I hope you enjoy the teaser.
I didn’t sleep for shit last night. Not that I ever really sleep that well, but last night was particularly bad. About 1:00 a.m., I was sick to death of all the drunk, high, loud-ass people in my house. Jesus, I wanted them gone. Wanted quiet, normal, but instead I’d smoked another bowl, lied and said I was going to bed before locking myself in my room.
The party went on without me because that’s what people do. It’s not that they really need me to have fun. I just have the house, shitty as it is, and everyone thinks I’m always down to have a good time. Scratch that. I am always down to have a good time. One look at me shows I’m stoned half the time. Weed? It clouds out the past. Parties drown out the stuff in my head I don’t want to hear. But last night of all nights? I deserved to hear that shit, since I’m the one who caused it. So that’s what I did. All night. Got blazed out of my head but kept myself awake so I could think about today.
Around six this morning, I jumped in my car like I have every January 12 for the past four years and drove my ass here. Rockville, Virginia. Home sweet fucking home, except I hate this place with a burning passion. When you spend your childhood getting beat by your dad, all you want to do is escape where you came from. I wouldn’t have come if I didn’t have to, but after everything, I figure it’s the least I can do.
Not that my sister, Angel, will ever know I came.
After all this time, I wonder if she’d want me here. If I were her, I wouldn’t.
Shaking my thermos, I realize I don’t have any more coffee. I toss it onto the passenger side floor and lean back in the seat. Four hours is a long-ass time to sit in my car, but I don’t want to risk getting out and her seeing me. Probably a good thing I ran out of coffee; otherwise I’d have to piss again.
Looking across the street, I see all the headstones. Most of them are laid flat, so I can’t see them from a distance, but I still know exactly which one belongs to Ashton. It’s under the big tree. He would have liked that. I bet he would have wanted me to lift him up and put him in that tree if he’d ever had the chance to see it. He thought it was cool to ride on my shoulders. I’d carry him all around the house and he’d laugh like it was fucking Disneyland or something.
Pain grabs hold of me, threatens to pull me under, and for the millionth time I wonder why I don’t let it. It would be so much easier than walking around in the masks I do now.
“Fuck.” I drop my head back. Run a hand through my dark hair. Feel my pocket for the pipe there and wish like hell I could light up. Seems kind of wrong to smoke weed at a cemetery, especially under the circumstances.
I hate the drugs anyway. You wouldn’t know it, though. No one does. Adrian’s always down to smoke. Adrian’s always good for it. That’s what everyone thinks, but really I just want to be swept away. To ride a tide or the wind or whatever the fuck will take me far from here. Weed is the only thing I can find. Sometimes it works; most of the time it doesn’t.
I’m itching to shove the key into the ignition, to push down on the gas pedal and get the hell out of here. Not that I ever went real far. I only live four hours away in Brenton because I couldn’t make myself leave the state. But I can’t live in Rockville anymore. I don’t want to see this. Don’t want to be here. I wish I could wake up and find out this has all been some fucked-up nightmare. Even if it meant going back in time before Ash and having to deal with shit from my parents.
Leaning forward, I push the useless thermos out of the way and reach for The Count of Monte Cristo, which is shoved under the seat. The cover’s all old and ripped. The spine’s cracked so much from how many times I’ve read it. It’ll probably fall apart any day now.
The thing is, I’ve always respected Edmond. He went through hell and back but fought despite it. He didn’t fold. He pushed through and worked his ass off to become so much more than he was. He was strong. Not me. I just can’t seem to make myself overcome the past.
There’s nothing to do but deal with it. And maybe lose myself behind a cloud of smoke or a girl.
I need to turn off my thoughts.
Even though I can’t stand hats, I grab the one from beside me, push it low on my head, open my book, and read. Maybe Edmond can help me clear my head.
* * *
Hours later, when I see my sister, Angel, walk over to Ash’s grave, I don’t get out of the car. When some guy walks up and grabs her hand, I don’t know who he is and yet, I don’t bother finding out. They hug and I don’t walk over and do the same thing to her. It’s not our thing to stand around having some group mourning session over the two-year-old boy who died too soon.
Nope. This is real life. Not like all the stupid fucking books I read or the movies people watch or the reality shows that couldn’t be farther away from reality.
Without moving an inch, I watch her. Watch as she sets flowers on Ashton’s grave. As the guy pulls her into a hug. As they kneel on the ground, probably talking to him in a way I’ll never have the balls to do.
The guy says something to her and then gets up and walks away. I duck lower in my seat, but no one is paying attention to me. He heads back to a little car and waits.
Angel’s hands go to her face and I know she’s crying in them. Know she’s mourning the loss of Ash, the boy she loved so much. The boy she took care of better than any mom could. I know she sent the guy away because she’s like me and needs to handle shit on her own. Only unlike me, she’ll never run.
She cries out there for probably thirty minutes. The whole time my chest is tight. Aching. It’s hard to breathe and I want to turn away, but I don’t. I deserve to feel this way and deserve to see this.
A fist squeezes tighter and tighter around my heart. My face is wet, but I don’t bother to wipe away the tears, either. Real men don’t fucking cry. That’s what Dad always said before he hit me in a series of body shots, until I couldn’t stop myself from doing just what he said I shouldn’t do.
Then he’d beat me harder for being weak.
Angel’s shoulders are shaking. I can tell from this far away.
I’m not an idiot. Never have been. I know it wouldn’t make me weak to walk over there and hug her. To hold her and tell her it’ll be okay, but I still won’t do it. What right do I have to try and console her when I’m the one who destroyed everything?
When I’m the one who let Ash die?
So I sit here and watch her, just so I’ll never forget the pain I caused.
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