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Damaged Goods: Chapter 14


Bailey

The comedown is brutal.

I’m not going to pretend I’m handling any of it well. Not when the Vicodin and Xanax wear off, or the haze over the memory of what I did when Lev babysat me.

Who, by the way, is undoubtedly a very bad babysitter.

The memories flooding my brain make me want to crawl under a rock and hibernate until everyone in my life dies.

I can’t believe my best friend shoved his finger up my butt. Upon request. That I tried to seduce him. And failed. That Lev, who normally looks at me like I hold the answers to all of the world’s mysteries in the palm of my hand, finished the night washing me off in the shower with pain and pity in his eyes.

Which is why I refuse to see him, despite our friendly exchange. He visits me every day, leaving my favorite Froyo outside the studio door in the basement and small boxes full of…nothing.

I don’t know what the point behind the boxes is, but I keep them. It feels wrong to get rid of something Lev gave me. Even if it’s technically…well, nothing.

“Bailey, open the fuck up.” He bangs on the door, and it rattles like the thing inside my chest.

“Busy,” I moan.

“Busy being full of shit?”

“That too.”

“Dove.” I hear him plaster his forehead over my basement door, groaning in pain. “Please.”

“I’m not your problem.”

“You’re right. You’re my solution. My salvation. So open up.”

I never let him in. Can’t look him in the eye after Anusgate, also known as the Buttmageddon.

Even if I wanted to look him in the eye, I couldn’t on account of my pupils are currently the size of a poke bowl. I’m popping Xanax like they’re Mentos.

The only reason my parents are missing the signs is that I’m on house arrest with the drugs hidden, so technically, they think there’s nothing here to get high on and aren’t looking…at all.

There’s no point in denying what is starkly obvious at this point—I am an addict.

I’m dependent on painkillers, and I let my reliance run the show.

But that doesn’t change the fact that I still need to train if I want to remain at Juilliard.

I just need to prove to my professors that I can do this.

Once I ensure my spot is secure for next year, I can lay off the pills and really start taking care of myself. I’ll detox. Drink plenty of water. Meditate. Push through in more sustainable ways.

Since I don’t accept any visitors, I have plenty of time to work out. I stretch, dance, rehearse, and stay on top of my academic schedule.

For all intents and purposes, I’m still a Juilliard student. It’s not like they officially kicked me out.

Mom is the definition of worried sick.

She’s literally been coughing and sneezing nonstop. Psychosomatic, my dad tells her when he thinks I’m not listening. She throws judgy looks my way when I go to the basement every day, pushing plates of food to my chest, begging me to stop.

“I don’t understand why you’re pushing yourself even harder when you’re on a break.” This, from the woman who had me training in the studio five days a week since the age of six.

“First of all, it’s for my mental health.” I pull my hair into a bun and storm down the stairs, Mom at my heels, holding a vegan power bowl with extra passionfruit. “Second, if I’m a so-called painkiller addict, exercising is actually one of the best ways to detox. Flush the hydrocodone and acetaminophen out of my system.”

“You know what’s better than exercising? Going to meetings every day.” Mom shoulders the door open when I try to slam it in her face. We’re in the studio now, standing in front of each other like in a duel. Her weapon is an organic breakfast and mine is a wrathful glare.

“Three times a week is plenty.” I roll my eyes.

“Three times a week is nothing when you overdosed less than a month ago. Now eat.” She thrusts the bowl to my chest.

“I have to start working.” I fold my arms, taking a step back. The pills are killing my appetite. I live on handfuls of nuts or high-calorie energy drinks throughout the day.

“On what?” My mother treads deeper into the studio, and is it just me or is she hogging all the oxygen in the room? “All you do is harm yourself even more. Don’t think I wasn’t listening when they told you in the hospital about your tibia and spine injuries.”

“Of course you were listening.” I shake my head. “It’s not like you have a life of your own to focus on.”

I’m being super mean right now.

Mom dedicated her entire life to Daria and me. Turning this against her is disgusting, but the Vicodin is running the show right now.

I’m so raw, I feel the shallowest paper cut could make me bleed out. I’m exposed. A lie told and detected. A fraud. A nobody who deserves to be alone, so I am pushing her away.

“They’re probably not even going to take you back!” she snaps.

This lands like an iron fist straight in my gut. I keel over at her words, and Mom slaps a hand over her mouth, letting go of the fruit bowl with a gasp. It shatters between us, just like our trust. I can feel the shards in my mouth. All the unspoken words that sat between us for weeks and months and years.

Bailey is different.

Bailey is so talented.

She has what it takes.

“I didn’t mean it that way.” Mom shakes her head, tears rimming the edges of her pale eyes. “Bails. I…I…”

“You what?” My voice is unrecognizable to me.

Cold as the goose bumps blossoming along my gray skin.

“I just want my daughter back.” Now the tears are all over her face, her neck, running down the collar of her tennis dress.

White-hot anger zips through me. She has to be kidding me. She is why I’m doing all this. She is why I keep pushing through the pain.

“I am your daughter.” I hit back, spreading my arms wide, putting myself on display.

Every inch of marred skin, battle scars, and hard-earned bruises. I’m a kaleidoscope of purples and blues, of pain and suffering. “All I ever wanted was to make you proud. I still do, Mom. Pathetically, all I care about is making you and Dad happy.”

I clutch on to a pointe shoe and hurl it against the wall.

It lands a few inches above her head, but she doesn’t even twitch. It’s like she’s hypnotized by me.

“I’m your little ballerina, remember?” Tears run down my face. The anxiety is back again, like deep, thick tree roots shackling me in place. “Just talented enough to make it, unlike Daria. All I have to do is work a little harder, stand a little straighter, be a little more like you.”

Mom’s jaw drops. “I thought you wanted this. You asked me if I could put you in ballet, and I guess—”

This. This is why I need the pills. So I can control the overwhelming fear of failure.

The pain of not measuring up. Before she can finish the sentence, I grab my other shoe and fling it at her too. This time she dodges.

“Of course, I wanted to do ballet! It runs through your veins, and you run in mine. Just admit it, Melody. You fed me to the wolves. You mourned your short career at Juilliard, your own career-killing injury when you were a student. You never recovered. Not from the broken leg—and not from the broken dream. Remember how you told me your parents never supported your dream, which was why you were going to make sure I made it?” I pant like I just ran a marathon.

“Well, your over-supportiveness meant I knew I couldn’t fail. At first you thought Daria would fulfill your dreams, but she was as wild as weeds. Unruly and disinterested in being squeezed and shaped into your perfect daughter. Now, me? I was your winning ticket. Obedient and hardworking. I became the prized daughter. The apple of your shrewd eye. You introduced me to this cutthroat world. Willingly inserted me into a life of never-ending auditions, grueling physical work, injuries, heartbreak, sacrifice, and rejection. Now you need to live with the consequences of your own doing. Even if they include a junkie child whose drug of choice is standing onstage, doing pas de deux with an acclaimed ballerino.”

The words hit her so harshly, she bucks and staggers backwards. Her knees lower, her head slumping down. I hit where it hurt. Bull’s eye.

“Please quit.” Her words come out as a pant. “You’re right. I pushed too hard. But I changed my mind. It’s not worth it. The ballet. The school.”

A rusty laugh bubbles out of me. “It’s not about you anymore. This is who I am. Whether I wanted it or not, I’m hooked for life.”

I turn to storm out of the studio. It’s only when my foot hovers over the debris of glass beneath me that I remember Mom dropped the bowl.

My mouth falls open even as my foot falls. Mom’s killer instincts snap her into action. She pounces forward, pushing me out of the way so I don’t step on the glass. The shards beneath her feet make a terrible crunching sound.

We both wince, looking down.

She is barefoot.

Blood spreads beneath her foot, pooling like a never-ending lake.

Oh, fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

“Mom!” I rush around the glass and pick her up even though she is about twenty pounds heavier than me. I bolt upstairs, shaking, crying, screaming.

“Dad, help! Mom’s hurt!”

My body strains to get her up the stairs. She weeps into my neck, boneless and hopeless.

I slip over her blood on the stairs and yelp. My injuries are burning, reminding me how broken I am too.

I hear the thrashing of feet hitting wood as Dad rushes to meet me halfway on the basement stairway. He takes Mom with frightening ease. Red paints our feet like lipstick kisses. It looks like a crime scene.

She saved me, even after all the horrible things I said to her.

“Holy sh—what happened? Is she okay?” I don’t think I’ve ever seen Dad as pale as he is right now. His face is a mask of terror.

“She has glass in her feet.” I chase after him. “She needs to go to urgent care. They’ll suction it out.”

“What did you do?” he growls, and I’ve never heard this tone from him before.

“No! I…I mean, I fucked up, but she dropped a bowl. It was…not really…”

His deathly glare makes me shut up.

He studies me for a fraction of a second before saying, “Stay here. Don’t you dare leave this house, Bailey.”

I follow him to the front door. Mom is still crying. I don’t know how much of it is the glass and how much of it is us. We’ve never fought before.

The door slams behind Dad. I’m all alone. It’s eight thirty in the morning, and my parents have left me alone for the first time since I got back.

a lot of blood to clean up. I need a pick-me-up. I need to stop feeling like a failure, because right now? Breathing is too much of a task.

I go downstairs and tug my drug bag from behind the mirror.

Only one more Xanax. Crap.

I hesitate only for one moment before I pull the mangled note with Sydney’s number from the bowels of my drawer and make the call.

“Sydney? It’s Bailey. Wanna come over?”

Of course, he says yes.

There’s no steadier client than an addict.


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