I couldn’t move. I couldn’t stop shaking.

Calvin walked over to me, placing a hand on my shoulder. His eyes were narrowed and confused. “Brooks? What’s happening?”

“I don’t know,” I said. My throat was dry and my chest was on fire. “She woke up and…freaked out. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t stop her from…” My eyes watered over, and I pressed the palms of my hands against my face. I couldn’t talk anymore. Calvin didn’t push me to say anything. He and Stacey simply walked over to me, wrapped their arms around my body, and held me up.

I hated the comfort they were giving me, though, because Maggie needed it more.

She needed someone to fall into her memories and erase the dark waters she swam in each day.

I sat on the staircase, waiting for Maggie’s parents to come out of their room. Cheryl, Calvin, and Stacey joined me.

We didn’t say a word. I kept flipping through my iPod, searching for some kind of music that could make her feel better. Music always made her smile.

When the bedroom door opened, we all shot up. Mr. and Mrs. Riley frowned our way.

“She’s sleeping again,” Mr. Riley said.

“Can I see her?” I asked. I held up my iPod toward Mr. Riley. “I just think some music might help. It always helps her.”

His lips parted, but Mrs. Riley cut in. “I think everyone should call it a night.” She ran her fingers through her hair, and Mr. Riley shut his mouth.

I started to argue, but Mrs. Riley gave me a tired expression, so I nodded my head. “Well, if you could just give it to her, Mr. R, just in case it can help her? I don’t need it right now.” I handed my iPod to him, and he gave me a forced smile.

Everyone headed into their own rooms, and I was forced to leave. I hated the feeling in my gut, I hated not know how she was doing. How was I supposed to walk away without knowing if she was okay?

“Brooks, can I speak with you for a second?” Mrs. Riley asked as I walked toward the front door. Her arms were crossed and her eyes heavy.

“Yeah, what’s going on?”

She glanced around the room, making sure everyone had departed, then stepped closer to me. “I want you to know…Maggie’s sick. She might not look it, but her mind…” She frowned. “Whatever happened to her all those years ago, it affected her. Even on the days she seems okay, there’s a big part of her that’s missing. I know you like her, but being in a relationship with her… I don’t think that’s smart. She’s broken.”

I would’ve been lying if I’d said I wasn’t taken aback by her words. She spoke about her daughter as if she were a freak, an outcast. Yeah, Maggie had a few bad days, but who didn’t? Glancing around the corner, I saw Maggie peeking out of her parents’ bedroom, listening in. I gave her a smile, and she gave me a frown. Before that moment I hadn’t known a frown could be more beautiful than a smile. “Not all broken things need to be fixed. Sometimes they just need to be loved. It would be a shame if only people who were whole were deserving of love.”

“Brooks.” She sighed, as if my words were pointless. “You’re young, and you have your whole life ahead of you. I can’t help but think you’ll hold yourself back trying to have Maggie feel included. You’re going off to Los Angeles next week for your music career, where you’re going to have all these new experiences—”

“Maggie and I have new experiences every day.”

“Yeah, but you’re going to have new opportunities, bigger opportunities.”

“So will she.”

Mrs. Riley sighed, rubbing the back of her neck. “You’re not getting it, Brooks. Maggie’s not leaving this house. Ever. I know you’re trying to be hopeful, but now’s the time to be logical. You should break things off with her before you do more damage.”

“She’ll leave. I know she will. We’ve spoken about it, you know. She has dreams, too, just like you and me. She has dreams.”

“Look. Brooks…I get that she’s your friend, and I get that you like to share your music with her, but that’s not going to help her. A relationship needs more than music to exist. It needs meat, not just bones. Maggie can’t give you what you’ll need for a real relationship.”

“You don’t know what I need.”

“With all due respect, I know what you don’t need. You’re young and in love, I get it, but Maggie’s not the best fit for you.”

My chest was tight, and I knew if I stayed a second longer, I’d say something I’d regret. I glanced up at where Maggie was standing, but she was gone, so I opened the front door and stepped onto the porch, turning my back to Mrs. Riley.

“I’m sorry, Brooks, but this is for the best.”

Turning to face her one more time, I snapped. “With all due respect, Mrs. Riley, I think you’re wrong about her. Maggie’s smart. She’s so smart, kind, and expressive, even without words. She says so much when you can’t hear her. Yeah, her mind is busy, but it’s deeper than any ocean. She sees things in different ways than most, but why is that a bad thing? And you’re wrong about music, too. If you think for a second music can’t heal people, then you’re not listening closely enough.”

I started on my way, my heart racing.

“She tried to kill herself,” Mrs. Riley shouted, making me pause my steps.

I turned back, denial running through my mind. “No.”

“Yes, she did. I know I probably seem like the big bad wolf, but she’s not okay. You were right, her mind is deeper than any ocean, but one day the tides are going to rise so high, she’ll have no choice but to drown.”

She tried to kill herself.

I couldn’t breathe.

She tried to kill herself.

She wouldn’t.

I couldn’t fucking breathe.

I walked around the neighborhood, lap after lap after lap. I kept thinking maybe I’d done something wrong. Maybe the way I had held her or touched her had sparked a flashback. Maybe I’d said something wrong.

“It’s hard, isn’t it?” Mrs. Boone asked me from her porch as I did another lap around the neighborhood, trying to clear my head. I stopped in front of her house as Muffins rolled back and forth in the grass. “When she has her meltdowns.”