Chapter 14: Choose

                                                           CHAPTER 14

“So our first semester of our last year of school has been bookended by funerals,” Kelly says. “I can hardly wait for second semester.”

All of us now are sitting in my bedroom. After Brittany and I made up, I texted Lexie, Kelly and Jennie to let them know what was going on and told them to meet at my house for an impromptu sleepover. I had told them not to tell the boys, but of course, that didn’t work. Matt declared that my decision to have a girl’s only get together was sexist and he wouldn’t stand for it, especially since my mother was making homemade pizza for us. So now we’re all gathered in my bedroom. I’m lying in between Brittany and Matt. Shane, Chris, Kelly, Jennie and Lexie are sitting on chairs and on the floor. We’re eating homemade pepperoni pizza. It feels strangely good. There’s no mention of past fights or any drama. We’re just there. Present. In the moment. It’s nice. Even if it comes after yet another funeral.
“Oh, God….what’s gonna happen next semester?” Lexie asks.
“Gas explosion,” Chris offers.
“No, no….that seems too tame. I’m thinking alien invasion and we’re, like, probed by aliens who wanna steal our organs and sell them on EBay for fifty bucks and a jar of pickles,” Shane says.
“I love pickles,” Brittany says.
“No, what if it’s a gas explosion that causes an alien-infested meteorite to head towards Earth and Bruce Willis is the only one who can save us,” Matt says.
“I would pay to see that movie,” Lexie says.
“Can I audition for that?” Jennie asks, raising her hand.
“Sure, Jen. You can play the love interest,” Chris says.
“Awesome—can I be the love interest of the alien? I’ve always wanted to play the love interest of an alien. A story of forbidden love,” Jennie says.
“Oh, and I’ll write and sing a sappy love song for the soundtrack,” Lexie offers.
“Do you know how to write a sappy love song?” Shane asks.
Lexie lets out a snort and glares at Shane, which makes the rest of us laugh. “Yes, I do. I just choose not to write those.”
“I know, that’s why I asked,” Shane grins as Lexie playfully smacks him.
“Whoa, this is going to the best movie ever,” Chris says.
“I smell Oscar,” Jennie says. “I’d like to thank the Academy….and Bruce Willis.”
We are all laughing, sitting there in our black outfits mourning yet another person who indirectly died as a result of all this. Yet it feels so good to laugh, so good to just be together. I so badly want this laughing to continue. Funerals aside, this is what I had wanted for my senior year. I had wanted happy.

The boys leave eventually. We’ll meet up with them the tomorrow for lunch at Mike’s. Of course, we had to promise that we will tell them completely fake stories about our wild pillow fights and how we braided each other’s hair. They seem to really want to believe that’s what we girls do when we have sleepovers. So we’ll tell them that and they’ll believe it which I think is just weird because it’s all clearly fake. The truth, right now, is we’re all laying on my bed, staring at the ceiling. I’m half listening as Lexie and Jennie playfully argue about whether or not some musician guy is hot or too pretty to be hot, not sure. I want to tell them. Tell them what I imagine at nights, still. Imagining the scenes playing out on my ceiling. Moments that I forever treasure of all of us.
“You guys remember when Lexie first came in the seventh grade?” I ask.
“Those stupid cowboy boots and spurs,” Kelly mutters.
“Hey, now,” Lexie argues.
“Who the hell wears spurs in seventh grade? No, scratch that. Who the hell wears spurs ever?” Kelly says.
“Me,” Lexie proudly announces.
“Remember when Zoey made us jump off the swings?” Brittany asks. I look at her as she is staring up at my ceiling. She is lying right next to me. “We were eight and she told us to jump.”
“That was terrifying,” I say.
“I remember when Zoey found that movie I had done when I was five. That horror movie, Doll Killers,” Jennie muses.
“Barbie’s gonna eat me,” Brittany says, reciting Jennie’s big line. We all start laughing. Zoey had found that movie once and made us all watch it during a sleepover. It was amazing.
“I’m proud of that movie. Not everyone can say that they were killed off by Barbie.”
“Is there anyone who ever really wants to say that?” Lexie asks.
“You be quiet, I will love that movie forever. If I ever go on Inside the Actor’s Studio, I’m totally bringing that clip. But yeah, I remember her showing us that and she thought I was gonna be so mad, but I wasn’t and she said that if I got too big or became one of those actresses who believed her own hype, she would sit me down and make me watch that. I think that movie got, like, a ninety-eight percent rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes.”
“Are you really gonna do this movie? The movie about the shooting?” Brittany asks.
“I don’t know. I think it might be therapeutic. Seriously. Maybe we can help people.”
“It’s gonna make me look bad,” Brittany says.
“Not if I have anything to say about it,” Jennie says. “You didn’t know anything.”
“I wish I could go back,” Brittany says.
“We all do. Thing is, we all had a connection to him. Last year, I had a show at a coffee house and Brittany, you were out of town and Zoey was busy and I wanted someone who could play an instrument. So I asked around and went on the internet and Jerrod answered one of my requests. He played guitar for me during one of my shows.”
“Which one?” Kelly asks.
“The one at Java Perk in San Diego. I was in a car with him,” Lexie says.
“Oooo, that’s creepy,” Brittany says.
“He was in charge of the lighting for a play I did,” Jennie remarks.
I let out a snort. I’m not sure why, but all of this connection stuff suddenly seems ridiculous. We all have connections. It’s like that game, “Six Degrees of….”. Everyone is connected to everyone else. Six Degrees of Jerrod. No one is exempt. It’s almost funny. Almost.
“He lived next door to me.”
“Hmmm, what did you know?” Brittany asks, wiggling her eyebrows while giving me a sarcastic grin.
“Not a whole lot. He couldn’t hold his alcohol. That I remember. He could not hold his liquor.”
“Or his anger, apparently,” Lexie says which causes us to laugh.
“Oh, wait. I have a connection. We have the same hairstylist. Charlotte. I think Charlotte once told me that Jerrod liked to play with scissors,” Kelly mentions. Her eyes widening. I kinda like this weird, twisted game we’re playing.
“I bet he ran with them too. Pointy side up,” Lexie says.
“Oh, God.”
“He sat behind me once in chemistry. He asked a lot of questions about chemicals. Sure, it was chemistry, but still,” Jennie muses.
“He threw a spitball at my head in fourth grade,” Brittany says.
“Really?” Jennie asks.
“Yeah. I think he was aiming at Mrs. Stickyingers and missed. Can that be in the movie?” Brittany asks.
“I don’t see why not. It think it would need to be. It’s crucial to the plot,” Jennie says.
“Wait, do you think Mrs. Stickyfingers caused this?” Kelly asks.
“Well, didn’t she always make him stay in during lunch?” I ask.
“And not to mention, she was sticky. See, this is why Mrs. Stickyfingers sucked. She needed to ask more questions,” Brittany says.
“Why did you guys call her Mrs. Stickyfingers?” Lexie asks.
“I don’t know. Jerrod made it up,” Kelly says.
“Okay…once again, he is literally the boy next door. Here’s something: Before we moved into this house, my parents were debating between this one and the one across the street from Matt. Man, I always knew my parents were trying to ruin my life. I think this is legitimate proof.”
“He stepped on my foot once,” Lexie says, “and he didn’t even apologize for it. I should have known.”
“Rat bastard,” Kelly says. “He one time borrowed a pencil from me and I never got it back. It was a number two pencil. You know how important those are for tests. Maybe that was a clue.”
“Oh, that’s cruel,” Brittany says. “Wasn’t his locker near Rachel’s?”
“It was. Oh, I bet they had conversations,” I say.
“Could you imagine?” Brittany asks.
“I kinda don’t want to,” I say.
“I offered him gum,” Jennie says.
“Was it sugar free?” Kelly asks.
We are all laughing. Lying there, each one of us shouting out a random connection we may have had to Jerrod. Each one becoming crazier and crazier. Maybe there were clues. Maybe we all had a connection but I’m not sure how much those connections matter anymore. Jerrod was gonna do what he was gonna do. There was no stopping it.

“Remember when I cut my hair like a penis?” Kelly says, pointing at my ceiling. Kelly, the Queen of Really Bad Transitions. I can imagine that whole haircutting scene now. Kelly had been so drunk. “I would like you all to know, those tiger scissors were Zoey’s. She handed me the scissors.”
“Penis head,” Brittany giggles as we all start to laugh.
“You know, I have very few regrets. I love what I do. It’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. But I will always regret not being here for that,” Jennie says.
“We sent you the pictures,” Kelly says.
“I know and I showed them to the entire cast and crew, but it was just not the same,” Jennie says, letting out a sigh so melodramatic, it was practically award winning.
“Wait, you did what?” Kelly asks.
“Penis head,” Brittany is practically squealing with happiness.
Brittany’s not the only happy one, we all are. We’re all laughing as the conversation turns, launching back into imagined moments once again being played on on my ceiling. We see Zoey. Beautiful, dark-haired Zoey. Smiling, laughing. We begin explaining in detail that wonderful haircutting story. Kelly deciding that it was much too hot out to have long hair. Zoey handing her the scissors and all of us too wired to stop the madness because after all, you can’t stop madness. Snip. Snip. Snip. Our sides hurting from laughing and for a few moments we have her again. Zoey. She’s with us. We’re complete.

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