Toxic

By: Rachel Van Dyken

Prologue


The end of Spring Semester

I would have followed her anywhere.



It’s funny isn’t it? People claim to know what love is — yet the minute they’re given the opportunity to prove it — they bail.

I wish I could have bailed. I wish I could have walked away four years ago. Then maybe I’d have the strength to walk away now. To look her in the eyes and say, “Sorry, but I can’t do this again.”

People rarely mean what they say. To me, sorry was just another word in the English language that people misused — like love.

I love ice cream, I love pancakes, I love the color blue — bullshit. Because when I said love — I meant I bled for you. When the word love actually leaves my lips — I’m speaking it into existence. I’m empowering my soul — I’m joining with yours.

I’d always heard about crossroads, how people are given choices in their lives, choices that either make or break them. I never realized that I’d be given that second chance; I never realized I’d fail to take it.

Her eyes pleaded with mine. My heart shattered in my chest, my lips moved to speak — to say anything to get her to understand the depth of what I was feeling, but I knew the minute I told her how I felt — it would be all over.

My heart, my soul, it couldn’t survive anything happening to her. If she wasn’t in my world, my heart would stop. I knew it was killing her — because it was destroying me.

But going back to that life.

Even for her.

Was out of the question.

Falling in love, jumping out, even knowing full well that she’d catch me. It wasn’t an option. Because everyone knows, when it comes to love, it’s not the fall that hurts… it’s the landing. And I knew it was only matter of time before she gave up on me too and allowed me to break.

Because in the end… that’s all I was — broken. A shell of a human.

“I don’t understand!” She beat against my chest with her fists. “You promised me! You promised you’d never leave!” Tears streamed down her face, the face I used to love. I closed my eyes then looked behind me as Saylor clenched the keys in her hand, waiting for my decision.

I was at a crossroads all right. One path led to my future — the other to my past and utter self destruction.

I couldn’t look at her. I ignored every thread of feeling — and relished the pain of my heart breaking into a million pieces as I held out my hand in front of me. “You’re right, I promised.”

“Gabe!” Saylor yelled from behind me. “It doesn’t have to be like this.”

“Don’t you see?” I said quietly without turning around. “It’s always been like this, it will always be like this. I warned you.”

“But—”

“Enough!” I yelled, tears threatening to stream down my face. “I said enough. You should go.”

Behind me, the door slammed.

“It’s okay!” she said, cupping my face. “It will finally be okay!”

“Alright, Princess.” I choked on the word. “Alright.” I tightened the pink scarf around her neck and put my arm around her.

“Thanks.” She sighed happily. “You always promised you’d take care of me. You can’t leave, you can’t—”

“I won’t.” I vowed, because it was my fault. Just like everything else.

“Can we go play now, Gabe?”

“Yeah, sweetheart, we can.” I folded the blanket around her legs and pushed her wheelchair out of the room, knowing full well that I was choosing the wrong path — with every step I took.






Chapter One



Sad moment officially gone, just please, for the love of God, get a room —Gabe H



Gabe



Middle of Spring Semester

“Focus, Kiersten.” I snapped my fingers in front of her face. “Stages of mitosis. Go.”



We’d been sitting at the local Starbucks all morning. The smell of ground coffee was beginning to make me sick — I had nobody to blame but myself. Apparently ground coffee is what a new leaf smelled like. And I’d officially turned one over.

Kierten’s eyes darted to the textbook. I scooted it away and waited patiently, folding my hands on the table.

Her mouth dropped open to answer, a blank stare followed and then a groan. “G-a-a-a-a-be.” She smiled. “Can’t we take a coffee break? Please?”

“Don’t stick out your lower lip.”

She stuck it out anyway.

“Kiersten…” I warned.

“Please!” She gripped my hands in hers and pouted some more.

I gave in with a heavy sigh — you know, to show that I wasn’t happy about giving in to her demands even though that’s how it always was with our friendship. She said jump and I said where, how high, how long, and how fast can I do your bidding? “Fine, we’ll take a coffee break.”

“Yes!” She slammed the book shut. “My turn to treat.” Her ridiculously cute smile made me laugh. Hell, she always made me laugh, and I so needed to laugh at this point in my life. Besides, if I didn’t laugh I was pretty sure I’d break down sobbing and the last thing the world needed was for me to suddenly make sure everyone was aware that I had feelings.

Damn, I didn’t even want to be aware.

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