Maybe they heard my unspoken wishes.
“You need to take time off.” Aiden’s words shock me. Full-blown shock me.
My head shakes on its own and I struggle to come up with something to refute him. Money seems like the most logical reason, but Aiden beats me to it.
“There was a pool at work, and the other nurses are giving you some of their days for PTO. You have your own banked, plus the bereavement leave. And I know you have vacation time too.”
“They don’t have to do that…” My voice is low, full of disbelief. At Rockford, the local youth mental hospital, I know everyone more than I should, especially the night shift. But I wouldn’t ever expect any of them to give me their time off. I don’t expect anything from anyone.
“They can’t do that. They’ll need those days for themselves.” They don’t even know me really. I’m taken aback that they would do such a thing.
“It’s a day here and a day there, it adds up and you need it.”
“My ass you are.” Aiden’s profanity draws my gaze to his, and the wrinkles around his eyes seem more pronounced. His age shows in this moment. “You need time off.”
More time alone.
“I don’t want it.”
“You’re going to take it. You need to get your head on right, Fawn.” His voice is stern as my body chills from a gust of air blowing into the dining room when my front door opens once again. More guests leaving.
“How many days?” I ask him, feeling defeat, so much of it, already laying its weight against me.
“You have six weeks,” he informs me and it feels like a death sentence. My heart sinks to the pit of my stomach as my front door closes with a resounding click.
With his hands on my shoulders he tells me, “You need to get better.”
Holding back the pain is a challenge, but I manage to breathe out with only a single tear shed. Six weeks.
The next breath comes easier.
I tell myself I’ll take some time off, but not to get better.
My breathing is almost back to normal at my next thought.
But to find the men responsible for what happened to my sister.
My eyes are burning and heavy, but I can’t sleep.
I’m exhausted and want to lie down, but my legs are restless and my heart is wide awake, banging inside of me. I need to do something to take this agony away. Staring back at The Coverless Book beside me on the side table, I lean to the left, flicking on the lamp while still seated on my sofa.
The Coverless Book
I’m invincible. I tell myself as I pull the blanket up tighter.
My heart races, so fast in my chest. It’s scared like I am.
Jake is coming.
He’s going to see me here in my house, and then where could I possibly hide from him? Where could I hide my blush?
Maybe behind this blanket?
“Miss?” Miss Caroline calls into the room, and I perk up.
“Your guest is here,” she announces and I give her a nod, feeling that heat rise to my cheeks and my heart fluttering as she gives me a knowing smile and I hide my brief laugh. Caroline knows all my secrets.
Before I can stand up on shaky legs, he’s standing in the doorway, tall and lanky as most eleventh-graders are. But Jake is taller. His eyes softer. His hands hold a shock in them that gets me every time he reaches for my calculator in class.
“Jake.” His name comes from me in surprise as I struggle to lift myself.
“Emmy.” The way he says my name sounds so sad. “I heard you were sick.”
I read the prologue and the first chapter too before falling asleep on the old sofa that used to belong to my mother. I’m cocooned in the blanket I once wrapped my sister in when the drugs she’d taken made her shake uncontrollably.
The only sentence Jenny underlined was the one that read, “I’m invincible.”
Jenny, I wish you had been. I wish I were too.
My eyes feel so heavy. So dry and itchy.
Rubbing them only makes it hurt worse.
I would have slept better had I worked. I know I would have.
My gaze drifts back to the book. I’m only a few chapters in, but I keep walking away from the pages, not remembering where I left off and starting over each time.
Knowing I can’t focus on work, knowing it’s been taken away, has brought out a different side of me.
The side that remembers my sister.
Not the way she was in the last few years, but the way she was when we were younger.
When we were thick as thieves, and my older sister was my hero. Those memories keep coming back every time I read the chapters written from Emmy’s perspective. She’s young, and sweet, but so damn strong. My sister was strong once. Held down by no one.