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Authors: Juliana Stone

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BOOK: Some Kind of Normal
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Chapter Twenty-three
Trevor

I woke up in a hospital. I knew this for a couple of reasons.

First, the smell. It's horrid as hell, and no matter what hospital you're in, it's the same. It's a smell of death and sickness and puke, and the heavy disinfectants they use to try and cover it all up just makes it worse.

Second, I heard my mom crying. Well, I heard my mom sniffling like she was trying to hide the fact that she was crying, which was almost worse than just getting it all out. I guess she thought that the softer her cries were, the better it was for me, but honestly, the fact that she was there at all made me feel like crap.

Also? My mouth was dry and I would just about kill for an ice chip.

I lay there for a few moments, not opening my eyes, wanting those few seconds to get my thoughts straight in my head. I wish that I could say I remembered what happened. But I don't. I don't remember a damn thing other than a pain in my head and…and Everly.

I must have groaned or made some other pathetic noise, because the sniffling stopped and then my mom was there, hovering over me like she used to do back in the day. Back when I was somewhere in that place between life and death.

I used to hate that. Waking up and seeing her there. Knowing it was all my fault, and right now, I felt exactly the same. God, she must be sick of this, because I sure as hell was.

“Trevor?”

I tried to sit up, but her hands were on my chest and she was smoothing hair from my face. “Water?”

She knew the drill, but then I guess there're some things you can't forget no matter how much you try. She grabbed a cup from beside the bed, unwrapped a straw, and once I was elevated a bit, held the cup in front of me like I was a baby with no idea how to hold the stupid thing.

But I wasn't a baby. I was a pissed-off seventeen-year-old, so I acted like one. I grabbed the cup from her and managed to spill half of the damn thing before I got it to my mouth.

“Be careful,” she said.

Once my throat was lubricated, I decided to try and speak. This was always a bit tricky, because I wasn't so sure that what came out of my mouth would even make sense. But I had to try. I had to know.

“Where's Everly?”

My voice sounded rough, but I got the right words out. Another win for the pathetic Trevor Lewis.

“She's outside with her father.” My mom's bottom lip started to tremble. “Thank God she was there when it happened.”

Yeah. Awesome that she got to see that.

“We're in Baton Rouge, at the hospital.” She was fussing with the blankets. “Daddy and I came as soon as Everly called, and Taylor, she's here too.”

My head still felt fuzzy, my eyes were sore, and my tongue felt like it was ten times too big for my mouth. I was pretty damn sure I looked like hell, and I found myself reaching for my hair, just to be sure, because after my initial prolonged hospital stay, I had nightmares in which some big-ass orderly shaved my head and kept all my hair.

“It's nearly three in the morning, but the doctor says if things look good, we can take you home after he checks on you. About eight, I think. He says the seizure happened because your medication needs to be altered, so once that's fixed, you'll be good as new.”

I felt like laughing, because really, that was a joke. Good as new was the old Trevor. The one without a TBI. But I didn't want to think about that, because it was just depressing as hell.

“Can Everly I see?” I asked instead.

My mom kind of pursed her lips, like she wanted to say no, but then her eyes softened a bit and she nodded. “I'll get her, but you need to take it easy, okay?”

I nodded, and that was exhausting. God, it felt as if I'd been to football practice ten times over, and I was the douche who got tackled every single play.

Man, I hated hospitals. I thought the day I walked out of Twin Oaks Memorial, I'd never be back. Pretty naïve of me, I know, but still. A guy can only hope. What a joke to find out that all the hard work I'd done over the last year had been for nothing. I was defective, and it looked like I would always be defective. Trevor Lewis. Freak of nature.

“Hey.”

Her voice was soft, and there was a bit of tremble in there. I sat up straighter and tried to crack a smile, but I'm sure it came off as more of a lopsided grimace.

“Bet you never thought you'd see me in a dress,” I said, voice hoarse and not really sounding like me at all. Man, if I looked as bad as I sounded, she should be running away as fast and as far as she could.

But she didn't, and I felt something like hope flare inside me.

Everly's eyes were huge and her skin was pale and her dress, that hot little dress she'd worn to dinner, was covered in mud. She crossed the room and sat on the bed beside me, a smile on her face that didn't quite reach her eyes. She looked tired and sad and so damn beautiful that it made me crazy. I wanted to grab her up and hold her. I wanted to touch her hair and smell that spot at the base of her neck. I wanted to kiss her until she made that sexy little sound at the back of her throat.

I wanted to do it all, and yet I did nothing.

“You kind of rock a dress,” she said. “Especially a pink one.”

I glanced down. Wow. The shame just wouldn't go away.

“Good to know,” I managed to say. “I'll make sure and wear one the next time…we are, uh…together.” What the hell was I doing? Where was I going with this? What girl in her right mind would want to hang out with a dude whose brain wasn't quite right and who'd had two seizures in the space of a few weeks?

She reached for my hand and brought it up to her face. “I just might hold you to that, Trevor Lewis.”

I shook my head. She was so soft and warm and perfect. “Why are you still here? I don't get it.”

“You don't have to get it, because it doesn't really matter now, does it? I'm here because I want to be. I'm here because I care about you.” She leaned close and kissed the corner of my mouth. “Trevor, I'm here because you're here. Where else would I be?”

I rested my forehead against hers, mostly because I was wiped out, but damn, the girl felt good.

“Oh, man. Even here you're sucking face? Jesus, Trevor, is that all you think about?”

I glanced around Everly and spied my sister Taylor standing at the end of my bed. She must have been crying, because she looked like a raccoon with her Goth eyes and smudged liner. But her attitude, it was all there, and I was kind of glad to hear it. That was normal. She was normal.

“What else is there to think about?” I joked.

Everly fake-punched me.

“Hey,” I said. “Next time you do that, I'll have to think up some form of punishment.”

“That is, like, the lamest line ever.” Taylor was now sitting on the other side of the bed, inches from me and Everly.

And Everly was smiling. “Yeah, but it just might work.”

“Not surprised,” Taylor said slowly. And then she pinned me with a look that wasn't easy or light. It was all Taylor and all 115 pounds of attitude. “If you ever do that again, I will hunt you down and kick your effing ass.”

“Language, Taylor.”

“Whatever, butthead.”

Taylor got up. “Your dad says that you have to go, Everly.”

Everly's eyes were on me when she whispered, “Okay. Can I have one more minute with him?”

When the door closed behind Taylor, Everly collapsed on the bed, curling up against me. It felt amazing to have her there, even though I was tired as hell and hating everything about where I was.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“He was there,” she said softly. “In Baton Rouge. I called him when you fell. When the paramedics came. I was just so scared, like I was frozen or something, and it was automatic, you know? I just…wanted my dad.”

A heartbeat passed.

“But now…”

I hugged her. She was delicate and small, and I hated that sad girl was back. Hated that I couldn't make things okay for her.

“Now I have to go home with him, and I don't want to, because after all this time, there's no more hiding, and I know it's crazy, but I'm not ready. I thought I was, but I'm not.” She blew out a ragged breath. “He knows that I know. He wants to talk.”

“But isn't that what you want? No more lies?”

“I thought so, but right now, I'm more scared of the truth than I am of being angry at his lies, and I wish…I wish that I never called him. All I wanted was the truth, for him to stop lying to all of us, but now…now I don't know what I want. I'm afraid of the truth. How screwed up is that?”

“It's not screwed up. It's just real. It's how you feel.”

“I have to go, Trevor,” she whispered.

“I know.”

“Call me when you get home tomorrow?”

I nodded. “First list on my thing.”

She bent over and pressed one last kiss on my mouth. “Okay,” she breathed against me.

And then she was gone.

It took all of two seconds before my words went around my brain again. I thought about how her eyes got all shiny and how she'd smiled at me in a way I recognized. Because it was the same way my mom smiled at me when she didn't know what else to do or say.

The thing is the part of my brain that controls anger got damaged in the accident, and right now, I needed some kind of control, but that wasn't happening. I could feel this wall of emotion sliding over me like a hot, wet cloth, running from the top of my head all the way down my body. I clenched my hands into fists and slammed my head back onto the pillow, because I knew it was going to be bad. And then I pretty much lost it.

Chapter Twenty-four
Everly

We drove home in silence, the two of us acting as if everything was fine, as if we were strangers sharing a ride home. As if the last twelve hours hadn't happened. As if the last year hadn't happened.

I
should
be
so
lucky
, I thought.

For miles I watched the road, that anger that had been buried inside me growing as fast as the weeds in Mr. Harrison's backyard. It got so big that my hands shook because I couldn't keep it contained.

But I wasn't ready. Not yet. So I gritted my teeth and squeezed my eyes shut, as if not seeing him would help. What a joke. Nothing helped, and nothing would ever be the same again.

By the time we rolled into our driveway, the sun was peeking up over the trees behind out house, and our five a.m. sprinklers were up and at 'em. Dad pulled his car as close to the garage as he could and cut the engine. Some country song was playing on the radio, and just as the guy was about to belt out the line about his cheating wife, the song was gone.

Kind of ironic, if you ask me.

And there it was. The big silence that I'd been dreading since we left the hospital. This silence was different from the one that had followed us back from Baton Rouge. This silence was full of heavy, dark things that would hurt, and as angry as I was with him, I just couldn't do it. At least not right now.

Maybe it was because I needed to believe that my father wasn't about to rip our family apart, at least for a little while longer. Or maybe it was because I was just too tired.

He cleared his throat, so I knew that I had maybe two seconds.

“I'm not doing this with you right now,” I said, opening the door and practically throwing myself out of the car. Like literally. If not for my dress catching on the edge of the door panel, I would have fallen on my butt. As it was, the seam split, but I didn't care. I just wanted to get away from him.

“Get some sleep, Everly, and we'll talk after I get back from service.”

The tears were already starting, so I didn't look back. I ran across the wet grass and up the steps of the porch and didn't stop until I fell into bed. Until I grabbed my pillow close and let everything out. And there was a lot to get out.

I cried for Trevor, because I knew he was freaking out. I cried for the fear and pain I'd seen in his parents' eyes. I cried for my mom and for Isaac, because they had no idea what was coming their way. I even cried for my dad, because no matter how much I thought I hated him, I didn't.
If
I
hated
him, I wouldn't hurt so much.

But most of all, I cried for myself, because…well, just
because.
I had a year of stuff inside me, and it seemed like the only way to let it out was to soak my pillow with tears. That was hours ago, and my eyes were still puffy. Not even slices of cucumber had been able to make them look better.

I was in my bedroom, fresh out of the shower, and had just dragged on some clothes. My cell buzzed for, like, the twentieth time in the last half an hour. Hales had sent a ton of text messages and left me three voice mails. She was threatening to come over unless I told her what the hell was going on. She knew about Trevor, of course. They'd had to take a cab from the cottage in Springfield all the way to Baton Rouge to grab Link's truck. But she also knew that something big was up, and I loved her for caring enough to threaten me. Even if there was no way she could take me down.

Hales:
I will beat the crap out of you unless you spill.

Me:
I'd like to see you try. Also I'm fine.

Hales:
Okay I won't beat you up, but call me asap. I'm worried.

I heard a car door slam, and my cell slipped from my fingers. I scooped it up and typed a quick reply.

Me:
will do. ttyl

Me:
have you heard from Trevor?

Hales:
Link's here and no. Call me when you can.

I heard our front door close and then my dad's voice calling for me.
This
is
it
, I thought. My stomach was a mess, and I felt like crap and looked even worse. I pulled my hair up into a tangled ponytail, wiped my palms along the top of my legs, and headed for the stairs.

By the time I got to the bottom, all the anger that I'd bottled up this last year, well, that anger was in me. It was like a living thing, pulsing hard and fast, and I was out of breath by the time I found him.

He was waiting for me in the kitchen, standing just in front of the sink where the sun came in. Figures. He was about to tear my world apart, and yet here he was, bathed in sunlight, like a god or something.

“Do you want a cup of tea?”

“Really? We're going to act like everything is okay? You're going to be that guy?”

He looked shocked, and I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. I'd hardly conversed with him this last year, and when I did, I'd always been polite. Detached but polite. I'm sure he put it all down to teenage female hormones or some other kind of crap, but he wasn't used to this side of me.

God, it was cold. So, so cold. I shivered and shoved my hands into the front pockets of my jeans, wishing I'd grabbed a sweater instead of the thin T-shirt I had on.

Dad stirred his cup but didn't drink, and I thought that maybe he just needed something to keep his hands busy. I had my pockets; he had his cup.

He sighed, this sort of, I don't know, denial kind of sigh, if you can picture what that would sound like, and then he actually looked at me.

“Does your mother know you went to Baton Rouge with Trevor Lewis?”

For a moment I didn't answer, because I was too pissed off that he wanted to talk about me instead of what he'd done. I guess he wanted to ease into the whole thing. Heck, I only had one lie to hide behind. He had hundreds, maybe thousands.

“Nope,” I answered.

“That's all you have to say for yourself?”

Okay. That stomach thing was getting pretty bad (I felt like I was going to puke), but the anger inside me was so much stronger, and I didn't care one bit that he saw it.

“You asked the question. I gave you an honest answer.” The fact that I stressed the word
honest
wasn't lost on him. He flinched. Score one for Everly.

Dad set his mug on the kitchen table and ran his hands over the top of his head.

“This is serious, Everly.”

“Damn right, it's serious.”

“Are you and he…well, are the two of you…”

Wow. He was going all in on this one. I considered adding one more lie to my short list, but in the end, I was just too damn tired and emotional to play games.

“I haven't slept with Trevor Lewis, if that's what you're trying to ask me. And even if I had, it's really none of your business. I'm almost eighteen.”

I moved to the other side of the kitchen table and leaned my hip against it, going for the calm and composed look, but the real truth was that I needed something between us. Something hard and solid. Because this right now? This conversation felt surreal.

“It was wrong of you to lie to your mother, Everly. Wrong of you to go away with a boy and not tell us. If anything had happened to you…how would we know?”

Okay, this wasn't going at all the way I'd envisioned. Why were we talking about me? Did he think I'd just forget? That I wouldn't ask the questions that were right there, hiding in my head?

I took a moment, a good long moment, and studied the man in front of me. The man who'd always been my rock. My hero. There's something heartbreaking in knowing that the person you've idolized your entire life isn't the Superman you'd always thought him to be. He's not made of steel. He's flesh and blood, and his Kryptonite is his humanity.

“Can I ask you a question now?” I asked softly, watching him closely.

Dad's eyes got all shiny, the way mine did just before I was about to have one of
those
moments. You know, an ugly one. He dropped his head for a second, as if the stupid mug was going to somehow help him, and then he nodded.

“Sure,” he said, his voice so low I barely heard him. I think he knew what I was going to ask before I even opened my mouth.

“Why were you in Baton Rouge with Kirk Davies?”

Kirk Davies. The guy who'd been coming around our home since I could remember. He'd been at my birthday parties, at family gatherings, and he'd even spent a few Christmases with us. He was funny and charming and hot in a CW kind of way. He liked to draw, told funny stories, and had the most beautiful smile that you can imagine. He was my parents' oldest friend, a guy they'd gone to college with, and he was totally, unequivocally, one hundred percent gay.

No one had ever said it out loud, but I knew.

Dad cleared his throat, took his time just like I had, but there was nowhere to run. No place to hide in this kitchen. There was the pantry, the fridge, and the table. There was the heavy silence full of dark and painful things.

There was him and me.

And now, finally, the truth.

“Kirk and I… We were there for the celebrations.”

Celebrations. Did he think I was stupid?

“I don't believe you.” My heart was beating, fast and hard, but I didn't waver. This was too important. Too hard. But I had to know.

Dad's mouth tightened, and his gaze slid from mine, which spoke volumes to me.

“He lives in New Orleans, doesn't he?” I asked. “Is that why you're there all the time? Is he the reason you go?”

“What is this? I counsel a—”

“You're lying!” Something broke apart inside me. My voice was shrill and loud, and that cliff I'd been standing on forever it seemed, was suddenly right there. My toes were over the edge, and I was going to fall, but I didn't care anymore. “Can you just be honest with me? I know, Dad.” My voice broke, and dammit, there were those tears again.
“I know.”

And I did. It was suddenly clear as day to me. His secret.

But my heart wasn't breaking because of what he was going to tell me. It was breaking because I was afraid. Afraid because my family was already cracked, with gaping wounds that couldn't be fixed, and when the dust settled, I wouldn't have him anymore. Not like before. Not like I was supposed to have him.

“This is hard for me, Everly.” His voice was shaky, his hands fisted. That place inside me, the small soft spot where my heart was…that place expanded and then constricted so tight that I could barely breathe.

“It's hard for me too,” I said hoarsely. “And for Mom.”

He made a weird noise when I said that and exhaled a long, shaky breath.

“I've never broken my marriage vows. I want you to know that. Never.”

I didn't know what to say to that. I mean, it was so personal, and there was a part of me that couldn't believe I was hearing this stuff.

“But I'm…” He cleared his throat again and leaned onto the table, his hands spread, his long elegant fingers thumping nervously. I swear it was the only thing keeping him on his feet. “Things between your mother and I haven't been good for a long time.”

“And that gives you the right to lie to her? To us? For over a year? How is that dealing with a problem?”

“I was trying to protect…to…”

“How is lying protecting your family?” I butted in. “I'm seventeen, and I know that lies only make things worse. Just because it's easier to lie doesn't mean you should do it.” My voice was shrill. “You taught me that.”

He was silent for a few moments. “No. No, it doesn't, and I'm sorry for that.”

“Are you gay?” I blurted before I could stop myself.

“What? No, I…”

But I saw the truth in his eyes.

“You're lying,” I shouted. “This right here is going to change my life. Can't you at least be honest with me now? There's no one here but us.”

“It's complicated,” he said carefully, eyes falling from mine.

But it was enough. I saw a truth that was quickly overshadowed by fear. I got that. Fear could make anyone do stupid things. But this was my life too, and he needed to own his shit. Not bury it.

“Are you gay?” I asked again, moving so that he had to look at me.

I didn't think it was a sin or anything. I mean, I don't think that I did, but staring across the table at my father, I couldn't deny the fact that along with anger, disappointment, and fear, the only other emotion inside me right now was shame.

I loved this man. I hated this man. I was proud of him, and I was ashamed.

How screwed up is that?

BOOK: Some Kind of Normal
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