Saving Quinton, Page 1Jessica Sorensen
Table of Contents
A Preview of Breaking Nova
For everyone who struggled and survived.
I wake up every morning feeling content that I'm drowning in darkness. Blissfully, mind-numbingly content, without worrying or being haunted by my fucked-up past because I can't feel a fucking thing. At least after I take my first hit. Once I get the taste of that bitterly sweet, wonderfully toxic, white crystals up my nose, it'll burn out the back of my throat along with all my emotions. Then I'll be good to go for days. The guilt that I carry around in me will briefly die and I'll slowly die right along with it. I'm glad because I want to be dead.
And I'm working on getting there, one numbing line at a time.
I can't remember the last time I slept, just like I can't remember the name of the woman lying beside me in my bed, passed out with her top off. I met her last night when she showed up with Dylan and Delilah and somehow we ended up in my room where we had meaningless sex and then she passed out from whatever she's on. It's become a routine, a painfully longstanding routine that I'm addicted to. Part of me wishes I wasn't, but the other part knows that I deserve exactly what I have--nothing.
After struggling all night to shut my eyes, seeking sleep but never getting there, I finally climb off the mattress on the floor. I've been going for days, strung out on line after line, my eyes bulging out of my head, my body and mind so tense and worn out from the energy overload, yet still fighting to stay awake. If I don't get more into my system soon, I'm going to crash.
I grab a pair of jeans from off the chipped linoleum floor and pull them on. My bedroom is about the size of a closet and contains a shitty mattress, a box with stuff that I never look at anymore, a lamp, and a mirror and razor that are always within reach. I pick them both up off the floor and then the empty plastic bag next to it. I must have finished it off last night...although I can barely remember doing it. I can barely remember anything anymore. Days and nights are blurred together in pieces that are quickly fading.
"Shit," I mutter, wiping my finger along the mirror's dry surface, and then lick my finger clean, sucking every last drop off it. It doesn't do anything for the starving beast stirring inside me, ready to wake up and claw at my skin if I don't feed it. I toss the mirror across the room, watching it shatter against the wall. "Dammit." I snatch a shirt up off the floor and pull it on as I hurry out into the narrow hall, tripping over a few people passed out on the floor, none of whom I know, but they always seem to be around.
When I reach the door at the end of the hall, the room that belongs to my cousin Tristan, I turn the doorknob but it's locked, so I hammer my fist against it. "Tristan, open up the fucking door...I need to get in there. Now."
There's no response, so I bang on the door harder, slamming my shoulder into the wood. My body starts to shake by the third slam...my mouth salivating by the fifth...by the seventh I feel like I could fucking kill someone if I don't get my goddamned dose in me.
Finally the door weakens and starts to cave beneath my violent slams, but it won't give in completely. The need to feed the irrational and unstable monster inside me becomes too much, and I kick the door over and over again as hard as I can. Panic starts to set in as a stream of images of the people I've lost flow through my head: Lexi, Ryder, my mom, whom I never met. They all ram me in the chest, sucking the air out of my lungs. Then, at the end of the images, I see Nova's eyes, which look blue at first unless you look close enough to see the green hidden in them. I don't know why I see her. It's not like I lost her. She's still alive and out there somewhere in the world, hopefully happy. But for some reason I can't stop thinking about her, even though I barely know her, only spent a couple of months with her last summer during her brief fall into the drug world. Yet I can't seem to get her out of my head, at least until I get my dose of fake bliss, then all I'll be thinking about is where to channel the burst of energy. If I could get this fucking door down--
With one last kick, the trimming splinters apart and the door opens. I stumble into the room, sweating and shaking like a rabid dog. Tristan's passed out on the mattress with a girl lying beside him and her arm draped over his chest. On the floor beside the mattress are a spoon and a needle, but I don't go for them. It's not my thing, not what I want. No, what I want is in his top dresser drawer.
I rush over to it, kicking his clothes out of the way, the memories of everyone I lost swarming around me, surrounding me, pounding at my skull and making me feel like I'm going to hurl. Lexi dying on the side of the road, soaked in her own blood, and me beside her with her blood on my hands. The life I never had with my mother, the heartbreaking look in Tristan's eyes whenever he mentions his sister, Ryder. Nova in that goddamned pond, where I ultimately left her to cry her eyes out alone because she was going to hand her virginity to a piece of shit like me. Then I see her face at the concert when she saw me dealing and then when she got in her car at the trailer park, ready to drive away and leave me forever--the last time I saw her.
That's how it should be. She should be away from me and this shitty mess that's supposed to be a life, because I'm too much of a pussy to fully give up, die, finally just take that last step and end my life, instead of slowly doing it. Finally dose my body up with so many drugs that my heart will stop beating and for good this time, in the dark, where no one can save me.
I jerk open the dresser drawer and snatch hold of the plastic bag, my hands trembling as I open it. I don't even bother looking for a mirror. I need it now. I dump a thin line out on top of the dresser, grab Tristan's driver's license, and chop up the clumps of crystal with the edge of it. My heart is thrashing deafeningly in my chest and I wish it would shut the hell up, because I don't want it making any noise at all. I want it to be quiet. Silent. Nonexistent.
Grabbing a pen and taking it apart, I lean down, put my nose to the tip of the line and suck in, allowing the white powder to fill up my nose and flood the back of my throat. My heart speeds up, but somehow it becomes quieter--everything around me does. As it spills through my veins, body, heart, mind, and soul, it instantly kills all thoughts of Lexi, Ryder, my mom. Nova.
It kills everything.
I walk back to my room, finally able to breathe again, my body and mind reaching this weird place of harmony where nothing matters, the past, the future, the present. I sit down on my mattress, pushing the woman aside toward the wall, needing space. Then I pick up my sketchbook and open it to the drawing I've been working on for weeks. It's a picture of Nova, which should make me feel guilty, but it doesn't. It's just lines and shadings, soft movements of my hand pouring out thoughts that I'm not even aware of. It's just art and it means nothing, like everything else inside me. And when I'm finished looking at it, I set it aside and quickly forget it, just like I've done with everything else. Then I lie down on my side, wrap my arms around myself, and let my mind go to wherever it wants to...
"Can you hear me?" Lexi whispers softly in my ear. "Quinton, open your eyes."
I shake my head, smiling to myself, as I keep my eyes shut. "No way. You're going to have to wake me up if you want me to open my eyes."
"You are awake, you goofball," she says, and then I feel her fingers touch my side. "Come on, we're going to be late for the party."
"That's okay with me," I tell her, still keeping my eyes closed. "I didn't want to go anyway."
"Only because you're a party pooper," she says, and then I feel her shift as she swings her leg over me and straddles me on my bed. "Come on, old man. Let's go out and have fun tonight."
My hands find her hip
s and I hold on to her. She makes me feel so much better simply by being here. My house seems less empty and it's easier to deal with the two to three words my dad says to me every day because Lexi's here and she loves me.
She breathes on my cheek purposefully, trying to get me to open my eyes, and finally I give in to her, lifting my eyelids and smiling when I see her. She's leaning over me, her hair hanging down to the sides, creating a veil around our faces. Her lips are only inches away from mine, her eyes are shining brightly, and she smells like perfume mixed with cigarette smoke, a scent that annoyed me at first but now I love it because it belongs to her.
"Can't we just stay in?" I ask her, tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear.
She pouts out her lip. "We only have a few more weeks left of high school and I want to have some fun tonight. Let loose." She pushes away and I feel a little colder inside. "Plus, I told Ryder we'd go out tonight."
I sigh. "That just means that I'm going to spend the night watching the two of you get drunk while I stay sober and be the dd."
Her lips curve upward into a pleased smile. "That's because you're the only one responsible enough to be the dd."
I frown. "Well, what if I don't want to be tonight? What if I just want to have fun?
She sits up, still smiling, knowing she's gotten her way even though I'm still arguing. "You know as well as I do that you couldn't get drunk even if you wanted to."
"Only because I worry about you," I say. "You always get so crazy when you're drunk."
"Not crazy, just fun," she argues. "Now will you please get up and get changed so we can go? Ryder's waiting for us in the living room."
I hesitate and then sigh. "Fine, but I'm only going to keep an eye on you."
She grins, then places a soft kiss on my lips. "Thank you. You take such good care of me."
"That's because I love you," I tell her as she hops off my lap and I sit up, stretching my arms above my head.
Still grinning, she picks up a pair of my jeans and throws them at me. "If you love me, then hurry up and get dressed." Then she walks out of my room, without saying I love you back.
But I know she loves me just as much as I love her, which is why I get up and get dressed, like she asked. Then I head out, not because I want to but because I love her, more than anything.
She means the world to me. Always will. Until the day I die.
May 10, six days before summer break
I remember when I was younger and everything felt so simple. Life seemed full of smiles and dancing, candy and costumes, so full of happiness and light. Dark things weren't clear to me yet, not until I was twelve and realized that not everything was sunshine. The memory is as clear to me as the sunny sky.
"I bet you can't beat me to the bottom of the hill," my dad says, laughing as he pedals his bike down the hill.
I smile, pedaling my bike faster. It's brand-new, with purple and silver paint, and has stripes on the pedals that reflect the sunlight. My tires crunch against the dirt as they spin and spin and I grip the handlebars as I speed down the hill, trying to win. Really I don't care, though. No matter who wins, I'm still having fun riding bikes with my dad.
He stays a ways ahead of me as we wind down the hill, trees around us, a blue sky above us, and the air smells like dirt and leaves. I honestly won't be surprised if he slows down right before we reach the bottom and lets me win. He usually does stuff like that, pretending that something happened so that it seems completely accidental.
So when he disappears around the corner and then I hear the sound of his tires slowing down I think: Aha! I pedal faster, hitting bumps, steering my bike around rocks, slowing down slightly when I reach the corner. I'm grinning, filled with the excitement of the race, but when I make it all the way around, my happiness all burns out.
My dad's bike is on its side in the middle of the path, tires still spinning, and he's lying on the ground on his back. For a split second I think he's playing a joke, taking letting me win a little too far. But then I notice that he's clutching at his heart, groaning.
Pressing on the brakes, I slow down, worried he's fallen off his bike and hurt himself. When I reach him, I hop off my bike and drop it to the ground as I rush over to him, then kneel down in the dirt beside him. The first thing I notice is how white his skin is, like the cotton falling off the trees. Then I see the fear in his eyes. Sheer terror that something bad is about to happen.
"Nova...get help..." His voice shakes.
Tears sting at my eyes. "Dad, what's wrong?"
"Just go get someone..." He groans again, clutching at his arm.
The look in his eyes makes me run back to my bike. I get on it and pedal back up the hill. It's a very steep slope and it usually takes forever, but somehow I make my legs stronger than they normally are and move faster then I ever have. When I reach the top, I search the parking lot for someone. There's a family at one of the picnic tables and I run over to them, leaving my bike near the trail.
"My dad," I pant, leaning over, grasping my knees. "He fell back there and he's hurt."
The father of the family gets up from the table, telling his wife to go call an ambulance. Then he tells me to take him back to my dad and we go on foot, running down the hill. I really think he's going to be okay. I really think because I got help, did everything right, that everything will be okay, but when we reach him, he's not moving. Breathing. The guy checks his pulse and he doesn't have one.
I don't know what to do. I want to cry, but the guy keeps looking at me with pity, like he feels sorry for me, and it makes me not want to cry just to prove to him that he's wrong, that everything will be okay.
I've been remembering my dad's death a lot over the last twenty-four hours, ever since I found out about Quinton and his past. I think part of it's because Lea keeps looking at me like that guy did after he realized my dad didn't have a pulse. Like she pities me, because I want to find Quinton, because I don't know where he's living and I want to help him. She doesn't think that I can help him, but she's wrong--she has to be.
At least that's what I keep telling my camera while I make my recording. "I've been telling myself over and over again there's still hope, that Quinton's still alive, therefore hope still exists," I say to my camera phone screen as the red recording light blinks. "That hope can only be gone when someone's heart stops beating, when they take their last and final breath, when they don't come back." I'm lying on the sofa in my apartment's living room, with my feet propped up on the back and my head over the edge, so my hair's hanging down toward the ground. My phone is angled at my face and it looks like I'm falling. I'm not sure how long I've been in this position, but I can feel the blood pooling in my head.
I started making recordings of myself partly because I was interested in film and partly because it was the only way I could get my thoughts out. There was also a teeny part of me that did it because it made me feel connected to my deceased boyfriend, Landon, because he made a video, minutes before he committed suicide.
Because I let him fall from my life, just like I did Quinton.
I blink at the camera, telling myself not to let my mind go there and to keep positive. "Hope is what keeps me searching for Quinton--what makes me determined to find him and help him. Even when I know that what awaits me in the future is going to be hard, that it'll more than likely bring up painful memories of the things I did in my past. But I know it's something I have to do. Looking back, I realize that Quinton entered my life for a reason. It may not have made sense when I first met him nearly a year ago, but it does now. And all that stuff I went through, the summer of bad choices, can be used for something good because it gives me insight into what he's going through. I've seen the darkness that's probably around Quinton right now and I know what it feels like to feel like you're drowning in it..." I trail off as the memories start to build up inside me, weighted and unwelcome, but I take a deep breath and free the tension.
ugh I'm sure there's way more to it than what I know. Not just because he's gone deeper into the drug world than I ever did--into crystal meth...from what I've read on the Internet it's far more addicting than anything I ever did, but then again there are so many things that could be classified as addiction..." I trail off and shut my eyes. "Addiction is the fucking devil--I swear to God it is. Whether it's drugs or obsessive counting, something I still suffer from occasionally. It can be so comforting, peaceful, serene. It can make you feel so in control, but it's just a mask, plain and simple, and what's behind the mask--what we're trying to hide--is still growing, feeding off the addiction--"
"Nova, get in here," Lea, my best friend and roommate for the last year, calls out from my room, interrupting my video making. "I think I found something."
I open my eyes and stare at my image on the screen, so different from how I appeared last summer when I was addicted to several things, including denial. "I'll pick up on this later," I say to my camera phone, then click it off and flip upright, getting to my feet.
Blood rushes down from my head and vertigo sets in, sending the nearly empty room around me spinning. I brace my hand against the wall and make my way to the bedroom.
"What'd you find?" I ask Lea as I stumble through the doorway.
She's sitting on the floor in the midst of our packing boxes with the computer on her lap, her back against the wall and her legs stretched out in front of her. "An old newspaper article on the Internet that mentions a Quinton Carter involved in a fatal car accident in Seattle."
I briefly stop breathing. "What's it say?" I whisper, fearing the truth. She skims the article on the screen. "It says that he was one of the drivers and that two people in the car he was driving were dead on arrival." She pauses, sucking in a slow breath. "And it says that he died, too, but that the paramedics revived him."
I swallow hard as denial begins to evaporate and I'm forced to admit the truth. All that time I spent with Quinton and I didn't know the dark secrets eating away at him. "Are you sure that's what it says?" I ask her, denial trying to grasp hold one last time. I'm trying to hold on to the idea that Quinton just does drugs because he's bored. Things would be easier if that were the case. Well, not easy, but then I'd just be helping him with addiction instead of what's hidden beneath the addiction. And things are never easy--life never is. Mine isn't. Landon's wasn't. Quinton's isn't. Lea's isn't. So many heartbreaking stories and I wish I could document them all.