Authors: Jamie Deschain
This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue therein are drawn solely from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 Jamie Deschain
By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this book. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, compiled, reverse-engineered, or stored in or introduced to any information storage retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the expresses permission of Jamie Deschain.
For anyone who has ever been in love.
My fingers dug into the plush carpet and I let loose a scream that had been building up in me for two years. It escaped my throat and lasted until my vocal chords were raw, and then I screamed again while pounding my fists against the floor with as much force as I could manage in my weakened state.
Silence filled the air around me as I waited, interrupted only by the gut-wrenching sobs that escaped my lungs. I waited for him to come back and say something. Anything. Waited for him to say it was all a joke and that he wasn’t really leaving me like that. He couldn’t.
I’ll take care of you.
I collapsed, the thick fibers digging into my cheek as I curled up, bringing my knees close to my chest and wrapping my arms around them. How did we get here? How did
Tears I never thought I’d shed over him—not like that—streamed down and soaked the carpet. My entire body felt numb, but I didn’t know if it was from the pain of Nicholas walking out, or the drugs. All I knew is that I just wanted it to stop.
I closed my eyes. Shutting them tight and squeezing out the last remnants of my tears. When they opened, I stared at the world through a blurry haze of moisture that I didn’t even bother to wipe away. I didn’t want to see the world clearly anymore. Not if it didn’t have him in it.
From down the hall footsteps approached, and for a moment my heart beat adrenaline that coursed hope through my veins.
“Nicky?” I gasped, slowly making my way to my feet. It was a struggle, and I swayed and stumbled, but eventually I got there, though it felt like I was standing on marshmallows.
I swiped my eyes dry, clearing my vision just enough to see someone standing in my doorway. It wasn’t Nicholas.
It was my mother.
She stared at me with a look of contempt so severe I just wanted to punch her in the face. Who the hell was she to judge me? She, who stood by for years and did nothing, which led to everything that happened when all she had to do was just say no more.
We stood across from one another. Mother and daughter. David and Goliath. She was a big woman, filling the doorframe like water fills a jug. Neither of us said anything, and I couldn’t help but think if this were a painting it would be called Hatred, because that was all I had for her.
My sorrow over Nicholas was replaced with rage. It boiled up from the pit of my stomach, causing first my fingers to tremble, then my hands, before it spread like cancer and I was shaking all over and felt like I might throw up. I held it down though, and directed every ounce of my anger at her, staring back at her just as hard as she stared at me until I couldn’t take it anymore, and I let loose another pent up scream that caused her to flinch and back away.
That was all I needed.
I stormed toward her and gripped the door handle tight, growling like a wild animal before slamming it in her face. This is who I was now. Not a person who communicated with words and phrases, but a girl who showed her frustration with the world by acting like a savage.
It felt good, and I wanted to let it all out, so I spun and ransacked my bedroom, throwing pictures off my dresser and at the wall, followed by books and movies that slammed against it and fell to the floor in a heap of fury. Everything went flying, and I ripped and tore at posters and magazines, shredding them to bits as I continued to scream before I fell to my knees—chest rising and falling as my heart slammed hard inside.
Then I thought about him again. About Nicholas. I saw his face so clearly, and why shouldn’t I have? I’d studied it more times than I cared to admit. Committing it to memory because a part of me was afraid all that time. Afraid that it wouldn’t last…and here we are.
The tears flowed freely again, coming out in huge drops that slid down my cheeks and I instantly regretted everything I’d just done. A picture of us lay beside my bed, the frame shattered; lines breaking through the glass like a spider web. I reached for it, running my fingers over the slick surface. In it he was smiling, and it cracked my heart open like an egg, and all my emotions came pouring out in a scrambled mess of more tears and sobs and snot that trickled down from my nose that I didn’t bother to wipe away.
I deserve it
, I thought.
I deserve it all.
If only because I never deserved him in the first place.
Broken glass pricked my finger and I stared for a moment as a droplet of blood pooled at the tip. It was so red, like the pain drumming in my ears. I dropped the frame, holding on to that piece of glass and thinking about nothing and everything all at once.
Nicholas. My mother.
If I ended it all, what would become of them? What would happen to the people I both loved and hated? Would they miss me? Would they even care?
I wouldn’t if I were them.
Placing the glass to my wrist, I took a deep, calming breath and held it in, knowing the next time I exhaled could be my last.
The first time I saw him was on a Saturday.
Walking into a thick wall of humidity outside Ollie’s Italian Cuisine with a bag of take-out food in my hand, I wrestled with the containers inside the bag to make sure they didn’t leak a single drop from dad’s ravioli, because every glob of sauce lost was another punishment, and I was already feeling queasy enough as it is.
I stared at the ground, my long hair hanging frizzy in front of my eyes. I hated my hair. It never did what I wanted it to, and when it did it still looked like a tousled mess that I’m sure was transplanted from an alpaca rather than grown naturally from my scalp.
Three blocks from home on West 48
, my muscles tensed and my pulse quickened as cars honked their horns and people shouted down from their windows to friends on the sidewalk. Noise, crowds, people—these things were the bane of my existence, and if I could’ve run away to some exotic island to live by myself, I would have. I walked quickly, scurrying down the sidewalk meek like a mouse, thinking of sun and sand and waves and every other place I’d rather be going than home.
Until I saw him.
I heard him before I saw him. A cacophony of young voices rode past me across the street. Some of the shouts were familiar, belonging to kids from my school, and I instinctively looked up to see five bikes going down the road. Four of them I recognized, but it was the fifth that gave me pause, and I stopped in my tracks, the bag of food hanging limp at my side.
While the others rode on up ahead of him, he stopped directly across the street from me, sitting atop a red and black BMX, wearing a cutoff black t-shirt and blue jeans. Sweat soaked his disheveled dark hair, and coated his bronze skin with a thin sheen that gave his tight muscles definition, making them seem bigger than they actually were then.
He remained perfectly still, one Chuck resting on a peddle with the other planted firmly on the pavement as his hands gripped the handlebars of his bike. He stared at me, his gaze penetrating my defenses while a shiver worked its way down my spine despite the intense summer heat.
My first instinct was to look away, so my eyes flicked nervously to the ground, but the prickling sensation at the back of my neck remained. He was still there, still watching. I could feel it—feel him—and when I finally worked up the courage to meet his stare, I didn’t move for what seemed like hours. It was as if time stopped, and the sound of cars and voices became nothing but background noise when our eyes locked on to one another.
So far as I knew, I’d never been looked at before. Not like that, not by anybody. When he stared at me, it wasn’t with the same usual stares of disgust and indignation I received at school. It was with something else. Something I couldn’t put my finger on, and I didn’t know what to do. Smile? Run? What I really wanted to do was melt, but I’m not the Wicked Witch, and this wasn’t Oz.
I didn’t know who he was. I’d never seen him before, but when he looked at me it was like my soul had known him all along. The attraction was so strong I found myself becoming short of breath and the bag in my hand became a heavy weight that I had no choice but to drop to the ground, despite the repercussions.
It was like looking into a well of understanding. Like they knew me. Knew what I was going through back at home, but that was impossible. Yet the feeling
there, and with it the dangerous desire to take this boy by the hand and never look back.
And that scared me more than anything.
Then he smiled. Nothing toothy, just a slight grin that acknowledged our connection. I didn’t know if he felt the same way I did, but there’s no denying that in those few moments we’d spent an eternity looking into one another’s eyes, and for the first time in my life I could actually feel my heart thumping wildly in my chest. Not out of fear, but out of fascination.
Then he swerved his bike around to ride across the street, perhaps to introduce himself to me. I don’t know. When I saw what he meant to do I panicked like a frightened cat and snatched up my father’s food before dashing off down the street as a line of cars moved on from the red light, blocking any chance he had of catching up to me before I ducked down an alley that I used as a shortcut home.
Sauce dripped from the ripped plastic bag and my heart leapt at what that meant when I walked through the front door of home, but for the first time ever I found myself not caring, because whatever my father had in store for me was worth it just to stare into those eyes.
Flabbergasted. That’s the best word I can use to describe how it felt to look into her eyes. Make no mistake about it, either—I’d seen a lot of girls in my sixteen years, but standing across the street from me was the most beautiful one of them all.
She wore a pair of black jeans that hugged her small waist, and a thin white t-shirt that revealed a darker tank top underneath. I don’t know much about science, but in that July heat I knew enough to suspect that she must’ve been sweating her ass off. After all, they don’t call it Hell’s Kitchen for nothing.
I saw her coming out of Ollie’s and had to stop. Quakie, Shakes, Bundy, and Freddy didn’t miss a beat, and they all rode on up ahead, which was fine with me because from the moment I saw her I knew I didn’t want to share her with anyone else.
We just sat there, looking at one another in a way that gave me goosebumps up and down my slick, sweaty arms. It was the most intense feeling I’d ever experienced. Seriously. It was like looking into the eyes of an angel. One that’d been sent from Heaven just for me, and none too soon. With everything that was going on at home, I needed a little heavenly help.
Mom was driving herself bonkers working three jobs just to put food on the table, and my father? Who the fuck knows what happened to him. He left for a bottle one night and never came back. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they found him in a dumpster somewhere over by Penn Station. Fucking guy owed everyone and their dog money.
The plastic bag she was holding fell to the ground. Probably slipped through her fingers because of how damn sweaty she was. She didn’t seem to care though, and neither did I. Mind you, if I were a good Samaritan I would’ve gone over there and picked it up for her, but I didn’t trust my legs. My knees were weak just looking into those big green eyes.
Funny, I never believed in love at first sight up until then. Sure, I’d heard about it and seen it in the movies, but that was Hollywood nonsense. Stuff made up to give people hope. Like someday you’d just be walking along and BAM! Cue the sappy music.
Well, I don’t know about sappy music, but damn, that girl hit me like a ton of bricks. I imagined Cupid hanging out nearby somewhere, having a smoke and shooting arrows into my ass, because that’s what it felt like. One after the other, plucking at my heartstrings like they were a harp, and she was the sweetest music I’d ever heard.