This is the third and final chapter of my series that continued from “Introvert. Extrovert.” and “Extrovert. Extrovert.” Please read the last two if you haven’t already. And if you have, thank you so much for reading. What was my first ever series like? Feel free to comment below.
I follow the detective to a metal door. He opens it, revealing a desk with two chairs on either side. He gestures towards one of them. I can’t believe I’m doing this. I take a step forward, but my legs feel like someone else’s. My shirt is soaked wet, and my eyes are so sore that I can’t open them properly. But I manage to reach the chair and pull it back just enough so that I can squeeze in between.
“What were you doing at the hotel?”
His voice echoes around the room. I tap my foot furiously against the floor. My meds. I need them. He takes one look under the desk, and so I am forced to stop. As I keep my mouth closed, he continues to stare at me with the weight of all the legal power he has, so I know have to manage to say something.
“I was trying to reach someone,” I say. I stare at the metal rings fixed to the table. I don’t like them, so I resume my tapping.
I hesitate. Then I realize he’s as hungry for information as I am reluctant in giving them. He wants a name, and I give him one. “Katherine Denton. She’s from school. She—she punched me the other night. I was just trying to get back to her to—“
I don’t know if I should tell him. If I do, he will laugh in my face. If I don’t, my chances of getting out of here will get close to zero.
“I just wanted revenge.”
He doesn’t laugh. In fact, his expression remains as blank as ever.
“I just wanted revenge,” I say, a little louder. I can feel my face heating up.
“So you went to the hotel to punch her back,” he says. “And did you?”
”No,” I reply, a little defiant. “She caught me before I could. And the next thing I knew—“
I can’t. I can’t continue. Tears flow down my cheeks. Each drop makes a sound against the table. Drip. Drip. It gets messy, so I try to swipe the water with my already dirty sleeve, but the tears just keep coming.
“The next thing I knew, I was in bed with a boy lying d—dead next to me.”
The detective slams his hands on the table. “We found large substances of your medicaton in his system. Did you know that?”
“Yes, but—“ I can barely talk through my tears. “I would never kill anyone,” I say, desperate at this point. “I didn’t do it. Please. I didn’t do it. I didn’t—“
“I get it,” he says. He takes his hands off the table and rises from his seat. Is he letting me go? He is. “You will be released due to lack of evidence as of right now, but know that we will be watching you closely. Do you understand?”
I am too surprised to manage anything louder than a whisper. “Yes.”
That day, I missed school, which came as surprise to no one because everyone knew where I was: the police station. The next day, I went to school to see everyone, and I mean literally everyone, more people than at the party, staring at me as I walked past them and up the stairs. This time, there are real whispers, and even my therapist can’t tell me otherwise.
”I heard she killed Kyle.”
”With her own meds. Can you believe that? That’s so messed up.”
”I can’t imagine what Cadence must be going through.”
Katherine Denton, whose height and accompanied speech have attracted at least a dozen people around her, stands with her back turned to me.
“I saw her,” she says. “I saw her get on the bus to the hotel, and I took the next one. I tried to stop her but it was too late.”
I scoff. Really? You’re going there? I run up to her and grab her shoulder, my body shaking in its entirety because I cannot believe what I am hearing. Kat turns around, her mouth opening ever so slightly. We are joined by an audience as we stare at each other for a few awkward seconds.
“Shouldn’t you be at the police station?” she finally says.
“No, because I got released due to a lack of evidence, asshole.”
This time, I’m ready, and she’s not. I stand on my tiptoes and punch her in her proud face as hard as I can. I did it. I finally did it She stumbles backwards. I hear several gasps from the crowd.
”Are you actually crazy?”
”I’ll take you to the nurse’s office.”
”I’m fine, guys. Don’t pay attention to her.”
“You killed Kyle!” I scream. “You evil, cruel—“
I stop when I realize that no one is listening. My voice gets stuck in my throat. I am the one that turns around this time, walking away from no one in particular.
“Today’s speaker is Ava Ridings.”
The reaction is immediate. I hear groans, shocked gasps, exaggerated boos, and screams of ”murderer!” But it’s what I expected, so I try my best to ignore them and walk up the short staircase and onto the stage as eyes follow my every movement, almost as if expecting me to create another scandal for them. By the time I reach the center, I almost trip over my own feet. I grab the podium to regain my balance. I hear shrieks of laughter, but I’m more than used to being laughed at, so I take out my script and smooth it out. I can almost hear my heartbeat.
“I am not here to beg for forgiveness,” I start. “Nor am I here to deliver an apology to anyone. I am not sorry, because I am not guilty.”
“I would compare myself to a bird without wings. I live because I was born in a lab. I live because I was born in an environment where I don’t have to fight to survive.”
The doors open, and two police officers enter. Most heads turn towards them, but some keep their eyes on me. I look down and continue my speech.
“Yet I find myself fighting. Yet I find myself flapping my nonexistent wings. Why? What is it like to be a bird without wings? What is it like to live in a society where you aren’t the social animal you’re expected to be?”
The men approach the crowd.
“No bird wastes time with one without wings.” I find myself raising my voice. I can do this. “And so no one approached me and I approached no one. But something happened. I found myself a friend. That weird kid who stutters when she gets nervous, who gets called insensitive for reasons she can’t help herself, she found herself a friend. My friend was the first person I had a conversation with other than hello and what is your next class.”
I pause. I look up for a second time and scan the crowd. I see Cadence right away, ironically because she is trying her best not to look at me. But I am talking directly to her and she knows it. Everyone does. An officer makes his way through the crowd and approaches her.
“Cadence Ricci, you are arrested for first degree murder.”
”Cadence? Cadence killed Kyle?”
Yes, I want to shout back. But I don’t, because I don’t need to.
“And so I held onto her like she became my wings. Together we flew to a tree, to the next tree, then the tree after that. But she grew tired of me. She dropped me, and having no wings, I fell to the ground. I was alone. And so I crawled my way to the next person, the next bird I thought would get me back to the top of the tree.”
The other officer heads towards the opposite direction. Kat pushes her way through the crowd, trying to get away. But he eventually gets to her and she screams, struggling as he removes her from the crowd too. She stumbles along the way to the door, and together, Kat and Cadence disappear with the officers, just like the first time I saw them together. But then I was on the ground and now I am on a stage. Everyone turns their attention back to me, and I resume my speech.
“She told me she had no wings either. And I believed her, but I was vulnerable. I let myself become vulnerable. Together, they killed an innocent, equally vulnerable human being, and framed me for murder. And it almost worked, because no one believes a person that cannot speak for herself.”
I see nods from the crowd. They believe me. They all believe me. I start crying for the third time today, but this time for a drastically different reason. I crumple the paper in my hands. I did not plan the rest of my speech, not like this.
“But now you do. I—“
A short silence follows, then I hear a burst of applause from the audience.
The clapping doesn’t stop.
Not until I am joined on stage by teachers and students and friends, friends that surround me now, their boos turned to cheers and accusations turned to words of encouragement.
“This is all that matters to me,” I mutter. I’m sure no one heard me over the chaos. I smile anyway.