August 14, 2014

Elizabeth's Story

by Jessica Knoll

The next few weeks passed, miraculously, without incident. Bridget's parents were still mulling around campus, making tearful pleas to the dwindling collection of camera crews. A few outlets had suggested that Bridget had run away, a charge the Masons vehemently denied. It had gained some traction, though, because Bridget's purse, wallet, and car were nowhere to be found (well, they were somewhere to be found—that somewhere just happened to be at the bottom of Seneca Lake).  Biz and I had glanced at each other, hopeful, when that new development was first mentioned on the 5 o'clock news. If everyone thought she had run away, then maybe the police would close their investigation. Maybe we would actually get away with it. Well, at least in this life. I'm not much for religion, but it didn't seem possible that you could inflict so much pain on so many people and get off scot-free.

I think one of the most sickening things about the whole ordeal was the way our classmates carried on about it. God, you should have seen what a gross to-do they all made. At Smithson, the big party nights were Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, with Saturday skewing a little more low key. After Bridget went missing, there was a rager every single night. Why, someone had to offer a platform for the girls to sob melodramatically, for the boys to offer their burly shoulders to cry on, for the slow ascent up the stairs, the comforting that turned into kissing that turned into a sloppy, drunken fuck. The grief over Bridget's "disappearance" was such an obvious ploy for attention, such a vile opportunity to wax poetic about the purpose of life and what it all meant, that it actually made me sadder than seeing the Mason's battered faces on TV. Would anyone really mourn me when I was gone? Or would I just be cause for a coke-fueled soliloquy delivered by some emo college student as the sun stretched its early morning rays over our classmate's watery tomb?

The crocodile tears were too much for me to take, so I didn't go out much during those first few weeks of fall semester. But one night, tossing and turning in my bed, feeling restless, I decided I needed some good old fashion collegiate debauchery to take my mind off everything.

I threw on a sweatshirt and jeans and went to find Biz in her room, but her bed was empty and exactly how she'd left it that morning—the sheets shorn from the mattress, the coverlet slumped on the floor. Biz wasn't sleeping any better than I was, apparently.

Outside, a street light illuminated a golden cloud of mist. Whenever I think of Geneva, New York, I think of its preternatural damp, that feeling like I could never get warm, no matter how many layers of Patagonia fleece my mother's assistant overnighted me. I followed the pulse of a Talking Heads song to the end of the block, where its beat throbbed louder. I pegged it to 181 Nott, home of three trust fund hippies, and made my way to the front porch, the spongy wood sagging under the weight of a few Smithson smokers.

"Hey, Elizabeth," one of them said to me, timidly, and I nodded back at her. I had no idea who she was.

I don't know why the smokers felt the need to take it outside, because when I opened the front door I stepped into a living room steeped in thick, rancid smoke. I waved my hand in front of my face and squinted, trying to find a fellow Grey or Turq House girl. My eyes adjusted, and I couldn't believe what I saw in the corner.

"Are you fucking kidding me?" I fumed, storming over. I grabbed Biz's arm and yanked her off Pat Denson's doughy lap, and not gently.

"Hey!" Biz yelped. I'd interrupted her in the middle of a particularly public and enthusiastic make out session and she wiped her hand across her mouth, smearing saliva in her ear. I stared at a string of translucent spit, shimmering in the smokey fog, and nearly dry heaved.

"What's your problem?" Pat demanded, climbing clumsily to his feet.

I ignored him and glared at Biz. I was furious with her, and I couldn't even pinpoint exactly why. Maybe because this whole thing started because of Pat and his stupid, bloated face, because Biz had heard that he liked Bridget and she wanted him all to herself. Biz may have been a little obtuse about how to play the game, but she deserved better than this jackhole.

"Can I talk to you in private?" I hissed to Biz.

Biz twisted in my grip. "You're hurting me!" she whined.

A small crowd had gathered around us to see what the fuss was about. Pat noticed and puffed out his chest. "Hey!" he barked. "Let go of her. Find someone else to be your bottom, Eliza-butch."

A low chuckle rippled through the crowd. No one had ever spoken like that to me in public before. Not ever. Apparently, this was my new nickname thanks to the pixie cut I had not consented to. People were practically licking their lips to see how I would respond.

I dropped Biz's arm, incensed, but wise enough not to show it. "You keep fantasizing about that," I said to Pat, sweet as honey, "maybe it'll actually give your limp dick a pulse."

"Elizabeth!" Biz gasped as everyone laughed. A fierce blush started in Pat's neck and spread its way over his cheeks. Biz had shared with me a few times that Pat had trouble performing after drinking too much. I'd heard it from other girls too—which made it all the more inconceivable that he was able to pull the quality of tail that he did.

"Cunt," Pat cursed at me, stalking past and bumping my shoulder hard. The crowd dispersed after that, and then I did have Biz alone.

"Wonderful," Biz laughed. "Thanks for that. Really. I didn't want a date for Charity Ball anyway."

"Oh, will you shut up about the stupid fucking Charity Ball already?" I groaned. "Who. Gives. A. Shit."

Biz stabbed her pointer finger into her chest. "I give a shit. I do." Tears sprung to her eyes. "You were the one who said we had to do our best to move on. Well, I'm doing my best, okay? And the least you could do is let me try after you made me do what you made me do."

My mouth dropped open. The only person in this world who I cared about other than my mother was Biz. That was why I told her not to get out of the car unless she understood that in doing so, she was involved. I didn't want her to end up resenting me, which, clearly, she did.

Biz saw the hurt creased in my face and shouted after me as I hurried out of the house. I broke into a run, not really sure where I was going, just that there was nowhere I wanted to be. If I could keep moving, I wouldn't get stuck.

- -

There are two bars in town frequented by Smithson students, most of whom are underage. There's a third bar, three blocks west on Main Street—Ronnie's—that everyone knows is strictly townie territory. Like an idiot, that's where I ended up.

"Ketel One, little bit of water," I said to the bartender, holding my fingers a millimeter apart to signify exactly how much I meant by a "little bit of water." Stiff me and there will be blood.

He stared at me, menacingly, and I crossed my arms over my chest, trying to cover the obnoxiously large Smithson logo blazed across the front of my sweatshirt.

"We only got well," he grunted.

"Well?" I repeated, confused.

"Well," he waved his hand, trying to materialize another word to describe what he meant. "What's on the house. Comes in a plastic tub. It's crap. None of this fancy Russian shit."

"Ketel is Dutch," I sniffed.

The bartender gave me a warning look. Only when I had the good sense to appear nervous did he start to make my drink.

He slid a plastic cup—a plastic cup!—across the bar. "Buck fifty," he demanded, and I almost laughed. My lunchtime extra large coke from the cafeteria cost more than that. I pushed a five on the table and took a big gulp of my drink, the shit vodka boiling the lining of my stomach. Pain was good. Pain reminded me that I did feel. That I wasn't a monster.

"It's better when it tastes like acid." The voice came from behind me, and I turned to see Detective Campbell hoist himself onto the stool next to me. He was so tall that the place where his knees bent was level with the bar. He raised his drink at me, the copper liquid sloshing in the plastic cup—bourbon or whiskey, I wasn't sure which. "You can't trust the good stuff to do its job."

I regarded him, cautiously. "What's its job?"

Detective Campbell swept his hand in front of my face, as though he was erasing a chalkboard. "To wipe it all away."

I snorted. I couldn't help it. I'd had enough of everyone's sentimental bullshit.

Detective Campbell raised an eyebrow at me, like mocking him had been a bold, stupid thing to do. "Let me guess." He leaned on one elbow to face me. "You had a fight with your sorority sisters. No one understands you!" He clutched his chest, as though he was in agony. "You had to get away. To a place where no one knows your name." Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the bartender smirk.

"Smithson doesn't have sororities," I said, about to toss my hair before I remembered: I didn't have any.

"That's right," Detective Campbell nodded. "I was in college when that happened, so I didn't investigate it myself. But I remember it well. It was a huge deal around here." He adopted the stern voice of a news reporter and said, "The Seneca Sorority Sisters"—that had been the name the local papers had given the girls who had been fatally hazed by the last set of sororities on campus—"the first murder in the town in fifteen years."

I said, defensively, "It wasn't murder. It was an accident."

Detective Campbell nodded at the guy at the other end of the bar, silently weeping into his beer. I leaned forward, trying to focus my gaze, and realized it was Mr. Mason. "Think he cares about your semantics?"

I picked up my drink to take a sip, the ice chattering in the cup. I was visibly shaking. "So you don't buy that she ran away?"

Detective Campbell gave me a sad smile. "Do you?"

I drained the rest of my drink. "I have no idea what to think." I watched Mr. Mason across the way and sighed. "It's terrible. The whole thing." I put an extra five on the bar, I'm not even sure why—maybe to apologize for infringing on the locals' privacy, maybe for being the one to drive Mr. Mason here, to this dump, when he should have been at his stately home in Rye, enjoying a thimble of top market scotch and a Reagan biography in his handsome study—and stood to go. "I can't be here with him here. He knows me. It's just," I glanced over at Mr Mason once more. He was in a daze. "He clearly came here to be alone."

Detective Campbell stood too. "I'll give you a ride back to campus."

"You don't have to—"

"A girl just went missing, and we have no idea why." Detective Campbell stretched out to his full height and looked down at me begrudgingly but protectively. "I'm giving you a ride."

Detective Campbell drove a beat-up silver Saab, which was actually a very Smithson style—those old money types love their weathered yuppie classics. The engine hiccuped a few times before roaring to life and Detective Campbell backed into the dark, empty road. He didn't bother to turn on the radio, and the silence made me squirm.

 "So is one of the perks of being a cop that you get to drink and drive?" I asked. Anything to fill the car's void.

Detective Campbell shifted the gear stick into drive. "I'm a detective. And I can hold my liquor better than most."

I nodded in solidarity. I'd always been able to drink a lot, despite my wimpy little frame. It was something that people were always surprised to discover about me, which I loved. "I can too."

Detective Campbell snorted. "I'm sure all that coke helps sober you up."

I was shocked he went there. "I don't really do that," I stuttered.

Detective Campbell took his eyes off the road to raise a knowing eyebrow at me. "You know what the department calls Smithson?"

I shook my head no, even though I knew.

"Sniffson," Detective Campbell scoffed. "You don't have to lie to me. I'm not going to bust you." He laughed, wryly. "I've got bigger fish to fry."

"I'm not really lying," I said. "I think it's sort of gross the way everyone carries on here. I do it on occasion, but I got that out of my system in boarding school. We couldn't smoke pot because you could smell it. Coke, well...."

"Boarding school," Detective Campbell muttered. "You and I are sure cut from a different cloth."

We waited at a stoplight in silence for a few moments.

"You shouldn't even dabble," he said, seemingly out of nowhere. "You saw Mr. Mason back there. What if something happened to you? You want to put your parents through that?"

I blinked at the window, trying not to cry. Damnit, I never cried. "My dad wouldn't even care. It would be my comeuppance, in a way."

I saw Detective Campbell turn and flick his eyes over me in the window's glare. "Your comeuppance?"

I sighed. Why was I about to tell him this? I never told anyone this. I didn't even tell Peter until we had been dating for almost two years. "I had a brother," I said. "Thayer. He died. He was my father's favorite. I know he wishes it were me."

I watched Detective Campbell's jaw tick in the window. "I had a sister who died too."

I spun to face him. We were approaching Turq House, and he slowed to a stop at the foot of my driveway, pushing the gear into park. "I've never met anyone who lost a sibling too," I said.

Detective Campbell's eyes seem to droop lower. I understood. It was exhausting to talk about. "And isn't it terrible," he said, "when it's your sibling?"

I swallowed a childhood memory of Thayer, dressed in his little white karate suit, jumping up and down at the door and begging our mother to hurry up or they were going to be late. He was so excited for his first lesson, he peed himself before we'd even gotten into the elevator and because he only had one karate suit, and because there hadn't been time to wash it and make the lesson, he'd had to miss it. He had wailed his grief for hours. I bit my lip, trying to figure what to do with this memory—cry about it, laugh about it, and I don't know what came over me, but I leaned forward and brushed my lips against Detective Campbell's. At least, I tried to. Detective Campbell put his hand on my shoulder and stopped me.

I leaned back, slowly, trying to register what had just happened. I had tried to kiss him, and he had rejected me. No one ever rejected me.

"You shouldn't do that," Detective Campbell said.

"Do what?" I snapped.

"Confuse empathy for desire."

I let out an outraged little gasp, like someone had kicked me in the stomach. "It's cool," I said, trying to regain any semblance of dignity. "I'm not much for dumpster diving anyway." It was mean, but I didn't know any other way to express myself other than to strike.

Detective Campbell smirked, amused. "Me neither."

I gasped again. Had he really just said that? To me? I heaved the door open and got out of the car as fast as I could, slamming the door behind me with a dramatic flourish. I stormed into the house and up the stairs, into my bedroom. I was trembling with rage and humiliation. I sat on my bed, trying to collect myself for a few moments. That wasn't happening, so I went for the vodka I kept in my desk.

I stalked across the room and pulled the bottom drawer open, locating the bottle and taking a long, soothing swig. I swallowed, closing my eyes the relief felt so great. When I opened them again, I noticed something. I stepped closer to the window and peered behind the sheer curtain.

Detective Campbell was still sitting in his grumpy old Saab, just staring at my window.

28 comments:

  1. Ooooooo I get so excited when Elizabeth's blog is posted!!!!! I really wish this was a book I need more.

    http://playingwithwildfire.blogspot.com/?m=1

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    1. Me too! I feel that this is more of a book than anything else, I'm always waiting for the next post, so much anticipation!!

      www.poetsandheartbreakers.com

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    2. Right!! It sucks it's only once a week! I feel like I'm being teased!

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  2. Replies
    1. Yes! This actually made me lol.

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    2. Hahaha. Yep, Karen is always a duchebag!

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  3. Chris - @nylonlover69 on TwitterAugust 14, 2014 at 2:34 PM

    That's some cold hearted girl right there.

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  4. When is Jessica's actual book coming out?

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    1. I believe she said sometime early next year

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    2. September 2015!!

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    3. Oh my goodness, don't make me imaginary wait another four months! It's May 12, 2015:

      http://www.amazon.com/Luckiest-Girl-Alive-Jessica-Knoll-ebook/dp/B00LD1OITO/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1408045512&sr=8-2&keywords=jessica+knoll

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    4. Haha, so sorry! Could've sworn I remembered reading September somewhere, but very glad it's earlier :)

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    5. the book seems like a mix of Josie and Elizabeth's stories. can't wait

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  5. I like Biz, but gross! The Pat guy sounds disgusting; author does a great job making their public kissing seem revolting (same with the drunken hook-ups in the name of "grieving"). Love how E's pov is so spot-on with the cynical - but accurate - observations of obvious attention-seeking behaviors like wailing in public. These kids are here to get sauced-up and screw - no more, no less. The pretense at anything more is laughable. Drunken hysterics are always disgusting. Really felt bad for Bridget's dad in the bar, though. *That's* genuine. Great writing; would definitely read this book. The characters are *really* interesting; compelling storyline! Take care.

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  6. I love this so much! Amazing! The slow burn is killing me, no pun!

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  7. Love Campbell already! I can't wait to learn more about him and their relationship!

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  8. Jessica, it has been so special watching your skill and voice develop since the early Cosmo blogger days.

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  9. I seriously didn't think I could be more obsessed than with Josie ahhhhhh LOVEEEEEE<3<3<3<3

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  10. Jessica, this is the best blog I've ever read. Thank you for writing for us.

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  11. This is amazing. Getting excited for your book too!

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  12. I admit it. I am hooked even though I find Elizabeth to be a thoroughly unlikeable character. Not THAT'S good writing!

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  13. Jessica,
    I tried to comment before and because of some computer glitch but I wanted to say a few things (and they're meant completely as a compliment so I'm hoping you don't take offense!). I read the Josie story in the same way I read something like 50 Shades of Grey- I thought it was mediocre writing, at best, and found it to be completely mindless and gratuitous to read. Once I heard you were writing a book I knew I would not be purchasing it as I found your writing during that story to be..."fluff".

    Now on to the part that doesn't sound like an insult: I think you've found your niche. This darker, grittier story is more complex in wording, plot line, and character development. The Elizabeth story is something I did not think you were capable of after reading the Josie story and I have been PLEASANTLY surprised. You have turned me from someone who thought your writing was "so-so" to someone impressed with your growth and development as a writer. Please don't go back to the "fluff" you wrote before because this truly shows your prowess with words, characters, and stories much more. Best,

    T

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    1. whoops, "because of some computer glitch" it did not appear (that wasn't a glitch just my distracted brain!)

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  14. Love it. So different from Josie, but in a great way. I am weirdly excited to see what happens with Campbell!

    http://lovelifela.wordpress.com

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