Mouth Full of Ashes: Part 8

Callie’s fingers went to the bracelet on her left wrist. There was only skin. Callie’s pulse quickened and her stomach dropped into her ass. Where the fuck was Becca’s bracelet?

She threw the covers off and swung her legs over the side of the bed. Even when she showered, she kept the bracelet on. The colorful interwoven threads and dangling silver charm, a half heart that said FRIENDS, was one of the only things she had left of Becca. If she’d lost the bracelet…

No. Callie refused to consider it. She couldn’t have lost the bracelet. It had to be lying somewhere in the apartment, or maybe it had fallen off in the car.

The lamp’s chain was cold in her hand as she pulled it and filled the room with light. All that lay on her nightstand was an orange bottle filled with ADHD meds, her cell phone plugged into its charger, and a dog-eared copy of Jane Eyre she doubted she’d ever get through. It had been Becca’s favorite book, and in the wake of losing the bracelet, Callie felt a twinge of guilt-ridden panic as she looked at it. Shit. She couldn’t do anything right, couldn’t shake the feeling she was letting Becca down, no matter what she did.

She wasn’t taking care of Ramsay, either. Becca would never have approved of Jabari and even though Ramsay said he was all right, Callie couldn’t ignore her intuition. Something rotten lurked beneath his shiny surface. Though she’d only glimpsed it, she wasn’t eager to see more. If anything happened to Ramsay—if Jabari did something to him—and Callie did nothing to stop it, she would never forgive herself.

And Becca would never forgive her.

Callie cracked open her bedroom door and padded out into the hallway. The apartment was stepped in darkness save a sliver of light coming in through the living room blinds. No matter how hard she tried, Callie could never get them fully closed. The light stretched over the couch and spread over Ramsay’s face. Somehow, it didn’t bother him. His eyes were closed and he snored softly.

For a minute, she stood there watching him sleep. She felt like a creep, but it calmed her. Rain pelted the windows. Lightning flashed outside, followed by another peal of thunder. Callie put a hand against the wall to steady herself. How many rainy nights had she, Becca, and Ramsay spent in her tiny apartment? How many times had they all fallen asleep on the couch together in the middle of  a movie marathon?

Callie’s heart ached, and once again, her hand went to her wrist only to find it empty. Shit. 

Her gaze swept over the coffee table, across the floor, and back to the couch. No sign of the bracelet anywhere. Perhaps Ramsay lay on top of it, or it had fallen between the couch cushions, but she could’ve sworn she remembered twisting the ends of it at the carnival—

Fuck. That was it. She must have lost it at the carnival.

“Jesus Christ,” she muttered. So much for getting a good night’s sleep. 

She had no idea whether it would still be open so late—or was it so early?—in the day, but she couldn’t rest until she found the bracelet. She had to at least look for it at the carnival, as much as she didn’t want to go back there.

With a sigh, Callie crept back to her bedroom, changed clothes, and grabbed her cell phone from the nightstand. It felt wrong to leave Ramsay behind, but she didn’t want to wake him. Besides, he didn’t need to go. Hopefully, she could get to the carnival, get in, grab the bracelet, and make it back before morning so he’d be none the wiser. She didn’t want to worry him unnecessarily.

If he found out she’d lost Becca’s bracelet, he’d flip.

The cranberry-rust stain at the edge of the white rug in front of her bed caught her eye. Becca had spilled a glass of wine there. If Callie really scrubbed, she could probably get the stain out, but did she even want to?

Before she lost her nerve or had a breakdown or worse, Callie grabbed her keys, turned off the bedside lamp, and headed out of the apartment.

Callie had now pulled into the Starlight Carnival’s parking lot two more times than she’d wanted to. Few cars filled the spaces beside hers, although the lights beyond the lot were just as bright as they’d been earlier. Another woman got out of her car at the same time as Callie. They locked eyes for a second before the other woman turned and headed into the carnival. 

A muffled voice boomed an announcement over the intercom as Callie made her way toward ticketing. Maybe she should have asked Ramsay if Jabari could get them in for free. At least she could have saved some money.

If she had to keep coming back here, she was going to go broke.

She got her ticket and pushed through the turnstiles without any issue. With most of the people gone, the hum of machinery for the rides and attractions filled the empty air. A few couples milled around here and there, but at two o’clock in the morning, the fairgrounds were nearly deserted. The canvas tents creaked and rustled in the wind and most of the food stalls were shuttered. Everything smelled like hot oil, stale beer, and livestock. Callie’s stomach turned, but she pressed on, heading toward the haunted house. It was the last place she remembered wearing the bracelet. It had been on her wrist when she fell—she remembered worrying that she’d gotten blood on it.

A sharp laugh behind her made her jump. Callie whirled around and saw someone she recognized—make that several someones.

“Long time no see,” Jabari said.

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