Kassandra Kush

Picture Perfect Chapter 3

Posted on: June 3, 2013


            Val looked from the red Etnies jacket in her hand to her cell phone, which had a text message set up for Caiden My Lover.

‘U left ur jacket @ school today. I’m close u want me to run it by?’

She took a deep breath and hit send, closing her eyes. Val knew that she would do the same for any other person she knew, and she was doing her good deed for the day.

Caiden had left the jacket in the tutoring classroom today, and Val had happened to see it.

The thing looked very comfortable, and as she sat on the bench outside Eastern Gymnastics, Val couldn’t help but lift the jacket up and sniff it. It smelled like Caiden, hot (she’d finally admitted that to herself-there was no use denying it), spicy, sexy (okay, that was stretching it, she thought), and delicious. The scent, that was. Not Caiden himself.

She kicked her legs a little bit, watching her cell phone to wait for a reply. Evie didn’t have dance that night, so she was alone, and that was why Val had decided to actually text Caiden. Evie would have asked a bunch of questions; ones that didn’t need to be asked.

Val jumped as her phone rang, and looked down to see it was from Caiden.

‘Sure I’m 478 Collier Hill Dr. U know the neighborhood?’

She sighed. She’d been hoping that there would be no reply. No such luck.       Val replied in the affirmative, saying she would be there in a few minutes. Then she stood and quickly set off for the neighborhood directly across from the strip of businesses where Eastern Gymnastics was located. She knew exactly where Caiden lived, having gone to a party next door to his house once.

A wind blew up while she walked, and Val shivered in the cool evening. The only thing she had on was her shorts and her leotard. Although the leotard was a midnight blue velvet, it didn’t help keep her warm, and she looked with longing at the jacket she held in her hands.

No. She wouldn’t do it. No matter how cold she got, there was no way she was actually going to put on Caiden’s jacket. Val didn’t know what kind of commitment it was, but it was something when a person wore someone else’s clothes. For starters it meant that you were actually friends. She and Caiden were not friends.

The wind blew harder, and Val realized that it was going to rain soon. She could smell it in the air. She quickened her pace, hoping to get to Caiden’s house before she got wet. The result was only that the wind blew harder into her face and her eyes started to water terribly.

“Dang it,” She muttered, giving in, and flung the jacket around her. It was like a cocoon of wonderful smelling warmth. She even pulled the hood up to keep her hair somewhat under control.

And then Val felt the raindrop on her big toe. She flat out ran, but the rain caught up with her and within seconds, the stinging sheets had her soaked.

On any other day, if she was doing anything else, Val could have handled, maybe even enjoyed this. Now all she could think about was how she’d land on Caiden’s doorstep looking like a drowned kitten.


Val was slipping out of her flip flops by the time she made it onto Caiden’s porch, which was mercifully covered from the rain. Without even checking to see what she looked like, Val pounded on the front door of his house, relieved just to be out of the wet and cold.

It was a few moments before Caiden (luckily) opened the door. For a second he just stared at her, standing there dripping in her shorts and leotard, and his own jacket, shivering.

“Don’t tell me you were singing in the rain?” He asked, smiling a little bit.

Val’s response was her teeth beginning the chatter. The wind was now cutting through her wet clothes and slicing her bare legs.

“Come in,” Caiden said without further ado, stepping aside as he held open the door for her.

“T-t-thanks,” She said, stepping into the wonderful, glowing heated house.

“Stay right here, let me get you a towel,” Caiden said, taking her arm and moving her to the side of the door so she was dripping on the edge of the entrance rug. “No one else is home, so don’t worry that someone will walk in on you. I’ll be right back.”

Val nodded, her teeth still chattering, watching as Caiden jogged up the stairs that were right next to the front door. She almost checked out his butt, before she caught herself and looked around at what she could see of the house.

It was actually very nice, with wooden and beige tiled floors, the walls painted in rich warm tones. Pictures hung on the walls, and the glass table near the wall held a vase of fake but nonetheless pretty flowers.

It wasn’t what she’d expected from Caiden’s house. She’d known, of course, that Caiden had to live with his parents, but when she’d pictured his house, it had always seemed to be dark. Not the pretty, glowing rooms around her right now.

Val turned at the sound of Caiden coming back down the stairs. He looked much the same as he had that day at school; lightish colored, sagging jeans with one ripped knee, a black t-shirt that had a crossed out cigarette on it, saying underneath ‘There are cooler ways to die’(That had made Val laugh). Oddly enough, with the gold walls behind him, and the clean elegance of the house, Caiden just fit right in. There was no oddness to it at all.

“Here you go,” He said, handing her a large, fluffy white towel. Val took it, and realized that it smelled like him.

She gave him a look. “This isn’t yours, is it?”

He held up his hands in defense. “It came from my bathroom, if that’s what you mean. It’s clean though, I swear.”

“Thanks,” Val said again, and slipped off the jacket. “Here. Sorry about getting it wet, but I needed it when it started raining.” There was no need for him to know she had put it on sooner.

Caiden took the jacket and hung it from the doorknob so it could dry. “Doesn’t matter, it would have gotten wet if you were wearing it or not.”

Val, still shivering, pulled her long hair over one shoulder and rubbed it vigorously. It would become a frizz ball unless she could get her hands on a brush. Then she vainly tried to dry off her leotard and shorts. It didn’t go well.

“Why did you walk here? Don’t you drive?” Caiden asked, motioning for her to follow him into the kitchen.

“I was at gymnastics, and its like, a five minute walk from your house. I always walk everywhere to save gas,” Val said, wrapping the towel around her shoulders for warmth. “Could I use your phone to call my parents? I went over my minutes.”

Caiden laughed and pointed to the phone that was on the counter. “Help yourself. I’ll get us something to drink.”

“Okay,” Val said, and turned to the phone. She tried her dad’s phone first, since she would have been driving to his house that night anyway. He picked his cell phone up on the first ring.

“Hey Dad, it’s me.”

“Hello sweetie.”

“I was walking home from gymnastics, and got caught in the rain. I’m at, um, a friend’s house, do you think you could come get me?”



“Why,” He said in a growl, “Didn’t you tell me your mother had a date tonight?”

“Where are you?” Val asked, confused.

“Jean’s Bistro,” He answered, naming off the nicest restaurant in town. “Your mother is here also, with a man. I can’t get you, I have a date here too and I need to watch your mother.”

“Dad, don’t you dare go up and talk to her,” Val warned, feeling queasy.

“You know, that’s a good idea Val. I’m going to go and talk to her. I’ll call to find out where you are when I’m done, goodbye.” Click.

Val slowly hung up the phone, knowing it was no use to call her mom. There would be a scene at the restaurant tonight.

“Did you get a hold of them?” Caiden asked from further in the kitchen.

“Well, yeah,” Val said, moving more into the kitchen and taking a seat at one of the islands bar stools. “But they can’t come get me right now,” Val took a deep breath. “Do you think it would be okay if I stayed here for awhile? My dad said he would call when he was finished with his date.”

“Sure, I don’t care. I’d take you, but my parents are out of town tonight, and they have the cars.”

“It could be kind of late,” Val said, almost wishing he would refuse. But she knew that Caiden was just too nice for that to happen.

“It’s okay. I haven’t got anything else to do.”

“I’m glad you’re so thrilled,” Val said as he walked towards her with two steaming mugs. “Hot chocolate?” She asked.

“Sorry I couldn’t run out to Starbucks,” He said dryly. “But your lips are still blue and I thought you would want something warm.”

Val looked from him to the mug in front of her, and then back and forth one more time. “Thank you,” She said, and meant it.

Caiden took a drink from his hot chocolate and discreetly looked over at Valerie. She was still damp, and her hair was in a big tangle around her small body. He saw that she still had very large goose bumps on her arms, probably due to her wet leotard and shorts.

“Do you want a pair of sweatpants and one of my shirts?” He offered. “Since you’re going to be here for awhile.” He watched as she thought about refusing, but then practicality seemed to set in.

“Yes, actually. That would be great,” She said.

Caiden went upstairs and grabbed a pair of sweatpants and shirt and jogged back downstairs.

Valerie wasn’t in the kitchen anymore, and Caiden wondered where she could have gone. He didn’t have to search overlong. He found her on the stairs to the basement, leaning over the rail and looking at all his instruments.

“Hey,” He said.

Valerie literally jumped. “Oh! I’m sorry, I was looking for the bathroom and I found this,” She waved a hand towards the basement. “Do you play all these instruments?”

“Yeah,” Caiden admitted, and handed her the clothes. “There’s a bathroom down here if you want to use it.”

Valerie looked at the shirt he had given her. “You actually own Abercrombie?” She asked, sounding disbelieving.

Caiden help his hands up, defensive. “Don’t get all worked up. It’s from my aunt. I’ve only worn it once, when she came over. She hates the way I dress, and this was her not-so-subtle hint to go shopping. I thought you would like to wear it.”

Valerie looked touched. “Thank you, Caiden, that was really thoughtful,” She said, sounding as though she truly meant it.

Caiden smiled. “See? It’s not so hard to be nice to me, is it?”

Valerie made a disgusted sound and turned towards the bathroom. But outside the door, she paused and turned around. “Will you play for me?” She inclined her head towards the instruments.

“Sure,” Caiden said, coming up with a quick idea. “If you help me.”

Valerie frowned. “Help you?”

“I’ll explain after you change,” He said.

Valerie nodded and disappeared into the bathroom.

Caiden began turning on and connecting all the instruments. Valerie came out just as he finished, and when he saw her, Caiden knew his split second decision to play her song (or what he had of it so far) was right. His clothes nearly drowned her, and she’d rolled the pants up at the waist and the legs. And yet she still looked beautiful.

She was frowning at the smile on his face. “I hope you enjoy this while it lasts, because it is never getting out of this house. Ever.”

“Whatever you say,” Caiden agreed, still smiling. “Do you think you could wait for the music until I find my camera?”

“Haha, no,” Valerie said, “I’m not letting you out of my sight until I leave this house.”

“Good,” Caiden said, and he could tell from the silence that he had just severely agitated her. “Alright, are you ready to make some music?”

Valerie shrugged. “Fine, but you should know that I’m definitely not musically inclined.”

“It’s okay, I just need you to keep a beat for me. The keyboard has it recorded, I can play the guitar, but now I can hear it with a little drums. I can’t play two instruments at once.”

“Okay, what do I need to do?” Valerie asked.

Caiden took her shoulder, and marveling at how thin and small it was, gently led her to the drum set. “This is all I want you to do. Take a drum stick, and use this big drum in the middle, and tap this beat.” Caiden hit the drum three times, in a slow rhythm. “See? One, two, three, pause. One, two, three, pause. Just keep a beat.”

“Sounds easy enough,” Valerie said, and took both of the drum sticks in her hands. Caiden looked at her strangely.

“You only need one stick, you know.”

“I know,” Valerie said. “But holding both of them makes me feel cool.”

Caiden laughed as he sat down on the stool next to the keyboard and picked up his guitar. “Just be careful with those drum sticks, they’re my favorite ones.”

Valerie saluted him with one of them. “Aye aye, captain.” She said. “When do I start?”

“Right now is good,” Caiden said, and waited until she got the hang of it before starting the keyboard and beginning himself

Val closed her eyes, easily keeping up with the beat. The melody of the song was on the slow side, the guitar softer in the background, and the piano taking over for the most part.

They were midway through what she guessed would be the chorus, when the piano and Caiden stopped abruptly.

Startled, she hit the drum loosely and dropped the drum stick. “Oh, shoot. I’m sorry, Caiden!”

He was laughing. “It’s okay; they’ve been dropped on the floor a lot already.”

Val retrieved the stick and set it gently on the drum. “Why did you stop? I really liked that song.”

Caiden shrugged, setting his guitar down in the stand, next the acoustic one. “I don’t have the rest written yet. For the piano, anyway.”

“Wait a second, wait a second. You mean, you actually wrote the music for that?” Val asked, incredulous. That was just unbelievable.

“Well, yeah. I did,” Caiden admitted, and he actually looked uncomfortable, for the first time since she’d known him.

“No way. That’s so cool,” Val said. “Do you have words for it? Can you sing?”

“No words-yet. I’ve written a couple songs, and for me it always just seemed easier to get a melody going first. You can always adjust it later. I can sing, but I don’t sound too good.”

“That’s so cool. Why did you get all the gifts? I suck at everything I do,” Val said, and stuck her tongue out at him.

“No, you don’t. I’ve heard that you’re a pretty good gymnast, and I’ve seen your art. It’s amazing.”

“Oh, that,” Val said, and felt herself turn red to the roots of her hair. “When did you see my art?”

“I usually go to the art shows at school. A lot of my friends have stuff on display. After I saw your ‘Life Is Like a Box Of Chocolates’ piece freshman year, I always looked around for your work. I never actually knew who you were until the football game where we met.”

“You’ve been watching for my work for the past like, three years?” Val asked, amazed. The drawing he spoke of had been one of her favorites, a chocolate box with chocolates in it, along with Scrabble pieces that spelled out, ‘life is like a box of chocolates’ in the chocolate holders.

“Yeah, you’re really, really good,” Caiden said.

“Thanks,” Val said. “I’ve never actually known anyone who knew that I was an artist, besides my close friends. It’s not something I really talk about.”

“You should be proud of your skill,” Caiden said honestly.

“Thanks, and you should be too,” Val said, waving a hand around at the instruments that surrounded them.

There was a moment of total silence, and then Val’s phone rang.

It was her dad.

“He’ll be here in like, two minutes,” Val said after she hung up, and she felt like crying now. She could tell that her dad was extremely upset, and she knew that it didn’t mean good things for her. Homecoming was tomorrow; couldn’t they just give arguing a rest for once?

Caiden could tell that the conversation had upset Valerie, but he was afraid to overstep the cautious truce that they had set up. “Okay, I guess I’ll be seeing you around then.”

“Thanks for everything, Caiden. You’re going to Homecoming still, right?”

Caiden kept his tone light. “Yeah. Maybe you should save a dance for me?” It sounded like a joke, but deep down he wished he could be more serious.

Valerie laughed in his face as a car honked its horn from the driveway. “Yeah, right.” She said. “I’m still Val, and you’re still Caiden, therefore making it impossible. But I’ll look for you to say hi, though. Bye, Caiden, and thanks again.”

Caiden forced himself to laugh, and waved as she went upstairs.

Valerie would dance with every other guy in the school, except for him. And Caiden would be able to do nothing but sit there and watch


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Lyla Evans just wants to be left alone; to fly under the radar and not attract attention. After seventeen years, she knows how the game is played. Her parents are hardly ever home, and when they do show up, they’re quick to anger and even quicker with their fists. With foster care comes the threat of being separated from her two younger siblings, and Lyla would die before allowing that to happen. She’s learned to keep her head down and depend on no one but herself and God to get by.

When a strange man starts paying too much attention to her and her siblings, showing up to rescue them and then disappearing without a trace, Lyla begins to panic that everything she’s been hiding is about to come out. But as she slowly becomes friends with Rafael and even trusts him with her deepest fears, Lyla learns he has secrets far bigger than her own that will turn everything in her world upside down.

In this story of abuse and rescue, love and faith, angels and demons, an unlikely friendship grows into a fantastical love story appealing and appropriate for readers young and old alike.


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