Tied (All Torn Up #2) - Page 23
“No surprise—the doctors found alcohol and drugs in your system, and in your pocket, so I’m having a hard time feeling sorry for you right now.” He slowly shakes his head back and forth, disappointment emanating from him. “I love you, bro, but you did this to yourself. You can only dance with the devil for so long.”
I nod, the weight in my chest growing heavier, like a rhinoceros sitting on me.
“You’re pretty shredded up from the glass. To put it mildly? Your scars now have scars. Everywhere. You’ve got a few broken bones, but you’re lucky to be fucking alive, and you’re damn lucky those people were in bed, or you probably would have killed them while they were sitting in their living room watching TV.”
He avoids my eyes as I stare up at him from the hospital bed, silently begging him to just stop talking. I can’t hear any more of this or bear any more of the suffocating pressure in my chest.
His eyes finally sink into mine, and they’re darker than I’ve ever seen, like something has sucked the color and life from him. “I want you to listen to me, Ty, because I’m not going to have the strength to repeat this. You got that?”
I blink and nod, an icy chill scattering through my veins.
“A shard of glass pierced your neck and, by some miracle, didn’t hit your jugular, but it did damage part of your vocal chords. The doctor said it went in at just the perfect angle.” He steps away and stares out the window, watching the rain fall outside. “You’re going to need surgery, and you’re not going to be able to talk for a while, if ever. I’ll let the doctor explain after I leave. It’s probably best if you don’t try to speak.”
My heart pounds harder, a deep bass of fear and remorse, and when he turns back around, I’m sure the devastation on his face mirrors my own.
I can’t talk. I might never speak again.
There’s even more scars. Scars that will never heal.
You skeeve me out.
I could have killed someone.
I wish I had killed myself.
“I know you’re scared…but there’s more.” He takes a shaky breath before continuing. “Pop’s gone.” My brother’s baritone voice cracks and wavers. “He had a heart attack last night, and he died before they could get him to the hospital.”
I stop breathing. Everything around me stills. The sounds and smells tunnel backward. I silently will this moment to stop, to change, to not ever exist. I refuse to breathe, because I don’t want to move to the next moment: a time where my father no longer lives.
Tor covers his face with his hands for a moment and then slowly drops them. “I wish I could stay with you, but I can’t. Mom’s not dealing well with all this…none of them are…and I need to go make the arrangements.” He rocks on his heels, his hands stuffed into his front pockets, as he stares down at me, his exhausted, bloodshot eyes staying on mine, watching me absorb the worst news of my life. “I don’t have it in me to make this better for you, Ty, and I hope someday you can forgive me for that. If it’s any consolation to you, my life is ruined now, too. I can’t leave Mom and the rest of you alone. I can kiss the tour goodbye.”
I blink, and a tear slips down my scarred cheek. Silent sobs wrack my body long after he’s left me alone in the cold hospital room. I cry for my father, who I’ll never get to make things right with or apologize to. I cry for my mother, who lost her best friend and the love of her life. I cry for my brothers and my sister for losing an amazing father. I cry for Tor, for coming so close to his dreams, only to have them ripped away.
The faint voice that’s been whispering to me for the past three years, telling me how ugly I am and what a mess I am, finally finds its voice and screams through my soul.
This is all your fault.
I’ve never been a man afraid to cry, but right now I’m afraid I’m never going to stop.
“Holly! Wake up!” Lizzie bursts into my room, still wearing her red pajamas. “It’s Christmas. You have to come downstairs for presents.”
Turning my head on the pillow, I glance at the clock next to my bed. It’s barely 6:00 a.m., but my little sister is wide awake and hyperexcited. Sitting up, I cover my mouth as I yawn. I have yet to get a full night’s sleep since I was freed. Nightmares jolt me awake several times per night, and then I have a hard time falling asleep again.
“Sleep is an earned privilege, little girl. Not a right.”
“Come on,” Lizzie urges.
I smile at her, remembering the excitement of my own childhood Christmas mornings before there weren’t any ever again. Until today.
Today I get to have a Christmas and a birthday with my family again. I’m here for a four-day visit this time, the longest I’ve ever stayed at my parents’.
“Okay, okay,” I say teasingly, throwing my blanket off. “I’ll be down in a few minutes.”
She races down the hallway, her small feet thumping down the stairs to the living room. Stretching, I gaze out the window and smile when I see snowflakes slowly falling. Snow on Christmas! I run to the window to see the ground covered in a velvety blanket of white. After breakfast, I’m going outside to walk in it, make footprints, and catch snowflakes on my tongue. As I cross the room to grab the robe draped over my chair, I spot something strange on one of the other windows in my room. Frowning, I approach it slowly, knowing it wasn’t there last night, and it’s on the outside of the window.
My eyes focus on the red envelope taped to the glass. Cautiously, I peek around the edge of the curtain, not seeing any footprints in the fresh snow or on the sloped porch roof under the window. Quickly, I unlatch the lock, push up the window, and grab the card, and I close the window just as fast and make sure I lock it immediately.
If you run away, I will find you. I’ll take you again. And again, and again, and again.
Someone, somehow, got up to my second-story window. While I was sleeping.
Goose bumps sprout up on my flesh as I turn the card in my hands.
“Holly!” my mother calls from downstairs, making me jump nearly out of my skin. “We’re waiting for you.”
“I’ll be right there!”
With shaking hands, I rip the envelope open and pull out a white greeting card. There’s a tiny penguin on the front, balancing a wrapped Christmas present on its head. It doesn’t appear threatening at all. Slowly opening it, I see the printed words Merry Christmas and below that, in blocky handwriting, and Happy Birthday. A photo has fallen out of the card and fluttered to the floor at my feet. My heart lurches when I pick it up and turn it over.
It’s a photo of the decorated tree, deep in the woods, with Poppy posing next to it with a Santa hat on, a happy doggy grin on his face. Tears of happiness spring to my eyes. Only Tyler could have left this card here for me. But why? And more importantly, how? Did he actually climb up the house in the middle of the night? And how did he know I was here and which room was mine?
A new shiver courses through me, this one warm and tingly and unlike any sensation I’ve ever felt. After what I went through, things like this should scare me. Someone watching me should be a huge red flag. I’m intelligent enough, and I’ve watched enough TV, to know that. And if it was anyone else, I would be terrified. But it’s Tyler, and he’s an exception. He’s special, and he doesn’t scare me. I hold the photo and the card over my heart for a moment before putting them in my nightstand for safekeeping.
Christmas morning is a whirlwind of exchanging gifts, listening to holiday music, and eating an unimaginable amount of food. Zac and Anna join us, which seems to be the norm from what I can tell. My parents cook pancakes, waffles, eggs, and bacon together and appear happier than I’ve ever seen them as they tease each other in the kitchen. After breakfast, they surprise me by singing “Happy Birthday” and piling more presents in front of me. Being the center of attention is awkward for me, and poor Lizzie can’t understand why I’m getting extra presents and she isn’t.
I rise from my seat on the couch and put my arm around her, which she always loves. “I’m going to put some clothes on and go walk in the snow. Do you want to come with me?” I ask her, hoping it will cheer her up.
Her face lights up. “Yes! Maybe we can make snow angels!”
“Awesome. Go get dressed, okay? You can’t go outside in your jammies.”
“Lizzie,” Mom interrupts from the kitchen. “Maybe you can go outside later. Daddy is going to get Grandma soon. Go put your nice new dress on.”
My little sister pouts and stomps her foot. “But I want to go out in the snow with Holly. We’re going to make angels like Holly used to be.”
I open my mouth to respond, but Mom gives us both a warning look before shoving a casserole dish into the oven and turning back to us. “Lizzie, it’s Christmas. Don’t be difficult.”
The happiness I felt a moment ago is replaced by growing anger as I watch my sister stomp off to her room. My mother refuses to look at me as I stare at her.
“I’d love to take a walk,” Anna offers, sensing the tension. “If you don’t mind me going with you?”