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Damaged Goods: Chapter 34


Miserable Fact #75: Though the etiquette guide for Victorian mourning varied, widows grieved for two and a half years, while widowers for three months.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but is there a chance Bails drowned in the shower?” I turn to Jaime and Mel.

I’ve been sitting in their living room for forty fucking minutes, waiting for Bailey to come down. I know she’s a chick and that there’s an unspoken universal agreement where women are allowed thrice the time to shower than men.

But forty minutes extra is a stretch. In this time, she could wash her hair, put on a fancy face mask, flick the bean twice, dry up, blow out her hair, and try on three sets of clothes.

Jaime stares into his whiskey, and I can tell he wants to hurl it against the wall. “Mel?”

Melody shakes her head. “I don’t want her to feel like we don’t trust her.”

“Why not?” he asks. “We don’t.”

“I’m going to check on her.” I stand up.

“Sure, in the same fantasy you’re both going to attend a Playboy mansion party and scuba dive with unicorns.” Jaime rises to his feet, shoving me back down to the couch by the shoulder.

I roll my eyes and grab my La Croix. “I’ve seen her naked before.”

He shoots me a look before trudging up the stairs.

Mel turns her attention to me and smiles. “You know, her friend Thalia was here earlier. They seemed to have had quite the fight. Do you think she might be upset?”

My jaw is on its way to drop on the floor when Jaime’s choked roar comes from upstairs.

“Mel, come up here right now! Call an ambulance! JESUS FUCK.”

I’m only pretending to be alive.

I’m sure my heart is as flatlined as that of a plastic straw.

I can’t think straight.

I can’t see straight.

I can’t…

“You’re going to get all of us killed if you don’t watch the fucking road!” Dad hollers at me from the passenger seat, slapping my chest to snap me back into focus.

“Shit. Sorry.” I rub at my eyes.

“Let me drive,” Knight demands from the back seat.

“No, I can do this.”

“You violated every traffic rule ever recorded on earth and some that haven’t been enforced yet,” Dad points out.

But we need to get to the hospital. Fast. That’s where the ambulance took Bailey when Jaime found her unresponsive on her bedroom carpet. I darted upstairs and saw her.

Saw everything. How she lay there, pale and angelic and dead looking.

The PTSD crashed through me like a freight train. I had avoided seeing Mom like this in her coffin only to see the girl I love looking very much unalive.

“You need to calm the fuck down!” Knight shouts from the back seat of my speeding Tesla. Because that always helps things.

Ignoring him, I turn to Dad. “Can you call Mel and ask her if there’s any news?”

A part of me is scared there’s bad news they don’t want to share with me.

I’m trying to remind myself this isn’t about me, but it feels about my sorry ass. It’s unfair that I have to bury my mother and the love of my life four years apart. And it seems supremely unfair that said love of my life brought this shit on herself.

Dad puts his phone on speaker and shoots me a look. “Eyes on the road, Levy.”

I’m cutting past cars on the right lane, beeping people, stealing red lights.

Mel picks up, breathless. “Dean.”

“Any news?” His voice is apologetic. “Sorry for pestering, but Lev…” He doesn’t have to complete the sentence.

“She’s in ICU. They’re putting her in a medically induced coma. Dean, I can’t… I don’t know if I can survive this. Twice in two months. I’m not that strong. I’m not.”

“Mel…” Dad’s voice breaks.

In the background, I can hear Jaime yelling at someone, “She is my daughter and I want some answers, goddammit!”

Somehow, we make it to the parking lot of the hospital. I trudge my way to the corridors of the ICU.

Dad and Knight have their arms on me from either side. They expect me to collapse any minute now.

When I reach the end of the hallway, where a couple blue plastic chairs are positioned in front of a closed door, I spot Jaime on the floor, his face in his hands, his back shaking.

“No!” I shoulder off Dad’s and Knight’s touch, rushing to him. I fall to the floor, grabbing Jaime by the shoulders and jerking him upright. I’m shaking him frantically. “No, Jaime. Tell me it’s not true.”

He doesn’t say anything.

I’ve read this script before. Tragedies happen. Every day. And the author of my life, they killed Mom already. Why the fuck stop there when they can throw another curveball?

“Jaime, no.”

“Lev, he needs a moment,” Dad says.

“NO. Fuck that.”

“Get off of him, Levy.” I feel Knight’s hands on my back. I slap them off.

I go wild. Kick. Flail. Scream. I feel arms. And hands. And tears raining down on me. People are carrying me away from that door.

But I don’t relent.

I stay.


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