Opening the window in Brandon’s room, I climb out and carefully make my way down the shingles as I used to when I was insane. I get on my knees at the edge, turn around, inch off until my lower half is dangling then drop down onto the front lawn. Hitting the ground and falling onto my butt—I swear that the ground has gotten harder since last year. Getting up, I walk off down the street like a person who has escaped a psychiatric hospital. Was sneaking out through the window necessary? I just couldn’t face the awkward goodbyes that would occur if I let through the front door like a normal person.
I can’t stay at Jonas’ house because of Brandon, I can’t go home because of my mother, so the only other place I have left to run to is Lauren’s. She screwed me over royally, but who am I to act like a victim? We work so well as friends because we’re both slowly losing our minds.
Her house is a few minutes walk from Jonas’, and seeing the fancy beach house again brings back horrid memories. I wander up the path in Jonas’ grey sweatpants and shirt, completely lost, maybe the most lost I’ve ever been. It’s not night, she should be here. If it were night she’d be out until morning, never answering the phone, hardly able to speak full sentences. I knock on the door with hardly enough spirit to do it again.
As I’m drifting off, the door opens and she appears like some bender angel. “Emma? Hey, y-you didn’t answer my texts. Are you okay? You look—”
“Can I stay here for a little? Everything’s kinda falling apart.”
She welcomes me in and closes the door behind me. My eyes take in the sleek wood floors and creamy walls and expensive leather furniture like I once did three years ago. Back then her parents would be lounging around. “Are you alone?”
“You know I don’t know where the hell my parents are. If I had to guess, probably in Boston. They like the vacation house over there. They like going to the cape.”
I spin around and stare at her apologetic face. “Let’s just be cool, okay?”
“Really? You aren’t mad about...Milo?”
I shake my head, also shaking off the anger that flooded my head whenever I merely thought of her. “Who cares,” I murmur. “Let’s party tonight, like we used to, okay?”
“What? I thought you were over all that? What about Brandon?”
I shrug, crashing down on the white couch held up by pins. Each time I wonder how it doesn’t break, how those thin poles don’t snap. Everything in here looks like it defies physics.
“Did you guys break up?”
“Were we ever together?”
Lauren stands before me as I gaze mindlessly at the ceiling. “Are you drunk?”
“I was. Brandon killed my buzz. Do you have anything to drink? Who am I kidding, of course you do,” I mutter getting up and nearing the notorious alcohol cabinet that sits with us in the living room. Set on top of it is crystal glasses and a crystal bottle with what I’m assuming is scotch or bourbon swimming in it. I pop off the crystal cork and pour myself a bit, drink, then pour myself some more. Scotch. “You’ve been working at this, haven’t you?” I hold up the bottle and swirl around the eighth that’s left.
“Emma, you changed. You don’t do this shit anymore. You’re going to regret it.”
“Come on, drop the mom act, have a drink, invite some people over—Jonas, okay; Brandon, no. Invite Austin over, get in his pants, have fun. Come on, just like we used to. Remember last year,” I float over to her, “remember those crazy nights that never ended. Remember running out into the ocean and feeling like we’d never come back. Nothing matters, Lauren. Life is pointless, so let’s get fucked up, let dance and screw around and forget where we even are.”
I bring my glass up to her lips and pour the scotch into her mouth like a mother feeds her baby. When it’s all gone, I wipe the stray drips from her lips and smile. “Okay,” she whispers.
* * *
My eyes open, there’s someone in front of me. It’s Austin. He’s drinking something from a crystal glass and I stumble toward him. He catches me, straightens me up. “Where am I?”
“Someone’s rolling,” he murmurs to me softly.
“I-I don’t even remember anything,” I say then laugh. He laughs too. I jolt up when Lauren springs to my side.
“Austin, can we talk? I need to talk to you,” she says, pushing past me.
I walk off to the side, seeing people everywhere. The room is spinning, I’m waving in and out, in and out of my body. It’s like a movie. Every blink is like nighttime until I’m outside and everything is nighttime. I see Kaden standing by the pool. The pool is glowing. The pool is—
“Emma?” Kaden says as I join him and Preston. I take a breath then look up at his face for a little too long.
“What day is it?”
Preston says, “Uh, Thursday?”
Losing my train of thought, I suddenly wonder, “Where’s my phone? I-I need to call my Mom.”
Turning around I watch as Lauren hurries toward me then steals me away, pulling me back into the house and into her bedroom. “What is it? What...”
She shuts the door and locks it after flinging me inside. “I told Austin how I feel.”
“Oh, well, what did he say?”
“He said he had no idea,” she elaborates, sitting with me on her flowery bedding. “He didn’t say he feels the same way, though. But he didn’t say that he doesn’t. What does that mean? Is he just avoiding having to turn me down? Did he really have no idea? Am I just an idiot?”
Dizzy, I lay back and rub my eyes. “I-I don’t know. I can’t think right now.”
"Emma, you have to help me.”
“Is Brandon here?”
“No, you told me not to invite him, remember?”
Groaning, I ask, “Well, is Jonas?”
“No, he said that Brandon and he were going down to the boulders. Brandon’s never been, so.”
Forcing myself up, I say, “We should go.”
“What? Why? The party’s here.”
“I-I wanna go. Come on. I haven’t been, this summer.”
“What about Austin?”
“Screw Austin. There’s better guys out there, ones that will feel the...”
* * *
Rolling over, I squeeze my eyes and bury them into the softness beneath me. Finally opening them, I discover that I’m still in Lauren’s room. Not remembering falling asleep, I look around for her, then leave the room. It’s morning. Friday? I think?
“Lauren?” I croak into the disaster that is her living room. Cups everywhere, empty bottles and food wrappers. Looking through to the kitchen, I see a collection of open alcohol bottles that weren’t here last night.
Peering into the backyard, I find a few people sitting by the pool. I’m relieved when I spot Lauren and also Preston. She brightens up when she notices me coming through the back door.
“Hey, come here! Come join us!”
“What happened?” I ask, walking over, my head igniting from the harsh light of the sun. I shade it away with my hand, feeling like the person I used to be.
“What do you mean? Do you not remember last night?”
“I just remember talking in your room about you know what.”
Lauren let’s out a laugh. “Emma, that was Thursday. It’s Saturday.”
“What? Really? What happened last night?”
“You went hard. It’s the craziest I’ve ever seen you. I actually had to stop you from going over to Jonas’ and embarrassing yourself. You’re welcome for that.” She seems satisfied with all that’s happened. “Do you not remember waking up yesterday morning? You walked down to Roasted by the beach and got coffee.”
“I-I thought I dreamt that. Uh, where’s my phone?”
“I put it under your pillow so it wouldn’t get lost or stolen or something.”
Returning back to her room, I lift up the pillows but don’t find it. While searching the sheets and around the bed, I spot it under the bed a little, tucked just out of view. It’s dead. I shrug on one of Lauren’s hoodies from her closet and stuff the device in the pocket, zipping it all the way up to cover her grey dress that I somehow got into between Thursday night and this morning. Leaving the house, I don’t bother saying goodbye. I head home, walking in the middle of the street, looking like someone who’s been through the apocalypse. I feel like I’ve been through some mental apocalypse. Everything inside of me was destroyed and now all I can do is recover and rebuild.
Wandering up to the front door, I open it and see my mother and Aunt Wendy sitting in the living room with the T.V. on.
“Where have you been?” My mother questions immediately, standing up and staring me down.
I close the door and lean against it. “At Lauren’s.”
“Why haven’t you answered your phone? We’ve been worried sick. After last year, God Emma, I thought you were dead somewhere. Thank God Brandon came over to see where you were—he tracked you down and told us that you were still alive. Do you know how irresponsible that makes me look? You’re eighteen, Emma, why are you acting like a child? You told me you were done with all of that! We wouldn’t have come back here if I knew you were going to do the same things!”
Overwhelmed, I slip back out the door and rush to the street. My mother is quick to come after me, running down the pathway. “Emma! Emma, get back here! Get back here or I’m calling the police!”
Not looking back, I run around the corner and between two houses, reaching the water. Feeling hidden enough, I slow down and walk along the beach for a while, my dead phone still dead in my pocket. I wish it was alive so I could see if Brandon called or texted these past few days. He did. I know he did. He came looking for me. Did he see me? He told my mother that I am still alive, so did he come to Lauren’s and see me all messed up? God, I’ve ruined that then, haven’t I?
The beach comes to a brief end, so I sit down in the sand at the end of it, right at the large rocks and boulders that lift up to the street. Crossed-legged and hungry, I bury my fingers in the sand and pull up a shard of a shell. Rubbing away the sand between my fingers, a whiteness is revealed and I throw it into the ocean. I pick up more and chuck them into the water too.
This feels like the end of the movie. I’m supposed to be happy, everything is supposed to be resolved, but instead, I’m worse than I’ve ever been. Brandon is likely done with me, Sally has probably fired me, my Dad is gone and my Mother hates me, I have no friends, not even anyone who just likes me. I’ve managed to turn one problem into a massive hurricane that wrecks its way through all of my relationships. Just because Dad left, doesn’t mean that everyone else had to too, but I made them, didn’t I? Supposedly, it’s what I’m best at.
Glancing down at my sandy hands, I wonder, what now?
What am I supposed to do now?