Chapter Twenty Three
Where the hell am I?
This piercing, bright light is making my head hurt like hell. I blink a couple of times to get adjusted to my surroundings before a bunch of doctors pop their heads up in front of me.
I’m still on my back. I can see them running the stretcher down a long, narrow hallway. Where is Mia? Is she okay? Why do they look so concerned?
“Hang in there,” One of the doctors tells me. “You’re going to be just fine, kid.”
What’s wrong with me? Nothing hurts except for my head. I don’t understand why they’re running so quickly with me. I go to move my head but it’s being held still by some contraption. Oh god. Am I dying?
My eyes dart side to side, my breaths becoming harder and harder to take. I’m having an anxiety attack I think. Is that what this is?
“More morphine.” The doctor says.
Wait, no. I need to see if Mia is okay.
Why can’t I talk?
“I think he’s waking up.”
The same damn blinding light enters into my eyes, causing me to squint and blink even more. As soon as I can finally open them I see my parents and Dion in the room surrounding me. I’ve never been so relieved to see some familiar faces.
I grasp my stomach and groan, relaxing back more into the bed.
“Honey, don’t move.” My mom is crying as she instructs my dad to go and get a nurse. “You were in an accident but you’re going to be okay.”
“Mia?” I finally ask.
The room grows quieter, just the beeping on the machines echoing into my ears. The pit that’s been sitting in my stomach grows more, the pain becoming stronger. Please don’t tell me she’s gone.
“You had a cut on your side that they had to stitch up and a couple broken ribs.” My mom starts to ramble, trying to avoid the question. “The doctor says you should be able to go home in a couple of-”
“Mia?” I repeat again. I can’t seem to say anything more than that. She’s the only thing I’m worried about right now. I could give a damn about the state I’m in. I’m the idiot that decided to drive intoxicated.
My mom starts to cry, and eventually she excuses herself from the room to leave Dion and I by ourselves. I’ve never seen him get emotional, ever, but he swipes underneath his eye and clears his throat before he looks at me again.
“She didn’t make it, did she?” I choke out.
I know he’ll tell me the truth.
“Uh, no.” He lets out a huge sigh. “She didn’t. I’m sorry man.”
I’ve never felt this much pain. The type of pain that doesn’t allow you to do anything at all. I can’t cry. I can’t scream. I can’t do anything. All I can do is sit here and take it as it eats away at every inch of my being.
“Xavier, you can’t blame this all on yourself. I know that you may want to, but-”
“Can you just go please?” I say lowly. “Tell my parents to go home too. I need to be alone.”
“Are you crazy? We’re not going anywhere, Xavier. You were just in a major accident.”
I look up at him and I can tell he can see the hurt radiating off of my eyes. I want to cry so badly. I want to sob until I can’t breathe, but my body remains numb.
“I’m not going anywhere.” He repeats.
I jolt awake to Elena’s voice. She’s standing over my bed with a horrified expression on her face. My heart is racing, my palms are sweating and tears are stained on my cheeks.
“Jesus, are you okay?” She asks.
I regain my breaths after a couple of seconds and slowly nod my head. I didn’t get much sleep last night and that nightmare certainly didn’t help. I always have them. I’m not sure if they’ll ever go away.
“Was it about...?”
“I get them too.” She says quietly and sits beside me. I’m not sure what time it is, but sunlight is sinking in through the window so it’s more than likely time to get up for the day.
I don’t want to talk about it so I get out of bed and grab some things from my dresser before I turn to look at her. “I’m gonna grab a shower. Did you want to take one first?”
Before she can reply, my phone starts buzzing on my nightstand. Elena passes it over to me, Dion’s name popping up on the screen.
“Hey.” I press the phone between my ear and shoulder while I grab the toiletry stuff from my suitcase. “You in New York yet?”
“Yeah, man! I’m so stoked you guys are here too. Do you want to meet at Joe’s Hots for lunch?”
I glance back towards Elena and then focus back on my phone. “Yeah.” I agree. “That sounds cool.”
“So what exactly is this again?” Elena scrunches her nose up at the plate of food as she analyzes it, Dion and I letting out a laugh.
“It’s a garbage plate.” I explain.
“Very fitting.” She replies with humor and picks up a fork.
“You can’t come to Rochester and not try a garbage plate. It looks disgusting, but it’s honestly so good. Why would we be known for this if it wasn’t good?”
She looks at the plate filled with macaroni salad and french fries that are topped with burger, onion, ketchup, mustard, chili and hot dogs and picks up a forkful. When she puts the fork into her mouth, she lets the food swirl around on her tongue before she nods in agreement and gets a smile. “Okay.” She nods, picking up another forkful. “You’re right. It’s good.”
“Well, now you know she’s a keeper.” Dion chuckles. “She passed the garbage plate test.”
I don’t correct him and say that we aren’t together. I like when he says it, and I can tell that Elena does too.
“How’s Amelia?” Elena asks to change the subject. “I haven’t talked to her in a few days.”
I take a forkful of the garbage plate while Dion tells her about Amelia’s stressful time traveling back home to be with her family. I guess she had a shitty time getting to her destination as well. I almost laugh when I picture Elena’s irritated face on the plane when that kid wouldn’t let up.
“I’m glad the two of you got together.” She finally says. “You’re good for her.”
“Thanks.” He smirks. “I’m pretty sure your mom is wanting me to come over for dinner tonight. When I was waiting for you guys to come outside she came out and practically threatened me with meatloaf.”
“Sorry.” I laugh. “She’s just way too excited that all of us are here.”
Elena has her mouth loaded with food as she does a little dance with her hips from how good it is. It’s distracting how good her jeans look on her right now. I almost laughed when she came out wearing two layers of shirts, mittens, a winter coat and a knitted beanie, but she looks so good right now. Her cheeks and nose are a rosy pink from the cold, and her jeans are just hugging her hips in a way that’s driving me crazy.
I’m trying to forget about yesterday morning, but no matter what I do I just keep remembering how good she felt. I want that to happen way more often, but I’m not sure where she’s at with everything. She hasn’t had sex in almost a year. I mean, sure, we’ve done other stuff, but she’s handled that extremely well. Who knows when she’ll want to move to that point. I’ll wait until she does though.
“Xav?” Elena waves her hand in front of my face, bringing me back to reality. “Come on, we’re leaving.”
“Oh, yeah. Sorry.” I grab our trash from the table to throw it out before we head back to Dion’s jeep.
When we got back to the house we all decided to watch a movie until Elena volunteered to help my mom with the meatloaf, leaving the movie choice up to Dion and I. Even with the action scene unfolding on the huge screen in front of me, all I can do is try to listen in on what my mom and her are talking about.
“So, what do your parents do?” I hear my mom ask.
My body immediately stiffens.
It takes a couple of seconds before Elena finally says, “Um, I actually was in foster care most of my life. I don’t know what my parents did, really.”
“Oh, wow. Honey, I’m so sorry... I just... I just thought...” My mom tries to backtrack until Elena giggles slightly.
“It’s okay. You didn’t know. I’m pretty used to people asking about them. It’s a common question.”
My dad is typing away at the kitchen table on his laptop. He’s probably making the schedule for the upcoming week. He always used to do that on Sunday nights. It bothered me because in my opinion Sunday was supposed to be a family day. It’s not like being a grocery store manager was that pressing. People could probably wait until Monday for him to do the schedule, or, better yet, he could have done it on Saturday instead. Then again, family day got thrown out the door two years ago, so what does it matter if it’s done on Sunday?
“Oh, shoot.” My mom sighs. I sit up on the couch so I can turn to look at her. “I forgot the onions. I can’t make this without them.”
“I can go get them.” I volunteer. “I’ll just take one of your cars.”
“You’re going to drive?” She asks. “Are you sure?”
“Not mine.” My dad says, causing the room to fall silent. “He can take yours if he wants.”
Elena is giving me a look of sympathy as my father’s eyes don’t even lift from the laptop. I thought this would be a good thing by me offering to drive, but just when I think I have the confidence to do it he has to say something to shoot me down like he always does. I’m never going to be able to move on if I’m around him.
“Why can’t I take your truck?” I find myself asking, my voice thick with annoyance. “What’s the problem if I do?”
My mom is rummaging through her purse and rushes over to me to give me the keys to her car. She’s always trying to defuse the tension between us, but when the hell is everything that happened ever going to be discussed?
I keep hearing Elena’s voice in the back of my mind and what the people had to say at the therapy group. I have to confront my demons. I can’t just keep bottling up all of this anger and sadness that I have. Not anymore.
“Honey, just take my car.” She says and places her keys in my hands. “It’s fine, just go.”
“No.” I tell her, which surprises her I think because her eyes grow wide. “I want to hear what dad has to say. Why can’t I drive your truck?”
Now Dion rises to his feet and walks over to me, placing his hands on my shoulders. “Come on.” He urges. “I’ll just drive us.”
“NO!” I explode. My dad still isn’t answering me and it’s making me grow angrier with the seconds that continue to pass by with silence from him. “I want to know why he won’t let me drive his damn truck! I used to drive it all the time! What the hell is the reasoning now? Huh?”
“Jesus, Xavier!” My father slams the laptop closed, screeching the chair back on the hardwood floor so he can stand up. “I’m not letting you drive the fucking truck because I don’t want you to kill another goddamn person!” He spits, pointing in my direction. “Is that what you want to hear? Is that what you wanted me to say?”
“Steven!” My mom gasps in horror.
The tears prick in the back of my eyes from anger, heat rising up my neck as I try to get myself not to cry in front of all of them. This is what I’ve been dreading to hear from him for years. I knew this was how he really felt.
“Yeah.” I finally manage to say, my voice cracking slightly. “Yeah, it was.”
I need to be anywhere but here. That frequent urge I feel to blame myself and let the demons take over begins to seep in, my breathing becoming shaky as I attempt to calm myself down. It isn’t working though.
Elena doesn’t know what to say. Neither does Dion. They’re all just staring at the two of us as they wait to see what else is going to unfold.
Turning towards the door, I grab my coat and mittens that were hung on the coat rack from earlier, my mom immediately starting to cry.
“Honey.” She pleads. “Don’t leave. Not like this.”
“Xavier.” Dion says sternly, but it doesn’t phase me. “Come on, man. It’s fine. Let’s just relax.”
I don’t listen to them and walk out into the freezing cold, still holding onto my mother’s keys. I haven’t driven since it happened. Well, I tried to once, but I had an anxiety attack and had to pull over on the side of the highway. It wasn’t a good experience.
“Xav.” Elena quickly walks over towards me as I’m about to get in the car and wraps me in a hug. “I’m so sorry that happened.”
I breathe in her scent as I pull her closer to me, my anger diminishing slightly. I still have tears just dying to spill out. Especially when it comes to her. I know she can see right through me, so it wouldn’t take much for them to flow like a river.
“I know they’re all pissed, but I just have to have some time to myself. It’s too much, you know?”
“I know.” She nods. “I just came out to see if you’ll tell me where you’re going. Not to try and stop you. I get it.”
Finally I have someone who understands me. Finally I have someone who gets what it’s like when everything just gets to be a little too much. She knows how to handle me. She knows exactly what to do to calm me down.
“I want to go back to where it happened.” I finally tell her. “Confront the demons.”
“Are you sure? You aren’t going to do anything stupid?”
She glances up at me before she looks away, almost as if she’s embarrassed to ask it. I just nod to let her know I’m not going to, taken by surprise when she hugs me closer and nuzzles her head into my chest.
“Be safe, okay?”
“Okay.” I tell her. “I’m going to be fine. I just need to get out of here.”
She finally steps back and allows me to open up the door.
“Xav,” She says quickly, her breath showing up into the air from the cold.
I let my hand rest on the door before I get inside, raising my eyebrows towards her. “Hm?”
“That thing I told you not to say yesterday?” She starts doing that nervous gesture with her hands again. “You aren’t the only one feeling that way.”
I can’t help but smile despite all of the sadness in me. It’s insane how she can make me feel better even when I feel like nothing is going right.
“Okay.” I tell her. “We still aren’t saying it?”
“No.” She smiles shyly and looks down at her socks on the driveway. She has to be freezing. “I just wanted you to know, alright?”
I nod as I watch her walk back into the house and close the door behind her, leaving me with the memories I’ve desperately tried to forget.