Once the truck was in the garage, Weston turned off the engine and pushed the garage door button. We walked down the hallway to find Peter and Veronica sitting at the table. Peter was in a dark gray suit with a black tie, and Veronica was in a beautiful black dress with a black belt.
She stood and crossed the tile floor, her heels clicking with each step. She hugged her son for several moments, then let him go, dabbing her nose with a tissue. “Where have you been?” She wasn’t angry, but she was clearly emotionally drained. Her eyes scanned me, more curious than before.
“We’ve been driving around mostly, but we just got back from the . . .” Weston glanced back at me, waiting for permission to continue.
“The hospital,” I said. “I was asked to give a blood sample.”
Weston took my hand. “They requested an autopsy for Alder. She isn’t Sam and Julianne’s biological daughter.”
His parents weren’t surprised.
“We heard,” Veronica said.
“Is it true?” Peter asked. “Sam and Jillian just left here.”
“Left here?” I asked.
Veronica sniffed. “They’ve suffered the unimaginable as parents, and now it’s happening again. I’m not sure if I’m just exhausted, or . . . she has Jillian’s eyes, Peter. Don’t you think?”
Peter shook his head. “Veronica. Don’t get the girl’s hopes up.”
I frowned. “Get my hopes up? As if this is a prize that I’m waiting to win? Do you really think this would be a good thing?”
Veronica and Peter looked at each other, then Weston, then at me. “Sam and Julianne are wonderful people, Erin. If it’s true, you’ll have a whole new, amazing family to look forward to,” Peter said.
“If it’s true, that means I’ve missed out on eighteen years with them. I’m not sure I want it to be true. For me or for them.”
Veronica crossed her arms across her stomach, and Peter put his arm around her. It was odd, because they were mirroring Weston and me.
Peter nodded. “You’re right, Erin. It’s a horrible situation for all of you. We’re so sorry.”
I shook my head. “No, I’m sorry. It’s just been a very long day.”
“Of course it has, honey,” she said, leaving her husband’s arms and reaching out for me. She clutched me to her and held me tight.
I glanced over at Weston, who was watching his mother with a look in his eyes that appeared to be a combination of appreciation and relief.
Veronica let me go with a smile on her face.
“We’re going downstairs,” Weston said.
He took my hand in his and led me to the basement. We sat on the couch, and Weston held up the remote, pushing the power button. The screen lit up, and he switched on the first movie listed. We settled in, neither of us feeling like we needed to have a lengthy conversation. In the last month, for both of us, life had gone from hopeless to happy, in the strangest, most unfortunate way.
The room was quiet when I sat in my seat at the black table in first period. Everyone was staring at the floor, but when I walked in, they all glared at me. Then the whispering started. This was all very new, and I didn’t know what to expect, which was more frightening than life before the Erins were dead.
For the first time in eighteen and a half years, I was the only Erin. There was no need for nicknames, and I didn’t have to pretend not to notice Weston when he walked into the room. But that didn’t change the way people felt about me. Brady’s eyes twitched, the hateful words he wanted to say on the tip of his tongue.
The bell rang, but Mrs. Merit didn’t speak. Instead, a crackling came over the speakers, and Principal Bringham came over the PA system.
“Good morning, students. As you all know, we lost two very bright students over Spring Break, Erin Alderman and Erin Masterson. We’re going to observe two minutes of silence today, for you to pray for their friends and family if you would like, or, if not, a moment of silent reflection.”
The PA fell silent, and we all sat, staring at the floor. I was not the only person the Erins had relentlessly picked on, and certainly not the only one feeling a sense of relief more than a sense of loss. But, wherever they were, I hoped they were free of whatever plagued them to make others miserable, so they could feel better about themselves.
“Thank you,” Principal Bringham said, and then the PA system shut off.
“I was asked to instruct all of you that if you need to speak to anyone about what happened to Sonny and Alder there are counselors here all week to help you understand and process your feelings. Now, please open your text books to page one eighty-eight.”
Throughout the day, I noticed that the student body was mostly quiet. Occasionally one of the cheerleaders could be heard making a scene near their lockers. After Chrissy wailed after second period, they all seemed to try to outdo one another’s outbursts of hysteria. Brady was sandwiched between two empty chairs in Health class, and although I caught him glaring at Weston and me several times, he didn’t say anything.
In Art class, Mrs. Cup called Weston to her desk, and they had a long, quiet conversation. It seemed like it ended well, but it ran so close to the end of the hour, that she was barely able to brief us on our last project: adding to the Blackwell mural downtown. The former Art teacher, Mrs. Boyer began the tradition, and Mrs. Cup continued it after Mrs. Boyer retired. We added our own tiny pieces, but mostly we filled in bits of brick that had broken off, or painted what had worn away over the last year.
“Be prepared,” Mrs. Cup said. “We’ll be going to the mural site tomorrow. Be sure to bring your things with you, so you don’t have to come back to the building. You can leave straight from the mural at 3:30.”
Weston sat in his stool at my desk.
“Is she still going to fail you?” I whispered.
He shook his head and tried not to smile.
Two girls stood in Mrs. Cup’s open doorway. “Mrs. Cup, Mr. Bringham needs to see Erin Easter.”
“All right,” Mrs. Cup said, gesturing for me to gather my things.
“He said he needed for her to come right away,” one of the girls added.
I gathered my things, and Weston touched my arm. “Do you want me to come with you?”
“I’ll be okay.”
He frowned. “I want to come with you.”