"Hey ladies," I sit down at my usual lunch table and I pray that my friends cannot hear the shakiness of my voice. It could be any of them, Lauren, Sabina, Annie, Cassie, Jillian, any of them but it would take too long to name each and every person.
"Hey," they respond in a chorus of voices.
"So I heard you went to the main office during fifth period, what is going on?" Annie asks.
"Well, you see," I am at a loss for words, I don't want to be rude, but I do not want to put myself in danger, "the police just wanted to know what happened that night. No big deal, the police officers are so pushy, am I right?"
I try to move the topic from me to police officers, but that fails miserably and everyone is dead silent, "So, that new episode of Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo..."
"Crazy last night, right!" exclaims Cassie. I zone out, I do not even watch the show. I google what happened on the previous episode so I know what happened. See, I hate Hollywood, and almost all of it. I act like it's my life, but I could care less. All Hollywood happens to be is a bunch of talentless people paraded around while told to speak against climate change from their gas-spewing limos. Oh and how much they love their president and how evil and stupid people who don't agree with them are.
"Boo," a voice whispers into my ear and I jump, "it's just me."
I look at Louis' smiling face. Could this be the man responsible for everything?
"Hey," I say and I turn around in my seat. Act natural, like nothing is wrong. My t-shirt clings to my skin and I can feel my face turning beet-red. The room must have just gotten ten degrees warmer.
"You okay? You look like a water elephant in the desert just flopping around," he does an "elephant impression" that I can't help but laugh at.
"Yea I'm cool, why wouldn't I be, it's not like I have anything to hide. Haha," I can feel my heart beat racing more than after a 5k race in the snow. My words arethisclose and I can't stop, "So I'm pretty good. How about you? Weather's really nice out. I might go on a hike later. Isn't that fun? Do you like chocolate? I like chocolate. My dog can't eat chocolate. He will die if he does. How can he live without chocolate, I feel bad for him. Have I said that I can't wait for summer?"
Lou kind of laughs, then turns away shaking his head. Does he suspect anything? Does he think that I am just on a sugar rush? Does he know that I'm hiding something? My life is so difficult! Can anyone read my thoughts? If they can, then I am in big trouble and I'll go and move to nice, freezing Poland. Wait, is Poland cold year-round? What should I pack?
"Earth to Marley."
It takes me a few seconds to notice that Jillian is talking to me. Okay, maybe more than a few seconds, "Heyyy."
"So what are you doing this summer?"
"Well, as usual I am going to see my cousins in the United States. Which happens to be completely true and not at all false," I scratch the back of my head. In fact, I have told this lie since I was in eighth grade, I should have it down by now but I don't. See, I take a summer course at Fox News, but my friends think that is dorky. I love it there, but my friends don't. They just don't understand the media and how much it impacts our lives every day. But, it is not a complete lie since I do go to the states for the program. Jillian nods her head, but quickly looks away from me. I look down at my sandwich, but I don't feel like eating. I can't eat actually. If any substance gets put into my mouth at this specific time with everything going on, I may just throw it right back up. What if the police officer was right, what if it is one of the people that I am closest to? What if I have been manipulated? What if I don't know the person, will it hurt just as bad? Is it a face I know, but am not close to? Maybe it's the guy from Starbucks, or cashier at the Mobil Station, or a teacher I have had. The possibilities are endless and terrifying. Right after Mom and Meredith got kidnapped, I just assumed it was someone that I had never seen before, a stranger looking for trouble and just took away the first people he saw. What if there is a group of them? They will be harder to track down and nearly impossible to find. What will happen if they do find them? Will they get their justice or will just skip down the streets while farting rainbows along with their pet unicorns? It's impossible to tell. And the idea of a cold blooded animal is out there makes me shudder.
"Marley McCarthy, they want you in the main office," the cafeteria monitor tells me. I roll my eyes at the young woman and I trudge out of my seat.
"Crap," I whisper to Annie and she giggles. My boots make clear, hard sounds against the perfectly waxed floors. I look at the white and mint green tiles on the ground, how lucky they are not to have a worry in their lives. Well, I mean if they have lives which is doubtful, but I guess anything is possible. Just like finding the person that has destroyed my life.
"Nice to see you again Miss McCarthy," says Officer Handler. I actually just found out his name since I read his name tag, he never bothered to tell me it. I plaster a fake smile once again on my pained face. He opens a crisp, cream colored folder and takes out a few sheets of paper. Oh the interview for the hundredth time. He takes out a tape recorder, turns it on, and puts it right next to me.
"To confirm, you are Marley McCarthy, daughter of Dawn McCarthy and twin sister of Meredith McCarthy?" Officer Handler asks in his formal, man voice.
"Last time I checked," I try to add some humor into this but he does not even crack a smile.
"Where were you the night of July 20, 2002?"
"I was at home with my father watching That's So Raven on the television set," I played with the M initial ring on my left pointer finger. Officer Handler scribbles down a few notes onto the paper, "What were your mother and Meredith doing out at seven pm?"
"They had just finished their day out and were bringing home ice cream for us all to share while we watched movies."
"Where did they go to get the ice cream?" what kind of a question is that? It's like where did you buy that pig, I need to git me one of those?
"Had either your mother or sister been acting strange within the last few days?"
"No, just you know, normal. My sister and I talked, my mom cooked, read books, and texted, there was nothing out of the ordinary."
"Thank you for your time Miss McCarthy and you are dismissed now."
Ooh, I am dismissed. Better cross off "being dismissed" from my non-existent winter bucket list.
"Have fun, pumpkin," my dad says from another couch across the room. He has a latte in his hand that can only belong to me, "Thanks, your the best."
He kisses the top of my head and I sling my backpack over my shoulders and head back to class.
I slide into my seat in Government. After everyone staring at me when I walked in during a pop quiz, I really do not want to draw anymore attention to myself. My teacher keeps insisting that I do not take the pop quiz. I get it, it's just part of the whole pity thing, I'm sorry about your mother and twin therefore you don't need to be treated like everyone else. But I can take the stupid pop quiz, this is stuff that I know by heart. If a teacher really wants to help me, they will treat me like any other regular student.
"Come on, call Louis," I mumble to myself. It's after school and this is the time when Lou is supposed to call me, like everyday. We talk about school, YouTube videos, life in general. I just want to hear his voice and know that someone is there for me. Wait, I don't know if he is there for me. He could be trying to gain my trust just like Officer Handler said. Whatever, I just need to hear a voice that is not a reporter's asking me questions. Lou can't possibly be the person who took two thirds of my family, not to be mean, but he is really not that smart. Of course he is smart, but he uses his time playing video games and making videos of him getting hurt for Funniest Home Videos. It just does not add up, except he only became my friend after Meredith went missing. And at that point, the school all decided to stay away from me, but he was the only one that did not. In that situation, that would be a good way to gain someone's trust. Maybe Handler's guess wasn't too far off. I take a sip of my tea that has been next to me on the bed. I let the hot liquid burn the back of my throat before I swallow it. My puppy, Dot, comes running and barking up to me. It's hard to take Dot serious when she is so small and her bark is high pitched. I named her after Hanna's dog from Pretty Little Liars. She jumps onto the bed and sits on my lap. She is tiny, but she can clear a meter in her sleep. I turn on my television and wow-the news is on. My house is the picture that lights up the screen and there is a knot in my stomach, just like every time this story pops up. An overly fake reporter with an overly fake smile is outside my house. Her teeth are bleached, she has clear extensions, she is as orange as an Oompa Loompa and her nails are like cat claws. I look outside my window, and there she is, right on my front lawn-oh joy, just what I wanted as a gift this year.
"I am here outside the McCarthy's house in Doncaster. There are new reports following this story," dumb girl takes a long pause.
"Tell us already bitch!" I yell at the screen.
"There is a person of interest in this case after an anonymous tip was left. This person's family though has no dangerous record, except for one family member that must be disclosed. Police are also looking at one other person that may be linked to the tragedy that occurred seven years ago, but that person is reportedly cooperating and does not appear to be a concern. Back to you Ann."
"What does the family know, Korie?" asks Ann
"No one knows for certain, but Marley McCarthy, twin sister of victim Meredith McCarthy just had yet another interview with police as the work to put this puzzle together. I do not believe that the family, which consists now of only Marley and Derrick McCarthy, knows a lot. They just want closure. Some though believe that Dawn and Meredith are still alive today. No one could disappear like that and not have their bodies found within a forty two mile radius."
"Has the remaining family had anything to say about this?"
"No, they are keeping their mouths shut and leaving it to police. The only thing that has been said was from Derrick and to paraphrase it, 'I just want to catch that person that took my wife and daughter.'"
"Thank you Korie and up next, First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama goes on Saturday Night Live…"
So the press knows more than I do, just great. My phone starts to ring and I take it out of my back pocket. Lou's name flashes on the screen. I close my eyes and press ignore.