Not smoking is weird. I started when I was fifteen and it’s aged me severely. I’m almost twenty-six but I look closer to thirty. I don’t like it, but there’s nothing I can do about it now. The good thing is, I can run four miles without stopping to pant or drink a gallon of water.
I’m sitting outside on a blanket out by the bluffs reading. I like it out here. It’s peaceful. Plus, the sound of the ocean is relaxing.
I’m pulled from my page when I hear footsteps behind me. I look back and see the new girl walking. She looks like she’s going through a really hard time, but we all do. She’s thin, really fucking thin, with paper white skin and fading bruises. I’m not here to judge people and the shit they’ve gone through. I was definitely no saint.
I give her a little smile and resume reading. I don’t want to bother her if she meant to be alone. I only bothered Sookie because she was fun to tease and I wanted to fuck her. Now I just enjoy talking to her.
As for the Maine shit, it came as a shock, but it’s her life and as much as I’d like to remain friends, I can’t force it on her.
I look back again when I hear the swing creak and see Red sitting down to watch the ocean. I have a feeling she’s going through that phase I went through where I wanted to be alone, but not alone all at the same time. She’s in a shitty, shitty place right now.
I go back to reading my book for a while and when I start to get a little chilly I get up, shake my blanket out and fold it over my arm before I pick up my book from the ground.
“Would you like the blanket?” I offer Red. As far as I know, no one has gotten her to talk yet. That’s fine by me.
She shakes her head and quickly looks away, hiding behind her red curtain of hair.
“Okay, have a good evening,” I say quietly and turn to walk away.
When I get back to what I like to call The Barracks I take my blanket and book back to my room before I search Sookie out. At this hour she’s usually in her room so I walk over and knock on her door.
“Come in,” she says.
When I walk in I find her on her bed, reading. I plop down next to her, practically crowding her out. It makes her crazy.
“How’s your evening going?” I ask. We didn’t talk much today.
“Good until Señor Spacehog dropped in.”
“Ah, you’ll live,” I chuckle and turn on my side to give her more space. That’s when I notice. “Is the Ice Queen actually wearing a bra?” I gasp.
“My clothes are too big for me now and I don’t want to flash everyone by accident,” she says as she sets aside her book.
“I wouldn’t mind if you flashed me,” I smile, reaching up to pull the top of her tank top out so I can look at the girls caged.
“Hey!” Sookie slaps my hand.
“Hmm? It’s not like I can see anything,” I reason. I rest my palm on her stomach.
“And we’re going to keep it that way,” she says.
“You’re no fun,” I pout. I know she’s not going to sleep with me. I’ve come to terms with that. That still won’t stop me from trying.
“Doesn’t seem to stop you from coming back though.”
“No it doesn’t,” I grin and tickle her side.
She’s not really ticklish so Sookie doesn’t move.
“So what are you doing here?” she asks.
“Finished the book,” I tell her. “I don’t want to go talk to the smokers and you’re my favorite person here.”
“Did you like the book? You can borrow another if you want,” she offers.
“Yeah, it was good,” I nod. My hand moves up and down her stomach on its own accord. “Yeah, you mentioned that I could. I’m done reading for the night though.”
“Okay.” Sookie looks down at my hand and asks, “Why are you petting me?”
“I don’t know,” I shrug and continue to pet. I’m not going too high or too low, even though I wouldn’t turn her down if she offered.
She picks up my hand and moves it off of her.
“I’m not trying to fuck you, Sookie,” I tell her.
“Uh huh.” She obviously doesn’t believe me.
“I’m not a fucking idiot. You’ve made it perfectly clear you don’t want that to happen again. Touching your stomach does not mean come fuck me. It means I felt like fucking touching someone and you’re the person I’m comfortable with.”
“I think it would be better if you get comfortable with someone else that way,” she says.
“Right,” I nod.
“I can’t be the person you snuggle with, Eric,” she sighs. “It’s distracting me.”
“Which is why you thought it was okay to fuck me. I was a distraction whenever Luke popped up.” I get up from the bed and say, “I’ll bring you back your book.”
“Oh come on, Eric, don’t act like I made you promises. You wanted to fuck me and you got it,” she says.
“Yeah, but I didn’t count on liking the Ice Queen so fucking much.” I walk out of her room, closing the door behind me.
I walk briskly to my room to get her book and take it back, setting it on her doorstep. I knock once to let her know it’s there and turn to walk away.
I’m over it. I’m not going to “distract” her anymore. I don’t want to be her fucking boyfriend, I just want someone to talk to and relax with sometimes. I’m not like her, I don’t want to be alone all the time. I’m not going to be here long enough to be friends with these people, but I had hope for Sookie. I guess not.
Instead of going to my room, I turn and head toward the phones. I’m able to contact my family now so I take a seat at the fucking prison style table and call my mom. I haven’t talked to her since the hospital.
“Hello,” she answers.
“Hey, Mom,” I reply.
“How are you?”
“Good. My head is better,” I tell her. “I’m being a fucking grouch since I quit smoking, though.” Dropping the fucking cigarettes seems to be affecting me more than the dope.
“That’ll happen, but I’m proud of you for quitting. That can’t be easy,” she says.
I see Sookie walk by and go out to the deck where the smokers hang out.
“Not at all. I’ve picked up reading again too. I’m going to have to run by the little shop to look for something. I just finished The Art of War,” I tell her.
“Did you like it? You know your father used to read that to you on his tour bus when you were a toddler.”
“Huh, I didn’t know,” I say. “Yeah, I liked it though. How is he?”
“He’s good,” she answers. “Niall called two days ago about getting the band back together. He figures if those New Kids on the Block could make a comeback they could too.”
“Probably,” I chuckle. “Is he mad at me? He was real cold to me at the hospital.”
“I think he’s angry at himself for having a role in your addiction. He never meant for you to become an addict. He just wanted to be the cool dad his own father wasn’t,” she explains.
“Yeah, well shit happens,” I say, “Tell him to lighten up and just be a good dad to me when I get home. There’s no point in beating yourself up over something that’s over and done with.”
“You can’t sweep it under the rug either, honey. He’ll be fine.”
“If you’re willing to pay for it, I think I want to go to school when I get out of here. Quinn and I have done a lot of talking I think once I get myself together I want to become a personal trainer. I really like being in the gym.”
“That’s wonderful, honey. I’m happy to hear you have a goal. If you still want to do that when you get done with rehab, I’m sure we can work something out,” Mom says.
“I’ll pay you back for whatever I decide when I start making money,” I promise.
“We’ll discuss it when you get home.”
“Alright. Is Dad around?”
“Not right now. He went to go meet Niall, Godfrey and Pete for dinner to talk things over,” she says.
“Alright. Should I let you go?” I don’t want to keep her if she’s busy.
“I can chat longer if you want. How’s that Sookie girl you mentioned?” she asks.
“Ah, I don’t know right now. Apparently I’m distracting her,” I tell Mom. “She’s fine with using me when she needs the distraction, but when I need one it’s a problem.”
“Using you how?”
“Uh… well, the two times her ex-boyfriend popped up she was fine sleeping with me, but I felt like cuddling during down time and I was a distraction… I wasn’t even trying to sleep with her. I know she doesn’t want to, which I get.”
“Sweetheart, how many girls have you cuddled with for fun?” Mom asks.
“When I was high, none, but I’m not high anymore. I’m not a horny asshole constantly now.”
“I said cuddling. Cuddling isn’t sex.”
“Yeah, well I cuddled. I can’t remember the last time,” I tell her.
“Yes.” Why is this so hard to believe?
“Huh,” she sounds surprised. “I just figured you were having one nighters or casual sex with those girls you brought over. You never introduced us to any of them.”
“I’ve had regular girlfriends for years,” I chuckle. “I didn’t want to introduce you to anyone coked out though.”
“Which is why we never met any of them,” she sighs.
“Well, it’s hard to say why she backed off, but you should be focusing on your recovery and not a girl. You have plenty of time for girls after you get out of rehab and rebuild your life, Eric,” Mom says.
“I am, Mom,” I sigh. “It’s just… she’s really my only friend here and the only person I trust enough to talk to other than Quinn.”
“It sounds to me like maybe she’s more than a friend if you’re feeling used,” she says. “This is also why fraternizing in rehab isn’t allowed. You’re not there to get laid.”
“No, she’s just a friend,” I reiterate. “And I know that.”
“Mmhmm, then why are you bothered?”
“I told you I’ve been a grouchy bitch,” I remind her. “It’s probably just my mood swings from my cigarette withdrawals.”
“I’m sure it is,” I sigh.
“You know denial isn’t good, Eric. It’s what got you where you are.”
“I’m not in denial, Mother, I know my feelings and she’s a friend. That’s it.”
“I’m just saying I know how you are. You always avoided conflict by getting high. You buried everything that hurt you in whatever drug you could get your hands on. That’s not healthy.”
“I have counselors to tell me that every day. I’m not burying anything in any drugs, fuck, I even quit smoking,” I tell her.
“I know, but you have a habit of not confronting your feelings–”
“I don’t have feelings to confront. I’m pissed off at being used, but she fucking knows that. If I liked her like that I would fucking admit it,” I growl. Fuck. “Stop fucking beating a dead horse.”
“I was talking about you, not her,” she says. “It was a general observation.”
“Uh huh, I’m going to go, Mom.”
“Fine,” she sighs. “Have a good night.”
“You too. I love you.”
“I love you too,” she replies and then hangs up.
Sookie comes back inside and heads for the dining room. I don’t have anything to say to her so I get up and head back to my room. All my mom did was piss me off more and I don’t want to take it out on anyone unnecessarily.
“I’ve decided I want to move back to the east coast after I finish treatment,” I tell Sophie-Anne. I’ve been thinking about it for almost two weeks now and I’m sure about it. I only have three weeks to go here, but I’m confident I’ll be ready to go.
“That sounds like a positive move,” she smiles. “A fresh start.”
“That’s what I was thinking. I can find meetings and a sponsor there. I’ll be closer to my family and hopefully in time, I can repair those relationships. I think a change of scenery might be good for me.”
“If you like I can look up some local meeting places once you decide where you’re going to move to,” she offers.
“I’m thinking Maine, but I won’t know until I get out there. I miss the changing seasons,” I admit. “Laguna is beautiful but it also has a lot of bad memories for me. Now that Luke is gone, I don’t have much of a reason to stay here.”
“That’s understandable,” she nods.
“I’m also thinking about getting back into training.”
“That’s really good,” she smiles. “How’s your knee feeling?”
“It’s been great. I think the yoga I’ve been doing is really good for me. I feel… balanced afterward.”
“That’s amazing, remember the first time I asked and you told me it was in constant pain?”
Oh I remember. I was an idiot.
“I think the pills trained me to think I needed them a lot more than I really did. It still gets a little sore if I jog for too long, but a little ice helps that,” I tell her.
“Do you plan on looking into a physical trainer when you get out of here?”
“I might. I definitely want to find a yoga class or even get a DVD I can do at home everyday. It’s been a great way to start my day.” I think it’s jump started my metabolism. The regular sleep and better diet has helped exponentially.
“You can find a good yoga class on every corner,” she tells me.
“I know. When I get home I’ll see if I can find one in walking distance from my house.
“How do you think you’re going to do if injure yourself again?”
“I think this time I’ll get a second opinion before I get crazy,” I smile.
“Good,” she smiles back. “There also non-narcotic pain meditations on the market that aren’t habit forming just in case.”
“That’s good to know. I’m sure there will be times when I’m going to need pain medication but I don’t want to go backwards.”
“I can give you a current list before you’re discharged. Also, make sure to inform your new doctor that you have a history of narcotic abuse.”
“I will,” I promise.
“Good. Well, I think that’s it for today unless you have anything else forr me?”
“No, I’m okay,” I smile.
I haven’t talked about my issues with Eric but I don’t think they’re pertinent to my recovery.
“Alright, same time Thursday?”
“I think I can fit you in.”
“Good to know,” she smiles.
“See you then.” I stand up and leave her office.
I haven’t seen much of Eric since I told him we can’t be cuddly friends. Now is just not the right time for that. It’s selfish, but I need to focus on me and getting my life together. I didn’t think it was going to be like this, though. I like talking to him. I miss talking to him.
He’s been hanging out with the new girl, Jessica. She’s not really the new girl anymore either. She was put in Amelia’s room, so it’s miraculous she hasn’t run amok and killed us all. We aren’t in the same group for therapy, but Preston is in her group and he told me her boyfriend got her hooked on Speed and then pimped her out. Nice guy.
I head back to my room to take a nap since I stayed up late reading. It’s scary and exciting to talk about life after treatment. At this point, I don’t know what’s going on with that bet Eric and I made, but I’m still going to get back on the ice.
When I get to my room I close the curtains and lock my door. I kick off my sandals and lie down on my bed. Before rehab I thought maybe I’d be an English teacher and now I laugh at myself. I really thought I’d be able to go to work high as a kite and teach. Uh huh, suuuure. Like no one was going to notice I was high.
I was homeschooled all through high school because of my training and the traveling I did for competitions. My first Olympics was in Helsinki, Finland. I was in Europe for almost a month. I’d made a deal with my mom that if I medaled, I got to spend a week in the country of my choosing. After I won, I decided I wanted to go to Greece.
The Mediterranean was beautiful that time of year and I definitely needed the break. When I got home there were talk show and news interviews, endorsement deals… plus the competition circuit never ends. I needed to work on my triple flip since that was the jump that gave me the most trouble.
I close my eyes and I can still hear the crowd in Helsinki after my free skate performance. It was deafening. I can feel that confidence and certainty in my gut that I’d nailed it. Everything I worked for, all of the sacrifices I’d made were worth it in that moment. I’ve had a lot of highs, but that one… there’s no comparison.
After my nap I get up and go to the bathroom. I’m just walking out when there’s a knock on my door. I unlock it and I’m surprised to find Eric on the other side.
“Hi,” I say and smooth down my bedhead.
“I’ve seen it,” he winks, motioning at my hair. “Can I come in?”
“Sure,” I nod and step back.
He walks past me and waits for me to close the door before he turns to pull me into a tight hug.
“Whoa. You’re not dying, are you?” I joke.
“No, I just need this,” he whispers. “It’s been a really fucking long day and it’s not even dinner time.”
“Uh oh. What’s wrong? Bad therapy day?”
“Yeah,” he says without letting me go.
“Wanna tell me about it?” I rub his back slowly.
“Can it wait a minute?” he asks.
“Of course.” I won’t be pushy, he knows that.
“Thanks,” he whispers.
We stand there silently for a few minutes before he pulls back.
“Have a seat if you want,” I tell him.
He goes and takes a seat in my chair instead of on my bed.
“I’m sorry to barge in on you like this,” he sighs. “It was just… we talked a lot about what led to the drug use and it brought back a lot of fucked up memories from my childhood.”
I frown and say, “I’m sorry. That’s always hard to deal with.”
“Yeah…” He drops his head back. “I know you were pretty disciplined as a kid, but I was on the road with a fucking rock band that didn’t give a flying fuck that there was a kid on the bus.”
“I’m guessing that means you were exposed to a lot of things no kid should be exposed to?” I take a seat at the end of my bed.
“That’s an understatement,” he smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “I’ve missed you, Sookie.”
“I’ve missed you too. You’ve had Jessica to keep you company, at least. That’s better than being alone, right?”
I’m not jealous. Nope, not at all.
“I do have Jess,” he nods. “It’s not the same as having you.”
“That’s sweet of you,” I smile. “You know you never lost me, right?”
“I’m a naturally touchy guy, I wasn’t going to stop that and it’s not fair to either of us for me to sneak in for cuddles,” he says.
“Late night snuggle bandit,” I giggle.
“Don’t worry, I haven’t been sneaking in with Jess,” winks. “All of my snuggles are saved for you whenever you want them.”
“What you do or don’t do with Jessica is none of my business,” I shrug.
“Alright,” he says. “Bottom line, I miss you…”
“I miss you too. We can still talk and workout together, Eric,” I tell him.
“Speaking of working out.” He stands up and lifts his shirt. Eric has a six pack…
“Holy smuggled washboard, Batman,” I smile. “You’ve been busy.”
“Yeah, I don’t really do much else,” he chuckles. “You can touch if you want.”
“Maybe later. My tits shrank,” I inform him.
“Do I get to see?” Nope, he hasn’t changed one bit.
“Mmm… only if you win the bet,” I chuckle.
“Come on, I’ll show you mine,” he smiles and lifts his shirt a little higher.
I wolf whistle at him.
“Sexy beast,” I wink. He does look good.
“Your turn,” he grins.
“You didn’t win the bet yet.”
“If I win the bet, and I will, I want to see it all.”
“See what all?”
“I want you to strip your clothes off and let me see, maybe even touch, your whole body,” he says.
“You probably won’t even recognize my ass,” I snicker. Yoga has tightened everything up.
“We can go take a shower so you can give me a refresher,” he suggests.
“I don’t think so.” I do lean to the right so he can see my ass though. I’ve got leggings in today so they’re like a second skin.
“I want to smack your ass,” he chuckles.
“I’d let you, but you’d probably think we’re engaged,” I tease.
“Hmm, no, I wouldn’t,” he assures me, rubbing his hands together.
“One. That’s all you get,” I tell him.
“Do I get to pull your leggings down?” he asks as he steps forward to turn me around.
“Nope.” I arch my back and push my ass up.
“How hard do you want it?” he asks, rubbing both of his hands on my rear cheeks.
“Not too hard. I don’t need your hand print on my butt.”
“Mmm, okay,” he hums and gives me a fairly hard slap on my right cheek.
“Ahhh!” I yelp and reach back to rub my butt. “Thank God I said to go easy.”
“I can always kiss it better,” he grins.
“Oh no you don’t,” I tell him and pout when I turn over again.
“I would do a really good job and you’d forget all about the smack,” he says as he sits in the chair again.
“I want to hear more about the tour bus,” I tell him. He’s using me to distract him. I wonder if he realizes it.
“Well, I don’t remember a lot from the early years, but one of my first memories is watching one of my dad’s bandmates snort lines while he was getting a blowjob from a groupie,” he tells me.
“Oh… wow. That’s…” It explains a lot, actually.
“Yeah… I was six. I was tutored until junior high school and the band split up. I’d uh… I’d already had my first sexual encounter by then…”
“What? No… Please tell me it was with someone your own age at least,” I say.
“Not so much. I was big for my age and the chick was so fucking high she didn’t give a fuck when Pete told her to blow me.”
My eyes well up and instead of saying anything, I get up and move to his lap to hug him. I can’t think of anything worthwhile to say anyway. What a terrible way to have his first sexual encounter.
“How old were you?” I whisper.
“Hmm, eleven,” he tells me, rubbing my back.
He was definitely still a child at that age.
“I’m so sorry, Eric,” I say sincerely.
“You’re only the second person I’ve told. Quinn was the first,” he admits.
“Are you going to tell your parents?” I ask.
“I think I have to. My dad was too high to know. He was passed out on his bunk less than ten feet away.”
“How do you think he’ll take it?” I finally pull back to look at him.
“He’s probably going to threaten Pete’s life and then blame himself.”
“I hate to say it, but he should. That never should have happened.” If his dad wasn’t on drugs it probably wouldn’t have happened.
“Yeah… It’s going to be extra rough since they’re trying to put the band back together. That’s an exclusive, don’t tell anyone,” he smiles.
“Do you think you could confront Pete yourself?”
“For my dad’s sake it would probably be best. I don’t know though…”
“It’s too bad it’s too late for you to press charges. That sick fuck needs to be in jail,” I say.
“Yeah, I guess,” he sighs.
“He took something really important from you, Eric. Something you can’t get back and should have been given when you were ready and because you wanted to. It’s not right.”
He drops his head back, pulling me a little closer.
“You know, I don’t even know if he remembers,” Eric whispers.
“That doesn’t mean it never happened. For the record, I kinda want to kick your dad.”
“You can,” I hear him smile.
“Good. Then I want to junk punch Pete with a wrecking ball covered in broken glass and razor blades.”
“I don’t think you’ll get rehab as an option if you do that,” he chuckles.
“I’d be a fuckin’ hero in prison.”
“You’d be my hero too,” he says, kissing the top of my head.
His and any other kid this twisted fuck molested or got off to watching them being raped. What a fucked up memory to have come back to bite him in the ass.
“Do you want to get high right now?” I ask.
I take a deep breath and then climb off of him to go lock the door. When I turn to face him, I have the opportunity to pay him back for the way he was there for me after Luke.
I pull my shirt over my head and say, “Let’s get high.”