The Broken One
“Nashed Potatoes and gravy, where are we going?” I heard myself slur.
“You are going home, drunky,” Nash said, shooting me a smile from behind the wheel of his truck. I was belted in, and my cheek was resting on the cold passenger’s window. He started the engine and a gust of heat from the vent blew into my face.
“Noooww? We just got there. In the bur, I mean, the bar.” I sounded like I had cotton balls stuffed in my cheeks. What the hell? Talk normal! My mind screamed.
“You are shit faced. You fell like five times. Were Trina and company feeding you shots?”
I looked out my window. Nash hadn’t started driving, but Rivertown was spinning. Oh no! I thought. Act normal. Control. I sat up straight and cleared my throat.
“No shots and I’m not drunk. Just buzzed. I haven’t had much alcohol since our camping summer binger, so it kind of hit me all at once.”
“What?” Nash flashed me a smile. “You haven’t partied since summer? You aren’t doing college right.”
“I only had six beers. I’m drunk. Damn it, I mean, I’m not drunk!” I kicked the glove compartment and cursed.
“Calm down, Merritt.”
“Your teeth are so white and straight. They look like dentures,” slipped out of my mouth. Why did I say that? That was stupid.
Nash chuckled. “I hope so; my father is a dentist.”
“Want to know a secret?” I said, focusing on consonants and vowels, shaping them the best that I could. Alcohol is not my friend.
Nash sighed. “Lay it on me.”
“I look like my mother.” I let out a snort, followed by a fit of side splitting laughter.
It was like having an out of body experience. Part of me was completely aware of what was happening and mortified. The other part couldn’t give too shits. It was just Nash. He’s seen me psycho before.
Nash was quiet. He glanced in my directions a few times. Me. Road. Me. Road. Finally, in a flat tone.“Merritt.”
“Whyyy sooo ssserious?” I asked, trying to sound like Heath Ledger’s Joker. I giggled.
“How much have you eaten today?”
My eyes widened. I was doing well, which meant I was doing bad.
“Why?” I narrowed my eyes.
“Because you got sloppy drunk on six beers.”
“Did you take your medicine today? I’m driving you to McDonalds. I’ll buy you whatever you want, but you need to eat. Even if it’s only a salad.”
“Why did you make out with that trashy bitch, Natasha?” I blurted.
“You know that she got Jesse into pot and then they slept together behind my back for six months. You know that!”
“I’m sorry. I don’t remember making out with her, that’s what people told me. Without you or Tabitha around anymore, there is no one to bust my balls when I’ve had a few too many.”
“I thought you were my friend.”
Nash ignored me and drove through McDonalds. He ordered a chicken salad with honey mustard a small fry and an unsweetened iced tea. My favorite. He pulled into a parking space and parked. He passed me the food.
I felt my lip tremor. Was this it? Was I going to cry for the first time in ten years? All over a salad and a slut?
Nash’s face melted as he watched me unravel. He unbuckled his belt and scooted down the bench seat. He wrapped his strong arms around me and I nestled my head into his chest. I breathed in his cologne.
“I don’t like being drunk.” I whispered. My fingers tingled and my heart raced.
“I don’t like eating in front of people.” I still wasn’t crying.
Nash caressed my back with the tips of his fingers. “I know.”
With his other arm, he dug into the bag and stuffed some fries into his mouth. Then, he pulled out a few more. He held them too my lips. “I’m not watching.”
The next day, my eyes fluttered open. I was in bed facing my off-white bubbly popcorn ceiling. I groaned and rolled over, stuffing my head in my pillow. Nash must have carried me up stairs, taken off my shoes, and tucked me in. The last thing I remembered was the sound of his heartbeat and forced french fries. I felt around for my cell to send an “I’m sorry” text. Then I remembered he lost his phone. Again.
“Hey sweetheart,” my dad said from the door frame. “Nash came by early and dropped off some stuff.”
“What?” I said sitting straight up. “Oooh my head.”
My dad chuckled. “Yes, he said that you might have a case of the brown bag flu.”
“Did he leave?” I asked reaching for the bag. I crossed my legs and placed it in my lap. I pulled out a box of coffee grounds, a bottle of ibuprofen, a travel mug, and a package of banana nut muffins.
“Thank you, sweet baby Jesus,” I grumbled, tearing into the package of pain medication. I swallowed four pills dry. “This is why I don’t drink that much.”
“Good thing he brought that,” my dad said running his hand over his comb-over, “I ain’t been to the store.”
I rolled my eyes. My dad didn’t have much of anything. He simply didn’t take care of himself well. Or me. Sometimes I blamed him for all of my problems. Other times I understood why he’s messed up. We both went through extreme trauma. I dealt with the aftershock in my own crooked ways; he dealt with it by not working, whiskey, neglecting his daughter, and living on disability. But he does try. Sometimes. He never missed a school play and dragged me to therapy. So there was that.
“Tell me more about school, I, er, sorry I fell asleep on ya last night.” Dad sat on the foot of my bed.
“Sure. The best part is that no one knows what I witnessed. Or any of my other…stuff.”
“Good.” Darkness flashed in Dad’s eyes. He rubbed his face and nodded. “Friends?”
“Yes, I’m joining a sorority.”
“Oh. Hey, doesn’t that cost?”
No it’s free, Dad. Freaking idiot, I said to myself. “I’ll figure it out.”
“Good. You know, that Nash is a nice young lad. I’m glad he looked after ya last night, and all. He chatted with me for a bit this mornin’ and told me about his split up. I got to thinkin’ maybe you two should go on a date.”
“Ha,” I pursed my lips.
“Well, why not?”
“You’re forgetting he’s been my neighbor for eleven years. He knows what a wreck I am.”
“Brie, sweetheart, you ain’t no wreck. You’re so smart and pretty and you’re off at college…”
I stared at him with a blank face for a moment. “Dad! I’m a fucking mess. He knows what happened that day, when Trina Lubble found me–”
“No!” My father jumped up. “I, um, we ain’t talkin’ about that.”
“You want the truth Dad? Fine. I’ve always loved Nash. Always. How could I not? But I’ve loved him in a very realistic way.”
“I’m sorry I said somethin’,” My dad mumbled, cheeks flushing red.
I folded my arms. I was going to make sure he didn’t bring it up ever again.
“ I’m not like him, Dad. I’m broken and he’s perfect. The reason he befriended me in the first place is because he felt so damn sorry for me. Did you know he used to sneak in my room just to make sure that I was alive?” You wouldn’t have known in your whiskey stupor if I was bleeding out in my bed. He knew that. I added, inside my head.
Dad’s head fell and he retreated back towards the door. Over his shoulder he said, “If only ya saw what I see in you, Brianne. I’m sorry.”
I heard dad trample down the stairs. I knew I wouldn’t speak to sober dad for the rest of the day. Part of me was relieved.
I stayed in my room all day until Nash finally called on his new phone. I apologized in every way I knew how for being so rude and annoying. Nash said he didn’t mind. He said that he rolled me on my side in bed and tied my hair back because I kept saying that I was going to throw up. Thankfully, I never did. I asked him what else I blabbered when I was black out drunk and he said nothing.
I knew he was lying.