Chapter Nineteen

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"You were at the concert?"

Hunter has stopped pedaling by this point. He's staring at me, his mouth hanging open, and I don't know if he realizes it.

I wish I could curl up into a tiny ball in the corner of this boat and make myself disappear. I didn't mean to tell him that. It isn't even him putting the pieces together about the other part of my life that has me worried right now. It's the mix of shock and concern I see in his eyes, and how he's searching for something else to say but hesitates every time he seems close to speaking again.

I don't want him to treat me as though I'm fragile and might break. I don't want him second-guessing his words. And I definitely don't want him to pity me, which is what I'm afraid the shock and concern might evolve into next.

"Did you--" He stops, apparently changing his mind about what he was going to ask me. "You're okay, though?" he asks instead.

If only somebody could define for me what "okay" really means. Physically, I'm fine. I walked out of The Domino unscathed in that sense. Emotionally and mentally are different stories altogether, something I'm sure he's already concluded based on my reaction to the news story.

I opt for the physical definition for the purpose of answering his question. "Yeah. I didn't get hit by shrapnel or suffer burns or anything."

Never mind that I've broken into a cold sweat. Never mind that Hunter is still watching me and is at a loss for what to do. Never mind that I simultaneously want to scream, sob, and crawl out of my skin.

"I'm sorry. I can't even imagine what that must have been like," he says after what feels like an eternity has passed, even though it's probably only been a minute or two. "Is there anything I can do that would help you right now?"

I'm grateful for his question, and I can tell he genuinely wants to help. But short of finding a time machine and taking me back to my life before that night, I don't think there's much anyone can do to help me. I talk with my therapist. I have pills to help me sleep that, other than two nights ago at the hotel, I still rarely take.

Maybe time will fix some of this. Maybe it won't.

"I'm fine," I tell him. "I just needed a second."

My pulse is slowing down, and air moves in and out of my lungs with less effort. I focus on a spot on the lake, willing my panic to be over for the moment.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

He means well, but I'd rather walk over burning coals than talk about what happened that night and what's been going on with me since. I lose control of my words and emotions when I do, which is something I know from my therapy sessions with Dr. Delacruz. How would I even begin to explain it to him, when he doesn't know that not only was I there, I was the reason everyone who died was there? I'd have to explain how I see them in my dreams, and how the fear and guilt crushes me in my nightmares. How I can't even handle rehearsal with my band or hearing one of my own songs without anxiety taking over.

I'd have to tell him everything. I'd have to tell him the world knows me as Cayden Indigo, and yes, I'm one of those celebrities his sister idolizes and he has no use for. I'm not ruling out ever coming clean about this, and I may have to at some point if we keep hanging out, but now isn't the time. It's a lot to think about, and it's far too much to unload on someone all at once.

"Maybe another day," I answer. "I'm okay now. Let's keep pedaling and forget about this."

I push my feet down on the boat pedals and meet resistance. It takes a few seconds to realize Hunter has his feet on the pedals, but he isn't pedaling. He's preventing me from moving the boat anywhere.

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