Authors: Elizabeth Scott
RELEASE DAY CAME, as promised, and I got my stuff…
78 DAYS TODAY, and Mom took me to the mall.
I’M GOING BACK to school soon. Very soon, in fact.
I HADN’T MADE OUT with the guy who looked away.
SCHOOL STARTED OFF normally enough; annoying classes, annoying people. The…
TODAY WAS A LAURIE DAY TOO—as if I hadn’t dealt…
I TOLD JULIA about tonight, but I didn’t—I didn’t tell…
IN ENGLISH CLASS TODAY (109 days without Julia—I can only…
TODAY ME AND LAURIE were supposed to talk about Julia.
WELL, I’VE HAD my very first date. Predictably, it was…
I DIDN’T EVEN MAKE IT to school today.
I TAKE BACK EVERYTHING I told Julia about my parents…
I SHOULD HAVE SAVED the whole skipping school thing for…
TODAY STARTED OFF OKAY—for it being a school day, for…
I CLOSED MY NOTEBOOK and ignored Mom’s glances at it.
IT FIGURED that the one time I actually wanted to…
WHEN I GOT TO BLUE MOON, it was too early…
CARO CALLED the day after we went to the university…
MEL AND CARO ended up doing all of the talking…
THIS AFTERNOON I went to Caro’s after school, and her…
158 DAYS, and I saw Laurie this afternoon.
DURING DINNER TONIGHT, Mom and Dad asked me to watch…
I WENT TO A PARTY TONIGHT.
This book is absolutely, positively, 110% for Jessica Brearton, who deserves at least a parade in her honor.
Jess, you believed in me when I’d lost my way, and wouldn’t let me give up on writing. Thank you not just for the encouragement to finish this, but for your friendship—and for simply being you.
Get this, I’m supposed to be starting a journal about “my journey.” Please. I can see it now:
As I’m set adrift on this crazy sea called “life,” I like to think of an inspirational poem I heard not long ago, one that made me weep because of its beauty. Today, I truly believe each day is a precious gift….
I don’t think so.
Anyway, while Dr. Marks (mustache like you wouldn’t believe, long and shaggy and made even worse by the fact that he’s always got crumbs in it) babbles on about how we need a place to share our “experiences,” I’m writing to you.
I don’t want you to think everything here has been so useless. I mean, Pinewood is a “teen treatment center,” so there’s, you know, the unpleasantness of just being here, but it hasn’t all sucked. It’s going to follow me around forever, though. “Was in rehab.” Just like all the other “”I carry now.
You know, I always thought I told you everything, but there are some things I should have said and never did. I should have told you about the time I lost your new sunglasses. I know you really liked them. I should have apologized every time I puked on your shoes and especially the time I ruined your brand-new skirt, the one with the beading. I should have apologized for a lot of stuff.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything.
It’s been seventy-four days since I had a drink. I miss it. I miss the way it made me feel, how I didn’t seem so tall and stupid, how everything went soft around the edges. I’ve even been dreaming about it. I’m told this is normal, though. I’m told I can still leave. I’m “better,” you see, and the world is waiting.
Dr. Marks just asked if I’m okay. He’s such a freak. I don’t know how he ended up in charge of group therapy. You should hear how he talks, you really should. He can’t say my name like a normal person. Amy. How hard is that to say? But Dr. Marks always calls me
Amyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, like y is a letter he doesn’t get to use often enough.
I think about you all the time. I tell everyone in group I picture you swooping in to check up on everything, an angel with kick-ass wings, but I actually wonder if you’re cold or if you get to wear your purple sweater all the time because it’s your favorite and your mom isn’t around to tell you it’s too low-cut.
Right now, I wonder if you’re singing one of those stupid love songs you love so much and if they still make you smile. I wonder if you miss driving across the Millertown bridge while we take turns eating ice cream. You were always able to smuggle a pint out of the grocery store. If I close my eyes I can see you laughing, spoon in hand. I haven’t eaten ice cream in months.
I’ve cried a lot in Pinewood, and always about you. I know that must seem strange, especially since you know that before I didn’t cry at all. I wanted to, though—you know that too, right? But I couldn’t. I knew if I did I’d never stop.
I suppose I should be happy about getting out of here tomorrow. I guess I am, but the thing is, I keep thinking about who I want to see when I get home and…there’s no one. You won’t be there.
I miss you, J.
RELEASE DAY CAME
, as promised, and I got my stuff together in the morning. I didn’t have a roommate, and I didn’t really talk to anyone, so I was ready to go pretty quick. (Group therapy was enough conversation for me.)
And that was it. Good-bye Pinewood, thanks for all the crap food and “sharing sessions.” Couldn’t say I was going to miss any of it.
Laurie, my shrink, came and walked down with me.
“What are you thinking about?” I don’t think Laurie knows how to not ask questions. Must be the first thing they teach in shrink school. Also seems to be the only thing.
“It’s okay to be scared,” she said, and I did that thing with my eyebrows Julia’s mom always called snotty.
Laurie didn’t seem to notice. She just said, “Everyone gets scared,” like it was some big profound statement.
“Wow, thanks,” I said.
“Your parents are waiting, Amy,” she said. “They’re right out there and they’re excited about taking you home.”
The sick thing is, I wanted to believe her. I wanted to believe that Mom and Dad were waiting and actually wanted to see me. I’d thought that part of me, the part that wanted me and Mom and Dad to be a family and not how we actually are, which is the two of them and then me, was gone. I thought I’d killed it, smashed it into pieces so small they’d never fit together again. I guess I was wrong.
“Fine,” I said, and went to meet them.
They were there in the waiting room, sitting curled up in each other’s arms on one of the sofas. My first day at Pinewood, my arms were raw from where I’d dug my fingers in to make sure I was alive, and they’d sat on that same sofa the exact same way.
I’d sat across from them and watched them clutch each other’s hands like they’d be lost if they let go. They’d given me a weird almost hug when I left, the two of them still clutching each other and trying to squeeze me in. That was a lot of fun.
Today they were clutching hands again, but they actually let go of each other and got up and hugged me. Separately. That’s when I realized today was going to be weird. As in seriously weird.
I’m taller than both of them now. I can’t believe it. I knew I was taller than Mom but didn’t realize I’m taller than Dad. I guess maybe I grew some while I was here. It figures. Sixteen, about six feet tall, and just out of a “treatment center.” I’m such a winner.
On the drive home, Mom and Dad told me about my “new” room. My bedroom up in the attic is gone. They moved all my stuff down into the guest room on the second floor, and now it’s my bedroom. I can’t believe my parents want me sleeping near them. Weird. But then I suppose it fits in with today.
Because after telling me about my new room, my parents had other things to say. They told me there wouldn’t be a lock on my door anymore. They told me that even though I’m now old enough to get my license, there’s no way I was going to. They also told me I would have to keep seeing Laurie every week.
I said “Fine” to everything. I think they expected arguing or something because they kept looking at me, Dad in the rearview mirror, Mom in the little one you’re supposed to use to check your makeup.
When we got here the weirdness was complete, because the house…it’s still the same, but yet it isn’t. For one thing, it’s blue now. Apparently, Mom had it painted again. It’s better than the yellow it was before but not by much. I don’t know how an art professor can be so clueless when it comes to this stuff. I mean, she can paint and teach other people how to do it, but she can’t figure out that a blue house is a bad idea?
Mom and Dad might have been waiting for me to comment on the house. You never know with them. I didn’t say anything. It’s a new color, not a new house, not a new me and a new them, and Julia is still gone.
They helped me bring my stuff in, and then we all stood around looking at one another. I finally said, “I’m hungry,” just so it wasn’t so quiet. They, of course, both went to fix me something to eat. I know they don’t do everything together, and I’ve even heard them argue once in a while, but most of the time it’s like they’re one person. Not Colin and Grace. Just ColinandGrace.
I can hear them now, laughing at a joke they’ll never share with me. If Julia was here I never would have heard it because we’d be out having fun. I don’t care about my room or a stupid lock or driving or even having to see Laurie. I don’t care about any of it.
It’s me. I’m home, though it doesn’t feel like it. Not without you.
I tossed the starter journal Dr. Marks gave me, which is just as well because it had little pine trees running along the bottom of every page. I suppose I should be happy it wasn’t teddy bears.
After I tossed it and a bunch of other random crap Pinewood gave me, pamphlets and books and bullshit about feelings, I found my old chemistry notebook.
Me neither. I know I passed because I wore a short skirt every time we had a test. Mr. Lansing was such a pervert. Neither of us took a single note all year. I
flipped through the notebook when I pulled it out and it was blank page after blank page except for one.
Hey, you wrote me a note at the bottom of this page.
“Locker after class?”
Your handwriting is so much nicer than mine.
I just called your house. Your mother hung up as soon as I said hello.
78 DAYS TODAY,
and Mom took me to the mall.
“A belated birthday present,” she said.
I wasn’t allowed to get gifts while I was in Pinewood. Laurie had asked me how I felt about that at least a hundred times, but what did I care? What kind of birthday was it without Julia there? In the end it was just another day of therapy and bad food punctuated with an awkward visit with Mom and Dad.
They sang “Happy Birthday” and asked me how my room was, then stood around looking nervous. It was a visit just like all their others, except for the song. Laurie had asked me about that too. She has a question for everything.
Mom and Dad were both going to take me to the mall, but last night at dinner we were talking (by which I mean
I just sat there and tried to think of things to say when they asked me stuff—until now, dinner was always a two-person show) and Dad suggested she and I go since Mom wasn’t teaching today. He said he’d take me to get school supplies over the weekend.
Mom looked hurt (oh no, they weren’t going to be doing everything together!) and Dad reached out and took her hand, giving her the “you’re my whole world” look. I don’t get how they can be so into each other. It’s not normal. (Julia thought it was sweet, but then she was in love with the whole idea of love. In my book being that “in love” is, frankly, kind of creepy.)
Anyway, they were holding hands and finishing each other’s sentences and Dad was starting to talk about trying to rearrange his schedule. I could feel myself fading, becoming invisible girl once again, but then Mom said, “You know, I think that’s a great idea.”
She almost sounded like she meant it. Almost.
We went, just the two of us, and I spent the first ten minutes waiting for her to shrivel up because Dad wasn’t around. She seemed fine, though.
Me—well, that was different. The mall was bigger than I remembered, too full of crap and people. One of the first stores we passed was the one where me and Julia almost got busted for putting a skirt in my purse. I’d
wanted to grab a plaid one, but she’d found one that was so much cooler. She had this gift of being able to find the most amazing clothes in any store. Two seconds and she’d have the perfect outfit, an outfit that no one else but her could wear.
Anyway, she picked the skirt, it was in my bag, and we almost exploded trying not to laugh on our way out of the store.
I couldn’t breathe, thinking about that. How hard we tried not to laugh. How hard she did once we were back out in the mall again, her head thrown back and her eyes shining.
Julia always laughed so loudly, so happily.
I’m never going to hear her laugh again.
Everything started going fuzzy then, black around the edges.
“Mom,” I said. “I have to sit down.”
Mom took me to the food court, bought me a soda, and called Dad. I didn’t bother listening to the conversation because no one needs to hear “I love you” forty-seven million times. You’d think they’d get sick of saying it to each other. I know they never will.
Mom wouldn’t take me home when I finished my soda. I said, “But what about Dad?” and she said, “He’s fine. Which store do you want to go to first?”
So we went shopping. What else could I do? We went into store after store, Mom looking, me standing there, trying to breathe. She kept showing me these little skirts and shirts, stuff like—stuff like Julia and me always wore.
She even said, “If I had your figure…,” and I stared at her until she said, “Oh, Amy, I understand. You and Julia probably came here, right?” and squeezed my hand.
I’d always wanted to do this kind of thing with her, go shopping, do mom-and-daughter stuff I should have stopped longing for in middle school. I never wanted it to be like this.
On the way home, Mom asked about birth control, the question too casual to be anything but practiced at least a hundred times. I told her there was nothing to tell.
She said, “I know there must be,” so I told her I knew all about it and had been extra careful ever since I had to take a pregnancy test when I was fourteen. I shouldn’t have done it, but I didn’t want to talk about sex with Mom and I knew that would stop the conversation.
It did, and I thought about the day Julia told me she needed to buy a pregnancy test. She’d cried and then wiped her eyes and smiled at me. She’d said, “It’ll be okay.”
I should have said that to her. I should have said something. Done something. Anything. Instead I just sat there.
I thought about sitting in Julia’s bathroom, holding her hand as we waited for the results. She spun around in circles after the little stick showed everything would be fine, turning and turning with a smile on her face. We went to a party that night, and she got so high she fell in a bathtub and split her lip open. I tried to clean her up and ended up smearing blood all over her shirt.
We both pretended she wasn’t crying.
As Mom and I finished our drive home in silence, I thought about the mall again.
I’d seen Kevin there. Trailing Mom from one store to another and there he was, standing with his jerkass friends, hanging out. When he saw me, he glared, as if he’s in so much pain. No matter how much he wishes Julia was here, I wish it more.
I pretended I didn’t see him, and watched Mom flip through shirts I wouldn’t let her buy me.
I pretended I didn’t feel like my heart was breaking.