I couldn’t hold back the sobs in the passenger side of Heath’s Jeep any longer. I bit my lip and clenched my eyes shut painfully. My fist slammed into the side of the door as he pulled up to my house.
Esther leaned forward from the backseat and gave my shoulder a taut squeeze. “It’s okay, girl. Everything will be okay. Don’t stress out.”
“Fuck me, fuck me, fuck me,” I repeated as the realization of the gravity of my injury fell into my lap. The clock in the car blinked 1:47 repeatedly—six hours since my episode. I leaned into the back of the chair as hard as I could, gripping my right leg wrapped in bandages and stabilizing braces to prevent my quad from moving.
Heath parked the car in front of my yard and turned to Esther. “Is it okay if she stays at my place tonight? Your parents aren’t staying home to help her get around, and she obviously needs to have an eye kept on her.”
Esther nodded her head. “Yeah, I was kind of hoping you or your parents could keep an eye on her. Mom hasn’t been in the mood to deal with Devin since she—”
Like a child, I spat, tears streaming down my face, “Don’t talk like I’m not even here.” I sniffled loudly as I found myself punching my right quad. At first, the pain ripped through my leg like a snake through water, but then it felt kind of good. I socked my leg repetitively to the soft beat of Bach’s Bitchin’.
Heath ignored my declaration and grabbed my wrist, pulling it across my body and placing it on the gear shift. “Here, you focus on this when I start driving again.” He turned back to my sister. “I can drive you back to your car at the fields tomorrow if you want.”
My sister waved off the offer. “Don’t worry. Leslie will take me tomorrow.”
“He has Holden, right?”
“Yeah, he’ll bring him to my house tomorrow after we pick-up my car.”
My whole body cramped and ached from the sudden contractions and episodes from that night. Heath said he counted three separate attacks within three hours after I had my first at the field. And, unfortunately, I woke up and tried to fight Heath, which meant grounds for the ambulance and a ride to the ER in a town about an hour away from my home. I gently tapped my forehead against the window, incredulous that I managed to chase away not one but all of my prospective athletic scholarship opportunities because I lied about my medical history. Tearing my quad during my episode on the field for all five of them to see was just the cherry on the sundae.
I screwed myself over to an immeasurable magnitude. I let out a gasp as my shoulders slumped as the sobs came back. My sister rustled my hair before leaving the vehicle, cutting across the yard quickly in the frigid morning air, unlocking our door, and waving one last time before she shuffled into our warm house.
Heath revved the engine again and began the small trek to his house. “Well, that was exciting for once.”
I didn’t answer.
“Are you hungry?”
I shook my head.
“You need to eat something—how about ice cream? Did you bite your tongue?”
I murmured, “Just my cheek.”
I could feel his gaze on me, and he pulled the Jeep suddenly into a gravel lot that used to have a restaurant on the plane until it was demolished. Now rock was all to be seen. He turned off the engine. I sat up and turned to look at him. His eyes were red and exhausted. I was too preoccupied with my own woes that I neglected to think about how he was dealing with all of this. He asked, “Please tell me you forgot your dose before this happened.”
My blue eyes caught a busted blood vessel in the corner of his eye, and I knew I couldn’t lie to him. “No, I was taking everything normally.” He screamed for the coach to take me off the field when he noticed my auras and Holden’s boisterous barking. He never stopped yelling until I came to. And he was holding back sobs.
His hands pulled down on his eyelids, and he gave an exasperated sigh. “God, what are we going to do?”
A sense of nausea rushed over me, and vomit crawled up into my mouth.I managed to keep my jaw shut long enough to pop open his door. I leaned over with my seatbelt holding me back and spit up the banana and fruit juice I managed to swallow at the hospital. The banana tasted fine going back up, but the juice’s acidity definitely increased while being digested. I lurched again, heaving without anything coming back up. My stomach clenched painfully, but I didn’t get rid of anymore contents.
Heath handed me a water bottle as I sat back up. I took it gently and sipped, rinsing my mouth of the acidic taste. I closed the door and leaned into the seat, tilting my chin up as if that would prevent anymore retching to occur.
Guilt weighed heavily on me because I already was burdening Heath with my very presence, but I was also having to depend on him tremendously. Sitting in spare clothes he was saving for after the game to have dinner with my sister, his family, and myself, I knew he didn’t appreciate me vomiting in his boxers and white t-shirt. Embarrassed and heart-broken, he understood that he needed to let me borrow them to keep some pride intact in which most of it had been desecrated.
He pulled out of the parking lot and made his way home after I managed to retch five times within a span of twenty minutes. He finally resigned to giving me a used grocery bag to get sick in if I needed to while the vehicle was moving. He thought I would stop once I managed to go to sleep.
I just remember suddenly sinking into a bed and him wrapping me up like a burrito in his sheets and comforter and how content I was with everything. He waltzed across his room and tore off his shirt, his back muscles rippling under his thin skin. He stripped out of his pants without facing me, familiar to me knowing his body. He shoved on another pair of boxers and turned around to meet my eyes. He cracked a smile and said, “You look like one of those puppies on the internet ready for bed.”
I sat up, the blankets unfolding around my trunk. My hair rose from the bitter winter air that rushed into his room from the broken seal on his window. My eyes fell on him, and his expression fell as he realized what I was about to ask him, but I inquired anyway. “I’m going to get a drink, okay?”
He shook his head and sat down beside me on the bed, grabbing the blankets and pulling them onto his lap as he nestled in. “No.”
“No?” I angrily responded. How dare he tell me what I can and cannot do? How dare he make me be more out of control than I already am? How dare he do this and do that? The rage bubbled inside my chest like a kettle, and I felt heat rise in my face.
His eyes pleaded and begged for me to resist my bad habit. “Dev, no.”
A rage boiled inside my stomach, and I venomously argued, “How can you deny me a drink, Heath? You didn’t just lose your athletic scholarship. You didn’t just lose out on your chance to go to school. You didn’t just get kicked off the team. You just didn’t get your secrets on blast. You didn’t piss yourself—”
“You didn’t just have an episode and lose control of everything! You didn’t lose everything! You didn’t just fuck yourself over!”
“And here you are, being a righteous prick, telling me not to do what I want… and I… and I…” I caught a tear falling from my eye, and I became more frustrated. It never failed that my frustration always concluded with me in tears and the rest of my audience sympathetic instead of willing to argue with me.
“Dev, you know why.”
I fell back onto the mattress and stared at the ceiling. He promptly began tucking me in again as my muscles trembled. “I hate you so much.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know you do. That’s what I’m good for.”
My eyelids fell, and I mumbled, “If I wasn’t so freaking sore, I would go to sleep.”
“Here, let me get this for you.” He crawled under the sheets, pulling the comforter and sheets away from under my body. He raised the back of my shirt to my mid-back, and his knuckles dug into my lower back. “Yeah, you really did a number on your back.”
I merely nodded my head and curled into a ball, suddenly too tired to care how sore or miserable I was. I just needed to go to sleep. I felt him wrap his arms around my abdomen and pushing my hair away from my neck. “You still feel sick?”
I nodded without opening my eyes.
“You know where the trash is.”
“Just because I’m trashy doesn’t mean anything.”
He laughed at my stupid joke and then blew on the back of my neck, cooling my body down but also keeping it warm. When I’m sick, I don’t understand what goes on with my body deciding it is sitting in Siberia or burning in the depths of hell. It won’t make up its mind.
And before I knew it, I was asleep, Heath keeping me warm and protecting me from the unseen things in my world that could affect me bitterly, but he could never protect me from myself.
I started awake, my eyes popping open upon the clamor of glass being rattled. I didn’t move as I felt Heath tear away from my body suddenly, sprinting to the window whilst kicking his laundry across the room to get there quickly before the noise resounded again. His silhouette blocked the moonlight streaming in against his closet, and then I saw another shadow shift on the bough outside the window.
“What, Ned?! You are going to wake my mom!” Heath hissed monotonously after shoving open the window thunderously. Part of me wondered if he stood in front of the window just to hide me in his bed. I crumbled into a ball to hopefully hide behind his body from the view of the unexpected party.
The other boy slurred, “Dude, you’re missing out on the party scene.”
“I’ve got an exam this morning in Genetics. I wasn’t going to get drunk and waste the test. In fact, I would really like to get back to sleep.” Heath began to close the window, but the boy shoved his hand in the way.
“Why weren’t you at the game, man?”
Heath was silent for a moment before finally admitting, “I heard we lost.”
“Dude, you’re the starting center mid; of course we lost. Where were you?”
“I’ll tell you when you aren’t drunk. Night, Ned.”
I caught the uninvited guest peer over Heath’s shoulder as the two silhouettes wound into one another and overlapped into each other’s vicinity. My heart sunk as I tried to hide myself some more in the sheets and comforter, desperately configuring ways for me to look like I was just a pillow.
“Heath, you do know a girl is in your bed right now and you are talking to me instead of doing the old in-and-out?” I silently scoffed into my chest, a sense of nausea overwhelming me suddenly. The back of my throat began to tickle.
Heath separated from the other boy and glided back to me. He crawled across the bed and grabbed the sheets and comforter from my knees. He meticulously tucked it under my body. Our eyes met, and he gave me a reassuring smile. He mouthed, “Hey.”
My eyes shifted to the other boy’s direction, and he understood. His hand rested on my shoulder and gave me a taut squeeze. He turned back to the guy and declared, “Don’t be a pervert, Ned. She’s just spending the night so she can get some rest.”
“I saw she let you be the big spoon.”
I felt vomit crawl up my throat but swallowed it down so the boy would hopefully leave us alone.
Heath gave an exhausted sigh and, I’m sure, rolled his eyes. “What can I do to get you to leave so I can go back to sleep, Oh Great Drunken One?”
“Well, I would normally ask you if you could teach me your ways of snagging a female who doesn’t nag you for breathing too loudly.”
“You and Lily really need to break up, dude. You obviously are not into each other that much since all you do is constantly argue.”
“We’re already like an old couple.”
“You guys aren’t even graduated and already bickering this much? She is not worth all of this strife, Ned. She can obviously survive being someone else’s problem.”
“But I love her, I think.”
“If you loved her, I think you would know.”
“Well, I do like the sex…”
I sat up as the urge to retch finally made me succumb. I stretched an arm to snatch the trash can and positioned my head just in time for me to make it into the trash can. My stomach clenched hard as I rolled forward. Tears welled up in my eyes as vomit managed to burst through my nose. The acid burned my nostrils and made me want water to snort and then expel. I heard Heath excuse himself from the conversation, and then his hand rested on the middle of my back. He whispered gently, “It’s okay. It’s okay.”
And I apologized profusely for my actions because somehow my aggression always receded to being apologetic for everything I had done in my entire life. I finished and curled back into my taut little ball. I felt a soft pat before the window sill bench squeaked as Heath sat down next to his friend. He confessed, “She’s been doing that all night.”
“Is she the girl they took to the ER?”
I buried my face into the mattress, the tears beginning again.
“Yeah, she’s been pretty tore up about the whole thing; she was being scouted by some coaches for several athletic scholarships that would have nailed a lot of her contracts shut. Then the doctors gave her some medicine that makes her sick to her stomach.”
“Lily was pretty pissed off that she left the game.”
“Of course she was. I’m pretty sure she has little sympathy for Devin and her antics.”
“What do you mean?”
“They don’t get along at all.” I smirked at Heath’s comment because it was just so true. Lily was one of those girls who excelled in pleasing nearly everyone, and it made me jealous. When I succeeded in beating her for anything, she immediately targeted me as an enemy, and then, one day, she never let her grudge go, allowing me to remain a main fixture of scapegoating and blame in her imagination.
“You not going to class tomorrow?” Heath inquired.
“Nope, I’m going to be trashed as hell.”
Heath’s silhouette sluggishly nodded and turned its head back to me. “I expect half of the school is going to be out tomorrow; at least the people I like. The guys aren’t going, you’re not going, she’s not going…”
“I’m really surprised your parents let her stay the night.”
“Yeah, Dad’s out of town, and Mom said it was fine.”
“My parents would flip their lids.”
He snidely commented, jabbing at an inside joke I assumed, “I don’t necessarily have a reason for them to distrust me as much as your parents have a reason to.”
“Whoa, now, calm down, Mr. Frey. I don’t want a lecture from my best friend along with my parents tonight…”
I readjusted as my stomach suddenly cramped, and I considered getting sick again. However, I was done with this acidic nightmare and willed myself to keep it in despite feeling the sensation crawl up my throat. My body shook under the sheets as I realized once my mind became distracted from the conversation that I was freezing. My appendages pressed into my fleshier bits to gain some warmth, but I found no reprieve from the cold. I slowly pulled myself up, staring at the entryway near the edge of his room again, exhausted but also in need of a shower and of some water. But I was too cold to do anything about it, my limbs numb.
“Devin, you okay?”
“Why don’t you go back to sleep then?”
“I’m sorry; I’m cold,” I resignedly mumbled.
“Why are you sorry you’re cold? Seriously? You wouldn’t say sorry when you broke my finger or tried to beat the crap out of me but will totally do it when you don’t do anything? You’re so backwards.”
I glanced up to see his shadow approaching. I murmured, “I’m sorry… wait, I’m sorry for apologizing… crap, I’m… just sorry.” I bundled up in the blankets again and lay back down, forgetting any compulsion to get this or that. I didn’t care anymore.
“No, I’m not.”
Heath cooed, “That’s right. You tell yourself that, Devin. You’ll agree with me once you feel better.”
I gave him the finger, and his friend burst into laughter.
Heath finally admitted, “I’ve got to get some more sleep before I go to school, and she probably needs me to keep her warm—because that’s the only thing I’m good for.” His warmth pooled against me as he buried back inside the blankets. His hand rested on my knee as he entwined his legs in mine. He pulled me closer to him, and his warmth bathed over me like a waterfall. His sweet scent comforted me as I then felt all of the disappointment and regret I experienced today come over me all over again. I sniffled as I tried to hide my face in my hands.
Heath turned me over, our eyes meeting after he pushed my hands away. He gave me a small smile, sympathetic to my plight, and rested his hands on my neck, giving me a peck on my forehead. His eyes wavered for a second before he continued, “It’s okay, Dev. We’ll figure this out, okay?”
I shook my head quickly, forcing the room to spin and the nausea to set in again. “No, we won’t. Oh God, I screwed up. I really screwed up.”
“You’re just saying that now because you don’t feel good. Just let your muscles feel better in a couple of days, and you’ll think totally differently.”
The window clicked shut before I stifled a sob into Heath’s chest, my fist pounding against his breast. He simply held me tautly and reassured me everything was going to be okay until I fell asleep in his arms again.