Pushing the limits, p.47

Pushing the Limits, page 47

 part  #1 of  Pushing the Limits Series

 

Pushing the Limits
 



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Page 47

 

  The left side of my face felt numb and my head grew light. “Noah, I think I’m going to be sick. ”

  “Hold on. ” Noah turned into an abandoned parking lot. He’d barely parked the car when I threw the door open and stumbled out, hacking up the remains of my long-ago lunch.

  Noah held my hair away from my face. His body shook with silent laughter. “Seriously, you are way too uptight. ”

  Part of me wanted to laugh with him, but I couldn’t. I sat back on my knees and stared into the dark night. I couldn’t get the flashing lights out of my head. The red and the blue. Near and away. Near and away.

  And then … darkness. No lights. No sounds. Darkness …

  Vibrant, colorful images flashed forward in my mind in rapid succession, hitting me like bullets from a machine gun. My head dropped forward and I covered it with my arms to drown it all out. My mind pulled at the images, attempting to sort them, to categorize them, but it couldn’t—and the loss of control, the bombardment, caused sharp, excruciating pain to tear through my brain. Voices and sounds and high-pitched screams clawed at my mind.

  I realized that I was screaming and heard Noah speaking rapidly to me. The sound of glass shattering and my own screams drowned him out.

  “What happened?” A man with a small light in his hand hovered over me. Red lights flashed behind him and beyond that constellations glowed in the night sky. My mother’s voice whispered in my ear, crooning to me to return to her story.

  “No!” I fought to keep myself from falling back into the pit, back to her floor … to keep away from my own blood. “Noah!”

  His voice had a husky edge as he called out to me, “I’m right here, baby. ”

  The man withdrew the light. A stethoscope hung from his neck. “Have you taken any drugs tonight? Have you been drinking?”

  The rage in Noah’s voice tasted bitter in my own mouth. “Listen, you fucking asshole, for the fifth time, she’s clean. ”

  He ignored Noah as he rubbed his hands under my neck. “Pot? Meth? Pills of any kind?”

  You’re not allowed sleeping pills. My own voice echoed from the back of my mind. No. No. God, no. Gravitational forces pushed me into the ground and my mind got sucked into itself and yanked reality from my grasp.

  “You suffer from depression. ” I shook the empty pill bottle and stumbled out of my mother’s bathroom, stopping when my knee hit the stained glass window she had propped between two chairs to let dry.

  My mother sat on the couch, a glass of iced tea in one hand and a picture of Aires in the other. She took a methodical sip. Her eyes darted from my own empty glass of tea on the coffee table to me. Her wild red hair fell from its clip. “I know. ”

  I swayed to the side as the entire world tilted. “What did you do?”

  She took another sip of tea. Everything inside of me became heavy as steel. “What did you do to me?”

  “Don’t worry, Echo. We’ll be with Aires soon. You said you missed him and would do anything to see him again. So would I. ”

  The room flipped to the left. I struggled to stay upright and overcompensated to the right, but I fell regardless of my efforts. The world collapsed in on itself. The sound of glass shattering accompanied searing pain and screams. Screams from my mother. Screams from me. I opened my eyes and watched as a shower of red and blue followed me to the floor. A fleeting thought ripped through the pain … I’d loved that stained glass window.

  Blood.

  Blood poured from the exposed veins on my arms. It soaked my clothes and stained my skin. It pooled at the crook of my elbow and a small river streamed out and flowed toward my mother, who was now lying next to me.

  “I’m bleeding!”

  A strong hand gripped mine. Noah came into view. “No, you’re not. ” Behind him, white lights glared and a beeping noise kept in sync with the pounding of my heart. He spoke with unwavering determination. “Focus, Echo! Look at your arms!”

  He held my arms up. Clear tubing gently rubbed against my skin. I’d expected blood, but there was none. White scars. Raised scars. And no blood.

  “Noah?” I gasped, trying to understand through the screams in my head.

  “I’ve got you. I swear to God, I’ve got you,” said Noah. “Stay with me, Echo. ”

  I wanted to. I wanted to stay with him, but the shouting and screams and glass breaking in my mind grew louder. “Make it stop. ”

  He tightened his grip on my arms. “Fight, Echo! You’ve got to fucking fight. Come on, baby. You’re safe. ”

  Noah wavered in front of me and swirled. Pain sliced through me and I screamed again. A nurse pulled glass out of my arm. My father wiped the tears from my eyes and kissed my forehead. Blood soaked his white button-down shirt and smeared his face. “Shh, sweetheart, don’t cry, you’re safe now. You’re safe. ”

  “You’re safe, Echo. ” Noah rubbed the scars on my arm.

  “She can’t hurt you ever again. ” My father held my bandaged hand, tears pouring down his face.

  “Go to sleep,” my mother cooed, lying on the floor next to me, my blood creeping toward her on the floor.

  My father scooped me up and cradled me in the hospital bed. “I’ll scare the nightmares away. I promise. Please, just sleep. ”

  And the constant screaming stopped and I gasped between shallow breaths and a cold, calm hospital room blinked into view. A woman in blue scrubs finished pushing something in an IV line and gave me a small smile before walking away.

  My eyelids became heavy and I fought it.

  “Go to sleep, baby. ” Noah’s voice soothed like balm on a wound.

  I swallowed and turned my heavy head to the sound of his voice. “She drugged me. ”

  He gave me a sad smile and squeezed the hand he held. “Welcome back. ”

  My voice was slurred. “She put all of the sleeping pills in the tea without me knowing and she gave me a glass. ”

  His lips pressed against my hand. “You need to rest. ”

  My eyes flickered. “I want to wake up. ”

  “Sleep, Echo. I’m right here and I swear I’ll never let anyone hurt you again. ”

  NOAH

  “Still here, Noah?” Mrs. Collins strode into Echo’s hospital room. “Mr. Emerson said you brought her in. ”

  I raked a hand through my hair in an attempt to wake my brain. Echo had slept through the entire night. I spent most of it staring at her, holding her hand, and sometimes drifting off in the chair. “Yeah. ”

  Mrs. Collins’s blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She wore blue jeans and a Grateful Dead T-shirt. Dragging a chair to the other side of the bed, she took Echo’s hand. “Has her dad been down?”

  “He stayed here for a couple of hours last night, but they’d already put her to sleep before he showed. He talked to the doctor before he went back to help Ashley feed the baby. ”

  “What did the doctor say?”

  “That he’ll know if her mind cracked when she wakes up. ”

  She let out a brief sarcastic chuckle. “Is that how he put it?”

  “That’s my own spin. ” My thumb caressed Echo’s hand. She slept on her own now. They hadn’t given her anything else to keep her calm or help her sleep. Nothing to do now but wait. “Do you think she’ll be okay?”

  Mrs. Collins cocked an eyebrow. “I’m surprised you asked. You know better than I do that she’s a fighter. ”

  I relaxed back in the chair. It felt good to hear someone else say it. But still, after watching her fight for her sanity last night … How much could a mind take?

  “Did you know she saw her mother yesterday?” asked Mrs. Collins.

  Muscles tensed again. “What?”

  “Yep. She sure surprised me. I didn’t know Echo had it in her to defy her father. Guess you were a bigger influence than I gave you credit for. She used her trips to different art galleries to find her mom. Left letters for her everywhere until her mother finally agreed to meet. ”
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  “How do you know this?”

  “I guess the meeting didn’t go well and her mother called her father and told him to find Echo. ”

  Damn. Just damn. And she’d tried to save me. Echo wanted to know what happened to her, but had been terrified to remember. I’d never really understood. Yesterday must have pushed her mind over the edge—seeing her mother, fixing Aires’ car, almost becoming a felon. I knotted my fingers with her lifeless ones. I promise, Echo, I’ll take care of you now and forever.

  “You really didn’t know, did you?”

  “Had no clue. ” I thought about what she said. “Mr. Emerson didn’t go after her, did he?”

  Mrs. Collins tucked the blanket tighter around Echo. “Ashley went into labor after the phone call. The baby came early. ”

  Once again, second place. The story of Echo’s life. Echo had a habit of making me feel like a dick in comparison to her and today would be no exception. She left me so I could have a family, making her—alone. How could I ever have let her walk away?

  “I’m proud of you, Noah. ”

  The past twenty-four hours had been one long nightmare. I lost my brothers. Echo came close to losing her mind. “Why is it when people are proud of me that my life sucks?”

  “Because growing up means making tough choices, and doing the right thing doesn’t necessarily mean doing the thing that feels good. ”

  We sat in silence and listened to the sound of Echo’s light breathing and the steady beep of the heart monitor. My heart ached with the promises I silently made to her and longed to fulfill. She’d never be alone again.

  “She had a moment before she fell asleep,” I said. “She said her mother drugged her with sleeping pills. Echo cried a lot during the hallucination or whatever you want to call it. Sounded like her mom was in a depression, decided to kill herself, and then Echo showed. Psycho mom changed the plan to include her. ”

  Mrs. Collins sighed and patted Echo’s hand. “Then she remembers. ”

  Echo

  Mrs. Collins sent me an encouraging smile when the tiny pieces of tissue fell from my hands onto the blanket. “Sorry,” I said. I shifted in the hospital bed and sighed when more tiny pieces fell to the floor.

  The hospital psychiatrist, a balding man in his late forties, laughed. “Tissues were made to be torn. Don’t worry. ”

  I felt like I had done nothing but cry since I woke up this morning. I cried when I opened my eyes to find Noah at my side. I cried when the doctors immediately came in and asked Noah to leave so they could examine me. I cried when I told the psychiatrist and Mrs. Collins what I remembered. I cried when they talked me through the events.

  And here I was, hours later, still crying—a pathetic, constant trickle of tears.

  I plucked another tissue from the box and tried to discreetly blow my nose. I remembered. Everything. Showing up and finding Mom in a deep depression. Deciding to stay to see if I could convince her to see her therapist. Drinking the tea and then feeling ill.

  Going to the bathroom, finding the empty bottle of sleeping pills on the sink and calling my father only to end up in his voice mail. The sinking realization that my mother planned to kill herself and then decided to include me without my consent. Becoming woozy and falling into the stained glass. The time spent on the floor, begging my mother to get me help, and then … closing my eyes.

 
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