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
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 volume.
"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 daydreaming."
I blinked with a furrowed brow, "He hit you?"
She maintained her smile, nodding, "Yes. He does, sometimes. It's no biggie."
"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 day."
"You held my hand. You told him that I was dead. I didn't forget that."
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 frightened."
"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 what?"
"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 your life."
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