we left a trail of excuses as we ran with the devil

Four.

 

The problem with coke is that you don’t always remember things when you’re fucked up on it.

The first time Danny overdosed he was twenty four and Matt found him collapsed on the bathroom floor. Danny went to rehab and it didn’t stick because he didn’t remember the hallucinations or convulsions. He was young and thought he was invincible and self-destructive creative genius was glamorous.

The second time Danny overdosed he was thirty two and he woke up in the hospital hooked up to a ventilator. He didn’t remember the powder, didn’t remember the yelling – Samantha shouting on the cliff side for him to give her a reason to stay. He didn’t remember pushing her out of the way during his drug fueled psychosis or her slipping and crashing to the ground.

He still doesn’t. Danny can’t remember a lot of things, but he does remember what followed. That June through December nightmare that slipped away into a moment of time he would never forget. It’s what sent him back to rehab, where this time he let over ten years of addiction claw it’s way out of his skin and smear itself on the walls and leave him him raw and exposed.

He was told he pushed her hard, but was just trying to move around her to get away from their argument, but it didn’t matter in the end because he did it. She fell on the cliffs, crashing onto the rocks below and in that instant the four week old life that was growing inside her no longer was. They hadn’t even known it existed.

Three months later, Matt drove him away from the rehab and back into the life he had been hiding from, not taking any visitors or calls; just Danny alone with himself and the other patients and the doctors. He was barely stitched back together.

“It doesn’t smell like her anymore.”

“Hmm?”

“I can’t smell her perfume.” Danny glanced around the apartment, noting things that were missing. Photos, the absence of her humming, the fabric swatches that were always thrown around in a seemingly haphazard way, but made total sense to her, no longer pinned up all over. How quiet and still it was, how stale the air tasted. He turned around and faced his best friend.

“How long as she been gone?” He didn’t want to know.

Matt didn’t want to tell him, but he was going to, because he had just about enough of keeping secrets. He’d watched the man who was basically his brother practically destroy himself. The scraping and fighting to get where he was in life wasn’t going to be for nothing. People recognized his name, his ambition, his ability to turn nothing into something.

He’d watched Danny with women. Things usually ended badly, either because he was an addict or because he was never around or the girl was enamored with the idea that he was going to make it big, and then realized he was still years away from that. He’d watched Danny pick up a loose stray of a girl and devote himself to her. He was different with this one, whether it was because he was eleven years older than her or because she was strong minded, firm in her beliefs and not afraid to stand up for herself. Then it went to hell again and Matt tore her down with a few simple words because he didn’t think she was good enough for him. It bothered him and he didn’t know why, but he wasn’t going to let her ghost haunt him. He couldn’t tell if a storm was coming, or already came.

“Weeks now. Something about a semester abroad and maybe she wouldn’t come back, I don’t know. I came by to grab some of your stuff and she was packing up. Don’t worry about it.”

Danny’s stitches came loose.

 

The devil rolled the dice on Monday morning. Samantha headed her mother off by sending her a link to the story with a text that told her she was fine and to stay where she was. Danny was right, she would be on the next train up, and fuck if she was dealing with her face to face too.

“Are you ever going to forgive me?”

Startled, a bit too in her own head, Samantha stopped herself from sighing, and rolled her eyes at the board she was looking at. “Stop blaming yourself, Danny. Don’t worry about it.”

“You say ‘don’t worry about it’ a lot.”

“I learned from Matt.”

“He learned from me.”

They were sitting in the kitchen, Danny with his laptop open watching nonsense that was frying his brain, his feet kicked up on the table. The late morning sun streaming through the windows was making him squint but it was also casting a glow around his wife that made him think of beach days in Newport and long walks through Audubon Park in the afternoon. Once, during that spring break long ago, Danny had taken her to where he grew up. While walking through the outskirts of the Garden District, a homeless person tried to stop them to tell Samantha that she had the brightest aura around her. She grabbed Danny’s hand tightly and pulled him away, but he had wanted to stop and chat with the guy; he was right.

Samantha had set up a project she was working on against the row of windows in the kitchen because the natural light was good for seeing color. She was trying to match a piece of fabric but all Danny could see was a woman in her element. Her messy hair had fallen out of its ponytail, the tie attempting to reign it all in having lost the battle. He loved her when she was dreaming, but he loved her the best like this. In ripped sweaters and loose shorts, so focused on her work that she forgot everything around her. It wasn’t unusual for her to forget there were other people in a room with her, so absorbed she could get.

“Why don’t you let the design team handle that?”

“Because they won’t take into consideration the price and send in a velvet. The customer will love it and I’ll be annoyed later trying to cost it out. It’s too expensive.”

Danny understood that, price margins were a part of his job, but he wished she had just taken the day off instead of working from home. Their morning had been mostly pleasant. After Samantha shot off a text to her mom they had both turned off their phones. They had set up with coffee and toast and spoke to each other quietly, just enjoying being together like they always did when time allowed.

Eventually, Samantha put her swatches down and turned back to Danny. He was watching her with crinkled eyes and rumpled clothes; he’d never bothered to change this morning. He looked soft and tired, but smiled sadly and sweetly at her as she made her way toward him. Reaching out to push his feet off the table, she felt herself smile back and climbed into his lap.

Pushing her forehead into his and meeting his eyes, she said “I’m happier to have you then be mad at you. I’m.. really sad this is happening, but Danny this isn’t your fault. Listen to me. I hate this. So much. And it’s not okay. But I’m not blaming you.” She pressed her lips to his slowly, letting the kiss linger before pulling away. “I don’t know why all of this is such a big deal or what we did to piss someone off, but if you’re waiting for me to fall apart, I’m not going to. You’re out of luck.”

“I feel like we’re on our way to being burned down,” Danny admitted.

we left a trail of excuses as we ran with the devil

Three.

 

When the press decided her age was no longer bringing in views, they attacked Samantha’s hospital records instead. That turned into an even bigger mess, and when Roger showed up, she retreated even further into the house to block out the never ending unraveling that had become her life.

Why the chairman of the board, Danny’s fucking boss, was in her house, and this whole shit storm had not been taken to the office, she didn’t know. They lived in those buildings, in the theaters and studios, but they all descended to invade her personal space as she became company property instead of a person.

“I don’t care that your wife can’t pop out a kid, I care that the drama is causing a drop in the company’s stock price.”

Samantha’s mother always called Danny the devil, but if she ever had the misfortune of meeting Roger Chadwick, she was sure she would change her mind.

 

The sound of glass breaking as Samantha made her way into the kitchen later that night broke the quiet calm that had settled over the house. Roger was gone, not before looking at her like she was an infestation that needed to be taken care of, and Matt was back and in the guest house with a bottle of something and a pack of cigarettes. She could smell them across the lawn and she reminded herself to do a deep cleaning after his visit was over.

Danny looked up from the shards he was picking up, “I knocked a bottle over.”

“Then why’s there glass on the floor across the room?”

“I threw that one.”

“You’re bleeding. Let me see.”

 

“PR is going to have a statement released.”

“I don’t want to release a statement.”

“It’s not up to you.”

Samantha looked up sharply, but saw no demands in his eyes, no anger, just apologies. She went back to cleaning Danny’s wounds. He had cut himself picking up the glass, his normally steady hands a trembling mess. They had been for days, but only when they were alone, just her and him and the sounds of crickets in the distance. She pressed a soaked cloth against his skin, perhaps not quite as gently as she could have.

“That stings,” Danny grimaced.

“This whole situation stings.”

“The press is ahead of us at every turn, Manny. We need to get ahead of the story before it consumes us.”

“It already has.”

“It hasn’t yet.”

She knew the weight of his words and knew he was right. She also knew the potential impact of letting it continue. Still, would they ever get back to normal?

“This isn’t.. me, getting caught with a dollar bill up my nose. This is you, us, what we have together. What we haven’t been able to do.”

“Not Roger’s percentage dips?” Shaking her head, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“We should.”

She finished wrapping his hand and stood up. “Does it always feel like this?”

“It’s never felt like this.”

 

For as long as Samantha could remember, she loved to wear nightdresses. The kind with ribbons and no lace because it itched. The kind that made her feel like a lady, and not a little girl playing dress up. Loose and flowing, she imagined herself walking around in the twilight lighting lanterns to guide the souls on their journey. As she pulled her favorite over her head, she wondered not for the first time when she landed in a Gothic horror film.

Danny was there, on the other side of their bedroom, grimacing through his fifth water bottle of the evening, a sign that he was wishing it was something else. In flannel bottoms and a cotton tshirt because he was Danny, and he was reliable and warm and steady. She loved him despite his faults and he loved her, and that’s all that mattered. He was hers.

“You wore that one that first time we spent the night together.” His eyes were full of stars at the memory, a small smile on his face, his wavy blonde hair a jumbled mess from rubbing his hands through it all day.

“Please don’t speak. I’m mentally composing the musical score to go with my nightmare.”

Danny’s lips twitched in a smirk, a ghost of a smile, this is why he loved her. She was funny in a way no one else he knew was, a little sarcastic, a little out there, and said the wildest things without meaning to.

“There were no good moors to wander across near your apartment, so your bedroom had to do.”

“There were the cliffs by the water. The beaches were empty at night.”

“The beaches were full of the sounds of drunken college kids up at the campus. Not conducive to good nighttime strolls.”

“I had to build you a house instead to wander around in your nightie.”

“You didn’t build this house. You bought it from some old man who died. I can feel his presence at night.”

“Did you get into Matt’s tequila?”

“I had tea.”

“You don’t like tea.”

“It fits the mood. I can’t wander around in a nightdress without a cup of tea.”

“This might be why Matt thinks you’re crazy.”

“Matt will be forever alone because his imagination is wild on paper and hidden away in a stone castle by Dracula himself in everything else.”

Chuckling, “Okay, okay,” Danny put up his hands. Bracing himself, “Do you want to read the press release before it goes live tomorrow?”

“No.” Samantha switched from dreamer to locked down fortress in an instant. The saltiness in her voice matched the tears threatening to fall because everything came back to this.

Danny barreled on anyway, “They’re going pretty deep. They’re going to talk about the baby and my overdose, and I’m pretty sure your mom will be the next uninvited guest once it hits. You sure you don’t want to know?”

“Which one?”

“Wh-what?”

“Which baby? Which overdose?”

we left a trail of excuses as we ran with the devil

Two.

The warmest brown eyes she had ever seen sparkled when he was happy and danced when he was excited. But they didn’t grow cold when he was upset or blaze when he was angry. They shuttered, closing the windows so you couldn’t see inside anymore.

 

The layover in Washington had been short, but anxiety inducing and when she stepped back onto the plane she wondered what she was doing. She didn’t like crowds, didn’t like flying, and didn’t like people she didn’t know. Most of the time, she didn’t like people she did know. She sighed in relief as she sat down, glad that she was sitting next to the man that had been there before. He had slept the first four hours but was awake now. His eyes were curious.

“Spring break in the Big Easy?,” he questioned. “Not sure how much fun you’ll have this time.”

She hesitated, not wanting to encourage conversation. “Katrina relief.”

“Really?”

“Don’t sound so surprised.”

Despite her inclination to not get to know her seatmate, but comforted by the fact that they only had an hour left until they landed, she found herself talking more than she had in days. This strange man that sat next to her was magnetizing and she didn’t know why. His eyes shone as they went on.

He made conversation easy, and his voice was all southern comfort and warm blankets. He asked questions that she normally considered probing, but kept it flowing with joking laughter and easy smiles. She told him she was studying development at the design school in Rhode Island and disliked her snobby roommate and worked at the art gallery on campus.

He told her that he was also living in Rhode Island, not just on vacation like she assumed, and worked as an associate at one of the theaters she liked to hang around in.

He didn’t tell her that he had seen her around, her unruly curls had caught his attention back in late October, and his breath caught in his throat a little each time she showed up in the theater to have lunch with some of the student interns.

He was originally from New Orleans, which explained his voice, but after school he went where the first available job took him, and he stayed. She teased him for referring to his home state by its embarrassing moniker and he gave it right back to her by taking a shot at her Jersey accent. He was also going to be spending his vacation volunteering relief.

As the announcement was made that they would be landing soon, her now not-so-strange man excused himself to the restroom and Samantha decided it would be nice if she saw him again. He had the kindest eyes. He was a little older, but she always related better to people with a little more experience. And seeing a familiar face around wouldn’t be so bad.

When he came back and settled himself, clicking the seatbelt for their descent, he turned back to her and smiled. “My name’s Danny, by the way.”

His eyes were red and blown.

 

Matt had wandered off some time ago and there had been quiet talking from downstairs for half an hour. The her phone pinged with another link from her mother. A new headline, a new never ending voicemail, a new feeling of shame she hadn’t experienced. She heard Matt’s car pull away from the house.

Danny slid his arms around her from behind, pulling her close and sinking his face into her neck. He didn’t kiss her, just breathed in her natural scent as it mixed with the sunshine and laundry perfume she wore.

She had known Danny was there, had waited a full five minutes in silence before coming up to her, and she didn’t know what to say. She never knew what to say anymore.

“I love you,” he whispered into her sweater. “I’m sorry.”

Turning into him, she whispered back, “It’s not okay.”

She didn’t need to look up at his face to know the windows of his eyes closed as he stopped breathing.

 

 

we left a trail of excuses as we ran with the devil

One.

It started with a photo taken long ago, showing up in the news with the headline DANNY KING MAKES WAVES WITH CHILD BRIDE. What was annoying was that 1. Samantha and Danny had only known each other for a few weeks at that point, and there was nothing scandalous about them sitting in the sand on the beach, obviously mid-conversation; and 2. Samantha was nineteen years old when the photo was taken, not sixteen like the article claimed. Young, but certainly not a child.

That didn’t stop the endless stream of media attention she was now receiving, or the angry voicemails her mother was leaving on her phone every time she watched the newest gossip segment on television.

Samantha was rarely in the news and she preferred it that way. Her position had no need to be folly for the media.

Danny was always in the news. He was a stage director in New York and his brilliance as one half of the dynamic duo that recently brought their biggest show to cinema had brought as much propaganda as success into their lives. His scandalous past had been brought up in every avenue she ran across. She had lived and breathed it, then locked it in a box and threw away the key. It had been years and she was tired. And now the box had been broken into and she had been brought into mix.

Something in her snapped, and she had taken to her social media account to post a rebuttal. The first being her copy of the beach photo, captioned with the year and a note saying ‘This is nineteen.’ Swiping left was a photo of her and school friends, captioned with the year and ‘This is sixteen.’ Danny’s bosses were not amused.

“You’ve really created a stir,” Matt said, creeping up behind her.

Samantha had been standing at the top of the stairs, staring unseeingly at the wedding dress her mother in law had framed as a gift. It sat imposingly against the wall, almost daring her to smash the frame along with her hopes and dreams.

“All of this makes you wonder if there are still beautiful things in the world,” she whispered, wishing Matt would go away.

He wouldn’t though. He was writing something new, which meant he was doing anything to avoid writing something new. So he was here, in what she deemed her safe place, but it was also her husband’s safe place, so that meant Matt. Sometimes she wondered which one she married.

“It’s all too close and incredibly loud, yadda yadda, but I have to give you style points. You were passive aggressive and I liked it. Danny did too. Have you spoken with him about it yet?”

“If you’re asking me about it then you already know the answer.”

Matt was silent, which showed more tact than he usually had.

“He’s scared, you know. Why you’re suddenly a story, when his track record has never been too boring for the rags. The lawyers are pissed.”

“The lawyers are pissed that I responded, not that my age or involvement with a man are a story.”

“He doesn’t want to –

“Peter’s not losing Wendy, Matt. It’s been fourteen years.”

 

we left a trail of excuses as we ran with the devil

Prologue.
The second time Danny went to rehab, but the first time in Samantha’s experience, Matt called her a jailbait piece of ass that Danny was just having a good time with until something better came along.
 
Samantha hated him until she married Danny, when, ten years later, Matt quietly apologized the day before their wedding. She knew he had hurled his words in anger, but the fact that he vocalized her worst fears still haunted her almost four years into her marriage. 
 
She appreciated what Matt was to her husband: his creative partner, a best friend, and a brother; but they would never have a good relationship. She spoke to him only when she had to.

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.

She’s afraid to ask what it means.

The Lost Boy, 17.

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.

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.”

 

The end.

and so, 0.7.

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.

XXX

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.”

 

The Lost Boy, 16.

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.

“Tired.”

“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.

xxx

“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.

The Lost Boy, 15.

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.”

“I wasn’t.”

“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.

xxx

“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.”

“And?”

“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.

The Lost Boy, 14.

Jamie continued to look up at his old friend, a sad smile on his face. “You found me.” He whispered.

“I’ll always find you.”

The two men sat in the sand, the wind ruffling their hair.

“Put it out.” Danny said, gesturing towards Jamie’s cigarette. “My mom’ll throw a fit if I come home smelling like that.”

Jamie took another quick pull and then obliged, putting his cigarette out in the sand.

“How did you know I’d be here?”

“You always come here when you’re upset.”

“How’d you know I was upset?”

Danny bit his lip, hesitant about his answer. “O’dell told me.”

Jamie breathed deeply, but didn’t say anything.

“He’s worried about you. We all are.”

“There’s nothing to worry about.”

“Really?” Danny asked in surprise. “Last time I checked there was plenty to worry about.”

“Danny..”

“No, please, listen to me.” He stopped, checking to see if his friend would interrupt. When he didn’t, Danny continued.

“I’ve known you since the sandbox Jamie, you can’t hide from me the way you do others.” He paused again, waiting, but Jamie continued to stare straight ahead.

“What happened that night? With Kayleigh? What was so bad?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“I bet you haven’t talked about it with anyone. Come on, help me understand.”

Jamie leaned all the way back so that he was lying on his back in the sand. He stared straight up, his eyes reflecting the stars in the night sky.

“We had sex.”

“I know.”

“You know?”

“Well, yeah. We kind of all do. The whole parents yelling thing tipped us off.”

“She told me she needed a break right after.”

Danny lay down next to him, not saying a word. He didn’t want to interrupt now that his friend was finally talking.

“She called me a few weeks later. She was four weeks late.”

Danny sucked in his breath, and held it. Questions exploded inside his head, but he stayed quiet. He hadn’t known this.

“She was pregnant. John was right. I would – I did get her pregnant. He was right.”

“Kayleigh.. she doesn’t look pregnant. She.. would have had the baby by now though. Right?” Danny questioned softly.

“She isn’t anymore.” Jamie rolled onto his side, facing the swing set he had played on as child. He could almost hear the spirit of his unborn child laughing on it.

“I told my mom about it. She cried a lot, and told my stepdad. They weren’t happy.”

“I wouldn’t think so.” Danny whispered.

“You know, that night John told me that I’d wind up like my mom; too young, uneducated, and alone. He was right, wasn’t he? I am alone. The only difference between me and her is that Kayleigh killed our baby.”

“Don’t say that, Jamie.”

“She did, Danny. She didn’t want a child. She wanted a career in hockey, and she’s going to get one. She’s damn good.”

“So are you.”

Jamie smirked, but didn’t answer; his thoughts still lingering on the baby. “Were you really high at practice?” Danny asked tentatively.

“No.”

“But O’dell said-

“I wasn’t.”

“You trusted me up until this point Jamie, why are you lying to me now?”

Jamie was on his feet, feeling his temper rise.

Danny was on his heels. “Talk to me.”

He turned around, eyes flashing. “Listen to me. I wasn’t on anything. I took some painkillers earlier in the day because I couldn’t walk. My brother was jumping on my bed while I was in it and landed on my knee. I wouldn’t have been able to practice if I didn’t take anything. But I wasn’t high.” He turned back around, and started to make his way home.

Danny blinked into the night. He hadn’t been expecting that. “I’m going to have a lot of apologizing to do,” he said to no one in particular.