After that day, the book closed and the school collapsed with it.
They wanted to keep it open- the governors, that is- and went to
heroic lengths to preserve the broken shell of the
Andrew/Bernadette cluster, but it was futile in the end. St.
Andrew's was relocated and brought back from the ashes as a new
school entirely off somewhere in the south western region, and
St. Bernadette's went with it. However, St. Bernadette's did not
thrive like her brother- instead, she sat there on the hill,
quiet and mourning, singing the songs of those who had died
there. The original buildings were pronounced derelict and
planning went underway for their demolition. There were too many
bad memories to keep the sorry place alive, and it had always
been destined for a fall.
Within a month, parents and their children began to make plans to
move out of the town. The shootout had scarred all of us. I
probably would have left too, if it weren't for my brother- my
parents were deadset on waiting for him to return home from the
forces before making any arrangements to leave. Just like every
other, they felt a change of location would bring them a new
start and whisk them away from all the chaos and news updates
that swallowed our town up whole. On top of that, they needed a
new school to send their kids to- somewhere safe.
"A school shootout could arise anywhere," they drilled into us
through the media, "This wasn't anybody's fault but the boy's,
and this wasn't meant to happen. But it's happened, and now it's
our job to move on and remember the lives that were forcibly
taken that day. All 24 of them."
Elizabeth, in return for the half-intentional saving of her life,
had rewarded me with her forgiveness for the past seven years
through a note left in my front garden (my father had teased that
it was a love note but the envelope had reached me sealed). Not
that I was exactly craving after her pity, of course; she had
been the culprit in the matter after all, but I accepted it with
gratitude all the same. It was a gesture, of sorts, and in her
eyes, the nicest of gestures.
We met on the field by my house, just as the sun began to make
its peak on the hills, the autumn rays falling across our faces
and dazzling the dewdrops on the grass with a brilliant, orange
hue. Elizabeth arrived in a shielded mood, but it seemed to
lighten upon her arrival (luckily for me- I could have been in
for an earful) and we sat down together for the first time in
years. I had missed her, oddly. Missed her weirdness. She was
smarter than they made her out to be, and contrary to popular
belief of the parents at the fallen school, her voice spoke in
"Have you told anybody?" she said quietly, her eyes dancing away
into the dawn.
"About how they..Nathan.. knew you?" I said, picking at grass,
"No. I wouldn't."
"So.. you don't know why? Did you even know Nathan?"
"No," she said gently. "I didn't. Did you?"
"He was in my pastoral."
We sat in a slightly uncomfortable silence for another few
minutes, and I watched her as she smiled to herself peacefully.
It was hardly a time to be peaceful, especially for her, but I
wasn't intent on disrupting her happiness.
"When I got home that day, my Dad gave me a talk. He hit me for
I blinked with a furrowed brow, "He hit you?"
She maintained her smile, nodding, "Yes. He does, sometimes. It's
"Well.. it kind of is."
"He likes to confront me with my failures," she shrugged, tugging
at the grass, "..Like I don't remember them, or something. But
I'm glad he hit me rather than hugged me."
"No," she said importantly, her eyes darkening a little, "I don't
want him to touch me. I hate it when people touch me, unless I
touch them first. Especially him."
I smiled a little weakly, a gentle shrug touching at my
shoulders, "I'm not going to touch you."
She shrugged back. "You know, I didn't forget your kindness that
"You held my hand. You told him that I was dead. I didn't forget
I glanced at her a little sheepishly, "Oh. That. I.. I would have
done it for anybody."
"But you did it for me. It was nice, although I was very
"As you should have been," I swallowed.
"I wish that it hadn't happened. I didn't get the time to tell
you of my adventures."
My brow furrowed, and I squinted at her through the sun, "Your
"I'd like to tell you about them," she nodded with a little
smile, "But first- to thank you, for saving my life, I have a
surprise for you. That's why I asked you here, after all."
"Oh, that's really alright, Elizabeth."
"But you got my note."
"Yes, I did. Apparently you're not a fan of phones..?"
Her nose wrinkled, "I don't have one. I don't have your number
either, and I wouldn't know how to use a phone. My surprise is a
surprise that will make your life exciting, although you'll have
to wait a little to get it. I can see you're unhappy, Oliver."
"I'm not unhappy."
"..Perhaps. But isn't everybody?"
She sighed, flopping down on the grass and wriggling as her
clothes drank in the dew drops, "When are you going to wake up
and stop waiting for your life to begin?"
"I don't know what you mean," I frowned a little crossly, but
resented the truth in her statement.
"My Dad's out around noon on Wednesday, for the rest of the day.
If you've woken up by then, find me and we'll talk."
After ninety minutes of pacing around my room and anxiously
tugging at my hair, I decided that paying Elizabeth a visit
wouldn't hurt- couldn't hurt, despite my refusal at her outright
proposal to mend my so-called 'boring' life. I settled my
conclusion upon the fact that her father would be away from the
house, as to my resentment, he did scare me a little bit. There
was something about his quiet ignorance and grunting lungs that
set my teeth on edge.
Elizabeth said nothing as I arrived on her doorstep at one in the
afternoon, only smiled, and began walking up the stairs in the
clear initiative that I would follow her. Her room had been a
distant gap in the window throughout our time together as
children, a haven strictly for her and her only, but now, she
seemed almost comfortable to invite me in and take my coat. It
was exactly as I had imagined, really, and the little touches of
Elizabeth dusted around the room were almost endearing.
"It's very pink in here."
"I know," she said, picking up the music box on her desk and
winding it up, "Here, listen."
I took it from her gently and examined it, the little porcelain
ballerina perched upon a plinth beginning to pirouette. The tune
began at the chorus- an odd thing to feature in a music box, but
just as pretty as the proud owner.
"Carrie," I said finally, my mouth breaking into a very small
smile, "It's the Carrie theme tune."
"Yes," she nodded, "I stole the DVD from my Dad when I was little
and we watched it in my living room. I don't find it as scary,
anymore. I think it's just sad."
"You still remember that?"
"I remember everything," she said, her fingers copying the
motions of the ballerina against her hand and her eyes dancing
with them, "I think I'm a lot like Carrie."
"You're not crazy, Elizabeth."
"Carrie wasn't crazy. She was just a big old scaredy pants."
Elizabeth then decided that she would make us both a drink (I
didn't dare tell her that I hated raspberry tea as she was
determined to make the content of the cups match the colour of
her walls) and so I took the liberty of investigating her room a
little. Of course, I wouldn't have taken to this method in
regular circumstances, that I would have accepted her sanity, but
the 'surprise' she had in line for me put my curiosity first. Her
desk was littered with books that she had, according to the sheen
of the covers, never opened- classics, in good standing, like
Misery by Stephen King and Lord of the Flies. Perhaps film
adaptations were more her scene.
Underneath the pile of books was a photo album- unlike the novels
she had never read, this one had been fingered and thumbed and
plastered with prints, the edges of each page curling towards the
sun and the binding faded. Sliding it out, I sat down and opened
it up on my knees.
The first photograph was of Elizabeth herself- all five-foot-five
of her- from the summer of the previous year (you could tell,
see, because she was in her St. Bernadette's uniform, and
clutching her purple planner that signified she was in year
nine). Unlike the vast majority of the girls in her year, who
were already obsessed with boyfriends and makeup and going to
parties, she seemed awfully pure, her skin very soft and pale and
her hair very long and dark. She was prettier than the rest of
them, and she seemed happy.
The next three pages were blank, but I soon came across a whole
host of photographs that pictured sketches seemingly drawn by a
young Elizabeth herself (of course, this may not have been the
case, as her handwriting had never exactly been eloquent and her
drawing skills quite probably matched this trait). By each
drawing, a name.
Nines. Jane. Sebastian. Mother.
Charlotte. Caspian. Fright. Father. Emule. Flore. Belle.
Sayers. Holly. Marcus.
Before I had the chance to really observe the photograph, she
returned with two piping hot mugs of tea and, under her slight
little armpit, a notebook with a pen in the ring binder. I
noticed her struggle with the heat of the two cups and took them
from her, offering her a gentle nod of the head before placing
them on her bedside table. Her eyes flickered between the tea and
the photo album, and I stood back sheepishly, praying that the
anger inside of her was not about to swell.
"You've been looking through my things?" she said plainly.
"No. Yes. I mean, I was just looking at your album," I struggled
before sitting down and taking our drinks from the table before
handing her the cooler of the two, "Sorry."
"You could have just asked."
"Oh. Well, I'm in here."
"Yes, you are."
I flipped open to the page I was talking about, poking at the
drawing with my finger, "Is that me?"
"Yes," she said again, smiling slightly, "I wouldn't say we've
been friends exactly, Oliver, but if the people passing in the
street saw us as kids in the garden playing tea parties, do you
think they would have thought we were friends?"
"I suppose they would have, yes."
"See. I couldn't get the colours quite right, though. You have
this lovely sandy hair and I didn't have a pencil in that colour.
I think I got your body right though, because you're very tall."
Unfortunately for me, I was hardly the picture perfect model
Elizabeth had so fondly described- in reality, I was just an
overly tall, dusty haired teenager with too big an appetite but
too small a tickle to the scales. My father had always commented
that I was a 'good looking chap' but he had to say that, he was
probably on strict orders from my mother. Standing next to
Elizabeth, I felt dwarfed by her natural air of radiance.
"Okay, here's a question. Why didn't you just stick the drawings
in the album? Why did you take photographs?"
"Dad burnt the drawings," she said a little limply, "He doesn't
like the ones of my friends. I managed to take a photo before he
put them on the fire, though. It was actually quite funny to see
the little faces curl up in the flames. They looked awfully happy
to be burning alive."
"What a lovely sentiment," I said with a light scoff, but luckily
she returned the gesture and smiled a touch.
"This one," she said, sipping at her tea and pointing to it with
her free hand, "It's of my mother."
"It's lovely, Elizabeth."
She stared at the drawing a little longer, before downing her tea
and standing up. Taking the notebook she had brought in tow with
her from the floor, she flipped it open and cast her eyes down
upon me, "I think it's time I tell you about how I plan to change