Chapter 7

665 36 3

It rains nearly non-stop for the rest of the week. I'm happy with that - at least the sun has the courtesy not to show it's face after all that's happened. The dark curtain of clouds mist up the sky, and everyone walks around like the rain has washed away our enthusiasm - I see mine swirl around the gutter before dribbling between the grates. My parents haven't spoken to me, nor I them. Life dredges on, dragging its feet and dragging us along with it. 

I'm in history last period on Friday, trying to remember the last time I spoke, remarking that I'd somehow made it to the end of the week without uttering a word at all - to anyone. And without even trying; I just can't think of what to say. I'm marvelling at the arid planes of my vocabulary, somehow impressed with the absolute desiccation of it. 

"Natalie - two features of the Constitution of nineteen-seventy-five?" 

 My head snaps up to level with my teacher - panic a tense, low bubble in my gut. But that's where it stews, for now. 

"Two new governmental houses were instated, and their executive body would be a group of five officers - the Directory." She smiles at my mechanical response, probably grateful that this whole messy death business hasn't been detrimental to my intelligence. The rest of the class descends into a chorus of whispers, can you believe she actually said something? I swear she'd gone mute or whatever. 

I drag my chair in closer, caging myself in my desk with eyes downcast - trying to force myself not to hear them all. It's an impossible feat, especially because it feels as though everyone is looking at me, the whispers circulating like pack of hungry animals. Everything in my body tenses - head a thrum of nervous energy, trying to will them all to shut up. 

That's something I never had to do when Grace was here - I only had to look at her and everyone else would just fall away. She was the sun, bright blonde hair and smouldering eyes were all I needed to forget the rest. Now when I think about her, it isn't her luminance that springs to mind; it's the sounds of her body falling, falling down into the lake, crashing into the waves and slipping into death while we slept - sounds that circuit around my head louder than my own thoughts. 

History finishes soon after that, but I've stopped paying attention; my eyes have zoned out on the clock and I don't have the energy to pull myself from the haze and refocus them. The bell rings when my eyes start smarting, and I take that as a cue to blink slow and hard and shove my book away. Just when I slump to the door, ready to walk home again - even though energy is a withered ball, curled into the far crevices of my muscles - and ready to duck straight into my room again, Miss. Cardy reaches out and winds a hand around my forearm. 

I look at her, my gaze hovering somewhere south of her eyes. I don't miss her pinched lips, though, or the slight clench of her jaw - and it makes my body ripple with anxiety. 

"I appreciate you trying, Natalie; it really is important you stay focused at school after everything." Her voice comes out modulated, clear and precise like it's a fact as much as anything she teaches me, and in a way that's a comfort. Something real in a world where black is white and blue is grey. 

"That said, if you ever need a word, my door is always open." She squeezes my arm along with the words, tries for a smile though the skin on her face is stretched too tight. Pity and condolence flood the space between us, leech from her eyes into mine, fill my lungs with it until I feel like choking on everyone else's pain.

Her words smart; the promise of a sympathetic ear feels wrong when it comes from anyone other than my actual partner. My real friend, the girl ready to help me through thick or thin. And the pity is awful, it makes me shrink right into myself. I'm suddenly just something they can help, something to watch and feel for. 

The Jump That Left Me StrandedWhere stories live. Discover now