Free Me (Page 13)

Free Me (The Found Duet #1)(13)
Author: Laurelin Paige

I nodded as she spoke, even though she couldn’t see me.

“He changed his mind, Gwen. He wants to live.” There was more than hope in her statement. There was blind faith. She believed it like she’d once believed in God. She preached it to me like it was her religion.

“He does. He does want to.” I wished I had her conviction. Maybe I did before—when he’d done it the first time—but now that it was a second time, I wasn’t as confident.

Confident or not, I wasn’t giving up on Ben. I needed to be there for him. “So when are we flying out?” Norma was the queen of organized. She would have had a flight arranged before she picked up the phone to inform me, which was only bothersome if I didn’t remind myself that that was who she was.

“Hudson’s letting me use his private jet. I’m flying out soon.”

I’d never been so grateful for my sister’s boss or that her longtime crush on him had made them close enough that she’d be afforded such favors. “I’ll come straight home. If I take a cab, I can be there in twenty.”

“I, uh…” She paused and I sensed she was gathering strength to say something else unpleasant that I didn’t want to hear. “I’m going alone, Gwen.”

Damn, Norma and her penchant for martyrdom. “That’s crazy. I’m coming too. Let me just get off the phone—”

I started to push myself off the floor, but Norma’s next words stopped me. Froze me. “He doesn’t want us there. He said it this time. He doesn’t want to see us. He was very clear.”

“Oh.” Whatever strength I had left, deserted me. There were only two people I cared about in the world. Two people that I let care about me. And I needed both of them. Needed them healthy and whole and in equal need of me.

Hearing that Ben didn’t want to see us, didn’t want to see me—it was almost as painful as hearing he’d tried to commit suicide. “Oh,” I said again, the single syllable heavy on my tongue.

Norma attempted to comfort me. “I’m only going because I’m the emergency contact person. His social worker said I wouldn’t get to see him. They want me there in case…in case…”

She couldn’t finish. Norma, the strong one, the one who carried us through everything—she couldn’t finish a simple statement.

“You’ll need me there. To lean on.” Maybe it was true, maybe I could be helpful, even if it felt like it was really me who needed her to lean on. “So I’ll come and stay in the hotel. He never has to know that I’m there.”

“Gwen, I’m going alone. I need to do this by myself.”

I’d flown out the last time. We both had. When he’d cut his wrists with two long jagged marks. The wrong direction, thank God, which bought him time. His boyfriend of the moment had managed to get him to the hospital before taking off, never to be seen again. I’d only been at the club for a year and had just been promoted to full time. Matt understood. Gave me two weeks off.

So I’d flown out with Norma. We’d spent every day with Ben, who’d seemed brighter for our presence. We’d found an outpatient psychiatrist for him. We’d got him help and he’d been better by the time we left.

But four years had passed, and he talked to us now less than he had then. I’d hoped that meant he was building a life besides us. I’d been wrong. Which made it even more important that I be there with him now. To make sure he got better. To make sure that this time he came home with us.

“Norma, I’ll buy a ticket and meet you there. You don’t need to do this alone. We’ll bring him back together—”

She cut me off. “That’s exactly why I don’t want you there, Gwen. He doesn’t want to come home. And I don’t trust that you won’t force it. He doesn’t need that conflict right now.”

I opened my mouth to argue, but she had more to say. “Besides, I don’t think it’s good for you to see him.”

I didn’t bother to hide that she’d hurt me. “What the hell does that mean?”

“It means you’re not quite as strong as you think you are.” In the background, the apartment buzzer sounded. “That’s my ride. I’ll call you later, Gwenyth. As soon as I find out anything. It’s going to be okay. I promise.”

She clicked off before I had a chance to say more, before I could beg her to change her mind or ask her to explain herself. Before I could even say goodbye.

I sat on the floor for several minutes until my butt tingled from having fallen asleep and the straight dial tone of the phone turned into the buzz, buzz of being off the hook. I was numb. Everywhere. My body, my skin. My lips. My chest. Inside my chest. I was void. I was space. I was a vast universe of nothing, nothing, nothing.

I didn’t remember finally standing or hanging up the receiver. Or if I even did. Next thing I was consciously aware of was being in the kitchen. The place was empty, the cook staff having gone home long ago since we stopped serving food by two in the morning. No one would bother me here. No one would stop me from whatever it was I meant to do. I still wasn’t sure what that was.

I scoured the place looking for something, not knowing quite what. My numb mind wouldn’t let me hold on to any thought, but several floated through my consciousness, trying to find root. He tried again. He doesn’t want to see me. I want to feel like he does. I don’t want him to feel the darkness alone. I wish that it were only me who ever met the back of Dad’s hand. I need to feel as bad as Ben does.

I need to feel.

Then I remembered there were knives in the kitchen. That’s what I needed. A sharp blade. I could slice across the surface of my skin. Not to maim, not to end my life. But to feel.

I found the drawer we kept the cutlery in and pulled. It was locked. Of course. And my keys were back in the office. I couldn’t go get them without running into Matt, and besides, the journey seemed painfully long. I needed this now. Needed it instantly. Needed to calm the noise in my head. Needed to wake up to the pain.

Alarms rang in the back of my head. I was nearing the edge of a cliff I’d managed to stay steady on for years. I was one of the ones who had it together. I was not this person.

But the compulsion toward harm was stronger than the alert.

I tugged at the drawer again. Harder. As if I could somehow pull it open if I put in enough effort. Even using both hands, it didn’t budge.