Bailey… Bailey… Why did that sound so familiar?
I pursed my lips and my eyebrows furrowed as that one question ran through my mind in a constant loop. The Johnson boys had left me alone a while ago, going on that walk Jayden had talked about and I was stuck pondering our last topic of conversation. As soon as the words had left Nate's mouth, Caleb walked in the door, effectively preventing me from asking Nate more questions. I had opened my mouth to ask Caleb while his brothers were still there, but the sight of widened eyes and a shake of the head from the others stopped me.
The name though… I had heard it before, I was sure. I just didn't know from where or when or who. All I had gotten from Nate and Jayden was that this girl had something to do with Caleb; I just wasn't sure what exactly. I had a feeling whatever it was, though, it wasn't good.
Frowning slightly, I shivered against the cool air and pulled the blankets higher on me, breathing in Caleb's scent that lingered on the sheets. They smelled clean and fresh; just like laundry detergent and rain. Feeling significantly warmer now, I felt my lids drooping. Maybe I would do as Caleb asked and just take a nap.
The next day, Seth was finally coming back and I had decided that I was going to apologize to him and ask if I could stay with him again. And what better way to do that than cake?
The power was finally back, so thankfully, I could bake without a problem. It had made everyone's lives easier. We were all worried about the food in the fridge spoiling and we were starting to get bored, despite there being so many people in the house. Oh, the woes of modern day living. The storm was over and our lives would soon be going back to normal.
I had just finished setting the temperature on the oven and gotten out most of the ingredients when I heard, "What do you think you're doing out of bed?"
Crap. The evil dictator was back.
Needless to say, Caleb was getting on my last nerve. He was, by far, a gazillion times worse than Seth when it came to me being sick. He insisted on keeping me on bed rest until I was completely better, when I barely felt sick anymore. Okay, that was a slight lie; my throat still itched a bit and I couldn't really smell anything, but I no longer felt the dizziness I had before.
Caleb stayed by my bedside the entire day after I had woken up yesterday. The question about Bailey was still swimming around my mind, but I had no idea how to bring it up with my aunt and the rest of the Johnsons slipping in at random intervals. So, I decided it could wait.
After my fainting spell, the middle Johnson brother was convinced that I had some eating disorder or something, when the reality was just that I didn't get hungry often. He took it upon himself to bring me food and drinks throughout the day, making sure I ate every last bite, whether I was hungry or not. It was sweet, but more annoying than anything else. He had even stopped me from going back to my house to see what the damage was like, saying I was in no condition to leave.
Finally, after Caleb watching over me nonstop, I woke the next morning to the brothers being out of the house. I never thought I would ever be so happy to not have Caleb near me. Instead, I had leapt out of bed and, after getting permission from Mrs. Johnson, began baking the cake.
Unfortunately, now he was back and he was mad at me. I shifted my torso to see him standing in the doorway, arms folded across his chest. He was dressed in a sweatshirt and shorts, his hair messy as always; he looked good. I quickly shook my head of those thoughts when I caught sight of the peeved expression on his flawless face. "I'm baking a cake," I said simply before turning back to mixing together the dry ingredients of the cake.
"I can see that. But what you should really be doing is resting. And why aren't you wearing a sweatshirt?"
I shot him a glare and moved to take a few eggs out of the fridge. My bare feet made slapping noises against the tiles as I walked past him. "Did you come back just to annoy me?"
"No. We went to go clear the tree that fell in your front yard. You're welcome."
"You went to my house, so you should let me go too," I demanded.
"I'm not the one with a fever." I opened my mouth again, but he stopped me. "Stop trying to change the subject. Didn't I tell you not to get out of bed?"
"Yeah," I said simply, mixing together the wet ingredients now.
He sighed, frustrated that I was purposely not giving him actual answers. I bit back an amused smile at his reaction. "And?"
I poured the wet ingredients into the dry. "And I decided not to listen to you."
"Why?" he pressed on, only making me more amused.
"Because I feel fine." I slowly mixed together the ingredients, attempting to even out the clumps. Glancing behind me, I noticed him narrowing his eyes at me and I sighed. "You know what? If you want me to stay in bed, ask my brother. You're no doctor, but he is."
"Fine," he agreed, haughtily, fully confident that my brother would agree with him. He took out his cell phone and dialed the number as I went back to mixing the batter, biting back a smile. "Hey Seth," I heard from behind me. "No, no, she's okay. Yeah, I'm just trying to tell her that she needs to rest. She still has a stuffy nose and cough. Yes, I've been trying to get her to drink more water. Hold on, I'll check."
Too focused on making sure the consistency was just right, I jumped when I suddenly felt a hand on my neck causing me to turn around quickly and yelp. In the process, batter flew from the whisk I was holding and onto Caleb's face, who was now very close behind me. I choked back a laugh as he raised an eyebrow at me, streaks of chocolate all over his face. "No," he said slowly into the phone, watching me cover my mouth with a hand as I stifled my giggles. "The fever's gone. Alright. Thanks. Bye."
He hung up the phone and wiped a fleck of chocolate off his face. I uncovered my mouth, a snigger escaping from it and he rolled his eyes. "Sorry about that," I said, biting my bottom lip in an attempt to hide my grin. I reached up and swiped a small amount of batter from his cheek with my thumb, licking my finger with wide, innocent eyes. The corners of his lips twitched and all attempts of covering the curve of my lips were abandoned. "What'd Seth say?"
Caleb frowned slightly and I smirked, already knowing the answer. "He said you can do whatever you want as long as you stay warm and hydrated."
"Yay!" I exclaimed, giving him a saccharine smile before turning back to my batter.
Caleb moved next to me and out of the corner of my eye, took off his sweatshirt. The black t-shirt he was wearing underneath rode up as he pulled it over his head and my eyes automatically fell to his toned stomach. God, he was gorgeous. The t-shirt fell back down, making me look back to his eyes and he held the sweatshirt out to me. "Here."
He had a huge frown on his face, evidently dissatisfied at Seth's answer and I took pity on him by putting it on without complaint. It smelled like a mixture of his deodorant, sawdust and sweat. It was amazing; even his sweat smelled sweet. As I pulled it over my head, he sighed heavily and leaned his back against the counter next to me. Attempting to keep the amusement and pleasure in my face to a minimum, I looked back at him. His arms were folded across his chest and his whole posture screamed displeasure. But his biceps really did look fantastic in that t-shirt. I shook my head. Gah! Must get these thoughts out of my head!
I took a deep breath and looked back at his face. He was staring straight ahead and I couldn't help but let out a soft laugh. He looked so annoyed. At my chuckle, he snapped his head up to glare at me and I placed a hand on his arm, attempting to calm him down. "Oh come on, Caleb." He shrugged off my arm and I bit back a laugh. "You know, it's really sweet that you care, but I really do feel fine."
He shook his head at me and then I took notice of his brown streaked cheek, making me giggle. Caleb's eyes narrowed at me. "What?"
"You have chocolate all over your face." He went cross-eyed, as if this would allow him to see his skin, which only made me laugh harder. Grinning teasingly, I walked to sink, dampened a paper towel and turned back to him. As I swiped his peach skin gently, ridding his flawless features from the batter, a question popped into my head: Why are you so perfect? I thought to myself, wistfully.
A smile broke out on his face and he looked back at me in puzzlement and shock. "What? Where did that come from?"
Oops, I guess I said that out loud. A slight pink painted my cheeks as I lowered the paper towel, placing it on the counter. "Well, you know," I started, busying myself with pouring the liquid chocolaty goodness into a non-stick pan, trying to make it sound like asking that question was purposeful. "You're just so… good. You've been taking care of me like it's your job." Feeling suddenly shy now, I stuck the pan into the oven carefully as a distraction. After closing the door, I took off the oven mitts and placed them on the granite top, noticing his amusement, which only made me blush more.
He chuckled softly, sitting up on the counter now. "I mean, it kind of is my job right now. If you got even sicker, your brother would kill me." I laughed in agreement, but then the smile on his face fell. "But I'm far from perfect."
"Yeah, right," I said sincerely. "You're too nice. You'd never be able to hurt anybody."
This seemed to have troubled him even more, to my confusion. "I wish that was true." At my furrowed eyebrows, he sighed. "I hurt you when we fought. And I hurt someone else a while ago."
It was my turn to frown now. "Who?"
He took a deep breath. "One of my ex-girlfriends. Well, a lot of my ex-girlfriends, but particularly the one before Sam."
I pursed my lips and, at Sam's name, I suddenly remembered where Bailey sounded familiar from. Sam had mentioned her at the party. She had said something about Caleb doing something bad to her. At my newfound memory, I figured now was as good a time as any to ask. "Let me guess: Bailey?"
He didn't look as surprised as I expected him to be. Instead, he grimaced. "Yeah."
"What happened?" I asked, hoisting myself up on the island.
His eyes were trained on the floor and his voice was low. "It's really bad. I haven't thought about her in a while. Not until the night of Sam's party." He looked up at me and he looked so sad. At my imploring look, he resigned. "I've been meaning to tell you this anyway. Just haven't really found a good time. But before I do, I just want you to know that it was a one-time thing. I am never going to do that to anyone else again." I nodded slowly, not liking where this was going.
He blew out slowly. "Do you remember how when we first met, after Seth punched me, my family was laughing?" I nodded, remembering how strange I thought it was that no one seemed to care that my brother had given him a busted lip. "Either Jay or Nate- I forgot who it was- said something along the lines of, 'this isn't the first time something like this has happened.'" Squinting my eyes, I nodded again, vaguely remembering something like that. "Well, they were right. Honestly, this is gonna sound stupid, but, before Sam, I guess you could say I used to be something like a 'player'."
A player? I couldn't help it; I burst out laughing. The idea was just so ridiculous. As I calmed down, I noticed him bite his lip. "You? A player?" I laughed out. "Yeah, right. And I'm a Playboy bunny."
That didn't make him laugh like I was hoping it would. He actually looked even more somber than before. He was being serious. "Okay, maybe not a player. I just didn't treat girls the way they should be treated. I didn't really have girlfriends, if you get what I mean. Before Bailey, I think my longest 'relationship' was two weeks long, if you could even call it that." I raised my eyebrows in surprise. I would never have expected this from him. "I don't know why I was like that. Maybe I just felt like since girls kinda threw themselves at me, I could just do whatever I wanted with them."
I really had no idea what to say. This was shocking. "Anyway," he continued. "Everyone pretty much knew this at school. Bailey was new, though. Last year was her first year here. She was really sweet and pretty and nice and she really, really liked me. A lot. So I went out with her and I actually ended up liking her too. We went out for a few weeks, maybe a month. But then Sam came along and she was, well, you know… hot," he stated awkwardly, looking hesitantly up at me. I shrugged it off, even though it kind of stung. "She started flirting with me and stuff, but she had a boyfriend and I had a girlfriend. She figured it would be fun to mess around and I kind of… you know."
"You cheated on Bailey," I finished for him, feeling hurt, even though he didn't do anything to me. That sounds very characteristic of Sam, but Caleb? Honestly, I would have sworn that Caleb wasn't capable of something like that.
His face turned red and his eyes were permanently glued to the floor. "Yeah. That's not even the worst part." I raised my eyebrows. It gets worse? "People found out and, eventually, so did Bailey. Pretty much everyone knew. She was already alienated enough at school, since she was new, but then all these rumors went around and people started talking crap about her. I don't even understand why they would do that; she was the one that got hurt. Sam and I were the ones they should have been spreading shit about, but, since we grew up here and knew everyone, no one said anything about us.
"Anyway, two weeks later, Bailey was out for a couple of days and I got worried. So, I went to her house and, when I got there, her parents told me she was in a psychiatric hospital under observation." I gasped and his face looked like he was literally in pain. His hands gripped the edge of the countertop and his knuckles were turning white. "They told me she had severe panic attacks, depression and that she had stopped eating after our break up. Thankfully, her parents noticed something was wrong with her, so they were able to help her before things got too severe, but it was still really bad. She moved after that and I haven't seen her since."
He looked up at me, gauging my reaction, but all I could do was blink and say, "Wow."
He took a deep sigh and looked back at the tiles. "I kind of reevaluated everything about myself after that. I had never cheated on a girl before and, to this day, I'm still not sure why I did it. Even with the way I was before it wasn't something I did normally and I especially didn't think I would feel that awful about it. If it was anyone else, it's possible that it wouldn't've made such a big difference to me, but Bailey was just so amazing and innocent. I did everything I could to be better after her. I stopped hanging out with all my friends and I stopped going to parties. Gave up girls altogether for a long while."
"But you went back to Sam?" I questioned, seeing that as the only flaw.
He nodded, still avoiding my eyes. He looked so incredibly troubled. "I did, yeah. Eventually. I didn't see her for a while. Two or three months, maybe. Then one day she said she related to how I was feeling. That she felt guilty too. So I figured that since we had both changed, we could give it a shot and be better people together. And I really thought she was. It was only when I saw how she was talking to you that I realized how wrong I was about her. She's back to the way she was, but I'm not."
This time, he looked up at me and his expression broke my heart. He looked… scared. "Are you mad?"
I furrowed my brow and chewed on my bottom lip. "I- I don't know. I guess more surprised. And confused. I just can't imagine you doing something like that."
"Because I can't. Not anymore, I swear." He looked so incredibly sincere.
I nodded my head, not entirely sure what to think. I mean, I still felt strongly about him. And I still knew him. This was just a part of his past; it didn't define him. Besides, it's not like we were dating. So, did it really matter?
"Why are you telling me this?"
He shrugged, his expression full of shame. Then he caught my eyes and my heart stopped; the emotion in them was unreadable, but powerful. "I don't know. I guess I feel like I owe it to you. You've told me everything about your past, but you know nothing about mine. It's not fair to you. I didn't want to say anything before 'cause I was worried you wouldn't trust me, but now I'm hoping we're close enough that you won't stop, you know, talking to me or something because of that. Not that I would blame you if you did. Stop talking to me, that is."
Narrowing my eyes slightly in thought, I noticed how hopeful he looked. And anxious. "If you're asking if I'm going to stop being friends with you for that, then no, I'm not. It was just a mistake, right?" He nodded. "And you're different now?" Again, a nod was my response. I sighed and gave him a small smile. "Then you don't have to worry."
When Seth had arrived, it was after we had eaten dinner and I was putting the final touches on the cake with the 'help' of the brothers. It was a two layer devil's food cake, covered completely in chocolate just the way Seth (and me) likes it.
"You have no idea how happy I am that I met you," Jayden moaned, licking a spoon covered in my homemade chocolate frosting.
"I second that," came Nate's voice, sticking a finger in the bowl I had used to make the frosting in.
"Third." Caleb stuck a finger in the frosting and I slapped his hand, biting back a laugh.
"Guys," I complained. "Stop it. I'm not going to have enough frosting to cover the cake at this rate!" They completely ignored me and I swatted at their hands. "Be gone! All of you! Out of my kitchen."
"This is actually our kitchen, so maybe you should leave," Jayden suggested, pointing the spoon at me.
"Fine," I said airily, picking up the cake. "Then I'm taking the cake with me."
"No!" all three of them shouted at the same time, lunging for the cake and making me giggle.
The doorbell then rang. "Nate, you're closest to the door," Jayden said.
Nate scowled. "Actually, I think you are."
He was right, but Jayden shot him a look as if asking him why he was still standing there, his eyes wide. "Go get the door! You're making our guest wait!" Nate raised an eyebrow at him, but Jayden maintained the urgency in his voice. "Go! Come on, hurry!"
Nate opened his mouth to argue, but then decided against that, instead just rolling his eyes before leaving the room. Caleb and I exchanged glances of amusement at their antics before looking at Jay who was back to attacking the icing. At our stares, he looked up at us innocently, saying, "What?" before breaking into a large triumphant grin.
Moments later, Nate returned, followed by the towering form of my brother dearest. He was greeted heartily by Jay and Caleb and then his eyes settled on me and his expression softened. "Hey."
I grinned at him. "Hey."
He feigned shock, placing a hand over his heart melodramatically. "Oh my. A smile! I'd forgotten what you look like happy." I rolled my eyes, an amused smile tugging my lips. "So, are you done hating me yet?" I nodded and he breathed an exaggerated sigh of relief, pulling me to him too tightly. "Thank God. I missed you, kiddo."
I pushed him away, scowling jokingly. "I'm seventeen, you jerk."
He shrugged. "Still, you'll always be a kid to me." He looked on the counter to my project. "What's this?" He reached out to touch the cake and I slapped his hand.
He glared at me and I grabbed the bowl with the remaining frosting from Caleb, who protested loudly, and pushed that towards him instead. He beamed and stuck a finger in it. "It's an apology," I said sheepishly, watching him devour the icing.
"Apology for what?" he asked, licking his fingers, followed by a contented sigh.
I took a deep breath. "For how I've been acting toward you. For being a complete brat all the time. For adding all this extra pressure on you."
He studied my face for a second and I noticed how quiet the kitchen had gotten. "Okay. Looks like you guys have some stuff to talk about, so we're gonna go," Nate spoke out. The other two nodded and got up, but on the way out, Jayden grabbed the bowl of icing from Seth's reach.
My brother glared after him for a moment before settling down on a stool and sighing. It was only now that I noticed the bags under his eyes and his overall tired posture. "How was it?"
He shrugged. "Busy. Chaotic. Traffic was insane. That's why I couldn't come back last night. But I have the next two days off though, which is nice." I nodded solemnly. "What I want to know is how you are."
"I'm fine. I feel a lot better actually."
He pressed the back of his hand against my cheek. "No fever. Nose still stuffed and throat hurting?" I nodded. "What about the dizziness? Gone?" I nodded again. "That's good. Has the kid been taking care of you?"
At this I grimaced. "Yeah. He's more annoying than you are." Seth laughed and then yawned, covering his mouth. Instantly, I felt sympathetic toward him. "You seem really tired. Maybe you should just go to sleep. We can always talk later."
He shook his head. "I feel like I haven't talked to you in forever. It's been like a week since we had a real conversation, right?" I nodded. Then he grinned suddenly. "Besides, I've been waiting for this apology. So let's hear it. Why the sudden change in heart?"
"I guess I realized how much trouble I've been. And that this probably isn't easy on you either."
He sent me a pointed look, cutting out a piece of cake. "You realized this all on your own?"
A corner of my mouth twitched into a scowl. "I may have talked to Caleb about it."
"Ah, there we go. I always knew I liked that kid." I raised an eyebrow at him and he threw a small piece of cake at me. "Fine, he's growing on me." My mouth quirked into a small smile at that, which didn't go unnoticed. "Don't get too used to that. You're going to be very, very old by the time you have another boyfriend."
I visibly reddened and my eyes widened as I quickly checked my surroundings to make sure no one was there. Then, I whispered, "Stop that! What if someone hears you?"
He scoffed, not bothering to lower his voice. "Yeah, well, it's not like everyone isn't already thinking that."
"I'm not," I mumbled.
He barked out a loud laugh, finishing off the piece of cake. "Oh yeah? Then why are you turning red?"
Narrowing my eyes, I slapped him on the arm, snatching the cake away from him as he went for another piece. "No more cake for you." He frowned. "That's what you get for being mean."
Feeling embarrassed at the direction our conversation took, I sighed. "I want to move back here, Seth. I don't want to be with Auntie, as much as I love her. I want to be with you."
He studied my face for a moment, thinking. Then he rubbed his face with one hand slowly. He really did look tired. "I want you with me too. But I don't know if I can do this. I really don't."
This reaction was exactly what I was worried about. "The only reason things didn't work out since we moved here was because I wasn't listening to you. Which was really wrong. I know that now. You obviously only have my best interest in mind."
"It's not just that, Rosie." His expression was pained. "When I saw you the day after-" he gulped, not wanting to say the words, "-it broke me. I felt like a failure. God, my first thought was, 'I have one person in this world to protect and care for and I couldn't even do that'. The thought of what that piece of shit almost did to you… it makes me sick. Literally, I feel like throwing up when I think of it." He was blinking rapidly and his jaw was set; he was trying not to cry. "It was the worst feeling in the world. I don't deserve to keep you. I lost that right when I let some kid hurt you right under my nose."
I opened my mouth to speak when he paused, but he pushed on before the words left my mouth. He looked up in my eyes and his were shining. "How did I not see it? How? How could I have been so oblivious that I didn't see that my baby sister's boyfriend was abusing her? Am I really that selfish? Was I really working that much?"
I had a feeling he wasn't really expecting an answer, but I gave him one anyway. "No, you're not. I made sure you didn't find out. I could have told you, easily, but I was scared of Callum and scared of burdening and worrying you. Seth, this isn't your fault."
Then his tone took on a harder, sterner tone. "Yes, it is. And if it happened once under my watch, then it could happen again. I can't take that risk. That's why you need to stay with Suzie."
"What makes you think I won't rebel again with her? At least you caught me sneaking out a few times. And at least you found out when you did. How do you know Auntie will know if something's wrong with me? Or if I'm going around behind her back?"
"Well, I'd hope you would be more careful now."
"Then why can't I be more careful here?"
He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. His voice dropped very low and very tired. "I'm just scared, Rosie."
I smiled softly. "So am I. But I need my brother." His eyes lifted to mine and I recalled what Caleb had said. "Just because something bad happens, doesn't mean we should just run away. We can't let what Callum did ruin our lives. We moved here after dad died, but did it make his death any easier for you?"
He thought about this for a bit before shaking his head. Crap, he actually looked sad now and I was feeling guilty for bringing that up. "Not really. It was more like a distraction. I still think about him all the time."
"Same here." He nodded slowly, seeing where I was going with this. I sat on the island counter in front of him, leaning forward. "See, Seth? Moving to Montauk isn't going to make me stop thinking about what Callum did to me. Or how he treated me. But leaving these people, the Johnsons, it's definitely not going to help."
He sighed heavily and put his chin in his hands, elbows resting on his knees. "Alright, I see your point. But are you sure you're going to be able to handle going to school here?"
I shrugged. "What's another year of having no friends and having rumors spread about me? I mean, it's not like I had any friends except Lana before. And the few I did have abandoned me after dad died. At least here I'll have Nate and Caleb. I won't have anybody in Montauk."
"But Caleb's girlfriend-"
I immediately regretted correcting him when he smirked at me and cocked an eyebrow. "Jealous?" I scowled and he laughed. Jerk. "Fine. Caleb's ex-girlfriend and your douche of an ex are going to be going here also. You sure you want to deal with that?"
He had a point, but I chose to ignore it. "Please, Seth? Please, please, please, please, please-"
"Gah!" he shouted, fighting the smile trying to make its way onto his face as I stopped repeating the word 'please.' "Fine. I'll think about it."
Seth winced as I shrieked loudly and hopped off the counter, jumping up and down while clapping my hands in glee. "Yay! That means yes! Thank you, Seth!" He stood up and I tackled him in a hug.
"I don't know. As angry as I am at myself, I'm just as angry at you for being such a God damned pain." His tone was slightly joking, so I gave him an imploring look. "It's a 'maybe,'" he argued.
I leaned back to look at his face. "But leaning towards a 'yes,' right?"
He nodded with a roll of his eyes and I squealed again, burying my face in his chest, while he planted a kiss in my hair. "The house has been so lonely without you. I love you, baby sis."
That instant three heads with black hair poked their heads into the kitchen, watching us embrace. "You're moving back?" Nate asked eagerly.
I nodded gleefully and Seth released me as the boys rushed towards me to share in my joy. Instead of hugging me, Jayden wrapped his arms around my legs, picking me up and spinning me around as I laughed whole-heartedly. In that moment, for the first time in a long while, I was really, truly happy.
Well, that was a decently long chapter to hopefully make up for my absence! School starting is killing me, but I'm doing what I can. I hope you enjoyed this as always and I'll try not to disappear again.
Thank you for the amazing reviews again! You are awesome, wonderful, fantastical people and I love my readers to death! You make this experience wonderful :D.
Morgan: You were right about Bailey! I'm happy you liked more of Jay and Nate as well as Caleb and Rosie :D. That was a fun chapter to write. Thanks for your compliments!
Rose5936: Bailey may not ruin things directly, but we'll see ;). I'm glad you liked the last chapter and I hope you feel the same about this one! Needless to say, Rose has trust issues, so hopefully, she gets over it.
I think that's all I have to say right now. Thank you again for your love and support for this! I do it for you :D
What do you guys think about Caleb's story now? Better? How do you think it'll make an impact, if any?
Well, until next time :D