Tommy tottered through the front door, using a crutch to slam it shut behind him. He was sweating from head toe, and his recently healed incision hurt so much he feared it had pulled apart somewhere along the fifteen-inch scar. It was definitely past time for a pain pill. Too bad there wasn’t a pill to help him be around other people without feeling conspicuous and defective. Why is it that every interaction I have with anyone focuses on my shortcomings? I couldn’t even open the stupid door by myself.
He knew it was partly his fault that he was alone. Art and Beth Severson, his parents’ best friends, had encouraged him to stay with them after he was discharged from the hospital, and he’d taken them up on the offer for a couple weeks. They’d infiltrated his drug-induced fog with good intentions and regular mealtimes. Beth hovered over him with a cheery efficiency that he found annoying, and Art asked so many questions about the accident that Tommy had finally gotten tired of saying “I don’t remember” and clammed up. Every evening Art watched the SportsCam channel on TV, which only served to remind Tommy, the former athlete, of his new physical limitations. Maybe Art had felt obligated to be there for his dead best friend’s son, but Tommy wished he didn’t. He’d found the whole situation intolerable, and as soon as he was able to get around on his own, he’d gone home.
He pulled the little white box from the pocket of his hoodie and removed the amber bottle inside. Three drops daily. Not just for him…for everyone. Everyone was in danger; everyone was scared. He wasn’t alone in this fight.
He limped into the kitchen for a glass of water and a pain pill. With three tiny drops of the antidote swirling in his glass, he washed down the pill with a single gulp. Back in the living room, he flopped on the sofa and closed his eyes, and soon the sofa wasbreathing softly, and he was somewhere else, his body rising and falling in time with the sofa, like waves on the lake he’d frequented with his parents. He was afloat on sunlit water, the bright light sparkling and changing in kaleidoscopic patterns as he drifted aimlessly. In the distance, a pretty brunette walked alone on the shore.
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