Run, Girl (If You Can)

Chapter 30 - Guilt Tripping

Keeley couldn't believe her father lectured her about being nice to Aaron after he left.

The irony of Robert defending the man who would become an accomplice in his death after the fact was almost too much to bear. She couldn't listen to more than a few sentences before interjecting.

"He isn't like what you think, Dad. He's a snake in disguise."

"Everyone has their own circumstances. It's our job to be understanding even if we don't know them," he replied and handed her the photo box. "Here. Maybe using your friend's gift will help you reflect on your actions."

She accepted the box mutinously. It was no use arguing with her father when he was on his moral high horse.

He didn't know the situation, that's all. He would surely be on her side if he knew what Aaron was really like.

How could she be nice to a traitor, a liar, and a cheat? Especially after he barged into her home so shamelessly.

With a sigh, Keeley opened the box and began rifling through the pictures inside. A picture of her mother laughing with her arms around both of her children at a park stood out to her. Mom.

If she were around long enough to meet Aaron, she would have seen he was bad news right away and set her daughter straight. She had a strange way of seeing through to people's souls; she would have known that the two of them were a bad match.

Keeley could certainly use her mother's advice right now. Everything had been so confusing since her rebirth.

She thought it would be easy to avoid Aaron and live a normal life. Now he wouldn't leave her alone and Lacy no doubt had a sinister plan underway at that very moment.

If only she had been reborn six years earlier. She could have convinced her mother to change the date of the doctor's appointment and her entire family would still be alive. She never would have enrolled in Westwind Academy.

Why did whatever force was in charge of her reincarnation send her back when it did, not giving her sufficient time to change things?

With Lacy after her, the end result might be the same whether Aaron was involved with her or not. There had to be a way to convince the psychotic girl that Keeley didn't want her man.

She flipped the photograph over. May 13th, 2001. Keeley's thirteenth birthday. This might be the last picture ever taken of her mother and Kaleb.

She dug through the box and found a bunch of pictures from summer to Christmas 2000 and a handful from early 2001 but she was right. That was the last picture of the two of them together.

There were also pictures of her parents taken on their wedding anniversary that June and of Kaleb grinning in a baseball hat at a Yankees game with a nasal cannula on his face only two weeks before his death.

Keeley organized the photographs into piles based on the date/event so she had an idea of how many pages she would need to create for the scrapbook.

Once that was done, she hesitantly opened the bags of supplies Aaron left and flicked through the booklets of patterned paper.

The holiday themed ones would be especially helpful since her parents took tons of pictures of them trick or treating and with their presents on Christmas Day. He was surprisingly thorough.

Using the pages her mother completed as references, she got to work cutting down pictures, choosing paper and stickers, and writing captions on bits of plain colored paper she cut out from the stencils.

It wasn't nearly as neat but the final result was decent for a first attempt. With a little practice they would look much better.

There were at least twenty little piles of photos so she would have plenty of opportunity to improve.

It was surprisingly calming work. Keeley enjoyed herself more than she thought she would when she originally volunteered old to finish the scrapbook. And it wouldn't have been possible without Aaron's gift.

The thought made her uncomfortable. She didn't want to owe him anything.

The chocolates and other gifts she returned felt different. This was something she actually needed that he helped her with.

Keeley didn't have money to pay him back but he did seem to like the dinner she made. Maybe if she whipped up something quick and easy like brownies she could give them to him, assuage her guilt, and make a clean break.

If it was even possible to make a clean break with that maniac before graduation. He was oddly persistent.

Giving him homemade treats might give him the wrong idea but she didn't have any other gift options up her sleeve.

With a sigh, she set her project aside and trudged to the kitchen. This would be the end of things. If he tried giving her presents again, she would refuse them.

Her father poked his head into the kitchen. "What are you making?"


"At ten o'clock at night?" he asked incredulously. "Why?"

"…I want to give them to Aaron to thank him for the craft supplies," she mumbled.

He smiled proudly. "I knew my little talk would get through to you. Good girl."

"Yeah, yeah," she said sourly.

Guilt tripping was foul play. It was ridiculous that she even felt the need to repay him after everything he did to her in her past life. He owed her too much to ever make up for so she really shouldn't feel obligated.

"What did he ever do to you anyway? You're normally not so hostile to people even if you don't like them much."

Keeley stopped stirring the batter. Too much. He did too much. She prided herself on being a fairly tolerant person but Aaron crossed far too many lines to ever forgive.

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

"He didn't break your heart, did he?"

Was she so obvious? Among other things, Aaron Hale definitely broke her heart but it was a gradual process.

It broke a little more every time he treated her coldly so he was practically dead to her already even before the incident with her father. That relationship died long before she did.

"Did anyone ever tell you that you're too perceptive for your own good?" she asked lightly.

"Your mother did, more than once. But I think that was because I made the mistake of pointing out that she gained a little weight while she was pregnant with you," he said sheepishly. "I was young and stupid back then."

Keeley couldn't help but laugh at the mental image of her mother chewing him out.

She was young and stupid back when she fell in love with Aaron. Everybody was young and stupid at least once but she wouldn't waste the chance she was given to change that.

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