The Not-Outcast

Page 23


I was nervous.

I was fully nervous.

I was palms sweating, heart pounding, and edges of my vision blurring. That type of nervous. Maybe I shouldn’t have been. Melanie read me right and switched all conversation to her and Cassie. The PT girl who had met us at Bresko’s, and who was gorgeous, and who Melanie was totally vibing with. She really liked her, but Melanie more loved the chase than the actual falling in love part. Correction: she enjoyed the chase and the sex, but she never lied about either.

And when we took an Uber to the hockey arena, I was feeling all of the nerves.


All. The. Nerves.

I was about to see Cut again.

He hadn’t texted, neither had I. I felt as if we were both locked in, knowing there’d be a talk tonight, and there was no way I telling him the truth. That I fell in love with him the moment I saw him. I was going to hedge my bets and go with everything else that caused me to run, like my mom, like my upbringing, like—okay. That’d be too much. It was too much for me at times, and I’d lived it.

I’d figure it out, probably on the spot, and until then I’d be freaking.

“Hey.” Melanie nudged my elbow. Her tone was quiet but concerned. “Did you take your meds today?”


What meds?

Oh yes.

Those meds.




My meds.

I wasn’t panicking.


I’d been good.

I didn’t drink last night.

I didn’t partake in the mimosas today.

And why was that? Because of my meds, because I was off my vacation from my meds and… I was thinking, remembering, and I was coming up blank.

There’s no way I forgot to take them, or start them back up again. No way.

But there was a way.

I’d been distracted.

Very distracted.

Very very distracted, and I pulled out the container, looked for my day’s slots and shit—I hadn’t. Shit, shit, shit. I was fully hyperventilating now because this wasn’t good.

She saw, and I heard her quick curse under her breath. “Okay. No problem.” We were walking up to the side entrance that Cassie told us to head toward, but Melanie reached in her purse and pulled out a small water bottle. “Take ’em now.”

I could, but it took a long time for them to even start getting into my system.

I was fucked for the night and how could I have forgotten them?! By now this should’ve been like breathing. I just do it, but I’d never had such a distraction like Cut before. And now I was panicking thinking about how I was fucked and I was setting off my own panic attack here. I could feel it rising up.

The room was already buzzing right along with me, and we’d just gotten to the back of the arena.

Nope. No way. I’d be okay. I’d have to be okay.

I popped a pill, putting the bottle back in my purse. “I’m good.”

Her eyebrows pulled together. “Cheyenne.”

I forgot.

It was starting.

I was thinking back over the last week, and the first day I forgot them was Saturday morning. I woke up at Cut’s. Sunday. Monday, I remembered. Tuesday, I forgot. Wednesday. Thursday, today. I’d forgotten almost the whole week.


The heat wafted in from a nearby food vendor.

A door opened, and I felt the chill of the ice slide in, too.

I could hear people talking outside in the seating area. I heard people coming in behind us. We’d used the staff entrance, and a security guy was coming toward us. He had a radio in hand, a frown on his face, and he was skimming over Melanie and me like we were groupies.

I had a routine down, and I was so far gone from my routine this whole week.

“Ben!” A woman was coming from a side door, her hand raised.

The security guy looked over.

She indicated us. “They’re with me.”

His head moved up. “Got it. You need—” He stopped talking, seeing her hand and the two lanyards she was holding. “You got ’em already.”

Then Cassie was next to us. She and Melanie were greeting each other, a kiss to the cheek, a slight hug before Cassie turned toward me. Man. She was really beautiful, and warm. I’d seen her before, but it was different this time. There was a glow around her. Did Melanie not see it?

I was noticing all of this as if I was using one side of my brain. I had separated inside. One side of me was shut down. The other part of me was noticing everything else. It was a coping mechanism I’d been trained to use in counseling.

I needed an anchor, and I needed to let everything else move to the back of my head. I had to, but it was hard. It took work. I would be struggling—I needed another drink.

Cassie was moving to greet me, a hand to my shoulder.

She had sprayed perfume on herself that smelled like lilacs, and she pressed a chaste kiss to my cheek. The lilacs were a lot right now. She was saying something, but the buzz from everything else had deafened me. I couldn’t hear her, but my eyes dropped to her lips, reading them.

“Hello, Cheyenne. It’s so nice to see you again.”

She squeezed my shoulder lightly, out of affection. She was happy.

And she turned back to Melanie.

She was happy Melanie was here, but there was more to her attention toward me. Something else, something with me, but I couldn’t decipher it.

How could I have forgotten my meds for so many days in a row? Well, I’m me. There’s that.

I drew in a breath, closing my eyes.

I needed to channel everything.

It wasn’t staying in the back of my head.

I felt Melanie looking at me. She was worried, too.

I had those drinks earlier, and no wonder my anxiety was starting to take over.

I had to do something.

Be something…I was shifting.

My shirt felt like it was suffocating me.

I was cold and hot all at the same time.

More people were coming in behind us, and I squawked as I moved aside. They all gave me weird looks.

Everyone was looking.

They all knew.

Knew I was crazy. That I was insane.

I’d hear the whispers.

I’d be asked to leave.

I pressed my mouth shut so I didn’t make any more sounds. This happened, too. Too much stimulus, and I couldn’t read the right cues. I’d say something when I shouldn’t, answer a question that was asked five questions ago, and the looks. More looks.

People didn’t like what they couldn’t understand.

It scared them.

They couldn’t understand me.

I heard Melanie saying something to Cassie, and suddenly an arm wound around my shoulders.

I tensed, but it was Melanie, and she was pulling me against her.

She was my anchor.

My hand found hers, hiding between our bodies, and I clung hard.

She squeezed me back. “Head down, babe. We’ll go somewhere you can handle. I’m sorry.”

No, no. I wanted to tell her I had regular seats, that this would’ve happened there, too.

I should’ve taken my meds.

Why had I forgotten them?

I kept my head down a little bit. We were walking down a hallway, past people. The lights were overwhelming. A new person popped out of a room, and kept popping out, and popping out. They were all saying hi to Cassie.

She was loved here.

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