It was a quiet, simple Saturday night when the news hit us.
I was curled up on my bed reading a book, trying to block out the sounds of my mother and stepfather arguing. Elijah was sat at the dinner table talking to his mother. Mr and Mrs Parker were still blissfully unaware, out for a romantic meal. Chrissy and Rhea were shouting at one another, both secretly contemplating whether to visit Tom or not and demand answers.
However, Tom wasn't there.
Tom couldn't have been there for a good half an hour. He was lying in a pool of his own blood, his skull blasted in with a metal bullet, a bloodied gun accompanying his dead body.
Of course, no one was to know this. No one was to know until both of the girls visited Tom precisely thirty five minutes later. Until they read his letter. Until they realized what had just happened.
Tom Parker had shot himself. Leaving Chrissy without a boyfriend, her baby without a father, Mr and Mrs Parker without a son and a daughter, and all of us without a beloved friend.
* * * *
Twenty four hours earlier
* * * *
'Are you sure this is what you want?' I asked. 'It's not too late to pull out of this Chrissy.'
My best friend nodded at me, her cheeks tear stained and red. I couldn't even begin to imagine what she was going through right now. I had never been forced to deal with a situation like this so how could I have the slightest clue what she was feeling? I couldn't, could I? All I could do was be there for her. To provide her with the best damn friend I could be.
'I'm sure. I couldn't bring a baby into this world; neither Tom or I are ready to be parents and it would be unfair on the baby to be brought into this.'
I wiped the tears that were now streaming down her face and pulled her into a warm hug.
'It's not that I don't want the baby,' Chrissy sobbed against my shoulder. 'I would love to have this baby but the fact is neither of us is ready!'
Before I knew what was happening, tears had pricked at my eyes and my shoulders started shaking.
'Hey what's wrong?' She tucked a loose strand of my hair behind my ear.
'Oh Chrissy I'm sorry,' I blubbered pathetically.
'What for?' she asked, genuinely confused.
'I'm meant to be here to support you but I'm crying too!' A wild, hysterical laugh escaped my lips.
Chrissy hugged me again. 'You're supporting me just by being here.'
You're so brave, I thought, staring at my best friend as she entered the room where everything would change. You're so goddamn brave Chrissy. By now, the tears were coming thick and fast, my body shook with each uncontrollable sob that racked through me and it took everything I had not to collapse on the floor in a crumpled heap.
I whirled round in complete surprise at the voice behind me.
'T-Tom?!' I spluttered in disbelief.
'Where is she?' he was manic, his eyes searching the room. They fell on the door Chrissy had just gone through and he charged towards it.
'No! You can't go on there!' I tried to grab for his arm but my fingers only clasped thin air.
Out of nowhere, Rhea and Elijah appeared.
'What are you doing here?' I gasped as Rhea began to follow Tom.
She didn't answer, she just barged straight into the room, followed closely by Tom.
'What's going on?' I demanded.
Elijah looked horrified. 'Tom knows, about the abortion.'
I went after Tom and Rhea, expecting to see a massive confrontation with equipment flying everywhere and Rhea and Chrissy kicking and slapping one another. Instead, I found Tom locked in a passionate kiss with Chrissy, who was still sprawled out on the bed. The nurse was standing to the side, looking completely unprepared.
'I love you Christina Jones. I love you both.' He moved one hand to Chrissy's stomach and intertwined the other with hers.
'You're not meant to be in here!' The nurse suddenly seemed to find her voice. She was livid.
Tom ignored her. 'Please. Don't get rid of this child.'
Chrissy looked torn. Everyone was silent for several seconds as we all awaited her decision. My heart was pounding so loud I thought it was going to explode out of my chest and my fingers sought out Elijah's, squeezing them.
'I don't know,' she finally muttered. 'We're not ready for this baby Tom. We're only seventeen years old and we have our whole lives ahead of us.'
'Things change. This baby is the best thing we ever did and we can't destroy that. I promise I will be with you every step of the way.'
'Can we have a few moments alone please?' Chrissy looked up at the nurse who only sighed in frustration and ushered us all out.
The next ten minutes past by agonizingly slow. Each tick the clock made seemed to resonate in the silence, emphasizing just how much time had melted away. My head was resting on Elijah's shoulder, his cheek flat against my hair. Both of us were staring at Rhea sat opposite us. She was frowning, apparently lost in troubled thoughts. Her eyes were fixed on a spot on the floor and she kept sighing every now and then.
'Why did you do it?' I said quietly.
'Hm?' she looked up.
'You heard. Why did you do it?'
'Isobel please. We've had this conversation.'
I shrugged slightly. 'Tell me again. I'm dying to know why you'd sleep with your friend's boyfriend. Why you'd betray her like that.'
'She wasn't my friend,' Rhea frowned deeper.
'She tried to be. Guess you've ruined it now haven't you? Completely fucking ruined it.'
'Isobel,' Elijah chided gently.
'Whatever.' I rolled my eyes and stood up.
'Things weren't meant to go like this Isobel. I told you. No amount of apologizing or explanations is going to fix this, I know. But we don't have to talk about it now.'
'Shut up, Rhea.'
The door opened and Tom emerged, looking puffy around the eyes. All of our heads whirled in his direction, hope and anticipation an obvious, almost tangible feeling in the atmosphere.
'She's keeping it,' he said simply.
* * * *
My phone buzzed on the bedside cabinet. I folded the page corner of my book over before answering it.
It was Chrissy. She was crying.
'Chrissy, what's wrong? Is the baby okay?'
'The baby's fine. It's Tom!'
'What about him?'
She sobbed harder.
'Chrissy?' I began to grow anxious.
'He shot himself!'