“Complexity creates confusion, simply focus.” - Edward de Bono
| l a y n e |
Harriet taps her foot on the hardwood floor impatiently and the everyone shares a look. Clara hovers in the doorway, unsure, and I can see the fear in her eyes. I give her a one arm hug and she gives me a small smile. I face Harriet and she frowns.
“What, Hari?” I sigh.
“How long has this been going on?” Harriet asks, her voice having a particular undercurrent that I can’t name.
“We’ve been dating for over a month.”
“I mean the boyfriend-girlfriend thing.”
“A few days.”
“Jealous, Harriet?” Clara teases, a cheeky grin on her face.
“A little,” Harriet replies, shrugging.
“I never thought that would come out of your mouth!” Lucy exclaims.
“She has changed,” Zeke says.
“We all have,” Nick mumbles.
Harriet pulls Nick into a hug and they both start crying. Lucy watches the scene with confusion, while Clara, Zeke and I watch it with slight anger. Harriet whispers something into Nick’s ear and Nick smiles, whispering the same thing back. I love you. I feel Clara stiffen under my arm and I can see the tears of anger in her eyes.
“Clara!” I hiss. “Don’t!”
“I don’t trust him,” Clara growls.
“I don’t either.”
“He doesn’t live here anymore.”
“He can stay until Harriet leaves.”
“Where’s he going to go?”
“With Harriet. If he wants.”
“Are you really going to let him go?”
| z e k e |
“Are you really going to let him go?” Layne asks.
“Yes,” Clara replies.
”Can you let him go?” I ask.
“I can and will,” Layne says.
Lucy nods. “He needs to go.”
“Who’s going where?” Harriet asks.
“If you want, Nick can go with you when you leave,” Clara tells her. “He’s not welcome here any longer.”
“You actually love him, Harriet,” Layne mutters, his voice breaking on the word ‘love’.
“You all love him.”
“You’re in love with him.”
“True but, it isn’t returned.”
“It is, Harriet,” Nick says.
“Clara?” Layne asks. “Clara?!”
I face Clara to see her passed out on her bed. Layne shakes her and gets no response. We are all in a state of panic until Harriet runs over and presses a spot on her throat. For some odd reason, it works and Clara’s eyes fly open, pulling Harriet’s hand away from her neck.
“It happened again,” Clara groans. “Didn’t it?”
“It did,” Harriet says.
“You’ll be alright.”
“I hate it!”
“So do I.”
“It has to stop!”
“I know, Clara. I know.”
| c l a r a |
I hate passing out when my emotions overwhelm me, that’s what I tell everyone anyway. Only Harriet ever knew about my ‘episodes’ and that was hard enough to deal with. I had to see the pain and worry in his eyes every single time it happened.
“Layne?” I ask.
“Hey, love,” Layne murmurs. “You alright?”
“Yeah. Sorry if I scared you.”
“It’s hard to scare me.”
“Damn, Layne. I’m so sorry.”
“That scared you. Didn’t it?”
“Yeah. It scared me, so much.”
I pull him into a hug and can feel him trembling, close to crying. He then starts crying and his tears are soaking my shirt and my tears are still non-existent. I don’t want the others to see me cry and lose control. I know them too well for that.
“Hush, babe,” I whisper.
“I’m sorry, love,” Layne sobs.
“I’ll be alright.”
“Will it happen again?”
“Possibly. That was the first one in two years.”
“The cutting stopped them.”
I am about to respond when Zeke and Lucy burst into the room. Harriet follows them in and closes the door behind him, locking it. The fear on their faces is all too obvious and I don’t understand until I hear his voice.
“Clara,” my father calls. “Come out wherever you are.”
“How is he here?” I whimper.
“Clara, stay clam,” Harriet whispers. “We’ll figure something out.”
I grab Layne’s wrist and pull him into my walk in wardrobe. He gets my idea and grabs my half top and my tight short shorts. I put them on along with my blue and black wig and black converse. I cover my scars with concealer and put a lot of makeup on.
“Do I look like me?” I ask.
“You sound like you,” Layne manages to say, his eyes wide.
I make my voice raspier. “Now?”
I walk out of my wardrobe and the boys stare at me in shock, obviously not knowing that I had this side of me. I tell them the plan and they agree, much to Layne’s annoyance. I unlock the bedroom door and straddle Zeke. I give him an apologetic look before kissing him and making it look like it had been going on for a while. He quickly responds as the door opens and the others laugh.
“What the hell?!” my father growls.
I pull back from Zeke. “What do you want, oldie?”
My father takes in our appearances; Lucy and Nick shirtless, Harriet half ‘drunk’ on the floor, Layne pressed against my back, Zeke looking high, and me straddling Zeke on the bed. I see confusion and shock cross his face and I have to suppress an eye roll.
“What do you want?” Harriet ‘slurs’.
“This is the Smithe’s house,” my father asks. “Isn’t it?”
“Not mine anymore!”
“You must be Harriet.”
“Yep, and my parents are dead!”
“Who are your friends?”
“Lucille and Nicky are the shirtless ones, Zeke is the boy on the bed, Boo is the one standing and our little chickie is... What was it again?”
“Marceline,” I rasp. “Marce for short.”
“Right...” my father trails off.
“What do you want anyway?” Layne mutters, raising a ‘pierced’ eyebrow.
“I’m looking for Lissa and Clara Rhode.”
“Lissa died a month or so ago.”
“Suicide,” I answer. “That’s what everyone is saying.”
“Oh.” Regret flashes in his eyes. “If she’s not dead, and you see her, can you tell her that I’m sorry and that she won’t have see or hear me again?”
“Will do, oldie.”
My father closes the door and walks away. I get off Zeke and stare at the door in horror. I quickly open the door and sprint down the stairs, after my father. I reach the front door and see him laying in the middle of the road. I pull him up and sit him on the downstairs couch.
“She’s alive, oldie,” I rasp. “Talk to her.”
“How?” my father asks.
“Tomorrow at ten. Coffee shop down the road.”
My father leaves and Layne walks over to me. We sit on the couch and he holds me to him. We stare blankly at the television and barely move. Thoughts are practically sprinting through my head and it makes it hard to concentrate.
“You did the right thing,” Layne finally says.
“Come with me?” I ask.
“Of course, love.”