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The RumChata Incident of Freshman Year

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Gideon and Noah are hammered . Why they thought this was a good idea is now a mystery to both boys, lost somewhere in the swirling depths of their liquor-ridden minds. 

The RumChata had been taken from Noah’s parents’ liquor cabinet, because, as he put it, “I’m pretty sure they haven’t opened this since Rosh Hashanah ‘96.”

It was supposed to be fun, so why do both of them feel like sh*t?

“This is hell, Noah,” Gideon says, laying on the floor of Noah’s room and looking straight up at the ceiling fan.

Noah just groans. 

“You okay?” He asks, just making sure. 

“‘M gonna sleep. Shhhh,” Noah says, muffled by the pillow he’s shoving his face in.

“Yeah,” says Gideon. 

This sucks. 

-

Gideon knows he’s gonna puke before he does, and it’s all he can do to run down the hall and into the bathroom to spill his guts. He briefly prays he doesn’t wake Ellie up in the next room over before retching again. 

He feels so f***ing bad, and he’s thinking of laying on the ground forever until he hears a crash from Noah’s room. 

“Noah?” Gideon asks. No answer. 

Gideon groans before pulling himself off the floor and walking back to Noah’s room. 

And when he does—holy crap. 

Gideon has seen Noah have a seizure before, but never like this. 

It won’t stop. Noah’s head is covered in blood and it won’t stop. He’s just on the ground, and it won’t stop. 

“Mrs. Edelman?” Gideon calls down the hall, because he can’t deal with this by himself. 

He guesses she heard him, because footsteps sound down the hallway before they stop at Noah’s door. 

Her eyes are wide as she runs to her son’s side, and as the seizing finally, finally stops. 

“Noah?” She asks, sounding scared. 

Parents aren’t supposed to be scared. 

Noah’s eyes open and he mumbles something that sounds like “What happened?”

“Oh, thank God,” she whispers, and then announces, “We’re going to the hospital. Gideon, can you get a cloth for his head?” 

The words take a few seconds to get through Gideon’s skull, but as soon as they do, he grabs a cloth from the bathroom. 

Things are a blur, but somehow he gets to the car, Noah beside him in the backseat. 

“Are you okay?” Gideon asks quietly. Noah kind of smiles. 

“I’ll be fine. Pain’s for the weak, remember?”

That’s news to Gideon, because there’s pain in his f***ing heart from seeing Noah like this. 

But he just nods. 

They get to the hospital and Gideon excuses himself to the bathroom, letting the tears spill down from his cheeks. 

He can’t breathe, his chest is too tight, and he’s gonna throw up, he’s gonna throw up and he doesn’t know whether it’s from the anxiety or the alcohol. 

It doesn’t matter, because yesterday’s breakfast makes a reappearance either way. 

He retches again, and it hurts, it hurts and he feels so bad and he wants Noah. 

But Noah’s busy getting his head stitched back together, so Gideon’s alone. 

There’s a knock on the door. Gideon flushes the toilet. 

He needs to talk to Noah. To someone. Anyone. He needs to get out of his mind. He looks through his contacts. Amber, Paige, Iris, Lena, Del, Madison, Alicia, Kristina... 

F***, Gideon needs more friends. 

Another knock on the door. 

He’s going to lose his mind, and then he’s going to die here. 

Another knock. 

Gideon wipes the tears from his face and tries to pull himself together. He’s pretty sure it doesn’t work, but he gets up and opens the door anyway. 

Noah’s mom isn’t in the waiting room when Gideon gets back. He should probably go find her, but he doesn’t know if he can face her like this. 

So he sits in one of the uncomfortable hard-backed plastic chairs and he does what you’re supposed to do in a waiting room: wait. 

Waiting sucks. Gideon tries his best to breathe and does the exercise his therapist made him do when he was little and he freaked the hell out for no goddamn reason. 

Five things you can see. Chairs, a window, a fish tank, and two little girls.  

Four things you can touch. Your hair, the chair, the wall, your t-shirt. 

Three things you can hear. The little girls talking, their mother on her cell phone, your heart pounding. 

Two things you can smell. The hospital. The ketchup you spilled on his t-shirt at dinner. 

One thing you can taste. RumChata and bile at the back of your mouth. 

Noah’s mom comes back into the waiting room and sits down next to Gideon. 

“Hey,” she says quietly. “Noah’s okay.”

Gideon nods, so she continues. 

“He had a bad grand mal and fell off the bed. They’re giving him stitches right now.”

“It was so bad,” Gideon whispers. “I’ve never seen him like that. Why was it so bad?”

Mrs. Edelman bites her lip and says softly, “Well, a little birdie told me someone snuck into the liquor cabinet when I wasn’t looking.”

Gideon’s eyes go wide. “Is that what caused it?”

“That’s what the doctors said.”

“Oh, holy crap, Mrs. Edelman, I am so sorry, I—”

“Hey, none of that,” she assures him. “You’re fifteen. You’re young and you’re dumb. You do stupid things.”

Tears blossom in the corners of Gideon’s eyes, and Noah’s mother wipes them away. 

“You’re okay, Gideon. Something tells me it was more Noah’s idea than yours.”

When he doesn’t answer, she asks, “Are you okay to see him now?”

Gideon nods. 

-

“Noah?” Gideon asks, walking into the hospital room. 

Noah flashes him a peace sign from the bed. 

He looks better, less pale and definitely not as bloody. His head is bandaged up and he’s got a tired sort of smile on his face. 

“I‘m so f***ing sorry, Noah,” Gideon says, the tears coming to the surface of his eyes again. 

“For what?” Noah asks. 

“It was ‘cause of the RumChata, Noah, I know it was, and I’m so, so sorry.”

“Jesus, Gid, it’s not your fault.” Noah says, shaking his head. 

Gideon just sits down on the chair at Noah’s bedside and takes his hand. 

Noah’s hand is smaller than Gideon’s, and softer. Noah rubs his thumb against Gideon’s hand and looks into his blue eyes. 

“I’m sorry, Gideon.”

Gideon just squeezes Noah’s hand. 

-

It’s six am. Gideon and Noah sit on the swings in the backyard. It’s silent until Gideon says “I wish it was me.”

“Gid—”

“I really do,” he says, big blue eyes more sincere than Noah’s seen them in a long time. 

“I know.” Noah says, watching his feet drag on the ground. 

“You scared me,” Gideon says softly, and Noah sees tears in his eyes. 

“I know, Gideon, I’m so sorry.”

Gideon smiles sadly. 

“I wish it was me. I wish it was me and you never had to go through this again. I wish it was me, because—“ Gideon’s voice breaks. “Because I love you, Noah, and I can’t see you hurt like this.”

Noah just stands up and holds out his arms. Gideon hugs him tight, letting his tears soak Noah’s shoulder. 

“I love you, too.”