“Because that’s what you do when the curtain is falling. You give the audience the line they want to hear the most.”
Becs was an exceptionally pretty girl. Maybe that’s why Amelia felt perturbed, that as they both walked into the foyer all eyes were turned to them. Of course, it focused more on the bodacious beauty next to her. She should have felt comfortable with her childhood friend but she was always known to feel inferior.
Days were passing rapidly. Maybe that had something to do with winter approaching, the nights growing. But Amelia had to agree with Becs when she said, “This heat is burning me. I feel like a roast turkey, it’s not even funny.” Twas true, her grandma always remarked it was hottest in October, harvesting season for it was.
“There you are!” someone shrieked in her ear, making her drop her cheese garlic sandwich. “Oops… Sorry,” Mira said, looking longingly at the fallen food. “That was a nice sandwich. Rest in peace.” Behind her stood Cynthia and Terence, constantly hitting each other.
“Hey guys,” Amelia said.
Cynthia smiled, lighting a hundred bulbs and making a similar amount of boys to faint. “Ameeeelia, come on, play secret valentine with us!”
“With them, not me,” Terence clarified. He certainly was above all this.
“Secret Valentine!” Mira prodded. “It’s almost like secret santa but much much better. One, you write down the name of your crush and submit it. And two, the name that you pick-”
“-Is the one I gift something?” Amelia asked.
“NOOO!” Mira and Cynthia bellowed loudly in a happy hysteria. Terence grimaced, trying to clean his ear but unfortunately after that he couldn’t hear much. “See… that’s the best part,” Cynthia continued. “You play a prank on the person you get and in turn the person’s name you submit will be pranked by someone.”
“Wait… But if I like someone why would I want to prank them?”
“Oh Amelia, the innocent,” Mira said sweetly, “You know why they’re called ‘crushes’? Because they crush your soul. They make you daydream about them. Make you stalk their facebook for countless hours and keep you awake in their fantasies. I think a little revenge is in order.”
“But Valentine’s day is months away!” Amelia tried to argue.
But Cynthia wouldn’t let her wiggle out of this one, “More time to perfect your prank, then!”
“Amelia,” Terence said, sighing, as if he had said this a million times, and failed to convince anybody. “Don’t do this.”
But Cynthia and Mira wouldn’t bulge. After a few desperate minutes, seeing no other escape, Amelia gave in, “Okay, whatever.” And tore a chit, writing ‘his’ name on it. Zeke. She handed the chit to Cynthia, who mixed it with an already existing pouch of chits and jubilantly offered Amelia to pick her prank target from. Amelia, at random swept her hand through the pile and took a frayed chit. Sadly, wondering what she had got herself into, she dumped the chit into her back pocket without bothering to open it. When Mira and Cynthia skipped into the sunset, hand in hand to recruit more people, Terence said, “You wrote that guy’s name right? About whom we spoke?”
Amelia nodded, rather embarrassed and quickly changed the subject, “Your ear’s alright?”
He tapped it, “Definitely gone deaf.” The he smiled, as he did on rare occasions, it looked nice on him. “But knowing that I have to spend time with those howling humanoids, I’m glad I won’t be able to hear a thing they say.”
~ ~ ~
Winter break would commence soon and Kat knew she couldn’t perpetually avoid the visit. Behind the chapel, in a perfect dreamy garden encompassed with trees that shunned reality was where Neal’s memorial lied. It was a marble grave, like any other, right beneath a tree that shed petals of fuchsia. Kat’s heels dug in carefully, each step calculated, as if she’d be ready to run the other way at any given sign of trouble. She didn’t want to be here. And as she approached his memorial, she realized she shouldn’t be here.
She was so accomplished, that she didn’t even gasp. Kat simply stood there, her face scrutinized in thought, her mind frozen in horror. Neal’s memorial had two monumental boxing gloves at the top, covered in, mind you, not real gold but something that shone like it. Only now, it was broken, thrashed, pieces thoughtless lying all over the place. And there, there was the memorial, splattered with yellow paints in the words of ‘L-O-S-E-R’
She knew she should run away as quickly as she could, that she should turn around, NOW.
But something irked her to stay a moment longer, bending closely toward the memorial to read the words, “Neal Ray Gellar – To the champion, whose every endeavor shall be fulfilled” engraved on the now vandalized grave stone.
“Oh… Right,” Kat said softly. “Your endeavor has been fulfilled, Neal. Everyone hates you, congrats.”
~ ~ ~
Her phone rang, when she was round the first corner.
“KAT, meet you in fiiiive?” Jennifer sighed at the other end of line. Kat hated when Jennifer and Jai made out in public, was it necessary to make out even with they were talking on the phone.
“Won’t you take time… since you’re with Jai?”
“Ahhhh.. OH, no, I’ll be there, gimme two,” Jennifer giggled, and Kat could hear Jai purring something. Disgusted, Kat cut the call and took a cab to Causeway where they normally shopped.
Even being fifteen minutes late, due to the existing traffic, Jennifer was nowhere to be seen. Kat stalked up and down the same pavement, her leather boots hurting her heels. She was finally giving in to her unleashed anger that she usually kept in and reserved for the worst of times. Kat, like no one else in their group, was the most sensible of them all. And maybe, just maybe, who knew what really was happening most of times. But what to call their group anyway? It was breaking. Neal was no more. With Jai and Jennifer regularly sneaking away to, you know, and Zeke constantly living in a world of his own, Kat felt the lonely reality of their once ‘happening’ group. Yes, there were others, like Lena but she had taken up to study rather ardently and had isolated herself from the group. And Reese, who only hung out with Zeke. AND THOSE THREE, she pondered about in her mind – Pari, Naya and Alisha, who used to be Mira’s best friends. Thank god they aren’t anymore, Mira was surely lucky.
She felt someone tap her back. Agitated at Jennifer for taking this long, she turned around with a mouthful to say. But stopped. Police. That’s all her mind ringed with.
A male and female officer stood there, and this seemed like a joke. “Katherine Norton?” the male asked.
She couldn’t help but nod.
“You’re under arrest-”
As everyone knew, Kat was smart, “IS THAT BUILDING ON FIRE?” She screamed with utter conviction that the cops had to turn around. And once they did she ran.
She should have taken a cab home but instead she entered a small assed shop and ran to the trial room. Which that had only one of. And it was occupied.
“Hey, HEY,” Kat thumped on the door. “I need to get in.”
“… Yeah, grandma it fits. Not it’s not tight there… no it’s not tight there either, wait, what? Tight at my what? NO, no, no, it’s perfect. Yeah, it’s in black. I know black is the devil’s color, grandma but it’s pretty. And I can afford it…”
“HEY YOU!” Kat shouted again.
The door open, and a tiny face appeared. Kat pulled her out and got in, saying, “If anyone comes looking, for me,” pointing to her face. “Say I’m not here.” Then she locked the door.
The girl, her hair in shambles, clutching a dress in her hand didn’t know what else to do but stand guard. For sure enough, people did come in looking. The cops.
“Excuse me,” the lady cop said. “Who’s in there?”
“My- um, my mother.”
The cop knocked at the door, “Ma’am I have to request you to step out for a moment.”
The girl outside looked panic stricken, “She’s um, changing, her, um, undergarments, give her some time…” trailing off into uncertainly.
And they gave her some time.
~ ~ ~
Cold air seeped into the cell, with Kat wondering if the government would ever improve the conditions of their police stations. “Why are we here, Kat?” the other girl asked, completely distressed.
“How do you know my name?”
“Everyone knows you, Kat. I go to your school.”
“No,” Kat argued, tiny bit quietly. “They know me because I’m Zeke’s best friend, nothing more. Who are you, by the way?”
The girl looked away, “Amelia…”
Something jolted in Kat’s body. “Amelia Stine? Zeke… told me about you once.” Then ceased to talk to about it.
“Listen I need to know why I’m here,” Amelia pleaded.
“Obstruction of justice,” a lady cop replied. “Quick now, you get one phone call each.” Kat scrambled quickly on her thick heels and made her call. A few minutes later, Amelia sought to ring her mother. Only her mommy dearest didn’t pick up. Amelia groaned. Her mother never picked up when she was at work. Amelia could have been human trafficked from here to Russia and her mom would never know. She put the phone back onto the hook.
“Kat,” she prodded. “Tell me.”
“They can and will use anything I say in court.”
WHAT? Amelia thought. “We’re going to court? I’ve never been to a court!”
“Congratulations then, you made it.” After a while, Kat muttered, “This would have never happened if-” then she caught Amelia hearing. Kat’s anger was breaking seal now. “Listen up, doll. This all happened because of a stupid dead boy.” Amelia could think of only one dead boy and she was right. “In the summer, Neal called me over one day. I always knew he took steroids, the notion came with him being a boxer. But he so was deep into drugs, just as he was deep into debts. So he planned to embezzle some money from his father’s company into his account. He hired this super tech guy and had me come over for company. He even transferred some money into my account, just for fun. It was an okay night, I went home, forgot about it. And then… a few weeks later he told me his dad suspects us. Neal would never face trouble, it was his own father’s money right? But what about me, or the other guy who helped him? … And then my prayers seemed to be answered, when Neal died, I thought he took this secret to his grave. Clearly, not.”
Not knowing how else to take it, Amelia said, “My mom’s not picking up the phone. And my grandma will start worrying any moment now.”
“Zeke’s not here yet…” Kat pondered lazily.
“You called ZEKE?” Amelia immediately began straightening her hair and wiping her face off sweat.
“My parents are out of town. He’s the best person I could ask for at this time. His parent’s would certainly help.”
The prospect of seeing beautiful Zeke, while being arrested for something she had no clue about, drove Amelia into madness. What rags was she wearing and what would she say? Was her breath alright?
As if noticing this, Kat smiled at her, shaking her head at her nervousness.
“What have you gotten yourself into now?”
That definitely didn’t sound like Zeke. Kat ran to the bars, clutched them and peered out at what looked to be Nadia Shane. Nadia, of all people, was here. “What are you doing here?” Kat asked.
“Zeke was doing his photo shoots. He didn’t hear his phone. I heard your voice message, I was bored, I came,” Nadia said, managing to file her nails at the same time.
“And what use are you to me?”
“I just got you bailed, sweety,” Nadia yawned. “I always carry my lawyer around.”
Happening in less than a few moments, they got out of their cells, with Nadia’s lawyer signing the appropriate papers. “They’re not done with you,” Nadia whispered to Kat, pointing out to a lone figure standing a few paces away from them. Kat could recognize him anywhere, anywhere. She walked over to him, not bothering to muster her words with respect, “What do you want?”
“Even in death, you do not leave my son alone.”
Kat looked at Mr. Gellar in surprise. He took out a photo from his coat pocket and showed it to her. In the picture, she saw herself – just a few hours earlier, in the same clothes, standing over Neal’s memorial. Standing right over the disfigured grave and broken golden gloves. Standing there and smirking.
“I know how this looks like,” Kat said instantly, eyes widening. “But I didn’t do it.”
“Don’t bother,” Mr. Gellar said. “I forgave you for what you did in the summer-”
“I DIDN’T DO THAT EITHER!
“-But if this continues, I will not take back my case on you, Kat.” And with that he left.
“Who’s that with Kat?” Amelia asked Nadia.
Nadia rolled her eyes, not believing she was talking to her. “Neal’s dad.”
Amelia muttered a quiet oh. “How much do I owe you?” she then asked.
Blowing at her nails, Nadia replied, “Think of it as an early Christmas present… you wouldn’t be able to pay me back even if you tried.”
Embarrassment rushed into Amelia’s face, changing colors. She tore out a piece of paper and scribbled something on it, then gave it to Nadia. “Here’s my friend’s Terence’s number.”
“Why would I want that?”
“Because Nadia, you should want a boyfriend who doesn’t always go through your stuff and then lies to you about it.” Amelia took to her heels, getting out of the horrid police station leaving Nadia a lot unsettled. How did Amelia know? Nadia thought, fingering the torn paper, memorizing the number and name on it.
As soon as she got of there, Amelia could feel the cold hitting her. She pulled her arms across her chest. Then she remembered something. She extracted the chit from her back pocket. The secret valentine, one. She read the name written on it, her victim: Neal Ray Gellar.