“A bath,” he said, nudging his head inside. “Randy had some weird bubble bath soap in the cabinet. Each week, he tries to draw me a bath with some essential oils to de-stress me.” He snickered but frowned. “I grabbed one of my t-shirts and a pair of my shorts for you to wear to bed. They’re on the sink counter.”

I frowned. “Why are you being so nice to me?”

He didn’t reply right away. His brows lowered as he searched his mind for the right words. “Don’t mistake my distance for my not caring. It’s actually the complete opposite.” He guided me into the bathroom and closed me inside.

My hand rested against the door. My eyes shut. “Still here?” I whispered. A small whimper left my lips when I didn’t hear him.

“Still here.”

I sighed as I stripped out of my clothes. I moved over to the tub to see small daisies floating on top of the bubbles. “Daniel,” I whispered, placing my hand against my chest.

My toes were first to touch the warming water, and then I allowed my whole body to sink down into the bubble bath. It was hot, but not too scorching. Comfortable. Relaxing. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. The water waved back and forth with every small movement I made.

I turned my head toward the bathroom door when I heard the guitar strings being played. My heart jumped into my throat as Daniel’s voice flowed underneath the door.

Forever always scared me because it never came.

I lost all sense of fear when she whispered her name.

The tears didn’t even give me the option of not falling. His voice was so soft, sounding so far away. Yet at the same time, I could feel the words in my heart, my soul.

The world spins faster,

Yet she slows down time.

I don’t know how, but I need her to always be mine.

I lost her due to mistaken roads. I lost her due to secrets untold.

I lost her, and in turn, I lost myself.

So someone please help me on this quest

To find

Finding, finding, finding

My Juliet.

I laid my head against the back of the tub and my body relaxed completely. He continued to strum his guitar strings. A warming feeling of peace crossed over me as I remembered how Gabby would play her guitar for me whenever I was feeling down and stressed.

I wished she could’ve played for Ryan. His poor mind was a mess, and I knew it would be a while before he was okay.

My fingers rubbed against one another, turning into raisins after about an hour. Standing up, I watched as the water dripped down my body. The towel sitting on the counter was wrapped around my wet body. Moving over to the mirror I stared at myself.

“I miss you, Gabby,” I sighed. I still saw her reflection inside my eyes.

My fingers ran through my locks of hair before I took the wet hair tie from my wrist and wrapped all of my locks up into a bun. Using the towel to dry my body off, I started to get dress. Daniel’s shorts were too big for my body, yet at the same time they fit perfectly. When I unfolded the t-shirt, memories rocked my entire being.

I looked at the missing sleeve on the shirt and smiled, remembering that first night when Daniel had cut off the sleeve for me. There were plenty of things he wasn’t telling me. So many secrets he was keeping from me.

But at the end of the day, all drama set aside, he was the boy who’d helped a girl out of the dark.

Opening the bathroom door, I saw Daniel standing. His guitar was leaning against the wall, and he gave me a small smile.

“We should talk,” I said.

He nodded and reached into his pocket. He pulled out his father’s knife and walked over to me. I arched an eyebrow, and he kept smiling. Carefully, he began cutting off the other sleeve of my t-shirt.

“We’ll talk. I promise. But right now…” He took the sleeve and placed it in my hands. “Right now, Ryan needs you.”

I looked down the hallway in the direction of the light sobbing that was heard. My stomach flipped. My head lowered. “What do I say to him?”

“You don’t have to say anything. Just be there for him.”

My footsteps were slow, terrified for my friend. When I walked into the room, I saw him falling apart. He was hiding his sobs against his pillow, losing himself beneath the sheets.

I moved over to him and climbed into bed. His red, tired eyes looked at me. I held the sleeve of the shirt out to him and he frowned. He took the sleeve from me and cried into it, deeply, painfully, truthfully. My arms wrapped around him and I pulled his body to me. His tears soaked me as his head lay against my shoulder.

“It’s all right, Ryan,” I lied to him, hoping my lies would someday become true. “You’re okay. You’re okay.”

You’re okay.

Chapter 28

Taking a chance that you’ll let me back in.

I’d f**ked up so much I would understand,

If you didn’t even want to be my friend.

~ Romeo’s Quest

There wasn’t a chance in hell I would be falling to sleep any time soon. Ashlyn and Ryan had finally snoozed off around three in the morning. It was now four. I stood over the sink pouring out a bottle of vodka. Sitting on the counter were three more bottles of whiskey, rum, and scotch that were empty.

Everything Ryan had gone through last night was dangerous. Every emotion he had been feeling was deadly. The last thing he needed was to wake up in the middle of the night or something and find a way to try to drown out the noises in his head.

I’d watched Dad drown out his troubles in the same way. The last thing I wanted was for Ryan to go down that same dark road. He was a good kid. Some of the papers he’d written in class had showcased how lost but brave he was. I just hoped he could remain brave.