For the next hour, Elizabeth grilled me about anything and
everything- in fact, I was almost sure that her excessive note
taking was purely for dramatic effect and that her host of
questions were simply curious queries. She seemed to enjoy my
"Do you play any instruments?"
"I play the cello." She knew I played an instrument.
"Yes," she confirmed. Yes, she knew. "I remember when you played
at the school open day."
"Oh, yeah. That was a while back."
I hadn't wanted to play, but the second the matter of my musical
skills had caught the wind, the dramatic arts department had
latched onto me and held tight. The rest of the school hadn't
favoured the 'softer' subjects and saw them as a fools way out of
a career, yet I was perfectly able in my other lessons, and I saw
it as my chance to put my name on the map- the boy who could play
the cello pretty damn well. This hadn't been the case, of course,
as nobody cares in school unless you're easy to tempt into bed or
disastrously ugly. I was neither.
My best friend Michael and I had welcomed the parents of the St.
Andrew's/St. Bernadette's students to the tune of Seven Nation
Army by the White Stripes (as well as many other rather out of
place revivals) and Michael's girlfriend, Helena, had sang the
vocals for us. Hardly a rock concert, but I had felt pretty good
about myself that day- I had certainly served more purpose than
the substitute teachers handing out leaflets. Elizabeth had also
made an appearance, although she hadn't said a word to me.
Instead, she had hung back around the reception and watched me
play my cello, swaying slightly or tapping her hand against her
leg every so often, but other than that, nothing for a whole
three hours. She could stay completely out of it for a long time,
I had noticed. Sometimes she would just drift off into this
etherial haze and you would be able to see her moon eyes glazing
over- she would be listening, but she would be somewhere else.
Perhaps playing with her friends.
"The girl you played it with was very pretty."
"Helena?" I said.
"Yes. Is she your girlfriend, Oliver?"
"Oh, no," I laughed, and Elizabeth frowned a little, "Michael
Portman is her boyfriend- if they're still together. They both
left after.. after what happened."
In reality, Elizabeth was actually quite a bit prettier than
Helena- sure, Helena was nice looking, but she wore too much eye
liner that got all up in her tear duct when she was tired and she
always had a little bit of red lipstick on her teeth. She smoked,
so they weren't great either, but she had cool hair (dyed black
with a streak of mauve, often accessorised with a bandana) and
had good boobs so naturally, Michael had shown her off. In
addition to that, she was extremely easy to get along with,
unlike Elizabeth who would often just stare at you and expect you
to speak while she listened. Unlike Helena, she had the skin of
somebody who had never worn a scrap of makeup in their life- not
that she really needed it. She was the picture of health, on the
outside, although her mind told a different story. Her sickness
came from within.
Of course, she wasn't perfect. Her nails were so short they made
me cringe and her ears stuck out a little- although they were
flooded by the hair that fell from the crown of her head to her
waist so you couldn't really see them. When she was working or
writing, however, she would stop to tuck the thickets away behind
her funny old ears and you'd get a real view. In an odd way that
only Elizabeth could muster, they made her face that little more
endearing. Infatuation has that horribly callous quality of
removing the flaws from a person, and I had felt its vice before,
but not with her. I still saw her flaws and I accepted them. I
preferred living in honesty.
It made me kind of uncomfortable that I felt an odd attraction
towards her, in fact it made me very uncomfortable- I didn't like
giving her the attention she craved and made it quite plain that
I was not her bitch, thank you very much, despite her constant
negative attitude if she didn't get her own way. Sometimes, even
still, I would find that it was me doing the staring, because
pushing past her childishness she really was rather mesmerising,
just in the way she moved and spoke and laughed. Feeling that way
kind of reminded me of the relationship my father had with my
mother, that he was quite a lot older than her, and that summoned
the discomfort in question. I didn't want to be one of those
weird pervy eighteen year olds who waited for their girlfriends
by the school gates (even if there was nothing more than a year
between us) and so I hung back on the idea of ever kissing the
lips I stared at. Nothing good would come from it.
Pushing past the rather ominous subject of the school shootout,
Elizabeth pressed on with her list of questions. "How okay on a
scale of one to ten are you with stealing?"
I coughed on my tea a little, "Elizabeth."
"I don't like where this is going."
"You still haven't answered my question," she pointed out
"Wow, I don't know- four?"
"Good," she said, nodding and writing something down.
"Where is this going, dare I ask?" I said with a small frown.
"Ah. Okay." I felt it silly to push the matter any further.
"Question.. I don't remember what number. Okay.. would it be
easier if I gave you my sheet?" She frowned and I watched her
eyes scan down her little list that apparently was legitimate.
"Is that one of the questions?" I said.
"Uh, no, I don't think so. You have to say yes though or you can
go home because I really can't be arsed to read this all out,
Oliver. There's only five left."
"Here." She smiled and made a few annotations before passing it
over, along with her pen (that, may I add, was extremely jazzy,
and plastered with jewels that hurt my hand as I wrote).
1) What is your favourite book?
- Adolphus Tips.
2) What are your views on domestic violence?
- He said he thinks it isn't ever okay.
3) Can you cook?
- He said microwaves meals but that's okay because macorini
cheese is a microwave meal.
4) What is the scariest thing you can think of?
- 'Getting my teeth pulled'.
5) Have you been camping?
6) What is your favourite song?
-He said he doesn't know but that he likes the band Oasis.
7) How many hours a day do you spend with other people?
- He said four.
8) Do you have any pets?
- A dog called Benjy.
9) Are you clever?
- He said he doesn't think so but that's what a clever person
10) Who would miss you the most if you died?
- My Mum, probably.
11) Do you play an instrument?
- Chello. Apparently spelling wasn't her strong point.
12) The stealing question (1-10)
-He said four although I think he's a three. I think he wanted to
sound bad ass.
"I think he wanted to sound bad ass?" I quoted with a snort,
"Dude, not cool."
"You're not allowed to talk until you've finished. Shh."
13) Do you put your peanut butter in the fridge or the cupboard?
I stopped for a moment. "What relevance does peanut butter have
"Shush!" she scolded, "And besides. You can tell a lot about a
person from where they put their nut butters. Carry on."
I simply rolled my eyes and scribed down 'Cupboard.'
14) Are you bored?
I exhaled before putting the nib of the pen to paper and
mustering honesty. Yes.
15)) Are you good at making people happy when they're sad?
No, not really. But I think I'm honest.
16) Why do people die?
That's a big question. It's just a natural part of life I guess.
17) Are you ready, honestly truly, to change your life?
I don't know. I'd like to say yes.
"Here." I handed her back the paper and the horrifically
bedazzling pen, "Now tell me what this is about, because it all
sounds very ominous.
"Hang on," she said, scatting through my answers. I could tell
she was concentrating because the little pink of her tongue was
sticking out slightly. I sat back and waited for her to finish,
sipping my tea reluctantly.
"I think this looks okay, although your last answer wasn't what I
asked. Truth be told, a lot of the questions were just to make
sure you hadn't changed too much."
"And have I?" I said.
"No, you're good. However, you should know that the proposal I am
about to offer you will in fact change your life, and you have to
really mean it when you tell me whether you want to do that or
not. I've weighed up each candidate and you're the one I want to
help me, but you need to be ready to give up some stuff to get
the most out of this."
Setting down the paper, I watched her think for a moment before
she finally rolled up her sleeves and gestured her wrists at me.
For a second I was expecting to see cuts, that she was revealing
a past of horrible self mutilation, and to an extent I was right-
but, instead of seeing cuts, I saw welts, bruises, battered skin
that had snaked over blood and clung to flesh like a reptile to a
rock. Her arms were a mess, and she seemed almost unphased by
them. It was odd that such an in-your-face abomination of the
human body had been hidden by a few layers of cotton, and it may
have been irrelevant, but the first thought upon seeing her arms
was "she's lucky the school PE jerseys are long sleeved." They
were yet another reason for people to poke fun at her.
"Christ," I said quietly, examining her left forearm without
touching her, "Why did you do that to yourself?"
"I didn't do it," she continued, brazing a fingertip over the
scars and plum coloured blotches, "That's the thing, see. I don't
know how this happened. The bruises aren't actually bruises,
they're just bruise ghosts."
"Okay, bruise ghost. Might need to explain that one."
"People think bruises are temporary but if they're done with
enough momentum they turn into scars- but not really scars.
Bruise ghosts. They're just a little dirtier in colour."
Now she mentioned it, her analogy did make sense- the bruises
were almost tattooed into her skin rather than a simple graze to
the surface. They had been there a while and it appeared they'd
be there for a long while longer.
"Oh, right. God, Elizabeth, how can you not know who did this?"
"I don't remember it. I just remember always having them. I have
more, on my legs, my back, and a little scar on my neck. But I
can't remember anything. That's mystery numero uno of the
adventure we're going on."
I frowned a bit at her lightheartedness but pushed her on,
deciding the less time we spent on the topic, the better,
"There's more than one mystery?"
"Yes. There are three."
"I think we're going to need more tea for this."