Chapter Twenty-Three

Juliet Moore

"Nick," Mrs. Gillion said, holding out a prescription bottle, "don't forget to take these." I could see the anger in Nick's eyes as he took the bottle from her and disappeared inside without another word.

"I think I'll ride with Natalia," I muttered. Natalia was the only one who acknowledged that I had spoken.

Turning, I walked slowly inside. The tension outside was too great for me to remain there. I walked up the stairs and found Nick sitting on the bed in the spare room, staring at the bottle of pills in his hand. I leaned against the doorframe and didn't speak. He was either upset, mad, or both, and I didn't want to be the person who set him off.

"Doctors think medicine can fix everything," Nick said so softly that I almost didn't hear him. "It can't, though. It only subdues what is actually wrong."

"For the record, I don't think you need that medicine anymore," I told him, stepping into the room.

"And why do you say that?" he asked in a cold voice.

"You haven't seemed depressed—," I started, but he cut me off with a humorless laugh.

"You think these pills are for depression?" he asked, looking at me.

"Yeah, what else could they be for?" I asked, confused. "Allergies?" He shook his head, looking away.

"I have a thoracic aortic aneurysm," he said, fingering the lid on the bottle. "These are supposed to keep my blood pressure, cholesterol, and a few other things under control." I stared at him, not sure what to think yet. He looked at me, a sad look on his face. "They keep me from dying."

"Wh . . . what?" I whispered, feeling like I was going to be sick. "Why didn't you tell me before? Why haven't you meen taking your medicine?" I shook my head and took a step back. He put his head in his hands.

"I was going to tell you, but no one outside of my family knows except for Loco, so I really don't apologize for not telling you," he said, his voice muffled by his hands.

"So you don't trust me, that's what you're saying?" I asked, crossing my arms over my chest.

"I didn't say that," he said as he glanced at me.

"You didn't have to, Nick," I replied coldly. "I'm used to people not trusting me, so I guess I shouldn't be so surprised." He stood and was looking at me with a defeated look on his face.

"I never wanted to hurt you," Juliet," he said. I could feel tears threatening to fall, but I forced them away.

"I understand why you didn't tell me, but it doesn't change the fact that I feel like you don't trust me. I can't deal with that anymore," I told him. I turned and walked towards the door, but paused and turned to face him once more. "Dying isn't worth everything you have to to give up, Nick. Just take your meds. Death isn't going to solve everything."

I didn't give him a chance to reply. I walked down the hall to my room and shut the door. I twas only then that I let the tears fall.

x.x.x

Natalia drove in silence. My eyes were locked on the SUV a few vehicles away, knowing Nick was getting ripped apart. I didn't feel any sympathy nor did I feel satisfied. I didn't feel anything.

I felt like I had whenever my parents had told me they were getting a divorce. My life as I had known it was gone and I was left wondering what had happened. How had I missed that something was wrong? How had I not seen some sort of sign that would have allowed me to know that something else was going on?

What was of greater importance to me was why had he felt like he needed to keep this a secret from me? did he think I would have walked away from him because he was sick? Did he think that he couldn't trust me? It wasn't as though I wouldn't have understood because I would have. I watched my best friend die. I knew all too well what it was like to have everything ripped away from you.

It occurred to me at that moment just how many other people were clueless about his condition. I was sure his friends didn't know since he said outside of his family, Loco was the only one who knew. But, why? That was the part I didn't understand. Was he afraid that they would abandon him, that they would treat him differently? Or, was he embarrassed that he wasn't as perfect as everyone made him out to be?
"I've been saying from the start that you needed to know," Natalia said, breaking the silence. I looked away from the road and turned my attention to her. "He wouldn't listen, though. You know Nick, everything has to be his way and he has to figure things out for himself."
"That's stupid," I told her, resting my head against the back of the seat. "I would have understood, he knows that."

She was silent for a few moments before she spoke again. "Nick's a complicated person, we both know that. he means well by keeping his secrets and right now he doesn't need any . . . any distractions, so to speak." She glanced at me before continuing. "Time heals, Juliet, and I think that all the two of you need is simply a little time apart."

I didn't say anything and we lapsed once again into a silence that lasted for the remainder of the trip.

x.x.x

Dad and Callie met me at the door after Natalia dropped me off, but I dodged their questions and concerned faces, claiming I was tired and just wanted to sleep. I closed my bedroom door and dropped my bags to the floor before leaning against the door.

Everything was the same as I had left it. it was silly to think that because it had just been a few days, but it felt like a lifetime. So much had happened during that short span of time and everything I had believed turned out ot be false. Nothing in my room offered comfort and none of it was mine anymore. I had shared my life with Nick, told him my secrets and my dreams. I had let him in and that was something that was going to haunt me. it always did.

Someone knocked on my door, pulling me from my thoughts.

"Go away," I said and wrapped my arms around my stomach.

"It's me," Nathan said, his voice muffled through the door. I closed my eyes and waited a few seconds before I pushed my bags aside and opened the door to find the familiar dark haired boy standing there, his hands in his pockets. "Hey."

"Hi," I said, stepping aside to let him in. he stepped inside and sat down on my bed. "It sure didn't take you long to get here."

"Natalia filled me in on her way to your mom's," he replied, looking at me. "I just put the other pieces of the puzzle together." I looked at him, my brows furrowed. "What?"

"Did you know about Nick?" I questioned. He tilted his head to the side. "I mean, did you know that there was more going on than just his depression?"

"No," Nathan said, sighing. "That I did not know until today. All of the Gillion's have secrets, Juliet. They're one of those secretive bunches. However, this town spreads rumors like wild fire, so you can't really blame them." I gave him a look. "Or not."

"Did you have a reason for coming by, Nathan?" I asked. He ran a hand through his hair.

"Yeah, I do have a reason. My band's playing at this club tonight on the main drag and I wanted to invite you," he replied.

"I appreciate the offer, but I don't know if I'm up to going out tonight."

"After these past few days, I think you need a distraction, don't you?"

x.x.x

I walked through the door to the club and scanned the crowd. There were more people there than I had anticipated. Apparently in Bell's beach, Nathan's band was a pretty big deal.

I wrapped my arms around my waist and scanned the crowd. I didn't see Natalia's blonde head anywhere. The lights brightened on the stage and Nathan's band walked out. they strummed their instruments for a few moments before Nathan stepped up to the microphone and introduce the band to the crowd.

Giving up on looking for Natalia, I took a seat on a stool at a table near the back of the room as Nathan's band broke out into a fast paced song. The sounds of the instruments vibrated the floor and I felt as though I was back in high school at a dance with Alex and Maggie. I almost didn't want to hink about the fact that I really wasn't in a high school gym, surrounded my all of my best friends. The reality of how much things had changed almost made me sick to my stomach.

Things could never go back to the way they were. People who were once in my life were gone and some of them were never coming back, no matter how much I wanted them to. there were people in my life, though, that I didn't want to be without. Still, those people would never fill the void that was created through the loss of the ones I loved.

I tried to push those thoughts out of my mind. They weren't going to make me feel any better, nor were they going to change anything. Instead, I tried to focus on Nathan and on the lyrics that were spilling out of his mouth.

"Hey," a voice called over the music. I jumped and turned to see two boy standing there. "Where have you been?" I opened my mouth to speak and then closed it. Drew, though, waited patiently while Joel nodded his head to the beat of the music.

"I've just . . . had a lot going on," I said finally. He nodded, putting his hands in his jean pockets.

"Yeah, that's what Nick claims, too. I was wondering if you knew what was going on with him, why he suddenly disappeared."

I looked at him for a moment before I shook my head. "I have no idea where he is." Drew sighed.

"I was afraid you'd say that. Well, let us know if you hear from him," he replied. I nodded and bit my lip.

"Yeah, sure," I responded. He looked at me for a moment longer before walking away, pulling Joel with him.

I closed my eyes for a brief moment. The trouble with small towns was that you were never able to truly get away from the things that you wanted to hide from. Somehow, Nick continues to show up in my life. I sighed and opened my eyes.

This night was supposed to be a night to get away from my troubles and worries. That was exactly what I was planning to do. I scanned the crowd once more for Natalia and finally spotted her near the stage.

I took a deep breath before I stood and made my way through the throng of people. Natalie's face broke out into a grin whenever she spotted me.

"Hey! Dance with us!" she exclaimed, motioning to the people around her. I didn't know who they were and I was sure she didn't either, but I let her take my hands and twirl me around the dance floor, laughing as we tried not to run into people.

Finally, I was able to feel free, even if it was just for a few hours.