Handle with Care

I was a stalker. Oh my God…a full blown stalker. I glanced out the window as we passed the sign that welcomed us into Anchorage, Maine. It helped that my dad was Lieutenant O'Keefe…people didn't expect him or any one in his family to exploit the power he had in the police forces. But I break molds all the time, man. Of course, once I knew he had some influence in police forces in Maine, I was going to exploit that influence.

Adam.

I blinked back tears, cursing as we rode over a speed bump too fast. Instinctively, I turned to your seat, subconsciously checking to make sure you hadn't gotten a fracture or something.

And I forced myself to turn back.

Because you weren't here.

And you hadn't been here for a year.

And it was stupid of me to forget that you were never coming back…

That this wasn't just a vacation…

That every night I would sleep alone…

That every morning I would hear Mom cry in the bathroom

That every day after school I wouldn't get to see you

That every dinner…

That at every dinner…

You wouldn't be there.

I put my feet up on the car seat, silently daring Mom or Dad to yell at me. But they had been rattled by the speed bump too…and I could tell that they were remembering you like I was.

When you were still…here…I had some issues. I had become bulimic and I cut myself. Not that I was suicidal, no way…but cutting and throwing up gave me the chance to hate myself and to be able to point to a reason why. Those habits made me hate me and I loved that. But when Dad and Mom found out, the fact that they insisted that I stop…I loved that too. I loved that they saw me, that they noticed me, that I existed and that they cared. That I was actually likable enough to want to keep around.

I rubbed my hands together to warm up. Apparently, air conditioning is bad for your lungs, so we never turned the heat up in the van. Today we were going to the mall, conveniently located close to Adam's house. I planned to ditch Mom and Dad at Talbot's or some other old store and take a jog over to Adam's. Because even after all this, I couldn't bring myself to tell Mom and Dad the truth; that even though you were…even though you weren't here anymore, I was still thinking about other things. I was such a selfish brat, thinking about my own love life in place of thinking about yours.

In case you were wondering, Mom cried in front of me for twenty two days after you left.

I cried for three days straight in our room.

I did love you. I did miss you.

And it was because I missed you so much, that I wanted to make things right now with Adam.

So that I wouldn't feel like there was as big a gaping hole in my chest for him too.

"Amelia, we're here."

Dad was the one who had seized on to the idea of the outing. I suggested that we take a trip somewhere, like up to Maine and go shopping, and Dad really liked that. He wanted Mom to get out of the house. After the whole Piper lawsuit, Mom really hadn't had a chance…or reason…to get out. And Dad thought it was unhealthy for her to sit inside all day, just baking.

So we took a road trip.

"Amelia? Amelia!"
"Huh..? Oh, yeah Dad, I'm getting out."

I stumbled a bit getting out of the van, and Dad's hands swooped down to break my fall. I couldn't look him in the eyes, because I was remembering you. And I was sure he was too.

"Dad? Could I just grab some money and go shopping?"

Dad cracked a small smile.

"What, is it not cool to shop with your parents anymore?"

I giggled half heartedly and quickly grabbed the forty bucks he offered. I sprinted into the mall, way ahead of my parents; just to get a head start.

After about ten minutes, I turned right around and sprinted back out of the mall. I needed to find Adam's house.

It took me about twenty minutes, but after you left, I had joined the track team. So I wasn't super slow or anything. That's still a long time, because his house was just off the road, but I had been paying attention to make sure I didn't get run over or anything.

Mom had enough to cry about.

Adam's house was sweet, lavender with a white trim. Flowers bloomed even though we were in Maine. His porch looked shiny with varnish and felt slippery under my hand. I brushed my hair out, retying it, and rang the doorbell.

I have this really bad habit of peering into windows. Like whenever I went to Emma's house, I would ring the bell and peer into her house to see if she was coming. Piper used to just come right in and I had always wanted that kind of confidence, that firm belief that no matter what, I would be welcome. I don't have the sort of confidence. I restrained myself here. I didn't want Adam to think that I was a creeper.

Wow

But I didn't have to worry. Two seconds after I had rang the bell, his mom opened the door. You could see the tiny frustrated lines that bracketed her mouth, the bags underneath her eyes that suggested late night crying. If you knew what to look for, you could tell that her life was not normal. Or maybe that's just me being paranoid.

"Hey! I'm Adam's friend, Amelia."

She started, and then plastered a smile to her face.

"Hello. I wasn't aware that Adam had any friends coming over today…where did you meet him?"

"Yes, um, well…I met Adam at the OI convention a year ago."

I could see it. I saw her face melt, the cement grin that she had on slowly disappear. I saw a real smile, a real thing bubble up in her face. I could actually see it happen before my eyes.

"Come right on in, Amelia. I have a hot pot of tea going on right now. Let me call Adam down."

I shrugged out of my coat and kept my eyes on my shoes. Bright green Converses, they were the first thing I had bought with my own money. Because the red ones I wore to the trial…I had given them to you, when I looked at your face for the last time. I had also thrown down a box of hair-color. Blue, in case you wanted to rebel too, in Heaven. I thought that I owed it to you, to give you advice in case you did feel like the rules for being happy changed and if you wanted to protest. I was your big sister. I had been your sister. So you deserved a little help wherever you were.

I heard steps coming down the stairs, Adam's mother had returned. Sans Adam. The one person I had come to see.

"I-I'm sorry. Adam doesn't feel well. Maybe you could come back another time?"

I knew she was sorry. But I was sorrier and I had come all the way from New Hampshire, all the way from depression, from grief, from tearing my whole body apart, just so that I could see him. He owed me way more than a box of blue hair color and some shoes. I slid around her and stomped up the stairs. I could tell which room was his, the only sun lit room, the only room with the door wide open.

Plus the sign on the door helped a bit too.

Adam's Room. Do Not Disturb.

I stood at the threshold of the room, staring at him. His eyes were still the same color, his hair was still the same blond…everything about him…nothing had changed.

"Adam."

He turned around and looked at me.

And I flung myself onto him.

I was crying, bawling, sobbing…holding him so tight, because I was afraid that if I let go…he wouldn't come back. He would leave me, he would move to Wyoming or something, and I would never ever see him again.

Lo and behold, men do have brains.

Because Adam hugged me right back.

"I'm so, so, so sorry, Amelia."

Each comma was punctuated with a blink. I could feel the tears on my head, I could feel him…

I could feel his bones protecting his heart. I could feel his heart, pumping.

"Amelia?"
"Hmm?"

"Can you forgive me?"

I looked up at him, the world in my eyes. Because finally, finally, I had found it. That thing I lost when you went away, that thing that chafed me, that rubbed me raw.

I had found love again.

What a cliché.

"I already have."