We went out to the car and moved our bags inside, including the camera with all our footage. Dex and I were taking over my old bedroom while Rebecca was sleeping on the pull-out couch in my father’s den. While dinner was getting ready—my mom feeling more chipper despite the wine incident—we set up a makeshift studio in my room and invited Ada in to watch. We went through all the footage together and even though it was hard to watch sometimes, reliving the fear that was stalking us just yesterday, it also felt good. Without any editing yet or music or anything to enhance it, we could tell we had made the best Experiment in Terror episode ever.
Ada leaned into me as we sat together on the bed, while Rebecca and Dex sat on the edge of it, staring up at the computer monitor on my desk. “Having second thoughts now?”
I smiled and shook my head. “Nope. I’m sad that it’s over but I know we’re doing the right thing. Going out with a bang.”
She brushed her blonde bangs out of her eyes and put her head on my shoulder. “I’m glad I don’t have to worry about you anymore.”
“I just hope I don’t have to worry about you,” I said.
She tensed up for a moment, and I waited for her to say something but she never did. I’d have to come back to that later. Finally she stuck out her long leg and tapped Dex on the back with her foot. “Hey, bro.”
Dex eyed her over his shoulder. “Hey watch it, Little Fifteen.”
“Well you’re my big brother now, aren’t you?”
“I will be,” he said. “And when I am, you can expect fifteen years worth of wedgies and atomic wedgies and noogies until I’m all caught up.”
She stuck her tongue out at him. “I turn sixteen next month.”
“It gets even worse for you then,” he said with a grin. “Too bad there is no song called Little Sixteen.”
“I’m sure you’ll think of something,” I told him dryly.
I settled back into the pillows, and with my sister at my side and my fiancé and best friend in the same room with me, I was struck by how damn lucky I was. Maybe I was jobless, and maybe my parents would never understand me, but I had these people in my life who did.
I stared down at my ring.
I was the luckiest bitch in the world.
After dinner, where my parents perfected the art of small talk and Dex and Ada argued over some film remake, we all went our separate ways to digest the food, have some more wine, and talk. My parents told us they were going out to a friend’s house. I’m thinking that was code for grab a drink somewhere and bitch about me and my poor life choices. The rest of us hunkered down in the TV room, hoping something good would come on HBO.
After my fifth glass of celebratory wine that evening though, I wasn’t feeling the best. I pulled a bottle of water from the fridge and told everyone I was heading up to bed.
“I’ll join you in a minute,” Dex said.
I nodded, slugging back the liquid, and made my way upstairs to my parents’ bedroom to fish out some of the Excedrin my mom often had lying around.
I went into their washroom and opened the medicine cabinet, going through their bottles of medication, but coming up empty for something that would stifle the headache that I knew was coming on. It was my fault for drinking so much red wine after a week of drinking Jack Daniels and beer, but once we started toasting to our engagement, I got carried away.
I gave up, shutting the cabinet door, and was about to leave the room when I decided to check my mother’s bedside table. I opened up the drawer and saw the bottle of Excedrin in there. I snatched it up and saw a few prescription pill bottles underneath. I didn’t think my mother was on any meds these days, and a naughty part of me was wondering if it was something fun and stronger, like the Vicodin I used to use as a teenager.
I picked up a few of the bottles, wondering why there were so many, and held them up to the light that was streaming in through the hall.
They were all prescribed from Dr. Freedman—my doctor, my old damn shrink—and had medical names I recognized. Though I couldn’t be one hundred percent sure, I was fairly certain they were the same meds that Dex had been taking back in the day, the ones that kept him from seeing ghosts, the ones I hid on him in order to uncover the truth.
And now, it looked like my mother was taking the same medication.
With shaking hands, I stuck two of the bottles back in the drawer, along with the Excedrin, and sat down on the edge of their bed, rolling the other two bottles between my hands. I stayed like that for a few minutes, trying to make sense of it, trying to figure out what to do. When I heard the door to my bedroom close further down the hall, I got up and left the room, pills in my hands.
I couldn’t believe I was doing this again.
I went to my bedroom and gently closed the door behind me. Dex was sitting up in bed, reading a copy of The Gunslinger which he must have pulled off my old bookshelf, looking totally immersed in it. I subtly put the pills into my purse, hiding them for now, then stripped and slipped on my sleep shirt.
“Baby?” I asked as I got under the covers.
“Mmmmm?” he said without looking up. He thumbed a page over.
“What was the name of the medication you used to be on, you know the ones that made you stop seeing the ghosts?”
“Clozaril, Zyprexa, to name a few,” he said. He slowly put the book down and gave me a hard look. “Why? You’re not thinking about going on them are you?”
I shook my head absently, totally focused on what he said. The same fucking pills that Dex had been taking to keep the ghosts at bay were the exact same ones my mother was taking. How was that possible? Why was my mother taking pills for people who hallucinated?
“Hello?” Dex asked, waving his hand in my face. I stared at him blankly. He shook his head. “Nevermind. It’s like talking to a wall.” His eyes rested on my chest. “With boobs.”
“What were you saying?” I asked.
“I said why did you want to know?”
I shrugged as casually as I could. “No reason.”
I wasn’t about to tell him what I was doing; it ran a little too close to home for him. I didn’t want to be known as the pill-switcher, but I had to know. I had to. My mother wasn’t the type of person who would ever admit to anything like that, especially after what her own mother and daughter had gone through. Holy shit. Holy shit. The more I thought about it, the crazier the whole situation became, the more fucked up the implications were.
If my mom was taking pills because she was like me or Pippa, that meant this entire time she knew what I was going through. It meant she was in complete denial about our affliction, about every fucking thing.
I had to know if this was true—I deserved to know.
I looked at him.
“What’s going on in that head of yours?”
“I think we should stay here for the rest of the week.”
He jerked his chin back. “Uh, what? How about no?”
“Come on, I think you’ll make good progress with my parents.”
“Baby, no. Maybe they’ll come around, but as much as I’ll keep trying to win them over, after some time you have to know it’s out of our hands.”
“What about Fat Rabbit?”
“Call Ana Rita and tell her we’ll be back later. Or see if Rebecca can take care of him. She might want the company while she deals with the Dean situation.”
“How is she going to get back home if we have the car?”
I thought about that for a moment before I exclaimed, “She can take Putt-Putt! I need to get that bike to Seattle anyway.”
“I’m not sure if Rebecca knows how to ride a bike,” he said.
“She told me she used to have a Vespa in England. Same thing.”
He laughed. “Yeah, I’m sure tooling up I-5 on Putt-Putt is the same as popping over to some English pub on a Vespa.”
“She’ll do it,” I told him. “She’s always wanted to ride it, she told me that herself.”
He pursed his lips as he watched me closely for a few beats. “Okay. We’ll stay. Because if it’s important to you, it’s important to me.”
“I knew there was a reason I said yes to you,” I told him, kissing him quickly on the cheek.
He grinned, running his hands through my hair and leaning in closer. “Do you want me to show you all those other reasons?”
I closed my eyes into his kiss and buried the thought of what I was going to do in the back of my head. I would watch my mother for a few days and see what happened. If it seemed like a big mistake, I’d put the pills back. But if it seemed like she was like me, was like Pippa, was like Dex and Ada, then I was going to get to the bottom of it. I was going to let everyone know and I was going to confront her.
She didn’t have to be alone in this. Not like I had to be.
I took the book off of Dex’s chest and tossed it to the floor. He brought his head down between my legs and I let all the other reasons wash over me.
The next morning Rebecca agreed to take my bike back up to Seattle. Actually, she seemed kind of excited about it, although it led to her fretting over what to wear since she didn’t really pack for that kind of excursion. Luckily, Ada came to the rescue and let her borrow her McQueen leather jacket and designer jeans for the ride. Turns out both of them could wear each other’s clothes with ease. I pretended I didn’t hate them for that.
After we said goodbye to Rebecca, who also assured us she would love to take care of Fat Rabbit, Dex and I went back to work on the footage for the show while Ada popped in and out, enjoying her weekend. My parents kept themselves scarce and decided to head into the city to do some shopping. I think I even heard the phrase, “I’ll keep an eye on the bridal boutiques” come out of my mother’s mouth, which both thrilled and horrified me. Thrilled me because it meant she was accepting I was getting married—not to mention it reminded me that, holy crap, I had a wedding to plan—and horrified me because clothes shopping with my mom was always a nightmare. I could only imagine how wedding dress shopping was going to go, let alone anything else that had to do with the wedding.
But we would cross that bridge when we came to it. For now, I was just going to enjoy being engaged, and when it came time to pick a date and plan a wedding, well then I’d jump right in with both feet.
We’d been inside my bedroom for hours, just editing and adding music and talking about how we were going to tell Jimmy that it was all over, when I’d had enough.
I got up off the bed, stretching as I went. “I’m going for a walk, you want to come with?” I asked Dex.
He shook his head. “You go ahead, kiddo. I’m so close to being done here.”
“All right, be right back.”
I was halfway out the door when he said, “I love you, baby.”
“Love you too,” I told him. I skipped down the stairs and called out for Ada. She came out of the TV room looking sweaty. “What are you doing?”
“Exercising,” she said, wiping her sweat off her face. “Remember, I told you about it and stuff?”
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