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Authors: Melyssa Winchester

Count on Me

BOOK: Count on Me
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Count On Me

Count On Me

By

Melyssa Winchester

 

Copyright © 2014 Melyssa Winchester

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means or stored in a database or retrieval system without the prior written consent of the Author.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names; characters; places and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

 

For information regarding the cover and the models within please visit prochkailo at
Fotolia

 

Isabella Rose. It is my hope, as you grow older that you find all the happiness and acceptance you deserve, as well as your very own Kayden. You deserve nothing less than the best. Never give up, never give in and never believe that you’re not good enough. I’m so blessed to have you call me Mommy.

“We’ve all been hurt by words before. So before you speak, think about how your words might affect someone else.” – Naya Rivera

Prologue

 

Kayden

 

I need to keep walking.

Just keep my
head down and walk to my car. Go home. The one thing I’ve been dying to do since Coach finished giving me the weekly after practice speech.

I don’t need to be getting involved in this even though it’s my friends that are the ring leaders
. I need to pretend I can’t hear or see any of this and keep walking until I’m safely locked away where none of them can get to me.

That would be the smart thing to do, but let’s face it; I never do the smart thing. I do the one thing that’s sure to land me in the most shit once my brother
Dean gets wind of it.

“Hey Kayden, you want in?” Dillon yells, motioning toward their latest project.

“Nah man, this one’s all yours.” I say, forcing a laugh so he gets the idea that I’m cool and not bothered by what they’re doing.

I am though, bothered by it.
It’s one thing to pick on some nerd walking the halls with their nose in a book, but Isabelle? Everyone knows the girl has issues, so why do this stupid game with her?

“Your loss bro.” he calls back and I start walking again, more determined than ever to just get to my car and get the hel
l out of here.

It’s a game to us. We take one kid every couple of months and
torture them in a bunch of different ways until they break under the pressure. I say us because I’ve been part of it before, more than a few times actually. It’s not that I think it’s right, but it beats turning them down and becoming the one they attack.

I don’t want to be a part of this though and not because when Dean finds
out he’ll kick my ass. Truth is, he’d do that anyway. This time I don’t because of who it’s happening to. 

Isabelle Reagan.

The blonde haired, blue eyed Senior I’ve lived across the street from since we were in diapers. Before my mom split, we used to spend a lot of time over at their house. She used to call it tea time, but I swear with the way they used to act, I’m pretty sure there was something other than tea going into those cups.

Isabelle was always super qu
iet and I remember thinking it was kind of creepy, the way she’d almost look through you, yet never say a word. When she did manage to interact, it was always in really weird ways too, like she wasn’t normal. Mom took off, leaving me with Dean and I was happy about it. It meant I wouldn’t be forced to spend any more time with the weirdo next door.

Yeah, I know, I’m an asshole, but that’s not exactly news.

I won’t be in on this because despite the way I used to look at her and maybe still do, I know things now. Dean ended up explaining a lot to me a few years back when he had to pick her up from school because she had an accident and the school couldn’t reach her mom. Attacking her didn’t hold any appeal for me.  

It’s when I hear her cry out that I stop. It’s not the cry of someone being bullied like we’ve done before. This is different. It’s almost like it isn’t human at all, but the cry of a wounded bird.

Keep walking. Don’t look back. Just keep walking.

I don’t do it. Instead, I turn around and take in what’s going on around me.

Her backpack is on the ground ripped apart, judging by the papers and books spilled out all over the place. Her hair, which was in pigtails earlier, is now half hanging out, which only made the knot in my stomach tighter.

It’s hard to tell from here
, but it looks like she’s got tear stains under her eyes, which means Dillon and the others are getting exactly what they want. I’m about to turn around again, but before I can, Dillon gets one of the girls to hold her arms and her eyes lock on mine.

Shit.

Why did they have to grab her and turn her in my direction? Don’t they realize I can’t handle the emptiness I see staring back at me?

Fuck.

“Look at this Amy, she’s crying again. What a freaking baby. Is the little retard scared? Is she gonna piss her pants again?”

The minute the words come out of his mouth
, I’m done. I’m a first class asshole, but I’m nothing like Dillon right now. What he’s doing, the things he saying, there’s no way in hell it’s right. Everything about this is just wrong.

“Maybe she wants you to kiss it better Dillon. I’ve seen the way she looks at you when she doesn’t think anyone can see. She totally wants your lips on her.”

“I think you’re right, Ames. Maybe I should give her a little something to remember me by.”

I watch as he moves closer
and Amy drops the hold on her arms. He reaches out and grabs her. As I try to get my legs to move, Isabelle struggles against him and her shirt rips. Before any of the idiots I call friends can say anything though, it gets worse.

It’s happening
again.

The way it looks as it makes its way down her legs to the ground does something to me. Where I couldn’t move before, in either direction, now all I can do is move and it’s not in the direction I wanted only minutes before. No, this time I’m moving straight for her.

Dillon shoves her away from him before I can get to her and she falls to the ground, right in the small puddle that’s accumulating at her feet. Hearing her sobs, either from pain or embarrassment is more than I can take.

Fueled by a
rage like I’ve never felt off the field, I switch directions at the last second, turning my attention to the asshole that did this to her. Grabbing his shirt, I yank him to me, so close that there can be no confusion about what’s about to happen.

“Say sorry.”

“Fuck you, Kayden. It’s not like I’m doing anything you haven’t done before!”

“I don’t give a shit.” I snap, positioning my body so close to his that he’s blocked in like the animal he is
. “She doesn’t deserve this shit. Apologize. Now.”

“Oh, I’
m sorry man. I had no idea this was your girl. You should’ve warned me.”

I’m not exactly sure what pisses me off more; the arroga
nt way he says it or the words he’s saying, but I’m bored with it. My fist connects with his face and as he reacts to the impact, I hit him again. He falls backward, catching himself at the last second, attempting to mount a defense. Too bad for him that there’s nothing he can do.

S
ee, that’s my secret. This isn’t the first time I’ve been in a fight and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last. I live with an alcoholic brother that enjoys beating on me at least five nights out of seven. After having it happen for the last eight years, I’ve learned how to fight back and now, no one can take me. Not even Dean.

I slam my fist into his face again. As he stumbles, I land another hit to his stomach and finally he falls to the ground. Lifting my leg up, I kick him and keep on kicking until blood pours out of his mouth. I don’t even stop then.

It’s only when I hear the wounded whimper a few feet away that I force myself to stop and back away. Turning, I walk toward her and it’s only when she starts backing away that I get what she’s seeing.

I’m filled with rage and she can see it all over my face.

Moving forward, I bend down slowly and whisper. There’s no guarantee it’s gonna work, but I gotta try to calm her.

“It’s okay, Isabelle. It’s over now. You’re safe.”

I reach my hand out, hoping she’ll get the hint so I can get her up and out of here. As she places her small hand into mine; I’m shocked by what happens next.

“Kayden.”

One word.

My name and just like before, I’m completely frozen in place.

It’s the first time I’ve heard her speak in almost eight years. Despite my reputation for being a total jerk and not giving a shit what anyone thinks, the way my name sounds rolling off her tongue makes me feel pretty damn special. It’s like to this girl right now, I’m her savior.

I
find myself liking it, though I’ll never admit that to another living soul. Just like I won’t admit how badly I want to hear her say it again.

Shaking off my thoughts, I take her hand and pull her up until she’s safely nestled in my arms.
  As I turn around to grab her backpack, I feel someone shove into me. I grab on to her tighter, balancing my body off of hers while at the same time, protecting her from falling again.

Turning around just enough to see the person who pushed into me, I come face to face with the very person I just sent to the ground.

“I don’t know what’s gotten into you man, but you’re gonna pay for that shit. Maybe not right now, but you will pay for it.”

“Anytime—anyplace—anyw
here.” I seethe as I turn Isabelle in the direction of my car and start walking away.

The further away we get from everyone, the more the reality of what j
ust took place sets in. I just kicked the living shit out of my best friend for Isabelle Reagan.

What the hell have I gotten myself into?

 

Chapter One

 

Belle

 

It’s always been this way.

People think that because I’m quiet, I don’t hear the names they call me. Retard is the most popular, but there’s a ton of other ones. They assume because I don’t talk that I must be deaf, so I’m called deaf mute a lot. It used to bother me, but I guess after you hear the same names repeated for so long, eventually they lose their impact.

If they paid attention,
they would know that I’m not a retard, I don’t ride the short bus and I’m not a deaf mute. I’m just autistic.

My mom says that I
‘started acting funny’
right around my fourth birthday. She took me to the doctor and after a little bit of a wait, there were even more doctors. There’s been so many since then that I’ve lost count, but it doesn’t change anything. I’m still autistic and there’s no quick fix for it. I’m going to be this way for the rest of my life. I think I’m the only one that’s okay with that.

My mom kept taking me to all of tho
se doctors because she didn’t understand me and honestly, I think she wants them to put me back together, like I’m broken or something. I’m not broken, I’m just different.

I’m okay with the way I am, except when I get into situations that are too much for me. It’s only then that I hate it and wish they could fix me. The worst part has to be the accidents. I know how to go and I know what it feels like, it’s just a lot of times, I get overloaded and can’t control it. I hate that part because it’s embarrassing. It’s when that stuff happens that I wish my life was different.

Sometimes I even wish I was dead.

Those kinds
of thoughts, I don’t talk about them. I know if I told my mom how bad it is for me, she’d only worry more and take me to another doctor. I know she means well, but I’m tired of it all.

Most kids,
when they walk into their class don’t get freaked out by the lights. They go to their seat and move on like nothing is wrong. I can’t do that. I’m in a lot of classes with other kids like me, but there are some I wanted to be in that I have to take regular classes for. It’s those where my issues are hardest to handle. Turning down the lights is minor compared to what else happens.

If too many people are moving around real close to me, it makes my heart almost beat out of my chest and breathing is hard. The blood
rushes to my head and I get overloaded which sometimes means I scream out or shake. For the kids at school, that’s what makes me a retard.

I’ve gotten control over a lot of it. I know my triggers and I do things in order to redirect, but it still gets
me sometimes, which is what the bullying is about. This time is different though because normally, they just call me names and push me around a little. That’s not what happened in the parking lot and I’m scared it’s not going to be the last time it happens.

My mom homeschooled me until I st
arted high school. She wanted to continue it, but I ended up telling her no. It’s not that I enjoy being picked on, pushed around and treated like a leper. I just can’t stand being more of an outcast then I already am.

Kayden Walker is my next door neighbor. We used to pla
y together when we were babies. Well we did, until his mom took off and left him alone with Dean. He’s the only friend I’ve ever had even though I’m pretty sure he doesn’t feel the same. Kayden’s mom made him hang out with me, I know that, but it doesn’t change anything for me. Spending time with me the way he did when we were younger made me feel special and not in the bad way.

I’m not sure why he didn’t join in with his friends today. I’ve seen them do it befor
e with other kids and he seems to enjoy it. Enjoyment is the last thing he felt today. I saw it in his eyes before he bent down to help me up. The last time I’ve seen someone look like that was when Dad fought with Mom.

I don’t like anger. It scares me. Whenever my mom raises her voice around me, I completely shut down and hit myself. I’ve been doing it since I was four. She tells me that anger is a natural part of life, but I just don’t see it that way. Why
be angry when you can be happy? It’s why even now, walking toward his car; I’m still scared of him. I don’t want to do something and have him get angry at me the way he did with Dillon.

“Isabelle.”

He says my name so easily that I’m jealous. When I said his name earlier, it had taken every bit of strength I had to get the sound to come out. It caused me physical pain to do it, yet here he is saying mine like he does it all the time.

“Why didn’t you get on your bus?”

I have to answer him. I can’t let him stand there wondering. I just don’t know if I’ve got it in me to get the words out. When I’m home with my mom and Tristan, it’s easier to speak because they understand me, but here, now, at school and in front of Kayden, it’s too hard.

So I do what I always do when I can’t speak. I motion with my finger toward the school as if all the answers he wants are going to be answered with the simple motion.

“You stayed after school for something?” he asks, his eyes never once leaving mine as he tries to figure out what I’m trying to say while saying nothing at all.

I nod my head and he smiles.
It’s not a big one, but considering the way he looked a couple of minutes ago, it’s a nice change.

“Do you want a ride home?”

I nod and he walks me around to the passenger side of the car. Holding up one hand, he jogs quickly around to the driver’s side, slides in and reaches across to pop the door open on my side. Then, using his other hand he motions for me to get inside.

It would be so easy to slide in the way he did, but I can’t do it. I know he’s only trying to be nice and take me home
, since it is on his way and all, but I think he forgets exactly what happened to me out there with his friends.

“Get in the car, Isabelle. I don’t care about that.”

Once I do as he says and slide into the seat, doing my best to keep my jacket over the wet spot, I close the door and wait for him to drive away. After about two minutes of him not doing anything but staring straight ahead, I clear my throat. The sound breaks him out of his trance and he turns, his lips lifting until he’s full on smirking at me.

“I’m sorry. I know I need to take you home
, but I can’t. Not yet. I need to ask you something first.”

Considering how one sided this conversatio
n has been so far, I’m kind of surprised he wants to ask me anything at all. I expected him to want to get rid of me as quickly as possible.

“You have your notebook?” he asks me, motioning toward the remains of my broken backpack. “I know you have trouble talking, so, how about I talk and you write?”

His voice is low, soothing even, as if he knows my issues with loud noises and is trying not to spook me. The way he’s acting reminds me of the way he was when we were kids. It’s a time I miss more than I want to admit. He was so patient with me back then. It’s the complete opposite of the way he’s been lately. He’s like the old Kayden again. It’s nice.

I pull the notebook out of my bag and search around with my hand for a pen. When my hand finally lands on one, I pull it out and yank the cap off; creating a loud popping sound that makes me jump in my seat.
  I brace myself for the laugh that’s sure to come, but after a few seconds, I realize he’s not doing anything but staring ahead again.

“How long were they doing that with you before I came out?”

I scribble on the paper quickly, the answer easy.

I guess it was fifteen minutes.

“Why did you go with them?”

Staring at the paper in front of me, I take a minute to think over my answer. I want
to tell him the truth, but I’m afraid that when I do, he’s going to laugh and think I’m pathetic.

Amy said that Tim wanted to ask
me to the dance, but he was nervous and she wanted to help him out.

“Fuck!” he yells, banging his fists off the steering wheel, the sound making me jump and throw my body even closer to the passenger side door. His anger is startling. Noticing my reaction, he sighs before allowing his body to collapse into the seat. “Isabelle, I’m sorry. I forgot.”

It’s okay.
I write, adding a smiley face at the end to let him know it’s okay. I have issues, but it doesn’t mean he should feel bad for reacting. After years of my mom doing the same thing, I feel like an old pro, at least with telling people it’s okay.

“You k
now,” he says. “You can just smile; you don’t need to write the happy faces.”

I lower my head and out of
the corner of my eye I see he’s frowning, which makes me sad. This is probably why the doctors think I’ve got social anxiety, but it’s not that at all. I just have the uncanny ability to make people feel bad because I don’t know the proper way to act. No matter how hard I try to learn it, it never sticks.

“What did they do to y
ou?” he asks, shifting the tone of the conversation again.

Pushed me around a little bit, yanked my backpack off and ripped it open. Tim and Dillon did that part. They grabbed me pretty hard on my arms. You know the rest.

I can see his attempt to calm his breathing and again, I just feel sad. I actually debated whether or not to tell him what they did because of the reaction he’d have and seeing it now bothers me. He shouldn’t have to worry about this.

“They won’t
do that shit to you again, okay? I swear to you, no more. If it happens, they’re dead.”

I’m not sure how I
’m supposed to answer so I pick up the pen and do the one thing that I hope will get him to smile again. I can sense the tension rolling off of him and it’s making my stomach uneasy thinking about it. I want him to be okay.

Holding up the notebook, I turn it in his direction and the minute his eyes catch w
hat I’ve done, they soften and he smiles. It’s a real, genuine smile. One I haven’t seen him wear since we were seven. It makes me happy knowing that I was right.

“One more question and
I swear I’ll take you home.”

Ok.
I print out quickly.

“Why do you draw the
happy faces instead of just smiling?”

Because I don’t smile, n
ot ever.
I answer easily.

“I hate to be the one to tell you this Isabelle, but you just did.”

Before I can question what he means, he takes the notebook out of my hands, placing it between the seats until its laying perfectly flat between us. Lifting a finger and bringing it back down on the paper, he points to the face I drew and then looks up at me.

“It’s a
nice smile, Isabelle. Don’t let those assholes take it from you.”

 

Kayden

 

I have no idea why the hell I said that to her, but it isn’t like I can take it back so I let it sit there between us. The only thing that bothers me about what I said anyway, is I told her not to let the assholes take it from her and I’m one of them. Maybe she’ll see it that way and steer clear of me.

I can hope anyway.

When she told me what they did, it took every bit of restraint I have not to smash my hand through the windshield, that’s how angry it made me. It’s even worse because we’ve done that same thing to a bunch of other people and I’ve never once given a shit about it.

Maybe it’s because I know there’s something wrong with her that makes me like this. It makes her more vulnerable than the others or
that’s the pretty picture I’m selling myself to push away the guilt I feel.

Hell, I’ve dunked heads in toilets, stolen underwear during PE and run them up the flagpole and laughed the entire time I
did it. Add to that, pushing kids around, tripping them in the halls and then all the name calling and I really am king of the assholes. I’m the one that taught Dillon all he knows and what he used on Isabelle less than a half hour ago.

As I pull into h
er driveway, I look over and notice she’s frowning. I immediately want to know what caused it because it doesn’t seem like it should be there. If the girl can’t smile then she shouldn’t be able to frown either.

Since when am I this worked up over the way a girl looks? I should be more concerned with getting her out of my car so I can get it cleaned, not with the frown that seems even deeper across her face.

“What’s wrong, Isabelle?”

Before she can reach over to grab the pad, I pick it up and tear the paper out. I have no idea why, but I can’t let her write on it again. I want to keep it the way it looks right now.

The damn happy faces have obviously messed with my brain.

I pass the pad across to her as I put the car in park and she immediately starts scribbling across the page furiously. It’s obvious that whatever she’s frowning about is pretty big. Even when I’m in class with her, I don’t
think I’ve seen her write quite this fast.

My mom’s car isn’t here, which means she’s not home and I don’t like being home alone.

Is this girl kidding me? What teenager doesn’t like being home alone? Man, I’d kill for Dean to get his ass out of the house once in awhile so I could have peace and quiet. Trust me, there’s nothing more I want to do in the moment then trade spots with this girl.

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