Authors: Melissa West
Also by Melissa West
Pieces of Olivia
Miles from Kara
InterMix Books, New York
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
MILES FROM KARA
An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author
InterMix eBook edition / December 2014
Copyright Â© 2014 by Melissa West.
Pieces of Olivia
copyright Â© 2014 by Melissa West.
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For my beautiful, perfect, amazing daughters, Rylie and Lainey. Thank you for making me smile, even on my worst days. You are my light.
A note to readers:
Miles from Kara
deals with the topic of abortion.
girl's story. But it is not the
Let me tell you what the most annoying thing on the planet is: kissing. The kind where lips get suctioned together so tightly, you wonder how either participant can breathe. It's disgusting. And as annoying as hell.
And it's the very thing I've been trying to avoid seeing in my new apartment for the last month.
I'd decided to move into Charleston Haven with my best friend, Olivia, and immediately fell in love with everything about the complex. The way the landscaping hid the streets around it so it felt secluded like an island within the city. The way they played old movies every Friday night out on the back lawn. The way each building was a different color in homage to Rainbow Row. I'd been thankful Olivia chose to live in the yellow building instead of the green one, because yuck, but now I was beginning to question my decision to move there at all. Seeing your roommate making out heavily with her boyfriend? Not ideal. Seeing your roommate doing it with a guy you once slept with? Awk-ward.
I covered my eyes and went into the kitchen, ignoring the pang in my stomach. I was not jealous of Preston and Olivia. I was not at all wishing Ethan, my boyfriend, kissed me like that. And I certainly wasn't thinking about anyone
kissing me like that. At least that was what I told myself as I tried to make a cup of coffee noiselessly.
“Oh, Kar, hey,” Olivia said, walking into the kitchen, a rosy flush on her cheeks. I couldn't remember the last time my cheeks had been that rosy from kissing.
I thought of asking her privately to keep the manic kissing to her bedroom, but after the fallout earlier in the semester when I almost lost her as a friend for good, I decided to keep my mouth shut. A little kissing I could handle. If they decided to go at it like monkeys on the floor of the common room, then we'd have a problem.
“Hey!” I said, more enthusiastically than I felt. “Ready for your quiz today?” I asked, though I already knew the answer. Olivia and tests went together like peanut butter and jelly, one made for the other. Me, on the other hand? I could study for weeks and still barely scrape by with a C. I had begun to wonder if I just wasn't cut out for a field in medicine. Maybe I just wasn't smart enough. Or maybe I wasn't cut out for college in general. The thought settled over me, and I wondered if that was what my parents were thinking, too. If that was why they had asked whether I needed to change majorsÂ .Â .Â . to something easier.
My eyes burned at the memory, and I smiled wider at Olivia to hide my true thoughts.
“I think I'm ready,” Olivia said. “Thank goodness it's just a quiz, so I can make up the grade later if it goes badly. You heading on in to campus?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Need a ride?”
She shrugged uncomfortably and motioned to the common room. “No, I'm good. My first class isn't for another hour, so I was just going to hang out here.”
And have sex,
I thought, but again, I plastered on my usual smile. “Cool beans. See ya later,” I said, reaching for my travel coffee mug and dashing for the door. “Later, Pres,” I called, but he was already in Olivia's room, unable to hear me. I tried to ignore the hurt I felt that he hadn't said goodbye to me. Six months ago, that would never have happened. But he was in love now, and friendship held nothing compared to love. I reminded myself that I was in love, too, that Ethan and I had been together for two years, that we were serious and madly in love, but the thoughts never settled over me like they should.
I closed the door to our apartment, just as my phone buzzed with a text.
Can't make it this weekend. Big fishing trip and won't be home until late Sat. I'll miss you. Maybe next?
My heart dropped into my stomach. I stared at the text, torn between replying with something hateful or something that would make him feel guilty. I decided on the truth. The same truth every weekend for the last month.
That's what you said last weekend.
That was something else, but I know. I'm sorry, babe. I love you.
Yeah, loveÂ .Â .Â .
I made my way into my sociology class and sat down, fifteen minutes before it started. I hated being late, so I ended up rushing to get to wherever I was going and inevitably ended up being super early instead. With doctor parents, there was a constant push to be responsible in every way: punctual, honest, dependable, intelligent. I tried to emanate all those things, though according to my mom, she was head and shoulders above where I am at this age. I didn't know if she really meant the insult or if she simply couldn't get past what I'd done. After all, not many parents could get over the fact that their daughter had gotten herself pregnant at sixteen.
I still remembered the look on her face when I told her, the slow change from shock, to hurt, to sadness, to pure anger. She grabbed my wrist like I was a five-year-old and dragged me out of the house, already on her phone calling our ob-gyn. After confirming the pregnancy, she immediately scheduled an appointment to have it aborted. She never asked. She never spoke of her unborn grandchild. And she never looked at me the same way again. I never told Preston that I was forced into the abortion, forced to keep it all a secret, even from him. I wasn't sure that telling him would have changed anything anyway. My mom always managed to get her way.
I shook my head and sat back in my seat, desperate for something to take my mind off my horrid past. I clicked the Facebook app on my phone and surfed through updates, knowing that I was looking for a particular name, a name I had no right to seek out.
I took in the profile picture first. The look on his face in the photo, like he'd taken it especially for Facebook and wanted everyone who saw it to know that he was judging them for being so obsessed with the site. I tapped
, a grin spreading across my face as I read his latest update:
Flying like a bird never appealed to a worm.
I read the line twice more, but I couldn't make sense of it. I wondered if he wrote such nonsense just to see if someone would call him on it. So far, no one ever had. At least, for as long as I had been Facebook stalking him, no one had. I pushed my phone away from me, like it was the problem instead of me.
Colt was Ethan's roommate and the last guy on the planet I should be thinking about. His arms were covered in tattoos and his chin-length dirty blond hair had this I-just-got-out-of-bed doing-things-you-wish-you-were-doing look. I'd only talked to him a few times, and always with Ethan around; yet still, I couldn't stop myself from wondering about him. He was mysterious and edgy and too, too hot. The kind of hot that should make you back away as fast as possible because you were bound to get burned.
I glanced at his update again and smiled. It made no sense at all, yet he'd already gotten a few dozen likes and comments, mostly from girls. Surprise, surprise.
I eyed his profile picture, fighting the warmth that spread across my cheeks. I blamed his Australian accent on my complete inability to look at himâor talk to himâwithout flushing. I knew next to nothing about him because of it.
Not that it mattered. I couldn't look at him while he spoke anyway. Because if I did, he would know just what I was thinking and I would be banned from Ethan's apartment for good.
I closed my eyes as guilt washed over me. I should be on Ethan's page, checking him out, reading his updates. Instead, I was drooling over his roommate. I shook my head. I was so going to hell.
On a one-way ticket.
Later that afternoon, I pushed through the doors of Firehouse Subs, quickly ordered my food, and plopped down at an empty table, my phone already out to email my academic advisor to ask for an appointment. I'd studied psychology for a semester and a half so far and already I'd begun to wonder if I should switch majors. My classes were slowly and painfully killing me. I loved my psychology and sociology classes, but the rest were clearly added as prerequisites just to see if I could stay sane.
I typed out the email to Dr. Hamilton, my advisor, and then set my phone on the table, fighting the urge to check to see if Colt had any new updates. I closed my eyes as the word STALKER flashed in neon lights in my mind and almost missed Sarah sliding into the chair beside me. “I'm thinking of switching majors,” she said as she ran her fingers through her bright red ponytail. Well, at least I wasn't the only one unsure of my major. I'd wondered a few times if she dyed her hair that red, but I wasn't brave enough to ask. Sarah had lived across from Olivia and me in our dorm hall last semester, and now she lived in our building at Charleston Haven. We were friends, but not quite the ask-every-question-on-your-mind type of friends. “Biochem is killing me. I need something light, like Art History.” Her gray-blue eyes squinted in thought, before flipping up to the menu on the wall.
I shook my head. “Then don't go for Art History. I took it last semester. It's anything but light. Why don't you take a marketing class or something?”
A guy walked over with my sub just as Olivia arrived, talking away on her phone. She pulled it away from her ear and asked Sarah to order her a meatball sub, before continuing on another minute, then setting her phone on the table in front of mine.
“Preston?” I asked.
She pulled out a menu and began to look it over, though she'd never ordered anything other than the meatball sub. “No, Rose. I had to cancel my appointment today, so she called to make sure I'd be there tomorrow. You know how she is.”
I nodded. Though I'd only met her therapist, Rose, a few times, I knew she kept Olivia on a tight schedule, and was unwilling to relent on their sessions. I wondered if I would be that way, then an idea occurred to me. “Hey, do you think Rose would let me ask her some questions about clinical psychology?”
“Yeah, I'm sure. I can ask her tomorrow for you,” she said.
My phone buzzed against the table, and I reached for it to see a new text from Ethan.
My heart warmed. Maybe I'd surprise him by being there when he returned from his fishing trip.
Just then the door to the restaurant opened and Preston swept in; a guy with chin-length blond hair was on his heels, and my heart paused in my chest. I sat up taller, careening my neck around.
“What are you doing?” Olivia asked.
“Oh, IÂ .Â .Â .” I glanced at them coming toward us, the name Colt so fresh on my mind that it shocked me to see Taylor with Preston instead. I released a breath and slumped back in my seat, my cheeks growing hot. Colt didn't go here. Of course it wasn't him. “Nothing,” I finished. What was wrong with me? I dove into my sub to give me something to do other than focus on my horrid thoughts.
Preston leaned down to kiss Olivia and then pulled a chair up, while Taylor pulled another between me and Sarah.
“Ladies,” he said, grinning. Taylor was one of Olivia's friends who had quickly become a regular in our group over the semester. He lived in Charleston Haven as well, and though he had once been on the career track for icky guy, he'd relaxed his flirtation this semester, and seemed to have grown up a lot. Or maybe he was just afraid Preston would kick his ass.
Sarah smiled over at him. “Are you always grinning?”
He shook his hair out of his face. “Always.” Sarah watched him for a second longer than she should, and Olivia and I exchanged a quick grin before the Firehouse guy returned with Sarah and Olivia's subs.
“Have you talked to E lately?” Preston asked. “I sent him a text a few days ago, but never heard back.”
I laughed sarcastically. “Yeah, if by âtalk' you mean single-word texts and cancelled visits, then yeah, I
to him this morning.”
Preston held my gaze. “What's going on with you two lately? It's like you're pissed off at him all the time.”
I sighed. I didn't want to talk about this right now in front of the whole group. I didn't want to talk about it at all.
“Nothing. And I'm not,” I said defensively, but I knew Preston was right. I couldn't stop being angry at Ethan, and it wasn't just the missed visits. It was his attitude, his entire way of being, as if college was just some place to party. I liked to drink and hang out as much as the next girl, but this was my future. I took it pretty damn seriously.
Olivia started up a conversation with him about his latest fishing trip, saving me from the agony of talking about my dysfunctional relationship. I mouthed a thank-you to her and she nodded once, letting me know that she had my back. Thank God I didn't screw up my friendship with her. She was the best friend I had.
My phone buzzed, notifying me of an email, and I peered down to see Dr. Hamilton had replied that she had an opening right now before her next class. I quickly typed back,
Great! On my way
and then stood and gathered my things. “Advisor meeting. See you later?”
“Yeah,” Olivia said.
“Oh, hey,” Sarah called out before I'd gotten a step away from them. “Party at my apartment tonight. You in?”
I grinned. “Definitely. See ya'll later.”
I walked into Dr. Hamilton's office and set down my bag in one of the chairs in front of her desk, trying to ignore the sarcastic look she always threw my way anytime she saw me. I mean,
? Did I have something on my face every single time I saw her? Did I ooze
please judge me
? I wondered how long it would take me to go off on her. I tried to keep my smart mouth to myself, but it was becoming increasingly hard in her presence, which she seemed to know and test more and more with each meeting. She was a psychology professor. Maybe she liked fucking with people's minds. She was certainly screwing with mine.
“Have a seat, Kara,” she said, threading her fingers together. “What can I do for you?”
I opened my mouth and closed it twice before I figured out what to say. “I'm worried about whether this is the right major for me. My gradesÂ .Â .Â .” I shook my head and glanced down, embarrassed to say them out loud.
Dr. Hamilton leaned forward. “Yes. Let's talk about your grades.” She opened a drawer and thumbed through several folders before pulling out one with my name on it. Shit. Did every professor I have keep record of my grades? Surely that wasn't legal.
“How do you have my grades? Isn't that private?”
“I'm your academic advisor.”
My face flushed. “Right.”
“SoÂ .Â .Â .” She ran her eyes down my fall semester grades and then peered back up at me. “Do you want to know what I see when I look at this?”
, I wanted to say, so I only stared at her.
“You have high marks in all of your psychology and sociology classes. Nearly perfect marks, to be exact. This tells me you only want to put in the effort when the class interests you. But you need to realize that every course you take here better prepares you for your career, not just your specialized classes.”
I released a long breath. “See, that's the problem. How do I know if psychology is really the field for me? What if I go through four years only to decide I should've done something else?”
She considered me, then spun around to a table behind her and pulled something out of one of the file drawers. She passed a bright pink flyer to me, and I peered down to see the words
Helping Hands Counseling Center Seeking Volunteers
. “I know the program coordinator. She's wonderful. Why don't you give her a call and ask about volunteering there? See if being in the actual field solidifies your interest.”
I eyed the flyer again, reading the bulleted list of disorders the center treated. Depression. Anxiety. Fears. Women and men welcome.
I read the list twice more, my mind beginning to churn. I could really help people there. I could become a role model, the sort of person people looked up toâthe sort of person my parents could respect.
I smiled a little, feeling hopeful for the first time all day. “This looks perfect.”