I had several dreams during the night.
Not all of them were nightmares, but they came close as they all revolved around real people in my life. I couldn't recall anything that they said, but it was more of their expressions—the lifeless, dead expressions they had with every face that flashed in my head. My parents, teachers, Karen Anne, Dick, maybe even Elvis, I don’t know…but they all stood along a line that lead to a door and ultimately closed it on me.
The door was to small walk-in closet, with just enough space that I could lift my hands and turn around but no more—not without pleading for light, food or air. I don’t remember if I gave in to their voiceless demands of if I stood my ground, I only remember waking up on the floor with the blankets wrapped around me legs and arms.
I got dressed and Danny dropped me off in the parking lot next to the English building. I looked like a mild train wreck and probably smelled like one too as I walked into class with only a pen and a borrowed notebook. I simply couldn’t wait to tell Mr. Stephens about what happened the previous day and how campus security, and Richard for that matter, were so helpful in assisting me in replacing my books.
I sat in my chair and almost wanted to put my head down when I looked at the faces of the people around me. Their expressions were silent; almost like my bad dreams a few hours ago. Was there some news about me floating around? I really needed to figure out how to use e-mail, once I got a hold of a computer to use, that is; as maybe something had been distributed about Heather. Something that brought closure, I hoped, and not some hideous rumor about her or me.
“You don’t know?” One guy asked, his expression moving from disdain to questioning.
“Have you checked your e-mail?”
Funny how this guy who never talked to me in the past had suddenly decided to speak me on today of all days.
“No, I don’t have—“
Mr. Stephens walked into the room and his frightened eyes zeroed in on me.
“Kris, Um, Kristi, I need to see you in my office.”
The rest of the class was divided into two camps: ones who didn’t care and the others who watched me get up and walk out for the room. They even continued to look in our direction as we left the classroom.
I sat down in Mr. Stephens office—it was incredible about how many offices I had to sit and wait in the past few days.
Mr. Stephens returned to the room. Along with another teacher, I didn’t know her name, but she stood quietly in front of the door.
“Mr. Stephens, what's going on?”
“Do you check your e-mail?”
“No,” I sighed, “I don’t even have a computer. It was stolen last night out of my dorm along with my camera and sense of security. Why?”
Mr. Stephens looked to the other teacher who nodded. He then handed a file folder over to me. I was almost hoping that it was a sweepstakes or at least a newspaper clipping stating that they captured whoever killed Heather and I was mentioned.
I opened the file.
It was a collection of pictures.
Pictures I had seen before, but from the other side of the lens.
Pictures that showed me, over-exposed and for all to see.
“Where. Did. They. Come from?” I could barely get the words out.
“They were sent to every email address in the student directory.” Mr. Stephens replied as he tried to avoid looking at the folder.
“From your account.”
“And from my stolen camera.”
I threw my head back over the back of the chair; in hopes that maybe if I struck it hard enough I’d either wake up and it would be Monday morning again.
“Have you spoken to campus security?” Mr. Stephens asked.
“They weren't any help when my dorm was broken into to begin with.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”
“I was going to let you know before. If it’s alright with you, sir, I’d like to go the administrator hall. I kind of feel they’re going to want to talk to me anyway.”
“Of course. We’re doing a review on the last few sections, but I can give you a copy of the information tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Mr. Stephens.”
I stood up and walked out the door.
The hallway was silent, which was just as well.
I only wondered how far those pictures had gone. Were they confirmed to just the school e-mail or out in the wild? The pictures were of me, every single one of them, well, maybe a few of Micheal but he was in a suit in a few of them.
I could have blamed Micheal for not removing the memory card from the camera; of course I could have read the manual and removed it myself. There was no one to blame except for whoever stole it to begin with. I had to wonder what was the purpose of breaking into the dorm to begin with.
To scare me? Successful, since I was alone.
To put me in my place? No, because I wasn’t sure exactly what my “place” was supposed to be; I was just getting started trying to find it.
To make my life a living Hell? I would have told them to get in line.
The rest of the walk to the administration building was uneventful until I actually walked inside. There was a conclave of guys standing in the main hall. They all were talking to each other until they saw me and then the room literally fell silent.
It would appear THEY checked their e-mail.
I tried to avoid eye contact with them as I walked down the hall.
It was like being in a fish tank with someone threatening to tap on the glass. I didn't ask to be placed on display and I sure as Hell was not going to sign anything. One of the members of the gawkers coughed. It wasn't from a cold or a frog in his throat, but an attempt to get me to stop and look at who made the sound.
I wasn't going to play the game and tried to avoid them.
“Hey!” One of them shouted.
I didn’t turn to them, but gave flashed my middle finger in their general generation.
“If you want to. I’m game.”
I should have known better than to have said or done anything.
I walked into the building.
"Kristopher Novoselic" a middle aged woman said from behind a large desk and high-back, almost throne like, chair. She had looked at the information on my student ID and either completely ignored what I was wearing or assumed I just liked wearing dresses so I couldn't fault her too much.
"Kristi," I replied.
"What can I help you with?"
"I have a lot..of issues going on right now."
"Well, a friend of mine was killed."
"I'm sorry to hear that, where did-"
Her eyes widen slightly.
"Do you have their name?"
She looked at the large computer on her desk and moved her mouse.
"I have a message that states that campus security wants to speak with you."
I felt my heart race. I mean, did they send a message to everyone?
"Can I ask how they knew to send that message to you?"
"It was sent to all of the advisors."
"Well, okay, campus security is on my list to talk to you, along with--"
Her eyes avoided mine.
“I don’t want to file anything against her at this time but-“
“Did you have a conference with Mr Styles?”
“I wouldn’t call it that,” I said with a bit of disdain. “He didn’t really care to hear my side of the story, just what he wanted to.”
“There is a disciplinary hearing being scheduled.”
“For My Styles or Miss Peterson?”
“Me?” I asked as my heart rate accelerated again. “For what reason?”
“Striking a teacher.”
“She hit me.”
“Falsification of your enrollment forms.”
“I identified as a male for eighteen years, so I was in the guys dorm. It was time to make the change an I planned to let the school know at the end of the semester."
She only raised an eyebrow,
“Okay, what about my dorm room being broken into? Or the fact that someone’s sent my private photos to everyone on campus?”
She sat back in her chair and stared at her desk with a dour expression; like she couldn’t care less or that the images were of someone else entirely; no way could any of them be of me; but they were.
“Would you excuse me, please? I will be back in one moment.”
“Sure,” I replied as she had already walked halfway to the door; as if she would havre cared if I had said no.
The fact that no one seemed to care about the death of a student; or even knew. I wanted to slammed my hands on the chair, but I didn't.
The room felt a little cold or maybe it was just me as this was the second day I was completely without Mike, as he had not answered his phone when I tried to call—everything went to voicemail—so I had no idea if he was alive or dead. I kind of wanted to be the one in the hospital with a missing arm or dead, I suppose as it would have saved me from what I was feeling at that time: loneliness, bitterness, a fear for my life and a sadness that Heather lost hers.
I left the office, figuring that “Madam high and mighty” was either finding some way to get the police to remove me by force or to have me kicked off the campus on some trumped up charge.
I ran out the side door and across campus, back to my dorm.
Richard sat in his office and his face rang a look of shock to see me standing there.
“I’m going up to my room.”
“It’s been re-keyed.”
“Yet the elevator is still not working? I love your priorities.”
He shuffled through a small stack of paperwork on his desk and then handed over a key on a colossal-sized key ring. I looked at the gargantuan metal ring and then at Richard with all the disdain I could muster before I walked into inner hallway and to the stairwell.
The sounds bounced around the empty stairwell as I climbed back up to my floor.
The door was repaired and the lock was back on.
I opened the door to see the room had been cleaned up and emptied of everything except the beds and the dressers.
“Son of a bitch,” I muttered. “He wanted me to see this.”
I seriously thought about breaking the promise I once gave Mike: that I wouldn't scratch Richard’s eyes out.
I sat down on the stripped lower bunk bed and took out my cell phone.
No calls form Mike but three calls from my parents.
I wanted answers and my best and worst theory would be to call Amanda again.
“Hey, how are you doing?” Amanda’s voice answered with an eerie calmness.
“I’m okay,” I lied. “I just wanted to know how did you and Heather go?”
“We were okay, but decided that it just wasn’t going to work out, I mean, we were a bit too—“
“Amanda, where are you?”
“I’m on my way to class.”
“Are you okay?” I asked as I stood up.
“Yes, yes,I’m fine.”
“And what about Jacob?”
“Oh, well, we had…we had a little talk.”
“A talk. Is he going to give you your space?”
“Well, you know, we’re—“
“Who is that?” I heard a male voice say.
“It’s a friend, Jacob.”
“Is that that fairy guy?”
“Her name is Kristi.”
“Her? Well, hang up.”
“Amanda, you need to get away from him. You said thar—“
“Hello? The male voice was now on the phone.
“Is this Jacob?”
“This is Kristi, the person you thought you killed the other day.”
“I know you also stole my camera and my boyfriend’s laptop.”
“You’re going to have a hard time proving that.”
“Oh I plan on it.”
“No, you’re not.”
I bolted up from the bed. “Listen up, asshole! I’ve dealt with people like you all of my life. You want a fight with me, you got one. I’m not afraid of your alpha male bullshit. Do you hear me? I so want to report you to the police for even touching Amanda and just looking at Heather.”
“You’re a crazy man-bitch.”
“What an original put down. Where and when, Jacob?”
The phone clicked off. I threw the handset in burning anger, breaking the back off. I really wanted to smash something else but the room was already cleaned up.
I walked to the other side of the room. Amanda didn’t ask me about Heather, so maybe she knew more than she wanted me to know. I closed my eyes, wishing that, again, this was all a dream, or at the most a fever-induced hallucination and that Mike would walk through that door at any moment to save me from the pain.
I looked at the door in anticipation.
It never opened, but my phone buzzed.
I walked back over, looked at the caller ID and answered the call.
“Hey,” said a drowsy-sounding, but welcoming to hear, voice.
“Micheal, how are you?”
“I’m fine, still kind of drugged but I’m sure I’m gonna be in pain-“
“Yep, fortunately, I have an automatic.”
“You got a few hours?”
“I got all the time in the world for you.”
I slid my back down the wall and to the floor.”
“I’ve been kicked out of the dorm, of both dorms right now it seems.”
“We can stay with Danny until the end of the semester.”
“The same Heather as in—“
“”Yes. Micheal I think I got her killed.”
“You didn’t do anything.”
“I put her with Amanda and then Jacob must have found them together and—“
“You can’t control what other people do. Listen to me, okay?”
“Uh huh,” I was simply blubbering by then.
“You were just trying to help her, you can’t think that you did anything—“
“I caused you to lose your arm by-“
“Hey, no you didn’t-“
“-If I didn’t want this surgery-“
“I would have worked if you didn’t,” Micheal replied on the other end. “I’m from a family of ranchers. We’re gonna do something with our hand, like it or not.”
“I thought it was, I’ve been working on that joke all day.”
“Are you still in Nashville?”
“Yeah, Uncle David is here. We’re coming back through Knoxville to get you as soon as they let me out of here.”
“To save me?”
“I was thinking of something else, but I wouldn’t mind coming in on a fast horse and grabbing you up on it. You may have to help hold the reigns.”
“I’ll do whatever you want me too.”
“I want you to stand up. You’ve lying agains the wall, aren’t you?”
How did he know?
“You need to get up and get back to life.”
“You don’t know about the pictures, do you?”
“The ones I didn't erase?”
“Uh-huh,” I replied.
“Has anyone said anything about them?”
“I think the school is avoiding me on purpose and I’ve had a few looks, but only from people who recognize me, so it hasn’t been, well, everyone recognizes me. It’s been Hell, Mike.”
“We did say that this would be a change.”
“Yeah but I didn’t want it to a when it rains it pours kind of thing. I just wanted to wear a freaking skirt and be me.”
“The bull fears the new manure, because he don’t know what do with new kind of crap.”
“Uncle David saying?” I asked with a half smile.
“Yep. He still likes you, by the way.”
“What if he didn’t?”
“One less wedding invite to go out.”
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