The Bully and the Brain. Chapter 4


I can't. I can't do this anymore. It all hurts to much. I've tried to keep going. To keep fighting. To just make it another day, but I can't anymore. I'm tired. I am just so tired.

I thought that for once, someone was finally starting to understand, that someone was finally starting to see things from my perspective. But that was a lie. A fallacy.

No one will ever understand.


As I read over his letter, I couldn't help but the few tears that escaped my eyes. I knew I had made a huge mistake, but as I sat in his room and stared at everything around me, it felt like the world was crashing down around me. His mom had let me in for just a few moments while she gathered some things to take up to the hospital with her. I could see it in her eyes that she blamed me in part for this, and honestly, I couldn't blame her at all.

This was my fault. If only I would have done the right thing. I knew Lee was in the wrong. I knew he had started with Ashton for no reason, but he was my friend. And, didn't it make more sense to have his back, then to have the back of someone I had just started getting to know? Didn't it make more sense to value the history of our friendship then the newness of discovering more about Ashton?

I knew I had made completely the wrong decision, but there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. I could hear his mom coming back up the stairs and I placed the letter in my pocket. I know she had seen it, and after the cops had gone over the house, they didn't deem it necessary to take it with them. What happened was pretty cut and dry.

Vanessa: "Marcus...”

'' Yes, Ma'am?"

Vanessa: “I'm heading to the hospital now."

'' Okay. I'll be on my way.”

I stepped out of her way as she came into Ashton's room, but for some reason, my feet wouldn't move me any further. I hadn't said much of anything to her, but I couldn't just leave here and not say anything at all. I could not imagine what was going on inside of her head. Ashton was her only child and what had happened must have been tearing her up for sure.

'' Vanessa..."

Vanessa: “Yes?"

'' I'm really sorry. About all of this.”

Vanessa: "Yeah, me too."

'' Is there anymore news?"

Vanessa: “As of right now, they're just trying to keep him stable. His vitals are all over the place."

'' Damn."

Vanessa: “His note... I read it. I just don't understand. I don't understand it at all.”

'' He was finally starting to believe in me. He was finally giving me a chance and I let him down."

I stepped away from her as the weight of my faults crashed down on me again. It was like a sledgehammer to my back and the weight of my guilt almost took me to my knees, but I wouldn't break down in front of his mother. I had never wanted her or anyone for that matter to see me cry, but I couldn't help the renewed tears that rolled down my cheeks.

I didn't want to look at her, but when I did, there wasn't any of the hate and blame that I thought I would see. I think the realization that I did care about her son, in my own way, stopped her from placing the blame completely on me. I did care about Ashton. From the things I had learned about him and the things I still wanted to know, him not existing in my world was a scary thought.

Maybe it was because of the scars he had, or the fact that he was so fragile to everyone around him, but something about Ashton called out to me and begged me to answer. To protect him. To make sure everything was okay. And in that, I had failed. I wanted to be there for him, but I didn't know how. I didn't know how to be a friend to him when everyone would call me crazy for even speaking to him. I wanted to not care. I wanted to say that what they thought didn't matter. But the opinions of the flock could change everything instantly and I didn't know if I was strong enough to survive being an outsider.

Vanessa: "He's been through so much. He's had so much hurt in his life. He must be so tired.”

At that, we made our way out of the house. I wanted to go up to the hospital, I wanted to see him, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. From what his mom had told me, it was just a constant fight to keep him alive at this point and I couldn't brave going there to watch him endure such a balancing act.

I just wanted to wake him up and shake him. Make him realize how big of a mistake this way. Make him understand that it did get better and that there were people who genuinely did care about him. That he wouldn't always have to carry around such pain. But, why would he believe me when I had turned my back on him when he probably just wanted someone to be on his side?

I pulled the crumpled note out of my pocket and as the beautiful cursive style writing was stained by the falling of my tears, I told myself that something had to change. Something was going to change.

As I walked into school the next day, I could feel the stares I was getting. Word had spread fast about Ashton's suicide attempt and everyone knew that we were partners on the project for Mrs. Elcide's class. Apparently, Rowan had been at the hospital with her sister when Ashton and his mother had come in. She wasn't being facetious, but she had text one person and just like that, everyone knew.

I just wanted to get this day over with. I had promised myself that I was going to go and see him today. I was going to be the friend to him that I should have been in the first place. It was unusual, but the sight of my group of friends made me cringe instead of making me feel better as it usually did. We all had first period together, and I could only imagine what they were thinking about Ashton.

I could spot Lee walking towards me and I instantly got pissed. I knew his suspension was over, but I just wasn't imagining him being here while Ashton was in the hospital.

Lee: "Hey man, did you hear? That loser tried to off himself?"

When the first chuckle, left his mouth, I was already in motion. I grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and slammed him into the wall of lockers as hard as possible.

Lee: “Dude, what the fuck?!”

'' What the fuck is your problem? Are you so fucking hateful that you could seriously find something funny about the fact that someone almost died?"

Lee: "What the fuck has gotten into you?"

By now we were drawing a small crowd, but I didn't give a shit. I was burning mad right now.

'' What's gotten into me? You're sitting here acting like this shit is funny, when the reason he's in the hospital right now is because of us."

Lee: "Us?! You're fucking bogus man. That loser made his own fucking decisions."

'' Because of everything he's had to go through. Can you seriously be so callous?”

Lee: "I don't even know what that means, but I do know this. He did himself and everyone else here a favor. He 'disappeared,' just like you told him to. So don't fucking blame everyone else for shit that you yourself set into motion."

He was right. I had told Ashton to disappear. But, still...

'' And what's your excuse?"

Lee: "Excuse me?”

'' What's your excuse, Lee? What exactly did Ashton ever do to you?"

Lee: “Nothing, but..."

'' But, what? It was convenient? No one in this fucking place ever had a problem with him until I said I did. No one thought anything of it, no one noticed him until I said he was a problem and then everyone hopped the fuck on it."

Lee: “So what.”

'' So what?! Grow a fucking brain and make a decision for yourself.”

Lee: "What are you like his bosom buddy now? He spends one day at your house and you're the leader of his damn fan club?"

'' I'm just trying to finally do what's right."

Lee: "And for what? A little too late, don't you think?"

He pushed my hand away from his shirt and fixed his crumpled clothing. I thought he was going to take a swing at me, but he didn't. I couldn't bring myself to reply to him, because honestly that was my fear. What if it was too late? Not even considering that Ashton wasn't going to make it, but what if he decided that I was just another disappointment in a long list of disappointments? What if he decided that getting to know each other wasn't worth it anymore?

Lee: "Fuck you, Marcus."

He walked away and so did the majority of the crowd milling around. The show was over and they were going to find the next bout of entertainment in whatever form it presented itself in. I thought I was alone and as my head hit the locker in front of me, I felt a small hand on my shoulder. I turned to see who it was and it was Rowan, the girl who had spread the news in the first place. I could see the apologetic look on her face, but none of this was her fault. Everyone would have found out soon enough anyway.

Rowan: “I'm really sorry about all of this Marcus."

'' It's not your fault, Rowan.”

Rowan: "Yes, it is. If I would have kept quiet...”

'' They would have found out anyway."

We sat in silence for a moment. I didn't really know what to say as I slid down the locker and sat on the floor. Everything was so messed up.

Rowan: “My sister broke her arm. That's why we went up to the hospital to begin with. She fell out of our tree house and fell on it, so my dad rushed her to the ER.”

I didn't know why she was telling me this, but I didn't interrupt her. As she sat down next to me, I could see that I wasn't the only one being torn up about this situation. That maybe I wasn't the only one who cared.

Rowan: “We had only been at the hospital about ten minutes before Mr. Fromran and Ashton's mom came rushing in with him. Fromran was carrying him and he was soaked through. I thought that maybe he had fallen or something, but he wasn't moving and his mom was hysterical. "

I gulped as I relived the situation through her eyes. I could hear her getting choked up, but she continued on.

Rowan: “They were screaming for a nurse or a doctor and everyone was giving her the cold shoulder until they saw that Ashton wasn't moving. After that, everything was a blur. My parents were with my sister, so I got as close as I could, but.... you know?"

'' Yeah."

Rowan: "The police came not long after and they questioned the hell out of her. She was crying and crying, but they kept asking her question after question, even after Fromran told them to back off.”

'' What happened with Ashton?"

Rowan: "They pumped his stomach. I overheard his mom when they were asking her questions, she had an old bottle of Vodka and between his pain bills and some pills she had laying around...."

'' Oh my God."

Rowan: "Yeah, it was horrible. They kept him sedated, or he went into a coma."

'' His mom told me that they're fighting really hard to keep him stable. It's touch and go right now."

Rowan: "That's horrible. Why would he do it?"

'' Things are hard for him. You have no idea how hard they are.”

Rowan: “That's so sad."

As she wiped a tear away from her eye, I couldn't help but warm up to her a little bit. We had never been very close before, running in different circles but I was seeing a side of her I had only heard about. I know I wasn't the only one who let the voices of my peers sometimes make my decisions for me and maybe that's why Rowan had never reached out to Ashton before. She didn't have a mean bone in her body, but no one wanted to be an outcast. Not even the school angel.

Rowan: “Oh, man! I'm late for bio."

I helped her get to her feet and then we went our separate ways. I headed to my Psych class and just tried to go on about the day. It was bad enough that I had already had an altercation with Lee this morning, but now I was late for my Psych class. I tried to keep my head down as Mr. Gotlieb gave me the stink eye, but he didn't say anything and that was alright by me. I could feel the stares I was getting from some of my peers, those who had either been around or heard about my interaction with Lee, but I didn't give a fuck. I didn't have to explain anything to them and I wasn't going to.

Later that day -- The moment everything stopped...

I was in shock.

The only sound in the room was the working of the machines, kept in place to keep Ashton alive and the labored, mechanical sound of his breathing. I had prepared myself mentally for this, but what I was seeing was so much more than I expected. I watched as Vanessa moved closer to his bed and ran her hand over his forehead. I didn't know if he was running a fever of if that was the only way she could make sure he was still somewhere inside.

I don't know what conclusion she came to, but she moved away and sat down on the windowsill adjacent to his bed. I couldn't force myself to move any closer. It's like my feet were held to the floor, the weight of this on my body. The wrongness. How familiar would death have to become to me, before I stopped pushing away the people that mattered? Losing the people I cared about the most?

As thoughts of my own past came crashing back to me, throwing all of that pain in my face. Turning those memories into blades that seemed to cut me right to my core. As I chocked back a sob, the memories seeming to absorb me in their hurt, I knew that things would have to change. I knew for a fact that people didn't just happen into your life. They were there for a reason. People shape you. The people who are there, the ones who fade away over time, those who hurt you and those who don't know how to love you, all of that shaped you into a being to be related to. I didn't know what would happen from here, but I know that losing Ashton would hurt more than I could bear.

As we sat there in silence, the moments passing by extremely slow, it was a relief when the thoughts from my past subsided if only temporarily. I had finally sat down a little while ago and I was just starting to relax, but with the way Vanessa kept looking at the time, I didn't know what was about to happen.

Vanessa: "Marcus...”

'' Yes?”

Vanessa: “Work... I have to go to work.”

'' Oh."

Vanessa: "I hate him being alone, but if you want to go, I..."

'' I'm not leaving! I mean, unless I have to..."

Vanessa: “No. No, of course not."

'' Okay."

There was something there in her eyes, but I couldn't tell what it was. But as she looked from me to Ashton, she nodded, grabbed her purse and headed towards the door.

Vanessa: "If anything changes... Call me.”

'' Of course.”

She hesitated for just a moment, and then out the door she went. I knew it was hard for her to leave me here with Ashton, but I wasn't going to leave. Not now.

As I got up and moved closer to Ashton, the urge to cry almost got the better of me again. I just didn't understand. Maybe I never would like he said, but I hadn't lived his life. Would probably never understand the things he had been through. Would possibly never understand the pain of someone choosing to disassociate themselves with me because of my preferences. His hurt was something I would never be able to understand unless it happened to me.

Of course I had my own hurt. Hurt I was still dealing with, but I had long ago buried the pain of that away. But Ashton, his pain he hadn't been able to let go of. I didn't know if it was because of his scars, but he hadn't been able to let that pain rest. To not let it have such a hold on him anymore. As I took the seat closest to his bed, I couldn't help but grabbing his hand in mine. Even though there was no pull from him, I could only hope that he was strong enough to survive this. For my sake at least.

Nurse: "Who are you?"

'' Huh... what?!"

Nurse: "Who. Are. You?"

I wiped the slob off of my face and sat up straight. I must have fallen asleep for a second, because I really did forget where I was for a moment. It only took a glance at Ashton beside me to put everything back in perspective though.

'' We have class together. He's my friend."

Nurse: "You know visiting hours are over right?"

'' What?! What time is it?"

Nurse: "After eight. Visiting hours are over at seven-thirty."

The time did shock me, but I must have been more tired than I realized. Now that she said it, I did notice how bad my neck was aching, but that was an after-thought as she started moving around checking on Ashton and writing things down on her chart.

'' How is he doing?"

Nurse: “He's stable for now. He's lucky to have held on this long. He's a strong kid.”

'' Yeah."

She didn't say anything else as she started packing up her things to go. I had never been so anxious about anything in my life, but I hated not knowing.

'' Do you think he'll make it?"

She stopped what she was doing like a jolt of electricity went through her and her eyes snapped up to mine so quickly that it was alarming. Her gaze was completely intense and I don't know if I had offended her or if it was the first time she was ever asked that question, but for a long while, she didn't move her eyes away from mine. It was a very tense moment as she kept eye contact with me, but as she seemed to blink and regain herself, she smiled softly at me.

Nurse: "I can't say for sure, Sweetie.”

I couldn't help feeling like the tide was pulling me under, the depressing feeling of those words creating a black cloud over my thoughts. It wasn't until she continued that I started to breathe a little easier.

Nurse: "But... the way I feel, if he was going to go, he wouldn't be holding on so hard. I understand what happened, but if he was ready to go, he would have."

I couldn't even properly express my gratitude to her and the relief that grew inside of me was almost painful. It was like breathing in the first breath of air after being submerged in a sea of darkness. I took what she said at face value. Things could change in an instant, and I knew that, but it gave me hope all the same. And sometimes, hope was all you had. Sometimes, hope was enough to get anyone through the darkest of days.

'' Good. That's good."

She didn't say anything else as she took her chart and walked out of the room. I pulled out my phone to check the time again and I had a bunch of text messages and three missed calls from my mom. I knew she was worried, but as I read through my text messages, she wasn't the only one. I had texts from my mom, dad, friends, Vanessa and even one from Lee. I started replying to the texts first, letting everyone know I was okay and letting Vanessa know nothing had changed. Then I called my mom.

Mom: “Marcus, what the hell?!"

'' I'm sorry, Mom. I just crashed."

Mom: "What? Where are you?"

'' I'm at the hospital."

Mom: "What?... Oh.

'' Yeah... I came over after school and then time just got away from me."

Mom: "Oh okay. I was just worried about you."

'' Yeah, I'm sorry. I should have called and let you know where I was going."

Mom: "It's okay. How is he?

'' Uh, he's stable, I think. I mean the nurse just left and she took some readings and such, but nothing alarming."

Mom: "Well that's good. No change is better than a bad one."

'' Yeah. It's just really touch and go right now, but he's holding on okay.

Mom: "Where's his mom?

'' She had to work.

Mom: "Work?! She's not off?"

'' No. Her boss doesn't care. He told her she needed to be there or she was fired."

Mom: "That's horrible."

Yeah, it sucks.

It was silent for just a few moments while my mom pondered everything. She was doing that thing she always did, but I let her have her moment. She was always trying to help somebody or make things better, despite the fact that everyone thought she was so uncaring.

Mom: “When are you coming home?"

'' Not sure. I don't want to leave him here alone."

Mom: "I understand. Do you want me to bring you up some dinner? You must be starved.

I hadn't actually thought about it until she mentioned it, but I was a little hungry, but I didn't want to drag her outside.

'' It's okay. You don't need to do that.”

Mom: "It's okay. I want to."

It was silent for just a moment, but I knew there was something else she had to say. We were a tight family, but we weren't always the best at telling how we were feeling.

Mom: "I'm proud of you, Marcus.

'' Thanks, Mom."

We said our "goodbyes” after that. She said she'd be up shortly and I was trying to get the rest of the sleep out of my body. I got up to stretch and just moved around for a short bit.

As I stretched and rotated my arms, I couldn't help but focus my attention back on Ashton. The one time he actually looked completely at peace, his body was fighting to stay alive. Yet again, it brought up memories of a past that I thought I had long forgotten. A pain I thought was buried. There were no tears this time, just an ache in my chest, a sadness that had been dormant for so long and that now wouldn't subside. A loss, that for me, hadn't been apparent in a long time.

Mom: "Hey.”

I heard a quiet knock on the door and then my mom poked her head into the room. Instinctively, I turned to Ashton to make sure he wasn't disturbed. I immediately felt stupid. I quietly chuckled, but it was lifeless. Devoid of any humor or real emotion. My mom looked at me sympathetically, but it wasn't something she could fix.

Although my mom had met Ashton once, I don't think she was comfortable sitting as close as I was, but she moved away from the door, cradling a large dish of lasagna in her hands. We didn't say anything really, my attention focused mostly on Ashton, but I didn't want to ignore her either.

Call it mother's intuition, but it didn't take her long to ask me what was wrong.

Mom: “What's wrong?"

'' What?"

Mom: "What's wrong, Marcus? You look like you have the world on your shoulders."

'' Nothing. Just thinking. Well, remembering.”

Mom: "Nala?"

'' Her too."

I fell into her softness as my mom crossed the distance between us and wrapped her arms around me. As I quietly cried, my face pressed to her stomach, she rubbed my back and consoled me. I never let my mother see me cry, or my father for that matter. I didn't want to come across as weak to them, but they had been there for me at my lowest. The moment when my world literally fell apart, twice. They had seen me absolutely broken and to have that pain resurface, to draw the parallels between this moment and that, it was a pain I couldn't readily deal with.

Mom: "It's okay, Marcus.”

I wanted to believe her, but the tears came all the more. It was as if the floodgates opened and the sobs vibrated me to my core. I clutched my mother closer to me, trying to drown this emotion out, trying to calm myself with the sound of her heartbeat, but I had held it in for so long, that I think it was just time.

She was patient with me and as my tears slowly abated, she patted my back and told me it would all be okay. I wanted to believe her, but I had already lost two of the most important people in my life. What would happen if I lost another? Would I be able to survive that?

I excused myself to step into the small bathroom that was inside of his room long enough to get myself cleaned up. I didn't want to leave my mom alone for too long, but when I went back outside, my mom wasn't the only person in the room anymore. Vanessa had come back and I could see the mistrust in her eyes. But as she walked carefully into the room, she made eye contact with my mother and then me.

Mom: "Vanessa? Right?"

Vanessa: “Yes. And you're Isobelle?"

Mom: "Yes. I hope I'm not intruding. I brought some food up for Marcus from dinner. I was worried about him and when he finally called, he told me he was up here.”

Vanessa: “It's no problem. How long have you been here?"

Mom: "Not long, just a few moments actually."

I kind of zoned out as they continued talking, my attention zeroing back in on Ashton. I just wished he would wake up. I just wish he could tell me that everything was going to be okay. That he wouldn't just give up on everything his life still had to offer.

For the first time since I had been here, I took my focus off of Ashton and tuned into what was happening around me. My mom and Ashton's had never really had any interaction before, other than us going down to the Diner. I could tell that Vanessa was a bit uncomfortable still, but she was trying her best. My mom really was a great person, but no one saw that. Because of her social group, everyone thought that she was just as stuck-up, but in actuality, she cared about some people a lot more than she should.

Mom: "I can't believe they are keeping you at work at a time like this.”

Vanessa: "It's no one's priority but mine. If I don't go to work, 'I'm fired!' Kind words, courtesy of the boss.”

I could tell her situation was weighing on her, but I also saw the steel determination I had come to know from Vanessa. If it was one thing she wasn't, it was weak. I had never seen someone with a stronger will actually. I don't know where it came from, maybe from having to face the world on her own for so long, or having to always shield Ashton from so much hurt, but whatever the catalyst, I knew Vanessa was not the type to roll over and "take it."

Mom: "That's horrible."

Vanessa: “We need the money, it's just... I want to be here with my son."

My mom nodded and of course she understood. She was a mother and a time not too long ago, although the situation wasn't as dire as this one, she herself had to go through a situation with me. A time when I thought I wasn't going to make it.

Mom: "Have you eaten?"

Vanessa: “What? Oh, no. I was actually coming here to see if Marcus was hungry. I was going to pick something up while I was out, but he wasn't answering his phone and I didn't have time to text him back when I was at work.”

Mom: "Well... I brought enough for everyone. I wasn't sure if you would have had a chance to eat.”

My mom said the last very delicately. I knew she was picking her words very carefully as well. It's not that Vanessa was prideful, but in her situation, anything seeming like charity would have been a slap in the face. And even as I watched her process what my mom said, weighing every word carefully, I could still see her resignation to accept anything offered to her.

Vanessa: “Sure. Thank you."

'' I'll go ask for some plates or something..."

Vanessa: “ No, let me. Visiting hours and all..."

'' Right.”

I sat back down from my half-raised stance and watched as Vanessa walked out of the room. I heard my mom exhale like she had just finished negotiating the last details on one of her big mergers. The expression on her face was unreadable, but after a few moments, Vanessa was back with plates and forks for all of us.

This was so awkward. The tension in the room was mild, but it was just so quiet. Other than the sounds of chewing and our collective breathing, it was like someone had turned down the volume and only left the ambient noise to listen to. I could tell my mother was in deep thought and as Vanessa's eyes stayed glued to Ashton in his bed, I could tell she was eating on auto-pilot. Same as me.

The knock on the door was a welcome distraction and as the nurse from earlier walked in, followed by, who I assumed was Ashton's doctor, Vanessa jumped out of her seat like she got the shock of her life. As the doctor casually strolled in, he took note of myself and my mother. He glanced at the clock and noted the time, but the look of genuine surprise on his face was what was most interesting.

He didn't immediately say anything to anyone. Other than the expression he had on his face initially and the look he gave Vanessa, he didn't outright acknowledge we were in the room. Instead, he moved around us and went to check on Ashton. I wasn't the only one who was trying to see exactly what the doctor was doing, but Vanessa was brave enough to stand up and walk over to where they were. I exchanged a glance with the nurse, but tried to make myself as invisible as possible.

As Vanessa and the doctor conversed silently, I wanted to move closer to hear what was going on, but instead I waited for them to finish. I wanted to know what was going to happen. I wanted to know if I was going to have to pull out my Sunday's best or if everything was going to be okay. I couldn't gauge anything from the expression on the nurse's face, her poker face being impenetrable, and as I looked back at my mom, she had the same troubled look on her face as I did.

As she nodded and gave him a quick hug, she turned to us and I could see the tears in her eyes. As she quickly wiped them away, the doctor gave her a parting pat on the back and walked out. I tried to not be a bit creeped out, but as he exited, he locked eyes with me and didn't break that contact until he was out of the room. I wanted to know what that was about, but my attention snapped back to Vanessa as she took her seat and put her head between her legs. I didn't know if she needed consoling or if things were fine. No one was giving me any answers, and even though I knew I had no right to be upset, I couldn't but help it.

'' Vanessa?"

I couldn't even hear her muffled response. Between her talking to her leg and crying, I don't think I would have understood either way. She didn't keep me in suspense for long though. As she raised her head, tears streaming down her face, I could see the relief in her eyes and that alone had me on the brink of tears. I waited until she spoke to truly accept that this was the reality though.

Vanessa: “He's going to be okay. They said they can take him off of the sedation tomorrow."

I wanted to jump up and celebrate. Ashton was going to be okay. He would pull through this, he'd come back to school, and then we'd...

We'd what? Be friends? Be partners on this project again? Who was I kidding. I'd be lucky if Ashton ever even spoke to me again. As the sad realization of that possibility hit me, it literally felt like somebody punched me in the gut. My mom and Vanessa both saw the instantaneous change in me. I excused myself and exited the room, looking for a quiet place to just clear my head.

Ashton had been hurt so many times. By so many people. And here I was, doing the very same thing to him. I wouldn't blame him if he never talked to me again. How could I, when I had done him so wrong? I wanted to run. To get in my car and run away. To just leave before I could see the judgement in his eyes that I knew was waiting for me. I wanted to hide from the accusing glares I knew were coming my way. The blame that I knew would feel like razors against my heart. I deserved it all and I would gladly take it if I knew something better was on the other side. If I know that following him, making things right would leave to a brighter future, a future where we were friends, then I would gladly take the hurt that I was sure to come.

As I made my way back to the room, the nurse, who's name I still hadn't gotten was walking out of Ashton's room with one of those medicine pouches in her hands. She nodded at me sympathetically and then went on about her business. I took a quick moment to completely collect myself and then I walked back into the room. My mom and Ashton's were mid-conversation, but when they saw me, they both stopped.

Mom: "Are you okay, Sweetie?”

'' Yeah, I'm fine. I just needed a moment."

I took my seat and although I knew they were both still looking at me, I made it a point to focus completely on Ashton. I didn't want to think about what they may have been thinking about me.

Vanessa: “They said he should wake up soon. A few hours at the most."

'' Good... That's good."

Vanessa: “He'll be happy to see you, Marcus."

I turned to her and I couldn't help the doubt that I felt. I mean, that would be great, but I was expecting the worse.

'' Yeah, let's hope."

We didn't have long to wait.

Even as they both left to go get food, I didn't leave Ashton's side. I didn't want him to wake up and nobody be there for him. I had already gone over every possible outcome to him seeing me here. To him waking up and being in the same room as me, in the same space. For him to wake up and hold me accountable for this, for what he was going through now, for the trials and tribulations that his suicide attempt would surely cause him in the weeks to come.

I stepped back as Vanessa rushed forward, tears in her eyes. He wasn't fully cognizant yet, but awareness had returned to his eyes. As Vanessa grabbed a hold of whatever part of him she could, she for the first time since I had met her, completely broke down. It was heartbreaking to watch as she was overtaken by such violent sobs that I almost rushed over to her to see if something was wrong, maybe the fluttering of his eyelids was a grande trick. But, as his eye turned in my direction, a single tear rolling down his face, I knew that this was real and I knew that all of my worst fears were about to come true.

Only then, for one of the few times in almost a full day did I dare leave his room. As I found a quiet corner to myself, my own floodgates opened and the tears came out like they never had before. Not when I lost her. Not when I lost them. But now, right now, it was one of the scariest moments of my life, because I honestly didn't know why I was so emotionally fragile.

It's not like Ashton and I had this great friendship. We hadn't even been talking for that long. I hated him! Didn't I? Wasn't I supposed to? But as I tried to rationalize that which could not be rationalized, I realized that whether I knew the reason or not, Ashton was back and it was time to put in work. I needed him in my life for reasons beyond me. But I needed him.

So very sorry that this chapter was so long coming. This is the first chapter I'm very nervous to post because,1) it has taken so long, 2) it's short, 3) it's from one perspective.
Let's see how this goes.
Tell me what you think and join the group.