Chapter 22: Point Blank
"You're going to a rehab clinic," Rosaline says calmly.
"You're going to an eating disorder rehab clinic for two weeks."
I stare at him is disbelief. His jaw is tightly set and he looks as serious as I've ever seen him. I just shake my head and turn back to the book I was reading. It's been a week since winter formal and one day since I was released from the hospital. My arm is still sore from the IV they stuck in me. I'm still queasy from the stay, so I just stayed home from school. I holed myself up in my room, reading the same book, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, over and over since it was the only thing that didn't talk.
"I don't have an eating disor-"
"Benvolio Abruzzi!" he snaps hard enough to make me drop my book. "You are fainted from malnourishment. And look at you!"
He grabs my hand roughly and holds it up for me to see. My nails are all chipped and torn and my skin is still a sickly color. I yank my hand back and tuck it into my pocket.
"You look like you're dying," Rosaline stresses with a pained look. "You're killing yourself with this, Ben! And I'm not standing by while you waste away. You're going to the clinic, and you're going to get better."
He bends down and touches my cheek, eyebrows furrowed with worry, "Honey, you're family to me. I will do everything I can to make you better and feel better about yourself. You are an amazing young man with too much to live for to let yourself get like this. You need help."
"I told you, Rosie, I'm not anorexic," I say calmly.
"Well then what is it? Huh? I had the doctors check you out. You're not sick. Aside from not eating, you were a perfectly healthy boy!"
"I just get sick when I eat, okay?"
"Benvolio," he sits down heavily next to me and shakes his head. "Just...humor me then, okay? Go to the clinic. Please. If anything they'll get you on a good diet regiment that will get you into a healthy state. Who knows, maybe you'll figure yourself out there too."
"And if not for yourself," he adds quietly. "Then for your family. Romeo and Mercutio are worried sick over you. I know you hate when people worry over you, so stop giving them reasons to. I sound like a total bitch, but please...we love you, we don't want to see you like this."
Rosie reaches up to stroke my hair gently, a few pieces coming off in his hand. He stares at them for a moment before picking them off and putting them in the trashcan.
"...fine," I relent. "Fine, I'll go."
Rosie looks at me quietly, before softly kissing my forehead and wrapping his arm around my shoulders. "Thank you, darling. We'll get you better. I know we will. I love you."
"Love you too, Rosie," I murmur into his forearm. He strokes my hair again before getting up with a sigh. "I'll go tell your brothers. They're gonna miss you..."
I start packing. I hate packing. My clothes are fighting over who should be taken. I try to ignore them; I'm too tired to pay attention to their prattle. I try to pick my most form-fitting clothes. I read somewhere that anorexics usually wore very baggy clothes to cover their thinning frames. Though it seems everything is baggy on me now. I fold in a few pairs of jeans and a lot more shorts, figuring it was going to get warmer anyway. I add a couple tank tops and normal shirts. That'd be tight fitting enough, right? Showing off my bony shoulders?
I sigh, pushing back my lank hair from my face. I feel like I need a hot shower; I'm cold to my bones. In afterthought, I add in my slippers to the bag. They gurgle happily and I can't help but smile. It falters as one of my shirts starts complaining about the dirt from the slipper soles getting on it. I angrily stuff a few sweaters into the bag, muffling it and the slippers. Zipping it closed, I haul it up and chuck it at the goddamn wall. It dully thumps and drops right back onto my bed. I tug at my long shirt sleeves, jamming the heels of my hands into my eyes and letting out a thick sob.
I don't want to go. I don't want to leave for two weeks. I have school, I have a life, I have my brothers to take care of, I have a boyfriend...
There's a knock at the door. I suck in a deep breath and let it out, rubbing my eyes with the rough fabric of my shirt. It makes my skin puffy and scratched but I don't care. The knock comes again.
"What?" I snap a little harshly. "What do you want?"
"Ben? Can I talk to you?" says a timid voice.
It's Romeo. I rub my hand through my hair furiously, berating myself for snapping. I take another breath and say loudly, "Sorry, come in!"
The door opens and he steps in carefully, looking around for a moment before settling his eyes on me. He looks down and then back up. "Can I come in for a bit?"
"Sure," I mutter, dropping my hands from my eyes and plopping onto the bed as if nothing happened. "What's up?"
He closes the door behind him, looking around quietly once more before putting a hand on the swivel chair. He looks at me, almost like he's waiting for me to say something. I just gesture for him to sit. He turns the chair around and begins to sit down backwards in it, I wince as it starts complaining about proper sitting posture. Romeo notices my reaction and suddenly turns it around at the last second to sit normally. "Sorry," he mutters, folding his hands on his knees. He's chewing his lip nervously.
"What?" I ask, blinking. He sighs and waves his hand dismissively, shaking his head.
"We need to talk," Romeo says quietly.
"About what?" I ask, nudging my bag out of the way so I wouldn't have the sound of muffled complaining right next to me.
"Ben, I know what's going on."
"What're you talking about?"
He looks at me with such troubled eyes, opening his mouth to say something. But he closes it.
"Oh, one sec," I say, getting it. I stand up and go to my desk, picking up a notepad and my singing pen. I hold them out for him, but he just pushes them away with a slight sneer.
"No, I don't need that," he mutters, almost in disgust.
"Alright..." I say, but set them down near him anyways before sitting down back on the bed.
"Ben, I.....Ben, I know your...I know you're not anorexic."
I smile wryly and mutter, "I wish everyone else did."
"I know I acted like you did, but I know you're not," he continues carefully, searching for the right words. "I know...I know that..."
I go to push the notepad closer but he ignores it, wringing his hands a bit.
"I know you hear things."
I feel the blood drain from my face and my heart sinks rapidly in my chest.
"Hear things? Like what, rumors?" I try to reason with a chuckle.
"Voices. That no one else can."
I gulp, my mouth dry.
"That's ridiculous-" I stammer.
"Damnit Ben, I know things talk to you," he snaps, looking back up, eyes teary. "I've known for years."
I stare at him as he keeps dipping his eyes down to the floor then flicking them back up to me. He opens and closes his mouth to start saying something more but just a sigh comes out. He rubs his eyes and sniffs. I go to hand him the notepad again and he all but smacks it out of my hand. My pen goes flying to the floor. It bounces a few times before singing something I can't recognize. I don't focus on it though, staring at Romeo, who is shaking slightly.
"I don't need a fuckin' notepad to talk Ben."
"But, your condition-"
"I don't have-!" he yells then quiets down and says in a small, strained voice, "I don't have a speech impediment, Ben. I've been faking it."
I stare at him incredulously as he stands up abruptly, sending the chair spinning and screaming about how rude it was. I cover an ear and wince again but this time he doesn't notice. He starts pacing and it comes flooding out of him.
"When we were younger, you heard things and you used to tell me things spoke to you. That our sippy cups had personalities and that you couldn't eat cake with frosting because it always sang Happy Birthday...I believed you, I believed every word that you said," he chuckles slightly, sniffling again. "And then...and then they took you somewhere and I remember everyone was so sad and so scared over you. Because you heard things. Then when you came back you were so...broken and scared and quiet that I got scared. Everyone was obsessing over you because you heard things. You kept trying to push them away and pretend you didn't still hear the voices...you'd cry at night for the voices to stop and I'd hear you and hurt inside so badly..."
He stops, his back to me, rubbing his arms. "Mercutio had the memory problem...but they still wanted to make sure you weren't hearing things. They thought it was more dangerous. So I...I pretended to be special too. So they'd stop worrying about you. So that you could fool them easier. That way you'd never have to go to that bad place ever again."
"...you've been pretending this whole time?" I whisper.
Romeo, his back still to me, sniffs wetly again and murmurs, "I'm a good actor, remember? It was harder when I was younger, especially when I had to go to doctor's visits...and when they said my condition was just a symptom of autism and not a real condition...but thankfully no one listened to them. Thankfully Mom didn't press further to get me diagnosed....but I did it for you, Ben. I did it so you wouldn't get sent to the mental hospital again..."
"So...all those scripts I read to you...was just a cover up?"
He turns around, tears streaking his cheeks as he goes to kneel in front of me, grasping my knees. "No, it helped me out, it really did. I'm just...kinda the opposite of Merc. I memorize things really easily. It's weird. That's why I can pull it off so easily. No one else knows. Not even Rosie...I just didn't want you to go away again...."
He rests his head on my knee, grasping one of my legs tightly.
"I...I honestly hoped you were just anorexic," he chuckled softly. "But then...I realized the voices were just getting worse. I didn't...I didn't believe it at first, because I didn't want to...but I nearly started crying when I realized that was why you weren't eating again. I tried to play it off like you were anorexic, trying to force you to eat. Making you do those things hurt me, seeing you in pain with every bite...I'm sorry."
I absently stroke his hair as he cries into my lap, staring at the wall. I never even suspected it. I thought I had done a good job hiding it my...
"How did you know I'm still hearing voices?" I ask; my voice is still a bit choked.
"You...you mutter to yourself. But no one pays attention because they think you just work things out aloud. No one really listens. I do. You keep telling things to shut up. Mercutio notices too, but he forgets. He always forgets or writes it down and doesn't read it every again."
Romeo lifts his head and looks up at me with such pain, "Please don't hate me, I'm really sorry that I lied to you all these years. It was just to make things easier for you. Less focus on what was wrong with you. I'm sorry, I'm sorry...."
"I lied too," I say with a slight chuckle. "I've been lying to everyone, so they wouldn't think I was fucking crazy."
"Don't say that! You aren't crazy!" Romeo exclaims, grabbing my arms tightly. "So what if you hear things? It's not like they tell you to do things or that you listen. I don't want you to go to the mental hospital again. Merc and I almost lost you..."
Biting my lip, I pull him up into a tight hug. He buries his face into my shoulder and wraps his arms tightly around me, crying. I find myself sniffling as well
-You guys are such pussies,- grumbles his small silver hoop earring.
"Your earring is calling us pussies," I chuckle wetly. Romeo pulls his face out of my shoulder, an eyebrow raised. He touches it with a frown before standing up. Removing his earring, he stares at it for a moment before looking down at me with a smirk.
"An earring shouldn't be calling anyone a pussy. It's jewelry," he says before chucking it out the window. It screams shrilly as it sails through the air. I look at him, surprised, and he shrugs with a grin, "Made me look queer anyway."
I snort despite myself.
"And your navel ring doesn't?" I ask with a smirk.
"...well, I figure it gives the girl something shiny to look at when they're going...down...on..."
We both cringe simultaneously.
"God that was bad. That was so bad. Ugh," he slaps a hand over his mouth, looking disgusted with himself. "I feel the need to apologize. Immediately."
"I didn't need that image, Romeo," I say flatly.
A/N: ...yep. Song by Springsteen. Kinda far-fetched, but it's late and I saw a connection. I'm aware the chapters are getting less funny. That's the point. Short again, I'm sorry...