Chapter Twenty-Nine: Holding On

The first day that Brand went back to work, Aveny snuck into Miriam’s room and stole the drugs he’d left for her to administer. She quickly opened each pill and dumped it into the toilet. Then, she refilled each one with flour and slid the capsules gingerly back together.

She hated herself for doing it – but she couldn’t handle the way they made her feel: restless but slow; anxious but muted. She’d developed a strange jaw twitch that made her look like a possessed ventriloquist puppet. She felt like she was losing control of her own body.

Besides, she didn’t need them. She wasn’t crazy.

Or maybe she was.

Either way – she still knew what had really happened out there that night. The medication didn’t change that. And it didn’t change her relationship with the skin either.

She’d managed to smuggle the skin safely out of the hospital to where it now rested beneath her mattress. It was closer to healing than she was at this point, the flesh still bound by the bandaged stiches it had received at the marine rescue center. It still tingled in response each time Aveny ran her fingers along its enlivening form. If she was crazy, the medication should have changed all that, right? 

But it hadn’t.

Perhaps for the first time, Aveny didn’t actually think she was crazy. Maybe stupid and broken, maybe naïve and irrational, but not crazy. Maybe that’s how all crazy people felt, but it was the one solid thing she had to hold onto.

Her newfound certainty only carried her so far, however. Despite her second near-death experience, she still longed for the sea.

But she couldn’t risk it. Never again.

She couldn’t even risk withdrawing the skin from its hiding place. What if Brand saw? It was already inexplicable. And with everything that had happened at the marine rescue center, well … it was a risk she just couldn’t take.

But withholding the truth only pushed Brand further away. She could see the distance growing in his eyes daily. It felt like anything might push him over the edge forever. She could feel the entirety of her existence – of her family’s existence – hanging by a thread.

No sudden movements.

Tread lightly.

Be safe.

But ultimately, it wasn’t up to her.

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