“You’re so fucking amazing, Maggie!” Oliver said, giving me a noogie.
“Holy crap, Mags, you have no clue how much you’ve just changed our lives,” Calvin said.
“Dude!” Oliver started waving his arms at Calvin. “Read them the direct message.”
“There’s a direct message?” Brooks asked.
“Oh.” Calvin nodded ecstatically, scrolling through his phone. “There’s a direct message.” He cleared his throat and the twins cleared theirs, too, having it fully memorized.
“Dear Calvin, I’m Mark, the manager of The Present Yesterdays. We came across your videos a few days ago and haven’t stopped watching. Your sound is clean, crisp, and something the industry is missing. If you’re interested, I’d love to set up a meeting with you guys to chat about your future plans in music. Peace!” The three quoted it in perfect unison, and my heart pretty much jumped from my chest.
The Present Yesterdays was the greatest pop-rock band of our time. The guys had introduced me to their music, and I’d been in love with them before the world even knew they existed. How was any of this possible?
Brooks turned to his bandmates with the widest eyes, and I saw it take over them, too—the realization that dreams really did come true, even for boys who rehearsed in garages in small-town Wisconsin. The wave of emotion took over us all as we began to jump around the room and celebrate.
I’d never been so happy to see others’ dreams start to come to life. “This is all because of you, Magnet,” Brooks said, pulling me into his chest. “It’s because you used your voice for us to be heard.”
He reminded me that night that I had a voice, even though no words ever left my mouth.
I still had a voice.
The next evening my hour-long bath lasted longer than normal. I had the same type of routine as before: I’d read, I’d wash up, and then I’d slide under the water and remember what had happened in those woods, reminding myself that it wasn’t my fault. My mind was still so good at holding onto those images, but recently the visions were being blurred by more current memories.
Whenever I tried to envision the devil’s face, I’d see Cheryl laughing with a book in her hand. Whenever I was running in the woods, I’d see myself running into Brooks’ arms. Whenever I’d trip, I’d see Mrs. Boone scolding me.
They weren’t gone, the bad memories. I knew my mind still held the image of the devil, but I was becoming better at keeping him locked inside the closet. I wasn’t certain if that was thanks to Brooks, Cheryl, or time, but either way, I was thankful.
After I’d remember, I’d come up for air, take a deep breath, and go back under to dream.
I’d dream of a future. I’d dream of me exploring the world, climbing mountains, seeing Italy, trying snails in France. Watching Brooks and my brother perform live in a huge arena. Having a family. Discovering what it means to be alive. The water cleansed me of the darkness that was trying so hard to hold on to me. I was slowly becoming renewed. I was beginning my life for the first time…
“Maggie—I got you some fresh… Oh my gosh!” Mama screeched, running into the bathroom and pulling me up from beneath the water. Her rapid movement forced me to open my mouth, making me inhale water. I started coughing, my throat burning as I spit up. What was happening? Mama’s hands were shaking and she started screaming, holding me in her arms. My ears were filled with water and I tried to shake it out as she hollered for Daddy.
“Eric! Eric!” she cried, her voice more panicked than it needed to be. What was she doing? Why was she freaking out? Did she think…
Oh my God, no.
No, Mama. I wasn’t trying to drown. I wasn’t trying to drown myself. Tears flooded my eyes as I saw the panic she was experiencing. She pulled me from the tub, wrapping me in towels. As she cried, still screaming Daddy’s name, he came running into the bathroom.
The water in my ears made it hard to listen. I tried to stand, but Mama was holding me so tight.
“She tried to drown herself, Eric!” Mama said. Daddy’s eyes grew heavy and he asked her to repeat herself. “I told you. I told you this was all too much for her.”
I shook my head. No, Daddy. My hands were ghostly pale. I wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t kill myself. I’m happy. Remember? I’m happy.
I needed paper. I needed to write to them. I needed to let them know.
I wasn’t trying to kill myself. They were both crying now, and Daddy could hardly breathe as his stare met mine. He looked away from me. He needed to know Mama was wrong. She’d made a mistake. She didn’t know all the facts. She had pulled me up for air, not knowing I could breathe best beneath the water.
They were fighting again.
Cheryl and I sat at the top of the steps, once again watching. My hair was still soaked from my bath, and Cheryl brushed it as we listened.
“You still don’t believe me?” Mama cried, stunned.
“You’re overreacting,” Daddy said to Mama. “She said she wasn’t trying to—”
“She didn’t say anything, Eric. She doesn’t talk, but her actions were loud and clear tonight.”
“She was taking a dip under the water when you crashed in! She was holding her breath! Jesus, Katie! This is Loren talking, not you.”
“Don’t put this on her. Don’t put this on my friend. I know what I saw. Your daughter was drowning herself.”
“My daughter?” Daddy huffed, blowing out a low whistle. “Wow.”
I felt it too, Daddy—the punch to the gut.
“You know what I mean.”
“No, I don’t think I do. Lately I have a hard time understanding anything you say.”
Mama rolled her eyes and walked off, coming back with a glass of wine. “She’s sick.”
“She’s getting better.”
“She’s getting worse, and I know it has to do with Brooks. I know it does…”
I studied Mama.
I studied every single movement she made. Daddy didn’t see it, because he only heard her paranoid chorus, and he was too busy spitting out his angered verses. He didn’t see her fidgeting fingers, her trembling legs, and the tiny twitch in her bottom lip. She was scared. Horrified. The level of fear in her body was more than a reaction from that afternoon. The fear in her movements had been in place for years, it seemed.