A year went by and things with Liam had gotten better. Dex was always watching out for me as usual, and my mom was madly in love with Mark...and her new engagement ring. I kept my mouth shut about what I thought because I knew my mom was happy. Mark already knew how I felt about it anyway.
Dex seemed different, even though he still looked out for me. His emotional range seemed...off. He rarely smiled and was always busy helping his sisters and dad. Eventually, he told me what was bugging him. His mother had been diagnosed with cancer last year. He'd been told by the doctors that she would be fine because they removed the tumor in her chest. Unfortunately, the cancer was already too far progressed. It was in her blood and she now had a tumor in her brain. She had a few weeks left so he was trying to spend every minute he could with her.
"Dex...I'm so sorry..." I hugged him close and patted his back.
"It's so incredibly hard...I can't just lose my mom. She's the best mom in the world...I love her so much," he stated, no emotion coming to his eyes.
Still holding him, I looked into his eyes. "Dex..."
"If you want to cry, then cry."
He shook his head. "I don't need to cry."
I stared at him skeptically. I knew he wanted to, but he seemed to be holding himself back. "Okay. Well, I'm here for you if you ever need me. I love you. You're my bestfriend in the whole world."
"And you're mine. I love you too, Avery."
A few weeks later, Dex's mother passed away. Her funeral was beautiful and it snowed. Dex had me walk with him and, as we held hands, he never cried. He stared blankly at his mother's casket. Liam tried to talk to him, but he wouldn't speak to anyone. He barely spoke to me. His lack of emotion surprised and scared me at the same time. I knew people had different ways of expressing their emotions and dealing with things, but I never would've guessed that he would turn into a robot.
After the funeral, we tried to get him to go to a movie with us and hang out, but he just polietly said no every time. It seemed like he was content to just sit and listen to sad songs all day. His dad tried to cheer him up too, but it didn't work either. He just told his dad that he was busy with school work. He wasn't the same Dex I knew and loved...and it scared me.
One night, after being sick all day, I had an awefully bad nightmare. I woke up gasping for air and tears streaming down my face. I text Liam and Dex at the same time, asking if they were up. Only Dex responded, asking if I was okay. After explaining what had happened, he came straight over and snuck into my room through my window.
"Hey, are you okay?" he whispered, closing the window behind him.
I shook my head. "I had a really bad nightmare. It was about my dad...and you."
He came to my bed and lay next to me. "Tell me what happened in it."
"Well..." I started, hugging him. "It started out with my dad and I walking through the woods. I'm not sure where we were going, but suddenly he dropped down and started wheezing really bad. He couldn't breathe. I tried to help him, but he died. My mom was crying and then I ran to find you only, when I did, you were sitting by the lake and you had a knife. You said you were going to kill yourself if I came any closer. Why would I have a dream like this?"
He stroked my hair. "It's okay, Avery. Your dad is somewhere better than Earth. I just know it. As for me, I'm not going anywhere anytime soon. I'm not going to leave you."
I hugged him even tighter. "What if something happens to you because I dreamed it?"
"It won't, okay? Be strong for me, Avery. I know you can," he lifted my chin up so I could look at him. "Just stay strong."
Slowly I nodded and stared into his eyes. "Okay."
He then pressed his lips against mine and lingered there for a moment. Then he pulled away slowly and buried his face in my hair.
We fell asleep together that night, despite how sick I was and the fact that we might get caught. At that moment we'd reached a point of not caring. We needed each other more than ever, so we were there.
A few weeks later and still no emotion from Dex. I thought that maybe after the night he spent at my house, he would be okay again. I guess I was wrong. He was in pain still and there was no telling how long that would last. So, like a best friend should, I decided to visit him in his home. His dad and sisters were missing. I let myself in and heard water running somewhere. I followed the noise and began to get scared. Dex wasn't in his room and it was dead silent except for the sound of the running water. Quietly, I approached the bathroom door and pushed it open. Standing there with broken glass everywhere and the sink running, was Dex.
"Oh my God...Dex...what are you doing?" I exclaimed, rushing forward.
"What are you doing here?" he questioned, turning towards me.
I pulled tweezers from my bag and began picking shards of mirror out of his cuts. "I came to check on you!"
He stared at me. "Why did she die, Avery?"
I glanced at him and continued to fix his hand. "Because she was sick, Dex. There was nothing you could do."
"I couldn've been there for her! It should've been me! Not her!" he yelled getting louder and louder.
"Dex, don't say that! You can't just kill yourself! You mean a lot to me!" I cried, setting my tweezers down for a moment. "You are my best friend. I love you. You're dad and siters love you. You said you would never leave me, Dex. You promised. I know what it's like to lose a parent. I know how sad you are, okay? But please, don't say things like that! Your mom wouldn't have wanted you to say things like that. She wouldn't want you in here trying to kill yourself. She would've wanted you to move on and be happy. I'll be here for you, Dex. I won't leave you, but you can't leave me either."
He sniffed and a tear rolled down his cheek. "I wan't trying to kill myself...I just got so mad. So I punched the mirror. I didn't mean to scare you or anything like that. I'm sorry, Avery. You know I wouldn't leave you like that."
I pulled him into a hug and ran my hand through his hair. He smelled like cologne and felt warm. "Are you crying?"
He nodded. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay to cry, Dex. Just let it all out. I'm right here for you."
As Dex cried and shared all his feelings, I fixed his hand and swept up the glass. I listened to him and held him at times. I'd never witnessed a guy cry before. I was glad though. He needed to release his feelings. My heart told me it was a good thing I was there when I was. Who knew what else could've happened? I waited with him until his father and sisters got home. I helped Dex explain to them what happened, but he still got grounded for two days. One for breaking the mirror and one for hurting himself in the process. Although he was grounded, I was still allowed to come over and check up on him. His sisters scolded him. They were both seniors in high school. As they did, his dad pulled me aside to speak to me.
"How is he normally?" he asked, concern spreading across his face.
"He's really quiet, but he still looks out for me. He's just more introverted than normal. I think now he'll be better. He told me everything about how he's feeling so I'm sure he's better," I replied, smiling slightly.
His dad nodded and glanced at his son. "He's lucky to have you, Avery. We all are."
After Dex was gone getting lectured, we went up to his room to talk. He told me about how he didn't realize he was being a zombie at school and that he thought he was acting normal as usual. I turned on the radio and found a song that we'd heard before. It made him smile and hum along with the melody. I was proud of him. He finally shared his feelings instead of keeping them bottled inside. He hugged me and kissed my cheek gently where my scar was.
"Thank you, Avery. I'm glad you were here for me today," he whispered, sighing softly.
"No problem, Dex. I love you."