March 26, 2015

Biz's Story

by Jessica Knoll

No matter what Elizabeth tells you, I was a good friend to her. I was. Right up until she stopped being a good friend to me.

The other girls at Smithson didn't like Elizabeth. They were jealous of her, she hurt their feelings, yada yada. Like Elizabeth gave a shit. She was never foolish enough to think anyone actually liked her. Even her own father couldn't stand her. Campbell despised her so much he fell in love with her. I never knew that was possible before I saw it happen with my own two eyes. It was like he had so much rage and hate circulating through him over what girls like Elizabeth did to a girl like his sister that Elizabeth caught a whiff of it. Figured out that if she could just stir it faster, whip him into a frenzy, that he would confuse disdain for passion.

She used a different tactic with everyone else. People may not have liked Elizabeth very much, but they feared her, and that was even better. She once told me something to the effect of, "The world is your oyster when people are afraid of you."

"But I'm not afraid of you," I told her, and this was true at the time.

"Not of me," she said. "But you're afraid of being without me."

And fuck a duck, the evil genius bitch was right. If I'm being brutally honest with myself, I'm basically the O.G. Gretchen Wieners. I should have patented my particular blend of perkiness and desperation and made royalties off Mean Girls. All through out high school, I trailed the popular clique, inserting myself at their lunch table, their house parties, their confidences through nothing but plucky determination. But I was always a little chunky, passed over by the guys I liked, and bullied by my mom for being passed over by the guys I liked because of my chunkiness. Just before freshman year at Smithson, I let her talk me into joining Weight Watchers, and I lost nine pounds. I wasn't Kate Moss svelte by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm short, and it made a difference. I couldn't believe the attention I got when I got to college. And not just from guys. Elizabeth van der Deer, the most striking, terrifying socialite on campus, chose me, upper middle class suburbian bore, to be her best friend. That said something about me that I cherished deeply. Of course I was afraid of being without her.

The other girls, the older girls, tried to get me to turn on her. You know their plan: drug her. Throw her to the wolves at the lacrosse house. Every girl on campus knew better than to drink their Jungle Juice, knew what would happen to you if you did. And for a while, I entertained their plan. I was just getting to know Elizabeth, didn't love her like a sister yet, and let's face it, I'm weak. Or at least I was.

But I just couldn't do it to her. And for less noble reasons than that, I couldn't do that to myself. What if what everyone hoped would happen to her, incapacitated around a group of guys notorious for setting up shop on their front porch and chanting, "No means yes! Yes means anal!" at freshmen passerby, actually happened to her, and she found out I had set her up? I knew what her parents had done to Abby Mason, and she hadn't even been driving the car that killed their son.

So I saved her and hoped that in doing so, she would treat me differently than she did everyone else. That she would really let me in, be a true friend. And she was, for a time. That was one of the happiest periods in my life. I had a boyfriend. The coolest girl in school was my best friend. Of course it all turned out to be a sham, but I enjoyed the mirage while it lasted.

One day, I climbed into the passenger seat of my boyfriend's car and discovered a single long strand of blond hair on the headrest. It shimmered in the sunlight, mocking me. I would have known its icy color anywhere. It was Elizabeth's.

There was no reason for Elizabeth to have been in Pat Denson's car. She disapproved of our relationship, and was always ragging on the guy, saying I could do better. Still, I reasoned with myself, I needed more proof.

I started following her. Like the paranoid, pathetic, insecure little psycho I used to be. And dear God that made me angry. I had come so far. I had done so much for Elizabeth. And here she had me right back at square one. I was trembling with so much rage the night I saw her get in the car with Pat and his friend, Greg Walden, lean over and kiss Pat on his fat disgusting lips, that my vision vibrated. After a moment, I realized it was because I was shaking the wheel and squealing like pig caught in a barbed wire fence. Equal parts stunned and hurt and furious.

I followed them on a loop around campus, through winding back roads, careful to stay one car behind them so they wouldn't notice me. Still, I could see the tendrils of smoke weaving out the windows. I rolled down my own and caught a whiff of something skunky and sweet. Elizabeth didn't even like to smoke pot, and somehow that made her betrayal all the more acute. At least if she had been Izzy, strung out and broke and badgering the whole damn bar for her next line, I could understand. But what did Pat have to offer her that every other guy she had already fucked didn't? Had she simply run out of options?

Elizabeth wasn't in Pat's car long. They all rolled up their windows and headed back toward town, and Pat dropped her off at The Holiday, the student bar about a half mile down the road from Ronnie's, the locals' turf. I watched them jab their tongues down each other's throats again, and Pat even rolled down his window and slapped Elizabeth on the ass as she walked past. She rewarded him with a giddy shriek that didn't even sound like Elizabeth.

I had no plans to follow Pat and Greg any longer. I'd seen all I needed to see, but they happened to be taking the same route back to campus as I was. Again, I made sure one car separated us, and to my surprise, a few miles from campus, the driver of the car in front of me reached out his window and plunked a stout little topper on the roof of the car. A second later, it was spinning in a frantic red circle, screeching the warning that every college student fears hearing.

Instead of slowing down, Pat, like an idiot, sped up, and I saw him chuck something out the window. I pulled over to the side of the road, worried that if Pat stopped for the cop at any point and I drove by, he might suspect I had been following him all this time. I sat in my car for a while, trying to calm down, trying to make sense of it all. At some point, curiosity wormed its way through: what the hell had Pat chucked outside the window?

I turned on my headlights and opened the car door, squinting in the darkness. My eyes adjusted, and I spotted a lump on the side of the road, about a yard away from where I stood. I jogged over, and prodded the discovery with my toe. I mean, I assumed it was drugs, but I just wanted to make sure it wasn't some sort of bomb or something first. When it didn't detonate and blow off all my limbs, I reached down and picked it up. One whiff confirmed my suspicions. Later, when I opened it, I discovered not just pot but two empty soda bottles full of pills and tablets.

I don't know why I took it. But I did. And I had just climbed back into my car when I saw a figure emerge out of the darkness. It was Campbell (though I didn't know his name at the time). He looked like a hulking ghost, panting and furious in the distance. We made eye contact, and I panicked. Revved up the engine and gunned it out of there. He tried to chase me down, but he wasn't fast enough.

I guess he was fast enough to memorize my plates though, because the next morning, one of my roommates shouted for me that I had a phone call.

I stumbled downstairs to the kitchen, emotionally hungover from the night before, unsure if Pat was in trouble and if Elizabeth knew that Pat was in trouble, unsure if I should confront the two of them about what I knew, and unsure of what the hell to do with the twenty thousand dollars worth of drugs, which I'd shoved into the bottom of my Lilly Pulitzer duvet cover when I'd gotten home.

"Hello?" I croaked into the phone.

"Is this Lindsay Thorndale?"

My mouth went dry. No one ever calls me Lindsay unless I'm in big trouble. "This is she," I managed, weakly.

"My name is Detective Brian Campbell. I believe we crossed paths yesterday evening. On Happenfeld Road? Around 9pm? You drive a navy Jeep?"

I opened my mouth and closed it. Did that a few times before he repeated my name and asked if I was still there.

"That," I gulped, hating how petrified I sounded. Elizabeth, scoundrel that she was, at least would have kept her cool. "That wasn't me."

"Oh, I think it was," Detective Campbell said, a growl in his voice. "And I think you have something that belongs to me. And I think you ought to give it back before I make a house call."

It occurred to me that this wasn't exactly standard police behavior. He was threatening me. And this all came back to haunt him, as you know. Elizabeth too. She was called to testify at Pat and Greg's trial, remember? Because she had been 'romantically involved' with one of the defendants at the time. She tried to pass it off like that someone was Greg, but it had been Pat. Stupid fucking Pat Denson.

There was suddenly a noise at the back door, and I looked up. Elizabeth was slipping into the kitchen. She was wearing the same clothes she'd worn the night before, and she didn't notice me at first, so I had a second there to just examine her. No one but me could have possibly known she was doing the walk of shame. She was immaculately put together. But I knew her well enough by now to recognize the telltale signs, one of them being that sly smile she always wore after she got laid. And I started to feel a bit sly myself.

"I believe that can be arranged," I told Campbell, and Elizabeth jumped a little, realizing I was in the kitchen with her too.

She cocked her head at me and mouthed, "Who is that?" I waved my hand at her, letting her know it wasn't anything to be worried about, and she started up the stairs.

When I heard her footsteps above me, the sound of her bed creaking as she sunk into it, I said, "Meet me at Ronnie's in an hour." Even though it was barely noon, I knew Ronnie's would be open, the usual haggard old men slumped over their morning beers. Even better, there was no chance we would run into any Smithson kids.

"How about we meet somewhere a little more private?" Campbell suggested.

"Um, how about no," I said, realizing Elizabeth's mere presence moments ago had injected me with a shot of confidence. "You are clearly shady as hell and I would be a moron to meet you anywhere but in a public place."

Campbell started to protest, but then I asked him if he wanted his package or not, and for a while there was seething silence, and then he agreed.

- -

I laid out my proposal to Campbell, clinically, emotionless, as though I were a doctor with a terrible bedside manner detailing the course of treatment for a disease. First, you're going to do this for me. Then, I'm going to give you your drugs back.

"So all I have to do is help you transport some unconscious girl?" he asked me.

I nodded. Simple as pie.

"You're not going to kill her or anything, are you?" he asked. He was kidding, but I didn't laugh.

"We're just going to teach her a lesson," I said, and then he laughed at me. I glared at him. "What?"

Campbell took a swig of his beer. "You sound like a homicidal Punky Brewster is what."

Izzy was easy to convince. Izzy is literally the kid who would have answered, "Yes," when the kindergarten teacher asked if all your friends jump off a bridge should you do it too. Or I don't know, maybe she was smarter when she was in kindergarten. The drugs hadn't fried her brain yet.

It was surprisingly harder to get Bridget on board. I thought after what Elizabeth's family had done to her sister, that she would have been game. She caved, eventually, though apparently she wasn't ever really all in. She'd gone back to help Elizabeth, and she'd gotten herself killed for it.

If you think I was going to own up for my role in what happened, if you think I was going to do anything but continue to act like the doting and submissive best friend after Elizabeth fucking crushed Bridget like a bug, then you do not know what it means to be in survival mode. I told Izzy she had to do the same.

And it was actually easier to do than I thought it would be, because a weird thing happened after Bridget died—which is that I forgave Elizabeth, and I went back to loving her like a sister. Bridget's death was a traumatic event for her, everything that happened afterward was traumatic, and in a way, it was like she'd repented for her sins. Served her time. She had experienced consequences for  her actions without ever really knowing it.

I didn't move Bridget's body though. I swear I didn't. I still don't know who did that.

So about those handcuffs.

Abby had tried to get in touch with me before Elizabeth. She left me a voicemail, all cryptic: "I know you were involved." I was panicking, of course, but I thought if I just ignored her she would go away.

The morning of Izzy's shower, I did go to Elizabeth's apartment. The plan had always been to meet her there, so she could sign the card, and then we'd head over to the party together. Only I saw Abby in her lobby, and I never even got out of the cab. She was going to tell Elizabeth, and I had to get out ahead of this.

I had to go to two different Babeland locations to track down those damn furry leopard print cuffs. Harder to find than you would think.

And then I added them to the gift basket so that I could frame Izzy.

- -
LSPers! Just a few things. If you're loving Elizabeth's story, then I know you are going to love Ani FaNelli, the main character of my book, which publishes May 12th from Simon & Schuster. I would be so grateful if you would pre-order a copy of Luckiest Girl Alive here.

Also! Head to my website and scroll down to the bottom of the page. There you can sign up to join my mailing list (all you have to do is enter your email address). And you want to do that because that's how I'll be sharing info about the book, i.e, my book tour schedule and opportunities to win goodies like an advanced copy of the book.