The rest of the evening goes by in a blur of sober amusement as we play game after game of pool. Mine and Trevor’s discussion earlier fades into the background, and it’s not until nearly midnight when I’m driving back to my dorm that our conversation hits me. And it hits hard.
There was no doubt I was going to have to corner him soon to get the details about Trinity, or it was going to eat me alive. The way he reacted had my thoughts jumping to the worst scenarios, but there was one I wouldn’t allow myself to consider. One, because it didn’t seem possible; and two, Trevor’s hatred for me would have burned much deeper and for a lot longer, most likely forever, if it were true. If Trinity was gone, then a simple sorry probably would have caused more damage than good. A possibility of friendship would have been out of the question.
That left two more possibilities I could come up with: attempted suicide or drugs. Again, I probably never would have had a chance at friendship with Trevor if either of these were true. What person, in their right mind, would befriend the person who nearly cost them the life of a sibling. It’s something I can’t comprehend. And to be honest, I don’t think I’d want a friendship with Trevor if I had caused a family member to become suicidal. To have to look at him every day and remember I was the cause for his and her misery.
It had to be something simpler. That or Trevor was an idiot for ever trying to make a friendship work with me. I don’t view him as an idiot. My mind is swirling trying to come up with possibilities. It had to be something terrible, but not so terrible that it couldn’t be forgiven. My imagination was getting me nowhere, except more depressed.
I allow myself to take a deep breath, pushing the thoughts away. Instead, I focus on the best parts of the evening - laughing and feeling free with friends. I hadn’t felt that way in awhile. The closest I have felt it is when I’m playing my violin with Merv, aka—my barn.
I’d never felt so accepted before, to be with a group of people who never once made me feel judged or worthless. I was treated with respect and admiration. To have people who genuinely wanted to be with me, and who wanted to be there for me when I was suffering from memories of my past, was blowing my mind.
Lindsey knew everything about me. Everything. And yet, she accepted me completely. She comforted me enough, but not to the point where I allowed myself to fall into a pity party. She was always there to snap me out of it and pull me through. I have never in my life had a relationship with someone which ran so deep they could sense what I needed and when I needed it. It’s refreshing and renewing. I feel like a whole new person, but at the same time, I feel like I’m finally me. Just me. Somehow this realization makes me feel like a child giddy with excitement. My new life is just beginning.
Arriving back in my dorm room has me realizing how tired I am, and I’m suddenly hit with a bone-weary exhaustion. I brush my teeth and fall into bed. It’s not until a couple minutes later when I’m drifting off that I realize my bed is free of any foreign substances. I had actually washed my sheets earlier today, but I’m surprised that nothing new is crawling around in them. This only means one thing: Mercy was planning something huge.
I smile as I glance across the room and realize Mercy is finally free from the bondage we’d tied her in. Actually, she isn’t even in her bed, which is odd because even on weekends she tries to be in bed by midnight. She’s a big girl, though. I’m not going to worry about her whereabouts, especially when I can’t even keep my eyes open. I drift away to a night of dreamless bliss.
I wake up bright and early, feeling as though I got no rest at all. I hate nights like that; when you wake up and feel the same as you did when you went to bed, only worse because now you have dragon breath, eye bags, and beastly hair. The most disgusting part about the fact I’m awake right now is that it’s only five-thirty. Yep, I’m that girl. The one who rolls out of bed before the sun, the bird, or the worm.
I tie up my hair before plugging in my headphones and making my way towards the building exit. With a quick stretch session, I’m off. I hate waking up at this hour until I’m actually up, and then it’s probably the most peaceful place to be. To watch the world come to life is like sipping on a warm cup of hot chocolate and letting its heat melt into the frozen crevices of your body. The sun peeks open its eyes and bathes you in a tender hug of warmth. They have one thing in common: they both chase away the chill.
My breaths are ragged and my legs are tight as I finally fall into a slower pace for the last stretch of my run. I can see my dorm building come into view, and I gradually shift from a jog to a walk as I allow my body to cool down. I redo my hair and jog up the stairs to my floor.
An hour later I’m dressed in a pair of capris and a t-shirt with a duffle bag slung over my shoulder. I whisper a goodbye to Mercy, even though she’ll be dead to the world for at least another three hours, and then skedaddle to my car.
I had made plans with my mom a week ago to come visit, so here I was making the two and a half hour drive back home. I’m not gonna lie, I’m excited. My mom and I are close. Like best friends close.
After my dad died she was all I had. Especially when I decided to commit social suicide and render myself friendless. My dad let us both down, but my mom had proven her dedication to me, and most importantly, she had shown me that she would never give up on herself like dad did. My mom stuck by me, and I trust her with my life and her own.
“Mom!” I yell dramatically as I throw myself through the doorway and into her plump arms.
“Miss me?” she asks, but I can hear the smile in her voice. She holds me tight and then ends the hug with one last squeeze before releasing me and grabbing my bag off the floor where I’ve dropped it.
“Mom?” I ask her suspiciously. “Do I smell cookies?” She doesn’t turn around but I can see her shoulders lift into a shrug and a little chuckle escapes her lips as she heads to my room at the end of the hall.
I tiptoe into the kitchen to get a peek at what she’s been creating and nearly salivate all over the counter.
“Mom!” I screech excitedly. “You-made-me-dark-chocolate-chunk-Peanut-Butter-Cup-Brownies!” I say it so fast that it sounds like one ridiculously long word.
“Uh huh,” she hums as she comes around the corner. “And raspberry jam bars, and blueberry cobbler and...”
I’m pretty sure I have my tongue hanging out of my mouth as I anticipate each word. “And?”
“Lasagna.” She looks so proud that I want to wrap my arms around her and squeeze until she pops... out of love of course. It’s that same urge I get when I see a bunny or a kitten, or anything cute and helpless. They’re so gosh darn adorable that I want to squeeze them.
I’m not sure why that happens? Kind of the opposite reaction that a person should have. But then again, I may not be normal. It’s possible the rest of the world would rather lather them with gentle kisses and delicate embraces, while I’m over here trying to literally squeeze my love into them. I can see how people get the wrong idea about me.
“You realize that if I actually eat everything that you’ve made me, I will die, right?” I inform her. “Like, it’s not possible to consume this many sweets and not obtain instant diabetes or intoxication by sugar or something, right?” I glimpse something behind her in the living room and my eyes drop out of my head. “You even got my coffin ready!”
My mom turns slightly to see where I’m looking and then turns back with an excited glimmer in her eyes.
“You like it?” She’s pulling my arm along with her as she leads me to the oak casket.
“Uh, yeah?” I scratch the edge of my nose as I look at her like she’s announced she’s pregnant. “Not sure if it’s big enough.”
She slaps my arm with a giggle. “It’s a chest, you goon.”
I stare at her.
“You know, like you store stuff in it: blankets, sheets, games—”
“Ma,” I moan. “I know what a chest is. I was just joking. Obviously, my casket will be made of gold, not wood.” I reach over and rub her graying hair, but she swats my hand away before I can do too much damage.
She ignores my attempt at a joke.
“So, the lasagna is in the fridge - just remind me to stick it in the oven about an hour before we eat. Your room is ready with clean sheets, and I got us some female movies. What do they call those? Femflicks?”
“Chick flicks,” I correct, but she doesn’t seem to notice.
She scurries into the kitchen where she pulls out a fresh batch of cookies from the oven. As my nose catches the scent of peanut butter, I can’t help but burst into song.
"Oh, happy day (oh happy day). Oh, happy day (oh happy day). When Jesus washed (when Jesus washed) all my sins away. Oh, happy day.” I start to repeat the song and have to hold back a snort as my mom starts doing the background echo after each line I sing. She doesn’t even realize how cute she looks as she wiggles her butt while plopping batter onto the pan.
Oh, how I’ve missed this little bundle of joy.
We spend the weekend together enjoying multiple ‘femflicks’ and stuffing our faces with sweets. It’s no wonder she’s putting on the pounds. I’m wondering if I should be worried. From the looks of it, her only friends are her food. Or, maybe she ate all her friends and that’s why she’s so lonely... and round.
I throw my arms around her for one last hug before slipping into my Ford and making the trip back to Greenville. It’s nearly nine p.m. by the time I pull into the parking lot. I switch off my lights, grab my bag, and lock my doors before trudging to my room. I’ve only been gone for a day and a half, but that’s a long time when it comes to scheming, so I am well aware something is going to greet me when I walk through the door of my room. I’m just not at all expecting it to be... nothing.
There’s nothing hanging from the ceiling or crawling in my bed. I even give my toothpaste a quick taste test before applying it to my toothbrush. I’m waiting for something to pop out and terrorize me, but I get cleaned up and crawl into bed without any unusual occurrences.
I fall asleep after scanning the shadows for about an hour. By then I can’t keep my eyes open any longer and eventually drift off.
The moment I wake up, I know something is wrong. First of all, Mercy is already gone. That never happens. She sleeps ’til the last moment, and after checking the time I know something is up because she would never be conscious at six a.m.
I cautiously roll out of bed but can’t find anything out of the ordinary until my eyes land on a box sitting on my desk. I gingerly make my way over and pluck the sticky note off the top of the lid.
Figured it was time for a truce.
Love ya, Roomie! Enjoy.
I pry open the lid and peek inside to find six doughnuts waiting to be devoured. I can’t help but feel suspicious. I’ve heard about doughnuts being filled with all sorts of gag-worthy jellies. Mayonnaise being one of the worst.
I pick one up and sniff. Strange. It smells completely normal. Sweet and creamy—if ‘creamy’ were actually a smell. I pick up another and sniff. Still normal. I swipe my finger across some of the filling and suck it off my finger. I probably should chuck the whole box, but unfortunately for me, I love my sweets. You’d think I’d have had my fill this weekend with my mom, but nope. If hoarding Skittles, Twizzlers, and Peanut Butter Cups isn’t a clue, sugar is my weakness.
I finally decide to go for it and take a small bite out of the Bavarian filled pastry. It melts on my tongue. It’s perfection. Oh Mercy, how I love you. I take another bite and my taste buds drown in a mouthful of savory euphoria. My eyes are closed, my tongue is smiling, my jaw is quivering, and then everything goes wrong. I can feel the intruder on my tongue.
I focus on not gagging as I use my tongue to push the twine-like alien object towards the light. I pull the strand from my lips and nearly lose it. I hold the piece of hair between my fingers knowing, by the length and color, that it is not mine. I spit any remaining residue into the box and shut the lid as if it contains a hive full of bees. I have been forever ruined. Doughnuts will never be the same.
Actually, that’s not true. I could never give up on doughnuts. It just might take me a little while to forget this stunt.
I rush to the bathroom and yank the door open. Every hair on my body pops out of hiding when a blast erupts throughout the room, making my ears throb and my heart explode up my throat with a scream. I quickly release my hold on the knob and the sound ceases. I peer around the door to find a blow horn expertly attached to go off anytime the nob twists. Very nice Mercy. Give me a heart attack at six in the morning.
That’s when I find the note written on the bathroom mirror in bright red lipstick.