chapter 5 || kai
I’m hanging upside down my bed, clutching the silver flask in my hand full of cranberry vodka. I think I’ve been like this for the last hour at least, ever since I came home, but it doesn’t matter anymore.
Honestly, what does matter anymore?
My grades are shit and school doesn’t play a factor anymore seeing how I’m suspended. My best friend of years is dead- more specifically, she chose to be dead -, and well, Ryder is the only thing that is currently constant in my life, but he’s doing pretty shitty too.
So, why can’t I drink myself senseless? I don’t see a reason why I can’t. It’s not like Emma’s here to be the voice of reason anymore.
I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to block out all the noisy thoughts swirling around in my brain. I hear the front door open and slam close, and footsteps making it’s way closer to my door. I don’t open my eyes, wishing whoever it is doesn’t come in.
I just want to be alone.
Moments later, my door swings open, the hinges squeaking. “Kai?” Ryder’s asks, his voice husky. I shoot up, spinning myself so I’m sitting straight up. Fuck what I said earlier about wanting to be alone.
“Ry? Have you been crying?” I question. Ryder’s voice is only husky when he either just woke up from a deep sleep, or when he’s been crying. I study his face; his eyes swollen and puffy and his cheeks flushed. That gives me all the answer I need.
Ryder falls to the ground all of a sudden, curling up into a ball with his face buried in his hands, a sob escaping from his mouth. I snatch the flask that I dropped on my bed and go to him, knowing he’s going to need some liquid support.
If there’s one thing about Ryder, it’s that he doesn’t cry in front of people, not even me. The only time I’ve seen him cry was when we found out what Emma did, but before and after that, never. Crying makes him feel vulnerable.
I silently pass him the flask and wrap my arms around him. “Hey, it’s okay. You’re okay, Ry. You’re okay,” I whisper into his ear. That’s what he would say to me when I broke down crying. He’s always been there to support me, now it’s my turn.
My turn to be the rock.
After what seems like years, Ryder’s breath calms down and becomes even. And somehow, we ended up leaning against the wall next to my bed, with his head rested on my shoulder and my hand placed on his knee.
Ryder reaches to his side, feeling around for the flask, eyes still closed. He takes a long drink from my flask, before pulling it away from his lips and staring at it with disgust, tossing it off to the side.
“What happened?” I ask gently, putting my head on top of his, ignoring his mini outburst that just happened. I need to know - what finally broke the dam?
“Emma,” he replies as if that explains it all. It explains some of it though, seeing how Emma is usually becoming a cause for our breakdowns.
“Ry, talk to me. Please,” I plead. I might keep stuff to myself, but that doesn’t mean he should. Funny how my mind works that way.
He sighs, straightening his body up, sitting up. “After you left, they called me into the fucking counselor’s office, trying to get into my mind. I couldn’t handle it, so I just ditched last period and made my way to the monkey bars. And I broke down. Which lead me to needing an outlet. Which lead me here.” Ryder runs his hand through his dirty blond locks, looking at me, his eyes still red-rimmed.
The monkey bars were his favorite place to go. The monkey bars were located in this middle of the forest thing almost; not fully a forest, but enough trees in the middle of nothingness to be considered a forest. Ryder and I used to go there all the time as kids, it was our hang out spot. Now we have the tree.
Ryder reaches underneath the bed, grabbing the bottle of Jack and the flavored vodka I hid there. He hands me the Jack Daniel’s, taking the vodka for himself.
So the flask must’ve been empty then.
“Sorry I wasn’t there, Ry,” I said, taking a drink from the bottle. I don’t know what else to say. I can’t tell him that there are better ways to cope, not without sounding like a hypocrite. I am truly sorry though. The simple fact is that I wasn’t there for him like he has always been for me, even when it meant risking getting in trouble.
“Not your fault,” he says, looking at the bottle, not meeting my eyes.
We sit in a comfortable silence, the slosh of the liquid moving around inside the bottles being the only thing breaking the quiet.
“Ryder? Kai?” Loud footsteps run up the stairs, waking me up from a sleep that I didn’t know I drifted off to. The door swings open, the hinges squeaking once again before someone runs in.
“Mom?” I ask mid-yawn. I rub my hands over my eyes, trying to rub the sleep away.
Why is my mom home? And why was she calling for us?
“Oh, honey!” Mom exclaims, wrapping her arms around him first. She lets him go and hugs me tightly. I pat her back comfortingly and look over to Ryder who looks just as confused as I feel.
What’s going on?
“Mrs. Steele?” he says, his voice husky. “What’s going on?” Ryder shares a look with me, a sudden panic cross his face.
“Yeah, Mom. What’s happening?” I ask, sitting up straight, stretching my back out.
“Ryder never showed up to last period, so the school called his house, and when Sophia found out that he wasn’t at school, she freaked out and called me. We’ve tried calling you guys, but neither of you picked up,” Mom explains. I look at my phone lying across the room, suddenly remembering that mine was dead. I don’t know about Ryder, but I had a semi-excuse this time.
“It’s not like we haven’t skipped school before, Momma S,” Ryder says, still confused as to why his mom freaked out.
“Before Emma you did.” Mom turned to look at me. “Before you started getting in fights at school.”
Oh yeah. Forgot about that issue.
But she’s right. When Emma was alive, we skipped the last couple periods or so at least once a month. Now that I think about it, it’s been a while. We still ditched, don’t get me wrong, but it was the whole day, and we would always shoot our parents a text at least, letting them know we needed some time to ourselves.
“We were worried you guys were going to do something stupid,” she continues.
You mean kill ourselves as Emma did? I want to ask, but I don’t, although I bet that’s what our moms were thinking. That’s the exact same thing that happened with Emma. She left school- walked right out- and swallowed a bottle of random pills.
And of course, I was the one to find her, laying on my bathroom floor, her lifeless eyes staring back up at me, the empty bottle forgotten on the side.
It was terrifying.
I tried everything. I shoved my fingers down her throat, trying to get her to throw everything up. I called 911. I screamed and begged her to wake up, but nothing. The paramedics declared her dead on the scene.
So I get why she was worried about us. I would be too.
I catch her eyeing the empty bottles beside us, but she doesn’t say anything, which I’m thankful for. I don’t think I could deal with it now.
“I’m going to go call your mom honey,” Mom says, getting up and heading toward the door. She pauses in the doorframe, turning around. “Ryder, you should probably head home. I’m sure your mother would appreciate that.” She gives him a sad smile before walking out of the door.
Ryder and I look at one another, not saying a word.
“I should go,” Ryder whispers, averting his eyes.
I nod in agreement. “Yeah.”
I watch as he gets up, picking his phone up from the ground, looking at the empty bottle of vodka. He scoffs at it as if he’s truly disgusted by it. He walks out the door, and I look at the floor next to me, seeing what both my Mom and Ryder saw.