But she hadn’t really acted any different toward me, and so neither had I. Last night, I’d planned on sneaking into her room, but I figured we probably should talk first and I knew talking would’ve been the last thing I would’ve done. So I’d decided to wait until today to talk to her. And then she’d played keep-away all day. If I could go back and change things, I would.
I never ended up elaborating on what I was saying to Kyler. I was done talking about shit and I spent the next couple of hours roaming the house until I finally got tired of waiting for Sydney to reappear. I headed upstairs, past my room. The door to Andrea’s was cracked open, and taking a deep breath, I eased it open.
I was relieved to see that neither of them was still on the floor. Andrea was asleep on her side, facing the door. Curled inward, her face was no longer flushed but her hair appeared damp. Her pale lips were parted.
Sydney sat on the other side of her, leaning against the headboard and legs crossed at the ankles. She glanced up from her phone as I stepped into the room.
“Is she okay?” I whispered, not wanting to disturb Andrea.
Lowering her phone to her lap, Sydney nodded. “She’s out cold.” Her voice was low. “A truck could drive through this house and she’d sleep through it. It’s like that after… after these instances.”
My chest spasmed. “This…this happens a lot?”
She studied me for a moment as uncertainty flickered across her face. “As far as I know, not when she’s been drinking, but it’s happened a couple of times since I’ve known her.”
“She normally uses the meds then?”
Sydney nodded again. “It’s not her fault. Her brain… Well, it’s like a faulty house alarm, you know? Your brain is wired to alert you to danger. Gets the adrenaline going, all of that, but with people who have anxiety attacks, the brain isn’t working correctly. It’s like a house alarm going off when no one is breaking into the house. Sometimes something triggers it—something big. Other times, it can be an issue that would be minor for the rest of us.”
“I didn’t think it was her fault,” I whispered. “I just didn’t know. I had no idea. Andrea seems so…”
“You know, usually the people who smile the most and laugh the loudest are the ones who…suffer the most,” she said quietly as she glanced down at Andrea and sighed wearily. “I knew…I knew the drinking was bad, especially with the anxiety. I’ve talked to her about it, you know? But I never really pushed her on it, and I…I should’ve. I know better. It’s just hard to see everything clearly when it’s someone you care about.”
Damn, that was… All of this was painful to hear. For a moment, I couldn’t move. All I could do was stare at Andrea. The bright red curls were spread out behind her like flames. Her hands were folded under her chin, against her chest. I had no idea how she’d gotten herself in that tiny ball, but she looked much smaller, much younger.
“I messed up,” I said out loud, to no one in particular.
A heartbeat passed and Sydney said, “So did she. So did all of us.”
It was the butt-crack of dawn Saturday morning when I found myself wide awake with a pounding headache and a really vile taste in the back of my throat. Throwing off a quilt I didn’t remember grabbing, I sat up and the room did this really weird funhouse thing. I made it to the bathroom with just seconds to spare, enough time to turn on the shower to drown out the sounds I made when I dropped to my knees in front of the toilet.
Pain shuttled up and down my ribs by the time I finished, and I sat there for a minute, clean water in the basin of the toilet and steam filling the bathroom, replaying messy images from the night before, over and over like I was stuck in some kind of twisted instant replay of random, blurry flashes that didn’t make a lot of sense.
Last night…I’d gotten plastered and not only made a complete idiot out of myself, I’d had an anxiety attack. My cheeks burned as I vaguely remembered Tanner standing in the room, me screaming at him…not being able to breathe.
How in the world would I ever face Tanner again?
I dragged myself to my feet and, after stripping down, I stepped under the warm spray. It was a nice shower—multiple body jets and an overhead rain showerhead. I liked to think the drenching and pounding washed away all the lingering alcohol seeping out of my pores.
Brushing my teeth twice, I practically made love to the mouthwash before I pulled on a lightweight maxi dress and quietly sneaked downstairs. It was too early for anyone else to be up and even though I wanted—needed—coffee and its wonderful caffeine, I didn’t want the aroma to turn the house into a Folgers coffee commercial. So I settled for iced tea that I took outside.
Tired and my head thumping dully, I set the tea aside and padded over to the side of the pool. My toes curled as I stared at the water. I felt…detached from last night. Like it hadn’t been me who’d gotten so drunk or had freaked out. Just a movie I watched or something I was a bystander to. But that was how it always felt after an attack, and it had been me.
Lifting my head, I closed my eyes and I tried not to think, but it was a quiet moment. My body tensed, and I wasn’t sure what I was preparing myself for, but every muscle trembled.
When I opened my eyes, nothing had changed.
I walked over to the lounge chair and sat down, tucking my feet under the hem of my dress. Since it was so early, the sticky humidity and the overbearing heat hadn’t rolled in yet. The sky was cloudless, a beautiful blue that…that reminded me of Tanner’s eyes.