Home > Cake by the Ocean

Cake by the Ocean
Author: Cambria Hebert








My suitcase weighed about one hundred pounds. That estimation could be a slight exaggeration, but my back thought it was pretty freaking accurate as I dragged it through the airport after nearly killing myself getting it off the conveyor belt.

If it weren’t for some sympathetic man standing there watching, I probably would be dead right now.

One of the wheels on the bottom was wonky and had a chunk missing out of it (true story), which made me look sort of like a hunchback as I hunkered down to heave it along.

It would all be worth it, though. Catching an earlier flight home to surprise everyone was definitely worth staying up all night, sitting next to a man who thought I was his personal pillow, and having no one here to handle this beast of a suitcase.

I was going to grab a cab home, let myself in to my parents’ place, and surprise everyone with breakfast. I couldn’t wait to see the delight on their faces when they found out I was already home and no one had to bother fetching me from the airport.

No one liked coming to the airport. Especially in winter when there was partially melted snow on the ground, grumpy holiday travelers, and the same three Christmas carols playing over the loud speakers literally everywhere.

I was looking forward to winter break this year. I hadn’t been home since the semester started months ago. I loved attending the University of North Carolina, but sometimes I got a little homesick.

This year for Christmas, we were all going to be home, just like when we were younger. Me, my parents, grandparents, and Lauren. Lauren was not only my big sister, but my best friend. I couldn’t wait to make a big bowl of popcorn and settle on the couch to watch cheesy made-for-TV holiday movies with her.

Outside, the air was frosty, and my sneakers slipped on the layer of black ice covering the pavement. The cab driver didn’t seem to see or care about the wintry road conditions as he sped over the road, and I spent the entire time in the backseat clinging to the door handle and praying I didn’t die.

If this trip kept up this way, I was going to run out of lives before I even got to the driveway.

When at last he turned onto my parents’ street and pulled up to the large brick home lined with colorful string lights, I breathed an epic sigh of relief. My sister’s car was in the driveway, covered with a layer of ice and snow.

Typing in the keycode on the side of the garage door, I waited as the door slid up soundlessly. The suitcase wobbled and squeaked as I went past my parents’ SUVs and toward the door leading into the house.

The familiar scent that was my childhood home met me at the door, making me smile. All the homesickness I’d felt the past few weeks disintegrated. My suitcase fell over while I was taking off my shoes, and I left it there because really, I’d just had enough of it.

The large pine tree was in the center of the family room, the lights still on from the night before. Drawn to it, I perused all the homemade ornaments my mom still had from me and my sister.

The house was quiet. Everyone was still in bed, so I headed for the stairs to get started on breakfast in the kitchen.

Halfway up the first flight, I paused and turned back. Grinning to myself, I snuck back down and over to my sister’s bedroom door. I’d wake her up and make her help. Pushing the door open, I crept inside the dim, familiar room. Even though we were both currently away at college, our parents left our bedrooms just as they had been before we left.

I knew this room almost as well as my own. I could walk through it completely blindfolded and not trip over a thing.

As I walked, my foot hit something, throwing me off balance, sending me sprawling on the floor.

Do you know what that was?

Karma. For boasting I could walk around blindfolded.


Grunting, I glanced down to see the sneaker lying in the middle of the floor. It was huge, clearly a man’s shoe… and, therefore, not my sister’s. There were also various other articles of clothing strewn about: a pair of jeans, a single sock… her bra.

A sly smile pulled at my lips. Did she bring home Kyle for the holidays? Were things that serious between them?

What if they got married?

My sister marrying my first crush? The thought was far too weird. It was already weird enough that she’d been dating him for over a year.

Abandoning those thoughts, I tossed the shoe aside and glanced over at the bed. An arm fell over the side of the mattress, the large hand looking a little familiar.

Glancing back at the shoe, I felt another sense of familiarity. I only knew one guy who wore such a large shoe… and it wasn’t Kyle.

I must be delirious from lack of sleep. The stress of finals, rushing home to surprise everyone… It was starting to take a toll.

Pushing to my hands and knees, I crawled across the carpeting, still focused on the hand dangling toward the floor. When I was close enough, I leaned in, studying the hand as if it were some kind of rare find.

Stomach twisting, I rose, squeezing my eyes shut as I went.

The bed was a mess of tangled blankets and sheets. My sister lay among them, her blond hair wild like she’d spent the entire night rolling around with someone’s hands in it. Her cheek was lying against a shoulder that also was very familiar.

I shook my head, denying the sick feeling rising inside me. Forcing myself to look away from her long, slender arm, which was draped over a naked, male chest, I averted them toward the man she was sleeping.

Please be Kyle. Please be Kyle.

It wasn’t.

Bile rose up the back of my throat, burning and making me gag. My heart beat so quickly it was painful, or maybe what hurt was the betrayal.

That wasn’t my sister’s boyfriend in her bed.

It was mine.

Brad Stacy, my high school sweetheart, my boyfriend of almost four years. The only boyfriend I’d ever had.

Shock rendered me immobile, and the only thing worse than seeing my naked sister in bed with my boyfriend was being so paralyzed by disbelief that I couldn’t run.

I stood there shackled by betrayal, staring at how comfortable they appeared. Like this wasn’t the first time. Like they’d done this before.

I don’t know how long I stared, but when my sister made a soft sound and snuggled closer against him, something inside me flipped.

At my sides, my hands balled into fists. The sudden urge to grab her by the hair and yank her sleeping, betraying naked butt out of that bed was so strong I actually leaned forward.

In my head, I could hear her scream with surprise, then scream again in fear when she saw me there.

My sister. The girl who used to braid my hair and keep people from picking on me in school. How could she?

Hot tears stung the backs of my eyes. When I tried to blink them back, they only fell, rolling over my cheeks.

My attention turned to Brad. I’d just talked to him last night. He’d said how excited he was to see me when I got here the next night. I’d almost confessed I was boarding a plane just then, but I’d kept it in… thinking he would love the surprise.

Turns out the one who got the surprise was me.

White-hot rage ripped through me like a wildfire, and I embraced it. It was a hell of a lot more bearable than the stabbing pain I’d just been introduced to.

Unfrozen from the spot beside the bed, I stomped over, grabbed Brad’s jeans off the floor, and threw them at his head. The fabric hit him with a sharp slap, part of it hitting my sister as well.

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