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Authors: Michelle Levy

Not After Everything

BOOK: Not After Everything
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Copyright © 2015 by Michelle Levy

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Levy, Michelle.

Not after everything / Michelle Levy.

pages cm

Summary: “After his mom kills herself, Tyler shuts out the world—until falling in love with Jordyn helps him find his way toward a hopeful future”—Provided by publisher.

ISBN 978-0-698-16281-5

[1. Suicide—Fiction. 2. Grief—Fiction. 3. Love—Fiction.] I. Title.

PZ7.1.L49No 2015

[Fic]—dc23 2014044862

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

Jacket photo: Trevillion / Lena Okuneva

Jacket lettering & design by Jessie Sayward Bright

Version_1

FOR ARLENE AND FRANK LEVY:
the most supportive parents a creative soul could ever hope for. Thank you for always believing in me.

Contents

TITLE PAGE

COPYRIGHT

DEDICATION

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SIX

SEVEN

EIGHT

NINE

TEN

ELEVEN

TWELVE

THIRTEEN

FOURTEEN

FIFTEEN

SIXTEEN

SEVENTEEN

EIGHTEEN

NINETEEN

TWENTY

TWENTY-ONE

TWENTY-TWO

TWENTY-THREE

TWENTY-FOUR

TWENTY-FIVE

TWENTY-SIX

TWENTY-SEVEN

TWENTY-EIGHT

TWENTY-NINE

THIRTY

THIRTY-ONE

THIRTY-TWO

THIRTY-THREE

THIRTY-FOUR

THIRTY-FIVE

THIRTY-SIX

THIRTY-SEVEN

THIRTY-EIGHT

THIRTY-NINE

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ONE

A thick, pink-polished fingernail strikes the edge of my desk—two succinct taps—and I look up from my poetic masterpiece, right into Mrs. Hickenlooper's eyes. They bulge like her three hefty chins are trying to choke the life out of her.

“Am I boring you, Mr. Blackwell?”

I return to scratching the letter
S
into the top left corner of my notebook. “I assume that's rhetorical.”

Muffled laughter from the class. Mrs. Hickenlooper's bulbous eyes narrow—no easy feat.

“Out.” She juts her talon in the direction of the door, as if I'm too stupid to locate it myself.

I feel another sarcastic remark bubbling up, but I swallow it back as I casually finish the last of my scratching.

There.

Now F-U-C-K T-H-I-S will be visible in the top margin of at least the next thirty sheets of notebook paper. I know it isn't particularly clever or imaginative, but I smile all the same. Then I calmly collect my belongings and stroll out of AP macroeconomics, unsure how, exactly, being forced to leave all
this
is a punishment. She expects me to report to the guidance counselor's office like she has the last three times, but of course I won't.

I drift down the mostly empty hallways until . . . I don't know, whatever. Truthfully, I kind of hope the asshole hall monitor will find me and dole out some sort of actual punishment.

“'S up, Tyler?” one of my old teammates says as I
pass the
gym. Before, I would have taken my frustrations out on the weights. Now it just seems so stupid. I nod a greeting to Ted and continue walking.

Time's not the same as it used to be, and suddenly the hallways are filled with people I used to be able to stand. I never even heard the bell. I have AP chem now, but it doesn't really matter if I show up. Mr. Waters wouldn't dare fail me. Even crusty Mrs. Hickenlooper will probably still give me an A. I wish she wouldn't. I wish they would all stop tiptoeing around me just because my mom offed herself over the summer.

A firm hand grips my shoulder, forcing a jolt of adrenaline through me.

“Jeez, man. Relax.”

Marcus.

His girlfriend clings to his arm like if she let go, he'd instantly find another chick to hook up with. In all fairness, he probably would. Marcus isn't picky. Well, that's not entirely true. Marcus, much to the chagrin of his mother and the entire African American female population of our school, only likes white girls. Preferably blondes, although this one—number twelve, I think?—is a rare brunette. Probably because she has huge tits. I make the mistake of looking at her face. She stares back at me with that infuriatingly caring look. If people knew how that face really made me feel, they'd be more careful. One of these days the wrong person is going to look at me like that, and I will seriously lose my shit.

“Baby,” Marcus says to poor unsuspecting number twelve, “I'll meet you after gym by my locker, 'kay?”

After a disgustingly public tongue bath, Twelve finally leaves.

“Yo, Tyler, where you headed?” Marcus yells down the hall after me.

“AP chem,” I say, not stopping.

“I got English,” he says, catching up.

Marcus was my best friend, but now . . . I don't know. It's just kind of awkward. I mean, I guess we mostly only ever talked football. But football just doesn't seem all that important in the grand scheme of things. Not to me. Not anymore.

“Well, I'll see you in gym,” Marcus says, slowing until he's fallen behind me.

• • •

When I reach the lab, I hesitate by the door. Do I really need to be here? The first week of school is always pointless, but the first week of your senior year when you could feasibly fail everything and still get into a state school seems even more pointless. I've always done well in school. Not because I needed to prove something or impress my parents or whatever. I just like it. I actually like learning.

The guys give me shit about my grades, but I don't care. Especially when Coach contacted Stanford about a football scholarship. The scout came toward the end of the season last year when I was totally on my game, and they flew my mom and me out to visit the campus, where they offered me a National Letter of Intent. I signed without batting an eye. A Pac-12 school with an Ivy League–level education for practically free? Um, hell yeah. It's not that I'm all that great a player, but I'm fast as hell. Plus with my 2340 SATs and 4.3 GPA, let's just say the admissions department was happy to offer me a football scholarship. And a scholarship is the only way I'd ever get any kind of college education, let alone one at freaking Stanford.

The second bell rings. Class is about to start. Mr. Waters makes eye contact with me out in the hallway. Damn. Too late to turn and run.

• • •

Running is the only thing that brings me any release these days. Thank god for gym. I'm in a groove, way ahead of the others. That is, until Marcus catches up with me, practically killing himself in the process.

“Man, you're on fire,” he gasps, like he's not used to the mile-high altitude, when he's lived in Denver his whole life.

I nod, trying not to let the interruption slow my pace.

“You coming to practice today?”

I haven't been to practice since early summer. Since I found my mom in a tub of her own blood. A few weeks before school started, I told Coach, Marcus, and a few others who were in Coach's office, that I wouldn't be back this year because I had to work, that I wouldn't have the time. Coach told me to “take as long as you need,” like he thought I didn't really mean it. But I did. And I wish Marcus would stop hounding me about it.

“Gotta work.” I push myself harder, setting my quads on fire. It feels good.

I make it a few laps without thinking about anything, but then I'm about to lap the rest of the class, so I slow my pace, keep my distance. Marcus slows down until he's running next to me again.

“So what, are you, like, quitting?” he asks. I can barely understand him, he's breathing so hard.

“What can I say? My dad's a prick. I gotta work.”

“What about your scholarship?”

“I guess I'm not going to college.”

Marcus stumbles, but recovers and catches up to me again.

“Look, that was my mom's plan, and she didn't have the guts to see it through, so why the hell should I?”

He ignores my tone and presses on. “Well, what are you going to do?”

“No fucking clue.” I don't wait for a reply. I push myself again, weaving through the others, focused, until all I can hear are my feet hitting the asphalt, my steady breathing, and the beat of my heart pounding in my head.

• • •

“Um . . . Uh . . . You want ham and cheese?” the chubby, m
iddle-aged
woman asks her tween daughter, who couldn't look more horrified about being in public with her totally uncool mom. She grunts what I think is meant to be a “Yes” and goes back to texting.

“Six-inch or foot-long?” I ask.

Roger glances over at me from the register. I have somehow managed to not meet his high standards of sandwich artistry yet again.

“Let's do a foot-long. Then we can share it,” the mom says. The girl snorts her annoyance.

“What kind of bread would you—”

“Wheat,” the girl says, the
duh
implicit.

I pull out one of the older pieces of wheat, one that's dry and extra-crunchy.

“Can you cut it now?” the girl says. “I don't want her fatty mayo near my half.”

I do as told. The daughter goes back to texting, not even looking up as she orders me to add toppings, like she has eyes on the top of her head. Every time her mother asks for a topping she doesn't approve of, the daughter sighs heavily.

Roger grabs the sandwiches from my hands the second I finish stuffing them into the bag and rings them up. He's aggressively polite to everyone, including me, even though I'm pretty sure he hates my guts. It makes me want to punch him, just to see how he'd react if confronted with any unpleasantness.

It's not like I'm dying to spend all my free time working at Subway, but it was the first job I found after my dad informed me that if I wanted to continue driving my crappy car or, you know, eating, I would have to figure shit out for myself. I don't think he cares that technically he's responsible for me until my eighteenth birthday, which is exactly 217 days away.

The second I turn eighteen, I plan to get the fuck outta Dodge. I will leave this godforsaken place behind and never look back. Screw graduation. Everyone knows the ceremony is really only for the parents. And that would require parents who A) are alive, or B) give a shit.

This year was supposed to be about maintaining my GPA and keeping the Stanford people happy so I didn't lose the scholarship, and then I could be on my way to a better life. I was going to take my mom far away from my prick father, show her that she didn't have to live the way she did. I don't know exactly what I had planned to do—get an MBA and work my way up the corporate ladder at some Fortune 500 company? Maybe. But whatever. She selfishly took that away from me. I'd been doing it all for her anyway. So now what?

“Ty? You want to take your break? I can hold down the fort,” Roger says. It takes every ounce of restraint for me not to choke him for calling me Ty. Only my girlfriend calls me that, and the only reason I don't choke her is 'cause she's a girl.

I must look sad or something. I try to hold that shit in for when I'm alone—it makes people uncomfortable.

• • •

Shit. Brett's black 3 Series Beemer's parked at the Conoco. But my tank's on E, so I don't have a choice—I won't make it home if I don't stop.

I park at the pump farthest from Brett. It doesn't keep him from spotting me.

Brett's the new running back. He should be grateful I'm no longer playing, but for some reason he hates me. I suspect it has something to do with Sheila.

Brett shakes his blond hair out of his eyes and greets me with a raised middle finger. Then he bends to say something to the passenger or passengers—his windows are so tinted, you can never tell who's inside—before throwing his head back and making a face like he's having an orgasm. Apparently this is him laughing. What is it about BMWs? Do they make you an asshole or are you already an asshole and that's why you have a BMW?

The back door on the driver's side flies open and Sheila sprints toward me at full speed.

I really don't have the energy.

I rub my hand across the back of my neck and wait for the attack.

“Ty, baby!” She launches herself into my arms, and I turn my head just before her lips assault mine; they land at my ear instead. I pretend to be distracted by something on the pump screen as I slide her off of me.

She traces her finger over the letters of my stupid Subway hat. “Did you just get off?”

I nod.

“Wanna do it again?” she says suggestively.

I manage a small smile.

“That's better.” She nuzzles into me, gently scratching the back of my neck with her acrylic nails. It doesn't feel as good as it used to. “You smell yummy,” she says. “I haven't had bread in forever.”

“Perks of the job,” I say, probably a little too sarcastically. I used to love the smell of freshly baked bread. At this point, let's just say it's lost its appeal.

“Sheila!” Cara, one of the other cheerleaders, calls.

“Hang on, bitch.” Sheila flips her brown hair all dramatically. “Say the word and I'm yours.”

The gas pump clicks, so I turn to finish my business. “Sorry. It's just . . . It's been a long day.”

“Your loss.” She grabs my ass and snakes under my arm, shoving her tongue in my mouth while I attempt to tear off the receipt. Then she bounces back to her friends. “See you tomorrow, baby!” she sings as she climbs back into the Beemer. There's a symphony of giggling from inside. I wonder just how many girls are actually in there.

Brett grins at me like he's beaten me at something as they drive past. I hate that guy.

It takes my car three tries before finally starting, and then it dies again. It doesn't want to go home either. I halfheartedly pound the steering wheel and try again. It finally starts.

A giant pickup honks angrily as it passes me on the way home. I'm going ten under the speed limit. I'm in no hurry. If I get there after 10:30, there's a good chance my dad'll be locked away in his room. Hopefully passed out. He's always been an asshole, but it's gotten exponentially worse since Mom. It's the nights he's in that in-between state that I have to worry about—where he's not sober enough to be depressed, and not drunk enough to be numb. I just never know what I'll get. He's like Schrödinger's cat. Except instead of both dead and alive, he's both passed-out drunk and not drunk enough until I open the front door and find out for myself.

• • •

I sit in the car staring up at the window above the garage. The light is on in the guest room. As if we need a guest room. Mom was an only child, and Dad's alienated everyone who'd ever want to visit. It's also the room Mom used as her office. There's a crappy rolltop desk that she squeezed between the bed and the window. She had to push the bed out of the way to get a chair back there when she used it. I'm surprised my dad hasn't hawked the thing yet. He got rid of its contents along with everything else as soon as he could. People think it's because he couldn't handle the reminders, but I'm convinced he just wanted extra cash for booze.

There's no movement in the window—maybe he passed out and forgot to turn the light off.

I strangle the steering wheel and let out a silent scream. Then I go in.

Captain comes running to the door the second he hears my feet hit the porch. At least someone's happy to see me.

BOOK: Not After Everything
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