Monday, August 29, 2016
This chapter begins with a hospital scene following a s*ic*de by drug overdose, followed by scenes featuring s*lf h*rm and v*miting. Please proceed with caution and read responsibly.
“My brother,” Zoe gasped out, only just now processing that she had not only made it to the car, but she was already at the hospital.
She couldn't remember anything past leaving the band room, and the hospital was a good twenty-five minutes away. Had she really just driven here completely subconsciously?
“Where's my brother?” She knew she was loud. She knew to some people, this might even be considered yelling. She couldn’t hear herself over the roar of blood in her ears, but she could tell by the way people in the waiting room were looking at her: startled but curious about the commotion. She wanted to turn around and snap at them, ask them what they thought they were looking at, what was so interesting. But she restrained herself, sure that she probably wouldn’t be able to get out such a coherent sentence right now.
The receptionist looked up at her, startled. “Oh, uh, what’s your brother’s name, hon?” He scrambled for his clipboard and a visitor sticker, clearly sensing her urgency by the lack of color on her face and the sweat beading on her forehead.
“Connor,” Zoe croaked, still panting. “Connor Murphy?”
Her stomach lurched as the receptionist’s face darkened before he even checked his patient list. “Room 406, sweetheart. Second floor, at the end of the middle hallway on your right.” He tenderly peeled the visitor sticker off its back and offered it forward, which Zoe quickly snatched and haphazardly slapped it onto her shirt.
“Thank you,” she tried to smile at him, but for once, she couldn’t even force one.
He nodded at her. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“No!” Zoe spat, slamming her palms onto the table before she could stop herself. “Don’t say that to me! He’s gonna be fine!” An obvious tremor to her voice, she felt the tears that had been absent up to this point burning at the back of her eyes.
Now she knew people were staring. They mumbled amongst themselves, pity thickening the air around her and making Zoe bristle. She took off, refusing to hear it or see the receptionist’s reaction.
Her Converse squeaked on the linoleum as she sprinted full-speed down the hall. She carelessly shoved through the crowd of people waiting at the elevator door, knowing the staircase would be faster.
“Hey, watch it, kid!” An older man hissed after her, which she ignored until a nurse beside him spoke and another wave of rage and panic flooded over her.
“Sir, please don’t be too hard on her. Her brother just committed suicide.”
“Shut up!” She yelled, clapping her hands over her ears and messily rounding the corner until she reached the door to the staircase.
Her feet moved faster than she thought possible, carrying her up the stairs in such a blur that she was shocked she didn’t trip. She slammed the door open, bolting again, trying to find the middle hallway. She quickly scanned the plaques outside each room on her right until she found 406, where a good number of nurses and doctors were buzzing about.
“Such a tragedy,” One nurse murmured to another, writing something on a clipboard and shaking her head sadly. “He was so young.”
Zoe’s knees nearly buckled beneath her as she raced for the door, and the crowd by Connor’s room silenced as they saw her approaching, making room for her to run through. The thick, undeniable fog of solemnity hung in the air around her, suffocatingly present in every shallow breath she took. Tears threatened to brim her eyes, but she refused them, not letting herself believe what they were saying.
She skidded to a stop, her shoes screeching against the floor, and stumbled through the door.
She thought she was ready for whatever would meet her inside.
She was wrong.
Her father was bracing himself up against the windowsill, staring outside, completely silent. He was trembling.
Her mother was collapsed at the side of the bed, sobbing helplessly and clinging to her son’s unmoving hand for dear life.
And Zoe, standing just inside the doorway, dizzy with adrenaline and disbelief, stared at her brother, Connor Murphy, lying lifeless in the hospital bed.
That couldn’t be right.
“Why isn’t he on oxygen?” She asked no one in particular, stepping up to the side of his bed opposite their mother. “Why aren’t there any IVs?” She asked, louder this time, when no one could answer her. “Why aren’t you helping him?” Louder. Shakier.
“Zoe,” A nurse behind her started gently, eyes glassy with tears. She rested a tender hand on her shoulder. “There’s nothing we can do for him now.”
“What the fuck do you mean ‘nothing you can do?!’” Zoe screamed, whipping around and slapping her hand away. Her heart slammed in her chest. “That’s your job! You have to save him! You can’t just let him—”
She trailed off before she could say it, powerless to the cold and merciless reality that was crawling deeper and deeper into her body.
The tears were suddenly much less controllable.
She tried again. “You can’t just….”
The first tear fell. She looked up at the nurse helplessly, eyes round and pleading, silently begging her to say it wasn’t true.
The nurse’s lip quivered. She nodded. “I’m so sorry, sweetie. There was nothing that could be done. He was gone when he got here.”
The room fell dead silent. Zoe slowly turned around, allowing herself to look at Connor again.
Their lips were tinted blue. There was a gray hue to his skin. His eyes were closed. Their chest was still.
She shakily leaned over him, taking their hand and threading her fingers between his. It was cold, and growing stiff. She turned her head and rested her ear against his chest.
Please, she pleaded silently for the faintest trace of a heartbeat. Give me something. Anything.
“Please.” She croaked aloud this time, barely audible, her grip on their hand tightening.
Slowly, Zoe lifted her head, staring into Connor’s closed eyes.
“He’s dead.” Her own voice was foreign.
Zoe’s whole body went cold as the words escaped her lips. Her legs buckled and she collapsed onto her knees, the full force of her weight making them sing with pain, but she couldn’t feel it.
She couldn’t feel anything.
Zoe buried her face into the crook of Connor’s stiff, cold neck, her shoulders trembling with one last shaky inhale before her walls finally crumbled and her body erupted into broken, ragged sobs.
Her brother was dead.
Connor Murphy was dead.
Maybe it had been an hour. Maybe it had been three days. Zoe didn't know. Whatever.
The chair Larry had guided her into after having to pull her away from Connor’s body was very uncomfortable, but Zoe had never cared less. About anything, not just the chair.
Her mother was still sobbing two chairs over, doubled over in a crumpled, blubbering mess. Her father sat between his wife and daughter, face unreadable, his hands stiffly set on both their shoulders.
Zoe’s mouth and throat were bone dry, her lips cracked and parted just enough to breathe, since her nose was still clogged and runny beyond salvation. Her breaths were short and shallow, just enough to keep her alive. The fact that she was breathing at all while Connor lay lifeless being torn apart for his autopsy registered for the umpteenth time, striking her like a gunshot. Her brother would never breathe again.
It's not fair.
She thought she'd run out of tears, but her breath caught in her throat, pain tightening in her neck from the dryness as her eyes welled up again.
The contrast between Zoe’s silent weeping and Cynthia’s loud, broken sobs swirled around in her racing, shattered brain, her delirious state making the sounds so overwhelming that she had to lean forward, resting her elbows on her knees and digging her thumbs into her ears. Her back cracked as she shifted, jarred from the movement after being completely still for so long. A wave of dizziness rolled over her, the sensory overload strengthening.
Suddenly, the air vent she was sitting beneath felt like the force of a tornado, a single hair brushed her neck just so that her whole head twitched with irritation, and the way her toes sat in her shoes made her want to tear them off. The distant sounds of monitors beeping, keyboards clacking, and people talking were deafeningly pounding her ears.
Zoe clenched and unclenched her jaw, trying to block out the sound of her mother’s cries to little avail. Sleep taunted heavily on her eyelids, but she refused to give in, jolting awake whenever her vision started to blur and her head tried to droop.
Another hour or six had gone by (Zoe still had no concept of time, or any interest in the concept of time, for that matter) when the sound of nearing footsteps made its way to her ringing ears, and she forced herself to lift her head.
“Thank you for your patience,” the medical examiner started, her voice barely above a whisper. She met Zoe’s eyes when neither Larry or Cynthia could look at her. The doctor had told them her name before Connor was taken back for his autopsy, but damn her if Zoe heard it. She narrowed her focus in on the doctor’s gaze, letting her soft, kind brown eyes ground her and finally put her overwhelmed senses at some semblance of peace.
“We were able to confirm manner of death as a suicide. Official cause of death won’t be available until the tox screens come back in about 48 hours, but from what we know so far, this was most likely a zolpidem overdose.”
Zoe didn't need her to simplify it to know what that meant: sleeping pills.
Cynthia tumbled into another bout of pitiful, hoarse wails, and Larry closed his eyes, pressing his lips into a firm line. Zoe looked away, trying not to let her words sink in too much. She knew what had happened. She didn't need to hear it out loud, too.
“But we believe we've found a suicide note in his pocket.”
That made Zoe’s head shoot back up, bringing with it a sharp flare of dizziness. She shook her head weakly, trying to focus her eyes back on the doctor, whose hand reached forward until a folded up piece of paper was visible to her blurry, half-conscious eyes.
Zoe waited for one of her parents to take the note, but they just stared at it, frozen. She hesitated before lifting her trembling arm and letting the doctor gently set it in her open hand.
Zoe tried to thank her, but all she could get out was an only half-audible crackle in her throat. The doctor blinked at her with a warm understanding.
“You all are welcome to go home anytime,” the medical examiner went on quietly. “It's very late, I'm sure getting some sleep would be good for you. We’ll let you know as soon as the tox screen results come in so we can confirm the suspected cause of death. The mortuary will be coming to pick him up early this morning, and they'll be giving you a call as soon as he arrives. You can discuss funeral and post-mortem options with them as soon as you're ready.”
Zoe nodded weakly, having a feeling she was the only one who was even partially processing her words.
“Thank you,” Zoe finally managed to rasp after several unsuccessful attempts. The doctor smiled sadly at her, her eyes glistening, and nodded.
“Of course, honey. I'm so sorry for your loss.” She leaned down to squeeze Zoe’s hand. “Hang in there, okay? I promise it won't be this hard forever.” Zoe blinked gratefully up at her, but couldn't smile. After one last nod, the doctor turned around and solemnly headed back down the hall until she disappeared behind the door.
There was no doubt that looking at the paper in her hands would open up a whole new breed of grief, and Zoe had never wanted anything less than how little she wanted to read this note. Even still, she felt a sort of… responsibility, being the first person trusted with her big brother’s last message to the world. Conflict grappled in the foggy wasteland that was her mind, until she found her hands unfolding the paper, gently flattening the creases.
Her eyes blurred, jumbling the paragraphs into blotches and smears that looked as if she had dipped the whole page in water. She blinked a few times, trying to focus in on the opening line, until she could finally make out the words— still blurry, but legible.
She didn't know what she had expected… but it wasn't this.
Dear Evan Hansen,
Zoe’s eyebrows knitted, and she blinked a comical amount of times, convinced her eyes must be playing tricks on her. Had she read that right?
She was getting dizzy from looking back to reread over the first line so many times. It had probably been a good few minutes before Zoe actually processed that this note was indeed addressed to Evan Hansen. The very same Evan Hansen that Connor had screamed at and shoved to the ground this morning. The very same Evan Hansen that Zoe had never ever seen interact with her brother before said conflict.
Not to their parents, not to her. Not to anyone Zoe could've predicted with a million guesses. No, Connor’s suicide note was addressed to Evan Hansen.
“What does it say?” Larry asked hoarsely, but didn't try to look at the note. He sounded as if he was forcing the question out, like he didn't really want to know. Zoe definitely understood that.
Zoe waved him off, no words finding her throat. That was good enough for her father, though, and he dropped it, his still mostly-blank face betraying traces of relief that he didn't have to find out just yet.
She had to lean back in her seat, nausea making her stomach flip as she moved her eyes down the paper to read the last words Connor had ever written.
Turns out this wasn't an amazing day after all.
This isn't going to be an amazing week, or an amazing year...
Definitely not anymore, Zoe thought, hopelessness seeping back in and making her hands feel cold and numb until she couldn't feel herself holding the paper anymore. She swayed a little in her seat, and had to close her eyes for a moment to regain her composure.
…because… because why would it be?
Zoe reached into the deepest crevices of her brain, desperately trying to find an answer to give him. But nothing came.
Oh, I know. Because there’s Zoe.
“What?” Zoe blurted, voice raspy but surprisingly loud, the utter bewilderment that hit her apparently bringing with it enough energy to speak an actual coherent word.
Her parents lifted their heads, staring at her in surprise, but Zoe didn't feel their eyes on her. Her discomfort was piquing. Now she really didn't want to keep reading. But she forced herself onward, telling herself this was the least she could do for her brother.
And all my hope is pinned on Zoe…
Zoe’s hand found itself clasping over her mouth, her fingernails digging into the side of her face as she choked back another sob.
…who I don't even know, and who doesn’t know me.
A pair of tears dripped soundlessly onto the paper.
But maybe if I could just talk to her, then maybe…
Yes, Zoe cried out a silent plea that Connor would never hear. Please talk to me. Please let me help.
…maybe nothing would be different at all.
No! Panic rose like bile in her throat. We can still make it different! We can still make it better! I know we can fix this, I promise!
I wish everything was different.
Me too . Zoe thought miserably as reality set back in. Her shoulders drooped and the familiar ringing in her ears made its return, sounding louder now.
No, they couldn't make it different. They couldn't fix it. Not anymore.
I wish I was a part of… something. I wish anything I said mattered to anyone.
Guilt dropped like a stone in Zoe’s belly, and her eyes blurred with tears again. It mattered to me, she whispered to him silently. I would've told you how important you were to me. How much you mattered to me, how much I still love you, even after everything. How much I wanted to fix things, how I hoped that maybe we could someday. If only I had known….
I mean, face it…
Would anyone even notice if I just… disappeared tomorrow?
Another tear slipped from Zoe’s chin and plopped onto the note. You didn't deserve to think we didn't care, Zoe squeezed her eyes shut. I wish you could've known how lost we already are without you.
Sincerely, your best and most dearest friend,
His best and most dearest friend….
Zoe folded the note back in half along the creases. Confusion and grief and exhaustion and anger and hopelessness weighed too heavily on her to think about this anymore without completely shutting down. She noticed for the first time how shallow her breathing had become, and how hard her heart was pounding against her chest.
She tried to swallow over and over, but her mouth and throat were so dry that it almost looked like she was gagging instead. She wouldn't have been surprised if she really was at this point, with how sick she felt. She gave up, folding the note in half one more time and pushing herself to her feet, knees wobbly. Her parents looked tiredly up at her.
Zoe barely had to glance at them to see that in the span of however long they'd been at the hospital, they both looked like they'd aged at least a decade. She didn't even want to think what that meant about how she looked.
“I'm going home.” She croaked, holding Connor’s note out to her father.
Larry stared at it, then up at her, the uncomfortable helplessness in his features making her sizzle with frustration.
The empathy she had felt for him about being afraid to read the note was long gone, replaced with the sharpness of her exhaustion catching up with her. She didn't care if he read it right now. At that moment, Zoe didn't care if he never read it at all. She just needed this note out of her hands, and she needed to get out of this hospital and never come back.
Zoe clenched her jaw, then reached forward to clap the note against her father’s chest. He scrambled to catch it as she pulled away, and Zoe briskly turned the corner behind the chairs where they were sitting. She heard her parents weakly call her name behind her, protesting her leaving, but she ignored them.
She managed to keep herself from stumbling (much) or falling over, but her whole body was cold with lightheadedness and black oozed at the edges of her vision. She kept her eyes on the floor, staying close to the wall to catch her if she fell.
She thought she'd be relieved to hear the silence of the hallway, save for the sound her shoes made as she walked and the faint singing of crickets outside. But comfort was the last thing it brought her; she only felt the eerie chill of the words that had been swirling around her since she finished the note.
His best and most dearest friend.
There weren't enough words in any language on the planet to describe how much Zoe didn't actually want to go home.
In her car, her eyes shut tight and her forehead wearily resting on the steering wheel, Zoe had never been this miserable. Her house would just be a million times worse, every square foot suffocating the air with memories they’d made and memories that would never be.
She knew that once she opened her eyes, anything and everything she could possibly look at would be a reminder of the person who would never get to see those sights, feel those feelings and textures, hear those noises, smell those smells or taste those tastes again. Not just today, not just now while her grief was raw, but for the rest of her life.
Zoe had felt hopelessness before— quite often, and to horrific and physically damaging extents, even— she had the scars to prove it. She thought she’d known thanks to the passing intrusive thoughts or the stubborn not-so-intrusive ones. But for the first time, down to her core, she genuinely understood how Connor could think that life was too painful to keep living… enough to take measures into their own hands.
She truly never wanted to open her eyes again.
Why should she?
The hope of getting the big brother back that had once been her best friend was the only thing she felt like she had going for her until now. Even if it was the tiniest, most microscopic pinprick of hope imaginable, at least it was there , because Connor was.
But now he wasn't.
Now the horrible sinking feeling that'd stuck with her all day made sense.
Why they had hugged her now was made clear to be the last time he knew he ever would.
The panic that had overwhelmed her after they pushed Evan she could now pinpoint as the last time she would ever see him alive.
The then-inexplicable numbness radiating through her limbs could be explained as the last ounce of hope draining from her body as Connor’s life force left his.
I was telling myself that everything was okay while he was dying.
The realization brought rage boiling deep within Zoe’s core, and she found herself grinding her teeth so hard that she felt they might shatter. Her whole body was wrought with pain so intense that she felt as if fire gleefully danced under every square inch of her skin, mocking her stupidity and attacking her just out of reach.
…Or was it?
Something hollowed in Zoe’s mind.
She opened her eyes, sitting up and slamming her foot on the brake. She turned on the car and thrust it into reverse, not even looking behind her as she backed out of her parking spot, shifted into drive, and sped out of the parking lot.
Her vision stayed blurry and out-of-focus the whole drive home, and she was probably driving more recklessly than she ever had in her life. If she had been capable of feeling anything in those moments, she would've been shocked she wasn't pulled over under suspicion of driving drunk.
But she eventually made it home in one piece— which she was half relieved and half furious about— and shoved her way inside, leaving her things in the car and not bothering to lock it or the front door behind her. She kicked off her shoes and made for the stairs, refusing to look up from the floor, knowing that the memories would flood wherever she dared look in this damn fucking house.
Zoe heaved a sigh as she reached the top of the stairs, relieved and admittedly surprised her body had been able to muster up the strength to pull her up. She practically bolted into her room and slammed the door behind her, letting out another heavy breath and lifting her head to look around wildly.
The fiery grief under her skin was spreading, its flames and silent taunts becoming more and more vicious, and the pain bringing a frightening numbness. Zoe’s whole body trembled with exhaustion and fury and desperation to make it stop, tears that she hadn't even noticed endlessly streaming down her face. Her stomach lurched with panic as she realized she could no longer feel her arms, and the scorching numbness was seeping up her neck and down her chest.
Her gaze landed on her reflection in the floor mirror across her room, and she fell still. She stared blankly into her own eyes, slowly approaching the mirror and not letting herself look anywhere else, the fear of memories still strong. Zoe held her own gaze until she reached the mirror, and her hands twitched with longing as grief and rage and every other emotion at once blazed beneath her skin. She didn't actually look at her face in the mirror, not willing to see what exactly the news of Connor’s death had done to her just yet. She just kept looking into her eyes.
The fire raged in her blood.
She knew exactly how to let it out.
Then it'd all be okay.
That was what she was going to keep telling herself, anyway.
Zoe flexed her shaking hand, numb with red hot needle-like pain, not taking her eyes off of their own wide, glazed reflection. She raised her fist, clenching it tightly, and before she had the chance to question herself, launched it forward with all the force her drained, weakened body had left.
She aimed for the eyes.
Her fist slammed into the mirror, and she felt a weight lift from her shoulders as the glass circling her hand shattered , the sound deafening in the very best way. Zoe's eyes glittered wildly and relief soared in her chest as a shooting agony seared in her knuckles, and she felt the wetness of blood drip and smear over her hand as she drew it back.
Zoe’s gaze followed several pieces of shattered glass as they clattered to the ground, scanning for the sharpest edge.
Zoe calmly lowered herself to the ground, settling comfortably back onto her knees as she sifted through her options with her battered, bleeding hand. Satisfaction bubbled maliciously in her chest as blood continued to bead and trickle from the tiny lacerations that covered her knuckles, dripping off her hand and bloodying the carpet and mirror shards as she brushed over them.
As she examined the glass littering the carpet like a hunting bird of prey, her fingers twitched eagerly until her eyes settled on a shard with a distinctive curved, blade-like edge. She picked it up with two fingers, tilting her head and turning her wrist to give it a proper inspection. She then pushed herself to her feet, gently setting the shard between her lips.
Zoe turned to make her way into the bathroom and grasped the base of her shirt with both hands. She tugged it up, crossing her arms and arching her back until she could strip it off and toss it aside. She blinked at herself in the bathroom mirror, the eerie darkness thick around her, but not so thick that she couldn't inspect which of her arms to choose.
Adrenaline pounded through her and her hands trembled with anticipation. This was the part she knew.
Zoe decided on her left shoulder, and raised the glass shard up against it with her opposite hand.
She briefly met her own gaze in the mirror once more. Her eyes had gone dull. The black dancing in her vision was expanding. She swayed as the violent numbness found her legs, and hoisted herself up onto the bathroom counter before it could claim her feet.
She looked back to her shoulder, pressed the blade-like edge to her skin, held her breath, and sliced .
Immediately she let out a sigh of relief as, after a flash of cold, the numbness seemed to snake its way up and gather at the cut, seeping its way out with the blood and replacing the blazing pain with the more-familiar sharp sting she'd felt before. She watched with unsettlingly entranced eyes at the blood that welled in the cut and oozed mesmerizingly in thin but steady streams down her bicep.
Zoe stared mindlessly at the blood as it dripped rhythmically off her elbow onto the counter, not taking her eyes off it for a long time until the dripping slowed and eventually ceased. She inspected her shoulder in the mirror, running her fingers lightly over the dried blood staining her skin. She traced over the cut itself, softening as the pain brought the rest of the sensation returning to the tips of each limb.
At least this feeling was familiar. It was about the only thing she could say had stayed the same. The rest of the world around her had either crumbled or been turned upside down and inside out. The only stability she could count on was the pulse of pain in the slice in her shoulder and the vicious lacerations covering her fist, and narrowing in on it brought her spiraling mind back into orbit.
Zoe tore off a paper towel, dampening it under the faucet and swiping it over her bicep, clearing the dried blood from her skin before moving up to dab the cut itself clean. She moved to the counter next, soaking up the small puddle that'd formed beneath her elbow, then rinsed her bloodied knuckles off under the running faucet.
Too exhausted to be alarmed by the fact that punching her mirror and cutting her shoulder with a piece of the shattered glass was the only thing able to bring her peace right now, Zoe wiped the shard clean and hid it at the bottom of one of her drawers. Something told her she might be using it again soon.
Zoe tossed the bloodied paper towel into the trash can beside her toilet and trudged nearer to the bathtub, picking her shirt up off the floor and pulling it back over her head. She tugged the sleeve down to hide the cut, satisfied that she'd managed to keep the bathroom looking like nothing happened. The shattered, bloodied mirror on her bedroom floor, however, was a problem for another time. Now, she needed to get off her feet in the quickest way possible before she collapsed.
Zoe absentmindedly stumbled the rest of the way over to the empty bathtub, clumsily climbing in fully clothed and sinking down. She leaned back and rested against the slanted tub wall, her head settling on the suction-cupped bath pillow she kept for her bubble baths.
She had barely had her head on the pillow for longer than a few seconds before sleep overcame her, and her eyelids sagged shut.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Zoe woke from a thankfully dreamless sleep with a start to her parents screaming downstairs, followed by a slam of the front door so hard that she could feel the foundations of the house tremble. Well, that was one more thing she could say hadn’t changed.
“Don’t you act like this is my fault! They were your sleeping pills!” One of her parents boomed, but despite the blatant differences in their voices, Zoe was too delirious to tell or attempt to care which one.
From the window high on the wall over her bathtub, Zoe could see that it was still pitch black outside. She grumbled wordlessly to herself, shimmying off her back until she could heave herself to her feet.
Once she gained her balance, Zoe stepped out of the tub, careful not to let her socks slide on the tile, and shuffled out of the bathroom. She blinked in surprise at the sight of her shattered mirror, the memory of what happened cutting through her sleepiness and making her shoulder and fist suddenly flare with agony.
Zoe ignored the pain (it was what she did best, after all) and glanced at the clock on her nightstand. 4:34am. She had no idea what time she'd gotten home, but she knew she had not been asleep for nearly long enough.
Now that her parents were home, though, she knew she needed to get rid of the mirror shards scattered on the floor on the other side of her bed. Not like they would actually come check on her— as if. But she knew she'd sleep more peacefully if she knew she had nothing to hide, and right now she needed as peaceful a sleep as she could get.
As she approached the remains of her mirror, Zoe grumbled annoyedly, wondering why she had to have made such a mess. But the satisfaction of the throbbing pain in her shoulder and knuckles put her at ease, and she decided that alone made it worth it.
Brushing her foot carelessly over the carpet, she kicked as many big pieces of glass as she could manage underneath the bed. She knew she couldn't vacuum in the middle of the night without her parents suspecting something, so she balled up a throw blanket from the foot of her bed and tossed it carelessly over the smaller shards her foot couldn't kick.
She arranged the blanket strategically so it would look like it just fell off the bed, and wasn't planted there. After she was satisfied with her work, she reached over the blanket to pick up her floor mirror, which she lifted surprisingly easily despite the majorly weakened physical state her body was in.
Zoe opened her closet door and tucked the mirror in the back behind her shirts, so the shattered upper half wasn't visible.
Zoe kicked the closet door closed and collapsed back into her bed.
Her parents were still screaming downstairs, but luckily for Zoe, she had plenty of practice tuning out the sounds of yelling. She messily threw her comforter over herself and flopped onto her pillows, once again giving into the release of sleep the second it closed itself around her.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
By the time Zoe woke up again, the sun was bright in her window, and she realized with a start that she was in her bed, not the tub. She groggily pushed herself upright, peering over the edge of her bed to see the floor mostly cleared of the mirror’s shattered remains and the rest of it precariously covered with a blanket.
She had absolutely no recollection of how or when she got from the bathtub to her bed, but she silently thanked her past self for cleaning up the mess so she wouldn't have to deal with it right away now. She flopped back down onto her pillow, but knew that trying to get any more sleep would be useless. Even still, she had no interest in moving or getting up any time soon.
It wasn't until she had been lying there for at least a good several minutes that why she was so exhausted and didn't care that she was missing school really sank in. Her throat went dry, and the pain in her hand and on her shoulder suddenly returned.
Tears burned in the back of her eyes, but she clenched her jaw and blinked them away. Zoe couldn't tell which part exactly triggered them, be it the searing pain, her pounding headache, or the memory of what had happened to…. the memory of what had happened yesterday.
She didn't even want to think his name.
As she suspected, there was no sign that her parents had made any effort to come check on her and see if she was okay. They could have without leaving a trace, even just peeked in her door, but Zoe knew they hadn't. A bitterness soured her throat so potent that made the wounds feel much less burdening all of a sudden.
Zoe had no idea what to do with herself next. She really just wanted to curl up in a ball and disappear, but the only way she could come close to that was sleeping, and despite how exhausted she still was, she knew there was no chance.
She knew she should eat something, but she'd never been less hungry in her life, and the thought of leaving her bed, let alone her room, made nausea bubble in her stomach.
She didn't care to know what her parents were doing, either. She knew they were probably home by now, but was just surprised it wasn't them screaming at each other that woke her up. Maybe that was what had woken her in the middle of the night when she moved into her bedroom, but she couldn't tell if the vague sound of yelling in the crevices of her misted memory was from last night or one of countless other times.
For the briefest moment, Zoe considered tracking down her phone and telling her friends what happened, but she quickly vetoed the idea and tugged the comforter down over herself a little tighter. If she had to put into words what she'd been through the past twenty-four hours, she thought she'd probably break down completely and never recover.
So for now the only thing she could think to do was lie there. Her mind was empty, much to her surprise- a barren wasteland of any and all emotion, regarding yesterday or anything. Her eyes hung half-open, dull and colorless, and her body felt like it was being pushed into the mattress by the weight of the sky itself.
The doorbell rang, and Zoe jumped. She muttered wordlessly under her breath, pulling her comforter up to cover her head completely.
“Can someone get that?” A weak, raspy call from her mother downstairs barely brushed her ears. She ignored her.
Silence followed for a long moment. Zoe expected one of her parents to give in and open the door, but the next sound she heard was the doorbell ringing again, and then a muffled voice calling from outside that she recognized instantly. It was Nick.
“Mr. and Mrs. Murphy? Zoe? Connor? Is anyone home?”
Zoe’s breath froze in her lungs as she heard her brother’s name. Tears sprang back into her eyes, and oh god, she was going to throw up.
She threw the blankets off of herself and shoved herself to her feet. Zoe quickly stumbled back across her room and lunged herself into the bathroom, dropping to her knees and skidding across the floor in front of the toilet just in time.
Not having the strength to hold her hair back, she silently pleaded that it would stay out of the way as she clutched the toilet seat, retching over and over and over again until tears streamed from her eyes and her throat began to burn.
She gasped for air when it finally stopped, panting and shakily scooting back off her knees until she could lean against the wall. Head in her hands, Zoe rested her elbows on her freshly-skinned, bloodied knees as she fought to regain her breath for long enough to make her dizzy.
When she finally felt like she could breathe somewhat normally, she shut the toilet lid and flushed, pushing herself to her feet and stumbling to the sink to get the horrible taste out of her mouth.
It had been mostly bile, with traces of her cereal from yesterday morning and Fritos from rehearsal, but the lightheadedness that followed reminded Zoe that she hadn't actually eaten anything since then. And as much as she wasn't hungry in the slightest, she could tell that she needed to get something in her system before her body gave out on her entirely.
Begging to herself that Nick had gone away, Zoe gurgled what felt like enough mouthwash to fill the bathtub and stumbled back into her room to find a hoodie to throw on.
She picked up her band hoodie from last year off the back of her desk chair and pulled it down over her head, tugging the sleeve over her mangled fist and stuffing it in her pocket for good measure.
Staggering out of her room and to the stairs, Zoe kept her eyes on the faint blood stains seeping through the fabric on her knees and took it slowly, one step at a time. She ignored her father, who snored lightly on the couch, and more-so ignored the fact that that meant her mother had kicked him out of their room. That was fairly common as it was.
Seeing Larry passed out in the living room, though, had distracted Zoe from her mission of not looking up from the floor and made her finally lift her head and take in her surroundings. She immediately regretted it.
Every square foot of the house seemed foreign, yet dreadfully familiar- like she knew her way around with her eyes closed, but when she looked at it, it no longer felt like she lived there. It felt like someone else’s house, which she realized with a jolt, was because it was. Before yesterday, it had been her brother’s house too.
Zoe held back a pitiful grieving wail, instead sinking her teeth into her tongue and forcing herself to look back down at the floor. No comfort came from following her feet as they trudged into the kitchen, though, only a cruel and silent indifference.
Something told Zoe that she wouldn't be able to keep down much of any actual meal, but she didn't want one to begin with so it didn't matter. She found herself at the counter and snatched the loaf of bread that sat by the toaster. That’d do her justice for now.
She knew, though, that she wouldn't be able to relax again until she knew for sure that Nick had left. Dodging the windows at the front of the house, Zoe crept up to the door and peeked through the peephole. Nick was gone.
Zoe breathed a sigh of relief and headed back for the stairs, forcing her stiff legs to pull her up one at a time, and fighting to ignore the dizziness that followed each step.
“You’re awake,” an exhausted, raspy voice sounded from behind her when she was about halfway up the stairs. Cynthia.
“Perceptive.” Zoe grunted, heavy with sarcasm. She opened the loaf of bread and pulled out a piece, and didn’t stop walking as she tore half of it off and stuffed it in her mouth.
“Zoe, wait,” Cynthia pleaded weakly, and Zoe stopped at the top of the stairs, bread still sticking out of her mouth. She turned around and looked down at her mother, annoyed that she felt obligated to humor her. “Please, talk to me.” Cynthia set her foot on the bottom step, as if she wanted to follow Zoe upstairs.
The sting of bitterness returned to curl its claws into her throat. Zoe turned away and kept walking.
“No.” She answered coldly, and shut her bedroom door behind her.