Interlude: Theo, part 2

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It was funny how fast death had happened.

Theo hadn't known it could be like that—just crash into him out of nowhere. After all, it had been slow with his mom. Lots of trips to the hospital. Lots of pinched-faced doctors and sympathetic nurses and the never-ending red to rim his dad's eyes.

This time though, death had come without warning.

One minute, Theo was on top of the world: Dr. Born was going to vouch for him with the RH disciplinary board, Freddie Gellar had said she liked him, and his grandmother had finally woken up.

Sure, the Berm High kids were a bunch of pricks, but their onslaught in the parking lot hadn't ruined his evening. They were nothing more than an annoyance. A distraction. And Kyle Fucking Friedman couldn't destroy all the good that had just come Theo's way.

She's awake, Aunt Rita had said over the phone only one hour before. And she wants to see you.

Except that now Gramma didn't want to see Theo.

Because now, Gramma was dead.

It didn't make any fucking sense, though. Like, how could she be dead when only an hour ago, she'd been alive? She'd been awake and perky and demanding beef jerky. The cheapest brand from the drug store downtown, she'd said, and Theo had immediately complied.

"I'm so sorry," the tall, willowy doctor now told Theo while he stood in the hospital hall. Florescent lights buzzed. "We did everything we could for her."

"Sure," Theo replied—because what else was there to say? They'd done everything for his mom too. But that hadn't made a difference in the end. "Can I...see her?" He waved to the closed door.

Room 34, where somehow, in the hour since Aunt Rita had called, everything had gone horribly wrong. Out of nowhere, Theo's grandmother's blood pressure had dropped. Her heart had slowed.

And now Gertrude Ferris was dead, dead, dead.

"I'm afraid you can't see her." The doctor wagged her head. "I'm sorry, but we've already moved her body to the morgue almost an hour ago."

The morgue. Theo almost laughed at that word. Almost laughed at that time frame too—because seriously, his grandmother must have died before he'd even left campus. Maybe before he'd even gotten off the phone with Aunt Rita.

For all Theo knew, Rita had tried to call him back as soon as he'd walked out of the dorms. But with no cell phone he'd had no clue.

Theo swallowed. Then licked his lips, searching for the right words to respond with. The doctor's expression was so sympathetic it was starting to piss him off. It was like this woman expected him to cry—like she wanted him to be upset and howling and reacting more strongly than he was.

But how could he freak out right now? Or cry? None of this felt real. Not the plastic bag with beef jerky clutched in his left hand, nor the freshly busted knuckles on his right.

His grandmother might be a corpse cooling in the morgue, but all Theo had to go on right now were memories—and in those memories, she was very much alive.

So instead of a meltdown, Theo opted for a question: "Do you know where my aunt went?" There was no sign of Aunt Rita here, and he hadn't seen her sheriff's car in the parking lot.

"I'm afraid I don't," the doctor answered, her overdone sympathy giving way to overdone thoughtfulness. Squinting, she turned to the nearest nurse, a dark-haired woman focused on a clipboard. "Kathy, do you know where the sheriff went?"

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