The Death of a Honeybee, Chapter 6 (tw and language)
Posted February 17th, 2017 by AlgebraAddict
I hated coffee. I hated it by itself, I hated it with cream, I hated it with sugar. Coffee was nasty and strong and gave me bad breath and I honestly might as well not brush my teeth if I was going to get rancid bitter shit all over them five minutes later.
At Juniper Coffee, a solid hour before Emmy was supposed to arrive, I ordered a non-fat hot chocolate and took a seat. I considered grabbing a bite to eat, but I remembered that I hadn’t eaten in almost two days and it would be a shame to cut my streak short. Disordered eating was one of the things they had warned me about when dealing with grief or stress. I was dealing with both, and I had lost fifteen pounds since Emily’s death. It was one of the few things I hadn’t mentioned to my mother or my counselor, and it felt nice to have something to worry about that wasn’t related to school or family (or the lack thereof). Between low-key starving myself and punching or cutting as much as possible when I had the chance, I was pretty much a poster child for How Not to Deal with Grief.
The doorbell of the shop rang, and my stomach dropped. It was Emmy, with tangled hair and tired eyes, and carrying a backpack full of textbooks. Her eyes scoured the room and when they finally caught me, I could have sworn she almost smiled.
“Hey,” she said, right as she arrived within earshot of my little table.
“You’re early,” I said, because that was all I could think of. It sounded much ruder than I intended it to be.
“I thought I would come early and drink something to wake myself up before you saw me.” One side of her mouth lifted, forming a crooked half smile.
“Did you get any sleep?” I asked. The answer to that question was written in the shadows under her eyes, but I thought it would be nice to ask anyway.
“What do you think?”
I didn’t answer.
“I’ll be right back,” she said in response to my silence, and turned and walked towards the counter. She grabbed a bottled drink from the fridge and ordered a pastry. She paid in cash.
“Would you like that warmed up?”
“Red bull,” I observed as she arrived back at the table. “Don’t normal people drink coffee in the mornings?”
“Probably,” she admitted. Her fingers tapped against the red bull can, but her fingernails were too short to make any noise. They were ripped and bitten, and some of them looked like they might have been bleeding.
I didn’t answer. She sat down and crossed her legs at the ankles.
“What are you drinking?” She gestured to the small half-empty coffee cup I had been sliding between my hands.
Again, a period of silence smoothed over us like a blanket.
“I’m sorry for calling so late.”
I forced a smile. “It’s fine, I wasn’t sleeping.” Was that a lie? I didn’t remember. All at once I was painfully conscience of the burning of my shirt against my chest, the stinging wounds I hid.
“Samuel, I don’t want to hurt you or pour salt in the wound or anything.”
“That’s fine, what’s up?”
It was not fine. It was not fine. It was not fine, and I was terrified of what she was about to say.
“I might know something about Emily.”
My heart was boring a hole in my chest.
“A few days before she died, I heard her and Jon having a fight.”
Emmy sighed. “I—I wasn’t sure. It sounded like…”
“What?” I asked, trying really hard not to fidget or look like I was about to burst into flames, but that’s how I felt.
“It sounded like she was cheating on him.”
Emmy? Cheating? I wouldn’t have believed she would cheat on Jon, but I wouldn’t have believed she would kill herself either, so I guess people are full of surprises.
“What? The student body president?”
“I heard him saying something like, you won’t sleep with your boyfriend, but you’re banging Sallie when I’m not around? Or something, I don’t know.”
“Okay?” I took a deep breath. “I mean, I don’t really care that she was fighting with her boyfriend and sleeping with Sallie Gold unless there’s something I can do now about it.”
“That’s the thing,” said Emmy. “That Friday night was Sallie’s birthday party. The whole school was invited.”
An image flashed through my head: Emily, dress not quite zipped, barefoot, reeking of whiskey and cannabis. It made sense that she was sneaking back from a party, I suppose.
“Okay.” I shrugged. “So what?”
Emmy drew in a quick breath of air. “When they were fighting, he was basically yelling, and so that’s how I heard them, but after he said that thing, he said something else really quietly.”
“Did you hear it?”
She shook her head. “Nope. But I heard what she said in response.”
“What was it?”
“Don’t you dare threaten me, you piece of shit.”
A sudden wave of nausea drove through my core, and I realized my hands were clenched in fists. I wasn’t sure if I was sick or angry, or sick because I was angry, or whatever. I wasn’t sure of anything.
I gritted my teeth. “What are you saying?”
Emmy shut her eyes, and when she opened them she said, “I shouldn’t have said anything. I’m sorry. Don’t listen to me.” She grabbed her empty red bull can and began to stand up.
“Please tell me,” I said, not intending for it to sound completely pathetic, but that’s how it came out.
“Look, I don’t know what happened, but I thought you needed to know that maybe she had her reasons.”
“You think he hurt her.” I put my face in my hands. “I don’t know, he probably did. But I can’t do anything about it, and I can’t save her now.”
“I—I just thought you should know.” Emmy caved in the sides of the can with her fingers, and with her other hand smoothed out her skirt as she stood up. “I’m sorry if I made a mistake.”
“Um, okay. Thanks.” I was conscious of my ribs beginning to burn again, and this time I couldn’t deal with it anymore.
“See you at school,” Emmy said. I watched her walk out the door, backpack on her shoulders. When she had walked around the corner of the building, I stood up a little too quickly. My head felt like it was going to explode in a dizzy, bloody mess, and I almost fell back down. Gritting my teeth, I threw away my cup and made my way into the men’s bathroom. It was empty, just some pale green tiles on the floor and some unoccupied stalls and urinals lining the wall. I glanced into the mirror and was instantly repulsed by the hair and eyes and acne staring back at me, so I ignored my reflection and leaned against the wall, staring into the floor tiles.
Emily had been sleeping with Sallie Gold, the student body president of all people, and she had been dating Jon (but not sleeping with him?) and he had found out somehow, and he had threatened her, and then they had gone to a party—Sallie’s birthday party—and something had happened, something had happened, something had happened and now she was dead.
I looked down at my hands, my big clumsy hands with no discernable purpose, and I wanted to hit something. I had never hit anybody before, just a punching bag a few times at the gym. And, of course, myself, not that that mattered now. I knew I’d probably go home and punch my arm a few times, maybe slash at my aching torso a little more, and then go to counseling and act fine. I knew that that was all I could do.
But I wanted more. I needed more. And despite the twisting that always revisited my gut when I thought of Emily, I wanted to think of her. I wanted to make things and right, and if nothing else, find closure for myself.
And maybe now, I could.
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