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Too Much Blank Space, Not Enough Vomit - Ch. 7.3

by Bullet

Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language and mature content.

Rhys followed Ethan into the apartment, glad to be home. Ethan was oddly quiet, going straight to the kitchen to begin on dinner for the two of them. They had departed from Leah at the hospital, after Rhys had stayed for a few days, and the drive home had been silent and a bit awkward. Rhys got a can of Dr. Pepper from the fridge, cracking it open and taking a sip.

"Are you mad at me?" he asked Ethan eventually, glancing at his brother. Ethan sighed, not looking up from where he was making Hamburger Helper.

"I'm just glad you're okay," Ethan replied slowly. Rhys nodded, fidgeting.

"I'm sorry," he said after another minute or so of silence. "About...the gallery. And everything else."

Ethan sighed again. "It's okay, Rhys. I just worry about you."

Rhys looked at his feet for a moment, lighting a cigarette. "Uh, I'm gonna go to a meeting tonight."

Ethan finally looked up, arching an eyebrow. "Yeah?"

"Yeah. Do you think Leah could give me a ride, or does she have to work today?"

"She can take you," Ethan nodded, the slightest hint of hope in his voice.

Rhys nodded again, going back to his room to get ready. He was tired - tired of spending his life in bed, in the hospital, in a bathroom, with a syringe in his arm or his head bent over the back of a toilet or against a counter, with bags under his eyes, surrounded by darkness, always playing catch-up, always disappointing Ethan, always pining over Lip. He was tired.

He walked into his room and began to clean up a bit, picking clothes up off the floor and putting them into the basket, clearing the trash up off the floor and his desk, opening the blinds to let light in, making his bed. It really brightened up the room, making him feel better. He let out a soft sigh of relief.

"So," said Ethan's voice from behind him and he turned to see his brother standing in the doorway of his bedroom, cleaning a glass with a rag. "You gonna tell me who did it?"

"Who did what?" Rhys frowned, taking a drag off his cigarette. Ethan leaned against the doorjamb.

"Gave you that shiner," he said nonchalantly, staring down at the cup in his hand.

Rhys' frown deepened as he exhaled smoke through his nose. "No one."

Ethan didn't look up. "If that guy you slept with from the first floor put his fucking hands on you and left you in the parking lot - "

"It wasn't him," Rhys said quickly, heat flushing the back of his neck. "He's a nice guy, he wouldn't do that."

"Oh?" Ethan arched an eyebrow. "So who would?"

Rhys shifted from one foot to the other. "Lip and I got into a fight."

Ethan finally glanced up, confusion lining his face with a frown for several long moments as he processed this. "Lip hit you?"

Rhys shrugged, glancing sideways. "I deserved it. I attacked him first."

Ethan continued to stare at him, eyebrows knitting together. "What were you two arguing about?"

"Things,"Rhys said vaguely, extinguishing his cigarette in the ashtray on his nightstand.

"Like what?" Ethan pressed, stepping further into the room. Rhys sighed loudly.

"Things, Ethan. Private things. Things I don't want to tell my brother."

"You can tell me anything, Rhys - "

"Not when it concerns my sex life," Rhys countered quickly, taking a few steps back and lighting a cigarette to keep his hands occupied. That only caused Ethan to narrow his eyes.

"Oh, don't tell me you banged Lip, too."

"Do you have to be such an ass about it?" Rhys snapped, his anger flaring up with ease. "Not that it fucking concerns you, but Lip was actually my first, thank you very much."

"Oh," Ethan said, shutting up quickly. "I didn't know."

"That was the point," Rhys muttered, gaining his composure again. "Besides, it wasn't even about that. Well, sort of."

"I don't want you keeping secrets from me, Rhys. Just tell me what's going on. What was up with the whole gallery thing? What's got you so fucked up lately?"

Rhys sighed, staring at the floor for several long minutes in silence. "I..." he exhaled slowly, running his tongue over his teeth with hesitation. "I had an abortion."

Ethan stared at him, hands on his hips. "You what?"

"At the clinic," Rhys sat on the edge of his bed, his free hand fisting and unfisting against his knee. "They told me I was pregnant. So I...I mean, they gave me some medicine for an abortion and I...came home and I...I did it."

He expected Ethan to yell, to go on one of his rants about how Rhys was irresponsible and rash and how he needed to be more careful. Instead, Ethan took a seat beside him, a hand on his shoulder.

"I'm sorry, Rhys. I'm sorry you felt like you had to do that alone."

"I didn't want you to..." Rhys sighed, talking to his knees now. "I didn't want you to...I don't know. Be mad. Be right. Kick me out."

"Rhys," Ethan said softly, squeezing his shoulder. "I would never kick you out. If you had decided to keep it, we would've figured something out.”

"We couldn't afford a baby," Rhys muttered. "And I don’t know for sure who the dad was, really. Besides, I'm too much of a mess to have a baby. It would've been born addicted and probably malformed or something. I would've made a terrible parent."

He put his hands in the pocket of his jacket, the fingers of his left hand curling against something smooth. Curious, he pulled the object from its place and opened his palm to stare at it. It was the white key tag Leah had given him at that first meeting. It seemed like forever ago.

Rhys sighed softly, pocketing the key tag again as he stood. Leah was going to be here any second, and then they would be off to a meeting. He thought about her words to him, that day when she had given him the key tag: "Bring the body and the mind will follow."

There was a knock at the front door.

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641 Reviews

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Thu Aug 01, 2019 9:31 am
Panikos wrote a review...

Hiya, LordStar! Back again.

This was a nice chapter and it leaves me with a big sense of foreboding. It was good to see a softer conversation between Ethan and Rhys, with Rhys actually apologising and finally opening up about the abortion. There's enough tension and conflict in their conversation that it feels realistic, but I like that Ethan does grow more gentle towards the end of the chapter. However, the fact that Rhys seems to be taking responsibility, opening up, and committing to recovery makes me almost certain that the knock at the door is not good news. I wonder if he is going to be taken to a psych ward, though I suppose I could be way off base with that. Maybe it really is just Leah at the door, but the fact that you've left it on a cliffhanger - combined with Ethan's odd quietness at the beginning of the chapter - leads me to think otherwise.

I agree with Bisc that there needs to be a more definitive reason why Rhys has now decided he's going to get his life together. You have got all the right ingredients there - the abortion, the gallery stuff, the fight with Lip - but it doesn't feel quite connected enough to his resolve to recover. Maybe it's partly due to the scene jump from Rhys being in hospital to suddenly being home again - it feels like the decision should come at his lowest point, whereas in this chapter he has brought himself back onto more of an even keel.

I also really liked the ending, with the quote about bringing the body and the mind will follow. It feels poignant. And I feel like if Rhys is taken to a psych ward now, it's going to hit him hard, because he'd already made the decision to try and recover. Being manhandled into observation, especially when he had no say in it, goes strongly against the autonomy he's trying to recover.

Nevertheless, it feels like we've seen some good character development in this chapter, even if the triggers for it could be slightly more defined. I'm intrigued to see who's at the door.

Keep writing! :D

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760 Reviews

Points: 32596
Reviews: 760

Thu Jun 06, 2019 4:11 pm
ExOmelas wrote a review...

I'm attempting to do a thing for uni and I've discovered that i hate words and they won't sit where i want them to, so figured i better give myself a break. Therefore, hello!

Nit-picks and nice moments:

They had departed from Leah at the hospital, after Rhys had stayed for a few days, and the drive home had been silent and a bit awkward.

This was a bit sudden, especially for a 7.2 to 7.3 jump. I thought this was going to start either immediately or after a passage of like ten minutes.

"I didn't want you to...I don't know. Be mad. Be right. Kick me out."

"be right" oooof. I like that choice of words.


So, for the most part I really enjoyed this chapter. I just think there's something that needs to click into place so I don't have to stretch my imagination too much. I don't quite understand why this was the last straw for Rhys that made him want to get his life together. I can imagine a fight with his closest friend would do it, but I could also imagine having an abortion would do it, or I could imagine his brother having someone new in his life would do it, or I could imagine being introduced to the meetings could do it. What is it about this time right now that makes Rhys want to make a change?

If we assume however that he does, then this was really great. The thing about bringing the body is brilliant. You can absolutely know on one level that you should do something but on another have zero desire to actually do it. Physically moving your body to the correct location (eg, me going out the door and going to the library without really knowing how i'm going to study) can so help. I think that's a really useful mantra that the reader can relate to with a lot of different experiences.

It was also good to see Ethan and Rhys have a touching moment at the start, then straight back to arguing, then back to Ethan being tender. I guess the phrase is old habits die hard, and siblings argue at the best of times (though there's still a line that Ethan shouldn't cross when it comes to shouting at Rhys). I think it's quite realistic to have Ethan continue in these patterns even if it is true that he wants Rhys to be okay.

Hope this helps,
Biscuits :)

Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.
— Mark Twain