PART 21: SERIOUS MATTERS
Corry reached out a hand to knock on the bedroom door. “Laurie?” he called out. “Laurie, Chartreuse is here to see you.” There was no answer.
Corry turned to the pink haired girl. “Just go in. She doesn’t want to see me after what happened at Friday’s dance, and the phone call the school made afterwards didn’t help matters. Seeing as we’re already into Sunday… well, hopefully there’s something you can do for her.”
Chartreuse nodded, reaching out for the doorknob. “Laurie?” she ventured. “How are…” The door was unlocked, and her voice trailed off as she peeked around the frame, getting her first look inside. “Omigod. Laurie!”
Giving a curt nod to Corry, Chartreuse hurried into Laurie’s bedroom, shutting the door again behind her. She bent down near to where Laurie was huddled in the corner and reached out to grab the hand of the red-haired girl.
“Laurie, honey, you look terrible. You’re not still beating yourself up over what happened at the dance, are you?”
Laurie slowly lifted her green eyes, which Chartreuse saw were red rimmed from crying. “Why not?” her friend lamented softly. “I was so stupid. I’m always so stupid, stupid, stupid! Go away Chartreuse, before my stupidity rubs off on you.”
“You’re not stupid,” Chartreuse soothed. “Besides, that whole math test thing was from, what, like, grade nine? Ages ago.”
“I still let Carrie trick me into getting Corry to sing,” Laurie countered. “That happened less than two days ago.”
“Well… Carrie can, you know, be sneaky sometimes. Julie has that effect on her.”
Laurie’s gaze fell back down to her feet. “Carrie asked me to sit next to her on the bus that day,” she murmured. “Coming back from cheerleading. Golly, I felt honoured. I thought that maybe after all this time, she’d started taking a liking to me.” She bit her lip. “It was all lies.”
“You still look up to her, don’t you,” Chartreuse realized.
“Carrie does almost all the same stuff I do – and she does it so much better! I mean… wow, she has such talent. And authority. She commands so much respect around the school, a girl can’t help but be impressed by her, yeah?”
“Wait, back up. You are NOT going to tell me Carrie’s a better artist. There’s, like, no WAY she could paint something as beautiful as that,” Chartreuse said, pointing to one of the pictures on the wall of Laurie’s room. “Or that one there. In fact, I bet there’s no one in the school who can, you know, top you in art.”
“Art. Big deal. Don’t have it this semester.”
“Laurie, come on,” Chartreuse pleaded. “You can’t let Carrie, like, get to you this way. Corry’s real worried about you. So are your parents.”
Laurie scrunched up a little tighter into her corner. “They’re only upset that I never told them about the cheating thing earlier,” she murmured.
“Nuh-uh. It only, you know, took everyone a bit by surprise. No one, like, blames you for it.”
“They should. It was my fault.”
“I don’t believe it,” Chartreuse declared. “You’ll have to convince me. Tell me what really happened.”
“I took test papers from Ms. Adams’ desk,” Laurie murmured.
“No, no, no. Tell me the whole story, in one of those cool no breath run-on sentence dialogues of yours that I like so much.”
Laurie looked back up to see Chartreuse’s hopeful expression and choked out a partial laugh. “Oh, please. You get as tired of my babblings as everyone else.”
“Humour me anyway,” Chartreuse insisted.
Laurie stared silently at her for a long moment before uncurling slightly from her ball. “Well, like you said, it was back in that first January of us being in high school,” she began. “I’d been talking to Carrie about a couple of the classes we had together, including math.”
She hesitated. “Carrie made it a challenge to figure out where Ms. Adams might be keeping Friday’s tests. She didn’t think it was possible to find out, and at the time I wanted to prove I could be, I dunno, a worthy friend, so I agreed to look into it. It wasn’t hard, I asked a few teachers and watched Ms. Adams one morning, then as to the key thing I remembered something you’d said in a conversation about how teachers mess up sometimes and I double checked, learning about the spare key thing at which point I told Carrie in…“
Her long sentence faltered. “In the conversation that… that everyone heard at the dance. I didn’t know Carrie was recording it.” Laurie stopped talking, digging her fingers into her palms.
“So Carrie made you steal the papers?” Chartreuse coaxed.
Laurie nodded slowly. “A smarter person would have known. I thought it was all in fun, maybe some initiation rite – until she actually wanted me to go through with the theft. I couldn’t refuse once she mentioned Corry either, because he was trying so hard to establish himself as an important person back then too, so to find out his own sister was in league with the enemy it would have been a real blow, which is why I took a copy of one of the papers and gave it to Carrie…”
Laurie stopped to pound her fist into the floor. “Golly, I’m SO STUPID.”
Chartreuse reached out to take Laurie’s hand again. “Stop saying that,” she pleaded. “You were taken advantage of, and you know, I bet you weren’t the only one back then. Besides, at the dance, didn’t you say you’d never looked at the test yourself?”
Laurie bit her lip. “I didn’t. But some scores were up that week. Had to be my fault.” She wiped her free arm across her eyes. “Chartreuse, why do people take advantage of other people? Carrie, Julie, even my own brother, they all do it. Why? WHY? I don’t understand.”
“I know you don’t, Laurie,” Chartreuse said, pulling the other girl into a hug. “That’s why you’re one of my closest, most specialest friends. Don’t ever change, okay?”
The two girls embraced silently for a minute. “Chartreuse?” Laurie finally murmured.
The pink haired girl pulled back slightly. “Yes?”
“Could you stick around the rest of today? Maybe even sleep over or something? I don’t think mom will mind, and with two teenagers in the house she’s always making tons of food…”
Chartreuse smiled. “I’d love to.”
Chartreuse slipped out of Laurie’s room. “How is she?” Corry asked, still leaning back against the opposite wall.
“She’ll pull through,” Chartreuse said. “I’m just going to, like, go home and get some of my stuff now, pal around with her for the rest of the day, maybe stay the night.”
Corry let out a breath. “Thank goodness. I don’t think she’s ever given me that much of a scare before. What the hell was she thinking anyway, dealing with Carrie?”
Chartreuse frowned, recognizing his tone. “Look, Carrie has always been kind of a popular girl,” she pointed out. “Leads the cheerleaders now too. Don’t do anything, you know, rash.”
Laurie had previously made Chartreuse swear never to tell Corry about the respect she held for Carrie. After all, Laurie had once mentioned to Corry about how much she liked Clarke. That had only served to add fuel to the Corry-Julie rivalry, once it became apparent that Clarke had chosen the brunette. Adding Carrie to the mix was simply asking for trouble.
“Carrie’s popular for all the wrong reasons,” Corry fired back. “In her own way, she’s as bad as Julie. She’ll soon regret what she’s done to my sister.”
Chartreuse shifted her weight back and forth uneasily. “I’m pretty sure Laurie doesn’t want revenge, you know.”
“You’re probably right,” Corry admitted. “But she doesn’t understand how the world works. If I let this affair pass without incident, it’ll only happen again. People must know that NO ONE can take advantage of a Veniti and get away with it. It’s a matter of family honour.”
Chartreuse peered a little closer at the red haired twin. “It’s not though. Not really. And if you really care about your sister, you’ll let this one go. Before the situation, like, gets out of control.”
Corry set his jaw. “No way. She’ll understand, in time.”
Chartreuse tried to find the words. “You know, in some ways, you’re more dangerous to Laurie than Carrie could ever be.”
Corry’s eyes narrowed. “Stop being overly dramatic. I thank you for your assistance, and hope that you and Laurie have a wonderful afternoon meditating. However, now that she’s improving, I have more important things to attend to.”
With that, Corry spun on his heel and stalked off into his own bedroom, closing the door behind him.
Chartreuse stood quietly for a moment. “You know, I do hope I’m overreacting,” she murmured to no one in particular. “I really, really do. But… I don’t think I am.”
It was after ten o’clock that night when Julie arrived at Carrie’s house. Carrie let her in through the window, whispering, “Sorry about this. But once Dad’s gone to bed, I can let you out through the front door.”
Julie nodded. “No worries… aw, you’re really looking worse for wear,” she remarked. “What did Frank do to you?”
Carrie moved to sit on her bed, gesturing for Julie to join her. Instead, Julie pulled out the chair at her desk. “Frank didn’t do anything, really,” Carrie answered. “Aside from bringing in Luci to screw things up.”
Julie froze, halfway to a seated position. “Luci?” She nodded slowly then sank into the chair. “Luci. Very well. What happened with her?”
Carrie grabbed one of her pillows, hugging it. “The infuriating little know-it-all mucked with the circuits of the time machine, dazzling Frank with her know-how while frying the machine in the process. It’s broken now.”
Julie sat rigidly for a moment. “Okay,” she said, managing a smile. “You can confirm the existence of a time machine then?”
Carrie nodded. “Yeah, I found the device in the ravine a little over four… no, less than three weeks ago. Seems longer, but what with the time travelling, I guess it has been.”
Julie’s eyes went wide. “You… FOUND it?”
Carrie nodded again. “Though Frank said you’d figured that much anyway. Right?”
“Not exactly,” Julie admitted warily. “I mean, could the machine have been planted there for you to find?”
“Oh, possibly,” Carrie said. She set her pillow aside. “Which reminds me – there could be strange government agent types watching us or something. That’s why I didn’t tell you anything. It’s probably better if you don’t tell anyone else about the machine either… you understand, right? For your own safety?”
Julie lifted an eyebrow. “Right. Isn’t the point moot, though? You said Luci broke the time machine.”
“Yeah. But, maybe not for good. I don’t know. That girl is so infuriating sometimes, huh? You’ve never been sure how to factor her into your plans,” Carrie said, attempting to change the subject.
“I can understand how troublesome Luci must have been if Frank was involved… speaking of which, are you sure you weren’t being manipulated by him?”
Carrie blinked. “What, by Frank? Please,” she scoffed. “If anything it’s been the other way around.”
“If he’s selecting the destination times though…” Julie said, her voice trailing off.
Carrie shook her head. “Nah, Frank only programs the machine, and even then it’s got some random component such that he can’t do it properly half the time.”
For a second time, Julie stared, wide eyed. “SERIOUSLY? Then you can’t… you haven’t been… how do you know this for sure?”
“Trust me, I’d know if he was faking it. In the beginning, neither of us even knew about the deal with the coins.”
Carrie gestured vaguely. “Coins, yeah, they power the thing and set the year. It reads the dates… off of them… or something,” she finished as she realized that, once again, she was doing most of the talking. Like their lunchtimes lately. “Look, I’m done with all that now,” Carrie insisted. “So why are we still talking about it?”
Julie smiled. “I’m trying to get some idea of what would be a good way of striking back at Frank and Luci on your behalf. Perhaps mess up their next trip, assuming they fix the machine?”
Carrie reached again for the pillow. “I don’t know. Could be we shouldn’t do anything. I mean, Frank has been pretty patient with me overall, and Luci… okay, she sucks, but she likes Frank, and maybe Frank likes her back.”
“We are still talking about the Frank who spent a week stalking you?”
Carrie clutched the pillow tighter. “The time machine was kinda involved with that too. Look, can we not talk about scheming any more? Or at least, not against them?”
Julie leaned forward in her chair. “Are you sure that’s what you really want?”
“I… yeah, sort of,” Carrie amended, suddenly feeling like Julie had her under a microscope. She wondered how she could properly justify her request to her friend. Carrie licked her lips.
“It’s only, maybe there’s stuff we don’t know about people, you know? Reasons why they act the way they do? Because there’s stuff about me – us – that they don’t know about either. And I’m thinking that, after high school, maybe that’s the sort of stuff that matters more.” Carrie swallowed. “What do you think?”
“Interesting theory.” Julie pressed the tips of her fingers together. “Fine, no going after Frank or Luci.”
Julie leaned back in her chair again, and the tension in the air seemed to lift. Carrie let out a sigh of relief.
“On to other things,” Julie continued. “At this point, I am in a position to manipulate the situation in a couple of ways. As you may have suspected, one of the outcomes does involve implicating you, since I couldn’t be certain I had your full support.”
Carrie blinked. “Well, you’ve got it. I only want things to be the way they used to be between us.”
“I’m sure you do,” Julie said. She smiled, scooting the chair closer in order to place her hand on Carrie’s knee. “Don’t worry, Carrie. I’ll make sure Corry is dealt with.”
Carrie returned the smile, grasping Julie’s hand. “Thank you, Julie. I knew I could count on you.”
Yet at the same time, some part of Carrie warned her that it would be wise to not take her eyes off of Julie in the coming days. Not if she wanted to get through them completely intact.
“Laurie? Are you, like, asleep?” Chartreuse whispered quietly. There was no answer. Upon standing up, Chartreuse could see her friend dozing peacefully. Chartreuse, on the other hand, found herself unable to do so.
The unrest she had sensed all last week, despite being mostly dispelled by Friday’s dance, was building again. Being in the Veniti house seemed to be amplifying the disquieting vibes. The turning point she had foreseen, that was now in the past, yet somehow, it was as if the worst was yet to come.
“I guess I have no choice,” Chartreuse murmured aloud to herself. “I have to do it.” Moving her sleeping bag aside, she reached into her overnight bag and pulled out a few curiously shaped and highly polished stones.
Chartreuse idly recalled the way Tim had brought up her ‘abilities’ on Friday. Her reply, that she couldn’t purposefully tap into any visions without serious meditation, was true. But there was more to it than that.
In fact, using her powers that way was something she preferred to avoid whenever possible. Because even positive events could be painful for her to foresee.
In retrospect, however, perhaps doing a vision would have helped her to prevent what had happened at the dance. The cursory probing to find her group of helpers had certainly been insufficient. So, given the sensations she was having now – yes, she had to do this. Surely a vision would help to minimize the damage that would occur within the coming weeks. Surely.
Having rationalized this much to herself, Chartreuse placed the stones out in a circle around her. She then sat in a lotus position, bringing her hands together in front of her, palms touching.
It was verging on midnight, so it was very quiet, helping Chartreuse attain the necessary tranquil, meditative state. She figured that being able to do it here in the Veniti household, and in Laurie’s room, would help even more in terms of focusing her mind towards their role within the coming days. Chartreuse closed her eyes.
“Ohm, ohm, oh my,” Chartreuse murmured quietly to herself. “Spirits from beyond… show me… what is to come.”
Seconds passed, turning into minutes. Chartreuse remained sitting quietly on the floor, breathing regularly, waiting for the divine guidance she required.
It was impossible to rush these things. Sometimes they didn’t even work at all. But given all the vibes she’d been sensing, it seemed likely that…
Chartreuse’s eyes snapped open, wide, unseeing. The school was there before her. She felt herself being drawn into it, the scene blurring around her.
Now she was in front of a locker. Corry was there too, though Chartreuse had the feeling that the locker was not his. Yet he was putting something into the locker.
Then it was later, and Julie was there, removing something from the locker. Then, even later, someone Chartreuse recognized as a teacher was at the locker. He was also removing something. That was the source of the upcoming disturbance.
Yet at the same time, it wasn’t.
The events surrounding the locker seemed to be merely another spike on the “roller coaster ride” everyone now seemed to be on. Chartreuse wondered if she dared to push forwards towards the true climax.
The lure to do so was powerful, not simply in terms of an attempt to find a solution, but because of the forces with which Chartreuse was currently playing. They had a way of drawing you in. It was a potentially dangerous addiction, as Chartreuse had once found out the hard way.
Indeed, even as Chartreuse contemplated pushing on, she found that it was already happening. The days after the locker incident slipped into weeks, events and people blurring as Chartreuse homed in towards the final outcome, the ultimate source of all the chaos she was sensing. Her eyes fell upon an object.
It was a gun. A gun in someone’s hand. Someone she knew, possibly even someone from her homeroom. But who? Who was holding the gun? Where were they pointing it?!
Chartreuse lifted her eyes to see, but even as she did so, she realized that knowing any more than this would be too much. Too much, too soon, more than she could handle.
Teetering on the brink of a metaphorical cliff, Chartreuse desperately tried to wrench herself back away from the scene at hand, to avoid seeing the face. The body sitting on Laurie’s bedroom floor twitched visibly as Chartreuse forced her spiritual form to return to it, fast.
The gun went off.
Letting out a soundless scream, Chartreuse collapsed back onto the floor of Laurie’s room, dead to the world.