That afternoon - that horrible, horrible afternoon - Joey was far less high than I was. And so he and Jamie held me together there on the sofa while we waited for news of Chrissy. I'm sure my emotions were intensified by the high, but I did not expect to be so upset by my fear for Chrissy, nor did I expect to feel so protective of her.
Oddly, Joey was almost showed more concern for me than my own brother did. It was sweet of him on some levels, but it made me wary of him. Wary of him, and wary of me. I didn't know why he was being so kind, or what he hoped to get from it. What scared me more was the thought that it would be terribly easy for him to get exactly what he wanted from me. I was tired of being used and tired of being ignored, which I felt sure would be the end product of anything between me and Joey. I simply must not let myself fall for him.
Coming down from my high sucked, but the snuggles I was getting from Joey certainly made it less terrible, combined with the phone call from Iso that Chrissy was okay. As soon as I felt semi-normal, I wanted to run. I hurried to the door, but a word from Joey stopped me.
Turning, I saw that Joey looked kind of upset. He was struggling with what to say, but what came out next didn't appear to be what he meant to say. "When are we gonna work on that Psych project?"
I stuttered indeterminately. "Uh, I don't know. When's it due? End of the semester, right?"
"Yeah, but it's a lot of work. We gotta work on it before then." Oddly, he had never struck me as the scholarly type. At the moment it was a headache.
"Okay. Meet me during our free period and we'll decide what to do it on and draft an outline and maybe a schedule. Then... we can do the research each on our own and put it together later on." I sounded like such a nerd, but I wasn't going to waste time when this project was so important.
"Okay, sounds good." I walked out the door. Then I realised that I had no way of getting home. Turning around, I stuck my head back in awkwardly.
"Uh, Jamie... how sober are you?" He winked at me.
"Sober enough to drive." I grinned. I hardly had to ask him. He'd do anything for me. Sure, he'd bitch and moan, but that was expected.
The car ride was practically silent. About halfway there he asked the inevitable question. I was glad not to wait any longer for it.
I looked out the window. "She's okay." But I know the look on my face told the truth. "I'm less worried about Mum than the bills. I pick up food and some utilities with my job at the 7-11, but nobody pays rent, I mean, Mum can't, and I don't, and we do have insurance but I'm not sure where it's coming from and nobody bothers us for rent. I've asked where it comes from but they won't tell me. I just don't want to owe whoever it is money, cause I'll never be able to pay it. I just hope it's not..." I trailed off, looking at him. I hadn't expected to say that much, but he had a right to know. I just didn't want him to worry.
Too late. "It's not Dad." He stated a fact. I didn't know how he knew, but I knew he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt. He looked at me sideways. "He comes asking me for money sometimes. He'd ask you, but he doesn't know where you live."
I let out a sigh of relief that I didn't know I was holding. I looked at him guiltily.
Guiltily. I didn't know why I felt so responsible for everything, why I felt like it was always my fault.
Probably because it was.
Jamie jerked me out of my black thoughts with an observation. "Joey seems to like you."
He gave me that you're-an-idiot look. "Yes. He does."
"I dunno. We'll see."
He rolled his eyes. We rolled into the driveway. Hopping out, I waved goodbye. I slowly pushed open the door, and realised I hadn't taken care of Mum today.
"Mum?" Silence. As expected.
I went down the short hall off our crowded white kitchen and hesitated before her door. "Mum?" I pushed it open.
My eyes took a moment to adjust to the dark but I could see that she hadn't gotten out of bed since I'd seen her last night. This wasn't unusual, but it was happening more frequently. The room was a mess, as usual, and the blinds were closed almost completely. The mirror was fogged with old cigarette smoke, but lately she'd gotten so bad she didn't even smoke anymore.
My mum was curled up in five week old sheets with the blanket up to her eyes. Her back was toward me, and I wasn't sure whether she was awake.
"Mum?" She groaned and rolled over a bit.
"I'll get you breakfast." She didn't reply, and probably wasn't even aware that it wasn't exactly breakfast time. Shit. I am a horrible daughter. I didn't even feed my own damn mother this morning.
Frustrated, I started to make her two hard yolk fried eggs. Lost in thought, I pushed the eggs around roughly, knowing she wouldn't care that I broke the yolks. A sharp sensation coursed through my hand, and I looked down to see that it was splashed with hot oil. God fucking dammit.
Running my hand under the sink faucet, I stared out the window at my dead end life in my dead end neighborhood. Who was I kidding? When I was with Iso and Chrissy, they didn't see the real me. I might have moved, changed schools, but I was still the outcast. Still the girl who was poorer than all her friends. Iso and Chrissy would never be able to understand how out-of-place I felt in their homes.
Turning back to the stove, I slid the offending eggs out of the pan onto a paper plate, then got out the orange juice and my mother's Celexa... Two little pink pills. Sixty milligrams of citalopram hydrobromide that didn't work anymore. I just couldn't get her out of the house to go back to the doctor to fix it. And she absolutely refused to see a shrink.
My mum's depression had gotten better after we stopped living with my dad. She'd even held a job for a while. But that proved to be too much for her, and she was fired a few months in. She came out of her room less and less, and eventually stopped coming out nearly completely. Now I rarely even saw her face. It was a horrible situation, but there was nothing I could do to help her if she didn't want to help herself. Trust me, I'd tried everything.
After making sure she finished her medicine and eggs and trying to make some conversation, I took the plate and glass and checked them in the overflowing sink, then headed upstairs for an early night with far too many thoughts whirling in my head.
As I settled onto my upstairs mattress, I worried about my future, and my mum. If she, with her privileged start, ended up like this, where the hell was I headed? The stresses of the day - Chrissy, Aaliyah, Joey - and the worries of the night didn't look like they would let go of me any time soon.