“Could you tell me what happened?”
Ellie fidgeted in her seat and didn’t look Dr. So in the eye. Her hair hadn’t been brushed recently, and little blond-brown pieces rebelled from her scalp and stuck up like she’d been electrocuted. The hour had just started; it was going to be a long session. “I don’t want to be here.”
The school counsellor didn’t respond. After nearly twenty years, he was used to the resistance that teens showed toward expressing their feelings, especially after a traumatic event. It took time to accept what happened, and in this case, it would take a lot of work for Ellie Emerson to realize that what happened to Trinity was not her fault. The unconscious—if such a mechanism did exist—was a powerful force, and hated to see the conscious mind suffer. He lifted his Citadel High mug, fresh hot coffee steaming from the top, and let it hover before his lips.
“That’s fine, Ellie. Let’s talk about Trinity. Tell me about her.”
Dr. So knew that it wasn’t the best question he could’ve asked, but he was determined to accomplish something within the hour. Ellie repeatedly clasped and unclasped the fabric of the couch.
“You knew her,” she grumbled.
“You knew her best,” Dr. So replied.
“Who knew her better?”
“Her boyfriend.” Dr. So paused. “But I’m asking about your relationship with Trinity, not his.”
“What does it matter?” Ellie spat. Her eyes were red from crying, and her voice wavered with the mention of Trinity’s name. “She’s…Trinity is…”
Dr. So leaned forward in his chair. This could be it. “Tell me what happened that night, Ellie.”
Ellie drew in a deep breath through puckered lips, as if sucking in all of the oxygen in the room would stop her from bursting into tears again. She bit her trembling lip and began.
“We were finishing up a school project at my mom’s house…”
It started to rain just as they were leaving Ellie’s mother’s house in Lawrencetown. The clouds had threatened to relieve themselves earlier in the day but instead they hovered over the greater Halifax area, stretching towards the Eastern Shore. The longer they waited, the wetter the roads would be, and the longer it would take to drive Zack and Trinity back to Halifax.
Ellie was pleased with the delay, and planted her feet firmly in the kitchen. Zack gravitated towards the door, with Trinity not far behind. That was the way it always was with them. Attached at the arm, or the hip, or both. Trinity had this classic beauty about her that had recently become plastic to Ellie. Ever since she started dating Zack last year, she started wearing more eye make-up, especially on the days that she and Zack were going to spend time with each other after school. Her eyes were a dark blue, so pure that Ellie used to be jealous of them, back in seventh grade when they were just starting to become aware of their bodies. Most people would say that Trinity’s hair was black, but it was really a burnt coffee brown. Ellie had cut her hair on a sleepover a few years ago, back when they used to whisper and giggle about all the cute boys in the class. Now all Trinity whispered about was Zack, and Ellie knew she kept the details to herself—something she both appreciated and resented.
“Here’s the list I made of things we have to do tomorrow before the presentation,” Trinity said, pulling out a folded piece of loose leaf from her jeans pocket.
She placed it in Zack’s waiting hand. His skin was darker than Trinity’s—that wasn’t hard—but Ellie knew it was partly because Zack got a lot of sun, when he went for his run every morning. Of course, Ellie was never there to see him run, except in gym class, but she knew about it. His arms and his legs were toned—not too muscled—but perfect, not too intimidating for someone like Ellie who did her one hundred sit-ups and push-ups every night. She noticed how Trinity’s fingers lingered and caressed his as Zack opened the note.
“Well, aren’t you a keener,” he said, smiling.
Trinity returned his smile. “I try.”
He bent to kiss her on the forehead. Ellie looked away. Zack had been so good all night, keeping Trinity at arm’s length, focusing on the project and enjoying Ellie’s conversation. All that, ruined with one kiss. She shouldn’t have gotten her hopes up. She gathered their presentation for tomorrow—a piece of white Bristol board rolled neatly, thanks to Zack—and opened the nearby closet door to fetch their coats.
She stole a glance at them. He was still lost in Trinity’s eyes.
“We’d better get going before this rain gets worse,” she said, focusing her attention on the car outside.
Zack and Trinity detached themselves. Ellie threw their coats on the now-bare kitchen table—they could sort that out themselves. She took her time crossing the room again, drinking up Zack with her eyes as she passed—his almond eyes, his dark hair, his body, his cologne hanging in the air wherever he stood—she hoped it lingered long enough for her to bask in it when she got back. Zack shared a secret smile with Trinity as they zipped up their coats.
Ellie opened the front door and beelined for the car with the rolled up Bristol board for their English project under their arm. The car was unlocked. She shoved herself into the driver’s seat and threw the Bristol board and her purse in the back. She regretted her harsh treatment of the project seconds afterward, and twisted around to arrange it more neatly before Zack could see.
Zack and Trinity, hand in hand, followed. Trinity made sure the door was locked, even though Ellie’s mother was upstairs, reading. Ellie scolded herself for not thinking of that. More points for Trinity. Ellie noticed how Zack pulled Trinity closer to him as the raindrops intensified and smothered them. Ellie felt sick to her stomach.
“Shotgun!” Trinity screamed as she rushed for the front passenger’s side, her voice going from muffled to loud as she opened and slammed the door.
“Damn it!” Zack said as he climbed into the backseat. “Foiled again.”
Yes, foiled again, and again, and again, Ellie thought as she started the car.
Lawrencetown was about a forty-five minute drive from Halifax. Usually Ellie didn’t go to her mother’s house during the week, but her father was away in Sydney on business for a few days. She could’ve easily went to either Zack or Trinity’s, since they lived in the Quinpool area in Halifax, but Ellie’s mother was eager to repay Zack and Trinity for all the times they had hosted Ellie at their houses for supper. That was before they’d heard about the storm warning.
The rain pelted the windshield like rapid gunfire. Just as the wipers swept it clean, it was replaced by more splattering blots. The trees and the road blurred together like an impressionist painting in the dark. It would be a long ride home, with Trinity in the front and Zack in the back. She stole glances at him in the rearview mirror, and then flicked on the radio.
“Halifax’s streets are slowly emptying due to a string of disappearances of the homeless…”
Ellie turned down the volume. “News. Boring. There’s gotta be some CDs in this car.”
“Yeah, I didn’t bring my iPod, otherwise I woulda hooked it up when we got in,” Zack replied.
Trinity dug around in the side pockets of the car and retrieved some of the discs. “We got Metric, Joel Plaskett, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band? I didn’t know you liked country!”
“Pretty sure that’s my mom’s,” Ellie muttered. “Put in Metric, I guess.”
Trinity slid the Metric CD in its spot, cutting off the news announcer. So what, the homeless were missing, who cared. Cleaner streets meant safer streets. The song Empty strummed softly and provided a momentary distraction from the rain firing on the windshield.
“Should probably call your ‘rents, Trin,” Zack said.
“Yeah, yeah.” She reached awkwardly into the pockets of her tight jeans, her hands coming out empty. “Hmm. Must be in my purse?”
“It’s back here. You want me to…?”
“Nah, I got it,” Trinity said.
Ellie glanced over as Trinity unbuckled her seatbelt. The little signal thing on her dashboard started blinking and making warning sounds.
“Hurry up. This rain is making me nervous enough,” Ellie said.
“It’s all right, Ell, I’m fine.”
Trinity reached for her purse on the floor of the backseat. Even in the darkness of the rearview mirror, Ellie saw Zack reach out his hand to Trinity. A small, secret smile that she wasn’t supposed to see crawled across his face. She had no doubt that Trinity returned it as she squeezed his hand.
Zack saw it first.
“Ellie, watch out!”
Ellie’s eyes snapped from the mirror to the windshield. It looked like a giant looming monster, with two blaring yellow headlights for eyes and a roaring bear-like horn; before Ellie had time to swerve, the mechanical beast crashed headfirst into her mother’s 2010 Toyota Corolla. The impact immediately triggered the driver’s seat airbags. After the whiplash, the world was a blur as Ellie’s head slammed onto the steering wheel, knocking her out cold.