As it turned out, I was right. Suicide wasn’t a thing you heard about much, at least not in our quiet little town. It was something that happened far away, something distant and unfathomable. And yet, that morning it had struck home with terrible precision, taking Lucy’s mother with a finality that left everyone stunned and gasping for breath. I had a hard time understanding what happened. I think we all did. One day Mrs. Davenport was standing in the kitchen, her smile soft and a little sad and the next… she was gone. Paramedics and cops covered the grounds, cleaning up the mess that she’d left, knowing that the physical evidence was the least of it. The mess left in Lucy’s heart showed through her eyes. At first it was a stunned look of loss. And then, it went much deeper. I did my best to trail around all day, trying to be there if she needed me. I don’t think she even noticed I was there, ignoring me at every turn. The one or two times she did take notice, a small spark of anger flared up. I wonder if she blamed me for what happened. Not that it made any sense, but that fit right in with the days events. Nothing made sense.
The crows gathered. Family, friends, neighbors, all pecking at memories, all equally unbelieving. My mom brought over refreshments as if we were celebrating some event. I needed to find a way to comfort my best friend, the girl I’d fallen in love with. Right now I had the feeling that I was a complication for her that she didn’t need, so I left the party and went for a walk. It had been meant to clear my head, but soon I was lost in my thoughts and my feet just seemed to keep taking me further and further away from the scene of the crime.
I’m not sure if I had some subconscious plan or if it was just happenstance that took me past the diner that day. Perhaps both. I found myself laying out a crumpled 5 dollar bill on the counter and leaving with change and one of Lucy’s beloved strawberry shakes. That should do it, or so I hoped. On the way back, the real thinking began to kick in, pushing the daze of what had happened to one side. I was finding it hard to be properly sad, the memory of last night laying like a veil of beauty to cover the events of today. Yes, I realized it was self-centered of me and wrong, but I was in love and everything else seemed not to matter quite as much. I recalled her kisses, nervous and yet tender. The way her breast felt in my hand, the way our skin pressed together as if we were one. It was a thing of beauty and perhaps that is what she needed to weather this storm. Love and beauty. I vowed to give her both.
My mind made up, I hurried along, switching her milkshake from hand to hand as I went, humming a bittersweet little melody, one that seemed to fit the events of the last two days, wondering what was going to happen now? I feel ashamed that my thoughts were more of how we would work things out rather then what life without a mother would be like. After all, I was in love, and there was very little room inside of me for any other emotion. When I arrived back at Lucy’s house, little had changed. Although no one had had the foresight to wear black or bring roses, a funeral air still filled the living room. Lucy wasn’t part of it. I noticed her absence immediately. After all, she normally drew me like a magnet to her side. My eyes drifted slowly to the stairs the led up to her room, realizing that she must have taken refuge there.
Not that I could blame her. There was nothing down here for her but death and sadness. My gaze passed over her dad, his back to me. He turned his head as if feeling my presence, his eyes dark and empty and a shiver passed through me. He looked… different. As if his wife’s death had changed him somehow. There was a darkness in him that I’d never noticed before. A stab of fear clutched at my heart and it began to beat wildly. Why, I couldn’t say. Suddenly I was frightened for Lucy. Milkshake still in my grasp, I took the stairs two at a time, hurrying past the white tiger whose picture guarded the way, desperate for her.
I found her, staring out the window towards my room as if it was any other day, and yet something felt wrong, something I couldn’t put my finger on until she turned away from her view to face me, staring at me through someone else’s eyes, stirring a bitter memory. I felt my nails digging into the Styrofoam cup, heedless of the thick ooze that dripped out over the sides like bright pink blood. She was there and yet she wasn’t. Lost to me.
"Come in, Alice."
The words that spilled from her mouth weren’t hers. They were her voice, of course, but they didn’t belong to her. And her eyes… there was malice in them, glittering, cold-hearted hate. Whether or not it was directed at me, I couldn’t say. I do remember that her stare seemed to go beyond me and down the hallway towards her parent’s room. Had I known then what I do now, I would have understood, but we were still both innocents in so many ways. Beside, I had other things to concern me.
"Where’s Lucy?" I asked her. It was a perfectly valid question. This presence before me might wear her face, but there the similarities ended. I thought I saw a flicker, recognition perhaps of the importance of my question, but it was quickly quelled, like a candle being snuffed. Fear tore my heart apart at the thought of losing her like this. Fear and anger. If I had to fight to keep her, then so be it. I felt a fierceness well up inside of me that I’d never before felt. This was my Lucy at stake and I would bring her back from where ever it is she had gone.
"I’ve been waiting for this moment forever, Alice. I knew it would come, and I’ve prepared myself for it."
Those were her exact words. Even now, I remember every little inflection. How she smiled as she said them, a cruel smile that spoke of menace, one that jarred memories within me I hadn’t known existed. Taken by surprise, I took an uncertain step backwards, trying my best to look confident, struggling to find words and failing.
"Oh, don’t be a bore."
That stopped me. That and the look that came over her face, as if she was struggling somewhere far away, desperate to return and vanquish the invader that had taken over her body. Planting my feet, I willed her on, not with words, but with love. Every thing I’d ever felt for her spilled from my heart. It must have shown on my face, for a look of uncertainty flickered in her continence and suddenly, I recognized her. The Queen of Hearts in the flesh, came to haunt me with waking dreams. Oh, how I hated her at that moment. With all of my being, I hated her. And yet, I forced that down. There was no place for hate in this room. Love conquered all, or so it was said, and my instinct told me I needed to win this battle if either of us were to survive.
Thankfully, Lucy was on my side. I could see it in her eyes, some sort of inner struggle at first, one that spread until it looked like she was having some sort of seizure. Oh God, I was scared, more for her then for me. She began screaming, then, and all I could think of doing was to hold onto her with all my might, trying to calm her, telling her that everything was going to be okay. Lies, of course, but I didn’t know any better. Panic filled me and the realization came that if she died, I would as well, so entangled had our lives become. A young girl’s fancy, perhaps, but I truly believed it at the time.
It was all I could do to hold on to her, whispering words of love and encouragement to her, barely able to hear myself over her desperate cries for help. Fiercely I willed the Queen from her, laying curse after silent curse upon her until we were joined by Mr. Tripp and Mrs. Jensen, rushing to restrain Lucy. Others came as well, wondering what was the matter and pulling me gently from my friend. Someone, I think it was My mother, wiped my face dry. It was then that I realized I was bleeding as well. Lucy must have struck me in the nose sometime during her struggles. She did the best she could to wipe away my tears, but it was a pointless endeavor. I had far more tears to shed before this day was over.
I don’t recall if it was the same paramedics who had come for Lucy’s mom. I do remember that they seemed overly concerned about me as well. I guess that in her state of rage, Lucy had struck me more then once as evidenced the blood that ran from my nose leaving a coppery taste in my mouth. I was given an ice pack for one eye as well that seemed to be slowly swelling shut. Strange that I don’t even remember that happening.
They drove her off in silence. Apparently her distress didn’t warrant the same sort of fuss with lights and sirens that someone else’s might of. Crazy people get the short end of the stick in matters such as this. Not that I thought she was crazy, but everyone else seemed to think that was what had happened, that she’d snapped and lost it. Only I knew the truth, that she’d been possessed by a demon, a creature from my darkest nightmare. This was my fault, a problem that only I could fix and I would. Somehow I would find a way to free her from this awful nightmare.
It was the next day before they brought her home, her Uncle Joe helping her from to the curb while she clung to the door of the pickup like a rag doll. Gravity had clearly become her enemy. I’d been waiting all morning on the front porch, my one eye bruised purple, for her arrival. No one had bothered to tell me anything. I had even begun to suspect that they didn’t really know much more then I did, other then that she was okay and they wanted to keep her overnight just in case.
"In case of what?" I had asked. My mom had simply hugged me and told me one of those lies parents believe to be the best way to deal with situations such as this.
"Don’t worry, darling. She’ll be fine. They just wanted to make sure she got a good night’s sleep. What happened wasn’t your fault."
She must have seen it in my eyes, haunted as they were by the events upstairs. Mom was like that sometimes, seeing far more then I thought possible about me. Not everything, obviously, but enough to worry me. I needed to be more careful or she would find out all my secrets. Our secrets. And once she found out, she’d find a way to keep us apart.
"I know, Mom," I’d said, shrugging as my eyes wandered to the window, my mind a million miles away as I framed the first of what became a trail of lies and deceit. I’d never lied to my parents before, not even about small things. It was a big step, and one I took very seriously. In the end, I had to. That was what I believed, anyway.
"I know she’ll be fine. Everything will be okay. I just… wish all of it never happened."
My mom had hugged me, which released a new outpouring of tears from me. And then, when I had cried myself dry, I took to the porch to begin my silent vigil until she returned.
I reached her side first, as was fitting, putting my arms about her and kissing her gently on the cheek. I wanted to do more, but not with so many witnesses about. She managed a wan smile, recognizing me, but only barely. No wonder, I thought, looking into her eyes. They’d drugged her. That much was obvious. Her stare was vacant, focusing on something elusive in the distance. Perhaps something real, perhaps not. I was sure that whomever had done it had thought it in her best interests. Perhaps they had even been right. All I knew was that I hated them. They’d taken my Lucy from me. She was in there somewhere, in that slender little shell, lost and alone and now it was up to me to find her and rescue her.
Oh, how romantic it all seemed. I truly thought that I was the charming prince in Sleeping Beauty. I would wake her from her haze with a kiss of true love and she would be forever and ever mine.
"Good morning, Alice." Her uncle greeted me, his voice sounding beaten down, his eyes red. He’d lost his sister, I reminded myself. His pain was as great as mine.
"Good morning, Mr. Tripp," I replied, forcing a smile onto my face. "I’m…. sorry."
He nodded, and then there was nothing more to say to each other. We managed to get Lucy up the stairs and into bed, tucking her under her covers only seconds before she fell into a sleep born of exhaustion and sorrow and I stayed with her all day and into the night, my mom and her Aunt and Uncle checking in on us every 30 minutes or so. Of her dad there was no sign. No one volunteered anything about his state, nor did I think to ask. My attention was entirely upon Lucy. Some one else, someone with more strength or wisdom or compassion then I would have to worry about Mr. Davenport.