He feels so comfortable, so exciting, so natural to me. Kissing him is like taking a breath. It gives me life.
He pulls away abruptly, though, leaving my heart pounding and my breath broken, and then he stands up.
“I shouldn’t have done that,” he mutters, taking the towel into the kitchen. I leap to my feet and chase him.
“Why not?” I demand. “I’m eighteen and I know exactly what I want.”
I want you.
But he’s already shaking his head. “You don’t know what you want,” he tells me regretfully. “Because you’re upset, and you’ve got more to deal with than most people ever will. It’s not a good time for this. It’s not fair of me to take advantage of you right now.”
“You’re not—“ I start to say, but he puts a long finger against my lips.
“I am,” he says firmly. “I can’t do that. Not today.”
But he doesn’t say never.
I stand still, my breathing harsh and ragged. Then I turn and walk away, humiliated with the rejection, but buoyed by it, too.
Because he didn’t say never.
He didn’t say never because he draws me at night and so I know he thinks about me too.
I walk out the door into the rain, ignoring the way he calls after me. I walk straight to my house, straight to my room, and after dropping my clothes and Finn’s journal onto the floor, I step into the shower.
The hot water floods my senses, blocking out the memory of his smell.
I envision his hands holding my own, and I squeeze my eyes shut.
He thinks that’s he’s not what I need, but he’s exactly what I need.
He distracts me from my pain. From my worry. From my fear.
But even as I have the thought, the truth of what he said slams into me.
It’s not a good time right now.
It’s not a good time because he doesn’t want to be a distraction.
He deserves to be a focus.
And in my current state, I can’t focus on anything, except for maybe saving my brother from insanity. Dare deserves more than that.
But my selfish side wants him anyway.
I slide to the floor and close my eyes, letting the water wash my tears away.
I don’t know how long I stayed in the shower, or how long I’ve been curled up in the window seat of my room since. All I know is that my father and Finn came home, and Finn disappeared into his room. I heard him rustling around in there.
I heard him clamoring down the stairs, yelling for me, yelling for Dad.
And now he’s coming back up, stomping angrily, bursting through my door.
“Where’s my journal?” he demands, his pale blue eyes like icicles, his thin hands clenched into fists at his sides.
For the first time in my life, I lie to my brother.
To his face.
“I don’t know,” I say simply, staring at him, not blinking. I don’t look away, because I don’t want to accidentally glance at the bottom drawer of my desk, where I have stashed his little book.
“You do, too,” he says angrily. “It was in my room, and now it’s not.”
“I don’t have it, Finn,” I tell him again. “Why are you so upset? It’ll turn up.”
After I have a chance to read it.
Finn’s face is taut and anxious and I do feel guilty for inflicting distress on him. I know what happens when he gets upset, but it’s a chance I have to take. I can’t help him unless I know what is truly bothering him. And this is the only way to find out.
“If you find it,” he says limply, turning to leave. “Don’t read it, Calla.”
I don’t answer, so he stops in his tracks, glancing back at me, his desperate gaze meeting mine. “You can’t read it, Cal.”
I can’t help but stare into his eyes, fascinated by the utter desolation I find there. The level of his despair over a simple book is staggering.
“Why do you feel so strongly about this, Finn?”
My question is simple.
But his answer is not. He turns back to me, and his face crumples and he cries.
“Because things have to happen in order, Calla. They have to. In. Order. Can’t you see? Can’t you?” His skinny shoulders shake and I pull him into my arms and my hands stroke his back as he breathes harshly against me, his chest rising and falling against my own.
“I see,” I tell him, which is another lie because I don’t.
It’s minutes and minutes before he steps away, before he’s gathered control of himself enough to step out of my bedroom. But the look on his face is haunting when he does, as he closes the door and the last thing I see is the despair.
God, this hurts.
But I’m his protector. If I don’t do it, no one will.
And sometimes, we have to do things we aren’t proud of to protect those we love.
So I lock my door and pull out his book, curling up once again in my window seat so I can invade his privacy.
Below me, I see Finn go outside, and pull out an ax. He takes his aggression out on the wood, chopping piece after piece, even though this is summer and we won’t need it for months. In fact, we won’t even be here when it turns cold. But my father will.
So Finn chops wood for our father, while I turn my attention to his journal.
The craziness it contains spirals and leaps on the page, and I find myself holding my breath as I read.
I’m drowning. Drowning. Drowning. Immersum immersum immersum
Calla will save me. Or I will die. Or I will die. Or I will die.
Serva me, servabo te. Save me and I will save you.
Calla calla calla calla calla calla calla calla
I will save you calla. Calla calla calla.
I tear my eyes away from the painful words, wrenching them away, because once again, just like always, Finn calls out for me when he’s afraid.
Even in written words on the pages of his journal.
He thinks I’m the only one who can save him and I have to agree.
But he also thinks he needs to save me, which is slightly ridiculous.
I’m the only one who understands. I’m the only one who knows. And I can’t tell anyone, because if I do, my father will have no choice but to send Finn to a mental institution, and I know enough to know that he’d never get out. They’d keep him.
So I have to save him without telling anyone.
And the only way to do that, is to read his innermost thoughts. All of them.