Falling into Us Read online
My child, child, child.
I’ll dream for you,
I’ll breathe for you,
I’ll question God for you,
I’ll shake my fists and scream and cry for you.
This song is for you,
It’s all I’ve got.
It doesn’t give you a name.
It doesn’t give you a face.
But it’s all I’ve got to give.
All my love is in these words I sing,
In each haunted note from my guitar,
My child, child, child.
You’re not gone,
Because you never were.
But that doesn’t mean
You passed unloved.
It doesn’t mean you’re forgotten,
Unborn child, child, child.
I bury you
With this song.
I mourn you
With this song. ”
He strummed the last chord and let the notes hang, his head ducked, shoulders shaking. The song reminded me of what was growing within me, the very thing that Nell just lost, that Colton just lost. I choked on a sob, coughing. Colt turned and opened his eyes, seeming surprised to see the crowd around the door. He didn’t see me, or didn’t recognize me. He turned back to Nell, who scrambled stiffly out of the bed, trailing tubes and wires and monitor leads. She climbed onto Colt’s lap, wrapping her arms around his neck and clinging to him, sobbing so brokenly it was painful to hear, to watch. Her entire body quaked uncontrollably, and her sobs were loud, hoarse, choking screams in the small room, laced with the constant beep-beep-beep of the heart monitor.
I recognized the way she clung to Colt, as if he was the only thing keeping her from flying apart, from becoming nothing more than the sum of her grief. He held her gently, stroking her back with familiarity and aching tenderness. I could see his love for her in the way his finger brushed her hair away from her eyes, the way he didn’t speak words of empty consolation, the way he merely held her and let his love speak silent volumes. I turned away from the door, put my back to the wall just out of sight.
I listened to her cry, listened to him sniff quietly. They grieved together for a long time, and I waited. Eventually, I felt Jason join me. My eyes were closed, and I was listening to Nell and Colt murmuring to each other, their words indistinct, speaking in the familiar mumble of lovers.
I was still floored by the fact of Nell and Colton being romantically involved.
I pulled Jason away, farther down the hallway. As I passed the doorway, I glanced in to see Nell back in the hospital bed, holding Colt’s hand. She saw me, then looked away.
“What happened?” Jason asked.
“Did you see who was in the r-r-room with Nell?” Jason shook his head. “Colton Calloway. ”
“What? What’s he doing back in Michigan?”
I sucked in a deep breath. “They’re together. Nell and Colton, I mean. Like, together. Sh-she…they…Nell had a m-mmm-miscarriage. ” I let that sink in.
Jason’s mouth dropped open, and he closed it, then turned back to look at the doorway to room 141, as if some kind of answer was visible there. “She…you mean she was pregnant?” I nodded, and he tilted his head back, blowing out a surprised breath. “Holy shit. That was the last thing I expected. ”
“M-me too. I thought—I was afraid she’d—”
Jason cut me off by pulling me against his chest. “That was my first thought, too. I’m glad it wasn’t that. ”
“Yeah. ” I pressed my forehead to his chest; my secret was a hot, hard, heavy ball in my gut.
There was no way I could tell him here, now, in this situation.
Jason’s fingers tilted my chin up, and his jade eyes bored into me. I realized then that he knew I was keeping something from him. “Becca…what’s going on with you?”
I shook my head. “Not-not here, okay? P-please?”
“I’m not crazy, though, right? There’s something you’re not telling me?”
I shuddered, sucking in a harsh breath. “Yes. But this…here, this isn’t the time or the-the place f-for it. ”
“God, I’m gonna go f**king crazy. ” I heard the anger and worry in his voice.
I palmed his cheeks and brought his mouth to mine in a brief but deep kiss. “I love you. Always and forever, okay?”
He let out a gusting sigh. “So you’re not leaving me or anything, right?”
I had to laugh at that. “Never. Not…not ever. ” I pushed away from his embrace and led him to Nell’s room.
She took a deep breath as we came in. Colton stood up and faced us, seeming unsure if he should shake our hands or hug us or do nothing. I waved awkwardly at him, hesitated, and then stepped past him to hug Nell, cradling her shoulders gently.
She pulled away slightly, and her gray-green eyes searched mine. “Becca, I—”
“How did this happen?” I asked.
“Well, see, when a man and woman love each other,” she started, then broke off into laughter.
I smacked her arm lightly. “D-don’t be a bitch. You n-n-know what I m-m-mmm-mean. ”
She frowned at my stutter. The last time we’d seen each other I hadn’t stuttered at all. “It’s…complicated. ”
I turned to glance at Colton, who was standing next to Jason, looking uncomfortable. “Un-un-uncomplicate it, then. ”
She shot a look at Colt and Jason. “Can you guys give us a few minutes? Please?”
Colt slid next to me and bent over her, kissed her. “I’ll go get some coffee. ” He pressed his lips to her ear, but I heard the words he whispered. “I love you. ”
“I love you, too, Colton. ” She said it out loud, not bothering to whisper.
Jason hugged me briefly, kissed the corner of my mouth. “You want coffee?”
“Sure. Thanks, baby. ” When they were gone, I sat in the chair Colt had abandoned and turned to Nell. “Spill. ”
She stared past me, as if seeing Colt still standing there, or as if she could see him through the walls. “He’s…everything I never knew I needed. I know it doesn’t make any sense, Becks. It doesn’t. He’s…he’s Kyle’s older brother. He’s rough around the edges. But…god, how do I even explain this? He’s so talented. You heard him, I saw you. He’s…he’s showing me how to heal. How to let go. I was never okay, Becca. Even when I left for New York, I know how it seemed. Like I was finally starting to make progress. I wasn’t, though. I was just better at hiding the fact that I hurt, every single day. That I missed him, every single f**king day. ” She glanced at me, assessing the effect of her words. “He saw through that. He saw through it at the funeral years ago. He knew I wasn’t letting myself feel it. Feel anything. ”
I ducked my head, the pain of reliving those days too much to bear. “Doesn’t…doesn’t he remind you of…of Kyle?”
“Yes. A lot. But…he’s not him. He’s so, so different. We never knew Colt, you know? Back when we were kids, we never even remotely understood what he was going through. He’s so strong, Becca. You can’t know how strong he is. What he’s endured and come through still able to love me, to smile and be okay every day. ” She rubbed a thumb over her wrist, and I saw a recent scar, deep and thick and jagged. She saw me see it. “That will never happen again. The cutting is over. It’s like an addiction, though, you know. I’ll always be a cutter—I’ll just…refuse to do it. ”
I met her eyes. “I think I unders-sss-s-stand, now. ”
She heard something in my voice. “What do you mean?” It was a fearful whisper.
I showed her my arms. “I thought about cutting, a couple times. I never did, but I thought about it. ”
“Ben…hung himself on…April…April ninth. ” I was forcing myself to slow down, going back to my fluency shaping lessons.
Nell covered her mou