Tie Me

Page 2


It had been five years since Sara had slipped away from him. Five long years that Kellen should have been healing and learning to move on. Five f**king years of misery.
He’d hit rock bottom the day she’d been buried, and he’d thought that would be the worst of it. But he was below that now. What’s below rock bottom?
“Hell,” he whispered to the wind.
Why did you die on me, Sara? I need you beside me. Didn’t I f**king tell you that enough?
Kellen wrapped his hand around the leather cuff on his left wrist. To him, it signified a lasting connection with the woman he still loved. The one time Kellen had thought he might let Sara go and move forward, Owen had given him this cuff, a Christmas gift. Its significance hadn’t been a huge deal, but it was a sign—one that had insisted Kellen must remain attached to Sara for a while longer. His feelings hadn’t ended when her life had. That wasn’t how love worked. People who hadn’t lost the love of their life didn’t understand that. Owen, God love him, didn’t understand that. He thought a man was supposed to move on when his soulmate died. Find some sort of replacement. Kellen didn’t want to move on. He didn’t want a replacement. He just wanted Sara back.
He wanted the impossible.
And he wanted Owen to stop staring at his cherished bracelet as if it were possessed with evil. Kellen wished Owen would just let him wallow in grief and stop pressuring him to move forward. But maybe if Kellen pretended, the recent tension between him and his best friend might lessen. His determination to remove Sara’s cuff tonight wasn’t for his own sake. It was for Owen’s. He could do this for Owen. The widening rift between them was tearing Kellen apart. That woman Owen had met the night before—Caitlyn—had opened Kellen’s eyes to a brutal reality. Kellen’s weird head space—his inability to forge new intimate connections—was pushing Owen away from him. And he couldn’t lose Owen too. He had no one else, no one that he’d allowed close to him. No one else he trusted. No one else who’d put up with all the weird shit he’d been going through.
Kellen took a deep breath and tugged one of the cuff’s straps free of its buckle fastening.
I won’t forget you, Sara. I meant it when I said forever. I’m so sorry, honey. I just can’t… I can’t center my life around you anymore. But I won’t forget. I’ll never forget.
He swallowed the lump in his throat and unfastened the second strap. The cuff fell into his right hand. His bare wrist felt foreign. Exposed. Inside he felt empty. So empty. Before he changed his mind, he flung the cuff into the sea.
You shouldn’t litter, ass**le. Kellen snorted as the first words Sara had ever said to him rang through his memory. He hadn’t been paying attention when he’d thrown his empty water bottle on the ground instead of into the recycling bin at which he’d been aiming. She’d picked up the offending piece of trash, marched up to him, and jabbed the end of the bottle into his chest. He’d stared at her, his mouth hanging open, at a complete loss for words. He’d known in that moment that he’d found his everything. Before those eternal seconds that marked their first meeting, he hadn’t believed in love, and certainly not in love at first sight, but he knew the instant his gaze touched upon Sara’s innocent face that they were meant to be. She was of a different opinion. There was no love in her eyes when she’d asked, Just how many planets do you think we have?
Millions, he’d said. Trillions.
The corner of her mouth had twitched, just a little, and a bit of the fire had receded from her big blue eyes. For a second, he’d thought she found him funny.
Well, feel free to go live on one of them. I happen to be partial to the one I’m standing on.
Her long, light brown ponytail had slapped him in the arm when she’d whirled around and stomped to the recycling bin. She’d slammed the bottle into the big blue container and gone to rejoin her friends in the environment club. They’d embraced her as if she’d singlehandedly saved the planet by telling off the cool guy who’d missed the recycling bin.
Didn’t matter. Kellen was hooked. He’d signed up to join her little tree-hugging group the next day, and he hadn’t even been enrolled in her college. He hadn’t let trivialities like rules stand in his way when he wanted something. And he’d wanted her. He still wanted her.
“I think leather is biodegradable,” he said now, knowing she wouldn’t approve of him throwing junk into the water. It just felt like a fitting burial for the thing, giving Sara to the sea she’d loved so briefly. He knew she’d wanted to spend more time there before she’d passed. Knew he was responsible for not fulfilling that want because he’d been terrified of letting her leave the hospital. He hoped there was an ocean in the afterlife and that she was always dancing in the waves.
Kellen rubbed his bare wrist, trying to work the feel of the confining leather from his skin. As with her memory, he couldn’t seem to lessen its effect by simple effort. After a moment of kneading his wrist, something bumped into his bare foot. He looked down and caught the reflection of two metal buckles in the sand.
“Back so soon?” he said and released a sigh. He bent and retrieved the bracelet, stuffing it into the front pocket of his jeans. A circle of wetness blossomed over his hip. He’d carry the cuff a while longer, but he silently swore that he wouldn’t put it back on his wrist. That wasn’t going back on his promise that he would remove it tonight. Not exactly. He had removed it. Yet while it wasn’t on his wrist, he was still very conscious of its presence in his wet pocket.
The soft tinkle of piano music competed with the roaring waves. Kellen glanced behind him, seeking the source of the sound. Most of the houses along the deserted Gulf beach were dark, but a soft yellow glow lit an open window in the house next to his. The southwestern end of Galveston Island was far removed from the tourist attractions of the city. Down here, late at night, one could pretend to be the only person for miles. Yet he didn’t mind the intrusion of the poignant melody. In fact, he was pretty sure he needed something unexpected to draw him back to the present.
A strong gust of wind slapped his hair against his face. Thunder rumbled overhead.
The piano melody built—an inspiring crescendo—soaring higher. Higher. Drawing him out of the darkness. Clearing his thoughts. Freeing his heart. Washing him with elation. If only for a few seconds.
The string of notes ceased suddenly. A loud blam on the keys ended the piece.