Authors: Juliana Stone
I'll be the first to admit that when I came out of the coma and realized what had happened, what my future might be, I was a total dick. Yep, I was that guy. Total dick with a capital
The thing was, everyone kind of expected it, and man, did I deliver. I threw some serious tantrums, the kind my family hadn't seen since I was at least two years old. I broke a lot of shit and used words to hurt (when I could get them out, because in the beginning, that was stupid hard to do).
But over the last six months, I've learned to deal with it, or at least I thought I had. You see, I was almost there. Almost halfway to normal. Until Thursday night. Man, I hadn't seen that coming. Thursday night, I completely lost my shit.
The word alone gives me the goddamn creeps. Seriously. I hear the word and picture a guy all twisted up with snot running out of his nose and spit falling from the corner of his mouth. I picture a rabid dog with a foaming snarl or a screwed-up mental patient.
I close my eyes and see a freak on the floor.
And now that was me. I was the freak on the floor.
Back when I was still in the hospital, the doctor had told us that it wasn't uncommon for someone who'd suffered a TBI to have a seizure. Usually they occur in the days and weeks just after whatever incident caused said TBI. He'd told us that they could still occur months or years afterward, but it wasn't
Which kind of sucks, because in that year, you start to think that maybe (at least on the outside) you can get back to normal. If you learn to hide all the defects, the ones on the inside that no one can see, then maybe you can live your life as if nothing had happened. I could go back to being Trevor Lewis, the guy who had it all.
That's what I was aiming for, and yeah, it was damn hard work. The headaches alone were exhausting, and the nights when I couldn't sleep didn't help. But my memory blips weren't as bad as they used to be, my guitar chops were slowly coming back, and once I passed the stupid government test, I would graduate and leave for New York City.
So I was a dreamer. Sue me. I had a plan, and for the last year, it was that plan that had gotten me through. New York City, my buddy Nate, and our music.
I splashed cold water on my face and glared at the mirror above the sink. Now the fact that I was me but I
me was real hard to ignore. I still looked the same. All the evidence of the accident and coma were buried. The scar from when they'd cut open my skull because my brain had swelled was hidden beneath my hair, a jagged line that no one would see unless I shaved my head. Since I liked my hair on the long side, that wasn't happening any time soon.
I worked out like a son of a bitch, and other than my knee, my body was good. Physically I was probably in the best shape I've ever been in. I had all my teeth. They were straight. White. My eyes looked the same. Nose had escaped the accident unscathed.
Every single thing about me looked the same, and yet it wasn't.
If ever one word can define you, that was it for me.
I wouldn't be the same again. Ever.
My fists clenched, and for a moment, I let the rage swell. It pushed up from my chest and fired through my cells. I can't lie. In a sick way, it felt good.
My perfectly normal face stared back at me, and I wanted to smash the mirror and obliterate the image, because it was a total effing lie.
Chest heaving, I dragged my eyes away, because if I did punch the mirror, my dad would have my ass. I don't know how long I leaned over the sink in the bathroom staring at the faded porcelain and the crack that ran along the edge, but it was long enough for my eyes to blur. Long enough for the hard, cold fear inside me to grow and expand until I had a tough time breathing and my skin was covered in sweat.
I had to get out of there.
Stopping at my room long enough to grab a T-shirt, I didn't bother changing out of my sweat pants and headed for the front door. I was almost home free, but I stopped when I heard her voice. Everly. What. The. Hell.
I'd told Mom to send her away. I mean, why was she here anyway? Did she want another look at the freak?
That pin inside my headâthe one attached to a crap ton of anger just waiting to explodeâwell, that pin pulled and I swung around, heading for the kitchen before I could (A) think about it and realize maybe this wasn't such a good idea, or (B) stop myself once I did realize that I was probably going to make a complete ass out of myself.
Everly was at the kitchen table and turned when I walked into the room.
“Why are you here?” The words tore out of me, and inside, my heart beat as fast and furious as a Metallica drum track. Double kick and hitting hard. I wanted to break something. Anything.
My gaze swung widely until I caught sight of my mom, her soft brown eyes shadowed with a whole bunch of stuff that I was responsible for.
“Trevor,” she said quietly. “Take a moment, okay? Just breathe.”
“Don't talk to me like I'm a goddamn baby,” I shouted.
Shit. This wasn't going well.
The last time I “pulled the pin,” as my dad liked to call it, I'd put my fist through the drywall in the garage. When it came over me, the rage was hard to control, and this morning my feelings were all over the place. So yeah, I knew I should have run out the front door, but here I was and there was no turning back.
“Breathe,” Mom said again, moving toward me.
I stared down into her eyes when she put her hands on me. Saw the hurt in them when I flinched. It was hard to explain, but I felt twitchy, like my skin was pulled too tight. And I had to be honest. I was scared shitless that I would hurt her.
“I gotta get out of here.”
“Trevor, please. Just sit down with us. I made your favorite. Waffles and strawberries.”
She didn't get it. No one did. Hell, I didn't even get why I acted the way I did sometimes. It was like there was an ocean of stuff inside me, rolling in like constant waves buffeting the shore, just waiting for a chance to break. And when they did? When they crashed onto the beach and annihilated the sand, there would be nothing left. The weird thing is that sometimes it was the nothing that I wanted, because feeling nothing was somehow better than this.
“Where are the car keys?” I asked, shoving past my mom.
Taylor appeared from nowhere and scooped them off the counter. “What the hell, Trevor? Are you insane? You can't drive. Not afterâ¦” Her eyes shot to Mom's. God, she couldn't even look at me.
“Not after what, Taylor? Just say it.” I practically growled the words.
Silence. Yeah. Not surprised. Everyone was so concerned about treating me like a baby that they didn't for once consider I hated it. I was gonna be eighteen in a few months, not eight.
“I had a goddamn seizure, Taylor. And maybe I'll have another one. And another one after that. Maybe I'll have the biggest freaking seizure on record, and then we can all call it what it is. Epilepsy. Yeah, that's me. That's my future, so why don't you just goddamn well say it?”
Taylor's eyes got real small, the way they did when she was pissed off. Good. I could deal with pissed off. Pissed off went hand in hand with the way I was feeling right about now.
“You're such an asshole.”
“Epileptic asshole,” I shot back.
“You expect me to feel sorry for you?” she shouted.
Taylor was small. She was small and blond with a pretty dated Goth thing going on, but when she wanted to, she could be fierce. I'd seen her stand up to a chick twice her size at school and win the face-off.
“Well, I don't feel sorry for you, Trevor. I don't feel sorry for you one bit, and I'm sick of everyone in this family treating you as if you're some fragile doll that's going to crack if we do or say the wrong thing.”
My mom stepped between us. “Taylor and Trevor, please.”
“No,” Taylor spat. “He doesn't get to shit on us just because he feels sorry for himself, and you don't get to expect me to treat him like he's going to fall apart if I say seizure or epi-effing-lepsy.” She held the keys up in the air, taunting me, and then shoved them in her pocket. “So you had a seizure? So what? Is the world supposed to stop spinning? Am I not allowed to enjoy my goddamn waffles and strawberries?”
“Taylor!” My mom's voice reached that pitch, that critical point where I knew she was going to either explode or break down. “Language.”
“See?” Taylor said shrilly. “You yell at me for swearing but Trevor gets a pass? Maybe I should get into a car with some drunk loser and maybe I should end up in a ditch somewhere with a major TBI so that I can swear and stay out late and do whatever the hell I want.”
The waves inside me? Yeah, they were crashing hard, and I knew bad shit was going to happen unless I got the hell out of there.
I yanked around and headed for the front door, ignoring my mother's pleas and my sister's shrill screams. Her meltdown was going to be epic. I suppose it was a good thing that my dad had already left for his repair shop, because I was pretty damn sure heads would have rolled.
I ran out the front door and didn't stop running for twenty minutes, and by that time, I found myself at Baker's Landing, which was a nice piece of property owned by my buddy Nate's grandparents. Chest heaving, I slid down near the edge of the large pond and then fell back, arms crossed over my face to block out the sun. My knee was throbbing, I was thirsty as hell, and, well, just plain old pissed off.
I don't know how long I lay there, but I do know that when I realized I wasn't alone anymore, I was still in a bad mood.
A shadow crossed my face, and I sat up slowly, glancing to the side.
It was Everly.
I didn't answer, but I did move over a bit when she plopped down beside me. For a long time, the two of us stared out at the water, watching the swans who'd called this place home for years glide across the pristine surface.
“It's pretty out here,” she said. “I have a place I like to go to, to just chill and think. The old mill, but it's not nearly as nice as this.”
“How did you know where I was?” I asked, ignoring her attempt at conversation. She picked at the grass, which made me notice her dress. Which made me notice all that smooth skin, because the dress was definitely on the short side. And here I thought church girls always dressed like old ladies.
“Your mom told me you might be here. She said that when you got upset, you liked to come to this place.”
“Yeah, well, my mom should just keep her mouth shut,” I retorted angrily.
“Really?” Everly asked. “She's your mom. She's supposed to be up in your business.”
“Whatever,” I muttered. “I'm sick of it. All of it. The doctors who keep telling me things are looking up and then bam, a seizure. I'm sick of how scared my parents are every time I leave the house. How my dad likes to pretend that things are the way they were before when they're not. Nothing is ever going to be the same again. I'll never be the same again.”
I had to stop talking, because I could barely catch my breath. The anger inside me was leveling off, but it left me jumpy.
Silence filled the space between us, and then she spoke softly. “Are you okay?”
“You're joking, right?” I asked, a nasty tone to my voice.
Everly shook her head. “No.” Her voice lowered. “No, I'm not.”
“Everly, I'm so far from all right that I wouldn't recognize it if it came up to me and said hello.” I paused, frowning. “I was almost there. I thought there was a chance, you know?” I sighed. “But now I'm the guy who had a seizure in the library.”
I glanced up and found her dark blue eyes settled on me. I wanted to look away, because this girl was freaking me out a little. It felt as if she could see inside me, and with all the crap going on in my world, there was a lot of stuff I didn't want anyone to know.
I yanked on some more grass and tossed a handful into the air, feeling more of the anger leave me as the blades fell back to the ground. “I like to go to the football field and watch the cheerleaders practice too.”
“Excuse me?” she asked.
“When I don't come here. Sometimes I'd rather watch a bunch of girls jumping around than a pack of swans swimming across the lake.”
A hint of a smile twisted the corner of her mouth, and for the first time today, I felt a little bit of lightness.
“She did say that as well, but I was pretty sure you were here.”
“Oh yeah? Why is that?”
“Because school's out and there is no cheerleading practice.”
Right. I didn't answer but focused on the swans.
“About Thursday,” she said softly.
“I don't want to talk about it.”
“Okay. But we're still going to study, right? I'll see you on Monday?”
I shrugged. At the moment I didn't want to do anything but stare across the water and wallow in being a lame and sorry ass. A few more moments of silence passed, and I began to think about what had just happened. And with those thoughts came a bit of shame.
“I guess you're probably not used to the kind of scene you just saw at my house.” I watched her closely, trying to gauge her reaction. She tucked a long piece of hair behind her ear and chewed on her lower lip for a few seconds. I'd noticed it before, but man, the girl had a nice mouth.
“You'd be surprised,” she whispered.
“Really?” I somehow doubted that. The Jenkinses were the poster family for Pleasantville, USA.
“Really,” she repeated, turning fully so that she was facing me. She was inches away, and that sweet summer smell was all over me. I had to give Everly props for making me totally forget the reason I was out here in the first place, because right now, in this moment, all I could think about was how soft her mouth looked.