Status: complete;;

Right Now

I’m Glad You Called

I tug the blankets over my head, ignore the footsteps coming down the stairs. I haven’t left my bed since I got home around four-thirty this morning; I don’t even know what time it is now, but it’s the least of my worries. Minute shivers run through my body even with the sweatpants, long-sleeved shirt, and hoodie I’m wearing, not to mention the thick comforter I currently have myself buried under. I know I should get up and use the bathroom before I pee the bed. Moving just seems like such monumental work. The mattress dips by my knees, and slender fingers tug gently at the edge of the blanket, pulling it away from my face.

“Oh, Deej…”

I squeeze my eyes shut, but the tears still leak out. Brianna climbs into the bed behind me, and her arm immediately drapes over my waist. She holds me tightly and whispers comfortingly to me as I shake and break apart. I didn’t think I could possibly have more tears to cry, but I’m certainly being proved wrong. I can’t breathe, my nose is too stuffed and my lungs feel four sizes smaller than they should be. Brianna’s hand cards through my hair. I can feel her trembling against my back and realise she’s crying with me. Everything I feel is threatening to overwhelm me, to drown me and swallow me whole, but I know that as long as Bri is here, I’m safe.

“DJ, can you talk to me?” she asks after my tears have stopped, and I hiccup but shake my head. “Okay. That’s okay.”

The world seems to slow down; nothing seems to matter outside of the way my entire core has been shattered, the comfort and strength Brianna offers, and how badly I yearn to turn back time and never come home from London. I did, though, and I went to that party. I went and now, I'm left to pick up the pieces of myself. Disgust coats every broken edge. I don't deserve to feel like this - it was my choice that led to this outcome, and he didn't really do anything that should have damaged me this much. Guilt slithers its way into my cracks, reminding me that my best friend is only here because she's a better person than I am. I cover my face with my arms, exhale a tremulous breath, and tell Bri what happened at the party.

I don't have the strength to fight off her hands as she forcibly rolls me to face her, and the look on her face would scare me if I could feel anything other than the everlasting torment and self-loathing that has taken up residence in my soul. Her eyes burn fiercely, promise retribution of biblical proportions, but her fingers are gentle, so gentle, as she cups my cheeks. She doesn't let me look away from her.

“I am so sorry you had to go through that. What's his name? I'll kill him for you, then I'll come back here and hold you through everything until you're better.”

“It's -”

“I swear to God, if you say it's fine, I'm liable to smack the lovin’ shit outta you.” And there's that wonderful drawl, I think idly under everything else that occupies my mind. “It is not okay, what he did. None of it is. Okay? No, honey, don’t shake your head at me. He is despicable and vile and less than the scum of the Earth, and I am going to kill him.”

“It doesn’t matter,” I finally manage to croak out.

“What the fuck do you mean, ‘it doesn’t matter’?”

I shrug awkwardly, wiping my cheeks and under my nose with the sleeve of my hoodie. “I’m never going to have to see him again.”

“Deej, don’t tell me…”

“I sent admissions an email this morning telling them I’m dropping out.”

“Why would you do that? Why are you giving up on your dream and not going after this guy for what he did?”

“It’s not like it’s important.”

“Dakota James, you wanting to be a nurse is absolutely important. You were supposed to be the next Carla Espinoza. You getting justice against him is definitely important.”

“Things change, Bri.” Sighing, I burrow deeper into the blankets and peer up at her through my lashes, muttering, “I’m just… I can’t do it. If I can’t - can’t get one guy to, to not t-touch me…”

Her arms immediately encircle me, and I don’t even care that her breasts are smashed against my face; I just sob in her arms, though very few tears come. I’m all cried out, no more to give, but the pain is still swirling wildly below the surface. I know Brianna’s anger masks how utterly worried she is about me - I can’t handle it right now. And the fact that, even after I said what I did, she was still willing to get on a flight to be here with me… it should be comforting to know that she loves and cares for me that much, but all it does is make me feel worse about everything that’s happened over the last month. Between the memory of the last night I spent in London and all the laughing and joking I did with Jacob, I can’t see the way out of this pit. And maybe - just maybe - I deserve to be here.

Brianna forces me out of bed once I start squirming to get my mind off of how full my bladder is. When I exit the bathroom, she points to the clothes on the bed, and I don't try to argue. I just change, thanking her silently for at least letting me dress in yoga pants and a clean hoodie. She grabs my hand, squeezes gently, and leads me up the stairs. The kitchen is illuminated by the overhead lights but empty; the sound of the evening news comes from the living room, and I can hear Anna laughing from the back patio. Bri shoves me without malice toward a dining chair. She sets a bowl of oatmeal on the table in front of me once I sit, then sits across me from. Eating with her watching me so intently is an awkward task, but mentioning it will only end poorly, so I choke down bite after bite of the apple-cinnamon mush, though it has the same flavour and consistency of sawdust on my tongue. An errant connection makes itself in my brain, and I spit out the mouthful back into the bowl, gagging at the way it reminds me too much of the taste of Jacob’s tongue against mine.

“I can’t eat,” I whisper, my voice cracking.

Brianna’s brows furrow, but she seems to accept it, taking the bowl away. I wince at the screech of the spoon against porcelain as she scrapes the oatmeal into the trash. I follow her blindly when she makes her way to the living room. My mom looks up from the television, smiles.

“Hey, look who’s awake!”

“Hi, Mama.”

“How was the party?”

I swallow down the bile, forcing a smile. “It was great.”

“Anna says you didn’t call for her to come get you.”

“Uh, no, I, um… I got a lift with someone else’s ride.” My stomach churns with the acidity of the lie, and I shift my attention to the screen of the TV. “What’s new in the world today?”

My mom exchanges a look with Bri, but I ignore it in favour of pretending that everything is all right, that I’m not currently falling apart inside for the hundredth time in the last hour. Thankfully, nobody questions it, and I act like I’m listening as my mom tells me about the headlines on the news. It's harder than I anticipated; how can a person hide so much so easily?

Brianna doesn't leave my side over the next few days - no matter what I do or where I go, she is right there with a soft smile and strong arms to hold me. It takes everything I have to not rely too heavily on her embrace. It's just going to hurt like Hell when she leaves again if I do. So I fake smiles in response, try my damnedest to act like I did before that night, anything I can to reassure her that I'll be okay.

“Why don't you come back with me?” she whispers into the dark on her last night, and I close my eyes, stifle a sigh. “Seriously, it would do you good to get away from here.”

“I'll be fine, muffin.”

“Deej, please hear me out. You can study to be a nurse in London, with the added bonus of always seeing my beautiful face and never, ever having to be around that disgusting prick. Lou won't mind. None of the guys will. Hell, they'd love to have you around all the time.”

I shake my head and roll onto my belly, tug the pillow over my head. Her frustration is palpable, and I half-expect for her to forcibly make me listen to her. Instead, she just scoots closer, curls her body around mine, and plays with the ends of my hair as she hums an amalgamation of songs that shouldn't work but somehow does. I slowly drift off to the feeling of being safe - but it doesn't stop the nightmares.
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title credit the call matt kennon