The Not-Outcast

Page 34

“Who was he with?”

“Not as many as normal. A few people, no one I remembered.”

I went back to my phone.

Me: Who’d you party with at Bresko’s?

Chad: Huh? Why?

Me: Cuz if you’re using my name, I want to know.

I was being a bitch. He always used my name, and he knew I knew it. This was just the first time I was saying something about it.

There was another long pause.

Chad: You don’t want me to use your name?

Me: I want to know who you’re taking to the VIP area and using my name.

Chad: WTF?

I scowled.

Me: Just tell me who you partied with.

Chad: Don’t be a bitch because my sister took off on you.

A whole whoosh sensation went through me. This fucker.

I was scowling.

Me: Wow, first time you actually called her that.

Chad: What the hell is your problem?

Fuck’s sake. I had to calm it down. He was right.

Then my phone started ringing. Chad calling.

I didn’t trust myself to talk civil to him. I didn’t know what I’d say to him over text either.

I hit decline and turned it on airplane mode.

Switching back to my music, I noticed Hendrix had been paying attention, but he didn’t say a word. He stuck his headphones back in his ears and we flew to Seattle just like that.



I was doing a bunch of self-reflection lately.

I had my job, and I loved working at Come Our Way. I loved everything about it. The guys. The workers. The volunteers. The mission. And I had my girls. I saw them almost every day. We were family. That’s how it was, but I hadn’t thought about my love life. I hadn’t had to, to be honest.

I was fulfilled.

Or I thought I had been, but with my stuff, a person goes through a situation where they really question things at a deeper level. Like, would it be fair to bring someone else in on the struggle you endure every day? If you did, was it fair to bring a child into the world who had a mother with the struggles I had? On the surface, she would seem to be just a mom who’s distracted or disorganized.

But follow down the line, and it’s a mom who’s not listening to you. It’s a mom who forgets to pick you up. It’s a mom who forgot to pay your meal plan for a year, for the second year, for a third year. It’s a mom who forgets to pick you up not once, but twice, three, four, five… The intent is there. The love is always there, but the struggles are there, and they are often greater than the whole, and they can chip away at a person, at a child, at a husband, at a wife. If something gets chipped away at enough, holes get created and those holes get bigger and bigger over the years.

Did I want to do that? God no.

But would I struggle at some point? Without a doubt.

I was still young. I wasn’t a virgin. I hadn’t been waiting for Cut, but I had been at the same time.

There were a few boyfriends, but no one serious. They never lasted long and again, never serious. These questions and self-doubts didn’t come into play because those guys weren’t my forever guy.

Cut was.

Cut could be.

Or, Cut could’ve been.

And now I was thinking myself into circles.

Actually, I was torturing myself into circles.

I was at work. There was a meeting going on. Dean’s voice was droning on, and I was doodling. I could do that. Sometimes it helped me channel so I could focus better, but I had to be honest with myself.

I was hurting, and I wanted Cut. I missed Cut.

I didn’t know what I was doing anymore, why I wasn’t calling him, texting him. Then I’d have to remind myself and here we were again, once more around the pass about how I couldn’t do to him what my mother had done to me. Not the same struggle, but a struggle nonetheless.

I was trying to justify all the reasons why I ran from him.

The reason was real. What I had, no one I loved should go through it with me. Sasha and Melanie were different. They had their own issues, and I was there for them. It was the same with me, but I also pulled back with them. They got it. They understood. I had my stuff, and I never wanted to burden anyone else with it, not too much. It’s not their problem to deal with. It’s mine.

I tried not to watch his away games. I hadn’t lasted on that. The puck dropped and I was scrambling to turn my television on.

My chest was burning because they were playing at home tonight, and I was trying to tell myself that I wasn’t going. But I was going. I already knew I was going. Why was I trying to lie to myself?

“—what do you think, Cheyenne?”

“Huh?” My pen dropped and I looked up.

Dean, Reba, and Boomer were all waiting for my answer.

I blinked, trying to remember. I had no clue. “What’d you say?”

Dean frowned, his eyebrows pinching together. “You okay?”

Reba grunted. “You get distracted at times, but you’ve been more the last few weeks.”

Reba was our other full-time worker, the one who worked, and went home to actually Netflix and chill. She was built like a trucker (her words) with the curliest hair I’d ever seen on someone before. She had dark auburn hair, and her curls were the type that had curls within the curls themselves. Getting a comb through them with product must be a nightmare for Reba, so she let it flow. She came to work and her hair was bouncing every which way. I loved it. The freer, the better, but today she had it pulled back under a red bandana.

I was missing the usual fray wildness. I connected with it in my core. Her hair was like all the things going on inside my own head.

But Reba handled all of our ordinances. She was the glue in the shelter. Dean and I were almost like decorative props in the building. If we didn’t have Reba, there would be no shelter. Sturdy and tough. I loved me some Reba, and if Reba was noticing my distraction and commenting on it, then I had to handle it because it was serious. Reba noticed a lot, but she didn’t comment on anything that wasn’t worth commenting on. She was a wise soul, and she never wasted her breath on something. It was her golden rule.

Boomer’s mouth turned in and his head went down.

Reba didn’t notice. “What is going on with you?” Her head twisted sideways, as if a new thought had just come to her. “You seeing someone? This seems like guy distraction.”

Guy distraction.

Aptly put.

I opened my mouth, but Boomer lifted his head up and said, “Let’s leave her alone. If she wanted us to know, she would’ve told us.” He gave Dean a pointed look. “You sure about switching distributors on some of our foods?”

Dean was still frowning, but turned back to him. “Uh. Yeah. Yes. We need it for the budget, but speaking of our budget, I think we should plan a big charity gala event.”

Oh no.

Call it a sixth sense, but I knew exactly where Dean was going with this. He’d been on his own buzzing level since the Mustangs were at Come Our Way.

He cleared his throat, sitting up straighter. “I have a meeting with the Mustangs’ PR team tomorrow, and I wanted to clear it with everyone here.”

“We already had them here.”

Dean glanced to Reba. “I know, and it went amazing. Our social media push brought in a lot of new volunteers and contributions locally, but I’d like to plan a big, big event—”

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