Raveling You Page 1

Chapter 1


“I think we should get one of the dead ones.” A smile curls at my lips as I pluck a brown pine needle off a tree veering toward eternal death. “Just think about it. We’d be the only ones in the entire neighborhood with a brown Christmas tree. We’d really stand out amongst the masses.”

Ayden’s lips quirk as he flicks a tree branch. “As much as I’d love to let you have your way, I doubt Lila or your mom would be too thrilled if we came home with a fire hazard for a Christmas decoration.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time. One time, Uncle Ethan and my dad brought home this baby pine tree that had hardly any needles after Aunt Lila told them to bring home the cutest Christmas tree they could find.” I tug my beanie lower onto my head and zip my jacket all the way up to my chin. “They thought they were so funny, but she was so mad she threw the tree in the fireplace.”

Even though we live in San Diego, where it never snows, the December air has a nip to it. We’re at a tree lot, trying to figure out which tree is considered “flourishing.” The area smells like forest and pine nuts, and the red and green twinkly lights on the sign and fence glimmer across our faces, evidence that the holidays are spritzed everywhere; trees, yards, streets, stores.

I generally enjoy the spirit of Christmas, but after attending the funeral for Ayden’s brother, Felix, yesterday, this year seems less cheery. Ayden hardly showed any emotion at the graveyard. I held his hand through the eulogy, and he gripped on for dear life, as if the connection was the only thing keeping him on his feet. I tried my best to keep it together for him, to stay upbeat.

Still am.

“She set the angel tree topper on fire, too,” I continue when Ayden doesn’t crack a smile. “You should have seen how the dress went up in flames. Looked like a little devil toward the end of it.”

“You’re so full of it,” he says with a ghost of a smile. “But thank you.”

“For what?”

“For trying.”

His words don’t make me feel any better, since he still appears depressed.

I tip my head up to the night sky and spot a shooting star glimmering across the sky. Under my breath, I utter a wish that Ayden will be able to overcome all of his obstacles. Not just with the passing of his brother, but with his sister not being at the funeral. No one will give him any information about where she is, either. He’s frustrated, although he rarely complains about his hardships—never has.

On top of all of that, he’s dealing with a tremendous amount of pressure from the police to seek therapy to try to restore his memories. He’s conflicted with what he feels is right and wrong; not helping means turning his back on his brother’s memory and helping means facing the demons of his past.

Although he has never flat out told me the specific details of what he can recollect about his time before foster care, I’ve come up with my own speculations, and all are horrible. The homemade tattoo they branded on his flesh tells me how mistreated he was while he was held captive.

“What do you think about this one?” Ayden draws my attention back to him.

He’s standing over by a tall, puffy tree propped against the fence.

I move beside him and angle my chin up to stare at the tip of the towering tree. “It might be a little excessive and will probably barely fit in your living room. Remember how super frustrated Aunt Lila was with Uncle Ethan last year when he brought home that one that was too big for the living room? The top nearly touched the damn ceiling, and there was hardly any room for the angel.”

“Yeah, I forgot about that.” His frown deepens. “I guess you’re right. It’ll probably be better to get a smaller one this year.” His head falls forward, strands of black hair drifting into his dark eyes.

He’s so beautiful and sad, like the haunting portrait my mother painted of her mother’s grave surrounded by black mist and bleeding rose petals. I wanted to cry every time I looked at it. She ended up selling it for a ton of money. Guess people have a thing for depressing and slightly morbid stuff.

I need to cheer him up somehow.

Come on, Lyric. You can do better.

I place my hands on my hips. “All right, dude, what’s with the poutiness?”

He gives me a sidelong glance. “Dude? Are we really going back to that?” A playful tone edges into his voice. Finally.

“Um, hello. You will always be my dude, even when we’re super old.” I flash him my pearly whites. “You’ll be all badass—old with a cane and a hunch, but rockin’ your boots and black, studded clothes. And, sometimes, you’ll even smile and make all the ladies in the old folks’ home giggle like they did when they were sixteen. You’ll totally be grandpa dude worthy.”

Laughter escapes his lips. “So, you’re putting me in an old folks' home, huh? Nice to know where I’m headed.”

“Yeah, well, I had to. Your cane was cramping my hot Grandma swagger.”

His lips twitch as a full smile threatens to break through. “Oh, my God. I would love to know how you come up with this shit.”

“No, you wouldn’t.” I put the tip of my two fingers to my temple. “Trust me, you’re way better off not knowing what goes on in here.” When he laughs again, I dare ask, “So, are you going to tell me why you got all sad puppy eyes when I said this tree might not be the way to go?”

“It’s not a big deal.” He skims over the trees then nods his head to a shorter one near the entrance of the tree shop. “We should probably go for one like that.”

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