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“. . . she acts tough, but Edie is actually really sensitive and easily hurt,” she said.

“You must be very worried about her.” The interviewer, a middle-aged man with cool hair, shook his head sadly.

“Yes, I am.” Her voice dripped with syrupy concern. “I don’t know how she’s going to get over this.”

“I understand your friend confided in you about what happened inside the store?”

Georgia looked down at her hands, clasped in her lap. “Yes.”

“And about eighteen-year-old local John Cole’s involvement in the events?”

“He definitely knew the robber; Edie told me.”

“There’ve been rumors Mr. Cole has a history dealing drugs in the area.”

She squared her shoulders. “I don’t know about that. But apparently he was stealing beers and cigarettes inside the store. Like they were having a party. He was winking at Edie and everything. It seems really wrong to me that the police let him go.”

The interviewer frowned thoughtfully.

“I just, I don’t want him hurting her anymore,” she said, voice rising. “He’s out there somewhere, doing who knows what.”

“You’re a good friend,” said the man. “Georgia Schwartz, everybody. Best friend of hostage victim Edie Millen. Thank you very much, Georgia.”

“Thank you.” She even managed to squeeze out a tear. All of those drama classes her parents put her through were really paying off.

Cool-hair man started talking about an upcoming local dog show and I switched the TV off. The rage inside me grew, wanting out, pushing at my sore ribs. Yet I just stared at the blank screen in stunned silence. How many people would see this? How much similar shit was already out there? People showing pictures of me, saying my name, talking about what happened like they had a clue. Talking about John. God, I wanted to hurl.

Mom was quiet.

“Georgia hasn’t tried to visit again?” I asked. “Hasn’t called?”

Her mouth opened, eyes softening as if she might try and peddle some excuse. But in the end, she didn’t. “No, she hasn’t.”

“No,” I agreed, closing my eyes. “She didn’t say anything about doing this, talking to them.”

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“You sure?”

“I told her that stuff in private, Mom. I trusted her.”

Mom shifted in her seat, a little line between her brows. “She said she was concerned about you.”

“So she goes and gives some interviews?” My headache was back, better than ever. “No, she had to know I didn’t want this, not that she bothered to ask. And she doesn’t even know what she’s talking about. God, John’s going to think I believe that crap.”

Nothing from Mom.

“How could she have done this?”

Even if I’d wanted to cry, I couldn’t. It might be cathartic, a release. But the wall between me and my feelings allowed only the worst of the worst to get out. Terror and angst and all of their friends were just waiting to party hard in my head. Best to keep on aiming for numb. Who knew? Eventually, it might work.

A day later when Georgia finally did call, I didn’t answer. I tried not to miss her, but it was hard. Next she texted me and I ignored those messages too; after reading them, of course. It was all such bullshit. Any media outlet who’d give her the time of day, she’d talked to, sharing her insights on me and the situation. Giving them pictures of us together and all sorts of personal information I’d entrusted her with. True or not, she’d already said it all. There was nothing left for me to say.



Generally, at home, things were better. People left me alone. Mostly. We had to call the cops on some overzealous reporters sneaking through our garden and loitering out front. I dropped all of my social media accounts and sure as hell didn’t answer the phone. But at least there were no doctors or nurses constantly checking on my condition. Though I did miss the good pain meds.

After a few days of me assuring Mom of my well-being, she went back to work. Mom managed the front desk at a resort near the lake. Over a year ago when I turned sixteen, she started doing the night shift. It paid better, apparently. Though I think she also liked it being quieter. Given the new circumstances, she offered to change over to working during the day so I wouldn’t be in the house at night on my own. But I told her it was fine.

At home, I could eat what I wanted, or I could freak out for no reason. Generally no one was around to judge. Just in case, I avoided TV and the internet unless Mom and I were doing our Sunday TV-series together time. Last year we’d watched Nashville; this year it was The 100. I honestly didn’t miss social media, given what a clusterfuck it had turned into. I lacked the care and the energy to deal with it. Besides, who needed it? I had my bed, perfectly positioned beneath my bedroom window for staring up at the sky. When I couldn’t sleep, or didn’t want to sleep, there were stars to count and a moon to stare at. Bet it was quiet on the moon. Peaceful with no people. The one downside to the situation was my focus had been shot to shit. Pun intended. I couldn’t seem to concentrate on reading. My books sat on their shelves, staring at me accusingly. Every single damn time I tried to read, the words would blur and my mind would wander. Surely it was enough that my best friend had betrayed me, without my books deserting me as well? It sucked.

All of the pictures of Georgia had been taken down and thrown away. Years of friendship, gone. I felt angry and bereft, completely and utterly alone. Loving someone sucked.

Interestingly enough, it turned out that I now mostly used my phone to hang up on anyone who called. Easily done, since there was no one I actually wanted to talk to. If someone stopped by to visit, I feigned sleep or didn’t answer the door. Mom found some therapist for me to talk to, and I found excuses not to go. With me barely managing to keep my shit together as is, a therapist might drag up all sorts of horrible truths.

Gradually, my bruises faded to yellow and green. Man, did my ribs take their sweet time healing; in the meantime, any kind of movement hurt. Turned out little could be done for cracked ribs; you just had to wait while they healed. An ugly pink line dissected my right eyebrow, reaching another couple of inches up toward my hairline. Courtesy of Chris pistol-whipping me.

Despite doing my best to ignore the world, time passed. School was looming, God help me. The new school year would start again in a couple of weeks. In life, unless you’re willing to run away and live in the woods and risk being eaten by bears, some things just were unavoidable.