At breakfast, I stare hard at Nic. The giveaway is his body, vibrating like an idling car. His jaw gyrates and his eyes are darting opals. He makes plans with Jasper and Daisy for after school and gives them gentle hugs, but his voice has a prickly edge.
When Karen and the kids are gone, I say, "Nic, we have to talk."
He eyes me warily. "About?"
"I know you're using again. I can tell."
He glares at me. "What are you talking about? I'm not." His eyes lock onto the floor.
"Then you won't mind being drug-tested."
"OK. I want to do it now."
"I know I should have called. I'm not using." He almost growls it.
He hurries to his bedroom. Closes the door. He comes out wearing a Sonic Youth T-shirt and black jeans. One hand is thrust in his pocket, his head is down, his backpack is slung on one shoulder. In his other hand he holds his electric guitar by the neck. "You're right," he says. He pushes past me. "I've been using since I came home. I was using the whole semester." He leaves the house, slamming the door behind him.
I run outside and call after him, but he is gone. After a few stunned moments, I go inside again and enter his bedroom, sitting on his unmade bed. I retrieve a crumpled-up piece of paper under the desk. Nic wrote:
I'm so thin and frail / Don't care, want another rail.