Author’s Note: The first piece I posted with Quinn and Candelaria has her mentioning events that happened before, things that prove Quinn’s more upset than he was trying to say he was. This is a bit after one of those moments, earlier in their time in the same foster home.
I will probably start posting this story as its own serial. I just need a few things first.
“You know what, I don’t care what you do when you’re trying to piss the Howells off, and I don’t care what you do when you run away from here like an idiot, but I do care about Leah. I care about what you do to her.”
“I didn’t touch her,” Quinn said, and Candelaria glared at him. Sometimes she truly could hate him. He was such a jerk. He didn’t even get it. His actions had consequences that he never thought about. Not once. He never cared about anyone or anything but himself.
“You don’t have to touch her, don’t you understand that? It’s not always about what you do.”
“‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,’” Quinn said, sing-songing the words with a mocking smile. “Not that it matters. I haven’t talked to the girl in days. I didn’t say anything to her, either.”
Candelaria rolled her eyes. “Are you really that stupid? Or just that damn selfish?”
“Thought you knew the answer to that was yes to both questions. You always say I’m stupid, and my grades agree with you. I don’t deny being selfish, either.”
“Leah’s mother committed suicide, remember? She threw herself off a roof. Do you have any idea what it does to her when you go up there? She’s terrified out of her mind. You bring back all those memories for her—losing her mom, getting stuck in the system, that jerk that used to lock her outside in the rain—and as if you dredging up all those memories wasn’t bad enough, she’s worried about you, you jerk. She was afraid you were going to fall off.”
“So I fell off. It doesn’t hurt that much.”
“Just because it doesn’t hurt—Wait, you fell off the roof? When?”
He shrugged. “About five minutes ago. What’s your point?”
She glanced back at the house, reminding herself that it was, in fact, three stories tall—at least over the garage, where he had his room. She didn’t believe him. Either he was lying, or he was insane. He had to be lying. No one fell off a roof and then acted the way he did. He was acting like it was nothing, and if he’d really fallen, it could not have been nothing.
She reached over and hit him. “You liar.”
Quinn grunted, and she frowned as he doubled over, collapsing on the ground. Candelaria stared at him. He’d—he must really have fallen, unless this was his sick idea of a joke. He had better not be joking.
“I’m fine. It—I lost my balance, that’s all. It’s not like you hit that hard,” he said, but he couldn’t fool her. He couldn’t move. He’d be up already if he could. His arms shook as he tried to push himself up, and he stopped, dropping down again. She didn’t think she’d ever seen anyone look like that before—was that because he’d gotten internal injuries in the fall?
“What did you do?”
“Not sure if I should say you’d be happy if I’d succeeded or not—”
“If you could honestly think of doing that with Leah in the house no matter how much you hate us and life and—”
“—I wasn’t trying to kill myself. Shouldn’t even hurt since I’ve had worse falls and worse fights, but I must have landed wrong somehow.” Quinn rolled onto his back and looked up at the sky. “There really stars out already? Thought it was too early for that.”
She thought that the sunset was beautiful—or she had until now. “I think you really hurt yourself.”
“Oh, good. Now I can go because I’m broken.” He laughed, closing his eyes, and Candelaria would have kicked him or shook him, wanting to break through to him somehow. She didn’t know that he’d ever see what he was doing, ever acknowledge his act—he’d never admit it was an act—but he could not really believe that the Howells would send him back because he’d gotten hurt.
“Was that why you did it?”
“Did you get yourself hurt so that they’d send you back?”
“No. Stupid shingle came loose and next thing I know, I’m on the ground. If you get me up, I’ll take a couple pills and crawl into bed. I don’t need anything else.”
“You have got to be kidding. You need to go to the hospital and—”
“No hospitals. What, you want them to pull all of you out because one of us got hurt? They’ll say he did this and ruin your happy little home. ’Sides, the doctors will just tell me what I already know, and I don’t need to be poked and prodded—and I damn sure don’t want to go over my medical history.”
She knelt down beside him. “Quinn, if you don’t remember what happened between when the shingle came loose and when you were on the ground, if you are seeing stars when the sun just set, you are not okay.”
“Might have a concussion, but that’s not a big deal.”
“I’m getting the Howells, and you are going to the hospital.”
He caught her hand. “Don’t. Please. The last time I was in a hospital—just help me inside. You know with concussions they just watch you and wake you every couple hours, so set an alarm, and I’ll be fine. I will.”
She didn’t understand what could scare him so much about going to the hospital, but what surprised her even more than that he’d shown that to her at all. He’d said please. She almost wanted to agree with him, to go along with it just because of that please. It would keep her from having to break the promise she and Beacan had made to Leah about this not happening to Quinn just because he was on the roof. All of their words were false now.
She almost nodded, but then she remembered how he’d been earlier, and she didn’t think it was just a concussion. Even if it was, she’d feel a lot better if a doctor looked at him.
“I’m sorry,” she told him before running back to the door. He’d hate her forever for this, but she didn’t care.