The day of the fire was very traumatising for everyone at Hudson. It was supposed to be a happy day, with the horse competition and all, but it ended in horror and disaster. Lucy asked me to go and get Summer before she left. I knew exactly where she was, she told me she would be going to the community room. For my surprise, she wasn’t there when I entered the empty room. Seconds later, Lucy came rushing inside the room saying that I should go outside immediately. The fire department was invading the school and everyone was panicking. I had no idea what was going on, but I had a terrible feeling it had to do with Summer.
Lucy and I ran after the equipped men, and in the distance near the forest, a dense and black cloud was rising through the treetops. I instantly knew what had happened: the stables were on fire. The teachers tried to send everyone inside, but failed miserably. Everyone rushed down the hill to go and see what was going on.
Once we reached the stables, I saw a lot of familiar faces: Anthony, Lottie, Amanda, even Bud was there, but no sign of Summer.
I was starting to get worried out of my mind, but I couldn’t do anything. That was when I heard a deep, manly voice say “There are two kids inside!“.
First they brought out Summer and my heart fell on the floor. She was pale, immobilised, lifeless. I ran to her but someone caught my hand. It was Anthony.
“Don’t!” he said firmly. I tried to kick him, to free my hands but he didn’t give in. Was she dead? Was she going to be okay? I had no idea but I prayed to God that she was fine.
That was when they brought Harry out. Harry fucking Edwards?! What was he doing there?! He was also passed out, but was gaining consciousness and didn’t look half as bad as Summer did.
I swear, in that moment, I only saw red. Anger was boiling inside me, and almost like magic, I gained much more strength and pushed Anthony. He tumbled and lost hold of my hands.
I approached Harry who was being carried by a fireman and I almost jumped on top of him in an attempt to kill him. Yeah, that was exactly what I wanted to do, kill him.
“You tried to kill her you son of a...” I screamed on top of my lungs to make sure he heard it clearly.
Instantly after, even before I managed to finish my sentence, another fireman wrapped his arms around me and lifted me like I was a potato sack, dragging me out of there while I was kicking, slapping, screaming, insulting. It was no use, the strong man wouldn’t put me down.
Everyone was watching the whole scene. I must’ve looked like a mad woman, but I didn’t care one bit. It must have been a scandal: everybody thought I was an angel that couldn’t harm a fly, so that was kind of a shock for everyone to see me act like that.
When it came to defending a friend, I had no limits.
The fireman eventually put me down near the staircase of the entrance of the main building and told me to take some deep breaths. He left shortly after and headed back to the burning building.
My mind was running at one thousand miles per hour. I wasn’t used to that, at all. I always thought in an organised, systematic way, but what was happening was too much for my brain to process.
There was nothing more I could do. Obviously Summer and Harry had been sent to the infirmary and obviously they wouldn’t allow me in. The only thing I could do was wait for news.
So that was what I did. The wait for her recovery was long, but now it was the end of the day and Summer was already happy and smiling with us again. But there was something that didn’t make much sense, something was just not right.
First of all, Harry burnt down the stables for no apparent reason, or at least no one told us what was the cause of the fire. Second of all, what was Summer doing with him, alone, in a deserted place? Was it really a coincidence that this “incident” happened on a day where every teacher was busy and half of the school went away?
I tried to put myself into Harry’s head while I stared at the wall. If I was Harry, that would be the perfect plan to hurt Summer. But why? Why would Harry want to hurt her? History was repeating itself, like when it happened with John. Could Summer have something against him, like, I don’t know, information of some kind that she could use to manipulate him, and this was Harry’s way to frighten her? If there was any information, what could it be? Maybe I was being paranoid, but there were too many coincidences. Besides, Harry has proven that he was capable of killing someone, there was nothing stopping him from doing it a second time.
The best way to find out was if I asked her. If there was something she was hiding, I think she would tell me regarding the circumstances. After all, if she was hiding something, it was putting her life in danger.
I grabbed Summer’s hand “Follow me,” I instructed her as I dragged her out of the community room.
“What happened?” she asked. I didn’t respond, I just guided her to a place where I knew no one would hear us, our dorm.
I made her sit down on a bed while I paced back and forth.
“Summer, I have been thinking, and maybe you are going to find this weird, but I have to ask you some questions.”
“What were you and Harry doing at the stables alone at that time? Do you know something about Harry we don’t?”
“Why do you want to know this?” she talked in a slow and clear voice, making sure she said the right words.
“Look Summer, I am just trying to understand some things. Don’t you think it was too much of a coincidence that Harry chose to burn down the stables on a day where no horses would be there and that everyone would be frantic about the race?” I made gestures with my hands as I explained.
“Are you saying he planned it?” she looked perplexed.
“It makes sense! Did he drag you there? Do you know something you can use against him? Do you know any of his secrets? Think about it, the day of the race was the perfect occasion to shut you up-”
“Anna- Anna, breath!” She was standing and grabbing my arms. A silly smile appeared on her face and I was confused by it. “Sit down.”
I did as she asked. She sat by my side “He didn’t try to kill me,” she simply said.
“How do you know?”
“First, I don’t have ‘anything against him’ as you said, and second, we weren’t exactly alone.”
“What do you mean, not alone?”
She took a deep breath “You have to promise me you won’t tell this to anyone, okay?”
“It happened like this: I was just walking outside when I hear some voices. I followed the sound and I ended up in the stables. Apparently, Andrew was following Harry and tried to steal his cigarettes-”
“Andrew? You mean the Andrew from your race team?” I was surprised by that. Andrew seemed like a really nice kid, but now I thought he was crazy. Who goes after Harry to steal something from him?
“Yeah I know, crazy,” she said “Anyway, Harry caught him, and he forced Andrew to smoke one of his cigarettes. I just couldn’t watch it without doing anything.”
“So what did you do?”
“I left my hiding place and pushed Harry.”
“You did what?!” I was completely surprised by Summer’s action. If I was in her place, I would have called someone or yelled... That girl was seriously brave “And what happened next?”
“He pushed me as well,” my eyes widened. So that was why she broke her wrist, “But it wasn’t on purpose, or at least that is what he claims. He said that he didn’t process who I was and that his actions were instinct.”
“And you believe him?”
“Yeah, I mean, I did the same thing. I didn’t process what was happening. I shouldn’t have pushed him... But moving on, Andrew ran away and I went inside the stables to get as far away from Harry as possible, but of course he ran after me.”
“And that was when he threw the cigarette on the floor,” I finished the sentence for her, connecting the points.
“Exactly,” she confirmed.
Up to that point, everything made sense except one little detail.
“But why did you two stay inside the stables for such a long time? If you had left immediately, you wouldn’t have been caught in the fire.”
She hesitated. This was a direct question, yet she was thinking it over.
“I told you I tried to run away from him right? I went up this wooden ladder to a second floor. He followed me and while we were there I said to him all he deserved to hear.”
“So you confronted him?”
“Yes,” she said. She was actually smiling, proving that she was, in fact, happy and proud about what she had done and said to him. It all made sense now. When the smoke reached the higher level of the building, the fire was already consuming it, so they had no chance of getting away.
“Oh and Anna, why did you think I knew something about Harry that you didn’t?” she asked. Great question. Why did I? As I thought about it clearly, there was no apparent reason why she should’ve. And honestly, why would she use anything against him? She was such a good person, and what happened just proved so: she risked being in serious trouble just because Andrew decided to be a total idiot.
“I- I don’t know,” I said with sincerity “I am not used to not knowing stuff... I know this sounded really egocentric, but it’s true. When I don’t know something I tend to overthink, and when I overthink I screw up.”
“Well, now you know everything, but please don’t tell anyone. Andrew could get in trouble, I could get in trouble, and Harry could get into more trouble, more than he already is.”
“I don’t think that is possible, he blew up the scale already,” we both laughed at my statement.
And again, I was back to what I was better at doing: lying. I wasn’t actually lying, I told her the truth, just not all of it.
I didn’t tell her what Harry said to me in the stables and that he was the one to drag me outside when I was unconscious, which was essentially the most important part of the story. I also didn’t tell her what he did in the infirmary, but in my defence, she didn’t ask anything about it.
What would happen if I told her? Jesus, it would be disastrous! Anna would tell the girls, then the girls would tell the whole class, and the class would tell the entire school. The scary part was that, if the situation ever happened, it would take a matter of hours for it to reach everyone’s ears. First, Harry would kill me (which he proved he could if he set his mind to it) and then everyone would look at me as being the “ally” of the “murderer”. Just the thought of it made me sick. I just wanted to be accepted there, and I was already hiding a highly important part of my life to fit in. If they found out that I was involved with Harry in any sort of way, I wouldn’t be accepted by anyone, not even the teachers. It would be my downfall.
I had to do what I had to do, despite the nauseating feeling of lying to a friend, actually my best friend, which made the guilt much bigger.
Anyhow, why would she think that I knew something about Harry? I knew I was curious about that boy, but was it that obvious? No one knew that I sneaked in the middle of the night to go and read the Book, and definitely no one knew what was going on inside of my head. Why would I have anything against Harry anyway? To protect myself maybe? To manipulate him, as she said? I didn’t know what was going on inside of that head of hers. I obviously didn’t have anything that I could use against him, but she thought I had. I must have given her some reason to think that way, but what?
I didn’t know much about Anna after all. I mean, she was my best friend but we only met like three months ago. She was top student and got really high grades, but that didn’t mean she was smart. Of course she was intelligent, no doubt about it. She knew all the history dates, and the whole times table, and she read massive books with complex words and all the compound ions and she spoke fluent French and she knew all the constellations in the sky, but frankly, she should have thought twice before jumping into conclusions.
I looked at the clock on the wall of our dorm room, “We should go down, it’s dinner time.”
As we left the room, a thought clouded my mind and made me terrified: Independently of Anna’s conclusions about what happened in the stables, her brain was working and thinking. Could she find out by herself that I was not who I affected to be?
I had to make sure there was no way she could find out. I would never touch the subject of my parents or my hometown again, and most importantly, I would never talk about Harry again.