26: Tyler

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26. Tyler

Kissing Franny is a unique experience.

She's different from anyone I've ever known. The second her lips touched mine, I didn't want it to stop. I still want this to continue. I want to hold her and pretend as if everything isn't falling apart on the other side of the door. I want this empty hospital room to be all we need and all we should worry about.

For those few seconds, I felt like everything melted away. There was no pain or sadness or worry. There was just Franny. I pull my lips away from hers and sigh, clenching my eyes shut. She doesn't say anything and maybe that's because she understands—she knows why I can't go any further.

"Is your dad going to be okay?" I whisper against her shoulder.

"I hope so," she whispers back. "Just need to give him time."

And give her time. She doesn't say it, but I can already tell that it's running through her mind. She needs time to heal from this too, but unfortunately time is barely on our side anymore.

"Is Ethan going to be okay?" she asks, one hand on the back of my neck and the other on my shoulder.

"I don't know," I say honestly, "he was stabbed . . . lost a lot of blood."

"Do his parents know?" she asks.

My entire body tenses. Such a simple, mundane question. Simple things like this shouldn't be able to affect someone so badly. They shouldn't be able to hold that kind of power. Nothing should. Just a few words and someone could close in and collapse down on themselves.

"Janet knows," I say. "I called her in the ambulance."

"Janet?" She frowns.

"His mother." I laugh humorlessly. "Though she's hardly a good one."

"And his dad...?" she asks tentatively.

I pull my head away from her shoulder and catch her eyes. "Dead," I say. "But it's not my place to say how he got there."

She nods her head and her eyes stay focused on the floor for a long time. She does this a lot. Her eyes gloss over and I can almost see the gears turning in her head, ideas popping up and sentences connecting together. But sometimes the gears freeze and she flattens down and she begins to think herself out of things and down into a corner that she can't get out of.

I wrap my arms around her shoulders and pull her towards me. "Stop it."

"What?"

"I hate it when you do that. Your eyes gloss over and you get this faraway look on your face. You shut down—you shut me out. I can't stand it. Stop trying to think yourself out of things because you only end up thinking yourself away from me. And I need you, Franny, the idea of you disappearing terrifies me."

"I'm not going anywhere," she whispers.

"Physically, no," I say. "But mentally...you look like you're already gone."

She rolls her eyes. "Says the guy that practically had his tongue down my throat five minutes ago."

I grin a little. "That kiss was on a par with eighth graders who think it's gonna be cool to make out in a corner without knowing what to actually do."

"Are you saying our first kiss was like a weak fumble in a dirty corner?" Franny teases.

She's distracted me and changed the topic but I don't mind. For now, I'm okay with being dragged away from any thought as long as she's leading.

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