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This is a short story with mature content.
Everything feels different, the world feels strange. The floor feels warped under my feet, the air feels different against my skin. It's not that I can’t feel it, just that it's different. The ground feels less like a floor and more like a water bed, no one else seems to be as worried about it as I am. It's making me dizzy. The walls are strange too, they’re almost breathing? I watch the popcorn pattern covered by the coat of dark purple paint, I watch it as it collapses and expands itself, breathing, in, out, in, out. Why is no one else looking at the walls? I don't feel too dizzy so I try to stand, but I'm moving too slowly. Is everyone looking at me? Do I look high? They know. Of course they know, they’ve been here the whole time. Why is no one talking? Why am I not talking? Everyone must be looking at me, I probably look crazy.
“Need some help there, A?” I hear a voice say from above me. But all I can see is his torso, the red of his hoodie tucked awkwardly into his sweats at certain points, the white strings protruding out of the small holes in the waistline. The strings are moving too, like the air and the floor and the walls. They are being held up by air, I thought things went through the air, but there they are, floating in the open air, stuck to him by his pants. Maybe I'm just tripping.
“Do those look like snakes to you?” I say.
“What?” He responds, confused. I follow his voice, trailing my eyes up to see him looming over me. The light in the room seems brighter than it was before, the yellow aura of the room stronger. The colors bounce off each other, contrasting with the black of the man's pants and hair, the dark red of his hoodie complimenting the yellow feeling.
He leans down to me slowly and then shifts his weight so that he is balancing on his toes. “You´re tripping man, I can see it in your face. How many did you take?” he asks.
What did he say? I don't remember. I do remember, I'm high, that's what he said. Before I have the chance to respond in whatever broken words I can, there is a ring from an old rotary phone on a coffee table. Everybody stops. Another ring. Everyone is thinking the same thing I am. Oh shit.
There is no one directly next to the phone, and no one wants to answer it and risk it being a parent or the police. The boy that was helping me gets up and walks out of the room. Another ring. I can hear it in my ear in the interval between rings; it replicates and bounces through my skull, into the depth of my mind, rattling through my thoughts. It is like a song lyric on repeat and the space between me and the table grows larger and larger as the floor stretches, miles and miles distorting the space.
Through the door walks the boy, and behind him there is another girl. She must be the person hosting the party, but I don't remember ever meeting her. I came for the drugs, and I got what I wanted.
What did he ask me?
How many did I take?
How many did I take?
The ringing stops. The girl is holding the phone up to her ear. No one else seems as focused on the phone conversion as I am. Who uses rotary dials anyway? Is there even a cord to connect it to the wall, or an outlet for it to plug into?
“I'm sorry, who did you say this was?” She asks, pulling her cellphone out of her pocket. Her face looks worried, her brows furrowed, her mouth bent into a frown. The more I stare, the more her face stretches. Her frown stretches through her chin, dripping down her neck. Her eyes are turned like her mouth, the inner and outer corners melt down her cheeks.
“I t s f ooo r y o u,” she says, reaching out for the phone. I reach out to take it but it's only air that slips through my fingers. I try to get my arm to stretch, to make up for the miles between us, but the phone is sliding away from me.
“What are you reaching for?” The boy again. I drift my eyes up to his face and focus on the finer details.
This was what I wanted the drugs for.
His smile slides from ear to ear and his nose pulls closer as his face hides behind it. “The phone.” I glanced back at the girl that was holding it out to me. I should know her name, shouldn't I? I must seem so rude, someone is calling her for me, a person at her party that doesn't even know her name. But she is not reaching out to me, I'm not sure where she is anymore, have I been staring at him long enough for her to leave?
“What did you take man?” the boy asks, snatching back my attention.
“Mushroom pizza and a little white paper,” I responded. I remember Tony gave me the pizza and Crystal gave me the acid.
“Can I get you something? Some water or some fresh air?” he asks, stretching his hand out for me to take. I look down at my own hands, willing them to move. I need to pee. Are my arms real, no they are real, I can feel them on my legs, I can feel my fingers picking at the scab on my palm. But these are not my arms. Did my hands always look like this?
“Aelin, come on, let's get some fresh air. I'll grab you a glass of water,” he says, reaching down for one of my hands. I watch as he picks it up and I feel the weight of it shift. I should say something to him but I don't want to move.
“I need to pee,” I say, following the pull of my hand until I am standing with my feet not so firmly planted on the ground. I feel really tall, my legs seem longer. “Oh, OK, do you need help getting to the bathroom?” He asks, turning his head from side to side, he might be looking for a bathroom or looking for that girl so he could ask.
“No, I'm ok, I’ll find it,” I say, then stumble off in the other direction. There are so many people in this house, is everyone looking at me? Why is everyone looking at me? No, they aren't looking, I'm high, I know I'm high. I open the door to the first room I find and see a girl hunched over a dresser drawer vomiting. It's heavy vomit too, like projectile sh*t. It's a murky shade of pink and there are chunks of whatever sushi dinner she ate swimming in the lake of puke. I close the door quickly. I can't be that high, I am thinking just fine. Do I think like this though? Normally? Maybe that's the secret to tripping, we get to experience open floodgates of our brain and think freely away from the simulation of life.
Another door greats me to my left, it is different from the rest of the doors, it is painted a periwinkle purple and there are little white clouds painting a starry fantasy sky. Right in the middle of the door is the name Ivea on a white-lined piece of paper, facing the wrong way. It is written in washy letters, not shaped right, some too big and others too small. It's written on funhouse walls. I follow it like a roller coaster. If I let myself stare, I can see the cloud begin to float on the door. The clouds are so perfectly shaped it looks like a cartoon sky with every part covered in color.
I’m about to open the door when I hear something from inside. I wait for a moment to make sure I know what I heard. Then again, from whatever lays behind this Ivea’s door, a hushed “F*ck” and the rattle of beads against the wall. I turned and walked away.
There is a third and final door at the end of the hallway that is painted a creamy shade of white. I turn the handle to the door quickly and swing it open to reveal the bathroom. It looks like something out of a retail catalog, the walls a light blue and the floor a blue white and black tile in a pattern, copy and pasted onto the rest of the floor. It makes the pattern spiral out till it looks abstract. The Bathroom curtain has planets and astronauts and rocket ships painted in swirls and solid lines. I close the door behind me and turn on the water. The moment I am over the sink I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I look normal, part of me knows that that is me in the mirror. I have blackheads over my nose and a pimple on my forehead that looks almost ready. My eyes look bigger than I remember them, but I know what mirrors do to the brain on acid. They distort reality into something inhuman. I made a hobby recently of taking drugs and looking in the mirror. I’m more than used to dissociation, so this isn't too far outside of the norm for me from day to day. At least now I know I'm high. I stand bent over the sink and feel the water rush through my hands as it's expelled from the faucet. I close the little gaps between my fingers as best I can and layer my hands on top of one another to pick up a puddle of water in my hands. I splash the water I catch over my face, jumping at the prickle of cold that it presents to me. I continue to splash water on my face until I am feeling a little more myself. Then I hear something fall from behind me.
I stop abruptly and turn off the sink. I look into the mirror again and am met with my own eyes looking back at me. The water helped wake me up and though my face doesn't look quite right, it's not as bad as before. The curtain separating me and the tub is pulled tight to one side and closed shut. Another crash, this one unfinished. The little pitter-patter of something bouncing off the ground and then meeting it again is not there. I hear it fall, followed by silence. Both sounds came from behind the curtain. Is this real? I always get paranoid when I get high, and I'm on some heavy hallucinogens. I reach out to the curtain and grab one of the folds in the fabric. Under my breath I count down from three, gathering any confidence I can muster, and I pull it open wide.
Nothing. It's empty. There is a shampoo bottle on the floor that I assume made the first noise. There is also a splotch of pink conditioner on the bottom of the tub but the bottle of conditioner is on the shelf. My curiosity is strong but my survival instinct is stronger, and I can feel the edge of the cloud that comes when I feel the drugs again. My moment of clarity was just that. Maybe not even that, I've never had a trip that realistic before, but I guess there is a first time for everything. I leave the restroom as soon as I can and make my way down the hallway careful not to get caught up in the colors of the walls or the pattern of the carpet on the hallway floor. Once I make it into the main area, I am shoulder to shoulder with people I've never met. There are hordes of people drunkenly staggering past me.
Drinking was never my drug of choice, I could never hold my liquor. The last time I drank, I vomited all over my friend’s carpet. Plus drugs are just more fun, except for the bad trips. I push through the crowd, muttering pleasantries under my breath as people look back at me and mutter insults under their breath.
I don't know where I'm going, I'm just aimlessly walking around looking for anyone I know. The house is huge, containing a second floor, a basement and an attic, and a large back patio. Above me, a door in the ceiling leads to the attic, held shut by a clasp. The loud music is nothing compared to the sound of chatter from person to person, incessantly bouncing off of the walls and into my ears. I walk over to the door that looks like it leads outside, hoping the fresh air will help me regain my senses. The moment I step outside, I see my mistake.
The colors affronting my eyes are so much, everything is so vibrant. The green grass covering the lawn is so vivid, I feel as though it might engulf me in its blades. The trees are longer than they usually are, they tower over me, just waiting to succumb to their own weight and crush me. There are little pops of color in the fields, telling me that flowers hide behind the little strands of green. I see pops of white, yellow, pink, and red-painted over tulips and dandelions.
My thoughts are interrupted by the whisper of a boy behind me. The boy. He is standing at the end of the porch with another girl, the same one that answered the phone. She seems worried, but if the cops were on the other end of the line, she would have called off the party. I watch him place his hand on her sleeve and his mouth shapes the words, “It's going to be ok, we just need to be careful.” I can tell I’m staring, but they don't seem to notice. The girl tucks a small strand of her vibrant copper-red hair behind her ear, shaking her head violently. I don't catch what he says, but something makes her walk away angrily. She storms past me, the boy flying after her, only stopping to look at me. “Are you ok?” He asks hesitantly. I nod, and he follows the other girl inside.
I'm engulfed in whatever conversation these strangers are having, so I turn around and walk back inside to follow them. When I open the door it takes me less than a minute to see the girl. She has gone from whispering to yelling about some broken lamp and an alcohol stain on the carpet. The boy, on the other hand, has disappeared. Once the girl is done yelling. She turns and walks down the hall, striding into the door that leads to the basement. Once again, I push through the uncomfortably crowded room till I’m met with the door. I swing it open, but stop before I walk down. I can't see anything. Why didn't she turn the light on? All I can see in front of me is a dark staircase, with a railing that creaks when I touch it.
My mind is playing tricks on me, I see little faces in the dark. I see the patterns and textures of whatever lies at the bottom of the stairs but they look back at me with faces and bodies. I look around me for a light switch and realize with dawning horror that there isn’t one. I'm about to turn around when, once again, I hear whispering. I'm on the first step down when I feel a hand clutch my wrist.
“Aelin, why are you going down there?” I spin around as quickly as I can. It's just Charlie, the boy that told me about the party.
“God charlie you scared me!” I exclaim, pulling away from him.
“Aelin, are you ok? Bad trip?” he asks, staring at me. I can see my reflection in his eyes. I look like I'm in a fish lens. I look inhuman.
“All good, I just wanted to ask that girl something,” I say, looking back and forth between the ominous staircase and Charlie's concerned expression.
"Down there?" He asks, walking closer to me so that he and I are parallel to the stairs. "Little creepy don't you think?"
He's very right, it is creepy. I can’t keep looking at the little shadows hiding in the darkness, but something is pulling me to her. Call it curiosity or stupidity or whatever else, but I want to know what she was whispering about.
"I'll go down with you," he says, nonchalantly. I nod my head, trying to match his "it’s whatever" attitude. I step down first, cringing as the first stair creeks below me. I step again, this time more firm. I can hear my heartbeat in my ears. It's so loud that it's almost like a song. It clashes with the single verse of a song the party was playing earlier, still bouncing around my brain. I know the song isn't playing, but the farther down I go and the less I can hear the noise from upstairs, the louder my song gets.
When I reach the bottom of the stairs, I can't see anything. I put my hand out in front of me to feel for a string or a switch to turn on a light, but I'm not sure there is one. There is no sign of the girl either, no whispering or footsteps, and though I'm not sure how big this basement is I feel like I should hear something.
"Charlie?" I call out in the quietest yell I can make.
"Why did we come down here again?" He asks from somewhere behind me. "Seriously this place is creepy as hell." Again from behind me.
"I told you, I want to ask that girl something," I say, taking another step into the darkness in front of me.
“And we couldn't wait for her up there because?"
It's not like I can tell him my entire goal was to continue to eavesdrop on a conversation with the host from a party I wasn't invited to, so I decide not to respond. The farther I go, the more I question my decisions, but the sound of charlie's footsteps behind me makes me feel a little less nervous. My eyes have adjusted enough to the darkness to stop myself from running into a door. I'm about to open it when I stop. There is a noise from inside, a voice. There seems to be a conversation going on, but I only hear the voice of the girl. She’s crying. I feel another body brush my shoulder and stop where I am.
"Yeah, sorry, this seems private. I'm gonna go," Charlie says. I hear his footsteps trail off as I listen to what the girl is saying. I can’t completely make out what she’s saying, but from the bits and pieces, I grasp that she seems to be apologizing to someone. She says it wasn't her fault, and that she doesn't deserve this. Deserve what? There is always drama at parties, but this seems more serious than that. I press my ear against the door, hoping to catch some sort of context or some clue as to who she is talking to when I hear footsteps from behind me again. I guess Charlie was curious after all. I go to call for him but stop myself, afraid the girl will hear me. I let my attention fall back to the door as the footsteps grow closer.
She has stopped talking, and the sounds of her sobbing are all I hear. It’s like she just watched someone die, her cries are filled with so much agony, even her tears are pleading and begging for something. It's not loud, she seems to be muffling them as best she can. I am so caught up in her cries that I almost don't notice the sudden feeling of warmth that comes with a person inching close behind me.
They reach out and grab my hand, lacing their fingers with mine and then holding tight to the cling of my grip. "I guess you’re as curious as I am," I whisper, leaning my head only slightly to the side to talk to him. My response comes not in words but in the tightening of his hold. I squeeze back quickly, then try to release my grip, but it doesn't budge. Then I feel another hand on my lower back, pressing my shirt to the light layer of sweat gathered in the dip of my waist from the heat and the house full of warm bodies.
"I get it's a little freaky in here, but please let go, it's getting weird," I say, stretching my hand and trying to wiggle out of his grasp. There is a moment of uncomfortable silence before a sound slithers in.
"But I want you to hold me," says a girl's voice from behind me.
I jump and pull away faster than I have moved during my entire trip. The hand falls from my back but the more I pull away from her, the harder she holds. I'm scratching at her hand now, and I see the shadow of another arm reaching for me.
"Please hold me?"
I can hear the cry in her voice as she comes closer. Everything feels wrong. I'm pushing to get her off me, but her form holds still. My scratching does not release her hand, but it does slough off a chunk of her skin, deadened and near-black. There is a little voice in my head that tells me it's the drugs, but this feels too real. I can feel the tips of her fingers dig into the soft patches of skin between my bones and I feel the blood rush from my hand.
"Get off me you crazy person!" I yell, and for a moment her clutch loosens. I let gravity run its course as the momentum of the force I was pulling slammed me into the door. It swings open beneath me and I fall to the floor with a rattling crash.
The light floods my vision, blinding me to the horrors of whatever was holding me. I scramble to my feet, taking in the buzz of color that’s assaulting my eyes. The moment I see the door, I slam it shut and whip my body so I am standing with my back to the door and my hands keeping the doorknob in place. It shakes violently beneath my hands and I am screaming for her to stop, then another scream joins me from the girl in the room. She is sitting on the bed with her knees pulled to her chest and mascara running down her cheeks. Her hair has stuck to her face where her tears have fallen in little wet strands. She stops her screams before I do, but anger quickly replaces the fear.
"What are you doing in my room?!" She screams, grabbing a knife from her bedside table.
Who keeps a knife at their bedside table?
I immediately put one of my hands in the air, keeping the other on the knob of the door, careful not to let that girl inside.
"I was just coming down here to talk to you when some girl grabbed my hand. I thought she was charlie but she wouldn't let go and just kept asking me to hold her over and over again and then she wouldn't let me go so I came in here to hide and- " she cuts me off.
"Woah, Woah, slow down," she says, putting the knife down and getting up from the bed. She wipes her eyes quickly and smears her mascara across the side of her cheek, making it worse than it was before.
I will try again. "That girl out there, she held my hand and wouldn’t let go of me. It was terrifying!" I say in between broken breaths and heaving.
"What? Who?" She asks, waving for me to step away from the door. The handle isn't showing anymore, but I'm a little too shaken to move just yet.
"How am I supposed to know, this is your party!" I exclaim, shifting my weight so that if she tries to move me I won’t budge.
"What did you say she said?" The girl responds with a shimmer of concern in her eyes. She steps away from me slightly and there is a hint of realization in her tone.
"She wanted me to hold her or something! Seriously, who comes up to a stranger at a party and tells you to hold them?" I say, more pissed off than I meant it to sound. The longer I’m in the room, the less scared I am. I start to collect myself. She, on the other hand, seems to fall apart at my words. She runs across the room to her dresser and picks up her phone, frantically pressing buttons. Once she seems to complete what she is doing she puts the phone to her ear and I hear her pray, literally praying for whoever is on the other line to pick up.
She has a mural on her wall of characters from some animated TV show, there are beams of green color bursting out of a painting of a rocket ship. Inside a little window on the rocket is a little boy with a face pulled into the shape of a beak and a beard that swirls at the end like a genie.
"Hi, Aelin!" The little boy says to me. He giggles and jumps out of his spaceship onto a nearby cloud.
"Hi?" I say back following the twirl of his fingers in his beard. Now that he is out of the ship, I see his body. He has small legs and arms that look out of place with the stretch of his torso creating a horrible dichotomy.
"You took a lot of physics, lady, you must be having fun," he says to me with a grin so large I can see his yellow teeth and green gums. I nod my head once again lost in the magic of the trip. He giggles again and jumps up and down on the cloud before stopping to look at me. I connect my eyes with his overdrawn big white circles and black dots in the middle for pupils.
"You gotta sober up, I'm not going to be much help when your friend comes back," he says in all seriousness, before adding a goofy laugh at the end. I nod my head and let him continue to run rampant amongst the rainbows, asteroids, and planets on her wall.
"Hey man, I don't know what you're on, but you need to snap out of it and we need to go." I hear the girl say from across me. I look over at her as fast as I can, but I feel like I'm moving in slow motion.
"I don't want to open the door." I have to force the words to come, but once they are out I realize how much I mean them.
"We need to if we wanna get out of here," she says, walking to me and then reaching for the door knob. I stop her.
"Do you know who that was?" I ask, unable to meet her eyes.
"It was no one, just some prankster trying to pull one over on you," she says, pushing me out of the way. I don't know why but I don't believe her, something in me is telling me not to believe her. I stand my ground and don't let her pass.
"That was a really f*cked up prank, they left bruises on my hand!" I say, holding it up for her to see.
"I swear there is nothing to worry about, this is a party. Kids are stupid and find it funny to scare people in dark basements," she says. She's not wrong, but I can tell she doesn't believe what she is saying. Her hands are shaking. ]
"Why did you want to know what she- " I am cut off by a knock on the door.
"Ty, I looked around, there is no one down here, it's safe to come out," says a boy from the outside. She pushes me off the door quickly and this time I don't protest. She swings it open and is met by a pair of arms reaching around her neck to pull her into a hug. The boy attached to those arms is the same one that was helping me earlier.
"I promise I’m not going to let her touch you," he says. I don’t think he's noticed I'm there yet. When he does he lets go of her quickly. "Aelin!" He says nervously. "I didn't realize you were there." He finishes.
I respond immediately. "Who was out there? Who are you not safe from?" I ask, trying to sound as intimidating as possible.
"Literally no one, you're just tripping, man," he says, turning back towards the darkness and pulling the girl, evidently Ty, along with him. I follow close behind, not about to take any chances after what just happened. Back in the darkness, I am once again blind, but I listen to the footsteps of the two and follow them the best I can. When we get to the top of the stairs, I watch them turn the corner to the kitchen as quickly as they can muster, but before they turn I hear the boy say something.
"Stay close to me, she is still inside the house."
I have had just about enough of this party and I would much rather enjoy the remainder of my trip in the safety and comfort of my own bedroom, but I am not good enough to drive and I'm not sure there is a single person at this party that is. I decide I want to find charlie and see how much he as had to smoke. I see him almost immediately. He is leaning up against the wall in an overly cocky stance with his elbow propping him up, looking down at a girl. She seems to be about 5'2 so he towers over her. She laughs a little too hard at one of the weird cheesy pickup lines he practiced on me in the car. I feel a tinge of guilt for c*ck-blocking him, but the more I think about it the more I'm glad that I'm putting this girl out of her misery.
"Charlie!" I call and watch his head twirl around to see me.
"Whats’ up, A?" he calls back, putting his drink down and mouthing "call me" to the girl. I walk over to him.
"Look, I really hate to do this, but some really freaky sh*t just happened and I really don't want to be here anymore. Is there any chance you’re good enough to take me home?" I ask, grabbing his cup from the table and dumping it out into the trash can behind him.
"Hey! Not cool!" He exclaims, reaching for the cup. It's too late, the remainder of his drink is in the trash.
"Please, I really don't feel safe here anymore," I say, pleading. I pull the keys out of my pocket.
"Ugh, fine, my curfew is in 20 minutes anyway," he says, taking the keys from me and pulling out his phone. "We just need to go say goodbye to Ty, and then we can go."
Charlie has known the host of this god-awful party since diapers. You'd think that I'd have met her, or at least had known her name considering Charlie and I are best friends, but he has always wanted to keep the people in his life separate. They haven't been close this past year once she met that other guy, but they invited us to a party with drugs so we came.
We walk down the hall to the bathroom I was in before. He doesn't seem to be in any particular rush until he hears Ty yell, "PLEASE DON'T, I SWEAR IT WASN'T MY FAULT," followed by a loud crash and… someone whispering to hold me. He breaks into a run and swings the door open only to stop dead in his tracks. Below him, lies Ty in a pool of blood on the edge of the tub.
The blood rushes from the split in her head down the side of the tub into the pool of shampoo left from earlier. The purple of the shampoo and the red of the blood don't quite mix, the blood being too thick to pass through the shampoo, so it collects in a puddle. If you look closely, you can see the crack in her skull letting us into the unknown part of her brain.
Charlie is the first to move. It feels like I've been standing here for an eternity but it's most likely only been a few moments. He is screaming for help. I'm just standing there. I am not a stranger to death, but I am a stranger to this brutality. He notices the crack in her head, I notice the mark on her wrist. It's a patch of yellow on her skin that would theoretically match the bruise on my hand if it got any darker, but I'm not sure she'll live that long. Hell, I'm not even sure she is alive now.
I walk around her slowly, tuning out the sounds of violent screams and people running and yelling and crying. I pick up her wrist and hear the girl's voice in my head.
"But I want you to hold me."
The more I think about it, the further I spiral, I hear it again and again and again, louder with time until it drowns out everything else.
Hold me. Hold me. Hold me. Hold me.
"Call 911! FUCKING CALL THE COPS AELIN!" Charlie is screaming at me. I don't know why he is so worried, I'm sure she will wake up soon. I still grab my phone. I press the emergency button and then dial the three numbers as best I can, though the numbers don't look much like numbers to me. I press the call button and hand over the phone to him before moving to hold my hand up to her face and push the hair out of the way. My wrist comes back soaked in her blood. I pull the remaining hair out of her eyes and look into them. All I see is emptiness. They’re two black holes in her head that want to swallow me whole. I don't want to be swallowed, not by this, not by her.
I keep waiting for her to wake up, but she stays put, no matter how much Charlie shakes her. Just a shell, the absence of life. I look up to Charlie who it sobbing, pressing her hand to his forehead, begging her to come back, begging for help, begging for a chance.
I was wrong. She is not waking up. The hand he is holding has bruises as well.
Hold me, I hear again.
Hold me. Hold me. Hold me.
I can’t get it out of my head. I try to tell charlie but the words do not come. Nothing comes. "I know who did this," I want to say. "We have to stop them," I want to stay, but nothing comes. my knees sink deeper into the floor. The blood is spreading, and it stained the blue of my pants with the clotted warm liquid seeping into the fabric of my clothing. I'm not sure how long I've been sitting here. She wasn't important to me, but I tried to warn her. She didn't need a warning, she knew, she knew this was coming from the beginning. How did she know?
Charlie is at my side now, pulling at my arm to try and get me to move but I'm not much help. There's a pattern in the bruise that my mind recognizes as the man on the bedroom wall, cheery and little and horrifying.
"Hello Aelin," he says to me.
"Hello?" I respond.
"I told you to sober up, now look at what happened. It was real, it was real and you could have stopped it," he says. I feel the guilt consume me. The girl was real, the bruises were real, this is real. And I could have stopped it.
But that's not what has stayed with me for the rest of my life. No. What stays is the girl's words, the unanswered questions, the sadness behind everything she said.
Hold me. I want you to hold me.