~ Part Three of Three ~
The too-hot water of the shower pours down on me, running over my body and willing me to relax under it. It drenches my hair and I look down to see just a bit of blue running down the drain. I grab the dandruff shampoo that’s sitting high on the caddy, hanging around the shower head. Working the suds into my hair, I hear feet walking by the bathroom door over to the kitchen. The hardwood floors that run from the hallway in front of my room all the way through the house other than the tiling in the kitchen were always loud.
They squeaked hard when you walked on them and they always reminded me of when I was just a little girl. I was probably barely forty-five pounds but the floor still sounded like it was straining under me as I snuck closer to my parent’s door. Every time I tried to go inside it was locked, except once, when I cracked the door open just a little and they didn’t seem to notice. They were there on the edge of the bed with one of my small hardcover books, the green cover saying The Jungle Book in chunky yellow text.
The green book had lines of white across them and when I was small I always thought they were just scratches that were dug into the thickness of the cover… but I know better now. I grip the purple mesh loofah a little tighter as I clean myself, irrationally angry at the seven-year-old version of myself who didn’t know any better. I sigh heavy and tired once the water starts to gradually get colder, stepping forward a little and rinsing my hair out thoroughly before it becomes cold enough to give me chills. I twist the knobs to the left and the water cuts off abruptly, without the noise of the shower all around me I can hear my parents in the kitchen yelling at each other again.
Stepping out of the shower and grabbing the towel I had hanging on the hook, I dry myself some and pick up my phone from the edge of the sink. It’s only like 6, I could probably go out without them stopping me. I scroll through my Facebook feed and it doesn’t seem like anyone is doing anything interesting then I swipe through my contacts until my eyes land on Kat’s contact picture, smiling fondly at the cute expression I caught her with in the picture. I don’t wanna keep bothering her but I really don’t wanna stay here.
I click my phone’s screen off after the last text and set it back down on the sink, rolling my shoulders and letting the towel slide off my body onto the floor. My skin lost the little droplets of water on it, either from the cloth or from the air, all I know is my hair is still really wet and I’m cold. To avoid being out in the cold air any longer I quickly put on the pajamas that I had set out on the toilet seat, hurrying into my room without being stopped by the two in the kitchen who don’t seem to look in my direction.
My room is cluttered with piles of clothes and papers and books all around the floor, but most importantly it’s warm. I navigate swiftly across the little patches of floor where I can walk and plop down onto my bed, wrapping myself up in the big blanket that was hanging off the edge a little. It’s my favorite color, lavender, and it’s the blanket I use all year long even when it’s far too hot for it. I end up staying huddled into the plush fabric too long, busy scrolling on my phone without realizing the time until I glance up and see the green glow of my alarm clock saying 7:56 PM. Fuck.
I unwrap from my cocoon of blanket and jump out of bed, sliding open some drawers and picking up random shirts off the ground until I find a combination clean and decent enough to put on. I open my closet and get out the purple converse knock-offs I wear the most, then lean against the back of my bedroom door and listen for sounds. All is quiet in the kitchen but there’s TV noise in the living room, so I sling my pull-string bag that has the few things I usually take with me over my shoulder and slip out the door with my shoes in hand. I leave the light on and close my door behind me then go out the back door on the left side of the kitchen.
I close the back door as soft as possible and slip my shoes on at the top step of the back porch, hopping down and circling around to walk alongside the house, careful not to be too loud still because the people that live above us might think it’s someone trespassing or something. Letting the metal gate close behind me, I start walking down the street towards where Kat lives. I could take the bus there but it isn’t terribly cold and more importantly I don’t feel like waiting. I bristle at the wind that picks up and shove my hands into the connected pocket on the front of my hoodie and walk a little faster, enjoying how the blown-around leaves crunch under my shoes.
After around fifteen minutes of walking I come to Kat’s block and see her apartment just a few doors down. It’s weird knowing someone who lives on their own– she just started college a few months ago and I’m still looking for a job while being stuck under my parent’s roof. I step up the few stairs to the door and I know she’s awake so I just ring the buzzer. The door creaks open a minute later and Kat’s there in an oversized hoodie and no pants, motioning for me to walk in so she can close the door behind us both.
“What took you so long? You texted me like two hours ago, I was about to call you…” She said from behind me as we walked through her narrow apartment to the back where her bedroom is, I could hear the obvious worry in her voice.
“Uhh, I took a shower first before I got ready and left… It was a long one, I didn’t know I’d be in there that long. I’m sorry…” I felt bad lying about it but I was too guilty to tell her I was just distracted.
When we get inside she swings the door closed and it clicks shut softly. I discard my shoes in the corner of her room and drop my bag down on her bed like I usually do. I meet her eyes from on top of her bed as she walks over to the desk right next to it, she doesn’t look angry or anything so I don’t think she suspects that I lied, but then again it isn’t that important anyway.
She slumps down into her desk chair in front of her laptop, with a few notebooks and a psychology textbook to her left and a bunch of little fifty cent bags of chips on her right. I think back to when those same size bags were only a quarter, which was a while ago even though it only felt like a few years back. Around that time was when I used to slide one or two in my bag at the corner store and thankfully no one ever noticed, or they did and they just didn’t care.
“That’s due tomorrow isn’t it?” I say gently, pointing to the screen where it looks like she’s writing a rather long essay.
“Yeah… It was assigned like two weeks ago.” She sighs, obviously feeling mad at herself for procrastinating for this long.
“Well at least you’re getting it done! I’ll try not to get in the way over here.” I try to encourage her while I sprawl out on her bed and pull out the DS in my bag.
“Nah you’re fine, I’m gonna have headphones in though so if you say something and I don’t respond just like, tap me or flail around until I notice you or something.” She smiles after getting me to laugh with that last line, putting in the small buds before leaning forward to type loudly on her keyboard.
I prop myself up on her bed with several pillows and load up my Pokémon HeartGold save file, I love watching my character walking around with Quilava trailing behind her. I always was partial to fire types but the one thing I wanted was for Quilava’s shiny form to have blue flames, the Pokémon franchise missed a good opportunity on that one. I battle some trainers but mostly I’m just sitting there tapping the A button over and over while I listen to the quaint music and the sound of Kat’s keyboard yelling in agony at the abuse it’s receiving a few feet away.
A little while later, she scoots her chair back and stretches and I glance up to see the headphones fall out of her ears when she pulls away from the desk.
“You takin’ a break?” I ask while blindly pushing A on my DS.
“Yeah I’ve hit a block, I’m on page 6 of 10 and I don’t really know how to keep going.” She says as she stands up.
Kat stretches her arms above her head and her hoodie lifts a little more, revealing her boy-shorts style underwear with little pink pineapples on them. I stifle a laugh and heat rises to my cheeks. It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen her wear but I don’t wanna make her feel bad by embarrassing her. She pulls open the lowest drawer on the side of her desk and grabs a small glass pipe colored with blue and purples in a swirling pattern.
“Oh… If you’re gonna smoke I can go…” I say nervously, shifting on her bed and closing my DS so the sound cuts off.
“It’s alright, you’re free to chill.” She says, sitting on the bed next to me and folding her legs.
She’s packing the bowl quietly next to me while I stare past her at the wall, unsure of what to do with myself. She had talked to me about picking up smoking weed after doing it for the first time with her cousin back before we graduated High School, but until now I was never actually there when it happened. It doesn’t seem to faze Kat and I don’t think she realizes I’m uncomfortable, I try to come up with something to say but I just sit there dumbly instead.
I fiddle with the stylus of my DS and watch her with shaking hands as she holds a lighter to the opening of the bowl and flicks the flame to life while inhaling. She takes the hit and holds it for a few seconds before coughing some and smoke comes out of her mouth and nose. Then the moment of truth comes, she’s looking at me with curious eyes and moves her arm closer to me, holding the bowl and lighter in my direction. You wanna hit this? Are the last discernible words I hear.
I try to look into Kat’s eyes but my vision is blurry and I can’t tell what color they are anymore, I feel dizzy like I’m about to fall over but I’m not even standing. I can see Kat’s figure move closer to me and I can just barely feel her touching my leg, but I can’t hear anything over the loud beating of my own heart in my ears. I want to yell but I’m too focused on breathing, the little bits of air I’m getting are coming in rushed short breathes and I feel like I’ve been sprinting. I close my eyes and squeeze my hands into fists over and over until I can focus again on my fingertips.
“Josie! Jo… Can you hear me? Take deep breaths it’s okay, you’re okay, keep breathing.” I can hear Kat say, finally starting to come back to myself.
“I- I” Stumbles out from between my lips as I blink my eyes open again and realize I’m crying all of a sudden.
“It’s okay, can you drink?” She has a glass of cold water and she’s holding my hand tightly.
I don’t even remember her leaving to get that but I raise my arm to grab the glass and drink some of the water. The cold liquid hitting my tongue helps me settle a little more and I hand it back to her once I’ve had enough.
“What happened?” I ask, even though I should know what happened better than anyone else considering I was the one going through it.
“You just looked so dazed and you wouldn’t answer me, I think… you had a panic attack? I can’t tell from the outside in, but…” She says quietly after setting the glass of water over on the desk.
“Thank you, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to, I—” I stutter out before she cuts me off.
“Shh, don’t be sorry, it’s not your fault, I just want to make sure you’re alright.” Kat says as she moves forward, hugging me so gently it’s as if I have a Fragile sticker on my forehead.
“I should have realized you weren’t okay, I should have paid more attention.” She’s muttering more to herself than to me.
Then I’m angry, frowning hard against the fabric of her hoodie as I take a deep breath and say, “You couldn’t have known!”
She pulls back enough to look at me confused, willing me to continue without actually saying anything. I sit back on my own and fiddle with the ends of her hoodie sleeves before glancing up. I look into her eyes again and this time I can see the familiar ring of dusty blue around her pupils and I take another deep breath.
“There’s… some things. I need to tell you. I know I’ve told you about my parents before, but I haven’t given you the full story.” I say without breaking eye contact.
She doesn’t hesitate to nod and tell me to keep going, grabbing at my hands to hold them so they will stay still. I close my eyes and lower my head slightly, starting from the beginning. I tell her about the all too familiar story of the first time I experienced my parents doing drugs, when I was just a little girl and I saw them ruining my hardcover copy of The Jungle Book. I tell her about how I figured out what they were actually doing when my class started reading chapter nine in our health book, the section about addiction. How it finally made sense why sometimes they came out of their room completely different people.
I tell her about the time I got brave once and confronted them, sitting on the couch with both my parents to my left. Raising my voice as I told them I knew what was really going on, that if they actually cared about me then they would stop or at least try to get help. I was careful not to look over and meet their eyes, wanting to be strong and not let them see that I was watery eyed. I’m crying again as I tell Kat that all I got was outright denial from her and Ungrateful Bitch from him. I mumble about how I left the house that night to sleep on the back porch to get away from the yelling.
I tell her detail after detail, even the time when I had just became a freshman in High School and they both got arrested for possession so I had to stay with my grandmother in south Jersey and missed nearly the whole year. Kat nods at that part, realization gracing her face as she probably recalls the day we met.
I have always been closest with Kat, she was the first friend I made who actually stuck around and we rely on each other. We had a similar talk in the past when she told me in detail about being diagnosed clinically depressed and how she felt guilty for being this way despite having a good upbringing and caring parents who were pretty well off. I was there for her and helped her feel a little better about what she is going through, but I held back about my issues.
“I’m sorry… That I never told you. Your struggles with depression seemed like they were different than my parents being awful somehow? I always told myself that I just didn’t want you to judge me… But if I’m being one hundred percent honest I was just too afraid. Afraid of… messing this up? That if I told you all this that I would lose you as a friend.” I say, finishing my long rant.
I look up from the bed where I had been focused the whole time, and see Kat is tearing up. I instantly feel worse, like I ruined our friendship somehow, but then I hear her clear her throat to start speaking.
“Josie… I would never stop talking to you because of your problems. I’m so sorry that I made you panic like that…But I feel honored that you told me all this. I’m not mad it took you this long, or that you lied before, I know it’s hard…” She trails off at the end of her little speech, smiling at me with watery eyes.
“It was stupid of me to wait this long to tell you… you deserved to know after you opened up to me before.” I said afterward, rubbing my sleeve against my eyes only proving to make them more red and irritated.
“It’s okay to open up at your own pace, I said I’m not mad at you, remember?” She stresses the last part of her sentence, squeezing my hands in hers.
I sigh and offer her a small smile while I squeeze back. I want to tell her that I’m so happy that I’ve finally gotten it off my chest, that she’s the only person I’ve told. I want to express just how grateful I am to have someone in my life who I can talk to about anything and who actually listens to me. I open my mouth to start speaking again, but I yawn instead and I see her smile back at me fondly.
Kat stands up and grabs another blanket that was draped over a chair on the other side of the room and brings it back to the bed. She lays it down onto the bed and gives me pajamas from her dresser drawer.
“You’re really drained, we’re gonna get some sleep… You can keep telling me as much as you like whenever you’re ready but right now you need rest.” She says even though I protest through groaning.
We settle into the bed next to each other after she turns off the light and I want to ask her to just share the one blanket but she’s already given us separate ones. We lay there in the dark for a while longer, saying a few things back and forth between each other until Kat rolls over to face the rest of the room. I stare at the slits of light coming in through the blinds from the streetlights until I roll over too.
“Goodnight…” I hear her voice just above a whisper.
I’m left facing her wall and listening to her breathing next to me, my eyes are heavy and they droop closed on their own. I let my mind wander to those distant warm feelings I’ve been harboring for the girl next to me, even though I usually push them away, and how tonight has only made them stronger. I sigh contently and curl into myself a little until I gently bump into her on purpose but not enough to disturb. I love you. I frown at the wall. No… It’s too soon.
“…Goodnight.” Is my last whisper before I fall asleep.
Back to – Part One