All the rage, p.2
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       All the Rage, p.2

           T. M. Frazier
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  I gave him a look that conveyed that thought, my lips pursed in a sideways pout and my eyes rolled high back in my head.

  Cody waved me off. “Okay, so right now. What did you just feel just then when you got up off the couch and came over to me?”

  “I don’t understand,” I said, and then it was my turn to scrunch up my forehead.

  He pointed to his arm and then his scrape where the bubble of blood had already begun to dry. “When I hurt myself, you came over here to check on me. What were you thinking when you did that?”

  I shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess I just saw the blood and I wanted to make sure you were okay,” I said, wondering where he was going with all this.

  “See?” Cody said like he’d just proved some point I still hadn’t gotten.

  “See what?” I asked, biting the inside of my cheek.

  Cody waved his arms in the air like the answer was obvious, but I still wasn’t seeing it. “Duh. There’s no way you’re indifferent like that quack says. There’s no way you don’t have any feelings or that you’re indifferent. Because if that were really true then you wouldn’t have cared what happened to me, right? People who don’t care about other people or who don’t have feelings don’t check on their friends to make sure they aren’t hurt. So there you go. The doctor’s an idiot and we can get back to video games.”

  Cody kind of had a point, but I didn’t bother to remind him that he was the only one besides my parents that I would have that reaction for. Out of all the people in the world, did caring about only three of them even count?

  The week before, an older neighbor had fallen on his bike in front of our house. I watched in fascination from the living room window as he struggled with his obviously broken leg until a car came by and stopped to help.

  It never even occurred to me to help. Not once.

  It was that thought, the idea that I was broken, that sent the heat of rage soaring through my spine, and it was that anger that caused me to send the entire contents of my mom’s china cabinet crashing to the floor.

  “You’ve got to remember that you’re different, not broken. We just gotta fix you up a bit. Make it so that others don’t see all the different inside you.” He winked at me, something he’s been doing a lot over the last few months. Whenever I tried to wink back, I just blinked a bunch of times and wound up looking like a genie ’cause I couldn’t close one eye at a time.

  Cody walked over to the TV and started untangling two controllers for his gaming system. “It’s a start, though, right? We’re getting somewhere. You care about me, so what the doctor said isn’t true. I’d say that’s enough headway for today.”

  “Sure is,” I agreed, sitting down Indian style on the floor in front of the couch.

  “You can’t worry so much about what’s normal and what’s not,” Cody said. I wished it were that simple, but my parents were hell bent on fixing me. Some days I felt more like an experiment in a petri dish than their kid.

  I knew I wasn’t normal without a single person having to tell me. My parents didn’t need to spend a single dollar for a professional to tell them something so obvious. “But my parents worry about me. That’s why they’ve taken me to every head shrinker from here to Georgia to try and figure me out.”

  “But they’ve only taken you to them because of your anger thing, right?” Cody asked. “I mean the other stuff. The always worrying that you’re sick, the germ thing, the never sleeping, that’s not the thing that gets them calling the doctors, right? It’s just when you get really mad.” I nodded, knowing full well it was my rage and what I did when I had an “episode” that kept them up most nights.

  Cody finished untangling the controllers and handed me one. He powered on the gaming console and the little TV sprang to life in bright, animated colors. “Then I think the answer is simple.”

  “It is?” I asked. “What answer?”

  Cody’s gaze was fixed firmly on the little green character on the screen, his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth while he concentrated. His elbows inches away from my face as he dramatically maneuvered his controller around in the air. “Uh huh. We just gotta teach you how to fake it.”

  “Fake it?” I asked. “Fake what?”

  “All of it. The emotion stuff. First, when you need to unleash the fury, when you feel like you’re choking in your own anger, we’ll figure out something for you to do to let it all out, but not around your parents. Whatever you do, just don’t let them see it. What they don’t know, won’t hurt them.”

  That might work.

  What Cody was suggesting sounded hard, but maybe it wasn’t completely impossible.

  “Okay Doctor Delacroix, what about the other stuff?” I asked, interested to see what else he had in mind.

  Cody’s character jumped up into the air and clutched his throat as he died. The game played a sad couple of notes as it sank to the bottom of the screen. My pink character came to life on screen, replacing his.

  I didn’t feel much like playing anymore. I set my controller down on the floor and turned to face Cody who did the same. “The indifferent stuff.”

  “You can fake that too,” Cody said, sounding a lot surer of himself than I was.

  “How?” I asked.

  “I’ll teach you,” Cody said, grabbing my hands in his. “When a dog dies in a movie, you are supposed to be sad so you make this face.” Cody frowned dramatically, which only made me giggle. “Or when the hero saves the princess at the end, you are supposed to be happy, so you make this face.” Cody smiled and batted his eyelashes like he was a princess being rescued.

  “You’re being stupid,” I said, playfully punching him in the shoulder. The best medicine none of those doctors could ever prescribe was Cody.

  “Yeah, I am,” he admitted. “But I’m being serious too. I’ll teach you how to fake it. We can do this.” His grip tightened around my wrists. My eyes snapped up to meet his. His smile straightened into a serious line. “We’ll keep a list of all the things that could help and we’ll cross them off if they don’t. We’ll carry it around always and every time you’re confused about something, all you have to do is read the list.” Cody really was serious. “We’ll do this together,” he promised. “Always.”

  “Together,” I repeated, although with only a small fraction of his confidence.

  “Good. I’m glad that’s settled.” Cody snatched up my controller and started clicking away on the buttons with his thumbs.

  “But what about…?” I started to ask, the half question coming out as a whisper.

  He paused his thumbs over the controller. He knew exactly what I was going to ask without me having to finish my question. “Just because you like to do something doesn’t mean you should do it,” he said, repeating the same sentence he always started with when this subject came up. “Is it getting worse?”

  I tipped my chin down and gave Cody a single nod. He was staring at the TV, my pink character paused mid-jump. Cody shut his eyes tightly and sighed. He pressed his lips together. After another beat, he started the game up again like nothing ever happened. All traces of worry gone from his expression. Without looking over to me, he replied, “We’ll figure that out, too. Just promise me you won’t tell anyone else. ESPECIALLY your parents.” He finally looked over to me after my character’s life ended on the same hill his green one had. “Seriously. I mean it. If your parents ever found out about it, if ANYONE ever finds out, they won’t just take you to head shrinkers, they’ll…they’ll lock you away.”

  “I know,” I said. Google had told me just as much.

  Cody reached over, intertwining his fingers with mine. A sense of relief washed over me as comforting as aloe on a bad sunburn. “As long as I have you. I’ll be okay,” I said.

  Cody nodded. “That’s right. I won’t ever let them take you from me, but you gotta promise that I’m the only person in the world who will ever know.” He squeezed my hand. “You gotta promise. You gotta say it.”

 
; “Just you,” I agreed. “I promise.” The thought of being taken away didn’t bother me as much as the thought of being away from Cody did.

  “Together,” Cody said again with another squeeze of my hand. He flashed one of his superhero kind of smiles before picking up his controller and continuing our game.

  I didn’t know what love was, but I thought that how I felt about Cody might be as close as I could ever come to something like love. What I did know for sure was that I wasn’t going to let him down.

  Maybe, if I did a really good job faking it, the worried look on my parents’ faces might finally turn back to the happy faces from the pictures lining the hallway.

  Pictures from before I was born.

  Mom and Dad had been putting their own lives on hold more and more in order to “deal” with their troubled daughter. The doctors’ appointments, the sleepless nights worrying over me, the shared glances at the dinner table they thought I never saw. But I did.

  I always saw.

  It was for those reasons and hundreds more why they could never find out the truth.

  I didn’t want to think what it would do to them if they ever found out that their one and only daughter…yearned to kill.

  CHAPTER TWO

  Hope

  Sixteen years old

  Through the moon roof, the stars twinkled overhead in the clear night sky. The tall, thin, pine trees rustled overhead, bending down at extreme angles even though the breeze was slight at best. Crickets serenaded us from the nearby brush. A nearby sprinkler shot out from the ground, hissing to life, filling the air with the scent of sulfur, which to me always smelled like rotten eggs. From the center console, some old country love song played on Cody’s iPhone.

  It was all mocking me. All of it.

  Even the fucking crickets were a reminder that I was a failure.

  At life. At love.

  At friendship.

  At normalcy.

  “Here, turn around,” Cody said. I twisted as much as I could in the small backseat. Cody zipped up my dress, snaring a few of my hairs that had fallen free from the pins. He planted a kiss on the nape of my neck.

  Still nothing.

  I took a deep breath and tried to remember that Cody was my best friend. My ONLY friend. I trusted him. Nothing was going to change between us.

  Except that was a lie, because everything was about to change. For him. For me.

  Because I was leaving.

  Tonight.

  The second I turned around to face him, Cody was going to know the truth. I couldn’t hide it, especially not from him. He’d always seen through my lies and that night was no exception.

  “Hope?” he asked in a whisper, his excitement over what we’d done moments before in the backseat of his Honda, in the middle of the closed Caloosa State National Park, completely deflated from his voice when our eyes met.

  I flashed Cody a small smile, hoping against all odds that maybe he couldn’t see what I was feeling inside.

  But he always did.

  I was a horrible actress and an abominable liar, but when I told Cody I was leaving Lilly Heights for good after prom, he wanted me to try one more thing, for him. Truth was that I wanted to give it one last try too. The normal thing. I owed him that much. I owed myself that much.

  So we did what normal teenagers did after the prom.

  And during, I felt nothing.

  And after, I felt nothing.

  “Hope?” Cody asked again, studying my face.

  “I’m here, I’m with you,” I said, trying my hardest to turn my fake smile into a real one, because deep down I wished it was real. I looked down to my lap and twisted my hands, picking at my French manicure.

  “Bullshit!” Cody snapped, drawing my attention back up to his face and eyes, which reflected a mixture of hurt and anger. I’d known him since he moved in next door when I was four years old and never before had I seen him so distressed. He was my best friend.

  My only friend.

  I met his blue eyes and dropped the fake smile.

  Shit.

  “I told you it wasn’t going to work,” I said, taking another deep breath, snuffing out the anger inside me that threatened to take hold at any moment. I could hold on for a few more minutes. For him. “I told you I’m broken. I told you this couldn’t fix it, but I wanted us to try.”

  Cody reached for my hand and I let him link his fingers with mine one last time. A feeling of familiarity I’d always been comfortable with when it came to him. Cody sighed. “I don’t understand. I mean we can try again. Maybe we just need to…” Cody’s grip tightened around my hand. “Hope, be honest. Tell me. We can’t make this work if you don’t…” His continual use of a name I hated was what pushed me over the edge and suddenly the backseat of his Honda seemed impossibly too small.

  I felt trapped.

  “Make what work?” I snapped, tearing my hand from his and pushing open the car door. I stumbled out barefooted onto the grass and leaned up against the Honda. Cody got out and stood on the other side, the moon highlighting every line on his face I didn’t want to see.

  “Us!” Cody yelled out. “Of course us! This is what this was all about, wasn’t it? Seeing if we can make it work as a couple even with your…issues?”

  I finally understand how naïve he really was. All this time. All these years of trying to help me, and he still didn’t get it. He didn’t get ME.

  I squared my shoulders and launched the truth at him. “What do you want to hear, Cody? That we can live happily ever after? Because you of all people should know that’s not in the cards for me. And what we just did? Sex? Fucking? Do you want to hear the truth when it comes to that to? Because the truth is that I felt numb,” I admitted. “It didn’t hurt. I didn’t really even feel anything. Honestly, I thought about my hair and the pins that are poking me in my brain. Then my mind drifted and I don’t know where I went, but it wasn’t here. That’s the problem, it’s never been HERE.” I reached up and pulled on the two main pins that holding my hair in a pile of tight curls on top of my head. I threw the pins to the ground. My hair fell around my shoulders, the tension instantly relieved. “I feel like a failure, not because this didn’t work, but only because I let you down.”

  “You didn’t let me down,” Cody said, rounding the car joining me on the other side. “It’s not like all this is instant. These things take time. There is so much more to all this than…”

  “Cody!” Pushing off the car I turned around to face him, gesturing with a wave of my hand down to my pink sequined prom dress. “It’s over. This was it. This was my last shot. You’re standing there looking hurt, and I’m upset that I hurt you. That’s all I feel. I care about you, and I want to love you in the way you deserve to be loved, but I can’t. You’re one of the few people in the world who if you dropped dead, I wouldn’t just step over your body and keep walking. That’s my definition of love. You deserve more than that, Cody, but I can’t give it to you.”

  “But Rage,” Cody started to argue, attempting to use the nickname I’d preferred to be called. He took a step closer.

  “No!” I said, holding up my hand to stop him. I leaned in through the window of the car and grabbed my bag, slinging it around my shoulders. I took out my phone and tapped out a quick text. Then I pulled out the wrinkled piece of torn notebook paper I’d been carrying around with me since Cody and I first started working on it over six years ago. “There is no ‘but Rage.’ We’ve tried everything and more. It’s been years. I’ve gone along with every idea and every suggestion. And although I’ve managed to fool some people, I can’t fool you and most importantly, I can’t fool the one person who knows who I really am and who doesn’t want me to pretend anymore.”

  “Who’s exactly is that?” Cody asked, jealousy in his voice.

  I handed him the folded pages. “Me.”

  “You keep it,” he said, looking down at my hand at the years worth of suggestions on how to make me normal, aptly titled, THE RULE
S FOR BEING RAGE.

  “I don’t want you to leave,” Cody whispered, tears in his eyes. The psychologists had said I lacked remorse, empathy, and a general lack of respect toward human life. They were right for the most part, but I was capable of caring about a few people.

  Enough to know I had to leave, so I couldn’t hurt them anymore. Cody included.

  “You knew this was coming,” I said, like Cody knowing a bomb was about to explode would somehow lessen the impact.

  “I hoped tonight would change things,” he said, pushing his hands into his pockets and looking at me sheepishly through his dark hair, which had fallen over his eyes.

 
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