Chapter Nine

Saturday, December, 12th, 2015

“Tampered with? How would they even know it’s your car?”

“I do not know! But we are losing gas,” she enthused, looking into the rearview mirror again. There should not have been anyone on the roads so early in the morning, but there was. The headlights were too bright for her to distinguish a model, they were coming too close, but she could see that it was a truck. From what she could see, she figured it was a black pickup and it was occupied by two people.

“They’re awful close.”

“They are following us.”

He jerked around to face her. “What? What do you mean? How do you know that?”

Up ahead, the light was turning yellow. Sasha knew she would not make it through before it changed, but she stomped on the gas nevertheless. They lurched forward, speeding through the intersection long after the light had turned red.

Garrett screamed, clutching at the sides of his seat even though he was the only one in the car who could not be hurt if they crashed. Sasha’s eyes remained fixed on the rearview mirror. That truck sped through the light after her.

“They are following us.”

The gas gauge was dropping, inching closer to a quarter of a tank. Soon, they would be left helpless on the side of the road with no way of getting to Summit’s home other than their feet. She supposed it could be worse, she did not usually have the help of a super-powered juggernaut when she fought on missions. Still, it was not at all according to her plan.

She hated changing the plan.

“What’re we going to do?”

“We are going to wait until the car gives out. Fight them if it comes down to it.”

“You think it’s the lizard?”

“I know it is the lizard. It has to be the lizard. She knows that we will be running out of gas in a few minutes, tops, and she is waiting to pick us off.”

Sasha’s knuckles turned white over the steering wheel. Her pursuer’s high beams were on, blinding her, but there was still a chance she could lose them on the highway, assuming there were enough civilians heading to work at this time to hide her. As she merged into the “high volume” she realized that would not be the case. For as far as she could see, there was no one around to hide with. The occupants of the truck seemed to realize that, too, because they rammed her bumper.

Garrett’s face struck the dashboard, splitting his forehead. “Shit!” he poked at it until the wound sealed up on its own.

“Try not to cry about it, Daniels. There are worse things.”

“It hurts!”

“It will hurt a lot more if they shove us off the road, just hold on. Put on your seatbelt.”

He did as he was told, strapping himself in, and looked over his shoulder at the pickup truck moving to strike them again. “They’re coming back!”

“I know,” she countered. She could not make herself move any faster, not without risking their last bit of gas. “I am going to run them off.”

“Off the road? Are you out of your mind? That truck’s got double the weight on us. There’s no way we’ll run them off—”

“What other suggestions do you have?”

“Drive faster! We’ll speed it up, turn off up ahead, and make a run for it in the woods. By the time they catch up, we could have a good amount of ground on our side.”

Sasha smashed her fist against the steering wheel. “There is somebody with her this time! What do we do if they have those powers, too?”

“I can protect you.”

“I do not run,” she snapped. Quietly, she continued. “I cannot run. My ribs are injured. I will not make it far.”

He placed a hand on her shoulder. “I will protect you.”

The meter was nearly at empty. “You are going to have to.” She floored the gas, putting space between them and the truck. Almost immediately, the gas light came on. “We are empty. What is the plan?”

“Pull over.”

She wanted to be the boss again, but she decided to do as the superman asked. She pulled over to the side of the road, partially hiding the car in the brush. By the time Sasha had put the vehicle in park, Garrett had thrown open his door, rounded the car, and pulled open her door as well. He lifted her into his arms and ran.

“Wait!” she cried. “My bag.”

“It isn’t worth your life, Sasha,” he snapped.

It was true, but she had already lost so much that she did not feel ready to part herself from the last of her possessions. “Fine!”

Garrett dove through the trees, dodging branches and ducking through the wilderness. The forest was dense and dark, surrounding them like walls. A natural trail parted behind them as he stomped down the grass and crushed fallen sticks. He would give them away. “Do you know the way around here?”

“Keep your voice down. If they hear us, this was for nothing.”

Garrett screamed.

Sasha fell from his arms, grunting as she hit the ground. “What are you…?”

She silenced as she looked up. There were two of them: a man and a woman. The woman was brunette and statuesque, like someone you would see on the cover of a magazine. Her eyes were vivid amber.

The man was bald. His eyes were black. As Sasha appraised him, she noted that his mouth was open and his tongue was an abnormal shade of grey.

“This is them?” he inquired, squinting at Garrett’s body while he writhed in the dirt. “I thought he was strong?”

The woman smiled. “Apparently, you are stronger.”

“Unsurprising,” he said. He stooped low and lifted Garrett over his shoulder. Garrett screamed but did not move.

Sasha gasped, seeing the state of the back of his shirt. The material had melted down to his flesh. Huge welts grew and burst on his skin, spewing blood along the ground. The woman whistled, following Sasha’s line of sight.

“Wow,” she said. “Contagion, look. You did quite a number on him.”

“I usually do. What do we do with her?”

“He made it quite clear what we were to do with her. Just…spit on her. Do what you do best,” she laughed.

Sasha pulled herself onto her hands and knees, keeping a steady eye on the threats. “What do you want?”

“Do not concern yourself,” the woman countered. Sasha noted that there seemed to be some kind of accent in her voice. Something quite similar to her own. “We already have it.”

Contagion opened his mouth again and spit at Sasha, who threw herself away from them. She jumped to her feet, winding herself when her ribs ached. Damn Garrett.

Contagion spit at her again. Sasha stepped to the side, just out of reach.

She spared a look at the ground when a hiss reached her ear. The spit he had sent in her direction was eating through the ground, carving a hole in the forest floor. “My God,” she grunted, dodging another bout of the acid he sent in her direction. “What are you people?”

“I believe that is none of your concern,” the woman laughed, stepping closer. “Get to the car, Contagion, I think I can handle her.”

There was a bright light and, like scales, her flesh transformed, becoming porcelain white. Her hair fell shorter and became a lighter, strawberry blonde. Her face mirrored Sasha’s, albeit without her mask. Her clothes mirrored Sasha’s. Only the eyes, bright amber, gave away what she truly was.

“This is a good look for me, I think,” she said. Sasha wondered how she knew her face. Her mask had been covering her identity every time she had the displeasure of seeing the Chameleon.

The vision of a little girl with yellow eyes in the parking lot came to mind.

“I do not share.”

Sasha held her side with one arm and cartwheeled on the other, preparing to kick the lizard…the Chameleon with all of the strength in her body. Her legs never made it. The doppelganger grabbed her around both ankles, crumpling her to the ground. Sasha scowled up.

“That is a very impressive move,” Sasha added. “Something I would do, myself.”

“Well, I guess you could say I am a better you.”

Contagion turned on them, carrying Garrett along with him. “You might as well bring him back, I will have you both dead at my feet in just a minute,” Sasha joked.

Contagion spat at her over his shoulder, landing a torrent of acid on the toe of her shoe. It splashed up and into her face. “Shit!” she hissed, kicking it off as quickly as she could. Luckily, it had not touched her skin, but the boot melted before her eyes. Her mask hissed, evaporating into ash. She threw it far away.

Good riddance.

“It is not looking so good for you, little girl,” he replied.

Sasha punched the Chameleon while she laughed with her partner, knocking her on her back. “Garrett, get up!” she ordered.

The Chameleon grabbed her ankle, dragging her onto the ground along with her. Sasha landed a kick to her face, morphing it back into the brown creature she was familiar with. “Bitch!”

“No need for name calling,” Sasha sang.

Contagion yelped, dropping Garrett. His body did not touch the ground, held only an inch or two above the earth by the unseen force he manipulated. After a second, it dropped him, eliciting a moan from its master.

“What are you doing?” the Chameleon demanded, clawing at Sasha’s chest.

“He hit me.”

“He can hardly move, what do you mean he hit you?”

Sasha felt her back lift off the ground, but no one touched her. “What are you doing?” she crowed, scowling at Garrett.

He tried to sit up, but he barely made it into a sitting position. “Run.”

“We do not run!”

Contagion spit at her foot, barely splashing the other shoe. She was not going to take the chance. She kicked it off along with the other. Running was looking a little bit better, aside from the two hundred pounds of dead weight she would need to drag along with her.

“I will hold them back,” he grunted. Sasha looked around for a split second, running her options through her head. “Run.”

She ground her teeth and turned for him. “Get up,” she snapped, grabbing at Garrett’s shoulders.

“No!” the Chameleon shrieked, reaching for her. With a thud, her head struck an invisible wall, throwing her back to the ground.

Contagion flattened his palms against a similar wall. “What is this?”

“Come on, Daniels, time to go,” Sasha repeated. He gasped as she peeled him off the dirt.

“Careful!”

“Why are you still wounded? You are not healing,” she said. Sasha pulled his arm over her shoulder and forced him to stand. He swayed, eyes closed. “You will not fall asleep!”

Garrett jerked back to reality. He gasped, “I’m sorry, Sasha. There’s something wrong.”

“Do not apologize. Just stay awake.”

She did not want to know what would happen to the force field he had put up to save them if he fell asleep. She dragged him further into the woods, relishing in the sound of their attackers’ voices growing softer and softer.

Garrett’s eyes would not lift.

“Daniels! Open your eyes.”

“I can’t,” he moaned.

“Talk to me, then. Keep yourself awake.” He did not answer and his body weighed even heavier on her shoulder. She shook him back to his senses. “Hey!”

It was not working. Sasha was not a doctor, but she had been taught enough about trauma to worry for what would happen if he slept like this. Would he wake up? Would he die?

“Garrett!”

When all the answer she received was a moan, she floundered for an idea. Something to keep him awake. Something he liked to do.

“Hey!” she slapped at his face. He tripped over a rock, nearly bringing her to her knees. “Hey! Talk to me. Tell me about Poppy.”

He hesitated. “Poppy…”

Bingo. “Tell me about her. You wanted to convince me, right?”

He nodded a little bit. “Yes. I do.”

“What was she like? Besides the face like an angel,” she managed a chuckle.

He did not miss a beat. “She was perfect. She started at my school during my senior year of high school.”

 

 

Monday, September 10th, 1984

The day had started off just as any other for me: the alarm clock had woken me from another night of insufficient sleep, I had shoveled a watery mess of stale oatmeal down my throat, and I was running late for school. I had risen before the only other occupant of the house, my mother, but that was to be expected. She had a headache. She always had a headache. She would undoubtedly wake at noon, after I was long gone, and call me at the school to demand the location of the bottle I had taken from her the previous night and she would still have a headache.

She had passed out early the night before, the ungodly thing still clutched in her hand.

I stood in the kitchen, scrambling to shove everything I needed for school, my sketchpad, textbooks, and a singular, five-subject notebook, into my backpack. There was a hole in the bottom. Above all, I hoped this would not be the day that the cheap thing gave out, spilling my belongings all over the floor to be trampled on. It would be the last thing I needed, and the last thing I would be wasting money on replacing.

I packed a few extra pencils, needing the time with my drawings to keep me sane.

“Hey, Gar-bear,” she said as she entered the room, startling me. Mary Daniels’ hair was a mess, but that was nothing strange. I was not sure when she had last showered, at least a week though. She had better things to do, like follow whatever television show she had chosen to obsess over this week while she lost herself in a new bottle of booze.

I kept my gaze pointed at the bag in my hands, resenting the sight of her more and more by the day. “Morning, Mom.”

“Working today?” she inquired.

“Yeah.” I worked every day. She had to have known I worked every day.

The woman took a seat at the kitchen table, fumbling to pull the box of cigarettes from her bathrobe’s pocket. “Aren’t you tired?”

I watched her light the damn thing and puff on it in our house, staining the walls with grey. “What does it matter? I have to go.”

“I just think you work too much—”

I shot her a scathing look. “Work too much?”

“Yeah. Like don’t you have friends that you want to spend time with?”

I grunted, “No.”

“Oh. That’s okay. I’m your friend.”

I bit my lip. “Yeah.”

She laughed a little. “It wouldn’t hurt you to spend some time with me.”

“Would you like to do it, then Mom? Do you want to take one of the jobs off my hands?”

The laughing died and she said nothing.

“That’s what I thought.” I threw the bag over my shoulder, making a beeline for the door.

The kitchen chair screeched when she stood to follow me. “Bye, Garrett! Have a good day at school!” she yelled after me.

I did not look back. “You too.”

“I love you!”

“I love you, too.”

I arrived at the school at 8 a.m. exactly, dressed in the uniform I would need for work in the afternoon. My hair was not combed, the shirt had not been washed, and I smelled funky, even to me. Still, I would take an unpleasant day in school, taunted by my peers for my homeliness, over the suffering of staying home and coughing up smoke with my mother any day.

I parked far away from the rest of the student body, hoping no one would notice me or the state of the car I drove. It was my mom’s, and it was just as rusted out and old as she was.

I was an awkward boy, barely eighteen and struggling with my not-so-newfound responsibility. My hair was golden at one point, but the thick grease that had accumulated in it these last few days had turned it nearly brown; I would have enjoyed a shower this week, but, as I knew only too well, there just were not enough hours in the day. I was tallish but thin in the extreme. My face was marred by hollowed out cheeks and sallow skin, which I scrutinized in my rearview mirror.

It’ll get better. It was a mantra I had lived by for years now, but things had yet to actually get better. My father was still gone. My mother was still drunk. I was still ugly.

The parking lot was long, separating my car from the school by hundreds of feet, but I did not care. I rushed toward the entrance of the school, bag tucked under my arm. I shoved my key into the pocket of my slacks, wishing I had had time to wear something a little less dressy. They would certainly have a field day over this.

At first, approaching the crowds of people waiting to enter the building was bearable. It was a Monday, and everyone had plenty to talk about in regard to how their weekends had gone. No one spared me a glance. But, as usual, it only lasted a moment. Then, they began to part like the red sea, moving away from me like I was a plague. I said nothing.

I did not have many friends. Well, as I thought about it, I realized that was not exactly true. I did not have any friends. Balancing two jobs and babysitting the drunk at home did not leave me much time to socialize. It had been many years, since middle school, that I allowed myself to be ostracized in such a way. Ever since my dad left.

“Hey, Daniels, go to any parties Saturday?” someone called, laughing. A few others laughed alongside him.

My face burned. I kept my head down, refusing to dignify them with an answer.

“Hey!” the same boy yelled, breaking away from his clique to approach me. “I’m talking to you.” I readied myself for the confrontation, curling into myself, but was saved by the ringing bell. My classmate shoved me back a few feet anyway before we both fell back into step with the crowd flooding into the school. I took a deep breath, preparing myself for another day of hell.

My homeroom was upstairs, all the way in the furthermost corner. I made my way there in a hurry, while everyone was still bothering with their lockers. I stared at the floor. I had learned long ago that people did not usually go out of their way to bother you if you did not make eye contact. Some laughed, though, mocking my attire, but I was used to it, and I told myself that I did not care.

“Excuse me?”

Initially, I did not stop. It would be another joke, I figured, and I would not give them the satisfaction of having my attention. But the sweet voice was persistent.

“I’m sorry, sir, excuse me!”

I slowed to a halt, raising my eyes to find the source of the request. A girl struggled to catch up with my long strides, flushing her pale face with color. She was dressed too nice, I wished I could have warned her, and the thick glasses I wore would make her a target for sure. Her strawberry blonde hair was smooth, but pulled up and away from her face in a ponytail that was far too tight. The last thing she needed was to be standing next to me.

“Yeah?” I asked, voice breaking from lack of use.

“Sorry, sir, I was just wondering if you could show me how to get to room 282?” she inquired sheepishly.

I nodded, still unsure of her intentions. “Yeah. That’s where I’m going.”

Her face lit up like a Christmas tree. “Oh, thank goodness! Can I tag along with you?”

“Sure.”

She stayed close to me the whole way there, grinning in silence. I did not allow myself to think of her, walking quickly on stick-thin legs, grabbing at the hem of her knee-length dress. I only allowed myself to look forward toward our destination, waiting for the taunts that would undoubtedly come our way. For the most part, it was uneventful, the other students continued to move away from us, too preoccupied to pester me. The girl beside me either did not notice their aversion or did not care.

“So, how long have you been here?” she finally asked.

I could not help but be confused by her question. “Since freshman year?”

Her smile fell the smallest bit. “Oh. That’s nice.”

We returned to silence. Eventually it was my own curiosity that got the best of me. “Why do you ask?”

“No reason,” she replied, too hastily.

“No, please, tell me.”

She bit her lip. “I’m sorry, it’s just…I thought you were a teacher. I didn’t know—”

“It’s fine,” I said, walking just a little bit faster. No wonder she’d been so eager to get my attention, I mused, surprised by how disappointed I felt.

She was not to be left behind. “I really didn’t mean anything by it, you’re just dressed so much better—”

“It’s really fine.”

The girl’s eyes went glassy. “I’m really sorry.”

“I just said it’s fine—”

“It doesn’t sound fine,” she whimpered. “I don’t believe you.”

I shrugged. “It’s not a big deal.”

Her lips pursed as she looked around the hallway. Searching for a way out, I figured. “I know I’m weird, but would it be okay if I sat with you?”

My eyebrows disappeared into my hairline. “You’re weird?”

Tears appeared imminent. “I was scared to talk to a student. They always think I’m weird. ”

“I don’t think you’re weird,” I assured her, trying hard to find my own way out. “You can sit with me.”

She took a deep breath. “Thank you.”

I entered the classroom first, taking my usual seat in the back corner, out of sight. True to her word, my new companion took a seat beside me, squinting through her glasses to get a glimpse of the board up front. I said, “You can sit closer if you can’t see.”

“I’m used to it.”

“Don’t your eyes hurt?”

She sat back in her chair, curling into herself to look smaller. “I always sit in the back. I like it better.”

I nodded, countering, “It’s always better when they can’t see you.”

The girl looked at me like I was a shooting star. Her mouth fell just the slightest bit open. “What’s your name?”

“Garrett. Yours?”

She thrust her tiny hand out at me. “Poppy.”

I thought I might have been let off the hook when I sat down in fourth period to find that my new friend did not share the class. The reprieve did not last long, though, since, when the bell rang, and I was unleashed into the hall, I found the girl. She was waiting for me outside the door, hands folded neatly in front of her, eyes as wide as saucers. The idea briefly crossed my mind that I could run before I saw him, but I did not hold much confidence in it. She found me instantly and waved, drawing more than just my attention. The others snickered.

“Hey, Daniels, finally found a girlfriend as ugly as you?”

The nuisance’s friend elbowed him in the ribs. “Shut up, Brian, there’s someone for everyone.”

“Aw, loser love.”

I hunched over, hiding myself, but Poppy could not have cared less. Her back was still completely straight, her eyes just as wide, and her head was held high. She shifted her collection of books to the crook of one elbow so she could, gallantly, offer me her arm. I masked my chuckle with a cough. I would not want to encourage her to stay.

She let the arm droop until it was back at her side. Crestfallen, she followed me to the cafeteria. “Sorry.”

I peered down at her. “For what?”

“I embarrassed you and I’m sorry. Really sorry.”

“You didn’t embarrass me,” I muttered, rolling my eyes. “They would do that anyway, it’s not your fault.”

Those blue eyes pleaded with me. The look made me sick to my stomach, but for the life of me I could not figure out why. “Then why don’t you like me, Garrett?”

“I don’t know you!”

She went quiet. I swung one leg over the bench of the table I shared with the other outcasts, homely boys and girls from the freshman to senior grades. They had never spoken to me before, whether that be because of their own anxiety or my less than friendly expression. Poppy took a seat beside me. I pulled a sketchpad from my backpack, something I had taken from an art class freshman year, and began to draw.

Every inch of the book was filled. Holes marred the pages occasionally when my frustration had spilled over, and ink seeped from picture to picture, but that was to be expected with age. I would never waste money on something as frivolous as a hobby, so I would not replace it. The one I held in my hands was the only one I would have for a long time, so I drew smaller.

Today, I drew a cloud. Raining on a tulip.

Poppy pulled a brown paper bag from her backpack. While she spilled the contents onto the table, a turkey sandwich, a wrapped brownie, and a can of cream soda, she looked over my shoulder. “Wow,” she murmured. “That’s really good.”

Despite my aversion to new people, I grinned, smug. “Thanks.”

“Kind of sad though, don’t you think?”

I shrugged. “I draw what I feel.”

Her face fell. “You’re sad? Why are you sad?”

“I have a lot of reasons to be sad.”

I left it at that.

“Like what?”

“That’s a little personal.”

“Yeah. And?”

I stared her down. “And I don’t really want to tell you. Okay?”

Poppy bit her lip. She nodded. “Fine. Aren’t you hungry?”

“No.”

It was a lie. I felt a grumble of disagreement from my gut, but I still did not confess. I did not buy lunch here, especially not at this time of the month. The mortgage payment was due in a week. If I bought lunch, I sure as hell would not be buying groceries any time soon. No, I could skip a meal a day if it meant I could keep my mother fed for another couple of days.

She narrowed her eyes. “Okay.”

And that was how we sat for most of the period. She ate slowly, too slowly; it made me hungry. Still, I never said anything, just continued to draw that dark storm cloud crying on the lone flower below. The plant bowed under the weight of the water, just like I bowed under the weight of the world. She watched me the entire time, silently judging my sketch, I assumed. I pushed myself to do better, draw faster, add more detail. The pencil in my hand forced itself harder against the paper until it snapped.

“Crap,” I muttered, wiping the dust from the tip off my hands. A new pencil was hastily thrust in my face. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Garrett,” she said. “But if it’s all the same to you, would you mind a few notes?”

Silence. “Okay?”

She pulled a sketchpad from her bag. Hers was fancy and new, lined with gold along the edges of the paper. The cover was leather and embossed with a dragon. It had obviously been expensive, unlike the beaten one before me on the table. “Why draw sad things when you’re sad. When you can draw things that make you happy!”

Her chipper tone only made me resent her further. I hissed. “What do you know about being sad? What could you possibly have to feel sad about?”

She reeled back. “I know a lot about being sad.”

“Why? Did the jeweler give you white gold instead of yellow?”

She frowned at me. “Because my parents have money means I can’t have problems? Everyone has problems.”

“Yeah,” I snorted. “Some people just have more problems than others.”

Poppy shook her head. “You’re not being very nice, Garrett.”

“When did I ever say I was nice? Maybe, I’m just not nice!”

She scowled. Wordlessly, she dropped the pad onto the table, opening it to the first page. A field of violets covered the stylishly antique paper, colored in by expert hands with oil pastels I would not have dreamed of possessing for myself. The sun over the field glowed from the page like an actual star, illuminating my face. Beside it, a girl stood among the flowers, smiling softly. Serenely.

Her hair was gold, like the sun she seemed fond of and her eyes were a cool blue, much like Poppy’s. She wore a pink dress, held up and around her neck with a red ribbon. A matching one held her hair up and out of her face. I could not stop the drop of my jaw, nor the amazed gasp my lungs forced out of me. “Wow.”

“Thank you.” Poppy did not smile. “It’s pretty isn’t it?”

“It’s gorgeous. You did that on your own?”

“Oh yes.” She flipped to the next page, where a large, elegant violent was drawn into reality. I reached out to touch it this time, nearly expecting the art to feel like velvet. Like petals. “It’s something to do.”

I said, “Something to do? You could make money on this!”

“No.”

“Well, of course you obviously don’t need it, but I only mean it’s—”

She held her hand up, silencing me. “No. They’re for me.”

“Okay.”

She went back to her turkey sandwich, and, this time, it was me who was becoming curious. “Who is she?”

“Who?”

“The girl in the picture.”

“Oh,” she took a bite of her sandwich. “My sister. Violet.”

Makes sense, I thought with a silent laugh. “Poppy and Violet.”

“Yeah. I know. My parents liked flowers.”

“Clearly.” I flipped through the pages of her sketchpad, finding each occupied with pristine violets. Some included perfect depictions of her younger sister, all wearing that same pleasant smile. I could not draw people. I was in too much awe to feel jealous, but I was nearing it. “How do you do it?”

“Do what?” she grumbled through a mouthful of food.

“Draw her. You use such perfect detail. How?”

She shrugged. “I just close my eyes.”

“What?” I inquired, laughing at what I thought was a joke.

She gulped down the remnants of the sandwich. “When I’m sad, I close my eyes, and I imagine what I want to draw. Sometimes it’s hard to picture, but that’s why I do it, to keep the memory fresh in my head. And when I can see what I want to draw, it’s easy to recreate every line the way I want to.”

“Why her though?”

“She makes me sad.”

I continued to flip through the pages. “That bad, huh?”

“Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

“No,” I replied. “I guess I should feel lucky for that.”

She nodded. “I guess.”

“How old is she?”

“She was seven.”

I stopped flipping the pages. I raised my gaze to meet hers. “Was? What happened to her?”

Poppy did not look sad. Solemn, yes, but she kept herself together. “Car accident. She really wanted to sit in the front with my mom, but she was too little.” The young woman lifted her mane of hair to display the stitches at her hairline, closing a long cut. “The airbag deployed and hit her. I hit the window. Mom got out with a few bruises and a concussion. Violet didn’t make it to the hospital.”

“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “Was it a long time ago.”

“No. That’s why we moved here. My mom couldn’t take the way people looked at her. Looked at all of us. Like we were going to explode.”

The bell rang.

Poppy stood from the table, gathering the sketchpad and the empty paper bag. I hastily through my book into my bag. “Then why do you draw her. I thought you didn’t draw sad things.”

“I’m sad that she had to die, but it makes me happy to think that she’s in a nice place. I have to go to Chemistry, I’ll see you tomorrow, Garrett.”

Just like that, she escaped me. Running from the cafeteria. I walked alone to class, but, unlike every other day when I did just that, I felt the empty space beside me. I wished that I had had more time with her.

It was not until I was pulling my textbook from my bag for my ninth period class that I noticed the brownie and cream soda she had left for me.

 

 

 

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