The Bad Things

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Chapter 4. Thawed

“Damn it, Stormy,” I hissed. “I told you not to answer that door when I’m showering.”

Stormy stared up at the person that stood at the door. Stormy turned back to me as I dashed down the stairs. “It’s okay, Mommy. It’s the coffee guy,” Stormy said and smiled.

“Go.” I pointed toward the living room and continued for the door. Stormy snuck past me and dashed back to the living room. I stopped in the frame of the door.

I wore nothing but a towel. I heard the knock on the front door and was afraid Stormy would answer it. “Hey.”

Hayden’s eyes swept over me almost uncontrollably. He looked away awkwardly. “Hi.”

A blush crept into my cheeks, but I ignored it and swung the door open wider to let him inside. “You can come in,” I said. “I’m almost ready.” Hayden and I hung out a lot the last few weeks.

He stepped inside, leaving little room between our bodies, and he closed the door. “I’m sorry. I’m early.”

“It’s okay. I’ll be back down in a few minutes.”

“Take your time,” he said and shrugged.

I dashed back upstairs to my bedroom. I threw the towel into a basket and started to dress into the clothes that were strewn across my mattress. We planned to watch movies with Sean and Chelsea at Sean’s place.

It took me hours to calm my mom down about Hayden, but she promised to give him the benefit of the doubt. Mom agreed to watch Stormy for me. I often went out on Saturdays and spent Sunday with Stormy.

I went back downstairs. Hayden wasn’t waiting by the front door anymore. I peeked around the corner into the living room. He sat on the couch and leaned toward Stormy. Stormy smiled widely at him, showing off the teddy bear that Jason bought her.

“I think it’s a very cute teddy bear,” Hayden said.

“My daddy bought him. He’s in heaven now,” Stormy said sadly.

“I’m sorry, sweetheart. It might not seem like it, but I’m sure that over time, it will get easier,” Hayden said softly. He rubbed her arm gently.

I stared in astonishment. Wow, he’s better with kids than adults—I thought in amusement. “I’m ready,” I said.

Hayden and Stormy looked at me.

“Bye, Mommy,” Stormy said.

Hayden stood up.

Mom stayed in the kitchen. She told me she wasn’t ready to meet Hayden. She accused me of being with him, but I told her we were just friends.

“See you later, baby. Be good,” I said.

Hayden and I walked out the door. We climbed into his Challenger, and he sped away from the house.

“She seems like a good kid. She talks well. Didn’t you say she’s three?” Hayden asked, confused.

“The doctors told me she’s very intelligent for her age.”

“Clearly.”

It didn’t take long for us to reach the apartment complex.

We let ourselves into Sean’s apartment. Sean had popcorn and soda ready. All four of us easily fit onto the couch. Chelsea and I sat between the boys. I sat beside Hayden, and Chelsea sat beside Sean.

“Damn it, Sean, you said it wasn’t a horror movie,” Chelsea hissed. She smacked his chest.

I chuckled. “I’ve already seen it. It’s not that scary,” I told Chelsea. I sank further into the couch. My head rested against Hayden’s arm, which he rested on the back of the couch. Chelsea hated all horror movies. She was easily frightened.

By the middle of the movie, she had jumped into Sean’s lap and buried her face in his chest.

No wonder why he picked horror—I thought sarcastically.

When the movie ended, Sean and Chelsea said goodnight. We headed out of the apartment. Hayden started for the exit, but I grabbed his hand to stop him. He turned to face me.

“I’m not ready to go home. Can we hang out longer?” I asked.

He debated but not for long. “Sure.”

Hayden and I walked to his apartment. Hayden unlocked the door and let me in.

“Do you want a soda?” Hayden asked.

“Do you have something stronger?”

“Sure,” he said and shrugged. “All I have is bourbon, though.”

“I’ve never had it,” I said. “I’ll try it.”

He grabbed out a couple of glasses and a bottle of whiskey from the freezer. He handed me a glass.

I propped myself up on his counter and sipped at it. It burned my throat, but I loved the taste. “Not bad.”

He stood across from me and stared at me with amused eyes. He sipped the drink in his glass. “Didn’t your parents ever teach you counters are for glasses, not asses?”

I threw my head back and laugh. “Is that what your parents taught you?”

“My mom hated it,” he said, and his expression darkened. He took a deep breath and looked away.

“My mom didn’t like it when we sat on counters either, but she didn’t make a big deal out of it. She was more concerned over the bigger stuff that we got into trouble for. My dad wasn’t around,” I said.

He nodded, but his good mood hadn’t returned.

It wasn’t a good idea to bring up the subject, but my mouth had better plans. “You know, last I heard, your mom was in a coma,” I said. “Did she ever wake up or. . .” I trailed off. I couldn’t finish the question.

“She’s still in a coma,” he said.

My next question came out hesitant, “Do you see her?”

Hayden scoffed. “Are you kidding, Abby? Do you really think they are going to let me see her after what I did?”

“But you were sick,” I argued.

“That doesn’t matter, trust me.”

“What about your dad?”

“I don’t know where he is,” Hayden said and shrugged. “I could care less.”

His hostility had me taken aback. “O-oh.”

“I don’t want to talk about that.”

“Okay.”

“Maybe I should take you home.” His eyes still held darkness from the subject. The matter caused him pain; that much was clear.

I didn’t want to go home. Think fast, Abigail—I thought to myself. “Do you have a deck of cards?”

“Yeah.”

“Let’s play a game,” I suggested and jumped off the counter.

He sighed and opened a drawer. He handed me a deck of cards. “What do you want to play?”

“How about goldfish?”

Hayden laughed. “Are you serious? That game is for five-year-olds.”

“Cool five-year-olds.”

We sat down on the couch. I shuffled the cards and dealt them out.

We talked about different things as we played a few rounds of goldfish and continued to drink bourbon. Half of the bottle he opened had vanished.

During the last game, Hayden threw his last card at me. “I’m never playing this fucking game with you again,” he said and chuckled. “You cheated.”

I fell back on the couch and bursted into giggles. “I don’t cheat.”

Hayden hovered over me between my legs. “You definitely cheat,” he said and chuckled.

Either the alcohol or the closeness between us made the room spin. Hayden’s cross necklace dangled above me, and I caught it. It looked antique. I studied it. It was a black cross with a smaller blue cross welded to it in the middle. “Where did you get this? I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s a beautiful necklace,” I murmured. My eyes flickered to his.

He stared into my eyes, and it wasn’t until that moment that I realized what an intimate position we were in, and we were never this close. His eyes fell to my lips. Without thinking, I pulled on his necklace to bring him closer and wrapped a hand around the back of his neck. I lifted my head off the couch and closed the distance between our lips. An unfamiliar fire spread in my veins and made my stomach burst. My actions could be blamed on the alcohol, but we both knew better. With all the time we spent together, it was only a matter of time.

The only boyfriend I ever had is Jason, and kissing Hayden wasn’t anything like that. It was more than that, and it stunned me.

Our lips moved in sync. Hayden’s hand fell to my hip, and he gripped it tightly. His body pressed against mine, but he carefully held his weight. I twined my fingers into his hair. His lips pressed harder to mine.

My lips parted, and my breath fanned across his face. Hayden suddenly froze. My eyes fluttered open, and once again, I met his icy stare.

“Time to go,” he murmured.

I didn’t argue this time. We agreed to be friends, and I pushed him past that probably too fast. “Okay,” I said.

***

The days that followed the kiss I shared with Hayden were horrible. He barely looked at me or spoke to me. The most attention I got from him was when Ryan asked me if I wanted to catch a movie over the weekend. I told Ryan I had plans with my daughter. Even though I told Ryan the truth, I could have squeezed in a movie, but I didn’t want to give Ryan the wrong idea. Hayden stared at me often that night, and he didn’t care that I caught him staring—most of the time, he wouldn’t even look away.

Stormy and I laid cuddled up on the couch. Mom went to bed. We watched Moana and Cinderella. We spent the earlier part of Saturday at the zoo.

I managed to make it through Cinderella, but Stormy fell asleep. I considered taking Stormy upstairs but decided we could spend the night on the couch. I pulled the quilt off the back of the couch and threw it over us. Rain splattered against the window, and lightning poured through the windows. Thunder rattled the glass windows and shook the house. Stormy would have crawled in bed with me if the storm woke her up, so taking her to her room seemed pointless.

It’s a good thing Stormy is asleep—I thought to myself. Stormy hated storms. Considering her name, I found that ironic. I reached for the lamp on the small table above my head but stopped because of a few raps on the front door. Who in the hell? According to the oversized clock on the wall, it was nine o’clock. It wasn’t as late as I thought. Stormy and I had such a long day that it seemed like it should have been close to midnight.

I carefully got off the couch so I wouldn’t wake Stormy. I tiptoed to the front door and opened it up.

Hayden stood in a halo of light on the front porch. The rain drenched his jacket and the front of his white t-shirt. The shirt clung to his muscular chest. His black hair dripped over his forehead. Droplets from the rain rolled down his forehead, nose, and cheeks. He looked a mess but in the most attractive way.

“Hayden?” I murmured. “What are you doing here?”

“I had to see you,” he murmured. He looked past me but couldn’t peer too far into the house because it was dark. “Did I wake you?”

I sighed. I grabbed onto the sleeve of his jacket and pulled him into the house. “No, you didn’t wake me,” I said and closed the front door.

For the first time in a week, he stood very close to me. “You look tired,” he said as he studied my features. The fact seemed to concern him.

“So do you.”

“I couldn’t sleep.”

“Do you ever sleep?” I asked sarcastically. It wasn’t the first time he said that.

“Sometimes.”

“Come upstairs. Stormy is sleeping in the living room. I don’t want to wake her.”

Hayden followed me upstairs to my bedroom. He stopped in the middle of the room and gazed around. “You don’t have much in here.”

“Most of my things are in a storage unit.”

“Why?” he wondered and turned to face me.

“Because I intend to move out and get my own place. I’m going to start looking soon. Sean told me there is an apartment available in the complex you’re in. It’s a nice place for a reasonable price, so that is probably where I’ll be moving.” I shifted my weight, feeling slightly awkward.

Hayden nodded but stayed silent. He studied my face as if he were trying to memorize it.

“What are you doing here?”

Instead of answering me, he closed the short distance between us. He caught my face between his hands and put his lips on mine. The kiss caught me completely off guard, but I gave into it instantly without questioning it. Instinctively, my arms wound around his waist, and my body leaned into his. His mouth memorized mine in such a way that it wouldn’t be considered an innocent kiss. His lips moved against mine in the most demanding way. It wasn’t anything like our first kiss. This kiss had an edge to it as if he had to do it.

My entire body lit up like he had brought me back to life. The hair on my arms and the back of my neck stood up. Goosebumps covered my body. An involuntary shiver shot down my spine.

Hayden broke the kiss, and it left both of us breathless. He dropped one hand from my face but kept the other hand against my cheek. His thumb rubbed my cheek softly, and his forehead rested against mine.

I needed him to explain. I needed him to say something. My eyes locked with his as the confusion set in. “Say something,” I murmured. Anything that makes sense of what is happening.

“Something,” he mocked.

Only Hayden could ruin such an amazing kiss by opening his mouth. I shoved him away and stared at him in disbelief. “That’s not funny. God, you are so confusing. You’re always contradicting yourself.”

“Well, I won’t argue with that,” he said and grimaced.

I crossed my arms over my chest. “This half in and half out with you is a nightmare. All week you have treated me like I’m some sort of disease that you don’t want to catch.”

Hayden pursed his lips. “That’s a little exaggerated,” he argued. Hayden tilted his head as if to understand me better or get a better look at me.

“It’s true,” I snapped. “You have to give me a better explanation because I don’t understand what you want from me. I never know what to say or do around you. I always feel like I’m walking on thin ice around you. You can’t just come in here and kiss me. You can’t kiss me whenever the hell you want—”

Hayden grabbed me and smashed his lips against mine. Having his lips on mine sent me soaring all over again. My train of thought vanished. I tried hard to concentrate. No! It took everything I had to push him back.

Hayden didn’t budge, but he broke the kiss, knowing that it’s what I wanted. Our chests rose and fell heavily in sync.

I scowled at him. “Hayden—” I started to scold him.
“Damn it, Abby. Don’t give me that shit. This is your fault,” he snapped.

The air escaped my lungs, and I stared at him in disbelief. Anger bubbled up in my chest. “How is it my fault?” I placed my hands on my hips and glared at him.

Hayden let go of me, stepped back, ran his hands through his hair, and pulled it in agitation. “You infuriate me. You drive me completely crazy. I told you to stay away from me, but you didn’t listen. We agreed to be friends, and then you did the stupidest fucking thing you possibly could have done. You kissed me—”

I scoffed. “I—”

Hayden stepped toward me and put a hand over my mouth. He backed me up a couple of more steps until my back hit the wall. He pressed his body to mine. My eyes widened at his reaction. It wasn’t a side of him I had ever seen. Possessiveness clouded his eyes.

His eyes stayed fixated on mine as he spoke with deliberation. “And I liked it way more than I should have. Now I’m hooked. I can’t stop thinking about how good it felt to have your lips on mine. . .” he trailed off, and his eyes swept over my body. “To have your body against mine. When Ryan asked you out, it only made things much worse. I’ve never felt jealousy until that day, and I didn’t know how to deal with it. But I was also angry with you for telling him no. How could you say yes to someone like me and say no to someone like him? You put strange feelings inside of me, things I’ve never felt before. You do so many bad things to me, and I like it.” Hayden slowly removed his hand from my mouth, and his eyes refused to leave mine.

I had never heard Hayden say so much since I had known him. Not even in all the times we hung out, which was quite a bit.

After Jason died, I thought for sure my heart would never function right again. My heart felt cold and dead as if it stopped beating along with Jason’s heart. By the time Hayden finished talking, my heart thawed and started beating again, but different somehow.

I couldn’t speak. I threw my arms around his neck and put my lips on his.

Hayden tangled a hand into my hair, wrapped one arm around my waist, and stumbled backward, taking me with him. He spun me around, and we fell onto the mattress. My bed groaned and squeaked in protest. His tongue traced my bottom lip. One of my hands fell to his chest, and my lips parted. He groaned and slipped his tongue into my mouth.

***

The following day, I woke and started to make pancakes for Stormy. She sat at the table and waited.

I put the pancakes on a plate and sat them down in front of her. I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down across from her.

“Mommy?”

“What?”

“What are we doing today?”

“I haven’t decided yet. What would you like to do?”

Stormy thought about it for a long moment. “I want to see unicorns.”

There was no possible way I could break it to my three-year-old that unicorns weren’t real. She had quite an obsession with them. “How about we go shopping and to the park?” I countered.

“Okay,” Stormy sighed.

I giggled at her agitation. There was a soft knock on the door. I got up to answer it.

I opened the door with a smile, but it quickly faded. “Tracey?”

“Hey, Abigail,” Tracey said. “I wondered if I could see Stormy. I know it’s last minute. I’d love to spend time with her, though. I was in town.”

“Oh, um, sure,” I agreed. I gestured for her to come inside. Tracey followed me into the kitchen. Tracey wasn’t my favorite person, but I didn’t have it in me to tell her no.

“Aunt Tracey!” Stormy shouted. She jumped off her chair and dashed across the kitchen into Tracey’s arms. Tracey was Jason’s younger sister. Tracey just turned twenty. Jason and Tracey weren’t far apart in age.

“Hey, Stormy. If your Mom doesn’t mind, I’d love to take you out for a couple of hours,” Tracey said. Tracey stood up and smiled at me. “Would that be okay?”

“Um, yes, I suppose,” I said and shrugged.

I helped Stormy get ready to go out.

I handed Stormy off to Tracey and gave Tracey a stern look. I didn’t trust Tracey too much due to an incident she had in the past with Stormy. However, it was a long time ago, and Tracey completed rehab for alcoholism.

“I need her home by five o’clock,” I said. “You can have the whole day with her, but please no later than that. Let me know if you’re coming back sooner.”

“No problem,” Tracey said.

I closed the door behind them and leaned up against it. I sighed and went back to the kitchen to clean up, ignoring the churning in my stomach.

After I finished the kitchen, I grabbed my car keys. I didn’t want to sit around and mope. I decided to pay Hayden a visit. I climbed into my car and backed out of the driveway.

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