The movie Eric chooses, The Mooring, is better than either he or Máire expects. I smile half-heartedly as they talk because, despite the best of efforts, I had difficulty focusing on what was going on. The TV sometimes makes me even more susceptible to hearing voices than I already am and, maybe it was the movie itself, but there were some that were more frightening to me than any I ever experienced before. Of course, if I told that to my friends, they would be disappointed, so I simply agree that it was a good movie. Then, stretching and yawning to emphasize how tired I am, I tell them I have to call my parents to give me a ride home.

Eric frowns.

"But it's only nine o' clock."

I look at my cell phone and swear silently. I don't want to admit to the two of them that my mood is on a downward spiral. My mind is all over the place and most the time, when they talk, it sounds to me as if they're speaking in tongues. I can't gather what the movie was about even by listening to them. It's so frustrating.

"Yeah, but..." I trail off, trying to ignore Antonio who, although just earlier was insisting that Máire didn't want anything to do with me, berates me and tells me I don't deserve to have friends. He can't even sit through an hour and a half movie, he complains to the others. I stall for a minute before finishing lamely, "It's been a long day."

He and Máire watch me suspiciously as if they're waiting for me to break down right then and there. I feel like they can see right through me, as if my thoughts are on display for them and, when I leave, they will dissect everything that's being said and laugh at me for it. I turn my head the other direction.

"Whatever, man. I just thought we were going to have a fun time."

Máire notices how uncomfortable I am and rushes to my rescue.

"It's not a big deal. I have to get home early anyway."

Eric doesn't say anything in response. I feel bad because we don't hang out as often as we used to and I know this was a chance for all three of us to get together without having to worry about school or our parents hovering over our shoulders, but the feeling is growing even stronger and I know if I don't get out of the house now, I am going to completely lose it. It's not even that Antonio is working at tearing me down. It's the persistent feeling of emptiness in the pit of my stomach. If I don't find a way to escape the negative energy inside me, I am going to hurt myself or, if it gets bad enough, maybe even somebody else. I feel guilty admitting that and hope my friends can't tell that it's gotten to that point, but at the same time, I should have known when I saw the ghosts earlier that something was amiss. They were more attracted to me than they were to Máire and it was because she was stronger than I was and therefore inaccessible to them.

I don't want to think about it. The more I dwell on it, the more frustrated I become. It's a never-ending cycle. Antonio has gotten Raphael to join in on the banter and it's gone from "You're a bad friend. Eric and Máire aren't going to want anything to do with you" to "You might as well kill yourself and get it over with. You could slit your wrists with one of the large kitchen knives and watch as the blood forms a pool beneath you. Meat cleaver. You wouldn't be able to breathe if we wrapped a plastic bag around your neck and tightened the handles so that they left sores on your skin."

Without thinking, I dig my fingernails into my wrist to try to escape the mental images. They're more graphic than they usually are, and the sight of them is burned into my retinas, as if they actually took place. Neither Máire nor Eric notices, which I'm thankful for, and I mumble a quick goodbye before exiting the house. You're okay, I tell myself. This isn't happening. You're safe where you are. But it couldn't be any further from the truth.

While I wait for my mom, I become increasingly uneasy and scratch furiously at my arms to try and compensate for it. You're not doing yourself any favors, Gilda reprimands me. I know, I respond dutifully, but I don't know what else to do. Help me, I beg.She doesn't say anything after that and the torment continues.

Are you afraid of suffocation, Ciarán? Raphael asks. He knows that I am. We don't have to use a plastic bag. We could rip the collar off of one of your favorite t-shirts and tie it around your neck. It wouldn't crinkle either, so we wouldn't have to worry about your parents or your younger brother trying to interfere. I ignore him. Even though I doubt the thin material of a t-shirt would be thick enough to strangle somebody, I worry about what I might try and do when I get home. Suddenly I don't want to leave. I'm so conflicted.

I know Máire is right and that I need to go to the hospital, but at the same time I want to believe that everything is okay. There is nothing wrong with me. If I had just a little more self-control, I would be fine.

I am fine.