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  • Home > Katie McGarry > Crossing the Line     

    The new guy, the one who isn’t the baby daddy, the one who hates kids, stands in the front doorway with his hands shoved in his sagging jeans.

    “Meg!” Mom rushes in from the kitchen. Does she know she left the blender running? Does anyone notice the baby still howling? “Where have you been? Lincoln’s graduation ceremony is in an hour—”

    “What did you do?” I mutter as I press my fingertips against my head. Lila. I lost Lila. The only sane person in my life.

    “Why should I have to go?” Meg throws her hands out to her sides, barely missing her own child’s head. “It’s not my graduation.”

    “What did you do?” I say louder. Anger gains traction in my bloodstream.

    Dad knocks over a chair in his charge into the living room. “Pick up your baby! Pick him up! He’s your responsibility.”

    Mom’s voice is smothered by Meg shouting over and over again that she’s not attending my graduation.

    “What did you do?!” I yell above them all, and slam my hands onto the computer desk.

    They fall silent: Mom, Dad, Meg. Everyone except the baby. “Someone pick him up!”

    No one does. They all continue to watch me with wide eyes because they know I’ve cracked. I never yell. Not once in eighteen years have they witnessed me lose my temper. I’m the odd one, yeah, but I’m the steady one. The unemotional one. The one who didn’t cry at my brother’s funeral. The one who never demands more of anyone or anything—even from myself.

    The cries reach a higher pitch. In a quick motion, I slide the kid out of his prison and he immediately places his head on my shoulder, his thumb stuck safely in his mouth. The sweet scent of formula and baby powder drifts from his tiny body. We must look ironic: fifteen pounds of premature warmth curled into six feet and a hundred and seventy-five pounds of rock-climbing muscle. Part of me hates that he’ll calm down for me, because it makes him my burden. The other part...at least I can help someone feel better.

    I glance over at the shut-down computer. Lila. My hand covers the baby’s back as if I’m seeking his comfort. I lost Lila. There’s no way she’ll connect with me online now. No way I can wait long enough to see if she’d respond to my letter. To see if she will grant me another chance.

    “Take your baby,” I say to my sister. Her eyes widen as her head convulses in tiny shakes meaning no.

    “Take—your—baby.” I’m wrong. My house isn’t a volcano—I am, and the past two years have created a dormant giant who no longer will tolerate being ignored. I’m tired of this. Tired of how everyone’s become so obsessed with themselves, obsessed with the moment, that we’ve ceased caring what’s going to happen next.

    I’m just as guilty, and that downfall has led to hurting Lila. Soon, the same damn poor decisions will devastate this family. God, I’m a moron.

    I work hard at keeping my voice gentle, because it’s not this baby’s fault that I dropped out of reality or that his mother is so jacked up she’s never held him or that his grandparents are so concerned about winning a fight that they can’t comprehend what’s happening to their future.

    “Mom.” I motion with my eyes for her to take the now-sleeping infant.

    She bustles over like the busy bird she is and slips him out of my grasp. How the hell do I fix all of the mistakes I’ve made in the past two years?

    My family still stares at me like deer waiting for the gunshot. I should start with telling them the truth, but the words escape me. No, not escape...I just can’t stop thinking about Lila.

    If she can find a way to forgive me, then I can find a way to fix this.

    Lila

    No, it’s not weird that you feel close to me. Honestly? Sometimes knowing that I’ll be getting a letter from you is the only thing pushing me through my days.

    ~ Lincoln

    The moment I open the door, I immediately regret not heeding the advice on the yellow Post-it note clinging near the small round hole: Lila, Always check the peephole before answering the door. You never know who’s on the other side.

    Translation: serial killers knock before attacking. I watch CSI. It happens.

    Standing before me isn’t a serial killer but a different type of nightmare. Stephen, the guy I’ve dated on and off since sophomore year, tilts his head with a way too smug I’m concerned look on his face.

    “Are you okay?” he asks.

    I sniff and use a crumpled tissue to wipe my runny nose. Let’s see: swollen, puffy red eyes with dark circles? No, I’m not okay—and now I’m worse because he thinks I’m crying over him. “I’m fine. What are you doing here?”

    “Checking on you.” His green eyes survey the empty living room behind me. “I know your parents and brothers left yesterday for vacation. I wanted to make sure you made it through your first night alone.”

    First night alone—ever. And it epically blew. I’ve got six more days of alone and then, come fall, the rest of my life. “I survived.”

    Stephen scrutinizes me with a cocked eyebrow that says he can tell I didn’t sleep. Which I didn’t because I was too busy being terrified. My imagination boarded a train south to crazyville and convinced me that someone was scratching on the windows.

    A hot June evening breeze drifts into the house, bringing with it the scent of the sickly sweet gel he uses to force his brown hair into a styled mess.

    “Can I come in?” he asks when I’m obviously not offering.

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