Falling into you, p.16
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       Falling into You, p.16

         Part #1 of Falling series by Jasinda Wilder
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“No need to go overboard trying to make up for it,” Colton interrupts.

  I can’t help snapping my gaze to his, searching him, wondering what happened to him to make that such an issue for him. Obviously, someone used to insult his intelligence regularly. For it to be such a huge problem for Colton, there’s only really one probable source. I just can’t see Mr. and Mrs. Calloway doing that. They were always so supportive of Kyle, so loving, so kind. Strict, at times, especially as it came to making sure any publicity was positive, but that’s understandable.

  “I wasn’t,” I say quietly. “I was explaining why I suddenly started bawling like girl. ”

  “You are a girl,” he points out.

  “Yeah,” I say. “But until you badgered me into talking about things, I hadn’t cried at all. I mean…at all. ”

  Colton shifts on the bed to look at me. “You never cried about what happened to Kyle?”

  “No. ”

  “You never grieved?” He sounds almost incredulous.

  “Grieved?” The idea seems foreign. He says it like it’s expected.

  He lifts up his head to stare at me. “Yeah. Grieved. Went through the stages. ” He flops back, rubbing between his eyes with his fingers. “Of course you didn’t. Probably why you’re so f**ked up about it. ”

  I throw an arm over my face to hide my irritation and hurt and the onset of stinging eyes. “He died. I dealt with it. ”

  Colton snorts. “No. You didn’t deal with shit. You’re a cutter, Nell. ”

  “I haven’t done that in weeks. ” I’m aware that I’m rubbing the scars with my thumb, but I can’t help it.

  He takes my hands and forces them apart, traces the pattern of white lines with a finger tip. It’s a tender gesture that sears my heart, makes my jaw tremble. His eyes are mournful.

  “Good,” he says. His eyes meet mine, and they turn firm, hard. “If you ever cut yourself again, I’ll be mad. Like, really really pissed. You don’t want to see that. ”

  No, I sure as hell don’t. I don’t answer him though. I can’t promise that. I’ve managed to not cut in a while, simply because I’ve had Colton on the brain, and that’s enough confusion to take my mind off the urge to bleed myself numb.

  Colton isn’t fooled. He takes my chin in two strong fingers and turns my head to face him. “Promise me, Nell. ” His eyes are cerulean intensity. “Fucking promise me. No more cutting. You feel the urge, you call me. You get me, we deal together, okay?”

  I wish I could make that promise. I can’t. He doesn’t understand how deep the need is. I hate it, I really do. I always feel even more guilty after I’ve cut, which makes the problem even worse. It’s like this habit I can’t shake, but it’s not just a habit, like an addiction I’m ashamed of, smoking or pill popping or whatever. I know he gets the need to cut, but he doesn’t realize how embedded in me the urge is.

  I haven’t answered. I’m staring at the ceiling, shaking. I want to promise him. I want to be healed, to never want to score lines of pain into my wrists, my forearms again.

  Colton sits up, and he’s still naked, not hard anymore and I’m fascinated by his not-erect cock. It’s a distraction, and only momentary. Colton grabs me, lifts me, and I’m on his lap, in his arms, forced to meet his angry glare.

  “Fucking promise, Nell. ”

  “No!” I wrench myself free, scramble away, off the bed, away from his hot skin and hard muscles and angry, piercing eyes. “No! You can’t say that to me, you can’t demand that of me. You don’t understand! You can’t just appear in my life and try to change it like this. ”

  “Yes I can. ” His voice is calm but intense.

  He’s still on the bed, watching me. I’m hunting the pile of clothes on the floor for mine, but I can’t find my shirt or my panties, so I settle for a T-shirt of Colton’s. It hangs to mid-thigh, and it’s soft and it smells like him, which is confusing and comforting and incredible.

  “No. You can’t. You don’t know me. You don’t know what I went through. You don’t know how I feel. ”

  “You’re right. But I’m trying to. ”

  “Why?”

  “Because you should never have been left alone to deal. You should never have been allowed to bury it all and let it fester. Kyle’s death is an open wound inside you. It’s never healed, never scabbed over. It’s all f**king nasty and gangrenous, Nell. It’s rotting. You need to let someone in. You need to let me in. ”

  Page 45

 

  “I can’t…I can’t…” I’m running, now. Out of his room, into the kitchen.

  It’s drink or cut. He’s bringing it all up, forcing all the shit I’ve buried to the surface. He knows it and he’s doing it on purpose.

  I’ve kept it all down for so long, and whenever it threatened to come up, come out, I’d drink until it settled back down, or I’d cut and bleed it out rather than feel it, rather than cry or scream or be angry.

  I know he has whiskey somewhere, but I can’t find it. It’s not in the fridge, and I can’t reach high enough to look in the cupboard above the fridge where I know it must be. I climb on the counter, reach for it, and lose my balance. I fall, slamming hard into the floor, and the breath is knocked out of me.

  It’s coming up. It came up when he forced me into tears, when he made me admit I killed Kyle. The guilt came up and out, and that hurt, like knives shredding my heart.

  This?

  This is the grief. The loss. The knowledge that Kyle is gone. Of course he’s gone, I’ve known that. But this is the grief. The hurt. The loneliness. It’s worse than the guilt. I always knew the guilt was wrong and misplaced. The guilt I can’t justify away, can’t shift or explain or bury any longer.

  I’m fighting sobs, fighting the clenching in my stomach and heart.

  No.

  No.

  I won’t let it out.

  He forced out the guilt. He can’t force out the grief. I don’t want it. It’s too much. It’ll shred me.

  A drawer slams open, silverware rattles. I’m not aware of moving, but it’s me digging in the drawer for a knife. Let him be mad. I don’t care. I hear his feet stomping, now. He’d been giving me space to calm down I guess, but now he knows what I’m doing.

  He’s too late.

  The pain is a blessed relief. I watch in guilty satisfaction as a thin line of red wells up on my forearm. The knife wasn’t very sharp, so I had to press. It’s a deep cut.

  “What the f**k?” Colton, wearing shorts, rushing at me, angry, scared. “Nell…what the f**k?”

  I don’t bother answering. I’m dizzy. Bleeding. I look down and see the spreading red, and it’s too much. I cut deep. Too deep. Good. The grief slides away and slicks across the scratched laminate floor.

  I’m in his arms, and there’s pressure around my arm. A white towel, turning pink-to-crimson. He’s squeezing my arm so hard it hurts past the cut-pain. The towel is wrapped around my arm, and then a belt cinched tight.

  I’m between his knees, my back to his front. I feel his hard chest and his frantic, panting breath, his arms around my shoulders. He’s holding the belt in one hand, my wrist in the other. His face is pressed to the top of my head. His breath huffs loud in my ear, on my hair.

  “Goddamn it, Nell. Why?”

  I find my voice. The hurt in his words is palpable, as if I’d cut him rather than myself, and I want to soothe it. Odd. I want to soothe his pain, the hurt over my cut.

  “I can’t take it,” I whisper, because a whisper is all I can manage. “It’s too much. He’s gone, and he’s not coming back. My fault or not…he’s gone. He’s dead. He’s bones in a wood box, a fading memory. Nothing stops that pain. Not even time. ”

  “I know. ”

  “You don’t. ” The last word is growled, rabid. “You weren’t there. You’re not in my head. You don’t know. ”

  “He was my baby brother, Nell. ” His voice sounds almost as broken
as mine.

  “But…you left when we were eleven. You never even came back to visit. ” That was something that Kyle and I never talked about, but I knew it confused him, hurt him. His parents wouldn’t talk about Colton.

  “Yeah, well…I didn’t have much choice. I was barely surviving. I missed him every single day. I wrote a thousand letters to him in my head while I tried to fall asleep on park benches and in boxes in alleys, covered in newspapers. A thousand letters I’d never be able to write, couldn’t write. I couldn’t afford food or shelter, much less a bus ticket back to Detroit. ”

  Something in what he said strikes me as odd, but I’m dizzy and weak and foggy and can’t place what.

  He lets go the pressure of the makeshift tourniquet, gingerly lifts the towel away. Blood seeps out slowly, but sluggishly. I’m lifted and carried, and I let my head flop against his broad chest. He sets me on the bed, vanishes, comes back with a roll of gauze, medical tape, and a tube of Neosporin.

  “You probably should have stitches,” he says, folding a bandage and placing it over the cut and rolling gauze tightly around my arm. “But I know you won’t get them. So this’ll have to work. ”

  “How do you know I won’t?” I ask.

  “Will you?”

  “Hell no. But how’d you know?” I watch as he tapes the edges down.

  “I wouldn’t have, if it were me. There’d be questions and social services and psychologists and the psych ward. Worst of all, they’d call your parents. ” He put two fingers beneath my chin, a thumb along my jaw. “Which is what you’ll get if this shit happens again. I’ll rush you to the f**king ER and I’ll call your goddamn parents myself, like I should this time, but won’t. ”

  “Why not?” I whisper.

  “Because they’d get it all wrong. It’s not a cry for attention or any of that psychobabble bullshit. ” He tips his forehead to touch mine. “Because I can help you, if you’ll let me. We can get you through this. ”

  We? Shit. Shit. My eyes still and my lip trembles and my chest heaves. My instinct is to cause pain to stop the tears. Colton knows this by now, gathers me close and holds me against his chest. He’s determined to do this, to be all supportive and loving. Which is exactly what I’ve always been terrified of admitting I want so so badly. Except he’s tenacious about not letting me hide or lie or retreat or pretend, and he knows all my tricks.

  “Let…it…go,” he whispers, his voice a fierce, harsh sound in my hair.

  “No. No!” The last word is screamed.

  “You have to. You can’t bleed it out. You can’t keep pretending, drinking it down. ”

  A shudder, a tremble, my teeth clamping down on my lower lip. My fingers claw into the hard slab of muscle that is his pectoral. I’m not sobbing. I’m not.

  Goddamnit, yes I am.

  “It hurts so f**king bad, Colton…” the words are nearly lost in a sea of choking sobs and shuddering, body-wracking gasps for breath. “I want him back! I don’t want to watch him die anymore. ”

  Page 46

 

  I sob and sob, and he just holds me. Eventually I pull myself together and let words pour out of me. “Over and over I see it. Every time I close my eyes, I see him die. I know it’s not my fault, I always did. I convinced myself it was my fault because that was better than the pain of him being gone. ”

  “He’s gone. You have to accept it. ”

  “I know. It just hurts. ” Now comes the hardest admission of all. “I find myself forgetting him. I see him dying over and over, but I can’t remember what he smelled like. What his arms felt like holding me. What sex with him felt like. What kissing him felt like. I can’t remember him. And I wonder sometimes if I ever really loved him. If it was just teenage infatuation. Thinking I loved him because he was my first. Because we’d f**ked. I don’t know. I don’t remember. And now there’s you, and you’re…better than he was. Stronger. You turn me on in a way I don’t remember with him. You make me feel things he never did. The way you kiss me, it’s better than I remember his kisses being. When you made me come, I realized I’d never felt anything like it, ever. Ever. Not in all the times I was with Kyle in the two years we were together. ”

  A scream of raw impotent pain and self-loathing and anger and grief tears out my throat; Colton clutches me tighter and lets me scream. Doesn’t shush me or quiet me or whisper anything or tell me it’s okay.

  “I’ve forgotten him, Colton! I never even loved him, and he’s gone! And I’ll never get him back and I’ll never be okay!”

  “Forgetting is the mind’s way of helping you heal. Helping you move on. You did love him, Nell. He was your first. Your best friend before that. I know that much about you two. You were inseparable from birth. You did love him. Yeah, he’s gone and it f**king sucks more than anything. He was taken from you too soon, from all of us. I can’t make that okay. But you have to be okay. You have to let yourself heal and move on. You’re stuck in the moment of his death, right now. Locked into a cycle with no way out. You have to break the cycle. ”

  “I don’t know how. ”

  “Feel. Grieve. Let yourself feel all the anger at the fact that he was taken from you. Feel the loss of him. Feel the sadness and the missing him. Don’t block it out, don’t cut so it so stops, don’t drink yourself numb. Just sit and let it all rip you apart. And then get up and keep breathing. One breath at a time. One day at a time. Wake up, and be shredded. Cry for a while. Then stop crying and go about your day. You’re not okay, but you’re alive, and you will be okay, someday. ”

  “You make it sound easy. ”

  “Fuck no, it’s not easy. It’s the hardest thing ever. But it’s the only way. What you’re doing is gonna kill you. ”

  I hear the personal knowledge of this in his voice. “You’ve done this. ”

  He sighs. “Yeah. More than once. ”

  “Kyle?”

  “Him too. ”

  “Who else?”

  He breathes out again, a long frustrated breath. “Friends. Brothers. A girl I…someone I loved. ”

  “Tell me. ”

  “Fuck. Really? You want to hear this now?” I nod and he growls in his chest. “Fine. The first one was one of my best buddies, Split’s and mine. T-Shawn. Split grew up next to him. T-Shawn and Split started the Five-One Bishops together. There was a rumble on a basketball court, a turf thing. Fists mainly, a few chains, one ass**le had a bat. Then it escalated. One of the other guys pulled a knife. Stabbed T in the f**king throat. I watched—watched him bleed out all over my hands, my arms. I watched T die, held him in my f**king arms as he bled out…and then I killed the motherfucker. Crushed his goddamn head against the court until I saw brains. Couldn’t stop myself. T was a good guy. A good friend. A gentle guy, really. But he had the bad luck to be born in the ghetto. Ain’t much you can do but what you gotta do to keep breathing. It ain’t even really a choice, for most. It’s just life. Life in the hood. How shit works. T was smart, man. Could have gone to college, written some smart shit, been someone, if he’d have had the opportunity. Didn’t. Now he’s dead. ”

  “I’m sorry. ”

  “Then another brother got shot. Lil Shady. We weren’t friends at first. His girl had a thing for me, which he didn’t like. I never did nothing with her, but…he didn’t like me for it. Eventually we got past that shit, and had each other’s backs when things got ugly. Shady took a slug to the head. Didn’t see that shit, thank god. But he was gone, and it sucked. Just…gone. I’d smoked a blunt with him an hour before he died, you know? And then Split and Mo were banging in my door, carrying Shady, yelling about some other gang doing a driveby. ” He’s gone, his eyes vacant, seeing the past. “Couple others through the years, same shit different day. None as close as Shady and T, though. ” He trails off and I realize he’s lost in the memory.

  I tangle my fingers with his. “You said a girl, too? Someone you loved?”

  “That was the wo
rst day of my life. The reason I decided to quit the gang and live straight, buy the shop and try to get away from all that shit. ” He ducks his head, buries his face into my curls, takes a deep breath. “Her name was India. So f**king beautiful. Her mom was black, her dad was Korean. Almond shaped eyes, long straight black hair down to her waist, body like—well, a damn fine one. Such a sweet girl. Too sweet to be living in the ghetto, to be caught up in the shit she was caught up in. She was friends with Split’s girlfriend. She was around a lot, and I’d noticed her. Seen her, liked her. Seen her looking at me. We finally ended up the last two awake after a party one night, hung out on the fire escape talking till dawn. She wanted to go to beauty school, or maybe be a model, she wasn’t sure which. Coulda been great at either. ”

  A long pause, then. Too long. I can’t fill it though. I wait for him.

  “We dated for a year. Dated isn’t really the right word, ‘cause it wasn’t like I was taking her to Broadway and Little Italy or some shit, you know? We were together for a year, is what I meant. Fuck. I can’t talk about this. ” His voice cracks, he takes a deep breath, lets it out, and continues. “Had some shit go down with a rival gang, a couple rumbles, whatever. Routine shit. It went bad. Got separated from Split and them, chased on foot for f**king miles by more guys than I could take alone. Didn’t mean to, but I led them to India. She was hanging with her girlfriends, couple of their guys. Sees me coming down the street, knew I was in trouble. Called the guys out to help. So the guys and I take care of things and I got hit in the shoulder, but whatever, wasn’t too bad. Last one was talking shit, but I could see he was ready to run. We let him. Fucking…he ran off, then stopped about a hundred feet away and blasted a shot, like a last ‘fuck you. ’ India was on the porch, took it straight between the f**king eyes. Total freak accident. I could see the guy’s face. He was like ‘oh shit’, because everybody knew India. Didn’t matter who you belonged to, you knew India, you had to love her, respect her ass. She was that sweet. He got capped the next day, not me, but it happened. Didn’t matter though. She was gone. All that beauty, all that sweetness, all that love for everyone, no matter who you were…just gone. ”

  Page 47

 

  I feel wetness in my hair, hear tears in his voice. I shift, swivel, pull him to me. I hold his face to my chest and finally understand what he meant by letting yourself just be shredded. Colton is a hardass, tough and strong and stoic. But he’s just…broken by the memories. And this is years later.

  “She was the first girl I ever loved. I mean, I had girlfriends before that, you know? I even thought I was in love with a couple of ‘em, but it wasn’t love. It was like love, almost love. But when you feel that kind of all-consuming need for someone, a person you’d do f**king anything for, no matter what? They’re in your f**king skin, in your soul, like the essence of who they are is imprinted on you so completely that the very air you breathe and each molecule of who you are is tangled together. That’s love. I loved her like that. ” Colton’s voice is…shattered. “And she’s gone. That’s why I have this shit on my chest, the scars. I couldn’t deal. I couldn’t accept that she was dead for the longest time. It hurt so bad, so deep that I just had to stop it somehow, I had to feel something besides the emotional agony. It was Split who saved me. Made me face what happened and how I felt and let it go. ” He laughs, a rough bark. “You don’t ever really let go, though. You don’t stop. You don’t stop hurting, you don’t stop loving. It doesn’t go away, you just keep living and eventually shit gets pushed into the background of your life so it’s not consuming you every day. And then one day, you know you’re okay. It still hurts, you still miss that person. And yeah, you forget the details. The way she smelled, the way her mouth tasted, how her skin felt, the sound of her voice. It’s almost like a different life, a different person that loved her, was with her. But on a day-to-day level, you know you’re okay. Sort of. ”

 
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