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II: HER WORDS • Fiction Today she fidgets and stabs at


her food with her fork. I’ve never seen her so aggressive. Dodged eye contact and vacant expressions have been prominent in our lunchtime banter lately, so the mint green piercing me from behind her square frames makes me nervous. I can tell that she wants so badly to say something but won’t let it slip. I ask if she is okay. I’ve gotten much better at these sorts of questions. Dad says I’ve made a turnaround. The doctors agree. She nods then shakes her head.


She stares at her plate. Very slowly and very quietly, she tells me she’s stopped taking her medicine. She can feel again, but the voices are back and it’s been very quiet lately. Very lonely. And she remembers. I don’t know what. I didn’t even know she had forgotten. But the pain is written all over her face. It’s not a good memory. A tear rolls down her cheek and she asks me to follow her. ________


“We fell in love in New York.” Darby doesn’t follow the rules. I


don’t know where we are in the building, but I’ve never seen it before and the ceilings are very low. We walk up flights and flights of stairs, both winded as she tells me the story of her a Baylin. He was a boy, and they didn’t just spend the one RV trip together. For two years they were inseparable. Young and stupid, she says. Concerts and drugs and booze. They helped her feel normal. There was something freeing about being in a whole concert hall of people who also listened to things that aren’t real. An entire arena of hallucinations. It helped her stay up. And Baylin


was always there when she got low or the voices were too strong. She says it’s like a swing. When you’re going back and forth, nice and easy, it’s fine. Until


__________ 122


you go up too high and the ride down pulls your stomach into your chest and you think you’re probably going to die. We’ve made our way to the roof


somehow. Darby says she comes here to think. I don’t even know how we got


here and I’m too confused and out of breath to wonder. She continues as she stares over the railing. They were at a place just like this and it was beautiful. The skyline was lit behind them, the statue of liberty barely visible on its lonely little island. She swears it wasn’t the drugs and it wasn’t the moment. It was the first time she had ever been happy. And the last. It was fleeting and the lights were too bright, the high too high, the fall far too long. He was only trying to help, but she pushed. And he fell. And it wasn’t her fault. The doctors said so.


________ “Please.”


I’m paralyzed. My heart has


stopped and the world is over. My father stands across from me, the doctors lined behind him. Darby is gone. I don’t remember her leaving, but she said thank you and went. The sirens down on the street are too late and too few. My skin is crawling, but my body is stiff and my eyes permanently frozen as wide open as they go. I can’t even feel the wind, but I can see everyone else shivering. Dad holds me tighter than he ever has. It’s as if he knows. I try my best, but I know too. I use everything I have to hold onto him one last time. I close my eyes and there is nothing. Just darkness. It’s not so bad.


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