“I don’t know. Because—I don’t know.” I clutch my head. “I don’t know.”
“It’s a crap idea,” proclaims Frank. “It’s like inviting bad stuff into your life. You know, it’s been shit enough for you already, Aud. Don’t make things worse. Hey, Dad’s got a link to this quiz on Which Simpsons character are you?” he adds. “You should do it. Where is it…” Frank’s clicking randomly all over the desktop. “Dad’s actually quite a funny guy…”
“Stop it. I need to think.”
“You think too much. That’s your trouble. Just stop thinking.” Frank breaks off midclick. “Oh. Shit. I don’t know what I just did. Did you see what I did?”
“I think I deleted a document. Oops.” He clicks madly. “Come on, you bastard—undo. Hey, don’t tell Dad we did this, will you? Because if I’ve lost anything, he is going to go insane—”
Frank says something else, but I walk out, not even hearing him. My head is a whirl and my heart’s thumping and I feel surreal.
Apologize. I can’t imagine Izzy apologizing. I can’t imagine Izzy saying a lot. She was never the main one. She sort of hung back and agreed and went along with Tasha. Well, let’s face it, everyone in my class went along with Tasha. Because if I was the victim, then they weren’t. Even Natalie stopped standing up for me—
No. Let’s not go there anymore. Natalie was freaked out. I’ve made my peace with Natalie. It’s all good.
Tasha is the one who’s really scary. She’s the one who makes my flesh crawl. She’s bright and smart and motivated and pretty in that strong-jawed athletic way. All the teachers loved her. They loved her. You know, till they found out the truth and everything.
I’ve had a long time to think about this. And I’ve decided she did it for fun. You know. Because she could.
My theory is that Tasha will win awards one day. She’ll be some top advertising creative, selling a message to the public and getting everyone to believe it and doing it in a relentless, unremitting, really inspired way. She’ll be one of those advertisers who trick you so you don’t even realize you’re being advertised to, you just give in and start to operate the way she wants you to. She’ll use other people then discard them. Everyone she smiles at will fall under her spell and join the team. The people who hate her will feel totally used and wretched, but who cares about them?
The real truth, which by the way no grown-up would ever admit to, is that probably the whole experience will do her great in life. It was like, the most put-together project you could imagine. It was innovative. It was sustained. If it had been a GCSE project: Torment Audrey Turner using a variety of imaginative methods, she would have got A+ highly commended.
I mean yes, she got excluded in the end. But small detail, right?
In the end, I can’t rest till I’ve had it out. So I march downstairs, way past eleven, when I should be asleep, and catch Mum and Dad in the kitchen making herbal teas.
“Mum, I read your email and I think I should go and see Izzy,” I say.
So that was a no from Mum. And from Dad.
Mum got pretty mad. I mean, she was mad with Mrs. Lawton, she kept saying, but it sounded like she was more mad with me, from the way she kept coming back to the same topics.
I do appreciate that reading private emails is beyond the pale.
I do appreciate that Mum and Dad are juggling some big issues, and they can’t do that if they’re constantly afraid I’m going to hack into their email account all the time.
Do I want to turn into a household with locked doors? (No.)
Do I want to live in a family with no trust? (No.)
Wait a minute, was this Frank? Did Frank help you? (Silence.)
Mum’s nostrils were white and her forehead veins were throbbing, and Dad looked grave, seriously grave, like he hasn’t looked for a while, and they were both one hundred percent adamant that seeing Izzy was a nonstarter.
“You’re fragile, Audrey,” Mum kept saying. “You’re like a piece of china that’s just been mended.”
She pinched that from Dr. Sarah.
Does Mum talk to Dr. Sarah behind my back? This has never occurred to me before. But then, I can clearly be quite slow off the mark.
“Sweetheart, I know you think it’ll be a cathartic experience and you’ll say your piece and everyone will come away the wiser,” says Dad. “But in real life, that doesn’t happen. I’ve confronted enough assholes in my time. They never realize they’re assholes. Not once. Whatever you say.” He turns to Mum. “Remember Ian? My first boss? Now, he was an asshole. Always was, always will be.”