"You went the wrong way."
"Yesterday," he explained, "you said you were going to check on your mother but you went the wrong way."
"Why would you lie about that? It's a really terrible thing to lie about. Is your mom even in hospice?"
I looked away from him, "Yes," I said quietly, "she has cancer."
He looked at my apologetically, "I'm so sorry." He looked as if he wanted to wrap his arms around me, but he didn't. "Why would you lie about going to check on her," he asked.
Why would I lie about that? Because I was terrified, because I didn't want to face harsh reality that my mother was going to die. Because I was scared that if I took that step, everything would be real. Reality scared me, plain and simple. I didn't want to face a reality full of pain. I wanted to stay in my own little world, where none of this was happening. If I went into that room, everything would become real.
I didn't realize that I had spoken aloud or that I was crying until Ryan wiped the tears from my face and wrapped me in a hug. "I'm so sorry," he whispered in my ear. He let go and looked at me, "I'm sorry that you're scared, I know what it feels like. You know, my dad's here. He used to be an alcoholic." I was shocked at how freely he was speaking about it, "I used to resent him, and sometimes I still do. See, my mom left when I was little so he was all I had.
"His liver's failing, which is why he's here. Despite everything he put me through, I was terrified. He's the only thing I have in the world, but I brave myself through every day. It's okay to be scared, Kenzie. It's human nature."
I thought about what he said for a moment and nodded. "I'm sorry about you're dad."
"It's alright. I knew something like this would be coming," he said solemnly.
I looked down at my open sketchbook. I had been drawing a picture of a girl hanging upside-down from a tree. Her long hair fell freely around her, her arms hung limply, and her eyes were closed, but there was a smile on her face. The moon was large and full behind her. Ryan looked at my drawing, "That's beautiful. Can I see?" He gestured to my sketchbook. I looked at him, closed the book, and handed it to him.
He opened it and began staring intently at the pages. He flipped through the pages silently, a smile gracing his lips every so often. He reached a drawing of a girl. She looked as if she were falling, a look of terror on her face. Her hair billowed out behind her, her arms out-stretched in front of her, to stop the impending impact. It was part of a series I had done. The next page was of a girl falling with her back turned to the Earth, as if she didn't mind. He turned the page again, this time the girl had her arms spread out wide, a look of amusement on her face.
We sat in silence for a few minutes as Ryan looked at my art. Eventually he closed the book and handed it back to me. "Those are great, Kenzie. What grade are you in?"
"So you're 17?"
"16. I turn 17 in April."
"Same as Brendon!" he exclaimed, "what day?"
He laughed, "You're a week older than him."
I smiled a little, not sure where this conversation was going. "What about you, how old are you?"
"What about you're other two friends?" I asked, "they didn't look 18."
"Jon is 17, and Spencer is 16, the little tike," I laughed softly, "You should laugh more, it's a nice laugh." We were both silent for a moment, "Where do you go to school?"
"Ridgeview," I answered quietly.
"Me too, why haven't I seen you around?"
"I'm sort of antisocial and slightly invisible," I tried to joke.
Ryan chuckled and stood up, "I've gotta go."
"Right," I looked at my lap. I didn't want him to go, he was the first person I had actually talked to about things. Talking with him made it easy to forget where I was. Which was what I wanted.
"Do you have a phone?" I nodded and pulled it out of my pocket. He took it out of my hand and started typing something. He handed back to me, "See you at school, Miss Invisible. I'll tell the guys to keep an eye out for you." With that, he left.
I checked my phone, seeing no immediate changes.