Chapter 12

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The piano sits in my room, and I watch it daily. Sometimes it's only for brief spells, like when I'm turning my room over trying to find a scarf and I catch it from the corner of my eye, or when I'm sat on the edge of my bed with my eyes fixed on a blurry image of keys, while I try and muster the energy to move at all. Sometimes it's for longer, when I'm actually sat at the piano with hands tucked under me, too nervous to put a finger to it. Regardless, staring at it has done nothing to help me play it. Quite the opposite. 

Yesterday I packed my sheet music away, all the Mozart and Bach and (I couldn't help but concede a small smile at this one) the Mamma Mia sound track - purchased at Grace's request. The stacks of paper are pressed against a cardboard box which is tucked in the back of my cupboard, like the way Grace's things are stored. They don't feel like mine any more, they all belong to some phantom collection - some ghostly hoarding - that I've just come into possession off. 

With school out my world has disintegrated at the edges, but the text messages don't stop. Oscar sends me something most days (it's only been half a week since we saw each other) and I might reply if I can make my fingers work, I do try and limit how curt I sound. I wish he'd just ask me to play something; I feel like if someone asked I could do it. If someone needed the music maybe it wouldn't break me to sit there and play. As it is, my days become fragile and the piano, the letter, and Grace's box of stuff sit in my room and I daren't touch them; they're paper columns and they'll break if I lay a finger on them - they'll break and bring down this shaky foundation I've built to keep myself safe. 

It's two pm on a day I can't remember and I'm sitting on my bed staring at the mirror in the ghostly way I've taken to, when my phone buzzes next to me. It doesn't stop buzzing. I look down and it's Jenny and I'm sure my heart stops for a second before I snatch up the phone and answer it, my words catching in my throat as I say hello. 

"Hi Natty, I only just got your text." She's talking slowly, like she's just woken up. My fingers curl tightly around the mobile and I lean into it, can feel the metal press flush against my ear but even this isn't close enough to drink in her words. 

"That's okay. I really am sorry I left I just-"

"It's not a problem. I think..." She swallows but it sounds painful, then there's a clinking down the other end of the line and the noises piece together wrong in my brain - there's an unease settling over the conversation. "I think it's me who should be saying sorry. I don't remember a lot from the other night, but I remember you were there, everywhere, and I'd probably be in a lot of trouble without you." 

Some noise of affirmation claws its way from my throat, maybe because I don't have it in me to accept what she's saying; I think there's a lot of confusion, still, in our dynamic and despite what she says, I'm positive that Jenny remembers how I tore her off me and ran away that night. 

"I was only trying to...to be a good friend I suppose." I leave that admission hanging for a second, fighting the urge to revoke the friendship declaration. "But there is something I wanted to tell you, I just wasn't sure how. Oscar helped me work it out, I think."

"Oscar? You guys are hanging out now?" She's surprised, and that doesn't surprise me. 

"A bit, sometimes. He's too nice to me. I think...I don't want to stop talking to you, Jenny. You're really cool..." I wince as I splurge this out, "I just don't think I can talk to you about Grace, or..."

Or act like her. Or be her for you. I swallow and push on;

"If that's why you want to be friends with me - if that's why you invite me to your parties, maybe that's not so good for either of us." 

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