Chapter 27: Ryan

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Just in case

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Just in case... That phrase kept echoing in his head: Just in case. That was all he'd been able to say. They kept asking him for a reason and that's all he could say. Just in case.

In case what? they asked him.

He remembered when he'd taken them. That morning, right after his mom had died, when he'd felt like his heart had been ripped out of his chest. He'd taken them because her name was on the bottles. He'd taken them because he thought they might make his pain go away.

Just in case.

"In case I couldn't do this anymore," he had told them finally.

Do what? they asked him.

"Do this," he'd said, gesturing around him. "Do any of this. Be here. Be... alive."

Even as he said the words he knew it was the exact wrong thing to say. And just like that, he knew what was going to happen.

He was put on suicide watch. This meant they went through his things with more vigor, removing the shoelaces from his shoes and his belts and ties and anything metal, which meant his school bag was staying in the staff office. His room upstairs already didn't have a door, this was standard, everyone changed in the bathrooms, which didn't have locks. A staff person would knock on the door every five minutes while he was in there, and he had to answer or they would come in to make sure he wasn't trying to kill himself. Suicide watch would last twenty-four hours, and then he would talk to a counselor, and if all went well, he would sign something called a safety contract and have his normal privileges.

If things didn't go well, they would bring him to the hospital to be evaluated.

They also took his phone. Phones were generally allowed during the day, but at night all the residents had to relinquish their connections to the outside world. There was a "charging station" in the staff office. "If someone needs to contact you in an emergency, they'll have to call the house number." Ryan didn't know the house number, and now he didn't even have the opportunity to give that number to anyone else.

Not that there was really anyone else who would need to contact him for an emergency. It was yet another reminder that it was just him, alone in the world.

He spent the rest of that night, after sitting at the dinner table eating nothing, lying on his new bed. The mattress was thin and the sheets smelled funny. His side of the room was bare. He hadn't thought about bringing posters to hang up, and the only picture he'd brought was in a metal frame so that was locked up in the staff office. His roommate, Pete, had made a wallpaper out of posters: Star Wars seemed to be his favorite thing. Ryan supposed posters of anything would at least hide the scuff marks on the white paint and make it look less like a prison cell.

At least Pete spent most of his time with a pair of big headphones over his ears, so Ryan didn't have to try to talk to him. It made Ryan wonder how many roommates Pete had gone through, if he wasn't at all curious about Ryan. Then again, Ryan wasn't especially curious about Pete.

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