The next days are filled with tension. Cops are looking everywhere for us; we're always on the local news. Both Matrix and Racket look more tired every day, and I know I must appear dreadful, too. What's today? Tuesday? Wednesday? I don't even know anymore. I wonder lots of things these days. I wonder how mom and dad are doing without us, how prison is treating them. I wonder if I'll ever see Jamie again. And most of all--and perhaps most curiously--I wonder what Betahny is doing. She has it so good: nice family, good grades, people that care about her. I wonder what makes her so special, so different. But I never figure it out. And that bugs me more than anything.
I approach Matrix, who's currently playing x-box with Racket.
"Matrix, we can't keep living like this."
He looks up at me without pausing the game, letting Racket win.
"You dead!" Racket yells victoriously. He then looks up and notices me, too.
"Keep living like what?" Matrix questions.
His black eye is almost healed now, much to my dismay. I must've over-estimated the damage I'd done. How disappointing.
"In hiding, wasting our days away! Don't try to tell me you don't miss going outside."
He thinks for a moment.
"I guess it is a little... dull," he finally says.
"Dull? It's beyond that. It's maddening!"
"Well," Racket jumps in, "I think I could help with that."
"I'll throw a house party! C'mon, it'll be great."
Matrix lights up and I frown. That wasn't exactly what I meant. Oh, well. Better to let them have their little party than try to explain my true meaning.
So tonight, the house is filled with people. Music is blaring from two giant speakers in the living room, and everyone's dancing. Well, everyone except me. At the moment, I'm just trying to stay out of the way. I'm the only girl here without my body half naked or my face painted on, because I'm still borrowing Racket's clothes. And obviously, he doesn't have any make-up.
So I'm standing off to the side, just watching. Matrix seems to be enjoying himself; he's making-out with some chick in a corner. And Racket's participating in a shot contest in the kitchen. That leaves me alone, vulnerable. So I guess it's really no surprise when some disgusting druggie approaches me, obviously drunk.
"Hey," he slurs, "what say you an' me 'ead upstairs?"
He rests his hands on the wall on either side of my head, trapping me.
"Um, no thanks," I say timidly.
"Aw, c'mon. I'll show ya a good time." He leans in closer and grabs my wrist with his hand.
I turn my face to avoid the stink of booze on his breath.
"I said, no thanks."
Clenching his teeth, the guy says, "Well who said you had a choice?"
Now I'm being dragged by my arm up to the stairs. I try desperately to get someone's--anyone's--attention, but the music's too loud, and everyone's too sucked into their own little worlds to even begin to care.
"Help! Help!" I yell over the music.
The guy turns and slaps me across the face.
"Shut up! No one's gonna save you."
Then he turns away and starts dragging me up again, up past the party, where no one will ever hear me scream...
Suddenly, a thud. I look up to see Matrix with a hold of the druggie. A look of pure violence penetrates his eyes, and before I know it, the guy's unconcious on the ground.
This is too crazy. I look at Matrix, still trying to catch my breath from the upset I've just experienced. I can't handle this kind of stuff anymore. He looks back at me, and sees what I'm going to do before I even move.
Pretending not to hear him, I turn on my heel and go straight for the door. If this is the life Matrix chooses to live, then fine. But he can't make me live it, too. I storm out the door and am only a few feet past the driveway when I hear Matrix call out to me again. But I don't stop. The night is in full rise, and I can hear the partiers muffled music as I begin to cross the street.
It's Matrix again. He's rached the sidewalk now.
"What?" I hiss, stopping mid-way across and turning to face him.
"Where are you going?" he asks.
"I'm going home, Matrix. I can't live like this. There's gotta be a better life out there."
Matrix laughs. He just full-out laughs!
"Well you can look," he says, "but you won't ever find it! We're stuck in this lifestyle, face it!" He holds out his hands, and his face turns deathly serious. "You've been living like this since the day you were born."
I feel my face go red with anger, and shout back, "That doesn't mean it always has to be like this!"
Matrix holds out his arms, motioning to the world around us. The world of violence, of anger, of hurt.
"Take a look around. There's no way out of this for us."
I look away from him, holding back the hot tears that are forming in my eyes.
"There is! There has to be." I say the last sentence in almost a whisper, beginning to doubt myself.
Matrix's tone only grows louder.
"Through what? Foster care? Are you really gonna leave me for some family that doesn't know you, some family that will never love you?"
I let one single tear fall down my face, holding the others back, back, back. My voice is calm as I speak.
"Matrix, I love you, but this is sick. The drugs, the alcohol, the parties. It gets. So. Old. Maybe you should come with me."
There's nothing more that I could ever want than for me and Matrix to be happy, truly happy, together.
"To foster care? They'll split us up! That's why we're here, so we can stay together!"
I know he's right. We're still talking to each other from halfway across the street, neither of us quite willing to move.
"Then come with me to find Jamie! All three of us can live together; we can be happy."
"No! I'm not looking for Jamie!"
He clenches his fists, and his voice wavers as he yells to me. For a brief second, he turns his face away, and when he looks back, I look at his eyes. But I can't see them. It's too dark, and I'm too far away.
"Why not?" I question.
I tense, waiting to see if he will really aswer me this time.
"Because, Marley!" he pauses for a second and stares at the ground. I can see him shaking, shaking, like he's scared to tell me. Finally, he looks up. "Jamie doesn't exist!"
Silence. Somewhere in the distance, a car starts. But still there is silence. I cannot speak, I cannot move. It feels as if we stand here for hours, even days.
Matrix takes a step off the sidewalk and into the street. And engine rumbles from not so far away.
"She's just a girl you made up in your mind. She's not real, never was."
"You're lying!" I yell, pointing an accusing finger. But deep down, I know he's right. And I hate it.
Searing light shines on us, and I feel myself being shoved to the side. Gravel meeting my skin with a harshness I didn't know it possessed.
Crash! Boom, bang! Thud.
And uproar of life.
And then, silence. Fear. Realization.
My voice is barely above a whisper.
The dust settles, and my world falls apart for the second time tonight. Mangled, bloody, broken, beaten... dead. He's dead. I fall to my knees, not even noticing how the gravel digs into the flesh on my knees. I'm too shocked, too numb, to feel anything at all.
No, no... He can't be dead. He was just standing there, so full of life, so animated! This is a dream, a nightmare. Any second I'll wake up. I'll wake up, and we'll still be at home, and Jamie will be tap-tapping on the window like always. But the more I tell myself this, the more I realize that this is real. This is what my life has come to.
A person, a teenager, shoves open the car door and struggles out, bleeding. The drunken boy slurs a few uncomprehensible words before passing out and falling to the ground. I look at him, but I do not see him. I see my mother, my father, the police, Bethany. All at once. All together in this one idiotic teenager. He killed Matrix, and Matrix killed Jamie.
"I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!"
Suddenly, I am running.
Jamie has disappeared.
Matrix is gone.
All I have is me.
I run past the police cars still parked in my driveway.
One of them call out. I keep running.
I stumble down into my basement, throwing open the cabinet.
I breathe hard and fast.
All I can hear is my heart.
The beating slows.
My breathing gradually diminishes.
And suddenly, I am very still.