Saving Quinton Page 2

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I’ve been remembering my dad’s death a lot over the last twenty-four hours, ever since I found out about Quinton and his past. I think part of it’s because Lea keeps looking at me like that guy did after he realized my dad didn’t have a pulse. Like she pities me, because I want to find Quinton, because I don’t know where he’s living and I want to help him. She doesn’t think that I can help him, but she’s wrong—she has to be.

At least that’s what I keep telling my camera while I make my recording. “I’ve been telling myself over and over again there’s still hope, that Quinton’s still alive, therefore hope still exists,” I say to my camera phone screen as the red recording light blinks. “That hope can only be gone when someone’s heart stops beating, when they take their last and final breath, when they don’t come back.” I’m lying on the sofa in my apartment’s living room, with my feet propped up on the back and my head over the edge, so my hair’s hanging down toward the ground. My phone is angled at my face and it looks like I’m falling. I’m not sure how long I’ve been in this position, but I can feel the blood pooling in my head.

I started making recordings of myself partly because I was interested in film and partly because it was the only way I could get my thoughts out. There was also a teeny part of me that did it because it made me feel connected to my deceased boyfriend, Landon, because he made a video, minutes before he committed suicide.

Because I let him fall from my life, just like I did Quinton.

I blink at the camera, telling myself not to let my mind go there and to keep positive. “Hope is what keeps me searching for Quinton—what makes me determined to find him and help him. Even when I know that what awaits me in the future is going to be hard, that it’ll more than likely bring up painful memories of the things I did in my past. But I know it’s something I have to do. Looking back, I realize that Quinton entered my life for a reason. It may not have made sense when I first met him nearly a year ago, but it does now. And all that stuff I went through, the summer of bad choices, can be used for something good because it gives me insight into what he’s going through. I’ve seen the darkness that’s probably around Quinton right now and I know what it feels like to feel like you’re drowning in it…” I trail off as the memories start to build up inside me, weighted and unwelcome, but I take a deep breath and free the tension.

“Although I’m sure there’s way more to it than what I know. Not just because he’s gone deeper into the drug world than I ever did—into crystal meth…from what I’ve read on the Internet it’s far more addicting than anything I ever did, but then again there are so many things that could be classified as addiction…” I trail off and shut my eyes. “Addiction is the f**king devil—I swear to God it is. Whether it’s drugs or obsessive counting, something I still suffer from occasionally. It can be so comforting, peaceful, serene. It can make you feel so in control, but it’s just a mask, plain and simple, and what’s behind the mask—what we’re trying to hide—is still growing, feeding off the addiction—”

“Nova, get in here,” Lea, my best friend and roommate for the last year, calls out from my room, interrupting my video making. “I think I found something.”

I open my eyes and stare at my image on the screen, so different from how I appeared last summer when I was addicted to several things, including denial. “I’ll pick up on this later,” I say to my camera phone, then click it off and flip upright, getting to my feet.

Blood rushes down from my head and vertigo sets in, sending the nearly empty room around me spinning. I brace my hand against the wall and make my way to the bedroom.

“What’d you find?” I ask Lea as I stumble through the doorway.

She’s sitting on the floor in the midst of our packing boxes with the computer on her lap, her back against the wall and her legs stretched out in front of her. “An old newspaper article on the Internet that mentions a Quinton Carter involved in a fatal car accident in Seattle.”

I briefly stop breathing. “What’s it say?” I whisper, fearing the truth. She skims the article on the screen. “It says that he was one of the drivers and that two people in the car he was driving were dead on arrival.” She pauses, sucking in a slow breath. “And it says that he died, too, but that the paramedics revived him.”

I swallow hard as denial begins to evaporate and I’m forced to admit the truth. All that time I spent with Quinton and I didn’t know the dark secrets eating away at him. “Are you sure that’s what it says?” I ask her, denial trying to grasp hold one last time. I’m trying to hold on to the idea that Quinton just does drugs because he’s bored. Things would be easier if that were the case. Well, not easy, but then I’d just be helping him with addiction instead of what’s hidden beneath the addiction. And things are never easy—life never is. Mine isn’t. Landon’s wasn’t. Quinton’s isn’t. Lea’s isn’t. So many heartbreaking stories and I wish I could document them all.

Lea glances up from the screen with a look of sympathy on her face. “I’m sorry, Nova.”

I take several deep breaths, fighting the urge to count the cracks in the ceiling as I sink down on the mattress, wondering what I’m supposed to do. The plan was to move out of the apartment and head back home for summer break. Spend three months in my hometown, Maple Grove, until I return to Idaho to start my junior year of college. And I’m one for following plans, otherwise the undetermined future unsettles me. It’s one of the things I learned to do to help alleviate my anxiety.

I had plans this summer, to spend time with my mom, play music with Lea when she visits for a few weeks, and work on a documentary, maybe even get some better camera equipment. But as I take in what I’ve just learned about Quinton, I’m starting to wonder if I should be following a different plan, one that I should have followed nine months ago, only I wasn’t in the right state of mind to.

“It also says that he was driving too fast.” Lea adjusts the laptop, angling the screen so the light doesn’t glare against it. “At least that’s what it says in this article.”

“Does it say that it was all his fault?” My voice is uneven as I drape my arm across my forehead, catching sight of the leather band on my wrist and the scar and tattoo just below it. I got the tattoo a few months ago when Lea suggested we each get one to mark something important in our lives. I loved the idea and decided to get the words “never forget” to always remind me of my downward spiral. I got them just below the scar on my wrist, the one I put there myself, because I never want to forget just how dark things can get and how I pulled myself out of them.

She leans closer to the screen again, her long black hair falling into her eyes. “No…it says that it was both drivers’ fault…that Quinton was driving too fast, but that the car in the other lane was, too and the other car took the corner way too wide and swerved into the wrong lane…it was a head-on crash and some of them weren’t wearing seat belts.”

“Does it say anything about the other two people in the car being Quinton’s girlfriend or his cousin?” Sadness shoves its way into my heart.

She pauses, reading something over. “It says something about a Lexi Davis and a Ryder Morganson, but not how they knew Quinton.”

“Morganson.” The painful reality seeps into my skin and I prop myself up on my elbows. “That’s Tristan’s last name…oh my God…Ryder has to be Tristan’s sister.” The pieces start to connect, but it’s like the outside of the puzzle is put together and the middle pieces are still missing, so it’s still incomplete and doesn’t make sense. “I don’t get it…why would Tristan let Quinton live with him after that?”

“Maybe because he’s a forgiving guy,” Lea suggests with a shrug, and when I give her a doubtful look, she adds, “Hey, some people are like that. Some people can forgive and forget easily and when you’re high all the time…well, I’m guessing it’s really easy to forget, although I have no way to know if this is true or not. I’m just guessing.”

“It is,” I admit, remembering the few months I spent wandering around in trailer parks and fields, tasting but never fully indulging in the land of drugs and misdirection. “And now that I think about it, there was tension between the two of them…God, I can’t believe I didn’t know about this…I spent all that time with him and never knew.”

She twirls a strand of her black hair around her finger. “Nova, I think you and I both know that you could spend a hundred years with a person and still not know them if they don’t want you to know them.”

“Yeah, you’re right.” I knew Landon for years and even though I knew he was sad, I didn’t understand why. When he died, I was even more confused—still am. Lea knew her dad for twelve years, and then he took his own life. She told me that he always seemed content, not ecstatic about life or anything, but still she’d never thought he’d do that. A lot of people don’t think someone they love will end their life.

Lea reads the screen for a few minutes longer, while I mess around with my long brown hair, braiding it to the side, trying not to think about the many places Quinton could be, how much harm he has to be doing to his body and mind, but it’s all I can think about. I can feel myself drifting to that place where I don’t have control, just like I didn’t with my dad and Landon. Everything is just happening and I’m lying here, unable to know how to stop it.

“Please tell me why you’re so sad,” I whisper as I watch Landon flip through the pages of his sketchbook, desperately searching for a specific drawing.

He shakes his head as he tilts it to the side, observing a sketch. “I’m not sad, Nova, so stop asking.”

I pull my knees to my chest and lean back against the wall. “You look sad, though.”

He glances up at me and the anguish in his eyes makes it hard to breathe. “Nova, seriously. I’m okay. I just need to figure out a few things about…with this project I’m working on.” He roughly flips another page and then another.

I sigh, then get up from the floor and walk over to him, sitting down on the bed beside him. I can smell the pungent scent of weed and his eyes are a little red. “You know, you can always talk to me about stuff, if you’re like having a bad day or something.” I want to reach out and touch him, but I’m afraid. Afraid he’ll get mad at me. Afraid he’ll ask me to go. Afraid he’ll break down and cry, tell me what’s wrong, and it might be something really bad.

He keeps sifting through his pages and tugging his fingers through his inky black hair. When he finally looks up at me again, his honey-brown eyes are not full of anguish, but irritation. “Would you mind giving me some time alone for a little while?”

“You want me to go?” I ask, hurt.

He nods and I catch him glancing at the glass bong on his desk. “Just for a little while…I’ll call you when I’m ready for you to come back.”

I don’t want to leave at all, yet I don’t want to argue with him either, so I get up and go home, feeling like I’ve done everything wrong.

Feeling like I shouldn’t have walked out on him.

“You know what?” Lea shuts the laptop, then gets to her feet, interrupting my thoughts. She’s wearing a torn black T-shirt and cutoffs and when she rubs her fingers under her eyes to eliminate any smudged eyeliner, I can see the tattoo on her wrist: Live life with no regrets. It’s the one she got with me and it’s pretty much her life motto, at least from what she tells me. “I think you need to go turn in your final project for film class.”

I secure my braid with an elastic band I had around my wrist and then sit up on the bed. “Lea, I need to find out where he is…I need to talk to him and see if he’s okay.” I stand up, tugging on the bottoms of my shorts. “Besides, I don’t have a final project to turn in.”

She puts her hands on her h*ps and gives me a firm look. “That’s not true. You have a nice project put together, just not with Quinton’s clip in it.”

I dither, unsure I want to turn in the video without Quinton’s recording on it, the one from last summer when he told me a coded, brief part of his life. It’s so raw and emotional, which is what my final project is supposed to be, and the project feels incomplete without it, but my professor won’t let me include it without Quinton’s signing a permission form. “But…it’s…”

“But nothing.” She strides up to me and shoos me toward the door. “Go turn what you have in so you don’t fail, then get some coffee because I know you didn’t sleep last night and you look really tired.”

“But what about Quinton?” It’s been over nine months since I’ve seen him and I know it seems absurd to be panicking about waiting a few more hours to find him, but after I found out from Delilah about the accident and that he’s been doing crystal meth, it seems really urgent to find him.

“I’ll see what else I can find out and see if I can track him down,” she says, continuing to usher me out of the room. “And leave that Delilah chick’s number. I’ll try calling her and see if I can get her to fess up where they’re all living. ”

“Fine.” I trudge out of the room and into the small living room that’s attached to the moderate-size kitchen and small dining area. I collect my laptop and bag from the sofa, feeling frustration along with a thousand other emotions: sadness, guilt, pain, hopelessness. Yet I also feel a little hopeful thanks to Lea, so I turn around and give her a hug. “Thank you for being such a good friend.”

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