Time goes by and words evade me. Jase doesn’t speak either.
“Are you angry?” I eventually ask him and I can’t fathom why. It shouldn’t matter if he’s angry at me or not. My life does not revolve around this dark knight. I won’t allow it. I don’t want this life.
“You sound like my mother,” I answer with feigned sarcasm and not really meaning it. It just seems like something someone would say in response to, I’m disappointed.
All I can hear is a huff on the end of the line followed by a resigned sigh. “I keep having to remind myself that you’re going through a lot, but that doesn’t mean you can do this shit, Bethany.”
Shame heats my cheeks and my throat dries, keeping me from being able to swallow as I look back to the house. With every passing second, I’m sinking deeper into the dark pit of emotions that’s expanding around me.
“You don’t know what I’m going through,” I tell him simply. And all the voices I’ve heard before at the hospital echo in my mind. So many people think no one else feels the way they do when they’re mourning, when they’re sick. When life has got them by the throat and they have nowhere else to turn to but a mental hospital.
“I know people have it worse, people have more pain and more tragedy… but that doesn’t mean I’m not handling things the best way that I can.” Dignity is slow to greet me and I strengthen my voice to tell him, “I’m trying to just hold on right now.” As I finish, my words crack and it’s then that I feel as crazy as my patients. I’m losing it. I’m losing everything, watching it all slip through my fingers like the sand of an hourglass.
“Why did you run?” he asks me, not commenting on a word I’ve just spoken. Somehow, I’m grateful for that.
“I wasn’t in the right mindset to be bossed around and whisked away.” It’s semi-honest. At the very least, it’s not a lie.
“I don’t know what to do,” I admit, feeling the insecurity and the weight of what’s happened push against my chest. “And I’m scared,” I add. The confession barely leaves me; I don’t know if he heard me or not. Another car passes down the street that crosses mine, forming a T-shaped intersection. This time I’m not as scared, but I’m conscious of it. I’m conscious of everything around me.
“Do you want to stay with me?” he asks.
“No,” I say, and it hurts to answer him honestly. Physically hurts and drains me of what little strength I have left. I should add that I don’t trust him after what I read in the book. But without the book, I can’t be certain that I shouldn’t trust him. Which makes everything all the more complicated.
“Why is that?” There’s no hint of what he’s feeling in his question; it’s only a string of words asked for clarity. And that makes it easier, but not easy enough to tell the truth. How could I tell him I saw his last name in a coded message in The Coverless Book? I already feel like I’ve gone insane. I don’t need someone else to confirm it.
“I’m just confused and I want to be alone.” Nodding to myself although he can’t see me, I repeat the sentiment, “I’m not sure exactly what I want right now, but I think I’d really like to be alone.”
“I’d prefer you weren’t alone right now… And you still owe me time.” He adds the second statement when I don’t respond to the first.
“I can always say no.”
“I never should have put that in the contract.”
His response forces a weak smile to my face. It’s just as tired and sad as I am. “Your contract is bullshit.” Our quips are a quick tit for tat. The rough chuckle from the other end of the line eases a small piece of me. As if slowly melting a large sheet of ice that encases and presses against me constantly.
“You’re not going to be happy.” He pauses after his statement and I simply wait for what’s next, not responding until I know what he’s getting at.
“Seth is behind you. He’s parked a few houses down. I’ll have him flash his lights for you.” Thump, my heart squeezes tight, so tight it hurts and I actually reach up to place a hand over my chest as bright white lights shine behind me and then disappear.
“The entire time. Did you think I’d risk anything happening to you?”
Gratitude is a strange thing. Sometimes it feels warm and hugs every inch of you. Sometimes it strangles you and makes you feel rotten and unworthy. The latter is what I struggle with as Jase continues to tell me what to do.