✠ Chapter Forty-Eight ✠

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.Gabriel's POV.

"Are you ever going to take that sweatshirt off?"

I looked up from my bowl of cereal. My mom and dad were sitting across from me at the kitchen table eating their own breakfast for dinner. Well, my dad was eating, at least. My mom had taken to staring at me instead. I stopped swirling my Cheerios around in the milk. I looked at her timidly, unsure about what she was talking about.

"What?" I asked. I'd heard her, but maybe I'd wanted her to think that I'd been so infatuated with my dinner I hadn't.

"That sweatshirt. You've been wearing it for the past three days. Don't you want me to wash it?" my mom asked. I immediately dropped the chilled silver spoon from my hand; it clattered noisily against the side of the bowl.

"No," I declined, quickly becoming filled with panic. Just the thought of taking off Evan's sweatshirt made my muscles tense and my hands sweat. I couldn't risk losing his scent to the washing machine, not when it was the only thing I really had left of him outside of the hospital.

"Gabriel, it'll only be a couple minutes until it's fresh again. Your dad has to throw in a load of laundry anyways."

"No," I insisted, feeling a tiny bit insulted by her persistence. Didn't she know whose sweatshirt it was? Didn't she know that it was the only thing that helped me fall asleep at night, if only for an hour or two? Who did she think she was, trying to take the sweatshirt away from me? It wasn't even dirty; it wasn't like I constantly got food on it or wore it around school. As much as it pained me not to wear it to school, I didn't dare risk contaminating the sweatshirt's scent with the hundreds of others there.

"Just leave him be," sighed my dad, not looking at me as he finished scooping the last bits of his Cheerios into his mouth. "It's Evan's sweatshirt."

My mom pursed her lips. "It's Evan's?"

"It's his football sweatshirt. Didn't you see the 'Ricci' on the back?" my dad explained, motioning at me with his spoon. I shrunk back in my seat just in case the milk from his spoon splashed at me.

"Oh," said my mom, craning her neck to try and get a look at the orange lettering. "I was wondering why it was so oversized."

"It's not that oversized," I mumbled. "It fits fine."

"It practically swallows you up, Gabriel," she attempted to joke, grinning playfully.

"So?" I nearly snapped. I didn't know why she was making such a big deal about this. Her eyes widened from my tone before she shook her head in disapproval and went back to her half-eaten cereal bowl.

I stared at my cereal, purrowing while doing so. I had barely touched it, having eaten only one or two spoonfuls. I just haven't been hungry lately.

"Eat your dinner," my dad said after another moment of staring. I didn't look up at him, just kept swirling my cereal in circles.

"I'm not hungry."

"When's the last time you've eaten?"

I didn't even attempt to think. "I don't know."

"Gabriel, give me an exact time or the sweatshirt's going into the laundry."

That made me glance up at him. "Um," I said, trying to remember. My brain was a little fuzzy; from tiredness or from hunger, I wasn't sure. "Yesterday morning? I think?"

My mother was shaking her head at her cereal as my dad stared hard at me. "Yesterday morning? Do you think your health is a game, young man? What, are you anorexic now too?"

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