Lucas doesn’t seem to notice how long I’m gone when I lie and say I’m going to the bathroom. Instead, while he waits outside in his car, I sneak into his parent’s basement. Where they keep their guns.
It takes me nearly five minutes to figure out where they stash them. I’ve searched everywhere when I notice that their deep freezer is not plugged into the wall.
That can’t be it…..can it?
I grab a Glock 42 pistol and slide it into my bag, putting several bullets for it in a smaller pouch, separate from the gun. Dad taught Julia and I how to handle and shoot guns not long before he died, so I know what I'm doing. I'm not amazing at it, neither is Julia, but I can hit an unmoving target within 50 meters. And for what I'm using it for, all I need to know is how to send a bullet out of it anyway.
I slam the freezer shut and hurry to get outside, but Luke doesn’t seem bothered by my lingering absence.
Honestly, the only reason I have been going out with him the past few weeks is because I heard about his family’s gun collection, and I needed a gun. I feel kind of guilty for using him like that, but...this is something I have to do. I don’t think he likes me all that much anyway. That, or he’s just a distant person himself. Or maybe it’s both.
The date goes as it normally does. I try to pretend I’m having a good time. I answer questions when he asks, we kiss once or twice, I choke down some food that I don’t truly want. It seems like I only eat nowadays to give the appearance of normality. Nothing sounds appetizing.
The thing is, is it doesn’t feel like I’m the only one being detached here. Lucas is going through the motions as much as I am. I just don’t understand why. I’m doing it because I need him for the gun, but why is he? It’s not like we’ve been dating for a long time and he feels like he needs to stay. Nor is he so unattractive that he couldn’t find anyone else. In fact, the opposite, really.
If we were having sex together I would assume it was that; that he was using me for the sex. But the fact is we haven’t. Haven’t so much as talked about it. So, why bother dating someone who is so….disinterested?
He’s a mystery to me. But at the least, I can tell he’s a good person. Someone who deserves better than me.
The rest of the night goes by relatively quickly. I get home, clean up, and, for once, get to sleep pretty quickly. Only problem is my sleep is plagued with nightmares, as usual. Well, not nightmares exactly. Memories. And fear of what might happen in the future, of what I might do, gives me nightmares for that direction of my life too.
It’s a relief when Julia wakes me up, the microwave in the kitchen beeping loud enough to draw me out of my dream. I wonder what she’s doing up at this hour, and pull myself out of bed to find out. I drag myself into the kitchen, where I find her with her back turned to me. She’s messing with something on our yellow and brown speckled countertop in front of her, but hidden from my view.
She turns around.
“What are you doing?”
She holds up her orange and black mug for me to see. “Hot chocolate. I couldn’t sleep.”
I stare at her drink, noticing that she put five marshmallows in it. Just like Dad always did. “Five marshmallows, huh?”
She nods, her lips tightening in a small smile. “Five marshmallows.”
We stand there, looking at each other with tired eyes for moment as she sips her drink. I’m struggling to hold my eyes open at all, but there’s no way I’m back to sleep.
“Do you ever do that?” she asks, lowering her drink. “Dream about Dad, I mean.”
Ahh. That explains it. That’s why she’s up.
I nod, rubbing my eyes. “Oh, yeah. And it sucks whenever I wake up and he’s still gone.”
She bites her lip, looking like she’s trying to hold back tears. Her sorrow infects me as well, a virus taking over the host cells of my body and replicating itself over and over. After my all too-real dreams of the past and the future, my pain is amplified. I don’t have very many of these moments with Julia left. It saddens me that she’s gone through so much, and is only going to go through more in the near-future. I know her paralysis hurts her more than she’d ever admit. And then there’s Dad’s death. And then…..me.
“Yeah,” Julia whispers. “I wonder what he’d think of us now.”
I take in a deep breath at that, unable to hold back the tears.
He’d be disgusted. Absolutely disgusted. Of you. Of what you’ve done. You’d be his biggest disappointment. His greatest failure.
I notice Julia is watching me rather closely, and I try to say something resembling normality so she doesn’t get suspicious. She already knows something's up. She reads me the same way an analyst analyzes information. The same way a welder welds. The same way a teacher teaches. She’s an expert at it. At looking at me, and just seeing what’s wrong.
“Yeah, I–I wonder too,” I get out. Tears trail down my face in a solid stream, hot and wet.
Yeah, I’m sure she doesn’t suspect anything, you twit.
Julia notices. She notices my sorrow. My pain. Like she always does. She reaches out to take my hand. Trying to take away my anguish through the touch of her skin. I give it a squeeze back, struggling to incorporate a smile.
She’s always been so good with people. Like she knows exactly who they are the moment she lays eyes on them. Knows exactly what to say to make them laugh or get them talking. Knows exactly what to do to comfort them. She’s always been better suited for this world than I have, wheelchair or not. Talking is her greatest strength. My greatest weakness. An opposite of me, yet at the same time an identical copy.
“Logan, can I ask you something?”
I nod. “Of course.”
I watch her swallow, thinking about how few times I will get to see her do that–that simple, mundane movement–before….
“Is there something going on with you? You’ve been...I don’t know...distant here lately.”
I let go of her hand, pulling back a little.
Don’t let her know, don’t let her know. She can’t find out.
“No. Nothing’s going on.”
I can’t look into her eyes. If I do, she will see it. She will see what I’ve done. My fingers thrum against my leg, strongly against my sharpest desires not to.
“Well, if there is something going on, you know you can tell me, right?”
You can’t tell her.
“Good,” she says. “And I'm telling you this because I care, okay? That's why I don't want you going to the cabin this weekend. It’s dangerous, and I care."
This is getting too serious. Say something. Make her think you’re okay.
A slight smile trickles its way onto my face. “When did we become such yuppies?”
But she laughs anyway, a strangely beautiful sound. At least to me, anyway. To others, her gasping laugh is probably considered annoying.
“I don’t think that’s what yuppie means.”
If it works, go with it.
“Probably not, but you know what I mean,” I say, wiping my nose.
I’ve diverted the issue for now, but Julia knows. She always knows.
“Well, anyway, I’m going back to my room now.” I take a couple steps before my brain stops me.
I turn back to her. “You coming?”