To protect his reputation, a teen boy must choose between revealing his struggle with anxiety, or keeping it hidden. The truth could cost him everything.
What had started out as one small panic attack has morphed into something else entirely for Jake Forest. One more Google search, one more squirt of hand sanitizer will surely keep him safe. In control. Alive. Jake’s obsessions spiral him out of control as he begins lying to keep those close to him in the dark about his irrational thoughts.
Told through inner dialogues, conversations with a therapist and plot-twisting emails from a mysterious girl he meets on a plane, Jake must decide which battle is worth fighting. Is his desire to appear strong, normal, and in control more important than admitting that he suffers from mental illness? Is he willing to jeopardize his relationship with Summer, his father, and his friends to maintain this perception of control?
|Publisher:||Black Rose Writing|
|Edition description:||First Printing ed.|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.41(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Even though Nathan died seventeen years ago, Mom still tells people I'm a twin. Or at least I was for fifty-five minutes.
"Yeah, I know." I fidget with my phone, hoping that our time is almost up and offer nothing more.
"You were identical twins, correct?" Elaine asks.
Identical? Matching DNA? Um, maybe not. Don't go there. Just tell her what she wants to hear.
"Yes." The details surrounding Nathan's death are sort of murky for me, so it's not something I talk about much.
Dude, she's your counselor for God's sake. What are you afraid of?
"Jake, it's important for you to understand that Nathan's death couldn't have been prevented. You do get that, right?" Elaine presses.
My jaw clenches and the question I'm afraid to ask bounces around in my mouth. Our eyes meet.
She knows you're hiding something.
My silence betrays me. Elaine senses I'm holding back, so her next words surprise me.
"Well, we're almost out of time. We won't see each other next week because you're heading up north to see your grandparents after Christmas, right? How's that going? Having any thoughts about the flight?"
"Not yet, but I'm sure as it gets closer that'll change." I'm relieved that my response to this particular question is an honest one.
"Based on the events of the past few months, you're probably right, Jake. Remember, if you change your mind just call my office and I'll call something in for you."
"Thanks." I wish her happy holidays and slide into the hallway before she has the chance to say anything further. The door to the parking lot swings open and a breeze rushes to greet me. Even though it's December, beads of sweat form a line on my forehead the minute I get inside my car. Elaine's words about Nathan echo in my head. Scientifically I know I'm not responsible for his death, but logic has a way of eluding me these days. Merging into traffic, I open my window and let the weight of the words I'd held back in Elaine's office escape into the wind.
If it hadn't been for me, Nathan would have lived.CHAPTER 2
It's just one hour. You can handle it, Jake. By the time you're up, it'll be time to come back down.
I walk past security and place my beat-up Converse sneakers, backpack, and belt in the gray plastic bin. The conveyor belt transports my possessions through the surveillance cameras. Stowing the ticket into the back pocket of my jeans, I step inside the X-ray machine.
Lift your arms over your head. Breathe.
The machine scans my body for possible weapons hidden within the confines of my clothing, or bodily orifices. When none are detected the security officer mumbles, "Step to your right son." I proceed slowly to gate C, trying to avoid placing too much pressure on my right foot.
Don't panic. Distract yourself. Stop looking like you're scared. Act bored.
Willing myself to yawn, I close my eyes and hope my performance of weary traveler is Oscar worthy and that no one suspects the war raging beneath my calm exterior. Gurgling noises erupt from my stomach.
Crap, not now. Why? Maybe if I talk to Summer....
I send her a text, but she's shopping with her mom and can't really talk. She reminds me that she won't be back from New York for three more days.
Two girls sitting across from me laugh loudly. I steal glances at them and listen to their hushed murmurs. I envy the laughter that peppers their conversation. Clearly, neither girl has any reservations about being stuck inside a metal tube for the next hour. Well, fifty-five minutes to be exact. The significance of that number isn't lost on me. Nathan's fifty-five minutes were surely fleeting, mine will be an eternity.
Okay, chill. Once you're up there, the flight attendants will be giving out snacks, and then we'll be on our way back down. You got this.
And just as I begin to believe the lies I've sold myself, I hear it. A wet, phlegmy cough that builds momentum and volume behind me. Turning toward the direction of the cough, I spot a white-haired woman standing some ten feet away. Unaware, or perhaps uncaring that she has called attention to herself, she continues to cough.
Is she gonna puke?
The phlegm sounds like it's drowning her. My stomach flips.
Where's the closest bathroom? Do I have enough time to make it? God, can't I just have one freaking flight without this damn panic? Just once?
Miraculously the woman gets herself under control and perches herself behind me.
Please God. She can't be sitting near me on the plane. I'll go insane, I swear.
Within minutes the coughing erupts again, and I glance at other passengers for visible signs of the resentment I'm feeling.
Give me a break. There's no way I'm the only one sitting here who's pissed off! We're all gonna be trapped up there while germ lady spews her mucus into the recycled air!
For a second I think I recognize a fellow germaphobe sitting diagonally across from me. I follow her gaze. She looks from the cougher to the man seated beside her, her husband I assume, since they are both wearing wedding rings. Oblivious to his surroundings, he sits poised intently staring at his laptop.
Germ lady continues to cough, and I try to make eye contact with the woman in the hopes of sharing a conspiratorial glance. I'm not sure what I hope to gain by this. That our shared recognition will somehow make me seem less crazy? That together we'll plead our case to the right authority, who will in turn deem germ lady too sick for air travel?
Yes, um, could we please speak to the pilot? We think it best, on behalf of the health of the passengers, that you ask Mrs. So and So to reschedule her flight.
Whatever delusions I'm harboring disappear the moment I notice the wife fish inside the bag lying at her feet, and draw out a book.
I gaze at my backpack.
Which pocket did I put that hand sanitizer?
"Now boarding passengers in rows 10-25." The attendant announces. I check my ticket for perhaps the third time. Relief washes over me as I glance back at germ lady and see that she remains planted in her seat, clearly not among this group of passengers. I release the breath I'm holding and limp down the tunnel that leads to the aircraft.
Smiling politely at the flight attendant, I keep up the false pretense of seasoned traveler. After scanning the narrow confines of the plane, I shuffle toward seat C14. Ever purposeful in my selection of sitting near the aisle, I'm relieved to find a girl, probably in her early twenties, occupying the window seat. We exchange a brief smile, and she places headphones over her ears the moment I buckle my seat belt.
Good. Keep those headphones on. I can't deal with pretending right now.
The agony of staying focused on someone's words, offering a comprehensible reply, while simultaneously appearing calm, is far more work than grappling with the stress in solitude. Conversations can be a distraction, but if the panic becomes overwhelming, which is often the case for me, idle chit-chat only adds to the anxiety.
Breathe in ... 2, 3, 4. Exhale ... 3, 2, 1. Focus. Push your stomach out. Why can't I concentrate? This isn't helping.
Passengers continue their steady flow down the aisle, while I fidget in my seat and summon all the tools I've collected to help me cope.
Think of this morning when you were with Grandma and Grandpa. Go back to their kitchen. Where you felt ... safe.
A tingling sensation travels the length of my left arm.
You're not having a heart attack, Jake. Don't go there. God, this sucks. I can't stand it much longer. Why is this so freaking hard?
The silly smoke and mirror games offer no relief. It's as if my brain could only be 'tricked' for so long, like a body's immune system building up a resistance to antibiotics. Except it's not my immune system that's failing me.
The stream of passengers dwindles. Flight attendants secure the overhead bins, and germ lady makes her way inside. Her lungs remain quiet, but I hold my breath and turn my head toward the window as she passes by. The cabin door shuts tightly. My fingertips are stone cold, but my palms are wet.
This is it. No turning back now. No escape.
The flight attendants recite their usual litany of instructions about safety exits and emergency situations, while the plane taxis down the runway.
Maybe I should listen to that advice about oxygen masks just in case ...
The instant the safety demos are finished I realize that I'm leaning out into the aisle to get a better view of the flight attendants. Heat rises to my face.
Oh my God. Could I make it any more obvious how scared I am right now? The girl next to me must think I'm a loser. Probably thinking 'poor kid's first flight'. Is she watching me?
Luckily, she has her eyes closed, and I can't tell if she's asleep, or like me, offering up silent prayers. I'm inclined to think the latter because she fidgets every now and then. My eyes scan the passengers seated across the aisle.
Forget it, Jake. There's no one here like you. Maybe there's a few people praying that this plane doesn't go down, but you know it's more than that for you. Nobody's got your issues. Flying, germs, being trapped, puking, control ... everything in your brain misfiring, on overload. There's no fitting your problems into a neat little box, bro. You're screwed.
"Flight attendants, please remain seated. We are cleared for take-off," the pilot says. The seatbelt warning lights up over my head. The engines roar to life and the plane speeds down the runway. My stomach gives a lurch. Erratic heartbeats pummel my chest.
I'm going to be sick. Where's the bathroom? Can't get up anyway. Ugh, where's the freaking airsick bag? Shit, I'm gonna make a fool of myself if I get sick in front of all these people. Should I focus on the horizon? Does speed make it worse? Maybe I should close my eyes. Nope, dizzy. Why's the plane making that noise? Why is it so loud? Are we losing altitude? Wouldn't the pilot have said something if there was a problem with the take-off? Are we turning again?
Sweat trickles down my spine, and I have to do something, anything to calm myself down. The girl next to me unlatches the tray table in front of her seat. She places her head down on the tray and wraps her arms so that I can no longer see her face. This doesn't dispel my panic completely, but my thoughts have suddenly shifted. The girl's infraction goes unnoticed by the flight attendants who sit perched in the front of the cabin.
Why in the world would anyone want to put their face on that tray? Doesn't she know there are more germs there than in the airline magazines? Maybe she wants to sleep. Is she afraid she might snore? Or drool?
I watch intently trying to determine the root of her behavior. Even if I didn't have an irrational fear of germs, sleeping on a tray would never be something that would beckon to me.
What if it's motion sickness? Why would she risk exposing herself to the germs that lurk just millimeters from her face? What is she doing?
My stomach does another flip at the notion that someone near me might get sick. Except for a few sniffles, she remains still. I try to distract myself by glancing out the window, but blackness engulfs the plane as we continue our ascent. Flying at night sometimes has its advantages. Not being able to see the clouds or ground below makes it easier for me to pretend.
Imagine you're riding shotgun in Dad's car.
The image disappears the minute the plane tilts to the right. My body is hard-wired to notice every nuance of any form of transportation unless I'm the one at the helm. Sit back and enjoy the ride is an expression that's totally lost on me.
The wings right themselves and the flight attendants set to work. They dole out water, coffee, and peanuts with such fervor that I feel guilty declining. The girl does not lift her head, so the flight attendant moves on. I'm somewhat comforted by the fact that the serving of drinks means we're that much closer to our destination.
8:20. Thirty-five more minutes. Almost there.
When the clean-up of empty cups and wrappers ends, the girl slowly lifts her head, locks the tray back in place and wipes tears from her face. Of all the scenarios that had played out in my mind when she had laid her head upon that tray, sadness was not among them.
"Are you okay?" I half whisper.
She wipes another tear, offers a small smile, and without making eye contact says, "Yeah, thanks."
I take the hint that conversation is not something she's up for when she turns away. My pulse quickens again, but for the first time since boarding the plane, my heartbeats have nothing to do with the flight. The anxiety has receded somewhat and has now been replaced by something else.
Does she hate flying the way I do? Is the tray some tactic she learned in a counseling session? Was she crying because she was afraid? Maybe she's got anxiety issues too.
"Passengers, we should be arriving at Dulles International Airport momentarily. The local time is 8:54pm. We hope you have enjoyed your flight and will fly with us again soon. Flight attendants, please remain seated, we are now making our final descent," the pilot announces.
I close my eyes with relief and hold on to the pilot's final word like it's the life preserver I've been struggling to grasp this entire flight.CHAPTER 3
Descent. The mere mention of that word releases the tight knot in my stomach. Through the veil of blackness outside the window, I gaze at the city lights below and throw an imaginary fist pump into the air at having endured the last fifty minutes without throwing up, passing out, or having a heart attack.
The girl stares out the window, and I'm left wondering if she's embarrassed or simply doing her best to avoid conversation. Based on the stolen glances of the people sitting close by, it's obvious that I'm not the only one who's noticed her chiseled jaw and high cheekbones. Maybe she recently said goodbye to her boyfriend. Secretly I'm hoping that's not the case, but not because I'm having wild fantasies about hooking up with an older girl. No, my delusions have more to do with being able to commiserate over our shared flying anxieties.
What's wrong with you, bro? If Chris or Bryan were here, they would have tried to make a move by now. I think of Summer and instantly regret this thought. We've been dating for about a year and a half now. I'd met her during sophomore year and had pretty much spent that whole year figuring out a way to ask her out.
"Passengers, please remain in your seats with your seatbelts firmly secured until we arrive at the gate," the pilot announces when the plane touches down. Despite these instructions, the metal detachment of several seatbelts can be heard as passengers scurry to gather their belongings, poised for the exit. As if the three seconds it takes to unlock a seat belt will get them any closer to the baggage claim. I'm thankful that the adrenaline in my body has resumed its normal pace and that I no longer feel as though I'm running a marathon. Still not completely calm, but definitely heading toward normalcy.
"Thank you for asking me if I was okay during the flight," the girl says, this time making direct eye contact. Thick black eyeliner wings her eyes like an Egyptian goddess.
"Sure, no problem," is all I manage even though I want to say more. Her left hand gently touches my arm, and the shock of this forces my eyes to follow her hand to prove I'm not imagining things. In the brief second that my eyes have left her face, she pulls her hand away and reaches under the seat for her bag. The connection is lost, and I can think of nothing, no words to bring her back. Well, I can think of several things I want to ask, "Flying sucks, doesn't it? Did you have a panic attack? Even hour flights are hard to get through right?" But I should be thinking of ways to draw her into a conversation, not send her running for the exit.
Crap, why didn't I say something more? Is it too late to ask her why she was crying? Yes. Stop staring at her. She's going to think you're a stalker, or worse, some horny freak.
These are the thoughts I'm wrestling with while we wait for the cabin doors to open. Everyone around us extracts their belongings from the overhead bins. Upon standing, I shift most of my weight to my left leg to avoid the sharp pain that hits my right foot. Since neither of us has carried anything on board except a backpack, we file off the plane toward the baggage claim. While I'm waiting for my luggage, my phone vibrates, and there's a text from my grandmother asking if I've landed yet.
Just landed. Flight good thanks for everything, I text back.
She replies within seconds. We loved having you these past few days Jakey. I love you.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Everything's Jake"
Copyright © 2019 Christina Greer.
Excerpted by permission of Black Rose Writing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents,
CHAPTER 1 - HIDING,
CHAPTER 2 - 55 MINUTES,
CHAPTER 3 - DESCENT,
CHAPTER 4 - BEGINNINGS,
CHAPTER 5 - THE CONNECTION,
CHAPTER 6 - TELLING,
CHAPTER 7 - FEELING WEAK,
CHAPTER 8 - THE MYSTERY,
CHAPTER 9 - SMALL SPACES,
CHAPTER 10 -THE GIRL ON THE PLANE,
CHAPTER 11 - SECRETS,
CHAPTER 12 - ACTING LIKE TEENS,
CHAPTER 13 - HYPOCRITE,
CHAPTER 14 - WINNING AND LOSING,
CHAPTER 15 - ASSIGNMENT,
CHAPTER 16 - PROTECTING SECRETS,
CHAPTER 17 - THE END OF THE ROAD,
CHAPTER 18 - DESPERATE MEASURES,
CHAPTER 19 - TECHNOLOGICAL DIFFICULTIES,
CHAPTER 20 - WHAT IF,
CHAPTER 21 - SIX WORDS,
CHAPTER 22 - COINCIDENCES,
CHAPTER 23 - THE KEY,
CHAPTER 24 - FEELING STRONG,
CHAPTER 25 - OUT OF TIME,
CHAPTER 26 - BREAKING THE CONNECTION,
CHAPTER 27 - SURPRISES,
CHAPTER 28 - FREAK,
CHAPTER 29 - MAGIC,
CHAPTER 30 - PROCEEDING WITH CAUTION,
CHAPTER 31 - QUICK FIX,
CHAPTER 32 - INFRACTION,
CHAPTER 33 - SUPPORT,
CHAPTER 34 - CHOICES,
CHAPTER 35 - OFF ON THE SIDELINES,
CHAPTER 36 - PACKING THE ESSENTIALS,
CHAPTER 37 - ASCENT,
CHAPTER 38 - SOMETHING TO PROVE,
CHAPTER 39 - FINDING A HARBOR,
CHAPTER 40 - 10 MINUTES,
CHAPTER 41 - THE GIFT,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR,