June 22nd, 2016
She called me for the second time last night. This time, I just knew I wasn’t going crazy. I had to double-check; I was less taken aback because it had been days since the previous one and I had not stopped thinking about it since, trying to rationalise it. I was waiting for it to happen again, so I could validate my sanity. But a part of me was wondering whether that would just invalidate it. Who would believe me?
Sofia is the only person from my past who knew Rose to some extent – I’ve lost contact with the rest. I don’t know where Naomi is, where Jonesy is, and I know that Tanner is long gone. I know I’ll never see him again. So there’s really nobody for me to confide in; nobody who would care well enough to know. Rose’s death did end up making national headlines, because it was a public shooting that killed other people. There were vigils and memorials held for the victims, and when Rose’s life support machine eventually had to be turned off, people paid their respects. She was famous for a while, even if in the most undesirable way – after life. Sometimes I feel like I’m one of the few people who still holds her pain in my heart, like it’s still fresh and brand new.
I asked her more questions this time. I blitzed her with interrogation after interrogation, hoping she would crack and I would find out who it really is. But every answer just seemed to confirm the most remote, unlikely scenario – I was talking to Jennifer-Rose Middleton. I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing. And before I even had the chance to push further, this time she hung up before I could.
I don’t know why I let myself get this drunk sometimes. It’s only on occasion, when I just don’t think enough is enough. Tonight is one of those nights, when I can barely see the outline of my hands without them splaying out in front of me like a spread of cards. I lie on the couch, watching the ceiling fan blur, feeling like I’m going to die. It’s two in the morning, and I’ve had three missed calls from Sofia. I haven’t spoken to her since telling her about Rose, and for the first time, I’m just not looking forward to speaking to her again. I sat down, opened up copious cans of beer and lost myself in them. I think back to the things Rose said to me on the phone call, and how she knew things that only she could know about me. She didn’t sound as malicious as my dreams make her out to be, and for whatever reason, this worries me even more. I’m drunk enough to pick up the phone and call her back, but I can’t access an unidentified number. I also can’t move. My phone is a few feet away, but it feels like it would take every muscle in my body and more, just to hoist myself and get it. that’s why I let it ring, and I let Sofia’s face flash up and I did nothing about it but stare into her eyes and wish she was just here with me.
Sometimes I think that I’m already dead and that I’m just in Purgatory, and I have to stay here and wash out my bullshit until I’m worthy of going to Paradise. There’s no way this can be happening to someone who is still alive and has yet to pay their dues. Something has to happen – there’s something waiting to happen to me. Some form of moral catharsis, or a way out. Some kind of explosion, a supernova, a Judgement Day. This can’t be all there is.
I think about this, slipping into a drunken slumber. As I feel my body weaken and my eyelids close like shutters, I sense something wrong. I’m not fully conscious, and it’s hard for me to sus out the change in the air, but I know I’m not alone. The dim light and the quiet murmur of the TV at first convinces me that everything is normal, and that I’m just my lonely, drunken self. But I feel a presence in the room, though it’s hard for me to grasp it. I’ve been alone for so long.
When I wake up, Rose is sitting across the table, right in front of me.
November 17th, 1999
“Bret?” Naomi’s voice shakes, her tears are non-stop. The silence of the phone call is unbearable. “Bret, are you there?”
Over the line, he sighs nervously, “What is it?”
“They turned it off,” Her voice cracks, sentence ending in a high-pitched tone. She can’t stop crying.
“Turned… turned what off?” He falls apart instantly, voice wavering, wavering.
“They t-turned the Life Support off, Bret.” Her breathing is jagged and jumpy as she stumbles over her words. She sits in a ball against her bed, chin buried between her knees. She’s never felt this cold before.
She hears a glass break over the line. More silence.
“…Bret?” she sniffs.
“I’m sorry, I…” He whispers, trying to regain his composure. “I’m sorry.” And he cannot stop apologising, over and over again, even when he has let the phone slide from his hand and his apologies become incomprehensible under his sorrowful moaning. Naomi keeps the phone stuck to her ear, too stiff to move. Her tears are non-stop.
“I almost went with her,” Naomi keeps talking, not caring whether he’s listening or not. Jennifer-Rose survived the longest, despite being confirmed brain-dead just two weeks later. Now she’s gone. She’s really gone.
Naomi decides to hang up, once she hears no more noise on the other line.