Home > With Malice(11)

With Malice(11)
Eileen Cook

His words didn’t bring any images into my head. There was still a blank space where the past weeks had been. How could I forget something like that? The clock ticked on the wall. Each second moving from the present to the past. Moving Simone farther away.

I finally asked, “Was I drunk?”

“No, of course not.” My mom sounded horrified, which made me feel better. “They tested you when you were admitted to the hospital in Italy. They don’t know why the accident happened.” Her voice was strained, and I realized she was trying not to cry.

I wanted to tell her everything was going to be okay, but both of us knew that was a lie. This was something that couldn’t be fixed. Sure, my leg would get better, and I’d get out of the hospital, the cuts would heal—but Simone would still be dead. I felt dizzy. This had never happened to me before. Something bad that couldn’t be undone. The permanence of it made me angry.

“I want to go to Simone’s funeral,” I said. Suddenly the decision seemed crystal clear. I pulled myself up in bed. It felt good to have a purpose. “I need to go.” I was her friend; everyone would expect me to be there. I owed her that. I needed to say goodbye.

“Sweetie, the funeral is planned for tomorrow. You’re not ready—”

I cut her off. “I’m her best friend. I have to go.” I didn’t care how bad I felt. In fact, I wanted to feel bad. I needed to sit at the funeral with every bone in my body throbbing in pain. Mentally I started going through my closet to figure out what I could wear that would go over the cast on my leg. I wondered if Simone’s parents would let me say anything, and if they did, what could I say that would be worthy of Simone? She deserved a speech that was more than a regurgitated song lyric or bad poem. “You have to talk to Dr. Ruckman,” I said. “Tell him I need to go.”

“It’s not that,” she said. She took a deep breath, as if she were about to dive into a deep icy pool.

“Simone’s family doesn’t want us there,” Dad said.

His words were like a slap in the face. “Oh.” It wasn’t that they didn’t want us there; they didn’t want me there.

“I called her parents. They hung up on me,” I said. My heart folded in on itself, getting smaller and harder.

My parents exchanged a look. “They’re struggling,” Mom said. “They’ll come around. You’re family to them the same way Simone was a daughter to us.” Her voice caught and she started to cry.

I watched the tears fall from her eyes and waited for my own eyes to water, but I still couldn’t believe it. Or I didn’t want to believe it. There was no one in the world I was closer to than Simone. In eighth grade, Richard Slater started a rumor that Simone and I were lesbians. I’d gotten upset, but it rolled off Simone’s back. She said he was jealous that no one loved him even a fraction of the amount she cared for me. That her love for me went beyond sex, that our friendship was stronger than any guy. Simone said we were a part of each other. Like Siamese twins who share a heart and can’t ever be separated or one would die.

I looked back up at the ceiling and searched out the small elephant. I pictured his trunk curled around a feather. He believed that the feather was magic and made it possible for him to fly.

I don’t believe in magic.

Simone’s gone.

I started to cry.

My dad stood there looking uncomfortable with all the tears. He grabbed a box of tissues from the windowsill and passed them over to my mom and me. They were a hospital industrial brand and felt rough and harsh on my skin.

“It’s a tragedy, but that’s all it is. I’m not going to let her family turn this into some kind of drama,” he said.

“Keith,” my mom said.

My dad had never liked Simone or her family. The truth is he’s a snob. He didn’t like that her mom was a cashier at the grocery store and her dad sold cars. Like it reflected badly on him that I didn’t have a Hilton or a Rockefeller as a best friend. My dad didn’t see the point in a relationship unless he could get something from it. My mom had learned that lesson the hard way.

“All I’m saying is that Evan doesn’t think we should have anything to do with their family until this is all resolved,” Dad said.

I felt a flare of annoyance. “Do we really need a lawyer?”

My parents traded glances again, and the uneasy feeling in my belly grew heavier. I was having a stress baby.

My mom patted my shoulder.

Dad tucked his shirt into his pants with sharp jabs. “We’re making sure that we look out for you. You need to be able to focus on getting better, not jetting back off to Italy so that a bunch of trumped-up know-it-alls can feel important.”

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