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Finding Eden(5)

By:Mia Sheridan

Xander stared at me. "Gods above," he muttered, shaking his head. "Then even more reason to stop. You don't deserve that."

"Yeah," I choked out. "I do."

"It wasn't your fault, Calder. None of it was your fault."

I shook my head back and forth not able to form the words in my heart. It was my fault. She wasn't here because I hadn't been able to save her. I'd failed her. And I longed for her so desperately that some days I couldn't even move. The grief felt like it was crushing me, and the only escape I could think of was death. But what if . . .

"What if taking my own life brings me somewhere other than where she is?" I asked, my voice barely rising above the wind.

Xander was silent for a minute. "I don't know if that's how it works. I want to tell you it does so you'll come off this ledge, but you know I'd never lie to you, right? The truth is, I just don't know." He hung his head, but kept his eyes turned upward, glued to me. I looked away, back out toward the sky.

"Calder, I'm not going to say I know what you're feeling, but I'm missing people as well. And Eden was my friend, too."

I let out a harsh exhale and nodded my head. Xander had lost his parents, his sister, his brother-in-law, his friends . . . "I know."

"Let me help you. And please don't leave me totally alone. I'm not saying that to pile on more guilt. I'm just saying that because it's the gods' honest truth. I'd miss the hell out of you and I'd be alone. Please don't do that to me."

I looked over at him, the face that had always been a constant in my life since before I could remember. I breathed out a long, shuddery sigh and reached my hand out to him. He moved slowly, but gripped me so tightly that in that moment, I knew if I lunged myself over, he'd come with me. He wasn't going to let go. I felt the tears start flowing again and we sat that way for a minute, me hanging my head. Finally, I began turning as I let go of Xander's hand and swung my legs around, my feet landing on the solid roof now in front of me. Soft raindrops hit my face, as soft as a caress.

I crossed my arms over my knees, letting my head fall into them. And I cried. Xander moved closer and his hand gripped my shoulder, but he didn't say a word. The rain continued to fall, soaking the back of my T-shirt, running down my neck and mixing with my tears. After a while, my tears dried up and the rain had become nothing but a light mist in the air. I sat up. I stared unseeing at the door that led downstairs to our rat-hole apartment for a little while, and then let out a shaky breath. I was so tired. The alcohol mixed with the ache inside me made me want to sleep. And maybe tonight I could do it without the haunting dreams.

"You know what I'm gonna do tomorrow?" Xander asked.

I shook my head. "With you, there's no telling," I said, swiping my arm across my wet face.

Xander laughed. "There's my boy," he said and I could hear the love in his voice.

"I'm gonna stop into that art supply store I pass every day and I'm gonna buy you some supplies. Maybe painting would help. What do you think?"

I ran my hand back through my wet hair. "I don't know if I could," I said honestly. "It might hurt." I paused. "Then again, everything hurts."

"I'll get the supplies and let you decide, okay?" he said, gripping my shoulder again.

"We really can't afford art supplies," I said.

"Sure we can. I've been meaning to take off a few pounds anyway."

I let out what might have been an imitation of a chuckle and shook my head.

"Come on in," Xander said. "We have two cans of those beans you love so much."

"Oh, God," I said, grimacing, but when he stood, so did I, following him inside, away from the edge, away from Eden, but never away from the ache that lived in my soul and always, always would.


Cincinnati, Ohio

"No man or woman born . . . can shun his destiny."

Homer, The Iliad


Three Years Later


"Eden? uh, Miss . . . I'm sorry, I don't have your last name written down here." The lawyer, Mr. Sutherland, leafed through the papers in front of him on the desk.

"Yes, what is your last name anyway?" Claire, Felix's daughter, asked sharply. She leaned forward in her chair to look around Marissa to where I was sitting. "I don't think I've ever heard it."

I blinked and snapped back to the present. I had zoned out for a minute, my mind conjuring up the many times I'd tried to engage Claire and her brother Charles in small conversation over the years, even through my anguish, even in spite of the overwhelming grief I was trying to cope with day by seemingly never-ending day. I had only ever been met with disdain. And now Felix was gone, and here we were, sitting together in his lawyer's office, where we'd been called to collect the last things he'd been working on from his sick bed. My eyes darted to Marissa at the question of my last name. Marissa glanced at the watch on her wrist. "Mister Sutherland, I hate to rush you here, but I know Eden has a lesson and I have another appointment this afternoon."