June 20th, 2016
Jennifer-Rose died over eighteen years ago. But I keep seeing her everywhere. I have recurring dreams about her, and she has even called me on the phone. Sometimes I’m not really sure I had the call, so I repeatedly go through my call history to check. Out of all of the recent contacts that fire up the screen, Unknown just sticks out like a sore thumb. I definitely had that call. There’s no logically feasible explanation for any of this, except my subconscious growing into a monster much bigger than me, a monster that rips out reality from beneath my feet.
Yesterday, when I was topping up my groceries at the market, I swear to God I saw her standing there, at the bottom of the aisle. I’m so adamant that I caught a glimpse of her in the distance, but she was gone before I could really see. The feeling in my chest has never left since. It was a ripple through my heart, a pang that through my ribs, into my lungs and up into my throat. I am so damn sure I saw her. And she saw me too – she saw me.
She looked no different; no older, no younger. It’s like she could have faked her death and found a way to live away from civilisation before returning to surprise me. But even if she was still alive, she would look considerably older. She would be at least thirty-three years old. Within the split second that I saw her, I felt like I had seen everything. I knew it straight away.
I was considering dropping my things and searching for her, but I knew I would look insane. All of this bullshit can’t even be real, so I don’t need to succumb to my subconscious, or the adhere to the tricks of the mind. I just have to recover and live my life, as I finally managed to do once after Rose died.
“I don’t know why this is happening,” I tell Sofia over the phone. It’s six in the evening, and I’m on my third glass of wine. My mind is a bit more unfastened, and I feel like doing nothing else but spilling out my emotions to the woman I love. “It feels too real.”
“Are you still drinking a lot?” Sofia asks.
“…No…” I murmur. I will admit that the drinking is getting worse, but it’s not as bad as it was when I was an adolescent who would binge and blackout almost every weekend, or when things got rough after Sofia left. I won’t blame any of this on the drink, even if the drink doesn’t help. Of course Sofia is going to look for explanations like that. “Alcohol doesn’t make me hallucinate or have phone calls with dead people.”
“The only other cause could be psychosis of some sort. And I’m no doctor or psychologist. You need to go and test your mental health; this has been going on for too long.”
“I’m not insane,” I snap. “yeah, I’ve been an alcoholic. Yeah, I’ve been depressed and I have addictive tendencies. But I’ve never questioned my reality. I’ve never felt this strange before. And I know something’s wrong. A schizophrenic wouldn’t. I’ve sought out other possibilities, and I just can’t find one.”
I hear Sofia sigh over the phone, and I realise what a big mistake I’ve made. I don’t know why I expected her to believe me. All this has done is probably encourage her to call off Hudson coming to visit. She’s probably afraid that I’ll start doing séances and Ouija boards in my apartment with him.
“You’re going to have to see the doctor. You need to get some help.”
“A few days ago she called me. I can screenshot you my history. The duration is just under a minute. I was talking to someone, Sofia.”
“How would that be enough to convince me that it just happened to be your dead friend?”
“You would have thought the same if you were me. You just need to trust me on this one.”
“I’m sorry, babe. I can’t trust you enough with this.” I clench my jaw when she calls me babe. I haven’t heard it in a long time. It either was a sign of affection or pity, like when I was ill or I had injured myself. She means it in pity.
“She told me it was her. She told me, Goddamn it.”
“Just get help, Bret.” She says. “You just need help.”
When Sofia hangs up, I look back at the call details from the other day, racking my brains, trying to figure out what is going on. I just can’t work it out. I’m afraid that Rose might be haunting me, for the things I did to her in the past. For the way I treated her.
I’m afraid that Jennifer-Rose is back to ruin my life. It sounds so ridiculous that I almost laugh to myself. But my stomach churns.
I know I definitely had that phone call.
I know I saw her at the market.
I know she’s here.
July 29th, 1999
[three weeks after the shooting]
“Just stay around a little longer,” Bret mumbles with tears framing his eyelids. The flowers he holds in his hands tremble. He remembers to put them down, so that the nurse can appropriately decorate Rose’s section of the ward. “Don’t give up just yet. Please, Rose. There is so much more out here for you. We were all gonna travel the world together, weren’t we? After high school. We were going to do so much.” He chokes on his words. Rose sleeps. She looks like a porcelain doll, out on display. “Please wake up. I’m begging you. I’m sorry about how things worked out. I want a happy ending. I want you to survive. The world is waiting for you.”