“I had no idea if I’d ever get to do this again,” he said, his voice gruff as his chin grazed the top of my head. “The last time I saw you…” He pulled back, sliding his hands to my arms. Despite everything, a tight shiver coiled down my spine. “I didn’t hurt you, did I? I wasn’t thinking—”
“No. I’m fine. Nothing really hurts anymore.” My gaze drifted to his and caught. I didn’t know what to say.
It seemed like Tanner didn’t know either, but after a few seconds, he took my hand and guided me over to the couch. We sat side by side. I expected him to let go of my hand, but he didn’t. “You look a thousand times better than last time.”
“I can imagine.” I laughed, but it was without humor. I studied our hands. “I wish you hadn’t seen me like that.”
“I wish that had never happened.”
He was quiet for a moment. “I don’t know what to say. We only have an hour and I don’t want to waste a second, but all I can do is sit here and stare at you.”
Oh gosh, why did he always have to say the right stuff?
“I guess I’ll start with saying I’m happy that you were okay with seeing me. I knew you were okay, but I…I just needed to see it with my own eyes.”
“I know…you heard the call go out and that you came straight to the hospital,” I told him. “I’m sorry you had to go through any of that. I just wasn’t ready to…to see you.”
“You don’t need to apologize.” He squeezed my hand. “What’s been going on in here?”
I raised a shoulder and then became aware of what I was doing. I wasn’t being honest. I was hiding, and damn, if Tanner deserved anything from me, it wasn’t to sit here and act like a tool.
Taking a deep breath, I slipped my hand free. I couldn’t be touching him when I had to be honest. Weird, but true. “I’ve spent a lot of time talking.”
I smiled wanly. “Everything.”
“Would you…would you tell me?” he asked.
This was hard. Putting voice to this stuff, especially to someone like Tanner, who probably had only ever seen one side of me, but it was something we focused on during my sessions with Dave. To put a voice to what I was feeling, to cope that way instead of bottling it up…and turning to a bottle.
So I told him.
I talked about always rushing toward tomorrow, my restlessness and all those quiet moments. I confided in my fear of letting my parents down and how I couldn’t settle on a future. I even told him about when I’d taken my first drink and how it felt to not care about anything, to feel like I was free, and I told him about the crash, because that feeling never lasted.
When I was done, I was exhausted. It was like shedding skin, but all of these things I spoke to Tanner about, it wasn’t the first time I gave them a voice. These were all things that Dave had snaked out of me, one meeting after another.
I exhaled loudly. “So that’s…that’s everything.”
“Yeah,” he said quietly, and I peeked at him. He was staring at the wall. “That is everything. I…”
My cheeks heated. “You’re probably wishing you hadn’t asked.”
“No. Not at all,” he replied quickly. “I just didn’t know. I mean, I knew you…I thought that there was something going on, but you’re getting help.”
I shifted. “Sometimes I wonder if I would’ve changed on my own. If I hadn’t gotten in that car and had the accident, if I would still be doing what I was doing,” I admitted.
Tanner nodded slowly. “I don’t think you’ll ever know, but you know what, it doesn’t matter. You’re doing something about all this now, and that’s what counts.”
I glanced over at him. “Really? That’s what counts?”
His brows knitted. “Yes.”
“I don’t know. I think it has to be more than that. I messed up, Tanner. I drove drunk and could’ve killed someone. I think that counts.”
“It does.” He twisted toward me. “But you didn’t. You only hurt yourself. And you’re getting help. The fact that you are facing this is a big deal. And Syd told me you didn’t fight it when your dad said you were going to treatment. Facing this takes real courage.”
Courage? I wasn’t sure about that.
His gaze searched mine. “Just in case you’re wondering, I’m not looking at you any differently, and I’m still waiting for you to come to me.”
My jaw nearly hit the floor. “What?”
He grinned a little. “Andrea, I really care about you. What I feel…” He moved his hand to his chest, above his heart. “I—”
“I’ve been diagnosed with depression. They think it’s a chemical imbalance, since I haven’t had any major life changes that would cause this, but that’s not something that is as easy to diagnose as people think it is. I have anxiety too, and it could be coming from the depression or the drinking. Or it could be a whole different set of issues. It could take months to really give a definitive diagnosis, but I’ve been self-medicating,” I rushed on, getting it out there. “With alcohol, and God knows what else.”
Tanner blinked. “Okay.”
A knot crept into my throat. “I think I’ve always known. I mean, I knew my head—my thoughts sometimes just didn’t make sense. Like it always went to the worst-case scenario and I…I don’t think I’m good enough or worthy enough, and those quiet moments, God, they’re killer. That’s what’s really going on with me, so please—please don’t say anything you really don’t mean.”