Prologue

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When the warden told me I had a visitor, I was apprehensive. I didn't just have "visitors". My mom could only afford to make the trip out on the first weekend of every month. My father was already out of the picture long before I was in here, and my sister has never visited; I don't blame her.

The only people that showed up on a weekday were curious journalists, and what I could only describe as "fans": teenagers from all over the state with serious sociopath complexes who would claim to completely understand and sympathize with my situation. Like they knew anything besides their sweet little suburbs and their gore porn on the internet.

Their fascination with me was more disturbing than anything we'd done. It was funny: Jay always said that America loved its violence almost as much as its apple pie, but I'm not sure I quite understood just how much love two gangly teenagers from Washington could get for bringing a couple guns to school.

The guards took my handcuffs off and lead me into the visitation room, where I expected a set of grungy teens to be seated, waiting for me. I stopped short of the table momentarily when I finally recognized the neat, fashionably dressed woman sitting there waiting. A chill passed through me, like I had seen a ghost, because that what it feels like when you see someone again for the first time in eight and a half years.

I had a strong urge to return to my cell but somehow forced myself forward and sat across from her without a word. I stared at my hands on the table because I couldn't look her in the eye. I didn't want to see the things they had to say to me.

"You look well."

"Well" meant "Alive" when it came to prison talk. I knew I looked like shit, we all did, but she was just being polite. She was always so polite. "What are you doing here, Emma?"

She ignored my question. "I told your mother I was coming. She got me to bring a few things." She proceeded to pull out my mother's classic "care package" from her bag; a number of my favorite chocolate bars, and a book from my library at home. Just when I think there couldn't possibly be another book for her to bring, she always ends up finding one.

"Thanks." I forced an indifferent tone. I felt like I owed it to her not to get emotional, but I had trouble keeping a level voice past the huge, painful knot in my throat. I continued to stare at my fingers, my foot bouncing under the table.

"This too." An extra item came out of her purse. A compact disc. I reached for it immediately when I recognized the logo in my peripherals.

"I didn't know they had a new album out!" My excitement had broken through my discomfort, and across the table I heard her laugh very small, like a tiny bird.

"You haven't changed much, have you?"

I looked up without thinking and caught her gaze, the forest green like a stab in the chest. She looked so different, and yet somehow exactly the same. She had changed her hair color, it was a dark brown now, when I remembered it being a warm caramel. Her face was thinner too, her cheekbones more noticeably. Her eyes were exactly as I had left them though, full of grief, loneliness, and desperation. They say a person's eyes are a window to their soul, and I could see through hers just how badly I had left her broken. This girl in front of me was just the shadow of something I destroyed a long time ago.

"I've changed. A lot, actually," I said, lowering my eyes to the table again. I was ashamed. I had been ashamed for years. She had no idea how much I'd changed.

"Well, that's good then." She wanted to believe me.

"Why are you here?" I asked again, pushing aside the items between us and daring to look at her again. She lowered her gaze this time, avoiding.

"There's something I want to show you." She reached into her bag for a third time, pulling out a manila envelope. "I have all these photos, from school." She slipped the prints out as she explained, laying them onto the table for me.

I started looking through them, sliding each one aside as I finished with it. She liked to hide behind a camera in high school. I knew the sound of its blinking shutters too well. Almost as well as I knew the sound of a gunshot. "These are great," I lied. They were great, but they didn't make me feel great. They included smiling faces of people who I remembered well; people who were now six feet under the ground. There was one of Jay, a smirk on his lips and fire in his eyes; I skipped over it quicker than the others.

The last two were of me. The first, with that stupid orange cast on my wrist, a token I was left with after a particularly eventful party. The latter photo, with blood on my face.

"Some production company wants to buy them for this documentary they are making. They're offering a lot of money."

"You should sell them." She was here for permission. She wouldn't have subjected herself to this for any other reason, and I'd have to be heartless to refuse. After all, it's not like I had a reputation to uphold. I owed her this much.

"I don't really want to." She reached out and took the photos back, tucking them snugly into her bag again. "I mean, I want to use them myself."

"For what?" I didn't fully understand why she would be refusing the money. I hated that I knew how much an old image of me would go for. She'd be well off for the rest of her life, and she at least deserved that.

"Actually. I want to write a book." She flushed bright with the admission, wringing her hands together uncomfortably. "About school. About us. You know."

I leaned back in my chair, bringing a hand up to the back of my neck. "Oh."

"It's why I'm here. I was hoping we could talk, about what happened. About before too. Maybe, it could give us some closure."

I had doubts that what she wanted would give her any closure. I'd learned that the things you think will help you cope never really do. I wanted to say this, but the look in her eyes still said that maybe something I could tell her would make the gaping hole inside her just a little smaller. She silently begged me, and I knew that this wasn't really about the book or the money. This was about something inside her that wouldn't sleep. A darkness, an infection that I had passed on to her that day, all those years ago.

My throat felt swollen. I sighed, blinking back the sting in my nose. I hadn't talked to anyone about it. Not a soul. Eight and a half years of silence, and she was asking me to spill my guts just like that.

"Where should I start?"

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