Nova and Quinton: No Regrets
Nova - 3
For everyone who suffered loss and learned how to live again.
A huge thanks to my agent, Erica Silverman, and my editor, Amy Pierpont. I’m forever grateful for all your help and input.
To my family, thank you supporting me and my dream. You guys have been wonderful.
And to everyone who reads this book, an endless number of thank-yous.
December 28, the day of the funeral
It’s a strange feeling, getting ready to watch someone get put under the ground into their final resting place. I’ve been to enough funerals to know that my senses always become hyper-aware of everything going on around me: the touch of the wind seems stronger, the sun a little more blinding, the smell of the leaves, grass, and fresh dirt overpowering. It’s like my mind is reaching out and trying to grasp each aspect of the moment, when part of me wants nothing more than to forget.
I’m actually at the church earlier than I’m supposed to be and I don’t even know why, other than that sitting home for a second longer just didn’t seem possible. So I left the house without telling anyone and got in my cherry-red Chevy Nova, the car my dad left to me when he died, and drove it to the church where my dad’s and Landon’s funeral took place. And in just a bit, I’ll say good-bye to another person I once knew and will never see again.
Now that I’m here, staring at the brick building with a white tower pointing to the sky, I’m not sure what I should do. I’m three hours early to a funeral, which might say a lot about me. A lot of people would likely show up late, wanting to avoid death for as long as possible, but I’ve become so familiar with it it’s unsettling.
After sitting in the car for about ten minutes, watching snowflakes fall from the sky and frost the grass and the windshield, I decide to take video instead. I didn’t bring the fancy camera my mom gave me, but the one on my phone works and honestly I use that one a lot more because it’s handy for sporadic recording, which seems to be my specialty.
I blow out a deep breath as I sit back in the seat, aim the camera at myself, and hit record. I have the screen flipped to me and my image immediately pops up. I look tired. The bags under my eyes are pretty obvious, even though I’ve tried to cover them up with makeup, and my brown hair wasn’t being cooperative so I ended up pulling it up into a ponytail. I’m wearing a black dress and earrings and the contrast with my fair skin makes me look pallid.
“It’s amazing how everything can seem so perfect one moment and then suddenly it’s not. How quickly perfection can evaporate… how rare it is.” I pause, gathering my thoughts. “I’ve seen a lot of death. More than the normal person, probably. I watched my father’s life vanish in front of me within minutes. Found my boyfriend’s body right after he took his own life. Too early. Too suddenly. Both of them. I never had time to prepare myself and I thought it was the worst feeling in the world. I always wondered how different it would be, if it ever happened again. If maybe the third or fourth time around, I wouldn’t hurt so badly. If it’d be easier letting someone go now that I’ve had so much practice.” I tuck a fallen strand of my bangs behind my ear and swallow the lump in my throat. “And maybe it has gotten easier… but it still hurts. I still shed tears… it’s still agonizing… painful…” I trail off as a few tears slip from my eyes and roll down my cheeks. “Even now, just thinking about some of the stuff I saw… I should have stopped it… should have done things differently…” I trail off, staring at the window. “But I didn’t… and now they’re gone forever.”
Two months ago…
October 30, day one in the real world
I write until my hand hurts. Until my head is numb. It’s the only outlet I have at the moment. My attempt at a replacement for the drugs I’ve done for years. But most days it can’t fill even a small part of the void I feel inside me since I stopped pumping my body with poison, slowly killing myself. But there are a few times when it briefly instills a small amount of silence inside me, makes taking one breath, one step, one heartbeat, just a bit more bearable. And so I write, just to feel those few and far-between moments of peace.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve been reborn. Not in a religious way. But in the sense that it feels like part of me has died and I’m learning once again to live with the new, remaining parts of me. Some of which I don’t like, parts that are ugly, broken, misshapen, and don’t seem to quite fit right inside me. But my therapist and drug counselor are both trying to build me back up to a person that the pieces can fit into again.
I still don’t know if it’s possible. If I can live with a clear head, feel the sting of every emotion, the weight of my guilt, the heaviness of each breath, the way my heart beats steadily inside my chest. I’m trying, though, and I guess that’s a start. I just hope the start can turn into more, but I’m not so sure yet.
“Quinton, are you ready?” Davis Mason, the supervisor of the Belvue Rehab Facility, enters my room, rapping on the doorframe.
I glance up from my notebook and nod, release a nervous breath trapped inside my chest. Today is the day that I’m going back into the real world, to live with my dad, no walls around me, no restrictions. It scares the shit out of me, to be out there, free to do whatever I want, without anyone watching me, guiding me. I’ll be making decisions myself and I’m not sure if I’m ready for that.
“As ready as I’ll ever be, I guess,” I say, shutting my notebook and tossing it into my packed bag on the floor beside my feet. I aim to appear collected on the outside, but on the inside my heart is hammering about a million miles a minute, along with my thoughts. I can’t believe this is happening. I can’t believe I’m going out into the real world. Shit, I don’t think I can do this. I can’t. I want to stay here.
“You’re going to do awesome,” Davis assures me. “And you know if you need anyone to talk to, I’m totally here and we’ve got you set up with that sobriety support group and your dad got you a really good therapist to replace Charles.”
When I first met Davis, I thought he was a patient at the drug facility, with his laid-back attitude and the casual plaid shirts and jeans he always wears, but it turned out he was the counselor that I’d be spending two months with during my recovery here. He’s a pretty cool and oddly enough was once an addict, too, so he gets some of my struggles. Not all of them, though.
I get to my feet and pick up my bag. “I hope you’re right.”
“I’m always right about these things,” he jokes, giving me an encouraging pat on the back as I head past him and out the door. “I can always tell the ones who are going to make it.” He places two fingers to his temple. “I have a sixth sense for it.”
I don’t understand his optimism. I’d think he was this way with everyone, but he’s not. I overheard him once talking to one of the nurses, saying he was worried about one of the guys leaving. But he seems sure I’m going to be okay and keeps telling everyone that. I’m not, though. I’m going to fall. I know it. Can feel it. See it. I’m terrified. I have no idea what’s going to happen to me. In the next minute. The next step. The next moment. I’m feeling so many things it’s hard to even think straight.
I swing the handle of my duffel bag over my shoulder and walk down the hall with Davis following behind. I say good-bye to a few people I met while I was here and actually developed friendships with. There’s not a whole lot—it’s hard to make friends when you have to focus so much on yourself.
After the brief farewells, I head to Charles’s office, which is right beside the front section of the facility. Every time I’m in this part of the building, I get a peek at the outside world, the cars on the highway, the pine trees, the grass, the sky, the clouds. It always makes me want to lock the door and stay behind it for the rest of my life, because behind that door I feel safe. Protected from myself and all the scary things out there. Like the last two months. And now I’m about to go into the wild.
“Quinton, come on in.” Charles waves me in when he notices me lingering in the doorway, staring at the exit door just to my right.
I tear my attention away from it and step into his office, a narrow room with a couple of wooden chairs, a desk, and scenic paintings on the walls. It’s plain, with minimal distractions, which might be on purpose to force whoever is in here to focus on nothing but himself. I’ve had a few meltdowns in this room, a lot of them stemming from when Charles urged me to pour my heart and soul out about the accident and express how I felt about the deaths of Lexi and Ryder. I haven’t talked about everything yet, but I’m sure I’ll get there. One day. But for now I’m taking things one step at a time. Day by day.
“So today’s the big day,” he says, standing up from the chair behind his desk. He’s a short man with a bad comb-over and wears a lot of suits with elbow patches. But he’s nice and gets things in a way most people don’t. I’m not sure if it’s because of his PhD hanging on the wall or because maybe he’s been through some rough shit. If he has, he never shared it with me. “This is about you,” he always said whenever I tried to turn the conversation around on him. “And what you’ve been through.” I hated him for it. Still do a little bit, because he opened a lot of fucking doors I thought I’d bolted shut. Stuff poured out of me and is still continuing to stream out of me, like a leaky faucet, one I can’t get to turn off, but now I’m not sure I want to.