Chapter 24 | The First Cut is the Deepest
“So when the gentlemen said hot chocolate, that triggered you?” Lori asks kindly as I stare out into open space.
“Would you like to tell me why that is?” She asks again, her attention never leaving me.
“Jeremy.” I simply respond.
“What about Jeremy?”
“The first time he ever came onto me, he made us hot chocolate.” I explain in few words. I thought I was ready to talk more about this, in fact before I got here I was excited to finally let my thoughts and emotions out. Sitting here now though, that isn’t the case at all.
I watch from my peripheral vision as Lori nods. “So when the gentlemen from the other night said hot chocolate, Jeremy’s face came to mind?”
I nod again.
“Well that makes perfect sense.”
I finally bring my gaze to the gentle woman sitting before me.
“Perfect sense?” I furrow my brows.
“Precisely. Whenever we experience a traumatic event, our bodies link specific words or memories of that event with things we may face later on after the fact. The hot chocolate Jeremy gave you during that first encounter seems to have placed itself into your brain as a trigger. It can happen with words, or with people. Anything can trigger you, if your brain recognizes it as something to link to Jeremy.” Lori explains calmly.
I blink at her. “So I can never hear the words hot chocolate again?”
“No, not necessarily. Eventually, as your body begins to heal emotionally, your triggers will come less and less until they aren’t there anymore. Now, I’m not saying you’ll never have another panic attack again in your life, because that isn’t the case either. Some victims can go years without experiencing a trigger, and then all of a sudden it happens. There’s really no way to predict how you will react later on in life. That’s a journey you’ll have to take and figure out by yourself.”
“So basically it’s just a day by day type of thing?” I question, trying so hard to understand everything Lori is telling me.
She nods with a small smile. “Exactly.”
I think I’m starting to get all of this.
“You’re a long way away from where you want to be, but I believe in my heart that you’ll get there. You possess a sense of strength, the same strength I saw in your mother.”
My gaze falls on Lori once more as a proud smile finally reaches my lips.
“Is there anything else you wanted to discuss for this session?” Lori asks.
“Well, it’s about Liam.” I reply.
Lori nods for me to continue.
“He says he’s fine and that he’ll talk to me if he needs to, but should I suggest him coming here to talk to you?”
“I’m afraid that’s a decision you’ll have to make on your own, Dallas. Your brother may not be ready to take this step. He should figure that out for himself. I don’t see any harm in suggesting it, but I urge you not to pressure him, as it could potentially drive him further away.”
I nod. “Noted.”
“I’d actually love to meet this brother of yours. You speak so highly of him.” Lori smiles.
“He’s my other half, quite literally.” I laugh, referencing the fact that we’re twins.
“Well, if he’s anything like you, I’m sure he will figure everything out that he needs to when he’s ready.”
The clock on Lori’s wall goes off, gracing me with the presence of the small wooden bird that I’ve grown to adore.
“Will I see you next week?” She asks while standing up.
“Of course.” I nod, leaning over to give her a hug.
It takes us both by surprise, but eventually she returns it, a small smile on her face that mirrors my own.
“See ya next week!” I shout over my shoulder as I leave.
As I’m walking down the empty hallway, my phone buzzes with a new text.
Ethan: I’m so sorry babe, but my mom had to pick me up. I’ll call you later. I left your car keys with the woman at the front desk. Love you.
I sigh, but accept it. As I near the front desk, I see the young girl sitting behind it.
“Hey, sorry, my boyfriend said he left my car keys with you?”
She looks up at me, almost as if she’s grading me, and then shrugs. She reaches in one of her many drawers, and eventually pulls out the keys to my jeep. She hands them over to me, but before I take them, she smirks.
“I’m surprised you found someone to stick around.”
“Excuse me?” I raise an eyebrow, because I don’t believe I heard her correctly.
“Nevermind, enjoy your night.” She gives a fake smile, and I almost want to challenge her.
I just simply do not have the energy to. My sessions with Lori sure take a lot out of me, a lot more than I thought they would. I guess that’s the point though, to tire out your bad emotions, so you have more space for the good ones.
As I’m driving home, I decide to stop by Ethan’s house, just to see if everything is okay. I could’ve just texted him and asked him, but I’m more of a face to face kind of gal.
As I walk up the steps to his home, I hear shouting from inside.
Uh oh, this is a bad time.
Just as I turn to leave, the front door whips open and out storms my angry boyfriend.
I stop dead in my tracks and slowly turn around to face him.
“Dallas? Babe what’s up?” He asks, almost startled to see me.
“Well-,” I begin, a sad smile on my face, “I wanted to check in and see if everything was alright, but I uh, heard the yelling so decided now wasn’t the best time.”
Suddenly Ethan is taking two giant steps toward me and is pulling me into his chest as his arms make their way around my body.
“How did things go with Lori?” He asks gently.
“Fine, today actually helped a lot.” I nod against his hard frame. He finally pulls back and plants a heavy kiss on my lips.
“Mind telling me what happened in there?” I glance toward his house.
“Just a fight with my mom.” He shrugs.
“About?” I press.
Ethan sighs before walking me back to the steps of his porch. I sit down with him, as he wraps his one arm around my shoulders.
“Jeremy called,” He begins, and my body tenses. “He wants me to come for my visit this month.”
“It wasn’t that long ago you were just there.” I defend.
“That’s what I said, but he called my parents and actually told them that I made a deal with him. So now they know that I went to see him without their permission, and that I made a deal with him in order for us to be able to stay here. I knew he would tell them, the fucking bastard.” Ethan rants.
I squeeze his knee for comfort. “We have exams this week though, can’t he wait until after? We’ve all got enough on our plates right now.”
“I tried, but my mom is forcing me to go tomorrow after school. I still have two classes I haven’t even begun studying for yet.” He sighs heavily.
“I can help you study babe.” I offer. “You can join me and Lex. We have a system.”
Ethan smiles at me, and kisses the top of my head affectionately.
“How about after I drive to you know who, I come straight to your place?” He offers.
“Well, I’ll be with Lex at her place. If you don’t want to go alone, I’ll take the ride with you.”
Ethan stares at me, and I myself can’t believe the words that I just said.
“You can’t be serious. I’m not letting you get within feet of that place.” Ethan shakes his head.
“I’m not saying I would go inside or anything. I will die before I ever see his face again. I just meant take the drive with you, and wait in the car while you go inside.” I explain better.
“I don’t know, it doesn’t sound like a good idea Dallas.”
I know Ethan is serious, as using my full name tells me so.
“It’ll be fine.”
“Liam will never let you go and I’m pretty sure your father would strangle me before allowing me to take you there.”
“I’ll handle them. I don’t want you to go alone.” I demand.
Ethan sighs again, a habit when dating me, but eventually he nods. “Alright, but only if you’re sure. I don’t want you around him at all.”
“I know. It’ll be fine.” I nod again, leaning further into his side.
We stay that way for a while, until Ethan’s mom comes outside and tells Ethan he has to go inside for dinner. I try to greet Mrs. Hart, but she dismisses me.
Clearly, she’s still upset about me sending her precious son to prison.
Ethan gives me a kiss before going back inside. I get back into my jeep and head down the street to my place.
“Hey ugly, how’d you get home?” I greet Liam who’s lounging on the couch in the living room.
He eyes me with a glare, before a smirk sneaks its way onto his face.
“What’s a Claire?” I raise an eyebrow.
“The fiery redhead from the other day. She gave me a ride home after she rode me herself.” He wiggles his eyebrows.
I fake a gag. “You literally disgust me.”
“Love you too. How was therapy?” He laughs.
“It was good. I mentioned you to her, she says she’d love to meet you.” I test the waters.
“Is she hot?”
I give my brother an incredulous look before sighing. “She’s like dad’s age if not a little older. Please stop.”
“I know what you’re doing Dal, and I’m fine. I don’t need to see a therapist.” Liam shakes his head.
“Alright, alright. Forget I said anything. By the way, I’m going toridewithethantomorrowtotheprison…” I rush out without skipping a beat.
Liam looks at me with his puzzled expression, before the words finally begin to sink into his brain.
“I technically don’t need your permission.” I challenge.
“Yes the fuck you do and you need dads. There’s no way in hell.” Liam shakes his head.
“I’m not going inside at all, I’ll just be sitting in the car until Ethan is done!” I whine like a toddler.
Ethan told Liam all about his visit with Jeremy. Liam wasn’t happy in the least, and told him he didn’t want to hear about Jeremy anymore. Ethan told him about his scheduled visits, and Liam only told him good luck after dropping the subject all together.
“I don’t give a rat’s ass what you do, but you’re not going to that damn prison!” Liam shouts, and this is the first time he’s ever truly yelled at me and meant it.
I step back in shock, soon after a frown gracing my lips.
“You’re not the boss of me.” I press my luck, knowing how angry Liam already is.
“For Christ sake Dallas! YOU’RE NOT FUCKING GOING!” He yells again, and something inside of my head spins. In an instant, I’m cowering backward, my hands going up to cover my ears. I suddenly feel scared of the person standing before me, of my own brother.
I don’t know if this is another episode caused by my PTSD, but I find my feet rushing me up the stairs before I have time to think about it further.
In my daze, I swear I hear Liam curse under his breath.
Once I’m inside my room, the door locked, I fall to my feet and sit on the floor leaning against my bedroom door.
I take in some deep breaths, remembering the breathing techniques Lori explained to me.
I count to seven in my head, never reaching eight before there’s a knock at my door, startling me.
My eyes snap open, and I crawl away from the door and up onto my bed.
“Dallas, fuck, I’m sorry.” I hear Liam from behind the door. I don’t move. I don’t respond.
“At least let me know that you’re okay.” He says just loud enough for me to hear him.
“Go. Away.” I manage to get out in between shaky breaths.
“Please open the door.”
Frustrated, I grab my book from my bedside table and chuck it at the door. The loud bang rings in my ears for a few seconds, before I hear Liam walking back down the stairs.
I hate this. I hate not having control of my body or my emotions.
Tears are rolling down my face as I suddenly feel the urge to throw up. I rush to my bathroom and lock myself inside.
After emptying the contents of my stomach out into the porcelain bowl, I slowly walk over in front of my bathroom mirror and stare at myself.
My eyeliner is smudged and my cheeks are stained with warm tears. I sniff back some snot, as my nose is suddenly runny. Disgusted, I grab some toilet paper and blow my nose.
After a while, enjoying the pure silence, I glance at my medicine cabinet.
I open it up, in the search for some Tylenol, but instead my eyes notice something shiny.
I shake my head. No.
I’m not going there. I’m not reaching that point of destruction, not after all the progress I’ve made.
I focus on the Tylenol, snatching the bottle and downing two tablets. I use the small cup on my sink to wash the pills down with tap water.
After I place the cap onto the pill bottle, my eyes blur with fresh tears. I blink until the water falls down my cheeks again, and in a small fit of rage, I throw the bottle of Tylenol at my mirror. The bottle ricochets off the mirror, finally landing on the tile floor below.
Without thinking, I reach for the small shiny object just inside of my medicine cabinet.
I hold it delicately in my fingertips.
I glance at my wrist, but shake my head. Too obvious of a place.
After a while, I unbutton my jeans and slide them down, exposing my bare thigh.
With shaky hands, I bring the blade to my skin, resting it ever so softly against the surface. Tears threaten to shield my vision all together, so I use my free hand to furiously wipe them from my face.
Don’t do this Dallas. It’s not worth it! A part of my brain shouts.
You won’t be able to take it back. Another part of my brain says.
Do it. Release all your pain. A small part only whispers.
However, the whisper seems to be the only thing I hear.
Very carefully, I drag the piercing blade along my skin, using more pressure as each second passes by.
I’m holding my breath as I do so, and when I’ve finally made a cut long enough, a deep sigh escapes me as I let my breath go.
The crimson liquid begins to leak down my leg, as a small smile makes its way to my lips.
This is cynical. This is wrong. This is so wrong, and yet, I feel better.
How can that be? How can I feel better?
As I watch the blood run down my leg, I relish in the fact that this is a pain I can control. That this is a pain I can handle on my own, without any help from anyone else.
It almost feels good.
More tears fall from my eyes, but I can’t tell if they’re because I’m relieved or sad.
As hard as this is to accept, I just may have found the one thing that can truly help me cope.
Who can do this? Who can take such pleasure in pain?
I know I’m not suicidal. I know I don’t want to die. But suddenly, death no longer scares me in the way that it did before. Watching my mother die was the hardest thing I ever had to do, and the scariest.
But suddenly a few things start to make sense to me.
When my mother died, she was no longer sick, no longer suffering.
She found peace. She found an afterlife where she was no longer in any pain.
I know I don’t want to die, but I also can’t continue living like this. I don’t want to live in fear. I don’t want to watch my back everytime I go anywhere alone. I don’t want to depend on other people for my own sense of safety. I shouldn’t need to constantly be around other people just to feel safe.
A sob escapes my lips, a true sob.
Realization hits me like a ton of bricks.
I’m drowning in my own fear, in my own life. Suddenly, I’m wishing for a world in which I’m no longer scared, in fact, I’m pleading for it.
I’m praying to everything I can to make this world a better one, because in all honesty, death never sounded so fucking peaceful.