Chapter 27: Ryan (4)

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First it was the Smiths

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First it was the Smiths. "Man, year after my mom died, that was all I listened to," Pete told him. Then it was Metallica. "I was so angry, you know?" Then Disturbed. "I started doing all kinds of stupid shit. Here they call it 'acting out.' I was just pissed and tired of being tried like a case number instead of a person." Then Pete apparently mellowed out. "I finally got tired of being depressed and angry all the time," Pete said, just before a synthetic pop beat blasted into his ears. "Now I just listen to upbeat stuff," Pete shouted at him, although with the headphones Ryan could barely hear. "It makes me feel good, you know?"

There was something about the music that helped. By now it was almost lights out, and they had been listening to music for hours. Was it possible to go through every stage of grief and recovery in that amount of time?

"All right, guys, let's pack it in," said Leigh.

Ryan removed the headphones and handed them back to Pete. "Thanks," he said. "Sorry I'm not more of a music buff."

"That's okay. You're kinda like a blank slate."

Armed with his toothbrush, Ryan stepped out into the hallway, but someone was already in the bathroom. It was an elaborate routine, each boy waiting until the bathroom was open before rushing to be next. Leigh did her best to organize the chaos. "No, Dave, Sean was waiting first. Sean, let's go. Spend less time on the hair. No one to impress but your pillow." Finally it was Ryan's turn, and he did what he had to do as fast as he could. He wished he didn't have to rush. He didn't, actually, but he didn't feel comfortable just yet taking him time when he knew other people were waiting on him.

Once he got into bed and the lights went out, that was when he realized he still hadn't called Jacky. He hadn't even gotten his phone from the staff office.


"You're sure you want to go to school?" Hope asked again.

"Yes," Ryan said. "And can I have my phone please?"

"After breakfast. Go eat."

One bowl of cereal later, Ryan had his phone and looked at all the missed calls and texts from Jacky and Monica and Lance, and even one from Matt. He barely had time to read through all of them as he rode in the group home van to school. Then he was there at school and he figured why bother when he was about to see all those people in a few minutes?

He was nearly to his locker when Monica and Lance attacked him with hugs. "I'm okay, I'm okay," he told them, not quite laughing. He hugged them back. Three days without anyone hugging him, and only now he felt exactly how long that was.

Then he saw Jacky, watching him from his locker. Ryan felt the same shitty feeling he'd felt last night, realizing that once again he had forgotten to call.

"What's the group home like?" Monica was asking. "We were worried. We thought maybe they weren't letting you come back to school."

"It's okay." Ryan shrugged away from Monica and Lance. "I'll be right back."

He walked up to Jacky, who shrank back against the lockers like he thought Ryan was going to attack him. "I'm sorry," Ryan said, when he was close enough for Jacky alone to hear, and without even stopping he wrapped his arms around Jacky's shoulders and attempted to squeeze all of the worry Jacky must have been feeling out of him. It took a minute, but Ryan didn't let go until Jacky had sighed and said, "It's okay."


Author's Note: Yay, they're finally together again!  That was a whole lot of Ryan - we'll get back to Jacky next chapter ;)

What kind of music do you listen to when you're feeling down?

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