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Kaleidoscope (Faylinn #1)


  Kaleidoscope

  A Faylinn Novel

  Mindy Hayes

  * * * *

  * * * *

  Kaleidoscope

  Copyright © 2013 by Mindy Hayes

  Cover design and photography by Regina Wamba of

  www.maeidesign.com

  Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the above author of this book.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

  Table of Contents

  Dedication

  Prologue

  One

  Two

  Three

  Four

  Five

  Six

  Seven

  Eight

  Nine

  Ten

  Eleven

  Twelve

  Thirteen

  Fourteen

  Fifteen

  Sixteen

  Seventeen

  Eighteen

  Nineteen

  Twenty

  Twenty-one

  Twenty-two

  Twenty-three

  Twenty-four

  Epilogue

  Ember

  Acknowledgements

  About the Author

  To my sister, Heidi Lynn

  Prologue

  Decisions should be black and white, but there’s too much gray area for that, things that tugged at my mind, causing me to question my actions and motives. Where did my loyalties lie? Where were they supposed to lie? Whose lives were supposed to be spared? Who deserved to die? But most importantly, whose right was it to make those decisions?

  While watching the scene play out in front of me, the light gradually dimming as sunset approached, I was suddenly aware of the decision I needed to make. She smiled so happily as the swing flew higher in the tree, the wind blowing in her long blonde curls. He stood behind her, his face splashed with that same happiness, those same gleaming green eyes. He encouraged her to hold on tight with fatherly care.

  I approached quietly, camouflaged by the trees, weighing my options. My mind knew what it wanted to do, but the consequences would fall on me tenfold. Would it be worth it? Could I get away with it?

  Her laughter trailed through the air, filling the outdoors, resonating in my ears, solidifying the decision I needed to make. The consequences suddenly didn’t matter. I knew where my loyalties resided. It would be worth it. The grey area separated and all that was left was stark white and solid black.

  That was the moment my dagger tore through flesh, cementing my decision.

  Chapter One

  The thumping in my chest woke me too early, pulsing so strongly it pounded in my ears. It branched out, streaming down my arms and legs, beating steadily through every vein and artery in my body.

  Who needs an alarm clock when yours is internal? But it wasn’t just some internal alarm clock. It was a sensation I knew couldn’t be normal; shouldn’t be normal, and yet it was a part of me. Something I expected every day. It was followed by this strange impulse to get out of my house and be outside. Once I felt the breeze lick through my hair and my lungs filled with the fresh scent of nature, the pulsing subsided, but I still wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. The cool blaze in my veins would diminish and I was at peace.

  Momentarily.

  I dragged myself out of bed and looked at the alarm clock on the nightstand. Six o’clock. I didn’t have to be up for school for another thirty minutes, but it was pointless to go back to sleep. Not that the pulsing would let me anyway.

  While growing up I didn’t know the pulsing wasn’t normal until I mentioned it to Cameron. We were twelve years old and playing cards at my kitchen table when the subtle pulsing started in my veins. I looked over at him and said I needed to go outside for a minute. He gave me a strange look as I excused myself. When I came back inside he asked, “What was that about?”

  “The pulsing was getting annoying. I needed some air.” I shrugged.

  His eyebrows scrunched together as he told me I was crazy. After that I never mentioned it to anyone. My parents never questioned it before so I assumed it was normal.

  I know differently now.

  As I grew older, the stronger it became. What started out as a subtle itch now felt like another vital organ—only more prominent because it made its presence known in the center of my chest every minute of every hour of every day.

  I hopped into the shower, letting the cool water wash away the urge and clear the fog in my brain. It didn’t work, but it was worth a shot. When I got back to my room I aimed for the next best thing—the window that overlooked our backyard into a deep forest of Walhalla.

  Once I shoved it open and took a deep breath, the thumping began to withdraw, beginning with my fingers and toes, then slowly traveling to the source in my chest. It took a few moments, but finally the pulsing was satisfied.

  For the time being.

  

  White light shimmered around his face and a chorus of angelic voices burst out in a sweet melody when he turned in his chair to face me. Technically, that didn’t happen, but it might as well have. That’s how my mind saw it. It was that day in my third period science class that I knew I found true love.

  A week into our sixth grade year Cameron asked me to be his partner for a science project and I knew there was no turning back. We were going to live happily ever after. Most don’t believe you know what love is at the ripe old age of eleven, or that you can even find your true love at that age, but they’re wrong. I was living, breathing proof that you could.

  Almost seven years later, we stood by our neighboring lockers on the first day of our senior year. I watched him tuck a piece of Isla’s golden hair behind her ear and stare lovingly into her annoyingly sparkly blue eyes. His smile spread widely on his face as she whispered something in his ear. Obviously, it was hilarious because he started to laugh that heartwarming, stomach tingling, contagious laugh—a laugh that whether the joke was funny or not, you laughed because it felt good to laugh with him. You wanted to hear him laugh more.

  Isla was different from the others he’d gone after. She was real. No fake tans or pounds of make-up. She didn’t gossip or flaunt her perfect cheer body. She didn’t make you want to poke out your eyes with her abbreviation of every other word.

  You know my BFF, Tiff, totally needs a BF for real.

  Cameron had gone through many, many… many girls, but none of them were like Isla. It didn't take much to see the difference. I saw it in the way he smiled. We’d been friends long enough for me to know I’d never seen that smile before. And it scared me. I waited patiently for that smile. I knew it was in there somewhere, being reserved for that special someone and had waited years for it to be directed at me.

  “Callie.” Cameron waved his hand in front of my face.

  Oh, great. How long had he been doing that?

  “Cal,” he said a little bit louder, looking at me like I was an idiot.

  I could still see little Cameron in his face. It was all in the eyes. They never changed, still the penetrating sapphire I fell into that first day. Though his baby fat cheeks had thinned out into a chiseled jaw and
his light blonde hair was a little darker and a little shaggier, he was still the Cameron I fell for on day one.

  “What?” I responded irritably, pretending I heard him say my name over and over again and was agitated to be interrupted from whatever I was doing. Of course, I’d been staring. I cringed inwardly and gave myself a mental scolding for zoning out.

  “Isla and I are heading to class. We’ll see you at lunch.”

  “Yeah. Whatever. Cool.” I attempted to feign indifference.

  He nodded, his hair sweeping across his forehead, and tossed a wave before wrapping his arm snugly around Isla to escort her down the hall. She giggled, her head leaning into him as he nuzzled his face into her neck, whispering sweet nothings.

  Well, they were probably sweet nothings.

  My heart sank a little.

  Isla looked over her shoulder and smiled genuinely at me, delicately waving. “See you later, Calliope.”

  I despised the fact that I couldn’t even hate her. She was too gracious. Nothing like Myra or Dana or Blair or any other skank Cam had been with—girls that made themselves easy to hate.

  “Bye, Isla,” I said as politely as I could manage.

  I couldn’t even bring myself to be semi-snarky with her. She didn’t deserve it. It unnerved me. She was hard to hate even if she was with the boy I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with. It made me want to gag. I had to believe that I would get my turn. I convinced myself there was still time.

  My classes dragged on, as one would expect on a first day, teachers droning over the syllabus and about what was expected throughout the year. I wasn’t really worried about not getting into college. I’d get into some college close by. Some place I could keep an eye on Cam.

  I was protective of him. Not as a form of jealousy—though I knew it was a tiny part—but because aside from his dad, I was the only constant in his life. And I planned to stay that way. He needed me just as much as I needed him, even if he didn’t see it the way I did; even if I were more of a best friend/sister in his eyes than someone he could spend the rest of his life with. I’d never leave him.

  

  My eyes were initially blinded when I walked outside for lunch. I blinked away the brightness, waiting for my eyes to adjust. I breathed in the sunlight, the warmth soaking into my body, nourishing my skin with its touch.

  “Hey, Callie,” Lia greeted, falling into step beside me.

  “Lia,” I said. “Hey.”

  “We own this school this year. Doesn’t it feel great? We are no longer the underclassmen. We’re finally on top. This is our year. Our last year.”

  “Yeah. Feels good, huh?” I said with half of the amount of excitement she oozed.

  Lia sighed happily. “So good.” She linked her arm through mine. “How’s your first day so far?”

  “Overwhelming. But I only have one more period and then I’m done for the day.”

  “Jealous! I should have taken extra classes with you last year.”

  “As if you could have added that to your pile of AP classes.” She shrugged. “I’m really glad I did though. It’ll help this year fly by.”

  I caught sight of Cameron and Isla sitting under a shady oak tree, playfully shoving each other and laughing. I wanted to throw up. That should be me—but less nauseating.

  “I can’t believe I dated him,” Lia muttered.

  It was my fault that they met in the first place. Lia was new our freshman year and I decided to be polite and introduce her to some people to make her feel welcome. Cam, of course, jumped right on that bandwagon. Lia’s long dark red hair and big beautiful hazel eyes had him at hello. Half of the school fawned over her, but what I love most about Lia was that the attention didn’t faze her. She focused on getting into Harvard or Princeton or one of those Ivy League schools that I could only dream of. Then she was bound for medical school to become a world-renowned surgeon that cured cancer or AIDS or some terminal illness.

  “To be honest I can’t believe you did either.” I chuckled.

  “A definite lapse in my judgment, but he looks so happy now.” She followed my gaze. “You doing okay with them?”

  “Yup.”

  “All right.” Lia knew not to pry. We were close enough that I never had to tell her about my feelings for Cameron. She figured it out on her own. It was also one of the reasons she ended it with him, though it definitely wasn’t the only one. And boy, did that throw Cam for a loop. He got dumped? That never happened. But he was over it within a week when Blair Vander pounced on him at Jake Winter’s birthday bash the following weekend.

  “He could do worse,” she encouraged.

  All I could do was nod. He had done worse. I should be happy for him, but I’d never come second to a girlfriend before.

  “Shall we sit or…?”

  I cleared my throat. “Yeah. Let’s go.” I thought about sitting with the lovebirds, but I already needed a break. We headed to our own shady spot on the opposite side of the lawn, out of sight from Cameron and Isla.

  

  The bell to my last period class rang and I heaved a sigh of relief. One day down, only one hundred and seventy-nine days to go. Putting it into a number like that made it sound worse.

  “Hey, Callie, you headed home?”

  I looked to my left side to see Cameron without his second half. “Yeah.”

  He draped his arm casually over my shoulder and leaned his head down to mine, smelling like his familiar fresh, soapy self. “Can you do me a huge favor?”

  “That depends.”

  Cameron had to know I was wrapped around his finger. I tried my best to conceal my feelings, but I wasn’t sure how well that act worked. We were two sides of the same coin. We could practically finish one another’s sentences. He had to know, didn’t he?

  He rushed on. “Isla has to stay after school for some mandatory cheer meeting or something, and we drove to school together this morning because my jeep’s at my dad’s shop. So…”

  “You’re a little bit stranded.” I peered up at him, arrested by his blue eyes. I looked away to break the connection before it was too late and I showed him a glimpse of my feelings.

  I could hear the partial smile in his voice. “A little bit.”

  “What about your dad?” It was a long shot and I knew it.

  “He can’t leave the shop, you know that. His mechanics are lost without him.”

  Cameron’s dad’s auto repair shop became his life when Cameron’s mom left. His dad ate, breathed, slept and drank cars. Where did that leave Cam? It left him with me.

  Until Isla.

  I let out a deep breath. “You want me to go home, and then come back and pick you up just to drive all the way back home,” I said dryly.

  “C’mon, Cal, please? Pretty please?”

  Cameron only lived a couple streets over from my house. I knew I wasn’t going to say no. He knew I wasn’t going to say no, but it was pleasurable to see him beg anyway.

  “Fine.”

  “Thanks!” He planted a quick peck on my cheek. “You’re the best.”

  “Tell me something I don’t know.”

  He laughed. “I’ll see you in a couple hours.”

  I waved him away as I headed for the front of the school to my car.

  Throughout our high school years everyone’s tried to tell us a boy and a girl can’t be best friends without some friction between them. “There’s always some sort of sexual tension from one or both sides,” they’d say. I casually brushed them off because I knew perfectly well they were right, but Cameron would laugh and wrap his arm playfully around me, hugging me so close I could melt into him, and say, “Callie and I have done it so far. Haven’t we, Cal?” further crushing my heart every time.

  I’d nod and wryly say, “Who’d want to date this guy?” while inside I would be screaming, “Me! Pick me!”

  So desperately stupid, but such is my life.

  

  Before I went back
to get Cameron I figured I would get a head start on some homework. You’d think teachers would at least give you a day to get back into the swing of things, but apparently there was no time to waste in order to get everything accomplished by graduation.

  I had the first act of Macbeth to read through; an essay for home economics on what I thought it meant to be a parent; the first chapter of physics to get acquainted with; and my first worksheet of Calculus to work through without any instruction. My calculus teacher wanted to get a feel for what we already knew. As if I would be taking calculus if I already knew the subject.

  I spread out a blanket on the grass in the backyard near our gnarly old oak tree to appreciate what sun I had left before evening came. The tree swing hanging from the oak swayed slightly in the light breeze.

  Sometimes I could beat the pulsing by going outside before it started and lessen the sensation. There were few places that made me feel as relaxed as when I was near our trees. It could have been the peaceful sound of the chirping birds or the fluttering leaves, but I could never quite place it. It was like the warm river flowing through my veins craved to be among nature. I knew it sounded weird, but I wasn’t sure how else to explain it.

  I nibbled on an apple slice and flipped through my physics book, scanning the pages on matter. There was a rustling in the woods, which normally wouldn’t startle me, but the breeze had stopped and it only came from the left side of the trees. My gaze lifted to the forest lining the back of our property. Our yard backed right up to preserved woodlands. They stood silently now, undisturbed.

  I flicked the light of my cell phone on to check the time. There was still an hour before I needed to leave to pick up Cameron. I bowed my head down again, finding where I left off, trying to become enthralled with atoms and molecules and yada yada yada.

  It wasn’t more than a minute when I heard the snap of a twig. This time I sat up and scanned the grove of trees from one end to the other. Animals heavy enough to snap a twig never came this close to civilization. But everything was eerily quiet again. No motion of the greenery or movement between them.

  Crack. My eyes darted to the sound on the opposite side of the forest from where I heard the twig snap, and yet all I saw were the soaring trees and thick shrubbery.

  “Hello?” I asked uncertainly. I sounded ridiculous, calling out into the forest at nothing. But I felt something there. Tentative footsteps sounded, growing fainter and fainter. But I couldn’t see a thing. I stood up to get a better view.

  “Hello?” I asked with a little more confidence. There had to be someone there. And most likely I didn’t want to wait to find out who, but the curiosity was like a plague, completely unavoidable.

  “Calliope?” I gasped and spun to see my dad’s curious gaze from the back deck. “What are you doing, sweetheart?”

  I fussed with my hair nonchalantly. “Nothing. Just working on some homework.”

  He looked at me skeptically, as if he didn’t believe me. “Did you hear something out there?”

  “It was probably just some squirrels.” Giant squirrels.

  “Come on inside. I really need to build a fence along those trees. I don’t like you being out here like a sitting duck. You never know what’s lurking in those woods.”

  I stood up and snagged my books and the quilt from the grass, tucking them under my arms, cell phone in hand.

  “Let me help you,” Dad offered when I got to the deck, reaching for the blanket.

  “Thanks.”

  “I forgot that you were getting out early this year. I wanted to be here when you got home.”

  “It’s okay,” I said. He rested his hand on my shoulder and kissed my forehead.

  “I just had to run to the grocery real quick.”

  I nodded. “What’s for dinner?”

  “I’m making vegetable lasagna.”

  “Cool. Do you need help bringing in the groceries?” I asked and dropped my books on the kitchen table.

  “I got them all,” he said. “Thanks though.”

  “When’s Mom going to be home?”

  He opened the fridge and finished putting away the groceries. “She’s going to have a late night tonight. Probably won’t be home until after eight. She’s working on a big case. The trial is coming up in a few months. I don’t know the details, but from the sounds of it, she’s prosecuting a man for horrendous things… child abuse, battery, murder, you name it.” He shook his head and sighed.

  Our family defied all family stereotypes. My mom was a lawyer and my dad stayed home. Not because he had to, but because he wanted to and my mom wanted to work. He didn’t go to college. She did. She was in law school when they met.

  The lines were still blurry on how they met, exactly. My parents met in some park in North Carolina where my mom often studied during law school. They noticed each other and clicked. Something like that.

  I didn’t know much about my dad’s past. All I knew was that he was an orphan. His parents abandoned him at birth. I guess it was something he didn’t like talking about and I didn’t pry. My dad did a few odd jobs on the side to keep himself occupied. He designed landscapes in his free time. He loved the outdoors, like father like daughter.

  “She’ll be pretty stressed out until then, huh?”

  He nodded. “She’s really committed to this case and getting this guy locked up. But, it just means more time for us.” He smiled to try and lighten the mood.

  Yay. Not that I didn’t love spending time with my dad, but a girl needed her mom sometimes. Moms understood things in a different way than dads. And it’d been too long since I’d actually spent any bonding time with her. I really missed her.

  

  Cam slid into the front seat of my little white Cabriolet. I had the top down to feel the warmth of the sun. She’d definitely seen her fair share of use over the years, but she’d been good to me. Maybe a little beat up, but she was mine.

  Cameron and I took turns driving on road trips over the years—half in his old Jeep, half in my Cabriolet. Not cross-country overnight trips, but daytrips to Charlotte, Myrtle Beach and Charleston. We had lots of good memories in this car, blasting music and singing from the top of our lungs with the top down.

  “Thanks, Cal,” he said. “I know you didn’t want to come back.”

  “Don’t sweat it.”

  Cameron threw his backpack in the backseat and combed his hand through his dirty blonde strands. “Are you as swamped as I am? I feel like I’m drowning in homework. This was supposed to be the easy year. The fun year.”

  I chuckled humorlessly. “And yet, I get out two periods early and I have twice as much to do as I did with all seven periods.”

  “It’s a joke.”

  “Yeah, on us.”

  He slapped my knee coolly and kept his hand there. “We haven’t really talked in a while. What’s new?”

  At that moment I really wished there was something to rub in his face, but I had nothing. We’d spent the first half of the summer together, but he’d spent the second half with Isla.

  For whatever reason we’d gone to school with her since kindergarten and he’d never noticed her. Then at one random summer party they caught one another’s eyes and everything fell into place. As if they were at the right place at the right time. She smiled and waved and he didn’t look back. If that didn’t feel like complete desertion after seven years of friendship I don’t know what did.

  The second half of my summer was spent with Lia or my parents. No hot dates or summer romances. No exciting adventures or escapades to relay to him. We didn’t even go on a vacation. I should’ve just lied, told him something. But what was the point?

  I shrugged, not at all unaware of the warmth of his palm on my thigh. The simple touch had my nerves darting around my body like a pinball machine. “Nothing really.”

  His hand squeezed my leg lightly. “Well that’s lame. No hot dates or thrilling adventures to relay?”

  He knew just how to rub it in. “
Nope.”

  Cameron took his hand back and crossed his arms. “I just don’t get that, Cal,” he said, perplexed. “You need to relax and stop being so intimidating to all the guys. They want you, if you’ll just give ‘em the time of day.”

  “Thanks for the words of wisdom. I’ll try harder to change myself to be more appealing to them.”

  “You know that’s not what I meant,” he said. “You just turn the cold shoulder every time any guy wants to talk to you.”

  I chuckled. I did not. “Why do you care so much about my dating life, Cam?” Did I?

  “I don’t,” he said, looking away indifferently out the passenger’s side. “It’s just now that I have Isla, I see what I was missing out on by not being serious about any girl. I can’t believe I never saw her before. The blind man can finally see,” he exclaimed, his arms spread out above his head.

  Cut me while I’m down, will ya? Maybe spit on me while I’m down there and rub a little salt in the wounds to top it off.

  “The only guy worthy of my time will be the one who’s willing to work for it. I refuse to give this away for free.” I gestured to myself to get a chuckle out of him and it worked.

  “All right. I see. You’re worth more than that. I know. You deserve a really good guy.”

  If only you could see that guy is you.

  I pulled up to his house and let him hop out.

  “Thanks for the ride, Callie. See you tomorrow.”

  I nodded and waved.

  It used to be: I’ll call you later or let’s hang out tonight. I couldn’t even remember the last time Cameron called me just to chat. Gosh, I missed him.

 
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