Here's to the Broken Kids | Part One | Chapter Five
Posted October 10th, 2018 by Zelda
in a perpetual predicament
A/N: this chapter is way longer than the others and also unedited because i just don't edit first draft stuff okay. everything is unedited, we die like men. also i realized that i didn't account at all for nanowrimo so now i have less than a month to finish my current wip and whip up at least four extra chapters of HTTBK in order to continue posting regularly during november. so if the chapters i post during those months are especially messy, you know why.
also do you think it counts as cheating if i do a story for nano that's technically already started? because i'm really feeling Riptide for this year's nano but i've already got three-ish chapters written? I have an abundance of other options, but i'm gonna kick myself if i end up with another notebook that has twenty sad little pages filled because i tried to write something that wasn't ready to emerge from the story womb yet.
anyways thank you so much for reading, i love all of you! have a fantastic week and hey, let me know if you're planning on doing nanowrimo this year.
The cafeteria seemed louder than usual, like the ceiling was lower and the students were crammed closer together. It felt warmer too, Xena thought, wiping the sweat off her forehead. She hadn’t done anything except grab her food and sit to eat but her heart raced like she’d been running. She held her fingers out under the table. They didn’t shake much, at least not the way they shook when she was having an attack. Maybe it was just an after-tremor from the morning, or sleep deprivation. Last night hadn’t been great.
“Hey,” Samuel plunked down in an empty seat across from her. “Are you busy after school?”
“Nope,” she curled her fingers into a fist and switched her attention to her food. Over the past week she and Sam had spent a lot of time together. It was nice to have a friend again, and she had managed to keep her secret under wraps thus far.
“Do you want to come over and study for the science test on Monday?”
“There’s a test?” she squinted, the cafeteria lights were too bright and her head was beginning to pound. Maybe she should have stayed home today instead of popping an extra Neurontin pill. She gnawed her lip, willing herself to be less dizzy.
“Are you feeling okay? You look pale,” Sam asked, reaching over to press the back of his hand to her forehead. “You’re burning up,”
“I’m fine,” she brushed him away, “I have a—a cold,”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah.” She coughed unconvincingly into the crook of her arm. For someone who lied as much as she did, she wasn’t great at it. The look on Sam’s face was proof of her failure. “I’ll be fine,”
He nodded, mostly to himself, and set his fork to the side.
Her head pounded harder, stabbing pains behind her eyes. Biting back a groan, she rested her head on the table. The tabletop was cool to the touch, soothing against her blazing skin. She checked her hand again, holding in front of her face. No shaking. She wasn’t panicking, just miserable. Four Neurontin pills in the morning was a mistake, especially when she normally took that in a day.
The table creaked, and a moment later Sam was rubbing her back. “Come on, I’ll take you to the nurse’s office,” he said.
“No,” Xena said, only it came out more like ‘Nnooo’. There was too much risk that the nurse would recognize what was wrong with her, or worse, that she would get sent home to two concerned parents who definitely wouldn’t be fooled by a half-truth from their slurring, sweating daughter. It was one thing to sneak around when her head was clear, slipping by when she couldn’t see straight was a different matter all together.
“I’ll help you, it’s not that far. You really don’t look okay,” he said. She could imagine the look on his face. This was not good, she had to convince him that she was fine. Mustering her strength, she sat up. An immediate wave of dizziness punched her right in the face. She winced, rubbing her eyes.
A familiar form appeared at the foot of the table dressed in an obnoxious orange shirt. Xena froze as Matt planted both hands on the table. Sweat trickled down the back of her neck. Of all the terrible timing in the world, she thought, Matt had the worst. He cleared his throat, rocked forward, cocked his head to the side.
“What’s up, Zee?” A twisted smile crossed his face.
“Go away, please,” Xena said, bowing her head. It was the wrong thing to say. Matt’s smile dropped and he shoved off the table, the tremor jostling Xena.
“That’s not very nice, are you off your meds? You know how snippy you get,” he sneered, sending chills down Xena’s sweaty spine. Her hands were shaking now, so much for not panicking.
“Oh, you don’t look so good. Maybe you’ve overdosed. Is that it, Zee? Take too many happy pills this morning? That’s hilarious.”
She could feel herself wilting, shrivelling up inside herself. Matt was emptying her secret shame out for Sam, and there was nothing she could do to stop him. She should have known this would happen. She should have known better than to hang out with Sam, especially at school where Matt could see. There was nothing he would bar to keep her boxed up as his very own paper doll. She bit her bottom lip to keep it from trembling as she buried her face in her arms, cowering.
“Your friend looks kinda surprised,” Matt said, he obviously intended to kill the friendship dead. He did, after all, have an arsenal of secrets at his disposal. “Did you tell him? Did she tell you? No? Well, she’s crazy,” and he went on, and on, and Xena sank lower in her seat silently pleading him to stop. To leave her a shred of dignity. But he wouldn’t. The whole exchange didn’t last much longer than a minute or two, but he was thorough.
She was crazy. She needed medication. She had dangerous mood swings. Samuel should stay far, far away because she was liable to make a mess out of his life if he wasn’t careful.
At the end of it all, Matt tucked his hands into his jean pockets and walked away, leaving Xena as an aching puddle on the table. Tears rolled down the bridge of her nose, mingling with the sweat. She was shaking down to her core, her hands worst of all despite being clamped over the back of her neck. Beside her Samuel remained silent, stunned probably. Terrified. Disgusted with her. Thinking about it made her shake harder, and she knew with horrible certainty that today she would be going home alone.
Her friendship with Samuel Waryn was over.
“Is he telling the truth, did you take something?” Sam’s voice was right next to her ear, low like he was asking for a secret. She nodded. There was no point in lying, even if she could salvage this mess, Matt would just come and rip it apart again with worse truths.
“How much?” he sounded just a little bit scared.
“Four pills,” she answered, the words came slow. It was hard to get her mouth and brain to co-operate.
“How much is that in milligrams, do you know?”
She thought for a moment, dredging up how much each pill was. “Eight hundred,” she said at last. “Does it matter?”
“Yes, it does. I think you need to go see the nurse,”
“No,” she couldn’t. She couldn’t get her parents involved and the nurse would call them.
“My parents can’t know about this, they think they can trust me,” she rasped, tears clogging her throat. She couldn’t tell if her cheeks were burning hotter from embarrassment or from fever. She turned her head to look at him through glassy eyes. She found him with his head laid on his arms, staring at her with storm clouds in his eyes and furrows in his brow. His cheeks were flushed too.
“Are the drugs yours?” he asked, furrows deepening.
“You heard Matt,” she drew a stutter-y breath. She couldn’t get her breathing under control.
“I heard Matt, not you,” he said with startling sincerity. Xena had only a moment to appreciate it before reality crashed in. He was asking because he didn’t know if she was screwed in the head like Matt said, or just another druggie. Right now she could be either as far as he knew. She bit her lip and moved her hands up to hide her face.
“Hey,” his brushed the back of her hand, his touch was warm and light, “I’ve been on antidepressants for like, six months, it’s not a big deal to take meds. But I need to know if they’re yours ‘cause if they’re not they could kill you.” The worry in his words was clear now, but that wasn’t what made Xena inch her hand away from her eyes.
“You’re on antidepressants?”
“Yeah, are you?”
“No, antipsychotics. I normally only take two in the morning but I—I had a nightmare,” she couldn’t remember the nightmare, but she’d woken up at two a.m. in a cold sweat and quickly succumbed to a gasping, shaking, sobbing panic attack. The Neurontin had calmed her down, but not put her back to sleep. Desperate, she had taken a couple of melatonin pills from the medicine cabinet and that helped her rest, but in first period she’d had another panic attack because of them. She had forgotten how much melatonin raised her anxiety.
“Okay, that’s all I needed to know,” Sam sighed. He sat up, brushed his hair out of his eyes, and propped his elbows on the table. “How about you and I skip the rest of school and hang out at my house instead,”
“I’ll text my brother, he’s at work but his boss is really chill so he could come get us no problem. You won’t be surrounded by all these people and I’ll miss that evil evil P.E. class, it’s the perfect plan,” he pulled his phone from his pocket, dangling it in front of her face, “if, you agree.”
“Are you sure?”
“As sure as Angel,”
“Angel. You know, from Maximum Ride,” when recognition failed to strike Xena, Sam waved it off and held his phone up again, “whatever. Wanna leave?”
“Okay,” she agreed, wiping the tears from her face with a shaky hand. She could breath easier now, but that was the only thing that had improved in the last five minutes. Without her Neurontin she wasn’t sure anything else would get better, and she couldn’t have any more of that right now.
“Alright, great. I’ll text him now.”
By the end of lunch period, Sam and Xena were sneaking out the front doors. Frigid autumn rain poured down on their heads as they bolted for the student parking lot, where a beaten down pick-up truck sat idling. Sam reached the truck first and flung open the back door for Xena. Soaking wet, they both clambered in. Heat blasted through the cab of the truck, instantly soothing their shivers, the ones caused by the freezing rain at least. Xena’s legs felt like jello as she slid all the over and pressed up against the opposite door.
Sam’s brother sat in the front seat, his winter jacket was thrown on over an oil-stained tee with a smattering of holes beginning to form over his stomach. Dirt caked his nails and stained his hands, something black was smeared across his nose.
“Jake this is Xena, Xena this is my brother, Jacob,” Sam said, ruffling his hair to free it of rainwater.
“Hey,” Jacob glanced over his shoulder to greet her. He had the same olive complexion and dark curls as Samuel, but his hair reached his shoulders and his eyes were a darker blue.
“Nice to meet you,” Xena said, internally cringing at how raspy her voice sounded. Jacob didn’t seem to care, he just nodded and turned back around to put the truck into gear.
“Is this why you called a code, to play hooky?” Jacob asked as the truck roared out of the parking lot. Samuel grimaced, making a grab for his seatbelt.
“No, that would be against the rules. Asking about a code is against the rules too, by the way,”
Calling code? Xena frowned, clinging to the overhead grip as the truck bounced over some impressively sized potholes. That must have been what Samuel texted his brother earlier.
“Yeah whatever, I’m just making sure I’m not aiding my little bro’s descent into teenage delinquency,”
Samuel rolled his eyes to the ceiling, and immediately bounced his head against the window as Jacob hit yet another car-eating pothole. By the smug grin on Jacob’s face, Xena guessed he’d hit that one on purpose. “Speaking of, mom and pops are home right now.”
“What? Why?” Samuel sat up quickly. By the look on his face he hadn’t been expecting his parents. Jacob shrugged.
“Isaac is due home tonight so they both took the afternoon off to tidy the house and stuff,”
“Well you can’t take us home then. Mom will freak out and send us right back to school,” Sam said, rubbing the spot where his head had struck the glass. Xena could practically see the gears turning in his head as a mischeveous grin marched across his face. “Take us to the shop,”
“No,” Jacob answered immediately, but that didn’t deter Samuel even a little.
“Come on, it’s just until three thirty. We won’t bother you at all,” he leaned forward, resting his chin on the edge of the driver’s chair. “I can show Xena around the warehouse,”
“No, you can stay in the coffee room,”
“So you’ll take us?”
Jacob scowled at the road, the expression looked more at home on his face than a smile.
“Please?” Samuel added, casting a wink at Xena. His brother sped through a yellow light, scowl still plastered on his face. But instead of delivering a hard ‘no’, he sighed and nodded.
“You can come. But only until school is out, and I don’t want to here any complaints from my boss about the coffee room getting shifted around, got it?”
“Got it,” Samuel grinned, falling back in his seat. He turned to Xena, and flashed a big thumbs up. Xena returned the gesture, much less enthusiastically. She was beginning to regret agreeing to this. There were so many things that could go wrong. What happened if Jacob changed his mind? What if the school called home about her absences, and she didn’t get home in time to delete the messages? She pursed her lips, the jostling of the old truck was getting to her. What if she puked all over the inside of Jacob’s truck before they even made it to his workplace. Embarrassment made her face flush and it hadn’t even happened… yet.
Thankfully, it wasn’t long before they were pulling into a junkyard on the edge of the industrial side of town. Chain link fences topped with razor wire surrounded the huge chunk of land. Broken down cars with rust creeping up the frames lined the eastern side of the fence, three row deep all stacked four cars high. A pile of waterlogged plywood was stacked off to the side of the open gate, and various clusters of appliances were scattered throughout the yard. The truck trundled towards a large rectangle of a building near the center of the junkyard.
Jacob parked in front of the building, near a glass door that had a chipped decal announcing the junkyards’ business hours. Xena hopped out. She had to steady herself against the open door for a minute as the junkyard swung wildly before her. The cool rain was a welcome relief from her fever. She let her eyes close, letting the touch of the rain on her face ground her.
“Hey, Xena, are you good?”
“I’m good,” she opened her eyes, and followed Samuel inside.
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