Mouth Full of Ashes: Part 6

Something shifted in Jabari’s face. His eyes darkened. When he spoke again, his voice was rough. “You don’t think I’m going to take good care of your friend?”

Ramsay blinked. “Th-that’s not what—”

“Because I’m carnie trash? Is that it?” Jabari’s nostrils flared. “You think I’m an idiot because I didn’t fucking graduate from high school?”

“He didn’t say that,” Callie countered.

“He didn’t have to.”

“Jabari,” Ramsay started. “Forget it. Callie and I—”

“Get the fuck out of here with that attitude.” Jabari scowled. “Thinking you’re better than everyone else.”

Ramsay frowned. Callie wanted to say something to change the subject, maybe break the tension, but she didn’t know what to say. Maybe Jabari had a point. Maybe they should leave. Something had shifted the dynamic, and whatever was going on with Jabari now, Callie didn’t want to stick around to see it sour further.

“Come on, Ram. Let’s go home.”

His mouth opened like he wanted to say something, but his shoulders slumped and he only nodded. With a last wistful look at Jabari, Ramsay shoved his hands in his pockets and pivoted. As he walked off, Callie followed. She half expected Jabari to relent, apologize, and stop them, but he didn’t. They walked all the way to the front of the carnival, through the turnstiles, and into the parking lot without any interruption. The only sounds outside the carnival were the hum of engines starting and the droning of cicadas.

Ramsay stood beside the passenger door, waiting for Callie to unlock the car. He didn’t make eye contact with her.

She took her keys out of her purse, turning them over in her hands as she spoke. “I don’t think you should spend any more time with him.”

“Can we not do this now? Unlock the car.”

Callie sighed. She unlocked the car, got in, and waited for Ramsay to do the same. They both closed their doors, and she started the engine. Once they had their seatbelts on, she hesitated. “He’s not a good guy, Ram. I know he’s nice to look at and maybe he makes you feel good sometimes, but you deserve better.”

“He’s a dick,” Ramsay agreed. “I don’t know what got into him. He’s always been chill with me and then you fell in the haunted house and everything changed.”

“Not sure what the fuck that was.” 

Callie backed out of the parking space and drove out of the lot. Her hands and knee still stung, but not enough to concern her. They were just scrapes. She probably had bled on her clothes somewhere, but if she couldn’t get the stains out, it wasn’t a big deal.

Blood. Maybe that was why Jabari had freaked out.

“Maybe he’s not good with blood,” she remarked.

“What?” Ramsay asked.

“Jabari. He was okay until I fell and he saw I was bleeding. Maybe it triggered him somehow.”

“He didn’t faint or anything, Cal. He wasn’t squeamish. I don’t think that’s it.”

“The timing makes sense.”

“Yeah, but that’s it. I don’t know, maybe he couldn’t keep up the nice guy facade any longer.” He stared out the window as they headed down the road. “Ugh. I’m such a moron.”

“You are not a moron. He’s good at what he does. Whatever that means.”

They kept silent for the rest of the drive. Callie couldn’t think of anything productive to say, and Ramsay didn’t have anything to add, either. When they pulled into Ramsay’s driveway, Ramsay put a hand on hers to stop her from turning the car off.

“Can I stay with you tonight?” His voice was small, almost like a child’s.

Callie’s heart clenched. “Yeah. Of course.”

She backed out of the driveway and headed back to her apartment. Ramsay leaned his seat back, closed his eyes, and said nothing along the way. Maybe he’d fallen asleep. She couldn’t stop thinking about how much he looked like his sister in the moonlight, and the more she thought about Becca, the sharper the pain grew. She wanted to blast some metal and scream, maybe even with the windows down, but Ramsay needed rest. She didn’t have the heart to wake him yet.

It wasn’t a long drive between their places, though, and she parked the car and turned it off only fifteen minutes later. The engine ticked as it cooled.

Callie shook Ramsay’s shoulder. “Hey, dude. We’re here.”

“I was thinking about her,” he mumbled.


“Becca.” His eyes fluttered open and he offered her a sleepy half-smile. “She would have kicked Jabari’s ass for talking to me like that.”

“No, she wouldn’t. She would’ve been obsessed with him, too.”

Ramsay wrinkled his nose at her. “I’m not obsessed.”

“Whatever you say, man. Let’s go inside.”

They made the trek up the stairs to Callie’s apartment. Moths circled the light outside the door, and Callie and Ramsay had to be careful not to let the bugs inside as they slipped in. Without turning on the lights, Callie headed to her bedroom at the back, grabbed a pillow and blanket off the bed, and brought them to Ramsay on the couch. He’d switched on the lamp on the end table and sat back against the cushions with his eyes closed again. When she dropped the pillow and blanket onto his lap, he jumped.


“Sorry,” she replied. “Didn’t think you’d be asleep.”

“I wasn’t asleep. I was thinking.”

“Either way.” She smiled. “It’s been a long night. I’m gonna head to bed. You’ll be okay out here?”

“Yeah. If I get scared, I’ll yell for Mommy.”

Callie rolled her eyes. He grinned at her. It was the first time she’d seen him happy since leaving Jabari behind, and she was thrilled she’d made it happen. Maybe the night wasn’t a complete loss after all.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey what?”

“I’m glad we’re friends.”

“Me, too, you goober. Go to bed before you get disgusting on me.”

Ramsay swung the pillow at her and she dodged, laughing. “If I weren’t so tired, I’d beat your ass in a pillow fight right now.”

“Tomorrow is another day,” he said. “Goodnight, Cal.”

“Night, Ram. Let me know if you need anything.”

He set the pillow down and stretched out on the couch. Callie went back to her bedroom and closed the door. She pulled the chain on her bedside lamp, illuminating the framed photograph on her nightstand. In it, she stood on the beach between Becca and Ramsay with her arms around both of them. All of them sported wide, easy smiles. Becca wore a high-waisted yellow bikini with black-striped bottoms that Ramsay had said made her look like a bee.

Callie’s heart twisted. She pulled the chain to turn the light off, put her face in her hands, and cried.

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