Night Owl
Author:M. Pierce

Detoxed in the past...


I remembered the way Matt's hand shook when I made him pour out his last bottle. I wanted to scream. He knew this would happen, didn't he? He'd been down this road before, probably more than once.


Around six, the nurse released me.


"I'll call you in as soon as he's stable," she promised.


I shambled into the lobby.


People came and went. The fluorescent lights hummed steadily.


I Googled alcohol withdrawal on my phone and skimmed the results.


Life-threatening condition.


Drinking heavily for weeks.


Agitation, seizure, delirium tremens... can be fatal.


When I held Matt last night and he came into my hand—was it the last time? And if I lost him now, how was I supposed to live?


I scrolled through my contacts.


Mom, dad, Chrissy, Jay, Pam, Nate.


I should call Nate. Where was he anyway? Maybe he spent the night in Geneva, though I doubted it. He probably drove home and passed out.




The desk clerk smiled down at me.


"You can go see him now. Down the hall, he's in the first bed on the left."


My terror burbled back up.


"Thanks," I said. I grabbed my things and jogged down the hall to the ICU. I blinked rapidly against the sanitized whiteness of the hospital. Everywhere I looked I saw monitors and beds and curtains. I heard low voices and a periodic groan. Doctors and nurses moved to and fro purposefully, ignoring me.


First bed on the left.


No one stopped me as I slipped into the curtained-off space.


Matt lay on a hospital bed, the head inclined. Velcro straps tethered his wrists and ankles to the rails. He had an IV in one arm, a catheter in the other. His drip bag was half empty. He was asleep, or maybe unconscious. A monitor blipped his stats.


I swallowed and crept closer. The weight of sorrow crushed my chest. I made this happen. I made him pour out all his alcohol. I made his system fly into panic. I made him start drinking in the first place.


Someone had dressed him in a pale gown with blue spots and socks with rubber paw-shaped grips. A tube snaked out of under his gown. I touched his chest.


"Matt?" I whispered, but I knew he couldn't hear me.


There was a pamphlet by his bed: PHYSICAL RESTRAINTS AND YOUR RIGHTS.


I kept one hand on Matt's body as I found my phone and made a call.


I listened to the ringtone.


Just when I thought no one would answer, I heard a click, then Nate's groggy voice.


"Hi Hannah, everything okay?"


I began to sob.







NATE SET THE plush manatee on my chest and I touched it reluctantly.


It was velvet soft with black plastic eyes. I stroked it as I glared at the wall.


"A stuffed animal." I smirked. "What does she think I am, a child?"


Nate shrugged.


"I can't say as to that, though you do a damn good job of acting like one."


Nate was being brusquer than usual. Than ever, actually. I hugged the stuffed animal to my chest.


"What the fuck is your problem? You've been a shit all week. I'm lying in a hospital bed, cut me some slack."


Nate dropped into the chair by my bed and steepled his fingers. He looked at my untouched tray of breakfast.


"I would like to know how you propose to get out of here without eating, Matt."


"I have no appetite. You can Google withdrawal. It's kind of a common symptom."


Nate sighed through his nose. He closed his eyes and leaned back in the chair. God, if he didn't look like a longsuffering saint right now. I rolled my eyes.


"You know," I said, "you could just send Hannah in here unannounced and try to get her to feed me. That sounds like exactly the kind of humiliating thing you'd put me through."


"Don't think I haven't tried, Matt. Unfortunately, she was so crushed when I told her you didn't want to see her that it would be ridiculous to try to send her in now."


"I don't want her to see me. There's a fucking difference."


"Oh, tell that to her!" Nate rose and began to pace. I had never seen him so agitated. He was always the calm one, the kind one. "Besides, she's done enough of my dirty work."


Dirty work. That hurt.


"I'll see her when I'm out of here," I mumbled. "When I can get out of this damn gown and shave, feel more like myself."


"You and your god-forsaken pride. I'm pretty sure she's seen you at your worst."


"Yeah, thanks to you," I snapped.


Nate and I glared at one another. My fucking asshole of a brother. Freshly showered, in a tailored suit, he definitely had the upper hand. I played with the manatee's flippers.


"I had no other choice, Matt. And you know what? She worked. I'm only sorry I dragged the poor girl into this. You pulled a gun on her, you insane son of a bitch."


I winced. Mm, so Hannah told him about the gun.


"Yes, she told me about that," Nate said, weirdly prescient. "And before you ask, I have your gun. And you're not getting it back."


"Is she here?"


"Oh yes, as usual, she's sitting out in the lobby like a goddamn orphan. She wanted to deliver that to you personally." Nate jabbed a finger at my manatee.


"Don't touch her," I said.