I can’t see that Bodhi. It’s not that I don’t believe history. It’s just I’ve never seen him drink or even look the tiniest bit tempted by drugs. “What happened to the rest of the band?”

“Bodhi went to rehab while I was in the hospital. Two of the other band members got arrested for possession with intent to deliver. Then they just fell apart because they hadn’t made a true name for themselves yet, so there weren’t enough people invested in their future to care about saving them. Bodhi came out of rehab, and his mom and I insisted he go to college and get his life together.”

“But …” I steal the joint and take a hit.

“But what?”

“But he’s not exactly together.” I stare at my barely started sketch then close it up, not feeling as inspired as I had hoped this morning.

“He would be if he’d let me go. You could help me help him.”

I grunt a laugh, watching Duke carry a saddle out of the barn. “I told you, he would hate me forever.”

“He doesn’t have to know. Heck, you don’t have to know.”

I shake my head.

“I need to see my doctor. Maybe you could take me tomorrow.”

I shake my head again, keeping my eyes on Duke to keep them from tearing up because if I look at Barrett and his helpless expression, I will break. “I don’t have a driver’s license. Besides, Bodhi said Etta takes you to your appointments when he can’t make it.”

“Maybe I just want to go for a drive. A girl with your resources can surely find someone with a handicapped accessible vehicle to take us for a drive that might just happen to go to my doctor.”

My head continues to shake. “I can’t.”

Barrett doesn’t say another word to me the rest of the day and only a few words the rest of the week.

*

“This one.” Juni holds up a shirt as we shop for something for me to wear for my headshots. Now that I’ve signed papers to have some of my prints sold through a major online retailer, I need to give them a headshot and bio.

“Maybe I should wear a dress.”

“I love you in dresses, but you should look like what your art feels to the people who see it. Raw and original.”

I smile at my mom because she’s my biggest cheerleader in life—my very best friend. “Give me the shirt.” Rolling my eyes, I take it and head to the dressing room, knowing Miss Fashion Extraordinaire is probably right. This shirt is the one for me.

“What time is it?” I ask as I try on the shirt.

“Eleven-twenty.”

“I have to be to Bodhi’s by one. Etta has an appointment.”

“How’s his dad feeling this week?”

I button the shirt, staring at my reflection in the mirror. “The past two days have been awful. It’s not just that he doesn’t want to eat. When he does eat, most of it comes back up. Etta said it’s a blockage. Nothing is going through. They need to do surgery.”

“But he doesn’t want it?”

“Nope,” I enunciate the word making it into three syllables.

“And you can’t convince him otherwise?”

I open the dressing room door. “Yesterday he gagged and nearly fell out of his wheelchair while vomiting all over himself. It took Etta and me almost an hour to get him cleaned up and settled into his bed. When he fell asleep, he looked dead—pale, dry lips, emaciated from head to toe. When he woke up just before Bodhi came home, he assured me what I witnessed was nothing compared to what he feels when going through chemo. Then he made me promise to not tell Bodhi what a shitty day he had because Bodhi would lecture him on needing treatment right away.”

“Jesus …” Juni’s nose wrinkles.

I turn so she can see the back of my shirt as I give it one last inspection in the mirror. “This is the shirt.”

“One hundred percent.” She nods to my reflection in the mirror.

John drives us to grab a quick lunch. Then he takes me to Bodhi’s house.

“Come meet Barrett.”

Juni gives me a hesitant look. “I haven’t even met Bodhi yet.”

“Which is so wrong because he’s my Mitchell Lane and Zachary Phillips all rolled into one awesome guy.” I grin.

She nods, relinquishing her own smile because she knows exactly what I mean. “Fine.”

John opens her door while I hop out the other side of the vehicle. She follows me up the ramp where I half expect to see Barrett smoking a joint or napping in the cool breeze, but he’s not here.

“Hello?” I say softly as we step inside the house.

“In here, Henna.”

I follow Etta’s voice to the kitchen with my mom just behind me.

“Oh my god …” I stop, staring at the mess on the floor and all over the kitchen counter and walls.

Etta shares a sad, defeated expression. I look to Barrett who looks fraught with guilt in the middle of the mess.

“W-what happened?” I’m afraid to ask. The tension in the room is high, and my poor mom is meeting Barrett for the first time under really awkward circumstances.

Etta looks at Barrett. He drops his chin to his chest.

Her lips tremble with a nervous smile. “It’s been a rough day. Barrett didn’t want to eat, so I made all of his favorites, hoping he’d find something that he could eat.”

It looks like they had a food fight, and they both lost.

“I just … lost my patience.” Barrett glances up at Etta, sending her an apologetic and extremely sad smile. “I’m sorry.”

She nods slowly, mirroring his expression. “It’s fine. I’ll just get this cleaned up. You have guests now.” Her hands shake as she tries to pull a line of paper towels from the roll by the sink.

“I’m Juni, Henna’s mom.” She rests her hand on Etta’s arm. “Can I have my driver take you someplace? Home? Henna and I will get this cleaned up and stay until Bodhi gets home.”

Emotion swells in my chest as my mom befriends a stranger in need and offers to clean up when it’s been years since Juniper Carlisle has lifted a finger to clean anything. Etta quickly wipes away her tears before they find their way down her face, and she nods.

“I’m Etta. And … thank you,” she whispers to my mom.

Juni nods and leads her to the front door. I turn to Barrett, not able to take a step without landing in either splattered food or broken pieces of dishes.

He looks at me for a few seconds before he starts to cough, holding his hand to his mouth. When he removes his hand, there’s some blood on it, and it’s smeared along his lower lip. Barrett’s pained expression meets my gaze.

“Okay,” I whisper.

He closes his eyes and nods several times on a slow exhale. “Thank you.”

I’m choosing Barrett over Bodhi and Henna. And even if he never believes me or forgives me, I’m choosing Bodhi over us.

“John is helping Etta down to her trailer.”

I glance over my shoulder at my mom. “Thank you.”

She tiptoes through the mess to Barrett. “Hi. I’m Juni. It’s nice to meet you. My daughter thinks the world of you and your son.”

Barrett forces a smile and something resembling a bit of life into his spine as he tries to sit straight and offer her his hand. She stares at it then shoots me a look.

“Oh …” Barrett fists his hand, having forgotten about the blood on it. “It’s nice to meet you. I think the world of Henna too.” His words are strained.

Barrett is in pain.

“Point me to a broom and mop.” Juni holds her smile, and it’s not fake or forced. It’s filled with compassion.

Barrett nods to the tall pantry door next to the fridge.

I grab the cleaning supplies. “I’m going to clear a path to get you out of the kitchen so you can rest while we clean up.”

Barrett struggles to maintain eye contact with either one of us. He’s clearly embarrassed. I can only imagine how degraded and completely stripped of confidence he must feel right now. For weeks he hasn’t been able to go to the bathroom by himself, even with everything handicap accessible. Barrett no longer has the strength to lift himself onto the toilet or use the device to lift himself to pull his pants up and down. His sense of independence has vanished from his life. Life … Barrett doesn’t have much of a life anymore.

I clean him up while my mom clears a path to the living room. We help him into his recliner where he quickly falls asleep.

It takes over two hours to clean up the mess in the kitchen and dispose of all the broken dishes. I hand my mom a glass of water as we lean against opposite counters, gross and sweaty.

“Thank you for …” A wave of emotion hits me before I can finish.

“He needs chemo. Maybe there’s something experimental. I can have someone look into this. We can pay for his treatment.”

“He doesn’t want it.”

“Henna … he thinks he doesn’t want it because he’s still battling the cancer, so he perceives everything he’s done up to this point as a failure. If he had better doctors, more resources—”

“Mom.” I shake my head. “He destroyed the kitchen today because Etta made all of his favorite foods. She did something nice for him. Can you imagine how he’ll react if someone suggests he try a new experimental treatment?”

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