“Oh.” I digest this for a moment. “That’s not interesting.”
“It’s better than geography coursework. Oh, and they’re planning a surprise birthday party for me, so don’t let on you know, OK?”
“Frank!” I wail. “Why did you tell me?”
“I didn’t.” He draws a line over his mouth. “I said nada. OK, what are we looking for?”
“Dunno. Some email where Mum’s angry.”
Frank raises his eyes so comically, I can’t help giggling. “Can you narrow it down?”
“OK. Well…Dunno. It’s about me. Search Audrey.”
Frank gives me a funny look. “Every other email is about you, Audrey. Don’t you realize that? You’re Topic A in this family.”
“Oh.” I stare at him, taken aback. I don’t know what to say to that. I don’t want to be Topic A. Anyway, I’m not.
“That’s rubbish,” I counter. “I’m not Topic A, you’re Topic A. All Mum talks about is you, all day long. Frank this, Frank that.”
“But all she emails about is you. Audrey this, Audrey that.” He gives me a serious look. “Believe me.”
I’m silenced for a minute. I never thought of Mum having a secret email world. But of course she does. I wonder what she says. I could look. Frank could show me, I could ask him…
Even at the thought, it’s as if a big iron gate clanks down in my mind. No. I’m not going to look. Not at anything more than is necessary. I don’t want to know what Mum secretly thinks. We’re all allowed our private places.
“You shouldn’t spy on Mum and Dad,” I say.
“You’re spying too,” retorts Frank.
“OK, but…” I wince, knowing he’s right. “This is necessary. This is a one-off and it’s about me and it’s important and…I won’t ever do it again.”
“This’ll be it, I bet.” Frank is clicking on a recently sent email called Your request.
As the text comes up I scan straight to the bottom and it’s signed from Anne and Chris Turner.
“Oh my God.” Frank is chuckling. “Mum’s really let this person have it.”
“Shhh! Let me read it!”
I peer over his shoulder and squint at the words.
Dear Mrs. Lawton
We are writing to you in shock, horror, and dismay. First, that you would have the nerve to write an email directly to our daughter, Audrey, in a completely inappropriate manner. Second, that you should make such an outrageous request. I am sorry that your daughter Izzy is having problems, but if you think that Audrey would be willing to meet her, you must be quite mad. Do you recall the situation here? Do you recall the fact that our daughter was persecuted by your daughter (among others)? Are you aware that Audrey has not returned to school since the events and spent several weeks in hospital?
We don’t care if Izzy wants to apologise or not. We are not risking any further psychological damage to our daughter.
Anne and Chris Turner
“Who’s Izzy?” says Frank. “One of them?”
“Yes.” I’m getting the sick, poisoned feeling again. Just that name Izzy does it.
“I can’t believe she wants to see me,” I say, my eyes fixed on the words. “After all this time.”
“Well, they said no. So you’re off the hook.”
“You are! Look, Mum and Dad will back you up. You don’t have to see anyone. Audrey, you practically don’t even have to go to school ever again. You can do whatever the hell you like. Do you appreciate your position?” Frank clicks on another email. “You don’t, do you? It’s wasted on you.”
I’m only barely aware of him. Thoughts are spinning around my brain. Thoughts I don’t even understand myself. Thoughts I don’t want.
Without realizing I’ve done it, I’ve crumpled down on the floor and buried my head in my hands. I need all my energy for thinking.
“Aud?” Frank suddenly seems to notice. “Aud, what’s up?”
“You don’t understand,” I say. “Reading this—knowing that they’ve asked—that’s put me on the hook.”
I can’t say it. The words are in my brain, but I don’t want them there. I don’t know why they’re there. But they won’t disappear.
“Maybe I should see her.” I force it out. “Maybe I should go and see her.”
“What?” Frank looks aghast. “Why would you do that?”