But it ends with a gunshot.
It’s sometime in the early hours of the morning, still dark and quiet in the bedroom, no noise leaking in from outside, when your eyes shoot open and you sit bolt upright in bed, gasping for air and clutching at the sheets underneath you. The ringing in your ears is so loud it’s almost deafening, making your head feel like it’s going to split in half and you’re pretty sure that your heart is racing so fast that it’s damn near ready to explode. It feels like you’re downing and nothing you can do, no matter how hard you try to struggle your way back to that metaphorical surface, you can’t quite make it. It’s a feeling you know all too well--that awful panic that takes you over when the bad things sink their ugly claws into you and you can’t seem to get a foothold on reality. You hate that feeling and the fact that more often than not all you can really do about it is let it run it’s course.
There’s a moment, a split second, when the fog of sleep is still over you, when your head is splitting and you’re so turned around that you’re not sure that you aren’t actually dead.
It’s the worst moment of your life.
Every day, you try like hell to move on from that part of your life, to put it behind you. You went to all of the rehab and all the of physical therapy, you sat through hours of counselling and took all the medicines, and yes, you were undeniably depressed. Sometimes you still are, but you know how to better deal with it now than you did back then. Getting out of New Mexico and away from everything that had happened was the best thing you ever did for yourself. You’ve worked so hard to make yourself better, to push past the pain and the hurt and the anger of everything that had happened, to reconcile with the accident that had essentially brought your life to a screeching halt.
But it just felt so fucking real.
You can still feel the bite of cold steel against your skin and remember the way that last breath felt as you exhaled, squeezing the trigger. That goddamn ringing is so loud now that you’re half convinced it's going to make your ears bleed. Hell, you could swear there was a pinching as the bullet broke the skin.
Despite yourself, you reach up and press trembling fingers to your temple, because some part of you still doesn’t believe that it wasn’t real. You’re not sure what you’re expecting, maybe a slick of blood, but it’s just the warmth of your own skin and three-day old makeup on your fingertips. You exhale in relief, sinking back down in the bed, until your head is against the pillow and turn over onto your side, pulling the covers over your head as you do. There’s a sudden stinging in your eyes, the tell tale sign of tears as they well up in your eyes. You take a shuddery breath and turn your face into the pillow and just let them come, wracking your body with quiet sobs, because even though you just took a two day long nap, you’re too goddamn tired to fight.
Nearly an hour passes before you’re able to even sort of compose yourself. You reach up and wipe at your swollen, red eyes with the back of one hand, sniffling loudly, while pushing yourself up and trying to will the world back into focus. It dawns on you then how you must have gotten there, who must have moved you from where you’d been sitting on the floor, with your head on the mattress, to lying in the bed. That means he woke up, that he’s okay and you exhale again, mumbling a quiet thank you to no one in particular.
You give yourself a moment before sighing and swinging your legs over the edge of the bed. Another minute passes while you sit there, your head bowed, fingers curled over the edge of the mattress. All you need is a chance to catch your breath, to talk yourself into moving, because all you want to do right now is crawl back into bed and never come out. (Which is laughable considering the circumstances.) Eventually, though, your feet press against the cold wooden floor and you push yourself into a standing position.
… and then you immediately fall back onto the mattress, cursing loudly as you go, because you seem to have forgotten that you haven’t moved in two days and your muscles have started to atrophy. So you just lie there a while, staring up at the ceiling, watching the lights of passing cars as they shoot through the blinds and dance across the darkness. You wonder if he’s still there, but the silence in the apartment, the bedroom door left ajar for the cat to come and go, it tells you all you need to know, even if you’re not ready to admit it to yourself just yet. But there’s a part of you that’s glad he isn’t here to see you, if only because you don’t want to talk about the things you’d dreamed about and you don’t want any worry. Selfishly, you know you just don’t want him to see you with puffy raccoon eyes from the mascara and eyeliner that you’d smeared across your face while you were crying.
It isn’t until the sound of your phone buzzing on the floor draws you back to the real world that you make any attempt at moving, rolling onto your stomach and groping around blindly until you manage to find it. There’s only 5% battery left and your lock screen is filled with more missed text alerts than you want to think about.
You tell Jack you’re okay, ask how he’s doing and you’re about to tell Roxy you’re fine when you get another message from him. Your heart sinks when you see the words light up on your screen. Roxy’s out cold. “What the fuck is going on?” You groan, talking to no one again, which means that no one is around to give you any answers.
Before you have a chance to respond to his message, your phone buzzes for what seems like the zillionth time. There’s coffee waiting in the kitchen. The faintest hint of a smile tugs on the corner of your lips. But it doesn’t last long, because you’re not in the best mood and it’s hard not to let that resonate into your responses, letting your emotions get the best of you. Still, you force yourself to your feet, bracing yourself on the wall this time to avoid toppling over again, then slowly start down the hall.
Maybe you’re in a shitty mood and maybe you’re pushing some people away a little bit and dancing around the subject with others, but it’s okay. Because he’s right. It wasn’t real, none of it was real and the life you have now is decidedly better (if a little weirder) than the one you left behind in that shitty apartment in New Mexico. You just need to remind yourself of that over and over until it sticks.