My bed swallows me up for the rest of the day, and when I wake it's dark out and my phone is buzzing and I squint against the harshness of my bedside lamp to turn the damn thing off. And my finger is hovering over the end call button before I realise that it's Jenny, and I can't press red any more because it's Jenny. So I'm caught in a second for a long time, staring down at my screen and doing nothing whilst it glows one, twice...three times...
"Jenny?" I cringe away from my voice, croaky still from sleep and confusion and, honestly, fear. The line crackles for a moment and I wonder briefly if this is a mistake -- she didn't mean to call at all, and I'm speaking into silence as usual. Then,
"Hey Natty! Party - down Harold Way - and we-" there's a pause and I can hear voices in the background, a snippet of conversation, no, Natalie - yeah, Grace's Natalie, yes she's sixteen it's fine, before Jenny's back with her bright voice loud in my ear, "sorry where was I? Oh yeah, Harold Way party -- you in?"
Harold Way - it's nine o'clock and Harold Way is a twenty minute walk. An apology is already forming in my head, an excuse because I'm too nervous to see her, and then I think about the laughter I'd be missing. And it's made worse this time because I won't have Grace stumbling home to fill me in on the night, and there's this obligation that I do it for her. A compulsion to be near her friends because if enough of us -- broken and each clinging to different pieces of my sister -- are together, then maybe we can make her whole again. Or make me whole again; I'm not sure which is the goal any more.
"Okay. I'll be there in a half hour." I tell her, and though my voice can't break out in volume like hers does, the words themselves are louder than any I've said before. Some dynamic switches when Jenny hangs up - when the lines flattens into a buzz for a few seconds -- because I'm made aware that I'm not saving her any more. That realisation hangs in the air like static while I get dressed.
It's warmer than I'm used to, my jumper prickles against my skin and I'm left wondering whether it's nerves or something muggy in the wind. I decide on the former, because I can feel coldness cling to my face like a mask, making my eyes water as I try and navigate in the darkness. I curse Summit for its lack of streetlights, try and use my phone before it dies in my hand.
I know I'm close when I hear thumping under my feet, hear shouting carrying over the hill, and a tight knot bundles in my stomach the closer I get. People, friends -- something I've not made before -- maybe, but not family and not familiar. And if I'm not here for Jenny, I must be here for me -- but that can't be right, because parties are not something I enjoy.
Harold Way is another rich street, another thing unfamiliar, and this house in particular is a rich one -- I can see it sprout up over the horizon. Tall and starch white, with people hanging out of balconies and spilling onto the front lawn in a way I thought only true in films. Somewhere inside is Jenny, and suddenly I feel stupid for coming because of course I'm not going to be able to find her. She's as good as buried.
Blinking, I bite down hard on my cheek -- pinch the fabric of my jumper between my fingers, hope the pressure here can assuage the pressure in my muscles as I walk like someone powered by pistons. I can only hope I don't know anyone else -- can only hope no one else knows me.
"Grace!" My head snaps in the direction of the voice, eyes frantic trying to find her. To seek her out like they're so used to. That's when I realise the mistake; they mean me. It's one of Jenny's friends, male, smiling and waving me over -- completely unaware he's just put me in the shoes of a dead girl. I ignore the wash of iciness that spreads over my body with every step and instead make my way over. Try for a smile.
YOU ARE READING
The Jump That Left Me StrandedTeen Fiction
When Grace Ballard jumped to her death from Mercury Overpass, the whole town halted to a stunned silence. They halted to a stunned silence for all of a few weeks, before things picked up as normal. It's not the same for Natalie, one month in and sh...