It was the only event that came into her head. But why should she remember this incident? She hadn’t caused the fire! And the former owner wasn’t part of her family, or any of her friends. So why should she remember this tragic event? She shook her head. There had been several deaths due to negligence of the owner. He was responsible. She didn’t want to think about it.
She opened her computer and went to the local newspaper’s website. From there, she consulted the archives relating the tragic events of that evening. She found several articles and photos of what happened. Photographers were able to take many pictures of the building in flames. Then she found other clippings covering the collective funerals of the victims. Julie hadn’t attended them. Her parents had gone there, but she hadn’t lost any classmate.
She shook her head, still trying to understand why no one else seemed to have received a message like hers. Maybe they found something, but they refuse to admit it. Just pretend it’s a very bad joke. She smiled a little, thinking that in movies, tragedies who went back suddenly meant that the anniversary of the tragedy approached.
“And we’re in June. No need to panic!”
She shrugged before let herself fall again on her bed. Her tests were supposed to be the only thing to occupy her mind. So no time for anything else! Her friends’ words came to her mind. She pushed them out again.
“Bullshit! Forget it!”
She took her notebook and returned to the living room to study, Max at her feet.
* * * * *
The end of the week arrived faster than expected. Julie threw her orange peel before informing her mother that she would attend the last hockey game in early evening. She promised not to miss the dinner celebrating the engagement of Pascal and her big sister Mary.
“I know my friends will eat a bite before the game.”
“Around which time is the game?”
The young girl shrugged, searching her memory.
“No idea. I’ll join them later anyway.”
“The last game of the finals held during the exams period? It’s not serious!”
“The guys also don’t agree that it also happens so late after the end of the regular season, but it ends tonight with a massacre!”
“I met Philip’s mother today. She believes that the team will win the trophy tonight.”
“The team thinks so too.”
“We would be there, but Mary wants to start planning the wedding.”
“Don’t worry: I’ll represent the whole family!”
Her mother smiled at her before asking how was going her tests period. Julie shrugged before answering that she was anxious that everything was over. The ringing of the phone interrupted their conversation. The young girl took the phone that was on the counter. She pressed the button to answer.
At the other end of the line, she heard only silence. She frowned, listening carefully. She thought she could hear a conversation without being able to distinguish the exact words. She realized it was the TV. Except that the caller still hadn’t spoken a single word. She waited a few seconds before pushing a deep sigh. She began to pound on the counter, slightly impatient.
“Yes hello! Is there someone there?”
She heard a door opened and a female voice said:
“But what are you doing? I need the phone, M…”
Then the line went dead. She looked at the phone for a moment before pressing the button. Her mother turned to her.
“Who was that?” she asked her.
“No idea. Nobody spoke.”
The young girl shrugged before her she was going to be in her bedroom to study a bit. She pulled the pillows against the wall and sat comfortably on her bed to study. Her sister Sophie joined her. They talked for a long time in Julie’s room. Their mother came to warn them Pascal and Mary had just arrived. Then they went to the table to celebrate the engagement of the little couple who obviously grew impatience to get married. A quick glance at the clock told Julie that she needed to leave soon. Anyway, the conversation revolved around the preparations for the wedding. It didn’t concern her.
She kissed everyone before taking the keys handed by her father. She took the road to get to the game. Her two best friends were already there. The match was about to begin.
“Look who’s here,” Nancy told them, smiling.
Her two friends turned quietly their head to know who she was talking about. Dominique and Rachel stood a few feet from them. They clapped their hands gleefully jumping like two little silly girls. Julie suppressed a giggle. The two girls didn’t bear them any attention, her eyes fixed on the players who just arrived on the playground for a short warm-up session. Christopher rejoined his friends to encourage his player friends. Philip, the goalkeeper, did only one passed in his net. His teammates marked six. Maxim won a penalty for bringing down another player too hard and Matthew was tackled by a guy four times larger than him. When he joined them after the game, he had a small cut above his left eye. Dominique quickly got into Maxim’s arms when he left the locker room. Karen congratulated her boyfriend with a tender kiss.
As he passed by Julie, something fell from Philip’s bag. The young girl leaned over to pick it up. It was a picture. She frowned before looking away in horror. She saw Rachel’s face on the photo, half-naked in front of the photograph. Why Philip has this thing in his gym bag? She hastened to hide the photo, deciding to confront him later.
They went to celebrate their last and final victory in the same restaurant they used to go. It was a Friday night which seemed to go pretty well. Then they all went to Philip’s to finalize the list of things they need during their week of vacation at the cottage. They also made a quick calculation to agree on an amount of money to provide to buy all the food for the week. They didn’t want to forget anything. They planned to leave the day after the prom.
Karen and Nancy glided gently to Julie and asked if she had a special thing to tell them. The girl sighed deeply.
“Don’t do it again, please.”
“We are still on a mission!” Nancy retorted. So there is nothing interesting that happened when you went back home with Matthew after the movie?”
“Damn…” Julie moaned. “I thought this episode was over…”
“Are you sure he didn’t invite you?” Karen asked, a small smile on her lips.
“No, he didn’t.”
“But you left the parking together!” Nancy added. “It’s obvious something happened!”
“Stop it! Nothing happened on the way back. We just talked and he didn’t ask me anything. Got it?”
“But…” Karen began.
She didn’t finish her sentence. Julie motioned for her to be silent.
“If you don’t believe me, ask him! Me, I give up!”
Her friends looked extremely disappointed, but they stopped asking her the same question. Julie reached into her memory and was unable to recognize the slightest sign indicating that Matthew wanted to invite her to the prom. Karen and Nancy were wrong, based on nonsense. Karen sighed deeply while confessing that Matthew had asked her some questions before her arrival.
“These are just questions,” Julie replied, shaking her head. “It doesn’t mean anything. Just plain curiosity, that’s all.”
“It’s a shame,” Nancy sighed. “He’s a very nice guy.”
“And he’s also my friend.”
“But I thought he would invite you to the prom,” Karen added with a whiny voice. “Yet it seemed to be what he had in mind. And I was so happy! It would be nice if you were with someone.”
“Oh please! You’ll be there! I won’t be alone!”
Nancy smiled weakly, looking away. Julie asked how evolved her exciting love story with Joel, preferring to divert attention. Except that her friend blushed without answering. She mumbled something incomprehensible. Curious, Julie hastened to ask her to speak more clearly. Karen lowered her head, leaning back a little more in the living room couch.
“Did I miss something?” Julie asked them, frowning.
“Well…” Nancy stammered, “we… we’re going to the prom together, Joel and I…”
“Really? This is… You… you are officially…?”
Julie raised her eyebrows. Nancy had a date for the prom? Why this thought made her sad? Her two best friends weren’t single anymore. She would be alone. However she should be happy for her friend, even though she was now the only single girl from their inseparable trio. She had no date, nor received any invitation. Taking a deep breath, the girl grinned to Nancy, saying she was very happy for her. She refused to spoil her happiness.
“Maybe Matthew will…” Nancy began, hesitantly.
Julie sighed, shaking her head.
“Don’t worry about me.”
“Something great could happen,” Karen replied, shrugging her shoulders. “There’re still a few days before the prom.”
“I’ll be there alone. That’s it. End of story.”
Karen opened her mouth to add something, but Julie raised her hand to shut her up again. She didn’t want to hear about it. She returned home shortly after. She felt very exhausted. When she entered the house, her mother was quietly reading in the living room while Sophie was dozing on the sofa.
“Did you have a nice evening?” her mother asked her.
“Not too bad. We won!”
Sophie moaned weakly before applauding and opened her eyes.
“Was it a massacre?”
Julie grinned at her sister, raising her thumbs.
“Mom, I need to ask you something.”
Her mother closed her book, holding her page with her finger. She looked at her daughter. Julie explained to her the idea that her friends had about the week at Christopher’s parents’ cottage after the prom. Nodding, her mother gave her a broad smile, saying she was old enough to know what she wanted to do. She could have a great time with her friends before moving out. And she was old enough to know what she was doing. Permission granted very easily to her. She thanked her mother and wished her a good night. She kissed her cheek before joining her dog that was lying on her bed. She sank into it with a deep sigh. She reached out to stroke his head. She told him about her evening, taking the picture out of the inside pocket of her jacket. Should she have shown it so someone? Shaking her head, she put it in her agenda with the other photo she found in her locker. She turned her attention to her dog, smiling at him tenderly.
“And Nancy will finally have a date for the evening. She’s very lucky.”
She was very happy for her friend, but she thought the situation was a little unfair. Nobody had asked her out. Even a clumsy pseudo-attempt that would have aborted at the last minute. When her last boyfriend had moved, they had broken up. Neither one nor the other believed in a long distance relationship that might not last. Things would be much too complicated. She changed, overwhelmed with fatigue. Max licked her cheek gently and gave her room when she slipped under the covers to sleep.
“You’ll have to stay here.”
Max lowered his ears, moaning.
“I’m going to miss you, you know.”
She closed her eyes, continuing to caress him gently behind the ear. The weekend promised to be far too long for according to her!
* * * * *
Over the weekend, the young girl shared her time between giving her opinion on ideas for her sister’s wedding and her study. Her friends called her a few times, but she stayed home.
When Monday came, no more students were able to stay focused. Fatigue and stress began to be felt. The holidays approached slowly and gradually impatience rose. Julie tried to rejoice about the future week she’ll spend in a cottage, away from everything. After all, all her friends would be there. But she couldn’t completely get rid of the strange feeling that kept torturing her. She hadn’t thrown away the group photo. She was seeing a kind of warning in it. As if a threat hanged over them.
At lunch time, Julie and her friends gathered in the cafeteria for a snack and to discuss their plans for the week at the cottage. They established some rules to follow during their stay. Christopher tried to hide his disappointment because Rachel wouldn’t be there. Yet he was the only one to regret it. Even Maxim seemed happy that Dominique refused to join them.
“There’s room for everyone,” Christopher sighed.
“She has the right not to want to come,” Philip said before taking a bite.
Maxim heaved a deep sigh.
“I… I can try to convince Dominique to come with us. So maybe Rachel will agree to follow.”
Matthew shook his head.
“She’s not like you think,” Christopher replied in a defensive tone.
“You never had the courage to ask her out,” Philip retorted.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Karen began, crossing her arms on her chest, “but I just spent an entire school year with those two girls. No way I’ll support them one more week!”
“They were also with us sometimes during the weekends,” Nancy said.
Nobody uttered a word during the next few minutes Philip tried to make a joke, but his attempt was a dismal failure. Christopher finally got up and left the cafeteria without looking back. It was better to drop this subject for now. The end of the year stress made everyone on the edge. They’ll talk about it after the exams period. Joel and Nancy went out too after waving. The other parted right after.
Julie went to the bathroom. Heading towards the main doors of the school, she met Philip. She decided to confront him about the photo that had fallen out from his bag. She accused him of anything, of course. She only wanted explanations. Why was this horror in his gym bag? When she broached the subject, Philip merely looked at her without saying anything. Finally she lost patience.
“You have no explanation for that?”
“This is not mine. Where did you find this?”
“It fell from you bag after the game, last Friday.”
In disgust, he quickly shook his head. He repeated that the picture didn’t belong to him. He didn’t know how it got into his bag. She stared at his face.
“Julie, I swear I’ve never…”
Could she believe him? The surprise was really on his face. He seemed very sincere. Was it a joke of a very bad taste? Philip gave it back the picture. The young girl hastened to hide it again in her agenda when she saw Karen coming their way. With his gaze, Philip begged her not to say anything. Julie gave him a little head movement. It really wasn’t worth it that his girlfriend saw such a horror show.