Chapter 2: I'm Fine, Between the Lines...

The news jilted me like no other experience of my life. A thousand knives cut through my body, and walls kept all of the words out. I stood motionless, staring at my brother on the bed - and I wanted to run. I wanted to run away and forget, and hope that when I returned it was undone, and what I had just seen no longer existed as reality. But when I turned and started to walk away I staggered and fell. I felt hands on me, helping me up, and the soft voice of a woman saying, "I know this is hard, I know..."

"No. No, no, no..." I shook my head, "This isn't happening - he's not..." I gasped, "He can't be gone!" I was unable to believe it... I didn't want to believe it. Only fifteen minutes prior we were sitting next to him - talking to him... singing to him. It was a concept that I couldn't wrap my hands around. I made my way over to his bed and began to shake his body and started screaming, "Zac! Wake up! This isn't funny... Wake the fuck up!"

Strong hands pulled me away and I felt helpless to reality as it penetrated me, and I began crying. My whole world was crumbling before my eyes, and my narrow view I saw nothing but the end. I collapsed all together and I remember hands holding me up from all sides. I was calm, sans the small sobs and river of tears flowing down my cheeks - but when they started to walk me out of the hospital room I began screaming. The separation was too strong, and I desperately did not want to leave him behind. The realization of what happened seemed to come in repeated waves then fade again into denial and questioning. With all of my strength I broke loose from the arms pulling me away, but was soon brought to my knees once again in a pool of tears.

"Taylor..." I heard the voice again.

"Fuck you." I replied.

"Taylor, we did all we could. His rib cage collapsed... he couldn't breathe..."

"Fuck you... Fuck you..." Pain swallowed me.

"Tay, Isaac's here... your family doesn't know yet... he's not going without you..." I felt a hand grab mine and I looked up and saw Isaac. He helped me up, and with his support I walked down the hallway. I had never felt an emotion that incapacitated me like the one welling up in my chest right then. I didn't really know what kept me walking, but when we turned the corner to the waiting room, and I saw my Mom and Dad put down their magazines and look up at us, I wanted to go back. I didn't want to have to be the one that told them.

Without saying a word I knew they knew. I walked to my Dad and collapsed in his arms, crying. The doctors stood calmly, laying the news on my parents and I could feel teardrops from my father's eyes in my hair and on my shoulders. I felt his hands beginning to loosen their grip. The mere fact that he was faltering scared me more than anything, and I began to scream in a panic. I clung to his shirt and grasped his clothes desperately as if I were falling from a high limb - and he was the only thing to keep my balance.

"Please Dad... Oh God..."

My hysterics only made him start to shake and let go of me in his own tears. I grabbed his shoulder for support but my knees went out from underneath me and I almost pulled him down with me as I fell, numbly, to the ground. I had been spending a lot of time there, it seemed. Someone came to help me but I pushed them off, "Just leave me... Just leave me..."

I sat facing the ground, just watching my tears fall and create a small puddle on the floor, it seemed so surreal. It seemed surreal that this was really happening, that this was real and not just some horrible, tortuous nightmare... that the tears were actually coming from my eyes, that Zac was actually going to be gone from my life, forever. I hadn't sobbed like this... ever... in my life. I stayed replaying what had just happened over and over in my head crying. A doctor came with a glass of water and pills in his hand. I pushed her away, "I don't want fucking drugs... just leave me be..."

The doctor tried to coax me, I knew she was trying to help with the shivering and the panic - but I couldn't. "Taylor, please they'll help ease the pain..."

I turned my face away when she moved her hand closer, "No..."

"Taylor, take them..." I shook my head, once again. I had made a promise, and I knew then that by taking painkillers my promise would shatter. I resisted for a period, but when I was overtaken by pain once more, I agreed. Four valium and they had me passed out on a chair in the waiting room, quieted for the time being, which I knew was what they wanted.

Someone woke me a few hours later, and it occurred to me slowly that I was still in the waiting room at the hospital. The memory of what had happened set in, and I was nearly brought to tears again.

Once I stepped outside I wished they had just let me sleep and carried me out. The bastards and their cameras and notepads were flashing away - sticking telephoto lenses in my face, in my family's faces, and asking questions. I closed my eyes to block them out - to take their seven year burden away, but I soon realized there were tears there, and turned my face into my father's shoulder. I reached and took his hand firmly in mine. I was three feet tall again hiding behind my father's leg.

My parents did their best to remain expressionless - but I could hear Zoë crying in my Mom's arms - and from my point of view, I could see Jessica desperately trying to hold in sobs. I was shaking.

It felt like hours, but we finally reached the car, piled in, and drove home. My father kept wiping his eyes and my mom wasn't scolding him for making senseless driving mistakes. I don't think any of us would have minded if we crashed and died on our way home that day. At least, I wouldn't have.

We made the cover of the local newspaper the next day - the headline having something to do with pop stars and families. They depicted us in our parade to the car - My sisters wiping away their tears, and me with my face hidden in my father's arms. Isaac walked next to my mom with Mackenzie holding tight onto his hand. If a picture could say a thousand words, this one would say everything horrible.

I couldn't eat all day, and I fell asleep from the exhaustion of crying. Sleep overtook my body and the waking life faded into something more pleasant - numb. The next time I woke up it was dinnertime and we all gathered in the kitchen, one member short. Every waking moment was the torture of feeling that gap between Jessica and I at the dinner table. The empty bed - the empty chair - the empty space on the couch.

Everyone got themselves small portions, but I'm not sure how many of us ate. I played with my food, mashing it all together on the plate, and my mom didn't scold me, because she was doing the same. We didn't really talk at all until my Dad spoke.

"The funeral is going to be held Friday, and I want one of you guys to speak..."

Everyone stared at their plates.

Isaac looked at me, I could see it out of the corner of my eye. I opened my mouth and spoke for the first time that day, even though my voice was raspy, "I'll do it. I'll speak."

My dad nodded and we continued eating - or... not eating. After dinner we dispersed, once again, quietly into our own rooms - where we sat alone, trying to understand our new reality.