“Hey,” I whispered, moving closer to him. My lips fell against his ear, and I combed his hair back. My heart broke seeing the blood on his face, and in his hair. It was all so heartbreaking—the life he’d lived. “I’m not going anywhere.”
He constantly nodded, clasping his hands together, his eyes glassy. “I’m a mess, High. I’m a mess. I’ve always been a mess. I’ll always be a mess.”
“Logan, stop. You’re not who you were back then. Okay? You’re not the product of your yesterdays.”
“But you deserve the world. You can do better. You deserve more.”
“I could have a decent life with someone else,” I said. “I could have the white picket fence. The normal job, the normal kids, the normal husband. I could have a comfortable life with someone who I’d be content with, but never fully love. But that’s not what I want, Logan. I want you. I want the scars. I want the burns. I want your mess. Your scars, your burns, your mess—that’s my heart. You are everything I ever wanted and everything I’ll ever need. Your hurt is my hurt. Your strength is my strength. Your heartbeats flow through mine. So no, I’m not going to opt out. I don’t want to run away because things are hard sometimes. I want you. All of you—the good, the bad, the pain, the anger. If you’re walking through hell, I’m holding your hand the whole way through. If the fires in our lives keep rising, we’ll burn as one. You’re it for me, Logan. Yesterday, today, tomorrow—I’m yours. You’re my eternal flame.”
He turned to me and kissed me. I kissed him back, a bit too hard, and he whimpered at the touch. “Sorry,” I laughed gently, kissing his forehead. “Come on. Let’s go to my place, get you cleaned up, and then I’ll drop you off at Kellan’s so you guys can talk.”
When we got to my house, I turned on my shower, undressed Logan, and helped him inside. The warm water fell against his body as he closed his eyes, taking in deep breaths.
“I’ll be right outside. I have a few of your old clothes from way back when that I can grab for you,” I said.
“No. Shut off the light and come here,” he said, his eyes still closed. I did as he said. I removed all of my clothes and I climbed into the shower with him. He pulled me close, wrapping his arms around me, his skin on my skin, his forehead against mine. All that could be heard was the water falling against us, and our breathing.
We stayed there for a long time, until the water ran cold, and then we stayed longer.
“For always, High?”
“For always, Lo.”
When Alyssa dropped me off at Kellan’s place, she left me with a level of peace. My father was in custody. Ma was unable to leave the hospital, which meant she wouldn’t be able to come in contact with any drugs for a small bit of time. Maybe things were slowly turning around. Maybe.
I stepped into a darkened house. Kellan sat on the sofa. “What’s going on?” I asked, flicking on the light switch. He cringed at the abrupt flood of light, but he didn’t say anything. He had tears rolling down his face as his hands shook, and he tried to open a bottle of his pain pills. When he was unsuccessful, he threw the pill bottle across the room.
“Argh!” he shouted, pounding his hands against his head.
“What’s going on, Kel? Where’s Erika?”
“She went to her mom’s house.” He stood up slow, his legs shaking, and stumbled over to the pill bottle. He picked it up, tried to open it once again, and failed. His breaths were heavy as he leaned against the wall and kept trying.
“Here, let me,” I offered. I reached for the pills, and he shoved me away.
“Leave me alone.”
I started wrestling him for the pill bottle, and I snatched it from his grip. I opened it and placed a pill into the palm of his hand. He slid down against the wall to the floor and sat.
“I don’t need you and Erika to babysit me and open damn pill bottles.”
“Yes, you do.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Kel, yes, you do!”
“No, I don’t!” he hollered, his voice cracking as he broke down crying. He wrapped his arms around himself and turned away from me, trying to keep the tears to himself.
“I’m dying, Logan. I’m dying.”
I slid down to the floor, and sat beside him with my back against the wall. “Don’t say that.”
“It’s the truth.”
“‘Be here now,’” I said, quoting Ram Dass. “That was the quote at the rehab clinic that was right over each bedroom. “They told us to stop blaming ourselves for our yesterdays and to stop worrying about when we left the clinic. We were meant to just be there, in the moment. Be here now, Kellan. Right now, you’re here. You’re just as alive as Erika, Alyssa, and I am.”
“Yeah. But I’m going to be dead a lot sooner than all of you.”
“That’s debatable. I’m a pretty big screw-up.”
Kellan laughed, and lightly shoved me. Good. Laughing is good. We leaned back against the wall.
“‘Be here now,’” he murmured to himself.
“So when is Erika coming back?” I asked.
“She’s not. I told her to go for a while.”
“I couldn’t keep putting her through this, Logan. Every time I coughed, she thought I was dying. She deserved a normal life.”
“Is that what you told her?”
He grimaced. “Not exactly.”
“What did you say?”
“I told her that I never wanted to marry her. I told her that we were over and I was sick of her nagging. I told her to leave and not come back.”
“You pushed her away by being mean.”
He nodded, sniffling. “It was the only way she’d go. I couldn’t keep breaking her heart.”
“Trust me, big brother, her heart is broken.” He frowned, knowing I was right. “Let’s just say that the roles were reversed. Let’s say Erika had the cancer, and you were the one taking care of her. How would you feel if she said those words to you?”
His hands rolled over his face nonstop. “I know. I know. I miss her already. But I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know how to make it easier for her.”