No, according to Mrs. Kellogg, Elizabeth was pushed down that elevator shaft—and no one’s going to tell her otherwise.
Mr. and Mrs. Kellogg weren’t the only ones going through a hard time in the aftermath of their daughter’s death, however. After seeing what Rachel went through that week, I started to understand what Dr. Jessup had meant. About the flowers, I mean. Rachel totally deserved some.
Really, what she deserves is a raise.
But, knowing the college’s general stinginess—there’s been a hiring freeze since the nineties, which is lifted only for emergency appointments, like my replacing Justine—I doubt a raise is forthcoming.
So on Thursday, the day after the memorial service, I slip out to the deli around the corner, and instead of buying myself a pack of Starburst, an afternoon pick-me-up latte, and a lottery ticket, as is my daily ritual, pick up instead their best bouquet of roses, which I then put in a vase on Rachel’s desk.
It’s actually scary how excited she gets when she walks in from whatever meeting she’s been attending, and finds them.
“For me?” she asks, tears—I’m not kidding—practically springing from her eyes.
“Well,” I say. “Yes. I feel bad about all you’ve been going through—”
The tears dry up pretty quick after that.
“Oh, they’re from you,” she says, in a different voice.
“Um,” I say. “Yeah.”
I guess maybe Rachel thought the flowers were from a guy, or something. Maybe she met one recently at the gym. Though if she had, I’m sure Sarah and I would have heard about it. Rachel’s way serious about it—finding a guy to settle down with, I mean. She fully stays on top of her weekly manicure and pedicure appointments, and she gets her roots done twice a month (she’s a brunette, so she says her gray really shows). And of course she exercises like a demon, either at the college gym, or by running around Washington Square Park. I guess four times around the park is a mile or something. Rachel can go around like twelve times in half an hour.
I have pointed out that she can get the same health benefits from walking around the park that she can from running around it, while avoiding shin splints and knee problems in later life. But every time I mention this, she just looks at me.
“It’s been hard on all of us, Heather” is what Rachel says now, slipping an arm around my shoulders. “It hasn’t been easy for you, either. Don’t deny it.”
She’s right, but not for the reasons she thinks. She thinks it’s been hard on me because I’ve had to do a lot of the grunt work—you know, begging for boxes from Maintenance to put Elizabeth’s stuff in, then packing them, then dragging them to Mail Services to ship them, not to mention rescheduling all of Rachel’s judicial hearings, dealing with the whiny student workers (who insist they should get bereavement days off from doing the mail, even though none of them actually knew the deceased—Justine would have given them time off, they claim).
But to tell the truth, none of that had been as hard as admitting to myself that Fischer Hall, which I’d come to think of, since I’d starting working there, as one of the safest places in the world, is actually…not.
Oh, not that I have any proof that Elizabeth did get pushed, the way Mrs. Kellogg thinks. But the fact that she’d died at all…that part has me fully wigging. The students who go to New York College are pretty spoiled, for the most part. They have no idea how good they have it, these kids…loving parents, a stable source of income, nothing to worry about except passing midterms and snagging a ride home for Thanksgiving break.
I myself haven’t been as carefree as they are since…well, since the ninth grade.
And the fact that one of them did something so incredibly stupid as jump on top of an elevator and try to ride it—or worse, jump from the top of one car to another—and that someone else—someone in this building—was there at the time, and witnessed it—saw Elizabeth slip and fall to her death, and yet hadn’t come forward…
That’s what was really freaking me out.
Of course, Cooper is probably right. Probably, whoever was with Elizabeth at the time of her death doesn’t want to come forward because he’s afraid he’ll get in trouble.
And I suppose it’s even possible Sarah’s right, and Elizabeth could have been suffering from the early stages of schizophrenia, or even a clinical depression, brought out by a hormone imbalance, or something, and that’s what made her do it.
But we’re never going to know. That’s the thing. We’re never going to know.
And that just isn’t right.
But it doesn’t seem to bother anybody but Mrs. Kellogg.
That Friday—nearly a week after Elizabeth’s death—Sarah and I are sitting in the hall director’s office, ordering stuff from Office Supply. Not ceramic heaters to give away to our friends, but actual stuff we need, like pens and paper for the copy machine and stuff.
Well, okay, I’m doing the ordering. Sarah is lecturing me about how my weight gain probably represents a subconscious urge to make myself unattractive to the opposite sex, so that none of them can hurt me again the way Jordan hurt me.
I am refraining from pointing out to Sarah that I am not, in fact, fat. I have already told her, several times, that size 12 is the size of the average American woman, something Sarah should well know, since she is, in fact, a size 12, too.
But it’s pretty clear to me by now that Sarah just likes to talk to hear the sound of her own voice, so I let her go on, since she has no one else to talk to, Rachel being in the cafeteria attending a breakfast reception for the New York College basketball team, the Pansies.
Yes, that’s really their name. The Pansies. They used to be called the Cougars or something, but about twenty years ago a bunch of them got caught cheating, so the NCAA dropped them from Division I to Division III, and made them change their name.
As if being called the Pansies isn’t embarrassing enough, President Allington is so hot to win the Division III championship this year that he’s recruited the tallest players he can find. But since the good ones all went to Division I or II schools, he just got the leftovers, like the ones with the worst academic records in the country. Seriously. Sometimes the players write notes to me about things that are wrong with their rooms, in barely legible handwriting, with many spelling errors. Here’s an example: