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Authors: Sarah Littman

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BOOK: Backlash
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I don’t want to knock on my sister’s door or the bathroom door and get no answer and wonder if she’s okay or if she’s dead. I don’t want to feel that sick, gut-wrenching panic ever again.

“Sydney, keep your voice down!” Mom hisses. “Lara’s sleeping.”

“How am
I
supposed to sleep knowing my sister might try to kill herself in the next room at any random moment?”

“Can you just listen to me before you start with the drama?” Mom says.

Oh,
I’m
the one with the drama?
Wow, Mom.

“Lara will be seeing a therapist regularly, and I have to keep her under constant observation,” Mom continues. “That means she has to keep her bedroom door open and even the bathroom door has to be kept cracked open when she’s inside.”

“What, even when she’s, you know,
going
?”

“Yes, even then,” Mom says, her face grim.

“That’s kind of creepy,” I say.

“It’s a whole lot less creepy than finding her unconscious in the bathtub surrounded by pill bottles,” Mom says.

I have to admit she has a point there.

“Wait — those rules don’t apply to
me
, though, do they?”

Mom looks confused.

“No. Why would they apply to you?”

“Because last time, when Lara was trying to lose weight, you made
me
stop eating cookies, too.”

The look on Mom’s face would be comical if it wasn’t my life we were talking about. It was like this was some huge revelation to her, when
she
was the one who made the freaking policy.

“I didn’t do that!” she protests.

“What do you mean, you didn’t do that? Of course you did! You don’t buy cookies anymore. You don’t make any. This house has been a Cookie-Free Zone since Lara was in middle school.”

“But … that was because I was trying to create a supportive environment for Lara to lose weight,” Mom protests. She looks down at her fingers and fidgets with her engagement ring. “I never intended it to feel like a punishment for you, sweetheart.”

“Sure doesn’t feel that way.”

“I’m sorry.”

She says it so softly I think I’ve misheard. I’ve never heard Mom say those words to me before. Apologies are a one-way street in our house, a street that goes in the parental direction. Until now.

But when I look at Mom her eyes are glistening. There’s no Paranormal Smile. I think this is the real deal.

“I’m doing the best I can, Syd. I try, but I don’t always get it right,” she says, an unfamiliar wobble in her voice.

I’m not used to seeing her like this. Hearing her admit that she’s not right all the time, that she’s sorry, that she’s not the Paranormal Queen of Perfection, is what makes me get up and hug her, even though I’m still mad.

“It’s okay, Mom. Nobody’s perfect.”

She hugs me back, and I breathe in the scent of the perfume she always wears and the smell of her shampoo. So what if Lara is falling to pieces — Mom still puts on makeup and dresses like she’s on a photo shoot. Maybe that’s the glue she uses to hold herself together.

Mom releases me and sighs heavily.

“I don’t have to tell you how having to be here to watch Lara constantly is going to impact my campaign,” she says.

And that’s when our little “moment” ends with a thud.

“Maybe you can get Lara to apologize for the poor timing of her suicide attempt,” I say before taking my backpack and stomping upstairs, ignoring the stricken look on my mother’s face.

“D
ID YOU
hear? Sydney Kelley’s sister got let out of the hospital.”

“You mean the girl who tried to kill herself?”

“Yeah. My sister said some dude dumped her on Facebook and that’s what made her do it.”

That’s the kind of buzz going around the cafeteria at lunch.

I see Sydney walk in with her friend Cara. She stands in line to get her food. At first she’s chatting with Cara. But then I watch as her back tenses up and her hands clutch the tray tighter. As she starts hearing what people around her are saying. Then she says something to Cara and rushes out of the cafeteria, leaving her tray.

“Yo, Liam — you zoning out or what?”

Oliver waves his hand in front of my face to get my attention.

“What?” I ask.

“Did you hear anything I just said?”

“You asked me if I was zoning out.”

He gives me an “Are you kidding me?” look.

“Duh.
Before
that.”

“Uh, no.”

“Are you going to debate club after school?”

“Yeah,” I tell him, but my mind isn’t on debate. Or on the fantasy football league, which is what the other guys at the table are talking about. I’m wondering where Syd is and if she’s okay. I want to find her and ask, but I’m afraid she’ll think I’m weird if I do. So instead I pretend I just got a text, and under the pretext of replying, I send one to Sydney.

Hey, saw you rush out of the caf. You okay?

She doesn’t answer right away. I start to think she isn’t going to, so I force myself to join in the fantasy football league discussion and act like I care.

And then my phone vibrates.

Not really.
Anything I can do?
Tell everyone to shut up about Lara? Make the world go away?

I wish I could do that. But I can just see me standing up in the middle of the cafeteria and shouting, “Could you all just shut up about Lara Kelley? And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming …” That would only make people talk about it more — and then they’d be talking about me, too, and how crazy
I
am.

Wish there was something that I could ACTUALLY do, I text back, before saying, “Are you serious? I can’t believe you played the Bills running back over the Bears last week. You left twenty-five points on your bench.”

As Roger Cohen launches into his reply, Syd texts back.

There’s nothing anyone can do. That’s the worst part of it.

My fingers tighten around my phone. I feel like throwing it at the wall.
Someone
should be able to do
something
.
I
want to do something. But I don’t know what to do or how to do it.

So I just type, Hang in there, Syd, and go back to talking about fantasy football.

T
HE ONLY
time I’ve been out of the house since they released me from the hospital is to go to see Linda, my therapist, which I have to do every few days until she decides I’m sane enough to reenter society and, more importantly, go back to school. Part of me hopes that’s never. Every time my parents bring up the subject of if I want to go back to Lake Hills or transfer somewhere else it makes me want to take more pills. Like that’s even a possibility. Anything that might resemble a pill is under lock and key in our house. The next time I get my period, I’m going to have to ask Mom’s permission to even take Midol. She’s probably going to ration my use of tampons in case I try to make a noose out of the strings.

The problem is the alternative is staying home, bored out of my head, under Mom’s watchful eye. On the therapist’s advice, I’m not allowed to use the computer or my cell phone “until my emotional state is more stabilized,” so even if someone
did
care — like, say, if Christian changed his mind after he heard I tried to kill myself — no one can contact me. Mom turns off the router when I have assignments so I can’t get online. The only thing I can use is Microsoft Word. If I need to look anything up online to get my schoolwork done, Mom stands over me, breathing down my neck till I’m done. I’m not sure which of us hates the new arrangement more.

I’ve tried reading, but the words bounce around the page like Dad when he’s had too many cups of coffee. The doctor warned me there might be some neurological effects from the overdose. He said that hopefully they’ll just be temporary, but only time will tell. Great. Imagine if they’re not. That’ll make going back to school even worse. Now everyone will call me
Stupid
Lardo.

So I’ve been watching a lot of daytime TV, mostly kid programs, because in those, everything has a happy ending. Even though I know that’s a lie, that in reality everything goes downhill once you get to middle school, and things never really get tied up in a neat bow after half an hour in real life, it’s better than watching
Maury
or
Jerry Springer
, where the whole point of the show is to see people whose lives are so messed up that they’re willing to find out who is
really
the father of their baby on national TV. Why would anyone want to find out something that personal in front of an audience? Don’t they ever think about how someday that poor little baby will be a teenager and see his or her screwed-up parents fighting on YouTube?

I’ll take
Sesame Street
over that in a heartbeat.

While I’m counting with the Count, I list the reasons why I wish the pills had worked.

1. I wouldn’t have to face going back to school.
2. I wouldn’t spend the rest of my life being known as the girl who tried to kill herself and failed at that, too.
3. I wouldn’t have to remember, and so, because of that, and here’s the biggie:
4. I wouldn’t have to feel. Anything. Ever again.

But what I’m doing is putting me on Dr. Hospital Shrink’s Naughty List, because I’m not supposed to be engaging in “destructive negative thought patterns” like this. Instead, I’m supposed to be making a Gratitude List of three things I’m grateful for every day.

I was like, “How am I supposed to do that? My life sucks. That’s why I’m here in the first place.”

Dr. Hospital Shrink just smiled and nodded, like yeah, yeah, he’d heard it all before.

“It doesn’t have to be a big thing, Lara. It can be something as small as being grateful that you got the right flavor Jell-O on your dinner tray.”

“If I liked Jell-O, which I don’t.”

“But you get the idea,” he persisted. Dr. Hospital Shrink was annoyingly persistent.

As much as I pretended not to, I did. This was my list for the first day:

1. I’m grateful for water. I’m thirsty.
2. I’m grateful that Mom and Dad went home to shower and change so I had a break from them sitting by my bedside, sighing and making me feel like I’m their Problem Child.
3. I’m seriously grateful for toilet paper. That activated charcoal they gave me to help get the drugs out of my system is making me poop a lot, and it’s making my poop beyond gross. Like, I mean, even more beyond gross than poop usually is. It’s totally black, like coal.

This episode of
Sesame Street
is brought to you by the letter
W
for
Waste of time
.

Making the list hasn’t been getting easier, even after being out of the hospital for a week. I’m still stuck on number one for today’s list.

Oh wait:

1. I’m grateful for
Sesame Street
so I don’t have to watch “Mothers who sleep with their son’s girlfriend’s brothers” on
The Jerry Springer Show
.

One down. Only two more to think about in the endless hours that stretch between now and when I go to sleep and this all starts over again.

2. I’m grateful for naps, because they help pass the time and let me forget.

Except when they don’t. Except when I dream about Christian.

Last night I dreamed that he
did
ask me to his dance and I bought that ivory dress I loved on Wanelo. He looked hot in his tux, and he told me I was beautiful when he slipped a pretty corsage of tiny pink roses with a small spray of baby’s breath onto my wrist — the touch of his hands on my wrist sending shivers up my spine.

In my dream limo, he put his arm around me and rested his hand on my bare shoulder, gently touching my skin with his fingertips. He whispered in my ear that he loved me and this was going to be the best night ever. In my dream, I believed him, my heart beating faster in excitement and anticipation, because just by being there with him and having his arm around me, it already was.

BOOK: Backlash
5.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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