Chapter no 16 – Owen


wish she knew how much I thought about her. How every night, I questioned whether the tightness in my chest could actually be the result of missing her, or if it was simply the fact that I wasn’t allowed to see her. Sometimes people want what they can’t have and confuse that with feelings for another person.

Either way, the feeling is there. e pressure, the ache, the slow build in my stomach that’s encouraging me to close the distance between us and take her mouth with mine. I would have done that by now if I hadn’t seen Trey leaving her apartment on my way over. Luckily, he’s an unobservant prick, so he didn’t even notice me.

I de nitely saw him, though. And it makes me wonder what he was doing here so late at night. Not that I have a right to know, but I certainly can’t squash my curiosity.

He came to see me in jail last week. I was told I had a visitor, and I expected it to be my father. ere was a very small part of me that was hoping it was Auburn. I never expected her to come see me while I was in jail, but I think the hope that it might happen kept me more positive than I would have been otherwise.

When I walked into the visitation room and saw Trey standing there, at

rst I didn’t think he was there to see me. But once his glare fell on me, it became clear. I walked to my chair and took a seat, and he did the same.

He stared at me for several minutes without saying a word. I stared back. I don’t know if he thought his mere presence alone was enough intimidation, but he never did speak. Just sat in his chair for ten solid minutes, staring at me.

I never wavered. I did want to laugh a few times, but was able to hold it together. He nally stood up, but I remained seated. He walked around the table, poised to head toward the exit behind me, but instead he paused and looked down on me.

“Stay away from my girl, Owen.”

is is when he lost my eye contact. Not because he pissed me off or made me nervous, but because his words were an excruciating punch in the gut. e fact that he referred to Auburn as his girl is the last thing I wanted to hear, and that has nothing to do with my jealousy and everything to do with my instincts regarding Trey.

And while I have to admit I hate that I’ve screwed my life up to the point that it would negatively aect us if we were together, I hate it even more that he gets to have her. Because she deserves better. So much better.

She deserves me.

If only she knew that.

She’s staring up at me like she wants to throw her arms around me. Like she wants to kiss me. And believe me, if she did either of those things right now I would more than welcome it.

She’s standing with her hands at her sides, like she doesn’t know what to do with them. She lifts her right hand and brings it across her chest, squeezing the bicep of her left arm. Her gaze shifts to her feet.

“You’re okay.” Her voice comes out extremely unsure of itself. I’m not sure if she’s asking me a question or making a simple observation. I nod anyway. She blows out a soft breath, and her relief is something I wasn’t anticipating. I wasn’t expecting her to be worried about me. I was hoping she was, but hoping for it and seeing it are two dierent things.

I’m not sure what’s happening in this second, but we both simultaneously take a quick step forward. Neither of us stops until her arms are wrapped around my neck and my arms are wrapped around her back, and we’re both gripping one another in a desperate hug.

I tilt my face toward her neck and inhale the scent of her. If her smell had a color, it would be pink. Sweet and innocent with a touch of roses.

After a long but still-too-short embrace, she takes a step back and grabs my hand. She pulls me toward her bedroom and I follow her. When she opens the door, my eyes fall to the blue tent still set up next to her bed. She hasn’t taken it down and that makes me smile. She closes her bedroom door

behind us and grabs the pillows off her bed, smiling gently as she tosses them into the tent and crawls inside.

She lies down in the tent, and I crawl in beside her and lie next to her. We face each other, and for several moments, all we do is stare. I eventually lift my hand and brush a lock of hair from her forehead, but I notice how she pulls away slightly. I drop my hand.

It’s like she doesn’t want to start the conversation because she knows the

rst thing that needs to be put out there is her relationship with Trey. I don’t want to put her in an awkward position, but I also need to know the truth. I clear my throat and somehow release the words that don’t want answers.

“Are you with him now?”

ey’re the rst words I’ve spoken to her since we said good-bye a month ago. I hate that these have to be the words I chose. I should have said, “I missed you,” or “You look beautiful.” I should have said words she would appreciate, but instead, I said words that are hard for her to hear. I know they’re hard for her to hear because her eyes cast downward and she can no longer look at me.

“It’s complicated,” she says. If she only knew.

“Do you love him?”

She immediately shakes her head no. is lls me with relief, but I also hate that she’s with someone for the wrong reasons.

“Why are you with him?”

She makes eye contact with me now and her expression has hardened. “ e same reason I can’t be with you.” She pauses. “AJ.”

is is probably the one thing I didn’t want to hear, because it’s the one thing I know I have no control over.

“He gets you closer to AJ, and I do the exact opposite.” She nods, but barely.

“Do you feel anything for him? At all?”

She closes her eyes as if she’s ashamed. “Like I said . . . it’s complicated.”

I reach over and grab her hand. I pull it to my mouth and kiss the top of it. “Auburn, look at me.”

She glances up at me again, and more than anything I want to lean forward and kiss her. at’s the last thing she needs, though. It would only

add more complication in her life. “I’m sorry,” she whispers.

I immediately shake my head. I don’t need to hear how she’s sorry we can’t be together. e reasons we can’t be together are all my fault. Not hers. “I get it. I would never want to be a part of anything that could keep you away from your son. But you have to understand that Trey is not the answer.

He’s not a good person, and you don’t want AJ to grow up with him as an example.”

She rolls onto her back and stares upward. I don’t like the distance she put between us just now, but I also know that my words aren’t anything new to her. I know she knows what kind of person he is. “He loves AJ. He’s good to him.”

“For how long?” I ask her. “How long does he have to put on this act to win you over? Because it won’t last, Auburn.”

She brings her hands up to her face and her shoulders begin to shake. I immediately wrap my arm around her and pull her to my chest. I didn’t want to show up here and cause her to cry.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper. “I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. I’m sure you’ve weighed your options, and this is the only one that works for you and I get that. I just hate it for you.”

I brush my hand over her hair and kiss the top of her head. She allows me to hold her for several minutes, and I savor each and every one of those minutes because we both know the next thing she’s going to say to me is good-bye.

I don’t want her to have to say it, so I kiss her once more on top of her head. I kiss her cheek, and then I graze her jaw with my ngers, tilting her face to mine. I bend forward and gently press my lips to hers. I don’t give her time to overthink it. I close my eyes, release her, and exit the tent.

She’s made her choice, and even though it’s not the choice either of us wants, it’s the only choice that works for her right now. And I have to respect that.



I drop my cat off at my studio and decide there’s no better time than midnight to go see my father. He honored my request and didn’t visit or call

while I was away. I’m surprised he didn’t visit, but a small part of me is hopeful that he didn’t because seeing his son being sent to jail for his mistakes might have been his rock bottom.

I’ve learned over the years not to allow myself to grow too hopeful, but I’d be lying if I said every part of me isn’t praying he’s been in rehab while I was away.

I expected he would be either asleep or gone, so I brought my house key with me. All the lights are o.

When I enter the house, I immediately see the faint glow of the TV. I turn toward the living room and see my father lying facedown on the couch. Knowing he’s not in rehab sends a wave of disappointment through me, but I can’t deny the small rush of hope that he’s actually lying on the couch because he’s not breathing.

And that is not something a son should feel for his father. I sit down on the coee table, two feet from him.


He doesn’t immediately wake up. I reach over to my side and pick up his bottle of pills. e fact that I just spent a month in jail for him should have been more than enough to make him never want to touch another one of these. Seeing that it wasn’t makes me want to walk out of this house and never look back.

My father is a good person. I know that. If he weren’t a good person, it would be easier to walk away. I would have done it a long time ago. But I know he’s not in control of himself. He hasn’t been for years.

After the accident, he was in a lot of pain, physically and emotionally. It doesn’t help that for the entire month he was in a coma, they had him doped up on meds.

When he nally woke up and began to recover, the pills were the only things to relieve his pain. When he began needing more than he was prescribed, the doctors refused his requests.

For weeks, I had to watch him suer. He wasn’t working, he wouldn’t get out of bed, he was in a constant state of agony and depression. At the time, I didn’t think my father was capable of allowing something as small as a pill to completely devour him, but I was naive. e only thing I saw when I looked at him was a man who was in pain and needed my help. I had been behind the wheel of the car that took the life of his son and his wife, and I

would have done anything to make it better. To rectify what happened. I carried a lot of guilt for a long time over that accident, even though I know my father didn’t blame me. at’s one thing he did right: repeatedly tell me that it wasn’t my fault.

Still though, it’s hard not to feel guilt when you’re a sixteen-year-old kid. I just wanted to make it better for him. It began with my being prescribed my own pain medication. It was fairly easy to fake back pain after a wreck of our magnitude, so that’s exactly what I did. After several months of his continuously being in more and more pain, it got to the point where even my additional pills weren’t enough for him.

at’s also when my doctor pulled me off of the pills and refused to give me another prescription. I think he knew what was going on and didn’t want to contribute to my father’s addiction.

I had a friend or two at school who knew how to get the pills my father needed, so it started out with my bringing him the medicine from people I knew. at went on for two years until those friends either grew out of raiding their parents’ stashes or moved off to college. Since then, I’ve been getting them from my only other source, which is Harrison.

Harrison isn’t a dealer, but being around alcoholics for the majority of every day makes it fairly easy for him to know who to contact when someone needs something. He also knows the pills aren’t for me, which is the only reason he’s been willing to give them to me.

Now that he knows I went to jail over the very pills he’s been supplying my father, he refuses to get any more for him. Harrison is done, which I was hoping would be the end of it for my father, since it meant the end of his supply.

But here he is with more pills. I’m not sure how he got these, but it makes me nervous that someone else out there other than myself and Harrison now knows about his addiction. He’s being reckless now.

As much as I’ve tried to talk my father into rehab, he’s afraid of what would happen to his career if he went and it were to become public knowledge. Right now, his addiction is just bad enough that it’s destroying his personal life. However, it’s almost to the point where it will destroy his professional life. It’s just a matter of time, because alcohol is beginning to play a large role and the incidents I’ve been rescuing him from this past year are becoming more and more frequent. And I know that addictions don’t

just get better. ey’re either actively fought or actively fed. And right now, he’s not doing a goddamn thing to ght his.

I open the lid and pour his pills into my palm and begin to count them. “Owen?” my father mutters. He raises himself to a seated position. He’s

carefully eyeing the pills in my hand, more focused on what I’m going to do to them than he is on the fact that I’ve been released early.

I set the pills beside me on the coee table. I clasp my hands together between my knees and smile at my father.

“I met a girl recently.”

My father’s expression says it all. He’s completely confused.

“Her name is Auburn.” I stand up and walk to the mantel on the

replace. I look at the last family photo we ever took. It was more than a year before the accident, and I hate that this is the last memory I have of what they look like. I want a more recent memory of them in my mind, but memories fade a lot faster than photographs.

 at’s good, Owen,” my father mutters. “But it’s after midnight.

Couldn’t you have told me tomorrow?”

I return to where he’s seated, but I don’t sit this time. Instead, I stare down at him. Down at this man who was once my father.

“Do you believe in fate, Dad?” He blinks.

“Up until I saw her, I didn’t. But she changed that the second she told me her name.” I chew on the inside of my cheek for a second before continuing. I want to give him time to absorb everything I’m saying. “She has the same middle name as me.”

He raises an eyebrow over his bloodshot eye. “Having the same middle name doesn’t necessarily make it fate, Owen. But I’m happy you’re happy.”

My father rubs his head, still confused as to why I’m here. I’m sure it’s not every night a son wakes his father up after midnight from a drug- induced sleep to rave about the girl he met.

“You want to know what the best part about her is?”

My father shrugs. I know he wants to tell me to fuck o, but even he knows it’s in bad taste to tell someone to fuck off after they just spent a month in jail for you.

“She has a son.”

is wakes him up a little more. He looks up at me. “Is it yours?”

I don’t answer that. If he were listening, he would have heard me say I only recently met her. Ocially met her, anyway.

I take a seat in front of him. I stare him directly in the eye. “No. He’s not mine. But if he were, I guarantee you I’d never put him in the positions you’ve put me in the last few years.”

My father’s eyes fall to the oor. “Owen . . .,” he says. “I never asked you to—”

“You never asked me not to!” I yell. I’m standing again, staring down at him. I’ve never felt rage toward him like this. I don’t like it.

I grab the bottle of pills and walk to the kitchen. I pour them down the sink and turn the water on. When all the pills are gone, I head toward his oce. I hear him coming after me when he realizes what I’m doing. “Owen!” he yells.

I know he also receives a legal prescription, aside from what I’m able to get him, so I walk behind the desk and pull open the drawer. I nd another half-empty bottle of pills. He knows not to try to stop me physically, so he steps aside, all the while begging me not to do this.

“Owen, you know I need those. You know what happens when I don’t take them.”

I don’t listen to it this time. I begin pouring them down the drain,

ghting him off while I do it.

“I need those!” He’s yelling, over and over, trying to grab them as they disappear down the drain. He actually catches one between his ngers and shoves it in his mouth. It makes my stomach hurt. He seems so much less human when he’s this desperate and weak.

When the last pill is gone, I turn and face him. He’s so ashamed; he won’t even look at me. He drops his elbows to the counter and cradles his head in his hands. I take a step closer to him and lean against the counter as I speak to him calmly.

“I watched her with her son. I’ve seen what she sacri ces for him,” I say. “I’ve seen what lengths a parent should go to in order to ensure their child has the best possible life they can give them. And when I see her with him, I think of you and me, and how we’re so fucked up, Dad. We’ve been fucked up since that night. And every moment since then, the only thing I’ve wanted is to see you try to get better. But you haven’t. It’s just gotten worse, and I can’t sit here and be a part of it. You’re killing yourself, and I

won’t let the guilt of seeing you suer excuse the things I do for you anymore.”

I turn around and head for the front door, but not before walking by the mantel and taking the picture frame. I pass by him and walk out the front door.

“Owen, wait!”

I pause before descending the stairs and face him. He stands in the doorway, waiting for me to yell again. I don’t. e second I see his lifeless eyes, the guilt seeps back into my soul.

“Wait,” he says again.

I’m not even sure he knows what he’s asking me. He just knows that he’s never seen this side of me before. e resolved side.

“I can’t wait, Dad. I’ve been waiting for years. I don’t have anything else left in me to give.”

I turn around, and I walk away from him.

You'll Also Like