The tires of my beat-up Polo crunch over the gravel driveway as I pull up to the warm, inviting façade of the O’Connor home, my stomach churning with a mix of dread and exhaustion. Twinkling lights line the eaves and a massive wreath adorns the front door, filling me with a sense of weary resignation rather than holiday cheer. How can this place exude such warmth and life when my insides feel so hollowed out?

I cut the engine, the sudden silence ringing in my ears. In the passenger seat, Trixie hasn’t moved a muscle, her shoulders slumped forward as she stares blankly at her lap. The poor girl looks utterly drained after the traumatic events of the last two days.

“Hey,” I murmur, giving her arm a gentle squeeze. “I know this is the last thing you want to do right now. But you’ve got this, okay? Just take some deep breaths and get through tonight. We can figure out the rest later.”

Trixie doesn’t respond right away. She gives a small nod before slowly raising her gaze to meet mine. Her eyes—normally sparkling like Drake’s whiskey-colored irises—are dull and rimmed with dark circles.

“Okay,” she blows a deep breath. “You’re right. I can do this.”

A pang of sympathy lances through my chest. In the two years I’ve been friends with Trixie, I’ve never seen her so depleted, so stripped of her usual vibrant spirit. I give her hand a reassuring squeeze, flashing back to just yesterday when she was doubled over in pain in my apartment as the second pill took effect.

“It’s going to be okay.”

Trixie’s jaw clenches as she blinks back tears, her movements sluggish as she gathers her things, giving me a watery smile of gratitude. She needs to get through this night of forced holiday merriment with her family. Take it a day at a time.

Squaring my shoulders, I pop open the driver’s side door and slide out into the frosty evening air. A chorus of cheery voices spills out from the house, the sounds of jovial laughter and idle chatter slicing through the melancholy bubble I’ve been encased in.

Trixie appears at my side, her entire body seeming to shrink in on itself as the raucous ambiance washes over us. I can’t even imagine how overwhelming this must feel for her after what she just endured.

Looping my arm through hers, I pull her close and plaster on my most convincing smile as I reiterate, “You’ve got this.”

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