He Wears the Perfect Disguise

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Michael throws up in the sink.

Dead.

Michael can’t feel anything. He’s grasping at the granite bathroom counter, trying to feel the cold, but there’s nothing.

Dead.

When there’s just bile coming up, Michael stops heaving long enough to wash his mouth out. He needs something sharp or rough, something to make him feel.

Dead.

His plane leaves tomorrow night, in time for the funeral. Michael doesn’t know how he’s going to survive that long, alone.

Dead, dead, dead.

Michael’s alone.

He can’t really breathe at all, but he has to try, because it’s Luke’s birthday and it’s Ashton’s birthday and by now someone’s probably looking for him. He can’t stay in here much longer. Even though he can barely see straight.

And so Michael takes a deep, shaky breath, splashes his face with water, and walks out of the bathroom.

It’s like being in a haze. Like he’s moving through water, and everything’s distant. Like being in a different dimension, and Michael can see everyone, but nobody’s really seeing him.

Like he could just disappear, and nobody would notice.

Everybody’s so busy laughing and talking, so caught up in the atmosphere, that a single boy moving in black exists alone. His head’s in pieces, his hands are still shaking, his chest is rising and crashing down like the Grand Rapids.

Michael steps out onto the deck. There’s noise all around him. It barely registers.

Michael is alone. Michael is an orphan. Michael has no family. Michael fucked things up.

The last thing she told him was that she’d been wasting her time on him. The last thing he said was that he would never, ever be like his dad. Michael never said goodbye. Michael never said he was sorry. Michael never reminded her that he loved her.

Michael left her behind. Michael made her feel unloved. Michael should be unloved, too. Michael should suffer like she did.

“Hey, Mikey, I was wondering where you ran off to!”

Ashton. Michael’s not in the mood. Michael needs to throw up again.

“I was in the bathroom,” Michael says. He can barely hear his own voice. The world has slowed down.

“Yeah, you okay? You look a little pale. Paler than normal, at any rate.”

Michael swallows. His mouth is dry. “I threw up.”

“Shit, dude, you okay?” Ashton says, scanning his face in alarm. “You should go home. Maybe you’re coming down with something.”

Michael sure as hell doesn’t want to stay here. But he can’t leave. “I’m fine.”

“Seriously, it’s fine. If you’re ill--”

“I’m not ill.” Michael shuts down the discussion. “I’m going to go inside for a while.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Ashton trails as Michael turns toward the house. Michael ignores him and slides back into the house.

Michael’s slipping out of the haze, and it’s finally setting in that oh my god, she’s dead, and Michael’s reeling still, why did he ever leave Perth? He’s been all wrong all this time, he’s been exactly like his dad, he abandoned his mother, there isn’t a difference at all. Michael was supposed to protect her, but he fucked up. He’s a failure again, he’s never going to escape his past. Maybe if Michael had been a better person, he would have stayed, but what’s he done now, she’s gone, and it’s all his fault.

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