This Town Keeps It's Secrets
Chapter 2: The End of a Good Thing
I didn't sleep at all that night. I got out of my bed early, a raging headache echoing through my mind, you know the kind you get after drinking too much? It took me a while to compose myself but now that I was, I stood at the front gates of school, with an energy drink in my hand. I always had a funny relationship with school, I didn't hate it, I loved being there at least Most of the time I did. It was a chance to meet the people I had grown up with, a chance to learn, and a chance to think about what the hell I was going to do with my life. The only reason I dreaded the gates, is because you never knew what was going to happen before the day started and boy did today start well.
As I waited, cautiously sipping on my energy juice, as I so rightfully called it, Charlie stormed through a crowd of freshly reacquainted students and ran over to me. "What the fuck did you say last night?" He asked, trying his best to emanate his rage as a whisper. I didn't doubt that the people around us heard as well though.
"What." I said stepping back. "What's wrong?"
I asked the question, there was too many possibilities, for me to feign ignorance. Charlie stood awfully close to my face, there was sweat running down his forehead and purple bags under his eyes, it looked like he hadn't got much sleep either.
"We're over. Out of the blue." He said, "she called me last night. It's bullshit and I know you said something."
"Avery?" I asked. "I didn't sa.."
"Bullshit." He said again, getting louder. There was silence, "What did you say?" He asked again, somewhat composing himself.
I took in a deep breath and looked him in the eyes. "Nothing." I said.
Charlie can't have liked my answer and he was prone to violent outbursts. I gulped as he glared at me, God must have been watching though, because in a swift turn of his heels he turned his back and stormed inside the gates. I waited, rooted to the spot for a couple more minutes, waiting for Avery to make an appearance. She never showed up. I wouldn't have come either if I were in her position, he would never hurt her, but there would definitely be a scene. I tried to call a few times, but it dialled once, then all I could hear was her faint voice asking me to leave a message. I never left voice messages, and I didn't think now was the time to start.
There was still twenty minutes left until I had to be in class... No one ever walked willingly into class early and that was fair enough, you wouldn't go somewhere either if you didn't want to be there. I just wished I could have told Avery what happened last night, but it seemed there was something else to talk to her about now. I wondered why she had done it, I mean I was sad that they had broken up, but after the last month anyone could have seen it coming a mile away. They hadn't grown apart, they had got too close, I know it doesn't sound like a bad thing, but people needed there distance and being the third wheel friend, both had come to me for advice. I was no romance expert... but I sure did like to pretend that I knew what I was talking about.
I began to make my way to class earlier than expected, wandering the halls for a brief while as I tried to find a room I had never been to before, they must have done renovations through the school break. Mr Harris's religion class had moved rooms. It was a religion unit we were forced to take. It was a catholic school after all, and if anything, it made me believe in a God a little less. My personal opinion on the matter was that maybe this was our only chance at life, there was no rebirth and no heaven or hell. This was it.... A sad thought, but one that I was growing to accept.
Mr Haris's religion class was interesting, and he was a quirky man. We made fun of his lisp when he wasn't around, but it was all in good taste. He was everyone's favourite teacher. He made things interesting, and that was my number one requirement for teachers, I was surprised how little most of them cared. I had never thought of religion as something worth looking into, but when you thought of the facts and looked at everything that it had impacted throughout human history... There was little to nothing that it hadn't touched.
I took a seat at the back of the room and was just starting to set up my equipment as Mr Haris walked in. The room was empty other than us.
"Morning." I said, as he placed his bag down.
"That it is." He responded, much colder than normal.
I didn't know what to say after that, so I set up my computer for class and began to listen to music. Waiting for the rest of my peers to forward in. They came after a while, and Mr Haris lightened up, becoming the talkative man he had been before we left for break. "I assume all of you have your text books ready?" He half asked, half questioned.
Everybody nodded in agreement, or muttered pointless answers as they pulled out their religious study frameworks. It was a book of binded paper, that we had been given at the end of term. Only twenty pages, but Mr Haris had assured us the whole time. I doubted it highly, but the man had a way of educating us with words rather than having us write everything down. He used to be a professor after all, and none of us understood why he had given it up to teach us. I pulled out my own notebook and looked up at the white board, a question scrawled onto it, in the way that all teachers wrote.
The Death of Belief will be the death of us all.
Kind of a morbid way to start the term, I thought to myself, rummaging through my bag to find a pen, I found a red one and wrote the statement in the first page of my book. Mr Haris made his way to the front of the class and stood at the centre of the room. "I am God." He announced. The class shared glances, some of the students in the back of the room murmured. "At least that Is what I want you to think of yourselves for your first assessment." Mr Haris continued. "If you could play God, if you were a God, what you would influence? Why what you influenced is important? and what you would change today if you could?"
An interesting assignment I thought. Mr Haris sat back down at his desk. "What are you waiting for?" He asked.
The class got to work, and by work, I mean it was the first day back. The whole class sat watching you tube and listening to music, I did get some work done though, and by the end of my first hour back at school I had written one page of almost coherent scrambling, in a template I would probably delete by the end of the week.
The rest of the day went something the same.
I didn't talk to Charlie, as much as I wanted too. He needed time to calm down, I was a good enough friend to allow him that. I did however need to talk to Avery as soon as possible. I spent the day thinking about her and as soon as the bell rang, I packed my computer and ran out of maths class, out the gates and towards Avery's house.
I saw Charlie on the way out, his car slowly lurched past me and he looked out the window for a second. He looked like he considered stopping, but I think he knew where I was going and didn't want to see me walk inside. I couldn't fault him for that, at least not until I knew the full story. I arrived at Avery's not too long after school, we didn't live far enough way for walking to be a burden, but I could still feel the sweat dripping off my forehead. Perhaps a fitter person, might have been less sweat ridden. I didn't care though, I had done it for eleven years, I had gotten used to it. I turned into Avery's house and knocked on the door.
Her mother answered. "Arlo, how are you?" She asked.
"Not bad, how are you?" I replied.
"I'm doing okay?" She responded, she looked behind me, "Where's Avery?" She asked.
"Right here." Avery called from the end of the driveway. "Dropped my scarf." She said, running up to the door. She glared at me as she shuffled past. Mrs Swann gestured for me to come in, so I followed Avery as she navigated the first floor to the kitchen. She dropped her bag on a stool next to the counter top. Mrs Swann walked in after us. "Would you like tea?" She asked.
"Yes please." Avery responded.
"And Arlo?" Mrs Swann asked again.
"That would be awesome." I said.
Avery's house was hard to describe, from the outside you could tell that it was massive, but on the inside, it was modern and overly simplified. An array of different grays, whites and blacks. Simple shades. Boring I thought, but I think when you got older boring became exciting. My room was still a mix of blue and white and I liked the colour. Avery's room was the only one in the house that didn't follow the pattern, as I remembered it was bright purple, and the ceiling was covered with fake stars and lights.
Mrs Swann gave us our teas and Avery and I made our way out into the back garden, Avery had a little radio that Charlie and I had given her as a gift last year, she turned it on and let the music fill the silence. I had never felt so awkward at her place, I had grown so used to it being a happy second house. We had even agreed to have a gate put in the fence, so that we could use their pool when they weren't home. Seeing Avery in such a sombre mood hurt.
"So what hap..." I went to ask.
"Please...Don't," Avery cut me off, she sat in silence for a second. "How was school?"
"Well Charlie yelled at me, other than that, it was pretty boring."
"Why'd he yell at you?"
"I think you know why," I said, "So why'd you do it?"
She sighed. "It just felt like time, I don't want you to get mad at him. So leave it. What did he say to you?"
"He thinks I said something to you."
"Well you didn't. I'll talk to him about it, just give me some time."
The radio changed from music and there was a soft white noise that echoed through the garden, an older mans voice emanated from the frequencies. "Sorry for interrupting the music today folks," The man sounded tense. "but just in, a body found by the river."
Avery sat upright, she tensed up.
"We have no names yet, but a girl of seventeen was found in Captains River last night. Police aren't releasing statements, although they aren't ruling out the possibility of foul play. A sad day for all, I'll keep you posted throughout the day. Stay safe out there everyone."
Avery slumped back down into her chair, as the music filled the silence again. "Do you think it's her?" She asked?
Avery asked the question and I realised I still hadn't told her about the note. I thought there might be too much going through her head to look at the note objectively, there was definitely too much going through my mind, and I didn't want my hopes to be crushed by her disassociation. I weighed my options. If I told her about the note, then I would have a friend to confide in, if I didn't, then I would end up having to put up with her mumbling profanities about Charlie for the rest of the year and she would keep asking about Penelope, maybe it would take her mind off of him and give her some sort of hope. "I got something last night." I said.
"What did you get?" She asked.
"You gotta promise not to say anything?"
"Well I don't know what it is." She said.
I pulled the note out from my pocket, it had been sitting there all day, I didn't want anyone to touch it and I didn't trust myself not to lose it.
"Promise?" I asked again.
"Fine." She said, "I promise."
"When we got home last night, I heard voices at my front door."
"Odd." She responded.
"Not as odd as this," I said handing her the letter. "I found it in my door as soon as they left."
Silence emanated as she struggled to find the words to respond, it was definitely a lot to take in I thought, but I didn't see a change of emotion. The same blank expression coated her face. "This is bullshit." She finally said.
"How so?" I asked.
"Who would write this, I mean seriously. Least of all Penelope."
"That's what I thought. What's the harm in believing it's real though."
"Well if there's no reason to think it's fake, why haven't you given it to the coppers yet?"
I sighed. If anything, I thought that Avery might be more understanding, she didn't seem as happy as I thought she would be with the outcome. I wasn't annoyed, if anything I was a little disappointed with her.
"So what are you gonna do with it?" She asked, "I mean if it's real, and it is her."
At this point I hadn't thought that far ahead, and to be honest she raised a good point. It would definitely be trouble.
"I don't know." I said.
"Exactly. So leave it, or let the cops know, and just maybe you'll be onto something."
I smiled. "Maybe."
Avery stood up and went to walk inside.
"Where are you going," I asked.
"We've still got the back to school party... Did you think, Charlie was gonna ruin my night." "I' mean yeah, I'm a little suprised you still wanna go."
"Don't be." She said. "Now help me pick a dress."
I ran upstairs with Avery, a discerning look shot at me from her mother, as we walked into her room. Mrs Swann was slumped back into the couch, from what I could see she was watching friends. Avery's room as I mentioned before, was a bright purple and pink and her bed was a mess, I didn't comment on the state of her room. Girls hated it, when boys did that. I looked around vacantly, as Avery rummaged through her walk in. She appeared with two dresses.
"Which one?" She asked, laying them out amongst the clutter on the bed.
They were the same type of dress, at least in my mind they were. The same lacy fabric at the bottom, that slowly shifted into some sort of cotton at the top. One of them was a plain white and the other was a deep shade of purple.
"The purple one." I said, "It matches your hair, and I know you just bought the shoes to match."
Avery's face turned a bright red, and her teeth glimmered behind her lipstick for a brief second. I hadn't seen Avery smile the whole time I had been over, it felt good to know she wasn't completely broken.
"Thanks Arlo," She said. "What are you wearing?"
"I forgot about it to be honest, guess I'll just wear what I usually wear."
"Good. You don't ever look bad, in that sorta stuff." She said.
It wasn't much of a compliment, but Avery rarely gave them out, so I took it on the chin and smiled. "Thanks." I said.
"Meet me out the front at six-thirty," She said. "We can walk to the shed together."
I nodded my head and turned to leave, I was almost out of her bedroom when Avery grabbed my shoulder. I turned to face her. "Before you go, I just wanna say thanks."
"For what?" I asked.
"For being there, I'll help you sort it out with Charlie as well, just because I don't want to see him again doesn't mean it should impact your relationship."
She kissed me on the cheek, yes I blushed. Avery usually greeted people with a kiss, but this one felt different, almost as if she cared this time. We didn't say anything else, and I left the room to let her get changed. I walked down the stairs and went to exit the door.
"That was quick." Mrs Swann said.
"What was?" I asked, glancing a bottle of wine on the table.
Mrs Swann raised her eyebrows a few times, suggesting something that hurt my dignity deeply.
"We didn't do anything," I said.
"Clearly," She responded.
"Thank you for having me over," I said.
"Anytime. Just no funny business next time." She said.
I swivelled on my heels and exited the house, closing the door behind me as I left. Did that just happen? I asked myself, it did didn't it. God I hated adults, they were always so weird and intrusive.
I walked back over to my house, stepping in through the front door to the sound of my mother yelling at my little sister. The joys of being the only boy in the house for a while. Dad was on a business trip again, and he was out for the week. "I'm home." I yelled.
"No one cares." My sister, yelled back.
"Hello Arlo." Mum yelled... Then she started screaming again.
I ran upstairs to get ready, ignoring them both and letting them sort it between themselves. They would both probably be made up by the time I got home anyway... Right now, I needed all my focus on not looking bad for Avery, it was going to be a long night and she wouldn't be happy if I looked like a slob.