But what was she so afraid of?
Daddy tossed his hands on the back of his neck. “We’re running on a hamster wheel, here, Katie. What is it that you have against Brooks and Maggie being together? Because you didn’t seem to have an issue until the fantastic four came to visit. I swear, you talk so much crap about Maggie not talking, you can’t even find a voice of your own. You run off to your friends for their bullshit opinions on our family, and then you drink a bottle of wine each night. Tell me, Katie: who’s the one who needs help?”
Mama’s eyes widened, shocked by his words. Daddy seemed just as flabbergasted by his own sounds. She stormed toward their bedroom, and Daddy called after her to apologize, but she was already charging back toward him with pillows and blankets.
“You can stay out here until I get the help I need,” she snapped. “And by the way, when she ends up in the same shape as Jessica, know that you did it. Know that you caused it to happen.”
She left and didn’t return. Daddy stormed out of the front door. Why did everything feel like it was falling apart when for the first time in my life I felt as if I was finally falling back together?
“I know I used to never be home at night but…did they always fight like this?” Cheryl whispered. I shook my head. She kept brushing my hair. “It’s almost like they’re strangers.”
That was heartbreaking.
“Maggie?” Cheryl whispered, her voice cracking. “Did you, though? Did you try to…”
I flipped around so I was facing her, took the hairbrush from her hands, and placed both of her palms against my cheeks. I started shaking my head back and forth, staring her dead in the eye. No. No. No. No.
She left out a breath. “I believe you. Mom would, too, if she actually took the time to look you in the eyes.”
I couldn’t stop the thoughts of how my parents were falling apart all because of me. I wasn’t sure what to do. Did I leave Brooks to make them whole again? Did I stay for my own selfish happiness? What was I supposed to do? What were the right choices? How could I fix it all?
I didn’t mean to make my parents fight. It was an accident. I swear it was an accident…
I blinked once, and I saw him.
The devil—he’d come back to visit.
I tried to blink him away. I was getting better. I was becoming whole.
“Shh,” he whispered. My eyes were wide with fear. “Please, don’t yell. It was an accident.” He moved his lips to my forehead and pressed his mouth against my skin. “Shh,” he said again. His lips traveled to my earlobe and I felt his lips touching me before he hissed one last time. “Shh…”
He was there in my mind. I could feel his presence.
Shh… Shh… Shh…
Maggie told me she hadn’t been feeling well the past few days and refused to see me. I tried my best to talk her into having me visit, but whenever I showed up, her mom sent me away, saying she needed more time to heal.
After band practice one afternoon, I didn’t give her much of a choice.
“You’re not really sick, are you?” I asked, catching her walking out of the bathroom before she got back to her room. Her eyes widened as she stared my way, and I saw a tinge of panic. “Are you mad at me?” I swallowed hard, growing nervous. Had I done something wrong? “Is it because I told you I loved you? Was it too soon? Did I freak you out? I’m sorry, I just…”
She shook her head back and forth and rushed over to me, taking my hands into hers. She squeezed once. No.
“Then what is it?”
She looked up into my eyes and hers started watering over. She began to sob, and I didn’t know what else to do, so I held her. I held her close to my chest, and she fell apart in my arms as I collected all of her pieces.
“Music?” I asked her.
She nodded, and we walked to her bedroom, closing the door behind us. She started calming down as we listened to the music playing. We lay on the bed, and it wasn’t long after she fell asleep in my arms that her nightmares began. When she woke, she was so close to me, yet felt a million miles away.
“Maggie, you can talk to me,” I swore, pacing her room as she awakened from a dream that had pushed her to sobbing tears. She sat up in a ball on her bed, rocking back and forth, not looking my way.
When I moved closer to her, she flinched, almost as if she feared my touch, almost as if she thought I’d hurt her. “Maggie,” I begged, my voice and heart cracking. “What’s going on?”
She didn’t say anything.
“We can do five minutes,” I said, bending down in front of her. “Magnet, we can do five minutes. Focus, all right? You can come back to me. It’s okay.”
She kept swallowing hard with her hands clenched to her neck. Her eyes were wild, and I knew she was too far gone to hear me.
“Mr. Riley!” I shouted through the house. “Mr. Riley!” I shouted again, running through the house. When he came out of his bedroom, he looked at me with his eyes wide and full of concern.
“What is it?” he asked.
“Maggie. She’s in her bedroom. I don’t know what’s happening. She’s just…”
He didn’t wait for me to reply. He launched up the stairs to where his daughter was having a meltdown. Mrs. Riley was there, too, a few seconds later.
“Mags,” he said, his approach slow and cautious. “You’re okay,” Mr. Riley assured her. The closer he grew, the more she tensed up, but he didn’t stop moving in on her. He held his hands up, showing he wouldn’t hurt her, and when he was close enough, he wrapped her in his arms and held her against his chest. She clung to his t-shirt and pulled him close, sobbing into his arms.
What happened to you?
My mind was racing as I watched her fall apart against her father. My gut was in knots, hating the fact that I wasn’t able to protect her. Why couldn’t I fix her? Why couldn’t I take her pain and make it my own? He carried her downstairs, and I followed.
Calvin and Stacey walked into the front door laughing together, their arms wrapped tight around each other. When they saw the commotion, their laughter came to a halt.
“What’s going on?” Calvin asked.
Mr. Riley didn’t respond. He just carried Maggie to his bedroom. Mrs. Riley followed closely behind him.