A/N: This is my novel for NaNoWriMo, so keep in mind it was written rather quickly.
That night I slept soundly, I was able to fall asleep without crying or without having nightmares for the first time since my parents died.
I woke up to what sounded like a gunshot and I screamed, putting my hands over my ears and feeling my chest squeeze in panic. All I could remember was how my father had ended his life, how he’d shot himself. The way the gunshot must’ve rang through the empty house, echoing and twisting it’s way through the bedrooms before subsiding.
Cora ran over to my bed, throwing her arms around me, attempting to silence my screams. I could see her lips form words as she whispered, trying to get me to move my hands so she could comfort me. The next thing I registered was the dorm advisor running into my room, how she turned me over on my side, forcing me to move my hands. The screams subsided into sobs and the tears rolled down my face like great waterfalls, refusing to stop or even slow. She regulated my breathing, telling me to breathe slowly in and out. She told me I was having a panic attack, that it wasn’t real. That I was safe.
In her rush, the DA had forgotten to shut the door behind her, and a small crowd of pajama clad girls had gathered just outside my door. Some were confused, others concerned and a few were smug. I noticed the blonde girl in the front. It was Olivia, the mean girl in the hallway from the day before. There was a sneer on her face and I could tell she was enjoying every moment of this.
“What caused the noise?” Cora asked softly. I could tell she was talking to herself, but the DA heard her and turned.
“Thunder. Apparently we’re in the middle of some freak storm.” Suddenly, the sprinklers in the room came on, and the fire alarm came on. If the other girls in the dorm hadn’t been awake already, they certainly were now.
“Everybody out!” The DA was shouting, directing everyone to go outside.
“Can you take care of her?” The Advisor directed this to Cora, who nodded before grabbing warm fluffy robes, forcing me into one and shoving my leather boots onto my feet before slipping on her own robe and boots. We were leaving with the other girls when I realized I was forgetting something.
“Wait!” I yelled and ran back in, wrenching my hand out of Cora’s grasp and grabbing my sketchbook. This was the sketchbook my Mom had, her rough sketches and demonstration where in here.
“Come on!” Cora snapped, exasperated. I ran out with her, finally doing what I was supposed to. I felt my cheeks heat up as the other girls stared at me. Most of them were either there to witness my very first panic attack, or they’d been filled in by their friends. A few of them were staring because everyone else was.
We were on the top floor. Everybody was racing down the stairs and into the frigid night air. As I launched my body into the outdoors, I took a breath of fresh air.
The boys were filing out of there building too, though not as quickly. Their dorm advisors were telling them to stay inside, but they all came out anyway. All of them either afraid for their safety, ridden with curiosity or both.
I searched for Timothy in the darkness until my eyes burned and my vision blurred. When I spotted him, I waved him over, pulling my robe closer to me. He wrapped his arms around me which surprised me. Nobody had hugged me since the funeral and I hadn’t known him that long. But I pushed those thoughts out of my mind and hugged him back. It felt like the right thing to do.
When I pulled away, I noticed he was wearing blue, flannel bottoms with a t shirt and the same hoodie he was wearing earlier. His hair was mussed and he looked half asleep but still had a grim expression on his face. I’d never seen Timothy act serious. Why start now?
“Are you okay?” When I asked this, his eyes widened slightly.
“I’m fine. I think the question we should be asking is are you okay?” The panic attack. How did he hear about it so quickly?
“I can’t believe you heard about that. This is so embarrassing.” I stared at my boot clad feet and the wet spots from the damp grass.
“Wyatt, how could I not hear it? There are fireman talking to the staff and the fire alarm in your building went off after a huge crash of lightning. And I’m pretty sure I heard screams. Did I hear screams? And why are you embarrassed?” He gestured to the fire truck that had arrived a second ago and the men talking to staff as well as the still smoking dorm building. Then I realized, he hadn’t heard about the panic attack. That was just me making assumptions again. How would he have heard? Only the girls knew so far and I was the first person he’d spoken to.
“Wyatt?” The sound of my name on his lips made me raise my head, and I could feel my cheeks turn red. Now he would want to know. I might as well rip the bandage off and get it over with. I lead him to a bench by the sidewalk, sitting down and trying to ignore the water that was seeping a little through my robe. Timothy ignored it, obviously more interested in what I had to say.
“You heard screams. Mine.” His eyes widened in concern after I said this, and once again he pulled me close, allowing me to continue.
“After the thunder woke me up it sounded like a gunshot. It triggered a panic attack and I was screaming and… I think my whole floor saw it happen. My Dorm Advisor had to help me snap out of it. That was when the alarms went off and I smelled smoke. The lightning must’ve triggered the fire.” Timothy’s brow furrowed, obviously confused.
“But why would thinking you heard a gunshot trigger a panic attack?” This was the question I’d been trying to avoid. Now I had no choice. I would have to tell him about my parents’ death. What would he think of me then?
“A month ago my Mom died of pneumonia. Almost directly after, my Dad took a gun to his head so he could be with her.” I stared down at my hands, not wanting to see his reaction. Timothy still held me close, rubbing my shoulders. Then he pushed me away so he could look at me while he spoke.
“Why didn’t you tell me before now?” He wasn’t angry but the expression on his face wasn’t a look of pity. He was concerned, but not looking at me like I was grenade waiting to explode. So I decided to stop hiding and be honest.
“All my friends at my old school judged me when they heard what happened. I didn’t want to tell anybody here for that same reason. Only Cora and the adults know. I was sort of afraid you would judge me-” He opened his mouth to protest but I held a finger up, signaling silence, “- I think it was more that I’m just not ready to talk about it.” We both looked up, noticing that the firemen were now entering the girl’s dorm building. Probably to check for structural damage.
Timothy turned back to me. “I’m not judging. It’s not your fault that happened. Your reaction was fairly normal, I think. They’ll probably figure out some new sleeping arrangements because everything is now soaked. So until then… I guess we wait.” I heard his last words, then I leaned against him, my eyes drooping. The exhaustion was taking over and I was more tired than I’d ever been in my entire life.
“Oh, um. You can sleep.” I think now he realized just how many hugs he’d given me because his voice was a little unsure. Timothy was one of those guys, comfort first, think later. Those guys were rare, few and far between. I remember thinking that as I curled up next to him and drifted off to sleep.
I was awoken to Timothy shaking me awake gently. “Wyatt, they’ve just told the girls what to do about sleeping stuff.”
I blinked and sat up straighter. Most of the guys had already gone inside and it was still dark out. I fished for my phone which had apparently been sitting in my robe pocket. It was just after 3 am.
“They’re setting up cots in the rec building and clearing a floor in the boys dorm. Tomorrow night they’ll be putting girls on that floor, but for now everyone is in the rec building. The structure is fine but sprinklers on the entire top floor went off, so girls sleeping there are being moved.” I looked at him, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.
“How are they clearing a floor?” My voice came out slurred.
“You know, empty rooms scattered in the upper levels, plus guys sleeping without roommates. But we need to get you to the rec building, I’ll walk you.” As he spoke, I was too tired to interrupt.
“No, it’s okay. You need sleep. There’s class tomorrow and everything.” Even as I said this, he was getting up and helping me walk along with all the other sleepy girls.
“Headmistress Queller said that school is canceled tomorrow. Most of the top floor of your dorm was destroyed including clothes and things. Books, computers and uniforms need to be replaced.” We walked along the path, the smell of wet pine needles filled my nose. “Besides, tomorrow is Friday. They think they can get new supplies and stuff ordered and shipped in by the end of the weekend.”
When we reached the building, he patted my back. Like he was unsure whether to hug me or not. I could tell physical contact wasn’t really his forte, and I liked that. It was refreshing.
“So, we can sleep in tomorrow. After that do you want to hang out? We could play a game of pool or watch a movie.” I nodded, sluggishly and he laughed at this before saying “Yeah. We’ll talk tomorrow. I’ll text you?” I smiled and walked in with the other girls as teachers shooed him away.
I was directed to the upper levels of the rec building where furniture was being pushed to the side and cots were being set up. Cora was waiting by the staircase and we grabbed two cots together. They were surprisingly comfortable, with a pillow and a blanket that was only slightly scratchy.
“Goodnight Cora, see you in the morning.” I vaguely heard her reply but it didn’t really register in my brain. I was already fast asleep.