“My father is in Boston, handling the family business, and my mother is shopping. Zurich is one of her favorite retail spots.”
Knowing Mother, she was going to pick me up with bags full of new shoes, cuff links, and summer clothes for me. Her version of being maternal.
“Why didn’t you tell anyone?” the male doctor asked. “About the Tourette’s syndrome.”
“What was the point?” I brushed my dress pants from lint. “Knowing my family, we will be keeping my condition under wraps. So either you prescribe me with shit, try new treatment on me, or let me go. I’ll figure out a way to hide it.”
“It’s a neurological disorder,” the female doctor explained, her voice turning even softer. “Caused by an array of very complex things, mostly because of abnormalities in certain brain regions. The tics will come and go, and even though we can offer some treatments to relieve and ease the disorder, it is mostly here to stay. You can’t control it. The very definition of Tourette’s is that your tics are involuntarily. You cannot train your nerves. They are everywhere in your body. To numb them, you will have to stop feeling completely.”
“Then it is voluntary.” I stood, heading for the door.
“No,” the doctor hesitated. “For you to stop the tics, you’ll have to stop feeling. I don’t think you understand—”
“I understand everything.” I curled my fist, knocking on the door three times, signaling the nurse I wanted to get out.
I didn’t answer.
I got what I came here for.
Now all I needed was practice.
Operation Cancel Feelings did not get off to a smooth start when I came back to England.
To begin with, I wasn’t big on feelings. That was not to say I hadn’t felt any. I was capable of being sad, happy, hungry, amused, and jealous. I hated a lot of people—certainly more than a boy my age should—and even loved a little.
Mainly my baby brother, who had the advantage of not being able to talk back, hence not being able to piss me off. But I also loved other things. Polo and Christmas and sticking my tongue out when it rained. The alluring taste of winter.
I also liked my friendship with Andrew Arrowsmith. A lot.
Not in the same way I liked girls. The way they moved and smelled and existed, which I found both magical and confusing. I knew I was one hundred percent straight. I liked Andy because he got me. Because we were the two kids with the Boston accents who did everything together. We studied and hung out and watched movies and shows and played the same sports. We pulled dangerous pranks together. We farted and blamed it on his dogs during dinnertime. We watched our first porno together, and fought over football, and ran away from the cops that one time when we accidentally set a trash can in the country club on fire…
We were being kids and shared whatever childhood our parents allowed us to have together.
He was the closest thing to family I’d had. Which was why I was furious with Andrew Senior for stealing money from Royal Pipelines, and with my own father for finding out, and also with Athair for acting on the betrayal.
Yes, Andy’s dad stole from our company, but Andy was my lifeline. Couldn’t Athair let this shit go?
After weeks of not hearing or seeing Andy at Evon, I finally ran into him at the main chapel. My relief was mixed with dread.
I waved at him from across the chapel. There was a swarm of students between us, and all of us were wearing the same uniform. Andrew noticed me and looked away.
The tinge of pain in my chest alarmed me. I couldn’t afford to feel. Feelings would inspire more nerve attacks, and nerve attacks would make Athair disown me. While I truly liked baby Hunter, I didn’t want to see him snagging the eldest son’s title as the heir to Royal Pipelines.
Not to mention, Athair, Mother, and Hunter were the only family I had left, now that Andy probably hated my guts.
I strode across the lawn after Sunday Mass, hands clasped behind my back, frowning at the lush grass. I didn’t even care much that I had Tourette’s. It was inconvenient, for sure, but after gulping down a few medical journals and a couple of books about the syndrome, I’d decided I would overcome it before graduating and moving on to college.
And when I decided something, I never failed, no matter the means it took to achieve it.
The back of my neck seared with sudden pain. I stopped, bringing my hand to rub at it. It felt warm and sleek. I withdrew my palm, glancing at it. It was full of blood. I turned around. Andrew strode toward me with some of his friends, tossing a rock in his hand.
“What the fuck, Arrowsmith?”
“The fuck is your father is a jealous asshole, and my mates here told me that you’re a freak. I heard about the library accident.”
I figured he would. I straightened my posture, reminding myself that there was no need to waste any feelings over this nonsense. He wasn’t the first person to leave. He wasn’t going to be the last, either.
“Yeah? Well, I h-h-heard your da-da-dad stole money to pay your way through Evon. Short on money, Arrowsmith?” I punched my own face out of nowhere.
What the fuck?
Andrew’s eyes gleamed as he advanced toward me, picking up speed. His friends followed suit.
“Oh, man, you’re stuttering now!”
“I’m not stuttering.” I let out a low growl, slapping my own face again.
No. No. No.
I wasn’t in an empty library this time. I had an audience, and they were watching, laughing, getting a glimpse of the freak show. I had to stop.
Stop hurting right now.
“The good thing”—Andrew stopped only when he was next to me—“is that I’m not a Fitzpatrick. An Arrowsmith always comes to his friend’s rescue. And you need to be rescued, don’t you, Kill?”
His friends laughed, hands tucked inside their pockets, glaring at me, waiting for the word go.
I looked behind me, slapping my own face again. I could probably run, but there was no point. The tics were going to slow me down, and anyway, I’d always been faster on a horse than with my feet.
I looked back at them. Now was as good a time as any to check the pain box on my list and make sure I couldn’t feel it.
Andrew cracked his knuckles loudly.