Savage Delight

Page 9


“Too busy for Tallie and I?” Sophia cocks her head. “Busy for three whole years? Jack and Avery visit her, but you don’t, anymore.”
The tension in here is hells thick and no attention is on me, so obviously I have to rectify this situation by asking annoying questions.
“Who’s Tallie?”
Wren won’t look at me, or Sophia, his eyes riveted on the floor instead. Sophia just keeps smiling.
“A good friend of ours. Don’t worry about it. I’m sorry I barged in. I’ll come back later.”
When she’s gone, Wren lets the breath he’d been holding out.
“I thought you two were talking while you were here?” I ask. “Why are you so shook up?”
“If you can call it ‘talking’,” Wren whispers. “She just stares at me from across the room, or the hall, and smiles. We don’t actually talk. That was the first time in…years.”
“Is Tallie someone important?”
Wren knits his lips shut, and I know I won’t be able to wheedle it out of him.
“Ah, look, nevermind. It’s cool. You got some secrets, I got some secrets. Our secrets should get married and have babies.”
Wren looks shocked.
“Platonically,” I add. “Entirely platonic baby-making.”
“Is that…a thing?”
“Everything is technically a thing!”
I turn and hop in my bed, smoothing the covers to feign a modicum of decency like a proper lady would. Wren looks like he’s having some internal battle with himself – his mouth’s all screwed up and his shoulders are shaking.
“Hey? Are you okay?”
“I told you before. I had the camera,” he blurts.
“Avery gave me the camera that night in middle school. She wanted the whole thing on tape.”
The thing. I remember it vaguely, but the second he says it in his own words it comes flooding back – Jack, with a baseball bat. Middle school. Avery, Wren, and Sophia were all there. Two? Three men? Avery said she hired those men to get back at Sophia, because she was jealous.
“She bullied me. No. Back then I let myself be bullied,” Wren spits the sentence. “We hid in the bushes. It was up by the lake – Lake Galonagah. The nature preserve. Avery’s parents had a cabin up there. She invited us all, and then lured Jack and Sophia to the woods, where the men were waiting.”
My heart beats in my ears. Wren clenches his fist.
“I got it all on the tape, Isis. It was horrible. I should’ve stopped – I should’ve put it down and saved Sophia. But I didn’t. I was a coward. I was frozen. All I could do was stare at that screen, and as long as I stared at it, I could pretend it wasn’t happening, that it was a movie instead of real life –”
He gives a shuddering gasp. I leap out of bed and put my arms around him.
“Hey, hey, shhhh. It’s alright.”
“It’s not.” Wren chokes. “It’s not alright. Jack saved her. I couldn’t do anything, but he saved her.”
I pet circles on his back. “What about the men? What happened to them?”
Wren looks up, eyes red on the edges. The fear takes over again. Reality seeps in - I can see it in the way his expression fixes itself. He rearranges his face, his body, so that he’s standing straight.
“I’m sorry,” he says, his voice much firmer. “It’s been a rough day. I need to get home. Try to do some of that math work, okay? Text me if you have questions.”
“Wren, I –”
“Don’t, Isis. I’m still…you’re recovering. And I’m recovering. Just – just don’t. Not right now.”
I take a step back. “Alright. Get home before it’s dark, okay? And don’t forget to eat something.”
He smiles. “I won’t.”
I watch him pull out of the hospital parking lot from my window. After a half hour, I text him; EAT SOMETHING YOU MASSIVE DOOF. He responds with a picture of a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s not nearly enough, but it’ll do for now.
Mom comes to visit after dinner. I’m picking at rehydrated saltwater crocodile slash Frankenstien’s butt jerky slash chicken, so when she holds up a bag of fast food I run into her arms imagining roses all around us.
“I love you,” I say. “Truly, my love for you has never been larger than this moment. Except that moment you pushed me out into the world screaming and covered in goo.”
She laughs. Her trenchcoat is still chilly from the air outside, and her hands are cold. I rub them with mine to make them warm. She sits at my bedside, and we quietly eat French fries and burgers, enjoying each others’ silence. The hard stuff doesn’t get talked about until we’ve had a good laugh or two. Some normalcy has to be put between the darkness and us. That’s how you get enough strength to face it.
I wave the yellow slip Mernich gave me. Mom’s eyes go wide, and she dabs the corner of her mouth with a napkin.
“How did you get that?”
“Blackmailed a few congressmen. Bribed some drug lords. The usual.”
“I got it from Mernich, how else?” I laugh. “You need to sign off on it, and give it to the front desk. And like, I guess they’ll do one last CAT sign of my head or whatever, and take the bandages off.”
“I wouldn’t let you leave unless they did,” Mom says sternly. “I’ll give it to them when I leave tonight. I’m surprised – Mernich said you wouldn’t be ready for another week.”
“I managed to win her over with my svelte charm and palaces full of money and boys. Mostly boys.”
Mom barely hears me, her focus all on the slip. She looks up and grins. “Are you ready to go home?”
I can practically see the relief on her face. The bills always stick out of her purse when she comes to visit. I’d taken a peek at some when she went to the bathroom – the amount of money is ridiculous. Now she won’t have to worry about it as much, though. Praise the J-man.
“Are you kidding? I’m ready to bellyflop into the driveway of home! I’m ready to smear my soulful existence all over the roof of home. I’m ready to corporeally merge into the walls of home. I’m ready to graft the windows of home onto the skin of my butt.”
Mom tactfully ignores my superlative theatrics and nibbles a tomato. But I know the look in her eyes. She’s nervous.
“Something wrong?” I ask.
“The trial,” she swallows. “Leo’s trial is this Friday.”
“You told me.” I nod. “I’ll be there with you, okay? If I could just testify, if your lawyer would just let me testify –”
“You remember what he said.” Mom shakes her head. “Even if you did, the defense would argue your head injury and rule it as inadmissible.”
I snort and down a pickle. “What about Jack?”
Mom looks startled. “Jack? What about him?”
“Is he testifying?”
“Yes, of course. You’ve never mentioned him before. Why now?”
“I remember him. My session with Mernich made me remember him.”
“Oh, that’s fantastic!” Mom smiles.