Chapter 4

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“So, what do you think? Does it suit me?”

When we were thirteen, in spring, there was something Ange was absolutely excited about: trying out the high school uniform we were going to wear in September.

“An, it’s almost identical to the one we wear now,” I said.

“No, it’s not. Can’t you tell the difference between a sailor suit and a REAL uniform? See? This is a jacket, Annie. And the skirt is adorable.”

I took a look at it. “It’s too short,” I said.

“It’s as short as it should be. Ah, it’s useless talking to you. Dan, what do you think about it?”

“Eh?” he wasn’t listening to a word she was saying. He looked at me trying to figure out what the subject was, but I smirked and shook my head. I was always the one who got scolded by An, but this time it was his turn. He glared at me, then looked back at An. “An, you’re beautiful in whatever you wear,” he said. What? Where did that come from? I looked at him with a disgusted face. No way An would fall for something like that.

She sighed, saying, “I guess there’s no helping it, you’re guys after all. But thank you anyway.” And he got away with it. Again. He turned his head to me sticking his tongue out and doing the victory sign with his hand. I really wanted to know how he managed to save face every single time.

“By the way, An, do you plan on joining any club in high school?” he asked.

“Club? Nope,” she said. I was happy to hear that. You never knew what she might be up to when she decided to do something; she had so many interests that she couldn’t focus on just one. During the first year of middle school, she had joined the tennis club, famously the worst club in school, stating she would bring them to the regional championship. If there was something that my sister had, it was charisma and an abnormal passion for lost causes. She took control of the team and bossed everyone around for practice, and in a few months, they really won lots of matches. Lastly, before the championship started, she left the team saying, “I got tired of tennis. You guys will be fine even without me now, I think I’m gonna try some volleyball from now on.” And like that she joined and shortly left basically all the school clubs.

“I have better plans for my high school life,” she added with a sadistic smile on her face. I should have guessed it. That smile usually meant “I’m about to do something crazy, and you two will follow me.” Dan and I exchanged a worried look.

“That would be?” said Dan.

“I’m gonna run for president of the student council. Of course you two are doing it with me.” She had a smile so bright she might have blinded us.

“An, do you have any idea of what the president’s duties are?” asked Dan.

“Help the students, of course.”

“No, no, I’m talking about the technical stuff.”

“That’s boring.”

“So what?”

“I’ll be leaving it to you, vice-president!” she said proud. Dan put his hand on his face, and in that moment I was absolutely sure he would have ended up as the president, if she actually decided to run. I kind of felt sorry for him. “Yes, I’m full of energy!” shouted An, “I’m gonna run to the station to meet Miki!” That said, she left the room to go change in her bedroom, but came back a second later. “I’m sure this is the perfect time for you two to go buy my birthday present,” she added, and disappeared behind the door.

Our fourteenth birthday, the last of middle school. An wanted us to celebrate it with all our classmates, and she had been preparing for it for weeks. That day Dan and I went to buy her present together, like we did every year. She would usually ask for something in particular, but that year she simply said, “Surprise me!”

Of course I was completely lost, but Dan had an idea.

“I think we should get her something to wear at the party,” he said.

“Like what? I’m definitely not gonna buy her a dress.”

“I can’t even imagine going with you in a girl’s clothes shop. And it’s obvious that she already has a dress to wear. I’m talking about jewelry, Drew.”

“No way, it’s gonna be super expensive!”

“I already know where to find something cheap, but you have to come with me.” Dan brought me to a small shop in a back alley in the center of Uptown and looked around for a bit.

“We can get her a necklace,” I said, but all those accessories seemed almost identical to me.

“What if her dress covers her neck?”

“A bracelet then.”

“She doesn’t like them.”

“Good, since you’re the expert of my sister’s taste, I’ll let you decide.”

“Earrings.”

“You choose fast. Why am I even here?”

“Because I don’t know which one to choose.” He looked notably concentrated watching the earrings on the shelf.

“You want me to choose? I don’t really…”

“No, no, I just need you to come here.” I didn’t understand, but I got close to him. He gazed intensely at my face, then back at the shelf, and finally he called the shop assistant.

“How can I help you boys? Are you looking for a present?” said the girl, most likely a high school student.

“Yes, I would like to see the ones with the butterfly, the red ones and the ones with the pearl,” said Dan, pointing the earrings on the shelf. All of them were in our budget.

“Sure, I’ll grab them right away.” The girl put the earrings on the counter and said, smiling, “If you tell me something about your friend I can help you choose the ones that will suit her better.”

Dan smiled back at her and said, “Thank you, but I can see that for myself.”

“Eh?” both the girl and I had the same reaction. Dan had picked up the first pair of earrings, the ones with the butterfly, and was holding it close to my face.

“Your skin is too white for this one; it doesn’t suit you at all.”

The girl made a shocked face and said, “Well, then, take all your time, I’ll go see the other clients,” then she almost ran away from us.

“No, wait, it’s not what you think… ” I said, but it was too late. I gave him a cold stare. “Youuu… is that what I was supposed to help with?”

“If you think about it, there is no better way.”

“It’s embarrassing! I could never show my face here again thanks to you!”

“Come on, who cares? Tomorrow she will have already forgotten everything.” As always he was so calm that I ended up thinking he was right. I sighed and looked at the earrings.

“Okay, let’s choose one of these and go home,” I said, tired. Like he did before, he held the earrings close to my face.

“I want something that will highlight the green of your eyes. The pearls aren’t so bad, but the brilliant red ones suit you too.”

“I think An would like the red ones more.”

“I think so too. But what about her dress?”

“I’m sure it’s gonna be red anyway. Sixth sense.”

Dan laughed. “You see? I couldn’t have done it without you.”

#

I woke up to the refreshing sensation of something chilly on my forehead. I opened my eyes and I saw Dan keeping a can on it. I was lying on a bench in a sort of small park with nothing but a sandwich stand and a fountain that didn’t work anymore.

“Hey, feeling better?” he asked me.

“Yes, thank you. Can I drink that?”

“You should eat something dry before.”

“Please don’t talk about food. I’m thirsty though,” I said, and he gave me the can. It was lemonade. I sat next to him on the bench, and took a sip of it. The sour flavor in my mouth made me feel immediately better. I didn’t want to think about what Walker had told us, so I found myself gazing at him instead. “I thought I had seen it somewhere. That’s An’s earring,” I said.

“Oh, you mean this,” he touched it. “I didn’t steal it, don’t worry.”

“I wasn’t thinking that… I bet my mother gave it to you,” I said.

“She gave me the pair, but at some point I lost one.”

“So you’re the type who keeps mementos of people?”

“I guess.”

“Do you wear it every day?”

“Whenever I can.”

“And you often go to the cemetery too?” I knew I was asking a lot of questions, but I wanted to know. I was glad he kept replying to me.

“Every year on her anniversary and your birthday.”

“Then why were you there yesterday?”

“I told you, I haven’t been in town for a while. I missed the birthday.”

“How come nobody ever saw you there?”

“I go very early in the morning, or in the middle of the night.”

“Why?”

“I don’t want to meet anyone when I go visit. I like it to be silent.”

“Sorry to have disturbed you then.”

“When I heard your voice yesterday, at first I thought it was some freak. You startled me.”

“I surprised even myself. I had never been there, except the day of the funeral. I don’t really understand this. Keeping mementos, going to the graveyard. Just the thought of a person I loved lying in the ground makes me sick. But yesterday I had something to tell Shallie, so I ended up there.”

“Did it make you feel better?” he asked me.

“Kind of, I don’t know. But now I don’t feel like going back again, at least not until I find what I must.”

“I see. Everyone reacts differently in the end.”

I could really tell. When An died, I couldn’t even get close to the coffin to take a look, while he stayed close to her all the time. I didn’t understand at all what he was feeling. I thought the reason was that he was there when she died. Nevertheless, it was probably originally our own way of saying goodbye that was different.

“So, what do we do now?” I asked.

“We can look into that guy, Robinson. And, do you think drugs are still a trail worth following?”

“It doesn’t seem to be it, everyone keeps telling me that a drug that can kill you like that doesn’t exist. But I would do both things anyway, research that guy and get more information on the drugs. You never know…”

“Alright. We can go back then, you can use my laptop to start the research, and I’ll call the people I was telling you about before.”

“Sounds good, let’s go.”


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