I've never seen anyone more broken. I remember Lizzie as a beautiful, pink-cheeked, blond-haired girl who never let go of the light in her eyes. This Lizzie is like a depressing winter with no sun. Her hair is dry and ratty, her eyes sunken and bleak. A bit of spark ignites in her eyes when she sees me – anger, betrayal and hurt. All reasonable emotions.
Her mother killed herself. Her brother shot her father. He's facing trial and she is standing before the girl who started it all. Why wouldn't she look like shit?
Lizzie sits down in the chair opposite me. She doesn't look away from my gaze. I swallow.
She says nothing for what feels like minutes. I'm unsure if she's going to cry or not.
"They're saying you didn't do it."
I blink in surprise. How the hell could they possibly know that?
"Did you?" she presses.
I can't lie to her now that I've told everyone else the truth. "No."
"Who did then?"
I don't answer.
"It was Danny, wasn't it?"
I look down at my hands again, knowing perfectly well that it's a dead giveaway.
Lizzie sighs and shakes her head. "I can't believe this has happened. Yesterday I was pissed that I couldn't go camping. Now I have no mom, no dad, and my brother is on trial for my father's murder. How did everything just fall apart in the space of only a few days?"
I'd like to tell her that my becoming her friend was all a ploy to murder her father anyway, but I can't bring myself to talk about it.
She looks at me with stone-cold eyes and brings it up anyway. "So all this time you were trying to be my friend ... why, so you could watch my mom shoot herself and go down for my father's murder?"
"I never intended for anyone but him to get hurt," I say.
"Stop bullshitting me, Jess. I don't know who you are anymore. In fact, I never knew you, and I'm an idiot for thinking I did. For all I know, you told my mom to kill herself and you put a bullet in my father's head."
I flinch. She's right. She shouldn't trust me.
"Lizzie, I'm so–"
"Sorry isn't helping anyone," she snaps. "But ... if you're innocent, you shouldn't go to prison for life."
I look up. There's determination in her eyes. Does she actually want to save me?
Lizzie shoots a glance behind her, as though there are eyes watching the back of her head. There certainly will be: the glass on my left isn't just a reflective mirror. The FBI agent, the lawyer, Nick and Sarge are bound to be watching.
So either Lizzie doesn't know that and she's about to say something stupid, or she does know and she's trying to get a confession from me.
"Jess, I know that Danny did it," she whispers. Her eyes start to fill with tears. "I know because he hated my father. The other night wasn't the first time they've had a fight. He used to try so hard to please Dad and one slip up would be the end of it. My father didn't like imperfection in his family, and that led to neglect and complete isolation. Danny wasn't a violent person until he saw inside Dad's world and ... he took his influence too seriously. It wasn't you and I know it. But ... please don't tell the jury that it was Danny."
I hear a door open outside and Lizzie realizes she's been caught saying something she shouldn't, but she keeps going.
"Jess, I don't have anyone left, please don't send my brother to prison!"
The interrogation door swings open.
"Stop!" says Johnson.
"Time's up," says Lewis. "Elizabeth, it's time to go."
Lizzie shrugs away from his prying hands and looks at me one last time with a defiant stare. I know exactly what she's asking. Then she is escorted out of the room.
The FBI agent runs a hand through his hair.
"Can I have a moment with Nick?" I ask.
Sarge rolls his eyes and looks at Johnson for permission. He shrugs, at a loss with his case. "Go ahead."
Nick crosses his arm and doesn't appear to want to talk to me.
I don't know what to say. I want to be alone with him so he can talk to me, tell me how he's feeling and where we are. I can't worry about our relationship on top of the thousands of other things I need to worry about.
"So," I finally say. "Do you think I'm going to the clink for life this time?"
He pushes himself away from the wall and shoves his hands in his uniform pockets.
"Not with all the lies you're telling. Why don't you just tell the goddamn truth, Jess?"
I look down at my hands again. He's right, this is pointless. They're the fucking police and I'm not even trying to hide the truth.
"Nick, I'm so sorry to put you through this–"
"Stop!" he shouts and I actually squeak in surprise. "Stop feeling sorry for yourself and taking all the blame, this is not your fault! Sure, you were stupid and took a deal from the Mafia, but we would have all done the same with a threat on our own families."
I get to my feet. I can't do this anymore. "You need to take me back to my cell."
He looks as if I've slapped him in the face. "I'm sorry?"
"I can't, Nick. I can't listen to them trying to put words in my mouth and Lizzie trying to guilt trip me into giving up my life. I need to think."
"Well you better think fast," he says. "Your trial is tomorrow."
"Yeah, that's right, tomorrow. So you'd better get your head out of your sorry cloud and snap out of it. You are not going to jail for this."
I stare into his eyes and I'm fizzing with anger and frustration. But I know I can't be like this. He doesn't deserve it.
But he doesn't know how many people I'm trying to please right now. This entire mess has been about protecting other people. I took the assassination to protect Alice and Shane, and Nick and his family. I didn't rat Danny out to protect his ass, and for Lizzie too. I can't do both. I have to pick a side.
So I decide ... I don't need to pick a side. There are no sides. There is only me and my life and my future. For the first time in forever, I want one. I want to look back on the last few years of my life and forget this entire mess ever happened. Wait, I don't want to forget. Because I want Nick to be as much a part of my future as he has been in my life this past miserable year. He is the only spark of fire in my world. And he's here trying to convince me to save myself.
Why the fuck aren't I listening to him?
I let myself smile and it makes his glare soften.
"Officer," I say teasingly, "can I have my one phone call?"
YOU ARE READING
Free as a JailbirdGeneral Fiction
Jess Knight likes her freedom. Despite being in jail for about sixty-five percent of her teenage life, she is in complete control. But there's only one problem: she doesn't know her purpose. One day, everything changes. Her reputation as the younges...