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chapter five

Mrs. Reese held senior detention during Flex. Flex was a twenty-five-minute period at the end of the day, set aside as a study hall/activity period. Clubs like Drama Club and SADD met during Flex. Those students who hadn't joined any clubs were to work on homework. Trevor had been assigned detention, so he dropped by his Flex teacher's classroom so that she could sign his detention slip, then he headed back to Mrs. Reese's room.

Detention was crowded. Every seat in the classroom was taken, but unlike the first few minutes of any other class, none of the kids were speaking. They all sat in their chairs, facing forward silently or working on some sort of assignment. Jared and James were already sweeping the floor with two large push brooms. Mrs. Reese met Trevor at the door. She pointed him to a seat and told him to get busy on his essay about respect for authority. If he didn't turn one in at the end of detention, he'd be back tomorrow.

Trevor rolled his eyes, but took a seat and began to write. He stated in his essay that respect needed to be earned. He also stated that persons of authority had a certain responsibility to the people they wielded their authority over. Trevor felt that during that afternoon's class, Mrs. Reese had not lived up to her responsibility. She should have been watching the class. She shouldn't have let Jared and James throw spitballs at Frances. In that regard, Trevor didn't feel she'd earned his respect. He felt perfectly justified in his actions and in his challenging of Mrs. Reese's methods.

Trevor concluded by saying that high school was a dangerous place these days. Terrible things were happening all over the country. It wasn't just about spitballs anymore. Sometimes it was about bombs and guns. Teachers hadn't proved that they could protect kids from those kinds of threats. Trevor felt that kids needed to stand up for themselves. "I could teach Jared French and James Mitchell a lesson," he wrote, "and nothing much would happen to me. If a teacher did it, he'd get in big trouble. It only makes sense that I should do it."

He seriously doubted this was the kind of essay Mrs. Reese had in mind. He wondered if she'd make him come to detention tomorrow and rewrite a more conventional interpretation of the theme she'd given him. But she didn't read it when he handed it in, just tucked it into her folder and dismissed him.

Maureen was waiting outside the door.

"Hey," he said. "Are you waiting for Jared? Because I think he already left."

"I was waiting for you," she said. "Frances told me you were in detention. That was cool of you to stick up for her."

Trevor didn't know what he thought about this Maureen chick. She seemed cool, but she was the class outcast, and she was probably right that he should stop hanging out with her if he wanted to make any friends. On the other hand, it had been so long since Trevor had had friends he didn't know if he quite cared about them. Maureen was sort of...dark. He didn't know if he was comfortable with her obsession with murder. It didn't seem healthy. Even if it was, it was a subject he certainly didn't care to talk about that much.

"Yeah, well, she was crying," he said.

"I wanted to talk to you about something," she said.

Trevor headed up the hall. Maureen came too, walking in step with him. "So talk," he said.

"Not in front of people."

What the hell was this chick's problem? "Look, Maureen, don't get any ideas."

She shot him a look that could freeze blood. "Don't flatter yourself," she said.

"Fine then," he said. Obviously, she wasn't going to express her undying love. Oddly, he felt a little disappointed. "I don't care. Say whatever you want."

"I don't think you want me to just blurt this out in public," she said.

"Say it," he insisted.

"I know," she said.

"You know what?"

"I know who you are."

Uneasiness crept up Trevor's back. "Okay, okay," he said. "Stop right there. We'll take a ride."

"You have a car?"

Trevor nodded. "Come on."

Once they were safely inside, and Trevor had gunned the engine, he told Maureen to go ahead.

"You know how I said you reminded me of someone?" she said. "I figured out who it is."

Trevor swallowed. "Who?"

"Robert Gordan. He's your brother, isn't he?"

Trevor busied himself with backing out of his parking space, and navigating his way through the lot. After they'd pulled out on the main road, he finally said, "Was."

"What?"

"He was my brother. He's dead, or didn't you hear?" Trevor was angry. How dare this stupid Death Girl chick go rummaging around in his past? He didn't need this shit. He was supposed to be away from all that here. No one was supposed to know.

"I'm sorry," Maureen whispered.

"Oh, don't be like that," Trevor said. "You're not sorry. He was a freaking psycho. No one's sorry he's dead."

"Well, what should I say?"

"Nothing. Just...what do you want? So you figured it out. Great. Are you gonna blackmail me or something?"

Maureen snorted. "Get real. I just wanted to�I don't know. I thought you should know that I know."

"Now I do. You got a particular place you want me to drop you off?" He wished he could just pull over and leave her on the side of the road.

"I didn't mean to make you angry," said Maureen.

"I'm not angry."

"Like hell. You're pretty pissed."

Trevor didn't say anything.

"Drop me anywhere. I'll call my mom, and she can come pick me up."

"I'm not leaving you on the side of the road. Where do you live?"

"Not far." Maureen gave him some quick directions.

They drove. Trevor watched the brightly colored foliage stream past as they drove. He might hate the country, but he had to admit it was pretty. All the mountains, covered in orange and red, layered on each other as far as the eye could see.

"So that's it?" said Trevor. "You figured it out, just 'cause I look a little like Rob?"

"That and you said you were from Praxton."

"Nobody remembers that Praxton is where it happened."

"Nobody except me. And I didn't. Not right away."

"Fuck," said Trevor. "So I guess you told Frances."

"No. Of course not. I didn't tell anyone. I'm not going to."

"Good."

Within a few moments, they pulled into Maureen's driveway.

* * *

Jared was frustrated, and he found that nothing relieved frustration better for him than sex. That was why he'd just been doing the nasty with Ms. Trask on her desk. Now she was standing next to it, surrounded by papers and books, which he'd swept aside in order to make room on the desk for their bodies, struggling to button her blouse with trembling fingers. Poor Ms. Trask. Young, idealistic, hot as hell. Nice tits too. He'd suspected a padded bra. Turned out they were just nice. Not too large. Firm, but soft. Perfect, actually. He wished she wasn't in such a damned hurry to cover them up.

Of course, he liked the fact that she was so flustered. She looked lost and afraid.

"Oh Christ, Jared," she murmured.

He sneered at her. "Get over it, Ms. Trask." She kept asking him to call her Amy, but he wouldn't. Calling her Ms. Trask turned him on. "You're young. What, like 26? And I'm older than I look."

She sat down heavily at her desk, surveying the destruction of her classroom. It was going to take her hours to reorganize all her stuff. There were papers everywhere. "Jared, don't be silly," she said distantly. "I know your birth date."

"You know the birth date I wrote down when I registered here," he countered. Despite everything, he did want to make her feel a little better. Well, maybe.

"What are you saying?" she said.

"Nothing," he said, waving a hand in dismissal.

She really wasn't having much luck with that blouse. She had it buttoned, but it was crooked. She hadn't matched up the buttons to their proper buttonholes.

"Here," Jared said, going to her and quickly unbuttoning the blouse. Deftly, he rebuttoned it correctly. "That's better."

"I didn't�" she began.

"Save it," Jared said. "It's over. It happened. I had fun. We won't tell anyone." He smiled at her.

She bit down on her lower lip. She looked as if she might start crying. Jared half-wished she would. It would be cool to know he could do that to her. Make her break down. But instead, she seemed to collect herself, tucking her blouse into her skirt and standing. "This can never happen again," she said.

Jared shrugged. "Sure it can. It might not, but it certainly can."

"No, Jared, it can not."

"Okay, Ms. Trask. See you in class tomorrow." He started for the door. "Oh," he threw over his shoulder, "very nice tits, incidentally."

Jared shut the door after him, hoping the last comment really upset her. God, it would be nice if she were just wrecked. He briefly fantasized about a broken Ms. Trask sobbing helplessly on her bed. He grinned. Yeah, fucking Ms. Trask definitely made him feel better. He walked down the now empty halls of Whitmore High, whistling Mozart. He pushed open both the double doors and stepped out into the warmth of the autumn afternoon. They slammed behind him satisfyingly.

Jared felt on top of the world during the entire walk back to his car. Digging his keys out of his pocket, however, he remembered why he'd been frustrated in the first place. Maureen fucking Paulsen. What a little bitch she was turning out to be. How the hell had she and Trevor ended up hanging out anyway? That wasn't supposed to happen. Trevor was supposed to be hanging out with him. He and Trevor were supposed to be the best of friends by now. Maureen was nothing. She was just some twisted girl he'd hoped to have a little fun with later on. But now, she was really starting to get on his nerves.

Jared had been waiting for this for way too long. He couldn't afford to let some idiot like Maureen mess it all up for him.

But this was the weird thing. Even without Maureen, Trevor didn't seem to like him. Jared could feel it when he was close to Trevor. Waves of revulsion pulsed from Trevor. He didn't want to be near Jared. He certainly didn't want to be Jared's best friend.

Was it possible he recognized him? No. That couldn't be. He'd never been recognized.

Jared slid into the driver's seat of his car and leaned his head against the headrest. What the hell was he going to do? Everything was spiraling out of his control. He needed to get things back on track. Maybe the problem was that he didn't know Trevor anymore. It had been years since he'd seen him last. Trevor had changed. Maybe Trevor really just wanted a girlfriend. It wasn't unheard of for guys his age. But girlfriends never helped the equation. Girlfriends got in the way. They served as moral compasses, tethers to the world. But if that's what Trevor really wanted, then Jared would just have to find him the right girlfriend. He considered. Oh yes. He had just the girl.

* * *

When Trevor got home he slammed a lot of doors. He slammed the porch door. He slammed the front door. He slammed his bedroom door. Then he stood just inside his room, breathing heavily, waiting for his mother to ask why he'd slammed so many doors. He held his breath, expecting it at any moment, hoping for it, then almost praying for it. She didn't ask. No tentative knock came on his door. No soft voice asked, "Trevor, is everything okay?" Nothing. He should have known better than to think she cared.

Giving up on parental consolation, he began to pace. He'd been angry, but he wasn't now. Now he just felt confused and a little sad. He didn't want anyone to know who he was, but he had to admit, he'd been pretty sloppy. He'd told Maureen the real name of where he'd come from. Praxton was close to Cleveland. He could have just said Cleveland. He'd mentioned his brother's name out loud. He could have played dumb. Maybe some part of his subconscious wanted someone to know. Maybe some part of him needed the event to be acknowledged. God knows, his parents never talked about it.

Rob had been five years older than Trevor, and the two had never been close, partly because of their age difference. Partly because Rob was mean. Rob had tortured him mercilessly when he was young. He'd "play" with Trevor, but Trevor would always end up being the captured prisoner or the criminal about to be hung, or the witch being burned at the stake. Trevor couldn't count the times Rob had "killed" him while they were playing.

When Rob got too old to play games, he'd taken to beating up Trevor for fun. Or at least that's why Trevor thought he beat him up. He certainly never articulated any reasons. He would just come home from school and start in on him. Trevor's parents' response to this was to put Rob on more drugs. Rob was never punished. His parents seemed to think if they found the right combination of medication, they could medicate the meanness right out of Robert. Of course, that hadn't worked real well, as the events at Madison proved. Still, Trevor had struggled to come to terms with what his brother had done.

Mass murder was a serious thing. The fact that Rob was a mean big brother proved nothing. Brothers fought. Big brothers picked on little brothers. That was normal. Rob's actions towards Trevor in no way proved that he was born bad or that he was mean through and through. Sure Robert had never been what you might call a pleasant guy. He'd been withdrawn, a loner. He hadn't made good marks in school. He hadn't been a good athlete. He'd had very few friends, and in elementary school, Rob had been considered the school bully. But none of that stuff meant he would grow up to shoot up his high school.

Trevor kept Rob's journal in a box in his closet. His parents didn't know he had it. They'd told the police officers to throw it away when they were done with it. Trevor had asked for it when his parents weren't around. The journal was sensational stuff. Portions of it had been published in news articles after the shooting. Mostly what they'd published had been the first page, on which Rob had written in his large blocky handwriting, everything written in all caps: "YOU KNOW WHAT I HATE? I HATE FAGGOTS. I MEAN WHAT HAPPENS TO A GUY TO MAKE HIM WANT TO WATCH MUSICALS AND GO SHOPPING? I HATE JOCKS. WHAT'S THIS OBSESSION WITH BEING SO GOOD AT SPORTS? IT'S A FUCKING GAME, MORONS. IT DOESN'T MEAN ANYTHING. I HATE STAR TREK FANS. THE FIRST SERIES WAS BAD ENOUGH, BUT IF YOU'RE INTO THAT VOYAGER SHOW OR ENTERPRISE OR WHATEVER, GIVE IT UP. IT'S OVER. THE WHOLE DAMN FRANCHISE SUCKS." It went on and on like this. Rob hated everybody. He hated white people. He hated Asian people. He hated Indians. (AND DON'T TELL ME TO CALL THEM NATIVE AMERICANS EITHER. I'M A FUCKING NATIVE AMERICAN. I WAS BORN HERE. DO YOU FUCKERS KNOW WHAT NATIVE MEANS? IT MEANS BORN HERE, YOU ASSHOLES.) He hated people who chewed gum. He hated religious fanatics. He hated racists. He hated vegetarians. He hated fat people. He hated people who hunted, which was ironic, because Rob loved hunting. He hated clowns. He hated�

There were four pages like that. Rob just listed everything he hated, which was...everything. The newspapers used this to say that Rob was disturbed, and he was a psychopath, and a bunch of other shit. But Trevor didn't think that the journal was supposed to be taken so seriously. It read kind of like a joke, especially the stuff about Star Trek and the clowns. Trevor had trouble believing that Rob's exhaustive list of everything he hated was directly correlated to his onslaught on Madison. Other stuff in the journal clearly was.

Stuff towards the end wasn't so much of a journal anymore. Rob had scrawled recipes for explosives, drawn diagrams of the school, plotted his day out in excruciating detail. Even though his plans included Simon, the FBI had ruled out the second shooter theory. Admittedly, the Simon stuff was kind of vague. In one diagram, Rob had a two Xs at the school entrance, one marked R and the other marked S. Also, Rob mentioned Simon a few times in some of his later entries. Simon was helping him make a bomb. They were going to set it off in the woods. He and Simon were going hunting the next day. Simon had a pretty cool shotgun. It was nothing specific, but the FBI had never met Simon. They'd just found his dead body in the school.

Trevor had met Simon.

Simon had moved to Praxton probably halfway into Robert's senior year of high school. The two quickly became close friends. They did everything together. Simon was over at the Gordans' house a lot. He always made Trevor feel uneasy. Sometimes he'd smile at Trevor, and Trevor would go cold all over. He was a nice enough guy, but he just didn't seem...normal. He was a bomb expert. A real pyromaniac, from the sound of Robert's journal. And Rob had set bombs up all over the school. They hadn't gone off, but they'd been his big plan. And Rob didn't know how to make bombs until Simon came along.

Trevor wasn't sure exactly why he came back to this line of thought as often as he did. He didn't know if part of him wanted to exonerate his brother from blame. That was probably it, he guessed. Robert wouldn't have set up bombs if it hadn't been for Simon. Of course, none of the bombs went off. Sometimes, Trevor even thought that Simon had set up the bombs, and that was why Robert had shot him. Because the bombs hadn't gone off. He didn't guess it really mattered. They had zillions of eyewitnesses placing Robert in the school with a gun in his hand and a journal full of diagrams of the school. Robert was guilty. That was pretty much the end of it.

But... There were several eyewitness accounts that claimed they'd seen a guy with a gun in a blue t-shirt. Simon had been wearing a blue t-shirt. Of course, Robert had been wearing a blue t-shirt too, but he'd been wearing a jacket over it. Surveillance cameras did confirm that at one point, Robert had taken off his jacket. So police surmised that Robert took off his jacket and the eyewitnesses had seen Robert without the jacket on. But Rob had only had his jacket off for maybe ten minutes. He took it off, was carrying it, and then put it back on. Nobody knew why he did this, but Trevor figured it was because it was Rob's leather jacket. He loved that jacket. It had been expensive, and Rob had hoarded Christmas and birthday money to buy it. He'd probably taken it off because he was hot. But he wouldn't have left it somewhere. He loved the jacket. So he was probably trying to carry it, and found it was in the way, so he put it back on. Even to Trevor, that seemed kind of weird, because Rob killed himself less than two hours after taking off the jacket. Why did he care about it, if he knew he was going to die?

Maybe he hadn't known he was going to kill himself. But what did he think? Did he think he was going to murder a ton of people and walk away? Was Rob that far gone? He must have been. To do what Robert did, he had to have been crazy. Because sane people didn't do shit like that.

Trevor sometimes wished he could have talked to his brother afterwards. Not to ask him why. Rob probably didn't really know why. Mostly, he wanted to ask him about the dreams. Trevor had been having these dreams. They were violent and bloody. He'd had them before Robert shot up the school. Pretty steady for about six months before it happened, and pretty steady afterwards for a few months. When he went on the meds, they stopped, and now, since he wasn't taking them anymore, they were back. Trevor kind of wondered if it was genetic. Maybe both he and Robert had picked up some sort of recessive violence gene. If Robert had been having dreams...

Maybe Trevor wanted to believe that Simon had something to do with the whole thing because that might mean it wasn't genetic. It could be Simon's fault, and Trevor wouldn't have to deal with the creeping horror he felt. Trevor thought that maybe he was just like his brother. Maybe one day he'd snap and start doing the stuff he did in his dreams. If Robert hadn't really been responsible, then the dreams could just be dreams. They wouldn't have to mean anything. But if Robert had done it all on his own, then Trevor had to consider the possibility that he himself might be dangerous. Sometimes the violence in his dreams felt so good. It felt right, like putting on a pair of well-fitting jeans.

* * *

"I need new jeans," said Maureen, surveying a row of them at Deb.

Frances nodded. "I know. That's what you've been saying." The two of them had been shopping for a little over two hours. Maureen had purchased two tops, a skirt, and a pair of shoes. Frances had yet to try on anything that fit. Everything she put on was far too small, and it was starting to get on her nerves.

"I've been saying it, because it's true," Maureen said.

"You've tried on like fifty pairs of jeans," Frances said, "and all of them have looked great on you. Why can't you just buy some?"

"They have all not all looked great," said Maureen. "In fact none of them have looked even good. All of them are cut for people with hips. I have none, in case you hadn't noticed."

You can have some of mine, Frances thought darkly. She really wished she could give Maureen some hips. She wished she could take all of her extra weight and lump it onto Maureen's body. How would Maureen like being that fat?

Maureen flipped through the rack of jeans. She pulled a pair out and held it up. "What do you think?"

Frances nodded. "Nice. Very cute."

Maureen folded them over one arm and continued to search. "Aren't you gonna try anything on?"

"No," said Frances.

"How come?"

"In case you hadn't noticed, I'm fat," Frances said.

Maureen stopped, and turned to look at Frances, a startled look on her face. She probably wasn't used to hearing Frances talk like that. Frances didn't care. She was sick of being sweet to Maureen all the time.

"Deb's has a plus size section," Maureen said, gesturing to the other side of the store.

Frances turned. The plus size section was the size of postage stamp. But if she didn't have to listen to Maureen go on about how horrible it was to have narrow hips, it might be worth going through. She made her way over. As she'd suspected, the clothing was pretty horrible. It was bigger, sure. But it was just oversized versions of Deb styles. No fat girl should wear Deb clothes. They were designed to show off cute figures and smooth young skin. Frances half-heartedly selected a few shirts that didn't look too tight and went to the dressing rooms. Maureen was there too, with an armload of jeans. "Hey," she said, pointing to the shirts. "Those are cute."

"Yeah," said Frances. "They're going to be too tight."

"God, Frances," said Maureen. "What's up? Doom and gloom's my thing, remember?"

"Whatever," said Frances. She hated Maureen right now. She really did. Earlier that day, Maureen had informed her that she'd gotten a ride home from school with Trevor. He'd stuck up for her and everything, and it had meant nothing. He was all about Maureen. Right now, Frances felt like Maureen was ruining her life.

"So you're fat," Maureen said. "If you don't like it, do something about it."

That was it. Frances wasn't putting up with this anymore. She hung her shirts on the discarded rack to be restocked. "I'm leaving," she said.

"What?"

"I'm leaving."

"Well, you're my ride, I'm coming with you."

"No. I don't really want to be around you right now," said Frances. She turned on her heel and left the store. She wouldn't mind if she never saw Maureen again.

* * *

"How did you get my phone number?" said Trevor to Maureen on the phone.

"I dialed information," she said.

Trevor wished like hell his parents would get an unlisted phone number. He wished the government would assign them new identities like in the witness protection program. "What do you want?"

"Can you come pick me up from the mall?"

"The mall's like an hour's drive away."

"Yeah, I know." Maureen sounded sorry.

"Can't you call someone else?"

"Well, I was here with Frances, but she's mad at me, and my mom and stepdad are out of town, and in case you hadn't noticed, Frances is my only friend, so you were kind of it."

"Okay," said Trevor.

"Really?"

"Yeah. Where can I find you?"

They set up a place to meet and hung up. Trevor told his mom he was going to the mall. She barely looked up from the newspaper she was reading to nod. Then he drove. An hour later, Maureen was in his car, and they were driving back home. Though he wasn't about to admit it, Trevor was kind of glad Maureen had called. He'd been having a pretty boring day, and as weird as she was, he kind of liked being around her. It was nice to be with someone who knew his secret. He didn't feel like he had to put on a show or hide anything.

The ride up to the mall had seemed interminably long, but it was going much quicker on the way home. He and Maureen talked about songs on the radio and school and movies and tons of other stuff.

Before he knew what he was saying, he said, "Hey, you wanna go out sometime?"

"What?!" Maureen replied. She'd been hunting through radio stations for something decent to listen to and she stopped. Country music blared into the car.

"Oh God, change it," Trevor said.

Maureen hit seek. Better.

"So, again I say, 'What?!'" said Maureen.

"I think I just asked you out," said Trevor.

"You can take it back if you want," Maureen said.

That was kind of sweet of her. Or maybe she really didn't like him. "No, I meant it," he said.

"Oh," she said. "Really?"

"Do you want to or not?"

"Oh, I totally do," she said, laughing. "Yeah, absolutely."

"Cool," he said. "How about tonight?"

Maureen giggled. "Yeah. Okay."

* * *

On the outskirts of town, the old Murray Shoe Factory squatted on a cracked and abandoned parking lot. The Murray Shoe Factory had closed several years ago, but since then nothing had moved into the building, except some weeds and probably some rodents. Jared had kicked in the door and was currently wandering about the building, whistling as he poured a trail of gasoline into each room.

Little things like this kept Jared from chomping at the bit. He liked destruction, but sometimes destruction took such a long time. Like with Trevor. He was impatient. He needed something to do. Burning down buildings was a little childish, but he enjoyed it. Right now, Jared felt totally at one with the cosmos. Or whatever.

The point was he knew that was fulfilling his destiny. He was doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing. He was acting according to his raison d'etre.

He poured gas until he ran out of it. Then he dropped the gas can, made his way out and stood outside. He took a book of matches out of his pocket, lit one, and tossed it through the door he'd kicked down. Fire was pretty.

* * *

Maureen spent two hours getting ready for her date with Trevor. She tried on every piece of clothing in her closet, even though she'd just bought new clothes at the mall. She blow-dried her hair. It looked terrible, so she got it wet again and let it air dry. She shaved her legs, even though she was wearing pants and he wouldn't see them. She was mortified at having told him that she hadn't shaved them before. She put on makeup. Maureen rarely wore makeup, and she wasn't very good at putting it on. Her first attempt made her look like a streetwalker. Her second attempt was going well until she smeared her liquid eyeliner. For her third attempt, she skipped the eyeliner entirely.

Finally, Trevor showed up at her door. Maureen was a little upset her mother wasn't home. When she told her mother she had a date, her mother probably wouldn't believe her. Maureen's mom was always going on about her high school dates, and expressing concern that Maureen never had any. It would have been fun, showing off Trevor. After all, he was damned cute. Maureen was also really relieved when he did show up. She'd been afraid that he would come to his senses all afternoon.

This was Maureen's first date ever. She just didn't attract boys. She wasn't sure why, because she knew lots of other uglier girls who had dates all the time. But something was wrong with her. She was maybe too skinny. She knew she didn't really have curves. Her breasts were too small or too big or her waist was too straight or, well, she didn't really know, but she knew something was wrong.

"Hey," said Trevor, when she opened the door.

"Hey," she said.

They looked at each other for a few moments, neither speaking.

"Sorry," said Trevor. "I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to do now. I've actually never really been on a date before."

"Me either," said Maureen. "How come?"

"Well, in Praxton, I'm guessing having a psycho killer big brother wasn't much of a turn on."

"Yeah," said Maureen. "I can see that."

"How come you?"

"I'm guessing I'm just too weird. Or something. I don't really know."

"So, we go now?"

"I think so, yeah. Where are we going?"

Trevor took her to Leone's, a pizza and pasta joint in town. It wasn't a really nice restaurant, but it was a sit-down place with waitresses and stuff, so it seemed appropriate.

During dinner, they didn't talk much. Mostly, they just ate. Maureen felt awkward. Trevor kept trying to start conversations, but he was bad at it, because he kept asking yes or no questions. Maureen would answer and then rack her brain for something else to say.

Afterwards, Trevor drove her home, and Maureen was pretty disappointed. It hadn't been much of a date. In an attempt to salvage the evening, she invited Trevor inside. They spent several more awkward moments sitting on the couch in her living room, until Maureen asked him if he wanted some wine. She knew her mother where her mother kept it, and alcohol seemed like a viable way to pass time.

Halfway into their glasses, they loosened up.

"Why did you ask me out?" Maureen asked.

"I have no idea," said Trevor. "I wasn't planning on it. I was mad at you."

"I thought you were mad at me."

"Because I was. But it just came out of my mouth and I realized I wanted to. I think you're really cool."

"Yeah, but everyone at school�"

"Oh fuck them. They don't know you. They've never even tried to know you," he said. "Plus, I guess it's cool that you know about Rob and all, and you're not freaked out by it."

"Well, I mean I just felt bad, because when I was talking about stuff earlier, I was being totally insensitive."

"No, you weren't. You didn't know."

"Still, I felt horrible. But I'm not freaked out about it. It's just gotta be hard."

Trevor shrugged. "I've never really dealt with it. I was on so many pills. I think it's totally natural for me to have freaked out a little bit�okay a whole lot�about what my brother did. But it didn't mean I had a chemical imbalance in my brain. I was sick, but I didn't have a chronic illness, you know?"

"Yeah. Any healthy person would be reasonably freaked out if their brother...you know."

"Right. My parents just suck, though."

"They're probably pretty freaked out, too. They probably feel responsible."

"They weren't. Robert was just...mean. He was always mean. I think he was kind of born that way."

"Really? I don't believe that about people."

"I'm not saying he couldn�t help what he did," said Trevor, "if that's why you don't believe that. I don't think he should get off the hook or anything."

"I guess I just don't like to believe in stuff like fate and destiny, and you're born this way. I think you can do anything you want."

"Me too, but there are some things you're born with that you can't change."

"Physical stuff."

"Physical stuff affects other stuff. And I think it's more than physical stuff. Some people are born with certain abilities."

"Like what?"

"Like musical genius. You gonna tell me that Mozart got nurtured into being Mozart?"

"No. I guess not. So you think Robert was born with the ability to..."

"No. I'm just saying. He and I both had the same parents. He and I both went to the same schools. But he was just always a certain way. You know guys that are like him. Sort of depressed and angsty and angry."

"Yeah, but they don't do what he did."

"Yeah. I don't know why he did it."

Maureen didn't know what to say. "I'm sorry."

"Don't get like that. Like I'm all fragile and you got to be careful around me. I hate that."

"Sorry."

"Don't be sorry."

"Okay." She paused. "Why do you think he did it?"

Trevor shrugged. "I think someone helped him."

"The second shooter theories?" Maureen was excited now. "What do you know?"

"You know about that? Well, I guess you would. I don't know if there was another shooter..."

"But you think there might have been? Who do you think it was? Adam Cleves, Dorian Michaels, or Simon Finch?"

"Simon," said Trevor. "It was definitely Simon."

"But he was killed. Adam and Dorian are alive."

"Yeah, well, my brother's dead too."

"Okay." Maureen was trying not to treat Trevor like he was fragile, but she didn't want to be rude either. "But why is that important?"

"Maybe it was a suicide pact between the two of them. Maybe Simon started to wuss out. He got my brother into bombs, you know. And the bombs didn't go off. Maybe Rob got mad. Maybe they were supposed to shoot each other, and Simon didn't hold up his part of the bargain. I don't know, but Simon had something to do with it. I knew that guy, and he was creepy."

"I always thought it was kind of weird how Simon's parents wouldn't let the police search any of his stuff."

Trevor nodded. "But at the same time, it makes sense. They didn't have probable cause. They couldn't search without permission. Oh, and it's just parent. Simon only had a dad. His mom was dead."

"Oh," said Maureen. "Still, it seems like an admission of guilt. It seems like his dad was hiding something."

"Hell, maybe he was." Trevor drained his glass of wine.

"Do you want some more wine?" Maureen asked.

Trevor did, so she poured more for both of them. When she reentered the living room, she brought the wine bottle. "I'm sorry," she said. "You probably don't want to talk about this."

Trevor took a sip of wine thoughtfully. "I don't know. Sometimes I feel like I never really have gotten to talk about it, and so I should. But then, what is there really to say? My brother was crazy. I'm not. End of story, I guess."

"Yeah," said Maureen.

"I never really did know him," said Trevor. "Not really. I found out more about him from reading his journal than I did from living with him for twelve years of my life. You know, my brother died a virgin? He died without ever having kissed someone."

"That's kind of sad. Especially when you think, 'What if he'd had a girlfriend?' Would that have made a difference?"

"No way. It wouldn't have changed anything."

"Maybe not. Some mass murderers start their killing spree day by killing their wives. But a lot of them don't have wives. They don't have families. They're loner types. You know, the loser guy who can't get a girlfriend and works a shitty job and no one really likes? They're that guy."

"So?"

"So, maybe they'd have been happier if they'd had a girlfriend."

"I don't think so. If they'd had a girlfriend, that would just mean they'd have had one more victim. People who do that stuff are just sick. That's all."

"You think your brother was sick?"

"Yes, I do. I think something was seriously wrong with him."

"But you also said you blamed Simon. You can't have it both ways."

"There was something wrong with Rob, but Simon made it worse. That's all I was saying."

"So why couldn't a girlfriend have made it better?"

"Because..."

"It would have given him something to be attached to."

"Maybe," said Trevor. He stood up. "You wanna go outside and smoke a cigarette?"

Maureen nodded. "Okay." It was funny. Even though she was arguing with Trevor, she still felt comfortable around him. It wasn't so much like arguing. It was more like exchanging opposing points of view. It was a lot of fun. She really enjoyed talking to Trevor. She liked that he didn't mind talking about what happened to his brother too. He seemed to approach it from a healthy standpoint. She couldn't understand why anyone had put this guy on pills. There was nothing wrong with him.

She led him outside to their back porch. Trevor had some cigarettes, so he gave her one. "I owe you anyway, right?" he said.

The night air was a little chilly, and Maureen hugged herself.

"I'm about his age now," said Trevor softly. "Sometimes I think that if I died now, I'd die just like he did. Never having had any real experience in the world."

Was Trevor saying he was a virgin? Was this some sort of line? Was he trying to get her to sleep with him? If he was, maybe she would. She wanted to have some "real experience" too. "Well," said Maureen, "at least now, you've been on a date."

Trevor smiled. "Yeah. That's true."

Maureen waited. Would he try to pursue it further? She didn't want to say anything if she'd misread what he'd said. He didn't say anything. "Um," she said. "I sometimes feel like that too. Like nothing has ever really happened to me. I wonder if I'll spend the rest of my life without ever...you know...doing certain things."

"What things?"

"Stuff that your brother didn�t get to do."

"Like what?"

"I don't know. Whatever you said before."

"I said�" Trevor broke off, and even though it was dark outside, Maureen could tell he was blushing. "I didn't mean... Uh..." He trailed off, laughing embarrassedly.

"Of course you didn't," said Maureen. "I didn't either." What the hell was she thinking? Trevor took her out for a date. That didn't mean he'd want to have sex with her.

"But," said Trevor, "if I had meant that, what would you have thought about my meaning that? Not that I'm trying to get you to like...fuck it. Never mind."

"It would have been okay if you'd meant that. I'm not saying that I would do something like that right away or�Jesus. Are you starting to wonder if we're even talking about the same thing?"

"I can't bring myself to say it out loud," said Trevor.

"Me either."

And then they kissed.

It was sweet and surprising, and Maureen's insides trembled. Kissing was nice.

chapter six >>

Copyright (c) 2010 Valerie Chambers