فصل 02کتاب: جایی که عاشق بودیم / فصل 2
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154 days till graduation
Friday morning. Office of Mrs. Marion Kresney, school counselor, who has small, kind eyes and a smile too big for her face. According to the certificate on the wall above her head, she’s been at Bartlett High for fifteen years. This is our twelfth meeting.
My heart is still racing and my hands are still shaking from being up on that ledge. I have gone cold all over, and what I want is to lie down. I wait for Mrs. Kresney to say: I know what you were doing first period, Violet Markey. Your parents are on their way. Doctors are standing by, ready to escort you to the nearest mental health facility.
But we start as we always do.
“How are you, Violet?”
“I’m fine, and you?” I sit on my hands.
“I’m fine. Let’s talk about you. I want to know how you’re feeling.”
“I’m good.” Just because she hasn’t brought it up does not mean she doesn’t know. She almost never asks anything directly.
“How are you sleeping?”
The nightmares started a month after the accident. She asks about them every time I see her, because I made the mistake of mentioning them to my mom, who mentioned them to her. This is one of the main reasons why I’m here and why I’ve stopped telling my mom anything.
“I’m sleeping fine.”
The thing about Mrs. Kresney is that she always, always smiles, no matter what. I like this about her.
“Any bad dreams?”
I used to write them down, but I don’t anymore. I can remember every detail. Like this one I had four weeks ago where I was literally melting away. In the dream, my dad said, “You’ve come to the end, Violet. You’ve reached your limit. We all have them, and yours is now.” But I don’t want it to be. I watched as my feet turned into puddles and disappeared. Next were my hands. It didn’t hurt, and I remember thinking: I shouldn’t mind this because there isn’t any pain. It’s just a slipping away. But I did mind as, limb by limb, the rest of me went invisible before I woke up.
Mrs. Kresney shifts in her chair, her smile fixed on her face. I wonder if she smiles in her sleep.
“Let’s talk about college.”
This time last year, I would have loved to talk about college. Eleanor and I used to do this sometimes after Mom and Dad had gone to bed. We’d sit outside if it was warm enough, inside if it was too cold. We imagined the places we would go and the people we would meet, far away from Bartlett, Indiana, population 14,983, where we felt like aliens from some distant planet.
“You’ve applied to UCLA, Stanford, Berkeley, the University of Florida, the University of Buenos Aires, Northern Caribbean University, and the National University of Singapore. This is a very diverse list, but what happened to NYU?”
Since the summer before seventh grade, NYU’s creative writing program has been my dream. This is thanks to visiting New York with my mother, who is a college professor and writer. She did her graduate work at NYU, and for three weeks the four of us stayed in the city and socialized with her former teachers and classmates—novelists, playwrights, screenwriters, poets. My plan was to apply for early admission in October. But then the accident happened and I changed my mind.
“I missed the application deadline.” The deadline for regular admission was one week ago today. I filled everything out, even wrote my essay, but didn’t send it in.
“Let’s talk about the writing. Let’s talk about the website.”
She means EleanorandViolet.com. Eleanor and I started it after we moved to Indiana. We wanted to create an online magazine that offered two (very) different perspectives on fashion, beauty, boys, books, life. Last year, Eleanor’s friend Gemma Sterling (star of the hit Web series Rant) mentioned us in an interview, and our following tripled. But I haven’t touched the site since Eleanor died, because what would be the point? It was a site about sisters. Besides, in that instant we went plowing through the guardrail, my words died too.
“I don’t want to talk about the website.”
“I believe your mother is an author. She must be very helpful in giving advice.”
“Jessamyn West said, ‘Writing is so difficult that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter.’ ”
She lights up at this. “Do you feel you’re being punished?” She is talking about the accident. Or maybe she is referring to being here in this office, this school, this town.
“No.” Do I feel I should be punished? Yes. Why else would I have given myself bangs?
“Do you believe you’re responsible for what happened?”
I tug on the bangs now. They are lopsided. “No.”
She sits back. Her smile slips a fraction of an inch. We both know I’m lying. I wonder what she would say if I told her that an hour ago I was being talked off the ledge of the bell tower. By now, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know.
“Have you driven yet?”
“Have you allowed yourself to ride in the car with your parents?”
“But they want you to.” This isn’t a question. She says this like she’s talked to one or both of them, which she probably has.
“I’m not ready.” These are the three magic words. I’ve discovered they can get you out of almost anything.
She leans forward. “Have you thought about returning to cheerleading?”
“You still play flute in the orchestra?”
“I’m last chair.” That’s something that hasn’t changed since the accident. I was always last chair because I’m not very good at flute.
She sits back again. For a moment I think she’s given up. Then she says, “I’m concerned about your progress, Violet. Frankly, you should be further along than you are right now. You can’t avoid cars forever, especially now that we’re in winter. You can’t keep standing still. You need to remember that you’re a survivor, and that means …”
I will never know what that means because as soon as I hear the word “survivor,” I get up and walk out.
On my way to fourth period. School hallway.
At least fifteen people—some I know, some I don’t, some who haven’t talked to me in months—stop me on my way to class to tell me how courageous I was to save Theodore Finch from killing himself. One of the girls from the school paper wants to do an interview.
Of all the people I could have “saved,” Theodore Finch is the worst possible choice because he’s a Bartlett legend. I don’t know him that well, but I know of him. Everyone knows of him. Some people hate him because they think he’s weird and he gets into fights and gets kicked out of school and does what he wants. Some people worship him because he’s weird and he gets into fights and gets kicked out of school and does what he wants. He plays guitar in five or six different bands, and last year he cut a record. But he’s kind of … extreme. Like he came to school one day painted head-to-toe red, and it wasn’t even Spirit Week. He told some people he was protesting racism and others he was protesting the consumption of meat. Junior year he wore a cape every day for an entire month, cracked a chalkboard in half with a desk, and stole all the dissecting frogs from the science wing and gave them a funeral before burying them in the baseball field. The great Anna Faris once said that the secret of surviving high school is to “lay low.” Finch does the opposite of this.
I’m five minutes late to Russian literature, where Mrs. Mahone and her wig assign us a ten-page paper on The Brothers Karamazov. Groans follow from everyone but me, because no matter what Mrs. Kresney seems to think, I have Extenuating Circumstances.
I don’t even listen as Mrs. Mahone goes over what she wants. Instead I pick at a thread on my skirt. I have a headache. Probably from the glasses. Eleanor’s eyes were worse than mine. I take the glasses off and set them on the desk. They were stylish on her. They’re ugly on me. Especially with the bangs. But maybe, if I wear the glasses long enough, I can be like her. I can see what she saw. I can be both of us at once so no one will have to miss her, most of all me.
The thing is, there are good days and bad days. I feel almost guilty saying they aren’t all bad. Something catches me off guard—a TV show, a funny one-liner from my dad, a comment in class—and I laugh like nothing ever happened. I feel normal again, whatever that is. Some mornings I wake up and I sing while I’m getting ready. Or maybe I turn up the music and dance. On most days, I walk to school. Other days I take my bike, and every now and then my mind tricks me into thinking I’m just a regular girl out for a ride.
Emily Ward pokes me in the back and hands me a note. Because Mrs. Mahone collects our phones at the start of every class, it’s the old-fashioned kind, written on notebook paper.
Is it true you saved Finch from killing himself? x Ryan. There is only one Ryan in this room—some would argue there’s only one Ryan in the whole school, maybe even the world—and that’s Ryan Cross.
I look up and catch his eye, two rows over. He is too good-looking. Broad shoulders, warm gold-brown hair, green eyes, and enough freckles to make him seem approachable. Until December, he was my boyfriend, but now we’re taking a break.
I let the note sit on my desk for five minutes before answering it. Finally, I write: I just happened to be there. x V. Less than a minute later, it’s passed back to me, but this time I don’t open it. I think of how many girls would love to receive a note like this from Ryan Cross. The Violet Markey of last spring would have been one of them.
When the bell rings, I hang back. Ryan lingers for a minute, waiting to see what I do, but when I just sit there, he collects his phone and goes on.
Mrs. Mahone says, “Yes, Violet?”
Ten pages used to be no big deal. A teacher would ask for ten and I would write twenty. If they wanted twenty, I’d give them thirty. Writing was what I did best, better than being a daughter or girlfriend or sister. Writing was me. But now writing is one of the things I can’t do.
I barely have to say anything, not even “I’m not ready.” It’s in the unwritten rulebook of life, under How to React When a Student Loses a Loved One and Is, Nine Months Later, Still Having a Very Hard Time.
Mrs. Mahone sighs and hands me my phone. “Give me a page or a paragraph, Violet. Just do your best.” My Extenuating Circumstances save the day.
Outside the classroom, Ryan is waiting. I can see him trying to figure out the puzzle so he can put me back together again and turn me into the fun girlfriend he used to know. He says, “You look really pretty today.” He is nice enough not to stare at my hair.
Over Ryan’s shoulder, I see Theodore Finch strutting by. He nods at me like he knows something I don’t, and he keeps on going.
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