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Chapter X. Part II
I close my eyes tightly as he peels out of the lot and into traffic. The engine sputters and pops as Cade careens right, then left, until we’re on the main road that bisects the island. As he picks up speed, the wind has its way with every part of me. I hold on tighter to Cade. It’s scary and exhilarating at the same time.
He turns right, and we find ourselves on a road that hugs the shoreline. We whiz by weathered homes and beach cabins, the scent of the sea ever present.
When we pass a little outlook beside a public beach, Cade slows the motorcycle and turns around. “Let’s stop and check out the beach,” he says, pulling into the parking lot beside the road.
We leave our helmets on the bike and follow a trail that leads to the beach, which is ours alone, aside from a seagull pecking at a clamshell ahead.
Cade walks to the water’s edge, seemingly unfazed when a wave laps up against his shoe. The shore transfixes him, I can tell.
“Should we take a plunge?” he asks with a grin.
I smile a little self-consciously. “But we don’t have towels or a change of clothes.”
“All right,” he says with a grin. “I’ll let you off the hook this time.”
I look away from the shore to the cliff behind us. “I bet we could hike up there and take some amazing photos from the overlook.”
“It looks a little steep,” he says.
I take his hand. “Come on, we can do it.”
He smiles and follows my lead. “I have a daredevil girlfriend.”
I grin as we begin climbing. The trail is steep and jagged, winding so close to the edge of the cliff that I feel a bit woozy when I glance below. “I guess this is more of an advanced hike than I anticipated,” I say, a bit out of breath.
“Do you want to turn back?” he asks. “We can take some photos by the beach instead.”
“No,” I say. “Let’s continue on.”
Eight switchbacks become fourteen, and fourteen become twenty. “We’ve got to be close,” I say. The sun is about to tuck itself in for the night behind the horizon. A band of orange and yellow streaks the sky.
“If we’re lucky, we’ll make it to the top by sunset.”
“I hope,” I say.
“Makes me think of that Robert Frost poem,” Cade says.
I nod. “So dawn goes down to day…”
“Nothing gold can stay,” he continues.
. I smile as we round the last corner, which opens up to the top of the cliff. We both marvel at the views all around us—pristine tree-lined hills surrounded by sea. I feel both big and small.
“Stand right there,” Cade instructs. “I want to take your photo. The light is incredible right now.”
I inch closer to the ledge as he fiddles with his camera. I smooth my hair and instinctively reach for my necklace and give it a small tug, but when I do, the clasp breaks free and falls to the gravel at my feet.
“Oh no,” I exclaim. “My necklace broke. That’s never happened before.” I fall to my knees and pat around the ground as Cade sets his camera down and walks closer.
“Don’t worry,” he says. “We’ll find it.”
Still facing Cade, I look over my shoulder at the edge of the cliff. “What if it…fell?” I feel suddenly dizzy, my legs weak. And as I try to step closer to him, I lose my footing.
“Cade!” I scream as I slip backward. Time suddenly slows, as one terror-filled moment blends into the next. I feel myself falling over the ledge. I claw at the uneven hillside, which seems to melt beneath my grasp. And then strong hands meet my wrists. Cade’s voice, solid and sure. “I’ve got you,” he says. Rocks from the hillside are falling into the air. I feel dirt in my eyes. “Don’t panic. Just stay still.” His eyes are locked on mine. “I’m going to pull you back.” My legs dangle over the rugged cliff. The beach is hundreds of feet beneath me. For a moment, I can see my end. The way the air would feel as I fall to the shore. The sound my body would make when it meets the rocky beach below. The blood trickling from my nose when Cade finally gets to me.
Cade slowly pulls me back to him. As he does, more gravel and rock fall from the cliff to the beach below. “Almost there,” he says calmly. “I’ve got you.”
I’m too scared to cry. Too scared to breathe. It might be a moment or a half hour by the time he’s pulled me to safety; all I know is that I am alive. And Cade has saved me.
I crawl into his arms and weep.
“I’m so sorry,” he says, kissing my face. “Baby, I’m so very sorry.” He presses his sleeve to my nose. “Your nose is bleeding. Are you hurt?”
I shake my head as he helps me up. “I don’t think so.”
“Look,” he says, pointing to the gravel at our feet, then kneeling down to pick something up. “Look what I found.” My necklace dangles from his fingers, the locket still intact.
“Thank you,” I say, tucking it into the pocket of my jeans.
Cade’s eyes are fixed on mine. “I almost lost you.”
“You saved my life,” I mutter. “I…I don’t know what to say.” I swallow hard. “How can I thank you?”
“No thank-you necessary,” he says.
I search his moist eyes, and wipe away tears from mine. “I will always be indebted to you.”
“Better plan,” he says. “How about you just save my life someday, then we’ll be even?”
“I will,” I say, smiling through tears. “I will.”
We walk hand in hand off the ferry ramp, down the steps to the city. Cade’s apartment is just a few blocks away.
“Want to go back to my place for a little while?”
All I want is to be near him, now and always. Especially tonight.
“Yes,” I say.
We walk a block ahead, under the viaduct, then down the little side street to his apartment. I toss my sweater onto his sofa. My mind is so full of the events of the day that I’m grateful for a quiet moment while he fiddles with his record player.
I listen and hear our song, the one we listened to backstage, the one that was playing the first time he held my hand. When the chorus sounds, anything can happen, and then it does.
His arms are around me, his lips are on mine, and, as the lyrics command, I fade into him. I know exactly what I’m feeling, this thing I’m afraid of, this emotion that keeps bubbling up inside me like a pot on the stove that I’m trying desperately to keep from boiling over.
I open my mouth to speak, but he places his hand on my lips.
“I know what this is,” he whispers, his voice faint above the music. “I’ve known it from that first night I saw you at the show, but now there’s no doubt in my mind.”
My gaze is entwined with his. Our eyes are locked and the key is gone. My heart feels full in my chest, heavy but in a good way.
“It’s love,” he says, letting the words slip freely from his mouth. And when they do, they fill the air and multiply like musical notes in a cartoon.
“Love,” I say as the record crackles and skips.
“Love,” he whispers back, weaving his fingers in mine.
And when I set my head on his pillow, and our bodies become one, for the first time in my life I feel as if everything in this crazy, complicated world makes complete and utter sense.
Chapter XI. Part I
“Hi,” I say to Ryan later that night.
“Sorry to call so late,” he says. “I just got back to the hotel.”
I look up from my laptop and glance at the clock on the wall. It’s half past ten.
“I had a productive discussion with the bank executives today,” he continues. “Their concern in this tough market is our ability to secure high-profile tenants around the TV facility, but I walked into the meeting with contracts in hand. I think we may actually close this deal.”
“Congratulations,” I say, with a catch in my voice. This is terrible news for Hope Gospel Mission and all the people who depend on the shelter.
“I know you’re caught in a hard place,” Ryan says. “We don’t have to talk about business anymore. Tell me about you. How was your day?”
“Oh fine,” I say. “Just normal.” I think of Cade, our lunch at Wild Ginger, how he finally recognized me. When we parted, I didn’t know what to do, so I told him to promise to meet me in front of Westlake Center at noon tomorrow. He nodded, but I’m not sure he understood. What if he didn’t understand? Then what?
“Kailey, you there?”
I realize that Ryan has been talking and I’ve been lost in thought.
“Yeah, sorry,” I say. “I’m just up…working on a deadline.” I eye the open browser on my laptop with a Google search for “homeless resources Seattle.”
“Okay, well, I won’t keep you, then,” he says. “If the meeting goes well tomorrow morning, I’ll take the early train back and we can have dinner together.”
“Great,” I say, feeling guilty for keeping this enormous secret from him, but I need more time.
“Oh,” Ryan says before hanging up. “Were you by chance at Wild Ginger today?”
I sit up straighter as my heart rate quickens. “Uh, yeah, for lunch.”
“Remember Jeff, from my office?”
“I think so,” I say nervously.
“He saw you there.”
I stay silent.
“But it was the weirdest thing. He thought you were sitting with some homeless guy.”
My mind races. I can’t tell Ryan about Cade. Not yet. “Oh, that,” I say. “Yeah, it was an…interview. For the series.”
“Right,” Ryan says with a yawn. “Yeah, I figured. All right, babe, I’m going to head to sleep. Early meeting in the morning.”
“Good luck,” I say.
“I miss you,” he adds.
“I miss you, too,” I say, feeling an ache in my heart.
And I do. I want him to wrap me up in his arms and say that it’s all going to be okay when I tell him everything, every detail. I want it all to pour out of me like from a broken hydrant. I want to vomit the truth. But I can’t. I have to go through this myself for now. It’s scary and lonely and I don’t know where the path will lead. All I know is that I have to keep walking down it alone.
“Morning,” Jan says as I pass her office the next morning. I stop in her doorway and exhale deeply. Before we begin speaking, Lisa from the style department stops beside me. “Are you two coming?”
I give her a confused look.
“To Dana’s baby shower,” she says, pointing to the conference room. Dana, the style section editor, is thirty-seven weeks pregnant but one of those women who has miraculously managed to maintain her figure all the way through and could be an honest-to-goodness model for A Pea in the Pod’s maternity catalog. “I got the cutest cupcakes,” Lisa continues in almost a squeal. “They’re pink and blue, with these adorable fondant baby blocks on top.”
“Ah,” I say, feeling my cheeks redden. “Thanks, I wish I could make it, but”—I pause, trying to will my mouth to spit out an appropriate response—“but I’m on deadline.”
“Oh, okay,” Lisa says, a little miffed. “Jan, how about you?”
She gives her a placating nod. “Yes, just give me a few minutes.”
After Lisa walks off, Jan clears her throat. “Close the door,” she says, “and sit.”
I do as she says and sink into her guest chair, sighing, now safe from the newsroom listening in.
“What was that all about?” she says, pointing to the doorway.
I shift in my chair and sigh again. “Nothing,” I say, composing myself. “I’m just…not that into baby showers.”
Jan’s gaze is unrelenting. “Give it to me straight,” she continues. “Are you and Ryan breaking up?”
My eyes widen. “What? No!”
“Oh good,” she says. “I, well, you haven’t quite seemed yourself lately, and that’s the only thing I could come up with. Kailey, in all your years working for the paper, you’ve never asked for a personal day.” She takes her glasses off and cleans the lenses with the sleeve of her shirt. “I think you should use more personal days, but the request seemed wildly out of character.” She gives me a long look.
“If it’s not you breaking up with Ryan, what is it?”
I sigh. “It’s worse.”
“I found Cade.”
She shakes her head in disbelief. “As in, your ex? The one whose disappearance turned your life upside down?”
“Yep,” I say. “That one.”
“So that’s why you didn’t even bother to look at the stats on your piece.”
I shake my head. “He’s living on the streets of Seattle, maybe has been all this time.”
“On the streets?”
“Jan, he’s legitimately homeless. Skinny, dirty, rags for clothing, long beard, matted hair.” I rub my forehead. “But the worst part about it is that it seems like he has lost his mind.”
“Is he on drugs?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “I mean, I don’t think so. It’s more of a mental deficit. Maybe memory loss? Something happened to him, and I…want to help him.”
“You should,” she says, looking thoughtful. “I remember him well. He was something else. He was a force.” She’s silent for a long moment. “You loved him. Do you…still?”
I gasp. “What? No. I…how could I? In his state? Besides, I love Ryan. I’m marrying Ryan.”
Jan clasps her hands together. “He was once a big deal in Seattle, wasn’t he? I’m surprised he hasn’t been recognized.”
I shake my head. “He’s almost completely unrecognizable. If I hadn’t looked into his eyes that night, well, I wouldn’t have made the connection at all.” I’m quiet for a moment.
“That’s something I’ve learned, in my reporting, in the interviews I’ve done with the homeless. There’s a certain anonymity about people on the streets. When I went to find him, no one even knew his name. They just called him Mitchell, because that’s the name printed on the army jacket he wears.”