Chapter 7: Crash

A few weeks passed and gradually, the drugs worked their way out my system. Matt remained fairly distant and avoidant, knowing that something was wrong, knowing that I didn't want to talk about it- until the one day that for some reason, he insisted on coming over to my place after school, probably to con me into going to an upcoming Halloween bash somewhere.

The only sound in the apartment came from the buzz of the refrigerator. My mom was at work and, as usual had left little sign that she had been here at all between shifts. I used the toes of each foot to pry my shoes off by the heels. I could feel Matt doing the same behind me after he shut the door. I was searching for a reason to make Matt go home and give me some time to myself without being mean to him, so I decided to be subtle.

"I'm- I think I am going to go lie down," I announced, shrugging my backpack from my shoulders. Normally I would have taken it to my room to avoid my mother's speech about the apartment, its size, and how it didn't need more clutter, but this time I knew she wouldn't be home until much later. I let the back simply drop to the floor beside the front hall closet.

"What's wrong?" Matt asked.

"Nothing," I replied, already walking towards my room, "There are chips in the cupboard I think, and any other food is in the fridge." I continued to my room, my socked feet padding along the green hall carpet. It didn't sound like Matt was following me, in fact, it didn't sound like he had moved from the front hall at all. I opened my bedroom door and closed it quietly behind me. I leaned back against the door for a moment, listening for footfalls. My shoulders relaxed when I heard Matt head into the kitchen and start rummaging through the cupboards. I crossed the room to my bed. My mom had quite obviously been here this morning, the bed was made and the blinds were up to let in the light. My mom was always complaining about the lack of light in my room with it's deep blue walls and small, solitary window by my bed, which was always covered.

Beside my bed my mom had taken all of the glasses of water I compulsively collected over a period of a few days, and no doubt, watered the plants in the living room with it. I looked around the room, sighed, and let myself drop heavily back onto my freshly made bed, the fluffed pillows lining up perfectly with the back of my head. There I lay for several minutes, just staring into the ceiling until my eyelids felt heavy and I let them close.

In my half asleep state I heard my bedroom door open. It was Matt, I knew it had to be. Even though I felt a little guilty for it, I kept my eyes shut and paid attention to keeping my breathing slow and regular. I heard Matt shuffle further into my room and close the door behind him, but still I did nothing.

I listened to the ceiling fan in the middle of the room, quietly whirring above my head. I felt the mattress on my bed cave a little when Matt put his weight on the end of the bed. An uneasy feeling crept into my stomach and started to climb my throat as he seemed to get closer and closer to me. The cotton sheets scraped and scratched lightly at the denim of Matt's jeans. He was close enough that I could feel his breath on my neck. I tried my hardest not to recoil. His hair, which was not in it's usual Mohawk today, brushed against my ear. He was practically on top of me. His lips were so close to my neck that I could feel my skin burn at the prospect of his touch.

"You're awake," he declared in my ear.

"How did you know?" I asked, giving in and opening my eyes. Matt casually rolled over, off of me and onto his side.

"You can't bullshit a bullshitter," he replied in one of the coldest tones he had ever used with me. I opened my mouth to say something as I rolled over to face Matt but he didn't let me get a single word out before he spoke again.

"I know you are still pissed off at me about the party and I know I was a dick okay?" Matt exclaimed. One hand clenched the pillow under his torso while the other brushed through his hair. I knew he was frustrated. His hazel eyes were dark with the thoughts playing behind them. I opened my mouth again to speak and was again, cut off.

"Just because I screwed up doesn't mean that you have to treat me like- like last year," Matt continued.

"What?" I mumbled to the bed more than to Matt. I knew what and Matt did too, which he affirmed when he spoke.

"You can't just shut down and pull away- even if I screwed up." It seemed like Matt was venting, not just for right now, but for last year too, where rather than an actual resolution, we had simply drifted apart and then back again like the tides of an ocean. I was dumbfounded at Matt being so much more forward then he was ever before. I couldn't say anything for several minutes.

"'Cause I know I screwed up," Matt said solemnly. I almost blurted what was on my mind; 'so what do you want me to say', but again, silence. It stayed like that for a long time, me picking at the creases in the sheets, Matt fiddling with his hair. The only sound in the room came from the persistent plucking of my fingers on the sheets and the ceiling fan. Finally I became agitated, as I normally do in awkward situations, and rolled over to get up and go to the kitchen. Matt harshly reached out and grabbed my forearm, his boney, spindly, guitarist fingers wrapping around me. I whipped around with a look on my face that I knew had to be pure venom, and Matt's face got closer.

I could feel it coming. Matt's face got closer to mine slowly, slower and slower. It was like watching a car accident from the driver's seat waiting for the impact; unable to stop the events about to happen from occurring.

My headphones scratched lightly on my skin as I lifted them gently over my ears and hit play on my MP3 player. The mechanical, yet melodic sounds of Nine Inch Nails filled my ears comfortingly. It was about twelve am. I didn't want my Mom or anyone else up with the sound of my music echoing through the paper thin walls. I couldn't sleep. I sat cross-legged at my computer, clicking the mouse, tapping slightly on the keyboard while I surfed the internet from page to page, all the while turning restlessly back and forth on my chair.

I checked my email, checked my messenger service, nobody was online, and with good reason. It was after midnight on a "school night". I turned my webcam on just for fun, watching my own grainy image move on the monitor a split second too late every time.

My mind wondered and I replayed Matt kissing me over and over again. Even when I closed my eyes I saw him get closer. I swallowed the lump in my throat and forced the thoughts from my mind.

Finally I surfed to a "gothic" community website that I knew a few people on to check and see if there was anyone there worth talking too. Maybe I would update my archaic profile. I logged in and looked around the site for a few minutes, squinting at the list of online members poring over it for a familiar name. I could feel my eyes closing as my body tried to tell me that it was time to sleep. Then an instant message alert popped up on my screen;

"sin-mis-ter says: hey long time no see"

The name was unfamiliar to me, I though about logging off for a moment but decided that I might as well see who it was. Maybe it was just someone I had not spoken too for a long time. Maybe a friend changed their screen name. I hastily typed a response;

"I don't mean to be rude but I don't know who you are."

I waited only a few seconds before their response came;

"You mean you don't remember me? I'm offended." I searched my memory. I wasn't very good at keeping friends of any kind, let alone the ones I met online.

"I'm sorry….refresh my memory," I typed back.

"Come on- guess." The screen prompted. Goosebumps crawled up the back of my neck. It's late, just log off and go to bed, I told myself.

"Look I really don't know- I'm sorry," I typed quickly. The curiosity was getting to me and I decided to look up the screen names profile. A new web link opened showing a place for name, age, location and other stats, but very little had been filled out. The name and location remained blank, and the profile was only smattered with a few details, absolutely useless to me.

"Fine- I'll give you a clue." 'sin-mis-ter' typed. I waited and again contemplated just signing off.

"I was at the party." They typed. All at once I knew. My stomach sank, my fingers went numb. I couldn't type anything despite the many questions I had. I closed my eyes and gulped in some air. It was suddenly so hard to breathe. The air was too thick, I felt like I was suffocating. I brushed the headphones from my ears without hitting the stop button. I could just faintly hear the music coming from the headphones that were falling towards the floor. My eyes went to the conversation window once more;

"sin-mis-ter says: You do remember me don't you?"

I ripped open my desk drawer, almost until it came right out. I sifted through the sea of pens, pencils and leftover pieces of geometry sets, trying to find the small, sepia coloured bottle of miniscule, pale yellow pills. I had completely forgotten about being too loud or waking my mother up.

Frantically I searched with no result. I felt like my throat was closing. It had finally happened after two days. I pulled away from my desk so fast that the wooden chair fell over onto a pile of discarded clothing. I grabbed at the drawer of my nightstand, missing it the first several times before being able to grasp it. My hand felt blindly around the contents of the small space before finding the white ridged cap of the safety locked lid. I couldn't see anything but a blur anymore but I knew what the bottle was. I struggled with the safety lock and dumped about half the contents of the tiny bottle into the nightstand drawer before I could get a hold on one tiny pill, pry my mouth open, and place the tablet under my tongue. I crawled into my bed, half collapsing, half slithering, and grabbed my pillow, biting hard into it. My eyes scrunched closed as I waited for the remaining grains of medicine to dissolve and the nitrogen to finally take effect.

"That's it you are staying home," My mom concluded, withdrawing her hand from my forehead. It was morning and I had missed my alarm clock, and had instead been awoken at a soft knock on my bedroom door.
"Aiden sweetie, are you okay?"

The door had opened a crack for my mom to peer through. I had rolled over just in time for her eyes to fall on the small bottle of pills.

Now I lay thinking about how I should be in Math class right about now. I really didn't feel all that sick, in fact, I felt less physically drained today than I had in the past three days. My mom came to the door a few minutes later, coat on and purse in hand.

"Well I-" she began.

"Have to go to work?" I said, cutting her off before she could finish the sentence.

"Yeah," my mom replied wearily, "I actually have an interview for a decent job next week, but until then…" she trailed off.

"I thought you had Tuesdays off at the grocery store?" I said, realizing what day of the week it was.

"I do, but, well, your Dad phoned and said that the cheque is going to be a little late."

I was a little startled, my Dad had never once been late paying child support, but I didn't question it. Once in awhile someone had to mess up.

"Anyway if you need anything at all, call my work, I'm at the grocers until five. If it's an emergency Mrs. Richardson is upstairs and said she would be home today," my mom said, "I love you and I'll see you when I get home."

She shut the door quietly behind her and I heard her footsteps faintly moving away from the door, then with the jingle of her car keys and the slam of the apartment door she was gone. I relaxed against the pillows and stared up at the ceiling.

"Are you sure you should be going out tonight?" my mom called from the front hall. She had been acting ultra protective since my "episode", probably because I hadn't had an anxiety attack in a few months. There was no hiding it from her- she always knew after I had one, like a strange sixth sense.

I took a step back from the mirror, where I had gingerly been applying eyeliner, to keep from fogging up the glass with my answer.

"Yeah, I'm fine," I called over my shoulder. I looked back at my handiwork. I had been a little too liberal with the liner, but it would do, after all, it was Halloween.

It was another Friday night, which meant yet another weekend party that I really didn't feel like going to, but all my friends were going, so I had decided that it wouldn't hurt to show up for at least a couple of hours. In the back of my mind I wished that I had a job so that I could get out of social situations like this one. As it was for now though- I didn't- and Matt was picking me up in front of the apartment building in five minutes.

I left my room, shoving my wallet in my back pocket as I went.

"Mom, I'm leaving now," I called into the depths of her bedroom where she was getting ready for one of her jobs. She called out some sort of consent, muffled by the fact that she was in her closet, and I replied with a hasty "goodbye".

Matt was waiting at the front doors outside of his car and I couldn't understand why considering that what he was wearing could most likely get him beat up in my part of town. He was wearing a fishnet shirt, which he normally wore under another shirt. Paired with the shirt he worse, not pants, but a vibrant pink mini skirt.

"Hey," he greeted casually.

"What on earth are you wearing?! You look like a drag queen," I blurted. Matt smirked.

"What? You don't like it?" I raised an eyebrow in response.

"I got it at Value Village," Matt said as we started to cross the parking lot.

"Well that's slightly less disturbing than getting it from your Mom's closet," I said, "and slightly more disturbing because you went out and actually bought it."

"Hey, I'd be quiet if I were you. I have stuff in the back seat for you because I figured you would be a party pooper and you wouldn't dress up on your own," Matt said as we got to his Mom's car and he unlocked it.

"As you can see, I got my license- and didn't get caught driving without it," said Matt proudly. As we both climbed in. I looked over my shoulder and into the back seat which had a pile of clothing in all kinds of colours and fabrics, all of them hideous.

"What do you want me to go as? Your drag queen girlfriend or boyfriend- whatever you would call it?" I asked incredulously. Matt smirked and put the keys in the ignition.

"No," he replied, "I just want you to go as something."

Some guy was waving frantically at us from the lawn of the huge white farmhouse.

"I think he wants us to park in the clearing," Matt concluded, "and my Mom's car as not ideal for off-roading."

Matt shifted gears and cranked the wheel to the side, pulling around the right side of the house. There were already four or five cars already lined up along the edge of the woods so Matt simply pulled up next the one of them, the wheels making soft brushing noises against the tall grass.

"You ready?" he asked as put the car in park and turned off the ignition.

"I'm not the one wearing the skirt," I replied, opening my door and stepping outside as Matt followed suit.

"There aren't many people here yet," he observed, looking around at the lawn. I started towards the house, but Matt stepped in front of me, slowly backing me against the side of his car. I felt the backs of my knees hit the bumper. He was leaning in towards me again- something he hadn't tried since our initial kiss last week. Matt's plush lips had barely grazed mine when there was a loud blare of a horn behind us. Matt jumped, but not away from me. Instead he just turned slowly around.

"Lookin good Mattie!" called Rebecca, who was hanging out of the passenger side of Tyler's van. She herself was dressed up as "Columbia" from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

"Thanks Becca," Matt called, turning his head to follow the car around, "We'll meet you inside." His hand slide down between us to tickle my palm and coax me to follow him inside.

I started to think as I followed Matt in, my arms hugging my elbows in the cold October air. Matt wasn't really hurting me, nor was he trying. I don't even think he's trying to go out with me. He just liked…kissing? Maybe going along with this for now wouldn't do any harm. It wasn't worth over analyzing anymore. I would just have to push it to the perimeters of my thoughts.

Besides one innocent, accidental and embarrassing kiss with a Japanese exchange student last year- Matt was the only person that I had ever done anything with. We may have done more, but that didn't mean anything. I had learned to push that into the recesses of my mind. It was nothing, it hadn't meant anything.

I was surprised that nobody had called the police about the noise yet. The music thudded so loudly that I lost track of what was my heart beat, and what was simply the vibrations of the stereo in the floor. The house was crowded full of people dressed up for Halloween. I was slightly buzzed now, after drinking a few random, very sweet, strongly alcoholic drinks. All the colours and sounds were just starting to blur together. I started to weave my way through to the kitchen, craving a beer instead of amateurish mixed drinks made by some half drunk teenager.

Matt was across the room talking to some girl dressed up as a sexier version of a zombie. I gave him a wave as I headed into the kitchen and Matt waved back slightly before I ducked in between two Playboy Bunnies into the room.

The kitchen too was full with people holding red beer cups that I knew were filled with whatever it was I had been drinking earlier. I headed straight for the shiny black refrigerator and was met with someone dressed in the "Scream" killer costume. The elongated eyes and mouth were as hollow and expressionless as they had been in the movie, but the once intimidating figure now looked cheesy, lounging against the refrigerator door.

"Excuse me," I said politely, reaching for the door handle. The person refused to move, in fact they reclined more against the door.

"Come on," I said jovially, "I'll only be a second, I just want a beer to get the vodka taste out of my mouth." There was a muffled sigh from under the mask. I studied the person from head to toe , trying to figure out if it was someone I knew who was simply trying to tease me.

"I suppose," the person, a guy, finally relented.

"Thank you," I replied with relief as they stepped away from the fridge and I stepped in front. The glow of the light in the fridge spilled onto the floor momentarily as I reached in and grabbed a bottle. Standing up, I backed up to shut the door- and backed right into someone behind me. I turned around to see the same guy standing there. I was about to make some smart remark about personal space when my stomach tightened into a knot and I backed up against the cold metal of the fridge door. The mask was off.

"What are you supposed to be for Halloween?" Chris greeted, leaning in a lot closer to me. I didn't know what to say or do. My mind was like a junket of white noise. I looked up at the arm that he had braced against the door beside me. I ducked to the other side, but not in time. The other arm leapt up and landed palm down with a slap, right beside my head. My legs started to crumple beneath me. He sneered at me, and reached into his pocket, producing a bag of pills.

"Oh I know what you are," he said casually, "a junkie. Need a little 'pick me up'?"

"No," I said, almost inaudibly.

"No?" Chris said in an exaggerated tone, "I find that pretty hard to believe." His hand barely landed beside me head before it slid down to grab my wrist. I started to try and pull away and his grip tightened. I looked around the room desperately for help but everyone else seemed too absorbed in their own conversations.

I wanted to go home. I had been here for what felt like hours, and I wanted Matt of Ty to drive me home- now. Chris had just started to drag me forward and that was when a hand gripped my other wrist- the one holding the beer. I dropped it and it shattered all over the floor. I whipped around to face the other person, and to my relief, it was Matt.

"Aiden, we're going," he said abruptly. Chris, I guess from shock, let go of my wrist and allowed me to stumble after Matt. I had the odd sensation that I had left my body behind. My feet clumsily stepped on one another. I almost fell down the three sagging steps of the back porch when we burst into the night.

"Matt where are we going?" I asked hesitantly. Matt didn't say anything, just continued to drag me in the direction of his car. Once there he opened the back door and told me to get in. When I hesitated I half expected Matt to shove me in.

"Get in and stay there." He ordered quietly. I ducked inside but left the door open, and watched him charge back in the direction of the house. It picked up one of the scarves next to me, pulling it through my fingers delicately as I waited for Matt to return. A few minutes later an explosion of noise made me jump.

Matt had burst out the back door and dragged Chris- who was bigger than him, out with him. I watched as he threw him off the landing onto the soft ground. A flood of people followed a safe distance behind.

In a second Matt was on the ground with Chris and fists were flying. Chris gained the upper hand, rolling over on top of Matt, whose skirt was riding up as he raised his arms to defend his face and chest. Everything was moving so quickly. Suddenly Matt was on top again, and with one loud, crack that I could hear from the car, Chris was down and Matt had stood up. He didn't run, just calmly crossed the lawn to his car where he got in the front seat. I looked out the window as Matt put the keys in the ignition. Chris was hunched over like he had been kicked in the balls.
Matt shifted the car into reverse and violently pulled out of where he was parked. The car bounced across the grass roughly before reaching the road where it took off with a lurch as it hit the pavement.

The faint hum of the refrigerator was yet again, the only thing to greet me when I got home at almost 2:00 in the morning. The elevator hadn't wanted to work properly and so I took the stairs all the way up.

I shut the door gingerly behind me and tip-toed across the hall where I shut the door behind me. I crossed the room to my computer with one thought in my mind- to block Chris, or "sin-mis-ter" from talking to me, while the idea was still fresh in my mind.

As soon as the webpage loaded I found the graphic silver web-button that read in purple text "block user" and with a satisfying click, eradicated Chris from my life.

In the morning I found my Mom in the kitchen, listlessly stirring her coffee while she stared blankly at the cabinets. I plunked myself down in the chair across from her. She kept stirring and staring like I wasn't even there.

"Mom?" I said timidly to break the silence. A million thoughts raced through my head but prevailing over all of them was the thought that she was angry at me for being so late or going out at all the night before. She looked up, confusion animating her features momentarily.

"I'm sorry honey; I didn't see you there," she said. She let out a slow, laborious sigh and looked up from her mug of coffee.

"I didn't get the job I applied for," she said, "and I lost my job at the diner." I gulped down the lump of nothing in my throat. I didn't know what to say, instead I watched the clock on the wall beside the fridge as the seconds ticked away until I finally found some words.

"What's going to happen?" I finally said. I knew the situation wasn't so bad, after all, my mom still had her job at the grocery store.

My mom sighed and got up from the table, picking up her coffee and dumping the near full cup down the sink.

"I just have to keep looking," my mom said blankly, "It isn't like I actually enjoyed working at the restaurant anyway." I knew what I should offer to do, but it seemed so dramatic- so typical.

"Do you want me to get a job?" I asked, then held my breath as I waited for her to answer.

"Well no, you shouldn't have to," my mom replied, "things will be tight for a little while, but only until I get another job." I knew what she was eluding to, that if I got a job, things could stay almost the same.

"Mom, it's not a big deal, I can get a job after school." I said. It was true, it really didn't matter to me all that much. It meant last time entertaining the odd little relationship Matt and I seemed to be forming.

My mom took the few steps from her place at the counter and sat down heavily across the table from me.

"I just feel like this shouldn't be happening," she said in frustration, "I didn't do anything wrong. I wasn't the one who kept skipping out on shifts- I just always had to cover them."

I sat back and listened for half an hour as my Mom explained what had happened last night while I was at the party.

"What am I doing?" she said suddenly, sitting back from the table, "I shouldn't be unloading all of this on you. I'm going to get cleaned up and go talk to Liz," said, referring to a friend that lived three floors down from us. She pulled away from the table and headed to her room without another word.

I simply went to the cupboard, grabbed the short, fat purple mug I liked and poured myself a cup of coffee.