[21] Bandages and the Blues

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My chest hurts, my head hurts, and my knuckles hurt- but my heart's pretty numb. I can't be bothered to care. Not unless I think about Will back in the forest, then my stomach starts to churn and my temples begin to throb.

We left him there over twenty minutes ago; alone and unaided, as he deserves. Presley and Jay left by bus, and Atty and I took the car.

It's been a long and quiet ride so far.

I haven't said a word to Atty yet, despite his many attempts to make conversation. Every time I look at him, I remember how close I came to hitting Will and how desperately I wanted to do it. I remember that I never got the chance to and I honestly don't know how to feel about that.

A surge of sharp pain travels up my forearms and I realize how tightly I've been clamping my hands. I uncurl my fingers and flinch at the sight of dark red nail indents in my palm.

I still want to hit Will. Does that make me a bad person? Am I terrible because I want to be violent?

Ultimately, I don't care if it was right of Atty to stop me, all I know is that he did and now I have a parasitic regret tumor taking up my entire frontal lobe. It doesn't mean I hate Atty, and I definitely don't want to hurt him.

But if I open my mouth, I will hurt him. I'll say something terrible, something I can't take back, and that regret tumor will grow and grow until brain matter is gushing out of my ears.

That's not the life I want. Truthfully, I don't really know what kind of a life I want. Just that it's probably not this particular one.

So, I won't say anything. And if that means I'm silent all my life- then I guess I've decided the kind of life I'm giving myself.

Atty shifts in his seat and taps the steering wheel with his index finger. He takes a deep breathe and pauses. "Jade, I-"

I don't let him finish. I don't want to. "Are we almost back yet?"

Yes, we are. I don't need Atty's nod to tell me that, the signature butterfly speckled welcome sign and rusty turquoise water tower of this town are more than enough. But if I let him speak, there's a very real chance he'll come close to calming me down.

And I don't want that. I feel all this tension winding my body tight like a catapult and I'm compelled to hold on to it for as long as possible, even if it means I'll snap. Because if I let this go, I lose.

And all I've ever done is lose.

Atty grunts as he maneuvers around the badly parked cars lining the street, careful to glide into the driveway untouched. His foot hasn't even left the brakes before I shove the passenger door open and leave. I storm through the porch, up the stairs, and into the guest room.

I stand there, with my back pressed against the starch white wood of the bedroom door and feet planted firmly in the carpet as pieces of fluff clumps under my toenails. I should climb into bed, wrap the blankets around me. Sink my head into one of the pillows. Maybe cry a little. But I don't move.

It's only when I feel the vibrations of a knock on the door roll through my shoulders that I scatter and crawl into bed, so fast that my legs get tangled in the fabric. Atty doesn't wait for me to say 'okay', he lets a few seconds pass before coming in.

He's balancing a first aid kit in one arm, and a tray full of steaming food in another. Something really must be wrong with me if even the smell of Collette's special chicken soup doesn't make my stomach growl in response.

I sit up and lean against the headboard, the soft linen blanket wrapped tightly around me. Atty sets the tray down on the side table and pulls up a chair right beside the bed, as close as possible. His knee rests against the mattress as he remains quiet, the bandages cradled carefully in his arms.

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