She doesn’t know much about his life previous to her, aside from the drugs. He has family in New Orleans, and his work experience is public knowledge. But the age difference between them means he had a full life before they even met, and when they talk about the miscarriages, he gets a faraway look in his eyes.
The quarantine was over, but they still wouldn’t let him leave the hospital. They told him he fell through the ice but he didn’t remember. The last memory he had was of his confrontation with O’dell in his living room.
Doctors were sent to talk to him about the cutting but they found him unresponsive. The loss of his freedom didn’t move Jamie to speech. His removal from the team didn’t faze him either. His mother worried ridiculously about catatonia despite assurance from from the medical team treating her son. He had retreated into himself, but he was aware.
He needed this time. To process, to begin healing. He knew he couldn’t keep on this way. There were people wanting to help bring him back and he wanted to let them. To be in control, to be Jamie Daniels again.
His father kept coming to see him. Jamie hadn’t acknowledged him, staring at the ceiling or sometimes out the window. Alan talked to him anyway. About his life in England and his years playing hockey, his son. My brother, thought Jamie. His yearly box of pictures and news clippings his grandmother sent. All intriguing pieces of information that Jamie filed away to ponder when he was alone.
Samantha and John came, bringing the kids once or twice, but usually they were alone. His mother fussed over sheet thread counts and whether his pillows had feathers or were foam. His stepdad looked at her as though she’d lost her mind. “I have to do something,” she explained. She filled the room with flowers and then it was Jamie’s turn to look at her like she’d lost her mind.
The hospital became a revolving door of former teammates.
Goldstein came, bringing with him a meatball hero from his parent’s deli. “Ya gotta eat something other than jello.”
Dennis spent an afternoon with him, telling him ranching stories, all the while trying not to sneeze at the flowers.
Coach O’dell came while Jamie was asleep. He stared at the boy from the doorway for a long time, trying to figure out how things had gone so wrong. His number two for years had bloody limbs from his fall. Danny, of course, had filled him in on his other dramas and O’dell shook his head. “You’re gonna be okay, Jamie. You’ll make it.”
The days continued to pass in a blur of rotating nurses and friends and family visitations. He was still silent, but began letting on that he was paying attention. His nurses felt his gaze as they changed his dressings and smiled encouragingly. The doctors grew hopeful.
His cuts healed leaving angry scars in their wake. Jamie stared at them, remembering each slice. He wanted to cut. Needed to. Even though his head said no. He touched them gingerly, feeling his body practically scream for the blade, anything to feel the cold metal against his skin instead of dealing with his father’s sudden interest in his life, his mother’s sad eyes, Coach O’dell, Danny Jesse Adam Kayleigh.
Kayleigh had come to see him.
“What are you doing to yourself?” she whispered. She didn’t look sad, just disappointed.
Which was worse, in Jamie’s opinion. He spent so many years trying to be perfect; the perfect boyfriend, the perfect son, the perfect teammate. Maybe not the most perfect student but he tried. “Don’t you know how worried I’ve been? Danny said they almost didn’t pull you out in time. Do you remember? The ice was thin. You weren’t breathing.”
Kayleigh’s eyes strayed from his and looked down his body, stopping at his left arm, above the wrist. There was now bruising mixed with the scars.
“Why?” She moved closer, tears beginning to sting her eyes. Burying her face in his chest, she started to cry. Jamie shifted and breathed deeply. “I’m gonna be alright, Kales.”
Hunched over the toilet, Christopher plunged two fingers down his throat, tickling the opening of his esophagus, then harder, rougher, up and down up and down. He was holding his breath, almost choking, and when the bile finally rushed up he moved his hand away and let it spill. No time to brace himself or catch his breath, he slammed his fingers down again, willing the act to continue lest he lose momentum.
Finally he leaned back on his heels, hand raw, head pounding. Using the wall for support, he stood up and went to the sink. Thrusting his whole lower arm under the water, he rinsed it, then cupped a handful and brought it to his mouth to rinse, and splashed another handful over his face.
Slowly turning his face up, he looked into the mirror. It was easy to not think about what he was doing while he was actually doing it. It required too much preparation and effort, and total concentration. Afterward all the thoughts he pushed away came rushing back.
Seeing his reflection was like coming out of a fog. His skin was pale. His eyes were wet and red and they looked like he had burst another blood vessel again, and he could tell by the way his throat hurt that it would be sore all day tomorrow. He reached up to feel his neck, ran his fingers over the swollen nodes, and sighed. He couldn’t do anything about that, but some drops would help his eyes, although probably not as well as he hoped.
Trying not to think about the new atrocity he was engaging in, he took a swig of mouthwash and let it burn. Later on, he would brush his teeth and hope they wouldn’t hurt too much. It would be a couple hours until then, hours of forcing himself to smile and talk and answer questions.
Taking one last look around the bathroom to make sure he hadn’t forgotten to clean anything up, he exited, took the stairs slowly, and went to the family room. It was Sunday and dinner had ended, but it would still be a long time before anyone went home and he could escape to his room. Sunday dinners were the worst because all the adult Reagan children came, with their wives and girlfriends and boyfriends, kids of their own. They would stay; watching football, finishing homework, and chatting about the week and the one to come.
Later, Will slid a piece of pie towards his foster brother, pulling a chair from the kitchen to sit with him. Christopher was in the squashy leather armchair that sat near the stairs, legs curled up under himself, slightly away from everyone else but close enough to be seen by them. He was totally engrossed in a book, lost in the world of Louisa May Allcott, who Kelly insisted he read for the betterment of his soul.
“Little Women?” Will questioned.
“Mhmm,” Chris said simply, hoping he would be left alone but knowing he wouldn’t be that lucky. Still, the youngest Reagan sibling was better than Davy or Dana.
“Ma wanted me to bring you that,” Will nodded towards the pie.
Chris looked at it and tried not to grimace, turning a shade paler, “Thank you.” His chest had felt funny since earlier, which wasn’t a new thing, but it clenched more at the idea of having to consume and rid himself of something else.
“So… the book?”
“Kelly asked me to read it. She wants to see the new movie next weekend but doesn’t want me to judge her choices or something.”
“Sounds like she thinks the movie’s going to be bad.”
Christopher just nodded.
Trying to meet his brother’s eyes, “You gonna eat that pie or keep looking at it like it’s a bomb? Or is it something I said?”
Embarrassed, Chris looked up and smiled guiltily. “Sorry. I’m – I don’t know. I don’t feel great, I guess.”
Will looked at him for a long moment. He picked up the plate and stood. “Yeah, I imagine you don’t.” He turned to go but then looked over his shoulder. “The vent in the bathroom connects to my room.”
When Jamie woke up, he was cold, thirsty, and alone. He felt the unseen walls surrounding him, and heard the beeping of the heart monitor in the corner of the room. What he didn’t know was how he got to the hospital. Pressing the call button above his right shoulder, he tried to shift himself into a more comfortable position, but found movement to be difficult. His arms felt numb, but his lower half was sore.
He winced as the nurse bustled in, turning the overhead light on and blinding him temporarily. She checked his vitals as he tried to blink away the tiny circles that blocked correct vision.
“Glad to see you’re up. How’re you feeling?” she asked. Jamie paused a moment, debating whether to bombard the poor woman with questions, or just answer her question.
“That’d be the medications you’re on. They’ll make you feel sluggish for awhile.”
“But why am I on anything? How did I get here?”
“Your doctor will be in later to discuss your situation. Right now, I suggest resting until he gets here.”
“But – ”
“Just rest.” she said quietly, smoothing down his blanket.
“He needs to know. He wants to know.”
“And I will tell him when it’s time. Until then, you will not say anything to him. Do you understand?”
“I’m his father.”
“It only says that on paper.”
Jamie woke later in the night to the sound of voices talking outside his room. He recognized the woman’s voice, it was his mother’s, but the man’s voice was alien to him.
Groggily, he raised his head off the pillow, trying to catch more of their conversation, but they seemed to be moving away from the door. All he was able to hear was the padding of footsteps as they echoed away from his room.
What was that about? he thought to himself. He was positive they were talking about him, but he didn’t know why. Nothing made sense. Where was he, again? He just couldn’t remember.
Jamie turned his face towards the window, a sliver of light shining in. It shone and reflected off something white on his arm. Bandages. White in color, wrapped around his arm tightly, causing the feeling in it to fade to pins and needles. Underneath, the skin was itchy. Why?
Feeling another wave of tiredness fall over him, Jamie rested his head back on his pillows and closed his eyes. He was asleep within minutes, and never noticed the man with the green eyes that slipped into the room. He didn’t stir either, when he pulled a chair close to the bed, and took his hand.
Jamie sat in the overstuffed armchair in the living room, absentmindedly picking the stuffing out of one of the holes. Coach O’dell sat on the couch across from him, staring him right in the face. It was O’dell who had called last night, informing his parents that he had walked out of practice. Jamie was still fuming from the confusion he had caused.
“In the kitchen, now.”
Jamie cringed at the tone his step father used, knowing he was in deep. He didn’t have to question what was wrong, he already knew. He slipped quietly into a chair, his eyes never looking up from the floor. Trying to keep his temper in check, he squeeze his eyes shut, and took a deep breath.
“I want to know what’s going on. Why did Coach O’dell call this house tonight?”
“If he called, then I bet you already know why.”
John stepped around the table, and sat down next to the boy. “I want to hear it from you.”
“I don’t know what you want me to say that will be any different than what O’dell said. I left practice before it was over. That’s it.”
“He said you weren’t focused. You were spastic. He said you seemed like you were on something.”
“Then why would he think that?”
“I don’t know.”
John knew in his heart that Jamie hadn’t been on anything, but curiosity was getting the better of him. “There had to be a reason for O’dell to think that. ‘I don’t know’ doesn’t answer my question.”
Jamie felt defeated. He didn’t know what else to say. “I took something in the morning. For my leg, it was bothering me. But I wasn’t high.”
John remained silent.
“You know, if nobody’s going to believe me then I’m not going to waste my time trying to change their mind.” He got up, and walked up the stairs to his room, intent on sleeping away this mess he was in.
“Danny called me last night.”
Jamie looked up, looking directly into O’dell’s eyes. “So?”
“He told me about the conversation the two of you had last night.”
“Come on, Jamie. I’m trying to apologize here.”
“Why should I not be difficult? You certainly had no problem being so at practice yesterday.” Jamie shot back.
“I’m sorry I jumped to conclusions. I want to make this work. We need you on the team, but things can’t keep on the way they are. We need to work through this. Please.”
“I need you to trust me. I wouldn’t mess with myself that way. You know that.”
“Does that mean I’m forgiven?”
“I guess.” Jamie responded quietly.
“Can I ask you one more thing?”
He looked up, wondering what O’dell wanted now. He nodded, indicating his response. O’dell reached over, gripped Jamie’s arm in his hand, and pushed the sleeve up.
“How long have you been cutting?”
Jamie stared down at the scars, some of them newer than he’d like them to be.