Nova and Quinton: No Regrets, Page 1Jessica Sorensen
Nova and Quinton: No Regrets
Table of Contents
A Preview of Breaking Nova
For everyone who suffered loss and learned how to live again.
A huge thanks to my agent, Erica Silverman, and my editor, Amy Pierpont. I'm forever grateful for all your help and input.
To my family, thank you supporting me and my dream. You guys have been wonderful.
And to everyone who reads this book, an endless number of thank-yous.
December 28, the day of the funeral
It's a strange feeling, getting ready to watch someone get put under the ground into their final resting place. I've been to enough funerals to know that my senses always become hyper-aware of everything going on around me: the touch of the wind seems stronger, the sun a little more blinding, the smell of the leaves, grass, and fresh dirt overpowering. It's like my mind is reaching out and trying to grasp each aspect of the moment, when part of me wants nothing more than to forget.
I'm actually at the church earlier than I'm supposed to be and I don't even know why, other than that sitting home for a second longer just didn't seem possible. So I left the house without telling anyone and got in my cherry-red Chevy Nova, the car my dad left to me when he died, and drove it to the church where my dad's and Landon's funeral took place. And in just a bit, I'll say good-bye to another person I once knew and will never see again.
Now that I'm here, staring at the brick building with a white tower pointing to the sky, I'm not sure what I should do. I'm three hours early to a funeral, which might say a lot about me. A lot of people would likely show up late, wanting to avoid death for as long as possible, but I've become so familiar with it it's unsettling.
After sitting in the car for about ten minutes, watching snowflakes fall from the sky and frost the grass and the windshield, I decide to take video instead. I didn't bring the fancy camera my mom gave me, but the one on my phone works and honestly I use that one a lot more because it's handy for sporadic recording, which seems to be my specialty.
I blow out a deep breath as I sit back in the seat, aim the camera at myself, and hit record. I have the screen flipped to me and my image immediately pops up. I look tired. The bags under my eyes are pretty obvious, even though I've tried to cover them up with makeup, and my brown hair wasn't being cooperative so I ended up pulling it up into a ponytail. I'm wearing a black dress and earrings and the contrast with my fair skin makes me look pallid.
"It's amazing how everything can seem so perfect one moment and then suddenly it's not. How quickly perfection can evaporate... how rare it is." I pause, gathering my thoughts. "I've seen a lot of death. More than the normal person, probably. I watched my father's life vanish in front of me within minutes. Found my boyfriend's body right after he took his own life. Too early. Too suddenly. Both of them. I never had time to prepare myself and I thought it was the worst feeling in the world. I always wondered how different it would be, if it ever happened again. If maybe the third or fourth time around, I wouldn't hurt so badly. If it'd be easier letting someone go now that I've had so much practice." I tuck a fallen strand of my bangs behind my ear and swallow the lump in my throat. "And maybe it has gotten easier... but it still hurts. I still shed tears... it's still agonizing... painful..." I trail off as a few tears slip from my eyes and roll down my cheeks. "Even now, just thinking about some of the stuff I saw... I should have stopped it... should have done things differently..." I trail off, staring at the window. "But I didn't... and now they're gone forever."
Two months ago...
October 30, day one in the real world
I write until my hand hurts. Until my head is numb. It's the only outlet I have at the moment. My attempt at a replacement for the drugs I've done for years. But most days it can't fill even a small part of the void I feel inside me since I stopped pumping my body with poison, slowly killing myself. But there are a few times when it briefly instills a small amount of silence inside me, makes taking one breath, one step, one heartbeat, just a bit more bearable. And so I write, just to feel those few and far-between moments of peace.
Sometimes I feel like I've been reborn. Not in a religious way. But in the sense that it feels like part of me has died and I'm learning once again to live with the new, remaining parts of me. Some of which I don't like, parts that are ugly, broken, misshapen, and don't seem to quite fit right inside me. But my therapist and drug counselor are both trying to build me back up to a person that the pieces can fit into again.
I still don't know if it's possible. If I can live with a clear head, feel the sting of every emotion, the weight of my guilt, the heaviness of each breath, the way my heart beats steadily inside my chest. I'm trying, though, and I guess that's a start. I just hope the start can turn into more, but I'm not so sure yet.
"Quinton, are you ready?" Davis Mason, the supervisor of the Belvue Rehab Facility, enters my room, rapping on the doorframe.
I glance up from my notebook and nod, release a nervous breath trapped inside my chest. Today is the day that I'm going back into the real world, to live with my dad, no walls around me, no restrictions. It scares the shit out of me, to be out there, free to do whatever I want, without anyone watching me, guiding me. I'll be making decisions myself and I'm not sure if I'm ready for that.
"As ready as I'll ever be, I guess," I say, shutting my notebook and tossing it into my packed bag on the floor beside my feet. I aim to appear collected on the outside, but on the inside my heart is hammering about a million miles a minute, along with my thoughts. I can't believe this is happening. I can't believe I'm going out into the real world. Shit, I don't think I can do this. I can't. I want to stay here.
"You're going to do awesome," Davis assures me. "And you know if you need anyone to talk to, I'm totally here and we've got you set up with that sobriety support group and your dad got you a really good therapist to replace Charles."
When I first met Davis, I thought he was a patient at the drug facility, with his laid-back attitude and the casual plaid shirts and jeans he always wears, but it turned out he was the counselor that I'd be spending two months with during my recovery here. He's a pretty cool and oddly enough was once an addict, too, so he gets some of my struggles. Not all of them, though.
I get to my feet and pick up my bag. "I hope you're right."
"I'm always right about these things," he jokes, giving me an encouraging pat on the back as I head past him and out the door. "I can always tell the ones who are going to make it." He places two fingers to his temple. "I have a sixth sense for it."
I don't understand his optimism. I'd think he was this way with everyone, but he's not. I overheard him once talking to one of the nurses, saying he was worried about one of the guys leaving. But he seems sure I'm going to be okay and keeps telling everyone that. I'm not, though. I'm going to fall. I know it. Can feel it. See it. I'm terrified. I have no idea what's going to happen to me. In the next minute. The next step. The next moment. I'm feeling so many things it's hard to even think straight.
I swing the handle of my duffel bag over my shoulder and walk down the hall with Davis following behind. I say good-bye to a few people I met while I was here and actually developed friendships with. There's not a whole lot--it's hard to make friends when you have to focus so much on yourself.
After the brief farewells, I head to Charles's office, which is right beside the front section of the facility. Every time I'm in this part of the building, I get a peek at the outside wo
rld, the cars on the highway, the pine trees, the grass, the sky, the clouds. It always makes me want to lock the door and stay behind it for the rest of my life, because behind that door I feel safe. Protected from myself and all the scary things out there. Like the last two months. And now I'm about to go into the wild.
"Quinton, come on in." Charles waves me in when he notices me lingering in the doorway, staring at the exit door just to my right.
I tear my attention away from it and step into his office, a narrow room with a couple of wooden chairs, a desk, and scenic paintings on the walls. It's plain, with minimal distractions, which might be on purpose to force whoever is in here to focus on nothing but himself. I've had a few meltdowns in this room, a lot of them stemming from when Charles urged me to pour my heart and soul out about the accident and express how I felt about the deaths of Lexi and Ryder. I haven't talked about everything yet, but I'm sure I'll get there. One day. But for now I'm taking things one step at a time. Day by day.
"So today's the big day," he says, standing up from the chair behind his desk. He's a short man with a bad comb-over and wears a lot of suits with elbow patches. But he's nice and gets things in a way most people don't. I'm not sure if it's because of his PhD hanging on the wall or because maybe he's been through some rough shit. If he has, he never shared it with me. "This is about you," he always said whenever I tried to turn the conversation around on him. "And what you've been through." I hated him for it. Still do a little bit, because he opened a lot of fucking doors I thought I'd bolted shut. Stuff poured out of me and is still continuing to stream out of me, like a leaky faucet, one I can't get to turn off, but now I'm not sure I want to.
"Yeah, I guess so." I move to the center of the room and stand behind one of the chairs, gripping the back to hold myself up because my legs feel like two wet noodles.
He offers me a smile. "I know you're a little worried about how things are going to be out there, but I assure you that as long as you stick to everything we talked about, you're going to be okay. Just keep going to meetings and keep writing." He strolls around the desk and stops in front of me. "And keep working on talking to your father."
"I'll try to," I say with apprehension. "But it's a two-way street, so..." My father has visited a few times, and Charles mediated for us. Rocky would be one of the words to describe the time we spent talking. That and awkward and uneasy. But it helped break the ice enough that it's not completely and utterly terrible to know that I'm going to be living under the same roof with him again. Just terrible, maybe.
Charles puts a hand on my shoulder and looks me straight in the eye. "Don't try. Do." He always says this whenever someone shows doubt. Do. Do. Do.
"Okay, I'll talk to him," I say, but just because I will, doesn't mean my father is going to reciprocate. I barely know him anymore. No, scratch anymore. I've never known him, really, and it feels like I'm moving in with a stranger. But I can get through this. I am strong. I tell myself this over and over again.
"Good." Charles gives my shoulder a squeeze and then releases me. "And remember, I'm always here if you need someone to talk to." He takes a step back toward his desk. "You have my card with my number, right?"
I pat my pocket. "Yeah."
"Good. Call me if you ever need anything from me." He smiles. "And take care, Quinton."
"Thanks. You too." I turn for the door, my chest squeezing tighter with every step I take. By the time I exit into the hallway, I'm on the verge of hyperventilating. But I keep moving. Breathing. Walking. Until I get into the lounge area near the doorway, where my father's waiting for me in one of the chairs in the corner of the room. He has his head tipped down and his glasses on as he reads the newspaper that's on his lap. He's wearing slacks and a nice shirt, probably the same clothes he wears to the office every day. He must have had to leave early to pick me up and I wonder how he feels about that, whether he's irritated like he always used to be with me or glad that I'm finally getting out. I guess that could be something we talk about in the car.
I don't say anything as I cross the room toward him. Sensing my presence, he glances up right as I stop in front of him.
He blinks a few times like I've surprised him with my appearance. "Oh, I didn't even see you walk out," he says, setting the newspaper aside on the table beside the chair. He glances at the clock on the wall as he rises to his feet. "Are you ready to go?"
I nod with my thumb hitched though the handle of my duffel bag. "Yeah, I think so."
"Okay then." He pats the sides of his legs awkwardly, glancing around the room like he thinks someone's going to come out and take me off his hands. Realizing that nothing is going to happen, that it's just him and me, he gives me a small smile, but it's forced. Then he heads for the door and I reluctantly follow. Ten steps later, I'm free. Just like that. It feels like it happens so fast. Faster than I can handle. One minute I'm saying good-bye and the next I'm walking out the door into the outside world and fresh air. There are no more walls to protect me, no people around me who get what I'm going through.
I just exist.
The first thing I notice is how bright it is. Not hot, but bright. The grass has also browned, along with the leaves on the trees. It's managed to turn from summer to fall during my two-month stay here and somehow I didn't even notice. I've been outside and everything, but not outside with freedom. It makes things feel different. Me feel different. Nervous. Unsteady. Like I'm about to fall down.
"Quinton, are you okay?" My father asks, assessing me as he removes his glasses, like that'll help him see what's going on inside my head or something. "You look like you're going to be sick."
"I'm fine." I squint at the general brightness of being outdoors. "It just feels a little weird being outside."
He offers me another tight smile, then looks away and starts toward the parking lot at the side of the building. I trail behind him, grasping the handle of my bag slung over my shoulder, the wind grazing my cheeks, and I note how unnatural it feels. Just like the cars driving up and down the highway that seem way too loud. Everything seems extremely intense, even the fresh air that fills my lungs.
Finally, after what feels like an eternity, I make it to the car and get my seat belt secured over my shoulder. It grows quiet as my father turns on the ignition and the engine rumbles to life. Then we're driving up the gravel path toward the highway, leaving the rehab center behind in the distance, the place that for the last couple of months protected me from the world and the pain linked to it.
I stay quiet for most of the drive home and my dad seems pretty at ease with that at first, but then abruptly he starts slamming me with simple questions like if the heat is up enough or too much, and am I hungry, because he can stop and get me something to eat if I need him to.
I shake my head, picking at a hole in the knee of my jeans. "Dad, I promise I'm okay. You don't need to keep checking on me."
"Yeah, but..." He struggles for what to say as he grips the steering wheel, his knuckles whitening. "But you always said you were okay in the past but then after talking to you with Charles... it just seems like you needed to talk to me but you didn't."
He's probably thinking about how I told him, during one of our sessions, that I felt sort of responsible for my mother's death because he never seemed to want to have anything to do with me. He was shocked by my revelation and I was equally shocked that he didn't seem to have realized that's how I felt--at how differently we saw things.
"But I promise I'm okay right now." I ball my hands more tightly into fists the closer we get to the house. Deep breaths. Deep breaths. I can do this. The scary part is over, right? I'm sober now. "I just ate before we left and I'm warm, not hot or cold. Everything's good. I'm good." Which I am, for the most part.
He nods, satisfied, as he concentrates on the road. "Well, let me know if you need anything."
"Okay, I will." I direct my attention to the side window and watch the landscape blur by, gradually changing from trees to a field, then ultimatel
y to houses as we pass through the outskirts of the city. Before I know it, we're entering my old neighborhood made up of cul-de-sacs and modest homes. It's where everything started, where everything changed, where I grew up and where I decided I was going to slowly kill myself with drugs. Each house I've passed a thousand times on foot, on bike, in the car, yet the surroundings feel so foreign to me and I feel so off-balance. The feeling only intensifies when we pass one of the houses I used to buy drugs from. I start wondering if they still deal or if that's changed. What if they do? What if I have drugs right on hand? Right there? Just blocks away from where I'm living? Can I handle it? I'm not sure. I'm not sure of anything at the moment, because I can't see five minutes into the future.
My adrenaline starts pumping relentlessly and no matter how hard I try to get my heart to settle down, I can't. It only beats faster when we pull into the driveway of my two-story home with blue shutters and white siding. I've been in this house more times than anywhere else in the world, yet it feels like I've never been here before. I'm not even sure that it ever really was my home, though, more simply a roof over my head. I'm not sure about anything anymore. Where I belong. What I should feel. Who I am.
But what am I going to be reborn into?
"Welcome home," my dad says, again with a taut smile. He parks the car in front of the shut garage and silences the engine.
"Thanks." I return his forced smile, hoping we're not going to pretend that everything is okay to each other all the time because it's going to drive me crazy.
He takes the keys out of the ignition while I get my bag out of the backseat, then we get out of the car and walk up the path to the front door, where he unlocks it and we step into the foyer. It hits me like a bag of bricks, slamming against my chest and knocking the wind out of me. This is bad. So bad. I needed more preparation for this. The memories, swirling in torturous circles inside my head. The good ones. The bad ones. The ones connected to my childhood. Lexi. It's too much and I want to run out the door and track down one of my old pothead friends, see if they're still into drugs, and if I can get something--anything--to take away the emotions swirling around inside me.