The Road to You, страница 1
Copyright © 2018 The Road to You by Melissa Toppen
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, establishments, or organizations, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously to give a sense of authenticity. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. When Dawn Breaks is intended for 18+ older, and for mature audiences only.
Editing by Amy Gamache @ Rose David Editing
Cover Design by Judi Perkins @ Concierge Literary Designs & Photography
Table of Contents
Stolen- Dashboard Confessional
Tightrope- Ron Pope
Dress- Taylor Swift
Angel on Fire- Halsey
I’m Yours- Alessia Cara
Move Together- James Bay
Armor- Fly Upright Kite
The Rush- Dashboard Confessional
Dusk til Dawn- Zayn featuring Sia
Train Wreck- James Arthur
Mercy- Lewis Capaldi
Dusk and Summer- Dashboard Confessional
Meaning of Life- Kelly Clarkson
Theme Song— Take Me Home- Jess Glynne
Seven Years Ago– 15 years old
“Tell me you’re kidding, butter bean. You can’t actually believe this is a good idea.” My friend Kam laughs nervously below me, head cocked back as he watches me climb up the massive tree stretching out over Lake Cowan.
I’ve been climbing this tree since I was a child – having spent nearly every summer here with my Aunt Carol since I was little. I love everything about North Carolina. The weather, the sights, the smells, the sounds, the people, the ocean – I love it all. I keep telling my mom I’m going to move here one day but I don’t think she really believes me.
“Come on, El,” Kam continues to object from below.
“Don’t be such a wimp,” I call over my shoulder, grabbing onto another branch as I pull myself higher.
I met Kam only a couple days after arriving here this past June. His family had relocated from Nevada a couple of years ago and even though they purchased the house next door to my Aunt Carol’s, surprisingly enough, that’s not how we actually met. I had been riding my bike down the large hill that runs through the middle of town a little too fast when I wiped out, ripping my knee up pretty good. He was working at the local hardware store and saw the whole thing through the front window. The look on his face when he reached me was priceless. You would think the boy had never seen blood before. It was only after he insisted on walking me home that I found out he lived next door. How he had lived next door that long and I never knew is beyond me. Then again, the houses are far enough apart it’s not something I would have easily known.
The rest is history. We’ve pretty much been inseparable since that day. Though I’m kind of surprised I haven’t scared him off by now. I’ve always been a bit of a dare devil, pushing myself and my abilities to the absolute limits. Whereas Kam is a bit more cautious. I think that’s what makes our friendship work so well. He pulls me back when I go too far and I push him forward when he needs to let loose a little.
“El, that’s high enough.” Kam’s voice is further away than before. I turn, looking down to see him several feet below me.
“It’s not that high. You should come up here and see for yourself,” I holler, a wide smile on my face.
“So we can both break our necks? I’ll pass,” he retorts, shaking his head.
“Suit yourself.” I turn, balancing myself onto a thick branch that extends out over the lake.
“Come on, Elara. You aren’t seriously going to jump, are you?”
“Why else do you think I climbed all the way up here?” I respond without looking in his direction.
“I don’t like this.”
“You don’t have to like it. You’re not the one jumping.”
“Come on, El. That’s enough. Just come down.”
“If you insist.” I turn, smiling widely down at Kam, not entirely sure if he can see my face from this distance, before very carefully letting go of the branch above me that I’ve been using to keep myself steady.
Kam says something else right as I jump, but his words are lost to the wind that rushes through my ears as my body free falls through the air, hitting the water seconds later.
Pushing upward, I break the surface just moments after going under, a wide smile on my face.
“You’re crazy. You know that?” Kam’s standing on the edge of the dock, arms crossed over his chest, a backward baseball cap covering his messy brown hair.
“And you’re a baby.” I splash at him, treading water to keep myself up.
“No, I just don’t have a death wish.”
“Neither do I,” I object, swimming toward him.
“You sure? Because it sure seems like it sometimes.” He steps forward and reaches down, helping to pull me out of the water.
“It’s called living, Kam. You should try it sometime.” I slide onto the dock and turn, taking a seat on the edge before patting the space next to me.
“This from the girl who stripped down to her underwear and climbed a good thirty feet up a tree barefoot,” he grumbles, sliding down beside me.
“Well how else would you have had me do it?” I smirk, knocking my shoulder against his.
“Um, not at all,” he says like he’s stating the obvious.
“You need to learn to relax every once in a while. I made it out okay, see?” I hold my arms out. “Not a scratch.”
“I just don’t get you sometimes.”
“And yet you still love me,” I challenge, batting my eyelashes dramatically at him.
He bites back a laugh and shakes his head, turning his gaze to the water.
After a long stretch of silence, he finally says, “I can’t believe you’re leaving tomorrow.”
I know exactly how he feels. It seems strange knowing that after spending every day of the last two months practically joined at the hip that it’s going to be months before I see him again.
“See, I knew you loved me,” I tease, not willing to give into the sudden wave of sadness that washes over me.
“Shut up, you know I do.” He chuckles. “But seriously, it’s going to suck here without you.”
“You survived before me,” I remind him.
“Yeah, but that was before I knew you existed.”
“I’ll be back.” I kick my feet back and forth, my toes grazing the water below.
“In nine month
“And here I thought you’d be glad to get rid of me.” I link my arm through his and lay my head against his shoulder – our height difference pronounced even when we’re sitting.
“Maybe just a little,” he smarts, laughing when I pull back and lay a hard smack to his bicep.
“Jerk,” I fake offense, loving the way his crooked smile lights up his face.
“So violent.” He rubs his arm, a trace of amusement still on his lips.
“You asked for it.” I wag my finger at him.
“Perhaps I did.” He chuckles again. “We should probably head back,” he adds, abruptly standing, before turning to help me to my feet. “Kane is probably on his way home by now and my parents will kill me if I’m not there when he gets in,” he says, referring to his older brother who’s been in Europe all summer. “He’s only here for less than a week before he leaves for Northwestern.”
“You think it will be weird? Not having him here anymore?” I ask, making my way toward my clothes that are piled at the bottom of the tree.
“A little. Then again I thought having him gone this summer would be strange but I really haven’t missed him that much. Maybe because I’ve had this crazy blonde keeping me on my toes all summer.”
“I’ll take that compliment.” I laugh, pulling on my cut off jean shorts.
“Good, because I meant it as one.” He grins; watching me get dressed like it’s another day and seeing me in my underwear is nothing out of the ordinary.
Then again, it might actually not be now that I think about it. That’s just the kind of person I am. I’ve been stick thin my entire life and don’t have much of anything to cover up so why should I care anyways.
“Although, I think I’ve probably been pretty close to giving you a heart attack or two this summer if I remember correctly, so maybe it shouldn’t be a compliment,” I say, pulling my tank top over my head.
“That’s probably true,” he agrees, closing the distance between us as I slip on my flip flops. “Maybe I’ll take it back.”
“You wouldn’t,” I scoff, laughing when he drops an arm over my shoulder, leading me toward the field that lines the back of his and my Aunt Carol’s properties.
“I really am going to miss the hell out of you, butter bean.” He uses the nickname he gave me earlier this summer, that carefree grin finally finding its way back onto his handsome face.
I’d be lying if I said that smile doesn’t do something to my insides. It does. But I’ve somewhat learned to compartmentalize the way Kam makes me feel. I can’t deny that there’s something there but I doubt he’d ever see me as anything more than a friend. I mean, trust me when I say he can do way better than a too skinny girl with no boobs, straggly blonde hair, and a slightly unhealthy addiction to anything dangerous.
“I’m going to miss you too,” I finally say after what feels like too long. “Promise you won’t forget about me while I’m gone?” I tease, even though deep down that’s a real fear I have.
“Like that would ever be possible.” He smiles down at me and my stomach does a little flip flop.
This has been the perfect summer spent with the perfect boy. At fifteen, things don’t get much better than this. But now our summer is coming to an end and I think I’m really grasping that this is it. This is our last day together. After today it will be nearly a year before I see him again and the thought weighs a lot heavier on my heart than I’d expected it to.
“You say that now,” I huff, finally commenting.
“Hey.” Kam stops walking, turning to face me. “Look at me, El.” I look up and meet his hazel gaze, trying to commit every speckle of blue and green to my memory. “This summer has been the best. And when I say I’m going to miss you, I mean like every single day from now until June.” He grins down at me.
“You’re my best friend, ya know?” I say, trying not to get too emotional.
“And you’re mine.” He cups my face. “Butter bean and tater tot against the world.” He laughs at our ridiculous nick names for each other. “Forever.”
“Forever,” I repeat, not realizing in that moment how short our forever would turn out to be…
I watch the rain as it hits the slick dark cherry wood surface and trickles off the side. It’s an endless cycle on repeat. Drops land, roll, then soak into the earth, one after the other, disappearing just as quickly as they come.
It’s easier to focus on the rain, on the sound it makes as it cascades from the sky and collides with the dirt. It’s easier to pretend that, like the rain, this too will pass. Only it won’t. Nothing can undo what’s been done. Nothing can bring him back.
I blink back the tears that threaten to spill. I can’t fall apart. I can’t give into the emotion suffocating me from the inside out. I can’t. If I do I may never find the strength to pull myself back together.
I turn my face upward and close my eyes, allowing the small pellets of water to pepper my face. It reminds me of the day that Kam and I danced in the rain. Cliché I know, but that’s just how Kamden was. He loved the simple, sweet things in life that only ever seem to happen in the movies. Like, well, dancing in the rain.
We were walking down the road to where his truck was parked after spending the day on the beach. It was the last summer before our senior year and Kam had spent nearly every day of that summer trying to teach me to surf. It wasn’t forecasted to rain that afternoon but that didn’t stop the sky from opening up and drenching us more than we already were.
I remember the way Kam laughed. How he tilted his head back and held his arms out, embracing the inevitability that there was no possible way we were going to outrun the storm. How he smiled when he turned to me and took my hand. The next thing I knew he was twirling me in the middle of the street.
I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as hard as I did that day. A day when I thought the world was perfect. A day when everything made sense.
Now I’m afraid nothing will ever make sense again.
I can’t make myself understand this. I can’t rationalize it. All I keep asking myself is how. How do I live in a world that doesn’t have Kam in it? How can I go back to my life when he was such a monumental part of it? How will anything ever feel okay again?
“It just will, butter bean.” I can hear him as if he were standing right next to me. “You just have to put one foot in front of the other and push through.” It’s what he said to me after my mom died. In my mind I know he would say it to me again.
It was one of the hardest things I’d ever been through. For a teenage girl, losing your mom to breast cancer during your senior year is about one of the worst things that could happen. But like Kam said I would, I did get through it. Only then I had him to help me. And now…
I look down at the brace on my arm, trying to ignore the overwhelming guilt that comes with knowing what I’ve done. Only I can’t ignore it. I can’t pretend like I don’t know who’s to blame. I can’t pretend I’m not the reason my best friend is lying in a casket just feet in front of me.
Kam is gone and it’s all my fault.
I look up when I hear my Aunt Carol next to me. She gives me a soft smile, one that reminds me too much of my mother which only makes my stomach knot harder. Maybe if I had my mom here, maybe if I hadn’t lost them both, maybe then this wouldn’t be so difficult. Only I know that’s not true. No one can fill the loss of Kam. No one.
I look away, not able to hold her gaze for more than a few seconds. Only then do I realize that most of those in attendance, including Kam’s parents, have already made their way back to their cars. Only a handful are still standing close by, having quiet conversations. Meanwhile, I feel stuck in place with my mind a million miles away.
I blink, the fog that settled around me the day of the accident only growing thicker with each moment that has passed since. The tightness in my chest grows he
I sway slightly, feeling like I might vomit at any second but then every molecule in my body freezes the moment my gaze lands on a pair of dark eyes. I know who they belong to without even looking at his face. I’d know those eyes anywhere.
Our gazes lock but I can’t tell if he’s staring at me or through me. His eyes are darker than I remember. His mouth set in a tight line, his face expressionless. He looks as empty as I feel and that thought alone is enough to have me taking my Aunt Carol’s hand in an effort to steady my too weak legs.
I don’t really know Kane. He spent four years in Illinois and has travelled quite extensively since he graduated college a couple years ago. Hell, I’ve only met him once in the seven years Kam and I have been friends and that was at Kam’s high school graduation party about four years ago. And even then he wasn’t very friendly.
I remember the way his eyes seemed to follow me everywhere that night. How I felt like I was going to crawl out of my skin every time I’d catch his gaze across the yard. To say he put me on edge is putting it mildly.
Not only is he intimidating as hell, he’s also one of the most attractive men I’ve ever seen up close. He possesses all of the same physical qualities as Kam – strong jaw, full lips, thick dark hair. Only unlike Kam who was flirtatious and fun loving, Kane is all hard lines with a deep expression that makes him look permanently put off. Which of course only adds to his intrigue.
Unfortunately his pleasantries stop at his looks. Kam wasn’t lying when he told me his brother was on the serious side. I think that’s giving him too much credit. Asshole might be the better term. Though I feel bad even thinking that now.
Kane’s eyes bore into mine with the heat of a thousand fires and I feel like I’m going to melt right here. He knows I did this. I can see it in his eyes. He blames me for taking his brother away and he’s right to blame me.
I don’t know how much time passes before Kane finally breaks the connection, turning and walking away, leaving me feeling like he’s taken what little air that remained in my lungs with him.