June 1st – Three Months Later
She only really thought about it at night, when she was alone and she didn’t have any music to listen to or homework to keep her busy. She was back in school, and somebody else was sitting in Chelsea’s seat in class. It was getting hard to remember most of the things she said she would remember, but she kept trying.
Gradually, though, the details slipped away from her. The exact shape of Chelsea’s eyes; the pitch of her different laughs; the way her nose scrunched up. And the things she did remember clearly were just pictures that she had seen at the funeral and the things people had posted on Facebook after the fact. She was coping. Her brain was healing itself.
She didn’t want to cope. She didn’t want to forget.
It had been a Monday, a couple days after it happened, when Izzy found him huddled naked and crying in the garage. He was filthy and shivering, screaming an apology and reaching his hands at her. Charles had been standing next to her one moment; the next he was on top of him, pounding on his face and neck, shouting at the top of his lungs until his voice broke. Just shrieking noises – wordless, until Izzy’s mom had run into the room and pulled him away. Jake shrank back into the corner, cringing and weeping. Charles fought, struggling to get back to Jake. He wanted a weapon. He wanted a knife to cut into him.
Izzy had stood there, shocked and a little bit ashamed of herself for not wanting to fight him herself. For not wanting to kill him. She didn’t really feel much of anything.
“You killed Chelsea!” Charles had yelled from across the room, straining against her mother’s grip. “You killed Chelsea!”
“Please,” Jake was muttering. “Please – I’m – I did it. Please.”
It happened fast. Her mother grabbed her by the hand and pulled them both out of the garage, slamming the door behind her. She knelt down next to them and looked them in the face, studying them.
“Are you alright? Did he hurt you?” she asked.
Charles tried again to get back into the garage, but her mom stopped him fast.
“I know,” she said, and hugged him. Izzy hadn’t noticed that he had been crying.
Her mom called the police and sent Izzy and Charles out of the room. They weren’t allowed to see what happened next. Her mom told her later that the cops came and arrested Jake, and that everything was going to be okay.
In the meantime, Charles sobbed into her mom’s shoulder, and Izzy sat next to the two of them, leaning on her mom with her mind elsewhere.
Jake had looked pathetic. And scared, and shriveled and weak. From across the room and in the darkness of the garage, she could see long scars on his wrists. Fresh ones, snaking up his veins to the middle of his forearms. He couldn’t even look them in the eyes. She remembered an injured raccoon that had gotten stuck in the garage when she was Matt’s age, and suddenly felt very still and empty.
When the police arrived, Izzy was taken aside and asked questions about what she had seen. All she had to say was that she had found him in the garage, that he was crying and naked, and that Charles had attacked him. That was all there was to it. The officer she had talked to had been kind enough, but she couldn’t remember his face or even his name. He went next to talk to her mom and grandfather, and finally questioned Charles, who had not stopped crying.
The dreams about the bloody room and Jake and Charles had gone away, mostly. When she did have them, they were alright. She had learned to recognize them right as they started, and took the opportunity to remind herself as best she could. Fear had a root, and hatred had a target, but listlessness just sort of gripped at her ineffectually.
The dreams she did have most of the time were of Chelsea, in a familiar place with Matt and Charles and her, and those dreams were bad. The things they were doing in them, the things they talked about. Izzy wasn’t convinced Chelsea had ever said the things she did in those dreams – she suspected that she was getting her memories mixed up with those of other friends, other times, and that through it all she was losing Chelsea.
But during the day she did alright, and she usually forgot the worst dreams by morning.
For the first month or so she had gotten the occasional email from Charles, but they had dried up in the meantime. When she wrote back to him she always wrote too much and worried that she was boring him. Once she had printed out one of his emails and studied it and tried to memorize it, but that didn’t work very well, and eventually she lost interest. She missed him. He and Matt had gone to live with their aunt Sam, out of town.
Long days as the days grew longer. Boredom. Quiet nights. She never slacked in her schoolwork, and that was enough to keep the school counselor off of her. She was Chelsea’s friend, so she was harassed frequently in the days following her death – are you okay? Do you need someone to talk to? Are you sure you don’t? It’s okay if you do, you know. My door’s always open. Sometimes after things like this happen it’s really helpful to have someone to talk to, you know?
After a few weeks this dried up too, and the counselor’s office mostly left her alone. She was doing alright, and she didn’t really want to talk much. She was just bored and tired, and sick of having dreams about her. During the day she was alright. During the day.
Occasionally she went back and looked at the emails.
Hi Izzy, how are you? I’m doing alright but I miss you. My new school is okay and I have made a few new friends and we are all playing video games together almost every day but I still miss playing with you. Matt says hi. He’s really sick right now. We think it’s the flu. My aunt says that once he gets better you can come over and we can play together. Are you doing okay? Please write back soon!
Hi, Izzy. Its really eaarly in the morning but I just wantted to write to you to say hi and see how you were doin.g I got youre last email and I really apprecate it. Matts getting better and he says hi. I’m going to try to get som esleep but I’ll try to writem ore tommorow.
He had written more after that, but they got more and more spaced out until they dried up altogether. The same thing happened with her. She put off writing and eventually stopped.
She was lonely, but she was alright. Just tired.
She rolled over and tried her best to get some sleep.
As far as she could remember, she didn’t dream about anything. At 2:30 or so in the morning she got up and watched some TV, and woke up back in her bed. Her mom must have carried her back when she got up for work.
Sometimes she faked being sick to get out of school on days her grandpa was in treatment so she could have the house to herself, but when she did she didn’t do much besides sleep and go on YouTube.
But she was alright. Honest, she was. She was alright. She was.
Her grandfather had gone to see Jake in prison to talk about something important. He didn’t tell her what, and she had stayed in the car with her mom. He didn’t say anything on the way home from the visit, but suddenly there were vague, rushed plans for her to sleep over at Charles and Matt’s new house that night. Apparently her parents were having dinner with some neighbors, and they didn’t want her around. They kept her far, far out of the loop.
She didn’t really feel anything about that.
She got into the car with her mom, and they set off down to Coaldale, about forty miles away, to where her friend had gone.