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Pressure Pops

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It starts with bruised eyes and an empty bed.

Sam finds himself waking up every morning facing a pillow that didn't get slept on, the sheets cold to the touch. She doesn't come to bed anymore. She used to and he would hold her tight and try to stay awake until her breath evened out, but he always fell asleep first and she would slip like a ghost from his arms.

He finds her at the kitchen table, a cigarette dangling from her lips and a full ashtray in front of her as she blankly stares out the window, not seeing the yawning colors of the morning sky. Her eyes are bloodshot and rimmed with dark bruises from the lack of sleep.

He plants a kiss on her head before moving into the kitchen to begin preparing breakfast.

“We're going to be alright, Hess. You know that, right?”

The only response is a half strangled sob and he turns around just in time to see her drop her head into her hands. He hurries back to her side, dropping to his knees beside her chair and pulling her into a tight hug. She twists in his arms and sobs into the collar of his shirt until there are no tears left. He holds her well past the last sob, rubbing her back and whispering quietly. “We're ok. We're all ok and we're going to figure this out.”

Mike and Hannah stumble into the kitchen a little while later and Amanda looks up at Hannah. Her red puffy eyes somehow manage to summon more tears as she sees the sling holding Hannah's arm tight to her torso, a safeguard to make sure she doesn't jostle the wound in her shoulder.

“Amanda, are you still hung up on this?!” Hannah rolled her eyes and slumped in the chair next to Amanda as the guys moved away. “I'm fine, we're going to find the leak and I am going to put whoever it is down myself even if it kills me.”

“Hannah!” Sam chides as Amanda covers her face with her hands again.

“Sorry, whatever, we'll get the dickbag, don't worry so much.”

The girls sit in silence as their boyfriends make breakfast, not a word passing between them as they move so fluidly around each other to prepare the meal. Every one of them is thinking about what happened that night, but none of them want to be the first to bring it up. In their own unique way they're each running a mental tally, who is the leak, how close are they to their core four, how deep does it run, how long has it been going on and what if one of them gets killed.

It starts with drastic weight loss and yellowing teeth.

He didn't notice it at first, but one day almost a month later he finds her on the couch, burrowed into the cushions far enough that he can lay down behind her, pressing his body against hers the way they used to sleep. He misses her, he misses her body. But her body has changed, he realizes. His hand resting on her hip feels too big, the soft curve is gone and the hard bone presses against the palm of his hand. When was the last time he saw her eat a proper meal? When was the last time she went longer than twenty minutes without a cigarette?

It turns to a desperate attempt to have some semblance of control over her own life.

He finds her sitting on the back deck, braless in a spaghetti strap shirt with her pyjama pants that have had the drawstring re-knotted too many times. Blonde hair lays in clumps on the wooden slats beside her, Mike's buzzer discarded on top.
He sits beside her quietly, glancing around the backyard before focusing on her. “It looks nice.”

She ducks her head, hiding behind the curtain of hair that still cascades from the right side of her scalp and plucks at the short brown hair on the left. “I needed change.”

“It's a nice change.”

She doesn't cry as much anymore. She doesn't seem to feel anything anymore.

He’s not sure if he should tell her they're getting close to finding the leak. It's not confirmed and if he tells her and they're wrong, what will happen then? Will she get worse?

He keeps his mouth shut.

It takes longer than it ever should have, weeks, but it finally ends with tears. A lot of tears. And then a really long nap.

She collapsed in his arms, overcome with relief. It was much too easy to catch her and pick her up in his arms to carry her to bed. It was the middle of the day, but he climbed into bed next to her anyways and held her tight, finally able to listen to her breathing as she fell asleep.