Read Fractured Online

Authors: Erin Hayes

Fractured (6 page)

From the other side of the SUV, his best friend Darius, the guy he’d trust with his life, met his eyes and gave him a funny look as if to say,
Dude, stop ordering us around.
Seth shrugged and hoped that he could get rid of the shadow of their CO.

“These’re about as tight as they’re gonna be,” another voice added, breaking through their unspoken conversation. Seth’s younger brother, Scott, hopped down from the back of the old GMC Suburban after strapping everyone’s skis and snowboards to the top of the SUV. He wiped his hands on his pants with a huge, metal-encased grin.

At just sixteen years old, Scott had picked up their father’s Irish genes, so he had their family’s trademark red hair, green eyes, and a splattering of freckles across the nose. Scott was gangly and awkward, far more than Seth had been at that age. Hell, the kid still had braces.

It would be good just to get him away from computer games and out and doing stuff. Their father had a pretty stern talk with Seth when he came in from Fort Hood the night before. Something about not letting Scott go too crazy on this trip to Colorado, all because Seth’s “hoodlum friends would be there”. Of course, Seth had to assure their father that nothing would happen. Truth be told, he didn’t care what Scott did as long as he had fun. After all, Scott needed to break out of his shell.

He clapped Scott on the shoulder, feeling a sense of protectiveness towards him. “Go grab the suitcases and we’ll start piling them in,” he said.

Darius chuckled. Watching the gangly kid carry their bags was going to be amusing.

Although some bags were already stacked chest high by the SUV, Seth knew there were more inside his parents’ house. It would be tight quarters for seven passengers in the Suburban, and some people would have been happier for more privacy. Then again, they were borrowing his dad’s Suburban to get there, so no one could really complain.

Rick, his good friend from high school, came out of the house with his girlfriend Maria firmly latched onto his arm. After graduation, while Seth enlisted in the Army, Rick went to college and got an MPA in accounting. He hated his job at a local accounting firm, but he was making good money. And he had a hot girlfriend, whom Seth had to fight hard not to gape at. She wasn’t Bash, but
damn
.

“We all gonna fit in there?” Maria asked. She was chewing bubblegum and popped it loudly in three short bursts, oddly sounding like gunfire. Seth winced at the sound.

Maybe I should go see that psychiatrist
, he thought warily. He was just afraid of what he’d have to tell the shrink. There were a bunch of things he didn’t want to remember. Lots of things... PTSD was a bitch.

“There’s enough seats,” Scott said from across the driveway. He sounded defensive.

“Might be cramped though,” Darius added, bemusedly. He waggled his eyebrows and then ducked, piling more stuff into the SUV.

Maria crinkled her nose in distaste. It wasn’t the first time that Seth wondered if it was a good idea to have her along.

“Babe, there’ll be plenty of room,” Rick said gently. “We might just have to leave behind one or two of your suitcases.”

“Ri-iiick,” she whined. “Maybe we should have flown there.”

Seth secretly agreed. Rick certainly had the money, so he had no idea why they were coming along on the car ride. And that would have gotten Maria out of his hair. It was lucky she was as good looking as she was—otherwise no one would put up with her.

“I can squeeze into a tight spot, if need be,” Bash called out. She was sitting off to one side on the curb with her white cane folded across her lap. “I wouldn’t notice the difference.”

Maria just frowned at her.

Seth sighed and sat down next to Bash.

“Is the car all packed? Or are you just taking a break?” she asked.

“Scott and Darius have it under control,” Seth told her. “Besides, if I’m driving first, I should relax.”

He wrapped an arm about her slim shoulders and she leaned against him. He kissed the top of her head and breathed deeply, inhaling her scent. He was going to miss her terribly when he was deployed again. He hated the thought of it, but it was one of those inevitabilities that hovered in the back of his mind with everything he did.

“You okay?” Bash asked. She had a penchant for picking up his emotions.

“Just thinking about how much I’m going to miss you,” he said.

She squeezed his hand. “Promise me one thing,” she said.

“What?”

“That during this trip, you won’t think about it.
Any
of it,” she insisted.

He wondered if that was going to be possible, but he said, “I’ll try.”

Bash considered his response, then sighed. “I guess I’ll have to take that then, won’t I?”

He rubbed her upper arm. “And what about you, are you going to be okay?”

“About what?”

“Skiing. Is that going to be a good idea with your...condition?” He refused to say she was blind. With Bash’s impairment, Seth would have never suggested skiing as his last trip before being deployed again. This whole thing was Bash’s idea, and she had been so excited by it, Seth couldn’t say no. He had invited his group of friends to enjoy this last holiday before he was deployed again. Bash had invited Lily, possibly as an olive branch to her estranged sister. Lily had even picked out the hotel, which Bash had agreed to, even though it was on the steep side.

She chuckled. “I have been skiing before, you know,” she said. Before their father died, they’d gone a few times a year. “That’s also why we’re hiring a guide.”

“You broke your arm the last time,” he reminded her. The very idea of her getting hurt was enough for him to feel worry welling up inside. “Maybe it would be best if I just hang with you at the lodge.”

“No.” She sounded appalled. “Of course we’re skiing. Besides, I’d be stuck with Lily the entire time if we don’t.” She laughed bitterly.

“Why
is
she coming?” Seth tried to keep his dislike for her sister from seeping into his voice, although it was hard because Bash could pick up on it easily.

Which, she did, unfortunately. Even she couldn’t keep the melancholy out of her own voice. “Because she’s my sister,” she insisted. “She’s really all I have left. And...I hope...we can be friends again...”

“She’s not all that you have left.” He kissed her again, but she had gone stiff under his arm, not returning his affections. He sighed and held her to him, wanting to make her life as easy as possible. She had already been through so much. He mused how it would be much easier if she didn’t have to deal with Lily.

“It’s just for a few days, Seth,” she told him. “I just want to get my sister back.”

He didn’t say anything else, and just held her for a few moments in their own little bubble.

“We’re ready to go,” Darius called to them. “What about you guys?”

“Lily’s not here yet,” Bash said, getting to her feet. She took out her cellphone and fumbled with it for a moment. Seth knew that she had every number on her contact list memorized so she could just dial the number and get a hold of anyone.

After a few attempts, Bash put the phone away in frustration. “Dammit, she’s not answering.”

Just then, a dingy-looking car pulled up the curb. Seth immediately recognized the person in the passenger seat.

He gently put a hand on Bash’s shoulder. “She’s here.”

Lily got out of the passenger door, and Seth had to fight the urge to glare at her. She didn’t meet anyone’s eyes, just stumbled over to the trunk of the car to pull out a single duffle bag—nowhere near enough for a weekend in colder climates, let alone a week of skiing. She seemed as if she was still drunk. She tapped the side of the car twice and it drove lazily away, leaving a plume of dark smoke polluting the air.

Seth wondered just who it was that dropped her off. Perhaps just another one of her awkward one-night stands. Her defiant yet embarrassed stance confirmed it. He’d seen her like this enough to know that look.

It was moments like this where Seth saw the biggest differences between the two sisters. They were both about 5’6”, with Lily being slightly taller. Lily was curvier than Bash, who was skinnier and still healthy. Bash had her dark mahogany hair cut short around her face, perfectly framing her cheekbones. Lily had longer, darker hair that she always kept in a wild ponytail. It was their eyes that were the most striking difference. Bash’s eyes were such a light blue, they were nearly the color of white. Lily’s eyes were dark green.

In the traditional sense, Lily would be considered the prettier sister, but her air of self-doubt and broodiness that created a swirl of darkness around her. Bash exuded a sense of self-awareness. To some, she came across as reflective and quiet. To others, she was a nice, sweet person. It was what first brought Seth to her.

“Hey, Lily,” Bash called out, her voice uneasy. “You nearly missed the bus.” She tried to laugh, the note falling flat.

Lily stumbled by her, so close that the air flow must’ve alerted Bash to her sister’s proximity. Her hand lashed out and gripped Lily, forcing her to stop and look at Bash.

“I overslept, okay?” Lily grumbled.

“Overslept? Hon, you knew we were going to leave at 7am sharp,” Bash told her. Her cheeks flushed with sudden anger as she faced her. “Who was it that dropped you off?”

“A friend,” Lily growled, her cheeks reddening. Seth knew that she was closing herself off to any further questions. He was about to intervene when Rick and Maria did it for him.

“Hi, I’m Maria. And this
flaco
is my boyfriend, Rick.” Maria punched him in the arm and he held out his hand to shake Lily’s hand. She warily took it.

“Lily,” she answered quickly. The ghost of a smile flickered across her face.

“Nice to meet you,” Rick said. He seemed to be oblivious to the standoff that happened just a few seconds before. His hand lingered on Lily’s hand, just long enough for Seth to notice.

“And you remember Darius,” Seth offered, gesturing to his friend. At 6’4” and built of solid muscle, Darius made an imposing figure. Lily just glared up at him and nodded at him curtly. Seth remembered that their first meeting hadn’t gone very well. Lily had tried to pick up Darius, who constantly refused her advances. She must have still been holding a grudge against him.

Seth couldn’t blame him for turning down such a train wreck.

“I’m Scott,” Seth’s little brother said, popping out from behind Darius. He held out his hand to Lily, who actually stood a bit taller than him. Lily had an amused look on her face as she shook his hand.

“All right guys,” Seth said, stepping in. He took a deep breath. “We’re running late. Let’s get going.”

 

*****

 

Conversation between Bash and the other girls was stilted and awkward. She didn’t know Maria well enough to really talk to her, and she had already gotten to a bad start with Lily, so a chat with her wasn’t forthcoming either. This trip was meant to be nice and relaxing, and so far, it wasn’t going that way.

At least Seth and his guy friends were having a good time. They were chatting jovially with each other, comfortable enough with each other to really use the time to talk.

Seth is having fun
, she thought. And she knew that it
was
going to be fun for her too.

She took a deep breath, steadying her nerves. After two weeks of going cold turkey on her antiepileptics, she’d left the drugs at home. She hadn’t had any problems from withdrawals or anything, and she felt like she finally had a clear head. This was how she wanted to remember her last few days with Seth before he was deployed again. She couldn’t wait to get to Steamboat Springs and on the slopes with him.

Her period was still late. She’d been so busy in the last two weeks, she hadn’t been able to see a doctor, and she couldn’t take a pregnancy test on her own because of her blindness. It felt like a very private thing, and she didn’t want to drag her friends into it, and she didn’t want to freak Seth out before he was deployed. They’d discussed kids on a few occasions, but it had always been some long, far off thing. Not something that could happen in the present. It also didn’t help that he always seemed a bit skittish around kids, like he was worried he’d hurt them, or they’d do something to him.

She’d check into it when she got back. She wasn’t feeling sick or anything, so she wasn’t too worried. She’d still be careful though, just in case.

Fourteen hours
, she told herself.
Fourteen hours.

In between the awkward silence and the sound of the road, she fell into a light, uneasy sleep.

She dreamed. That was one thing she noticed about being off her medicine: her dreams were crazier, more vivid, and she remembered them a lot more now.

In her dream, wind was whipping by her so quickly, she was breathless. Her hair was longer, streaking out behind her as she zipped left to right, side to side. She passed countless trees on either side of her.

I’m skiing
, she thought to herself. Before she had broken her arm the last time, she was a very good skier, even with her disability. Even better than Lily, her dad had said.

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