June 26th, 2016
I’m not sure what to do, when I hear who I now know to be a girl called Jennifer-Anne, crying on the other side of the call.
Most of the Rich Kids left Bluebeach and went to college in the same year that Rose died. I came back for the funeral, and also around Christmas break, but most of the contact between me and Rose’s family had been completely cut off. Even Jamie, Rose’s sister who was a few years older than me (but I still managed to flirt with discreetly every now and then), stopped communicating. It was like the family had just gone into hiding after Rose’s death. The Rich Kids’ friendships scattered and disintegrated, and social gatherings were to be held by the kids in the year below now. It was almost as if everything was forgotten, just gone in a matter of months.
It honestly didn’t occur to me that Rose’s mother would have had another child. I was studying in college miles away, focusing on making my relationship with Sofia work amongst other things. I had even drifted away from Naomi and Jonesy in the following year. Though I still couldn’t get Rose out of my head for a long time, I was never expecting a something like a new child to pop so soon. When I got the phone call from Jamie, it confirms any doubts I had to there being a much simpler explanation for everything. I’m kicking myself, and I have never felt like more of an idiot in my life when I got that call. I didn’t even think to wonder how Jamie got my number, or even just general questions like what her life is like now. I was just slotting the pieces of the puzzle in my mind, whilst my face and body burned with embarrassment and regret. Yet again.
She told me that it was none other than their lastborn, and how she’s such a huge practical joker. “Annie has always had this fantasy of discovering her deceased sister’s life, in some ways. I never thought she would stretch it out to these depths.” At least I can answer the question as to why she was the same age as Rose when she died- she was born just over a year after, and it’s now sixteen years since her birth. Hardly rocket science.
Apparently the family had absolutely no clue where she had gone, and it was only at Anne’s admission that she could track me down and contact me. She apologised immensely and told me to pass on my newfound information to Anne, if I could. When I told her that she wasn’t currently with me and that I didn’t know exactly where she was, she gave me her number. In an impulsive rage, I could think of nothing else but to call her and let her know that she had been found out.
Though the story is almost cleared up, there are still some things that I’m unsure about. For one, ‘Annie’ sure does seem to know a lot for a younger sister exploring her older sister’s past. She knew almost everything – the inside jokes, the memorable events. The only two things that seemed to go past her were the situations regarding Naomi, and Tanner; this was a red flag, because there was no way Rose wouldn’t remember, or at least know of that. There were times when I recalled things that I could see the girl in front of me sitting and staring in intrigue and wonder as if she was learning something, rather than going back on something that she would have already known. The kinks in her armour were not being able to know every single thing - her Achilles heel was the fact that at the end of the day, she wasn’t Rose. But with that being said, there’s something unsettling about everything. Just the way it appears this girl has done her research, all the way down to wearing the right clothes. The blue dress and the beige cardigan.
Nothing confuses me more than simply how identical she looks. Any idiot could point that out – any idiot could think that they were twins. It’s not even like she’s just her younger sister - she acts the same way. She does things Rose used to do, that even Rose didn’t know she did. The body language, the trivial mannerisms, everything. It’s no wonder I fell for it.
The phone call with Jamie left me with more questions than answers, but I just don’t know how to articulate them. I don’t know where to start. It may not make any sense trying to ask them. I just had to get out my frustration on Anne, before trying to rewire everything in my mind.
I need to understand why this Annie girl cares so much about Rose’s life – about me. I wonder if she tried the same with Naomi or anybody else; I already know Sofia is out of the question, because of her doubts when I started getting the phone calls. I want to know why she wanted to pull off this grand magic trick. But most of all, I want to know why she looks like an exact carbon copy of Jennifer-Rose.
After call with Annie, I feel the need to do something I haven’t done in a long time. It probably won’t look good on my part, and I could be stepping into muddy waters, but I feel it necessary.
I think I’ll have to reconnect with Naomi Sanchez.
November 17th, 1999
When Bret stops crying, he lies silent, arms still wrapped around Naomi. He told himself he would never touch her again, but he feels like the worst damage has been done now, now that Rose is truly dead. Nothing else matters. He decides, he’ll call Sofia tomorrow and end things with her – he can’t keep doing this behind her back. Even though it’s been months since he last did, and their relationship has been running smoothly, he can’t go on knowing he was lying all along, and it got Rose killed. Naomi probably doesn’t know what ever happened with Tanner, but she had been suspicious since the night before the shooting when she
went to pick Bret up from his house.
Naomi doesn’t know how to feel. She was sobbing a few hours ago, and she hadn’t stopped crying up until Bret came. She keeps thinking about the fact that she was on the tennis court on that dreadful afternoon. She was close to being a victim, and a part of her wonders if Tanner cared about who else he killed, apart from Rose. She still doesn’t understand why he would have done such a terrible thing, but she had been trying to put two and two together since.
She thinks back to how discreet Rose was about her injuries the day before, and how she refused to tell Naomi how she got them. She tries to remember where she was that night, and she tries to forget again – she was having an argument with Bret. It was like one they had never had before - a screaming match. She was doing most of the screaming, inches away to throwing her living room vase at her. He came to try and talk things through, and she was wondering how on earth he hadn’t spoken to Sofia yet. She threw every profanity that she could at him, not once crying, but raging with anger. He said some pretty brutal things to her, too; he said she was desperate for attention and affection, because she lacked both. She’d do anything to keep him around because she was afraid of being lonely (which made no sense, seeming as she was angry because of the contrary – if anyone wanted to keep anyone around here, it was obviously Bret). Whether that was true or not, it had nothing to do with anything at all, and especially not the situation regarding Sofia and Rose. She argued with him about whether she was the only girl, and Bret admitted that she wasn’t. She vowed that she would never speak to him again, but things are different now that Rose is gone. It’s like rules have been suspended, and anything goes. That’s just what it feels like when the worst happens.
Naomi can only conclude that there was some sort of fight between Tanner and Bret over Rose (which for whatever reason, gives her a pang of jealousy) before the shooting, but she’s not quite sure which guy had laid his hands on Rose. She gathered it to be Tanner, because if it was Bret, she suspected that Bret would have been the dead man. But then again, they did fight, so Naomi is not sure what makes sense anymore. She wishes just to close her mind and forget everything.
“I don’t think we should ever get together again. After tonight. It sort of speaks for itself,” Naomi murmurs. When Bret hears this, he bites his tongue. He was close to telling her his plans to dump Sofia, but he realises that it may just be easier to cut ties. He comes to a sudden change of heart – as he lies with Naomi, he feels that it would be best to leave everything in Bluebeach behind. Especially now that college has started. When he goes back to college next week, he’ll make sure that everything is a closed chapter, and that he can start fresh with Sofia. He can run away and start new memories with her. He doesn’t know if he will ever possibly talk to Naomi on the regular like always, but he hopes he doesn’t. Of course, actively cutting yourself off from someone who you’ve known for years, someone whose company you actually enjoy, is hard. But Naomi is right; it speaks for itself. They shouldn’t ever get together again. And the best way for that to happen is to completely lose each other.
“Yeah, I suppose.” Bret sighs. He looks at her softly. “Can this be the last time I ever kiss you?”
For whatever reason, Naomi tears up. She squeezes closer into Bret, trying to block her tears. She kisses him long and hard, and she wonders if deep down, she loves him. Then she understands that there is a new chapter of life beginning, and she’s to lose more than just Tanner and Rose. She’s losing her childhood, her friendships, and the people she has ever loved.
“I really do love you, Naomi,” Bret surprises her by saying. “No. I mean as a close friend. You mean a lot to me. I’m sorry for ever treating you this way. I’ve done the most unimaginable thing ever, and I feel like I’m just a lost cause. I’ve ruined everything.” This line is somewhat double entendre, but Naomi wouldn’t know.
“Shut up, stupid,” she sniffs. “You haven’t ruined absolutely everything. I’d like to think that you haven’t even ruined me, ‘cause I’m unbreakable.”
But Naomi already knows he has, somehow.
And she can’t wait for the new life she’ll live, where he’ll be nothing but a memory of the past, like everything else in Bluebeach.