but it has a nice layout, and you had comments.”

He had no idea how happy he just made me. “No one likes my blog!”

“No one knows about your blog. What are you afraid of?”

I giggled. “No one knows about it because at different times, Lacey and Farrah have both appeared headless on my blog as fashion don’ts.”

“Careful. They’ll plan a coup to take your crown.”

“Farrah tried. She’s not as pretty as me.”

“If you keep shoving down that chicken, you’re really going to have to burn some carbs to keep up with her.”

I put my chicken leg down and sighed. “I know. It’s just this is the first non-veg I’ve eaten in so long.”

He laughed. “I was joking. I’ve never seen this girl, but I find it hard to believe she could be prettier than you, carbs or no.”

OMG! Why did he have to say things like that when he’d already rejected me?

“Kailee, finish that chicken leg.”

Fried chicken was like the fattiest food in the world. It couldn’t be worth the extra jumps I’d have to do at night to make up for it, but it was so good. A smile spread across my face, because before I grabbed the leg I already knew I was finishing the chicken.

He waited for me to finish eating and said, “I should go. I take my Ommy to work before I go to work. She doesn’t like to drive.”

“Abe?”

“That’s not my name.”

I smiled. “It’s what I’m going to call you.”

“What?”

“If I have chemistry homework tomorrow—”

“You have my number.” He stood, staring into me. “Am I coming to Austin with you Saturday?”

“I don’t know. I might make you carry things, and I like to take pictures on my phone.”

“Oh? I would think someone who spends as much time working out as a cheerleader would be able to carry her own bags.”

“Maybe I just like exerting power.”

His smile faded. “I know. That’s the problem.”

“What does that mean?”

He shook his head.

“Abe?”

“I’ll see you Saturday, unless you need help before then.”

I was about to get really good at chemistry, because if I didn’t have homework tomorrow, I would balance equations anyway.

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