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Twenty Nine - Wrong Path

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I guess I kind of overreacted.

And by 'kind of', I mean a lot.

When I say that to Xavier after dinner, though, he shakes his head and smiles. His smile is drained, eyes dull, and hair limp. I know he's been badly affected by the death of his mom. He's acting strong, I can tell, but there are moments when he zones out of conversations and just stares into the abysmal space. He'll be right next to me but I can't feel it, like he's miles away and so out of reach.

I get it, at least I try to. I know, though, that I don't understand how he feels. I don't have a good relationship with my Mom so I can't know how it feels to lose her. When I did lose her, there was more bitterness and resentment and less of a sense of 'loss'. There was so much hate that I didn't even want her back.

I try to imagine it, though, losing not my mom but my dad. The thought is so scary, I shove it away most of the time. I can't even imagine losing my dad. It terrifies me to no end.

"What's on your mind?" I ask Xavier.

He's been staring at the carpet for a long time now as we sit on the living room couch. Dad sits in his seat, eyes fixed on the TV as he listens intently to the news. I glance at him to make sure I don't look too creepy when I reach out slowly and take Xavier's hand. Dad doesn't look my way even if he notices, and Xavier doesn't resist. I wind my fingers through his and give his hand a gentle squeeze.

"Not much," he mumbles.

"I'll listen to the little there is," I say.

The corners of Xavier's lips twitch and he sighs, closing his eyes briefly. "Just wondering what I'm going to do now."

"About what?" I ask, feeling kind of stupid for not knowing what he's talking about.

Xavier hesitates. "About my life," he says at last. "It's like ... I've spent all this time knowing what I want to do. Work, save up enough money to get out of here, get Mom into rehab, and that's it. It was my plan, you know? All this time. It's what I aimed for. My dream."

I lean over and wrap my other hand around his too. He smiles a little, glancing at me. His smile doesn't reach his eyes, though, and I can see it; he didn't just lose his Mom. He lost his purpose in life.

"It's like the path I set out for myself is on fire," he adds. "And I'm standing here. Lost for direction. Nowhere to go."

"You'll figure it out," I say, unsure of the right words to say. "I know it's tough right now. I mean, I can see. I don't know if it'll be okay but we can hope, right? You'll get through this. We'll figure it out."

"We?" Xavier's smile widens, still as sad as before.

"Yes." I nod. "We."

He slowly shakes his head. "Our paths aren't the same. They're not going the same way. They're not in the same state."

I open my mouth but no words come to me.

"My path is on fire, Haley," he says softly. "Not yours. We're not in this together."

"I'll join you on your path," I say.

"I have no path anymore."

"Then join me on mine."

Xavier sighs and bows his head. He doesn't speak and I know what I'm saying is stupid. Of course, he won't answer. What is he supposed to say?

I lower my gaze to our intertwined hands and frown. There isn't much I can say to reassure him. What do you even say to someone who just had his entire life flipped on its head? In the span of one evening, he lost his mother, his home, his entire world. Is there anything I can say to make him feel better about it? I don't think so.

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