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Best Friends 2
To never love another, I swear. To never hold another, I promise. That I’ll always be yours, you already know.
Cayden reads the note again and again, clinging to a happier time. Kella, that beautiful girl! That beautiful girl he held so many times, who held him! Now, she walks past him without even a second glance. But that first one takes his breath away every time.
He replaces the note at the back of his locker and looks around the bustling hall. Kella hurries past, bumps into Cayden, knocking his unzipped backpack off his shoulder. The floor is scattered with books. “Cayden, I’m so sorry!” she exclaims crouching down to help him gather them.
“Make it up to me,” he whispers. “Come study at my house tonight.”
“She can’t,” Ruger’s commanding voice snaps. He reaches down and yanks Kella to her feet. “Come on. I told you not to waste your time on him.”
Kella sighs. “Bye, Cayden.” And with that, Ruger hauls her away.
Cayden’s hands are trembling. Because when Ruger grabbed Kella, he pulled up her sleeve. Above Kella’s elbow, Cayden saw a dark bruise in the shape of fingers.
Kella sits on Ruger’s bed later that night, hanging her head as Ruger admonishes her. “I told you, Kella! I don’t want you talking to him. Cayden Almaguer is trash, and so are you!” Ruger grabs Kella by the jaw and forces her to look at him. “You disgust me, do you hear me? DO YOU HEAR ME?!” Kella nods, and Ruger continues. “If you continue to associate with trash like Almaguer, I’ll have to punish you. You will do as I say, always!”
Filled with rage, Kella explodes. “Why?! So you can show me off to your friends? Or so you can have some small amount of control in your life?”
Ruger slaps her hard across the face. “No, you idiot. For your own good. Without me, you’re just a piece of white trash, same as Almaguer. I’m trying to turn you into something that deserves to be treated well.”
“I hate you,” Kella snarls.
“I hate you, too,” Ruger replies with a mean smile, and kisses her hard on the mouth. “Now get dressed,” he adds, throwing a purple sundress on the bed. “I’m going to go call up the guys and invite them over for pizza. You had better be presentable by the time the guys are here.”
Cayden paces his room. Kella hasn’t answered his texts since they broke up. He recalls the day with painful clarity.
Kella is leaning on her locker, her eyes tired. She’s been crying. “Kella, baby, what’s wrong?”
“I think we should see other people,” she whispers. “I’m leaving you, Cayden.”
“What? Baby, don’t… what’s wrong? Let me fix it, I’ll do anything to fix it.”
“Don’t call me baby, Cayden. It’s… it’s over.”
Cayden calls Kella. Surprisingly, she picks up. “Hello?”
“Kella! I want to talk to you,” Cayden spills. “I miss you.”
“Cayden, I can’t talk now.”
“Kella, wait—“ Cayden is cut off by an automated voice telling him to hang up and try again.
Just as Kella puts the phone down, Ruger comes in. “The guys will be here in ten. Touch up your makeup, straighten your hair, all that crap you have to do to make yourself look a little less ugly.” He looks at the phone. “Who was it?”
“Just a wrong number,” Kella lies, pulling her eyeliner out of her makeup bag and bringing her makeup and hair supplies into Ruger’s adjoining bathroom.
Ruger checks the history and sees that not only has she lied, but also that Kella refused to delete Cayden from her phone contacts. He says nothing, though he is instantly filled with rage and insecurity. Kella will pay for her disobedience. Just not yet.
Ten minutes later, Kella looks beautiful. She hopes it will stop Ruger in his tracks.
Last month, Kella met Ruger in Advanced English. He was a new student then. Now, just a month later, he’s the star of the lacrosse team and wildly popular. When Kella met him, Ruger was rather quiet. When she got him talking, he painted pictures in her mind of a life in L.A. with Kella acting in movies and Ruger working as an architect. She wanted that life. So she left Cayden for her Ruger… and now, she knows she’ll never have the life he promised. If Cayden would only take her back, she would run to him now. But even if he can still love her, Ruger will never let her go.
Kella sets out soda for the guys. Ruger calls her into the living room, where the lacrosse team is watching the Summer Olympics. “Sit with me, watch the gymnastics with us,” he orders, making it sound like an offer. Kella knows better, so she sits next to him. The guys are watching the women on the pommel horse and making lewd comments. “Why don’t you ever do that, Kella?” Ruger laughs. “That could be cool!”
Kella smiles and says, “Why don’t you, Ruger? I’m sure you could manage it.”
His gaze darkens for a moment. “Hey, guys,” he calls. “Watch this.” Suddenly, he sucker-punches Kella in the stomach. She cries out and falls off the couch. “Oh, get up, you stupid witch.” Then he laughs. “Seriously, Kella that was great. Your stage fighting is getting so much better!”
Kella forces a laugh. “Thanks, baby. I’m gonna go grab a drink of water, do you want anything?”
As soon as she’s in the kitchen, she sends a text to Cayden. “Help me!”
Ten minutes later, Cayden is almost to Ruger’s, and he can almost feel Kella’s distress. She jumped off the porch, dragging her school bag behind her. Cayden leaned over and opened up the passenger door. He slowed down so she could jump in, and just as she closed the door, a bullet hit the pickup.
“Get back here, Kella, you piece of trash!” Ruger shouted as he emptied his clip at the retreating escapees. “Cayden, you’ll pay for this! If I can’t have her, no one can!”
Ignoring Ruger’s threats, Cayden reached over and took Kella’s hand. “Best friends?” he asked.