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    You betrayed me, Chris. I didn't even know it at the time.
    In the spring of that year, two months before graduation, had been the accident, when her world had changed and her idea of herself shattered. Seeing her father like that had hurt, the funeral had hurt, and Chris just didn't understand. At the time, all Karen knew was that she had asked him to go with her, and he had shrugged a little and looked at her, head tilted and those eyes glowing at her, and asked why. Nothing threatening, just "why?" She did not reply, and did not ask again.
    It was afterwards, much later if at all, that she began to realize what it meant: that he had told her the truth. Every one of those drunken conversations, when the world was a vibrant and beautiful place, alive with tragedy and deadly love, he believed it all. Her father's death had been quick, they were told. He had been getting on in life, would probably have been due for a heart attack in a few years. Best to get it over with, really. He didn't understand why she was hurt by the death, and when it came right down to it neither did she. So I didn't understand myself and I finally realized that I didn't understand him and didn't have a chance of doing so, and then came the day that we both knew that we knew no wonder we drifted, she thought.
    But that wasn't right either. It was she who had drifted. Chris—Chris remained himself, and she realized, intuited, that had she not cut herself off maybe something could have happened. Maybe we could both have understood. Too late now.
    Karen walked unsteadily to the living room and brought the bottle, no power within her to stop the course of remembrance. She'd been so busy they had all but lost touch completely, except when she went to see him—always with friends, never risking confrontation, although Chris had never confronted anyone in his life—in the fume-filled halls where his straggling band drew whooping crowds. You could miss a lot, in the dark. She hit the button on the answering machine and looked out the windows. Dark, now. City lights wove patterns on her skin.
    Beep. "Karen, it's your mother. Give me a call soon, bye?"
    Beep. "Hey, sweetie, I hope you know who this is without me telling, got to work late the next couple nights so I'll see you Saturday, okay? Bye."
    Beep. "Hey, it's Brenda, we getting together Friday? I don't know 'bout you, but I've got a killer of a week to unload and I want to do some serious frying of the neural connections, know what I mean?" Giggle. "See you, bye."
    Beep. "Karen?" A pause long enough for her heart to stop. She turned from the window and stared at the inoffensive black plastic as if it might rise, mutate into horrible life. "Karen, you'd better not really be there dissin' me, that really pisses me off" Another pause. She couldn't seem to move. She heard an exhalation, like a sigh. "Okay. God I hate talking to these things. You're not writing back, and that's okay. I guess I understand. I'd probably do the same thing."
    No you wouldn't.
    "Anyway, I got your number from Information. I really don't know what to say, Karen. Kind of funny, from me, huh? I'm in the hospital. I guess I got blasted the other night and tried to dive off a roof. I don't remember. They've got me in this little room with no windows, I'm going crazy here."
    I know how you feel.
    "This is the first time they've let me use the damn phone, they wanted me to call my dad if you can believe that. I guess you're not there. Here's the number." He fumbled through it, seven digits plus area code plus room extension. "I don't know what you're thinking about me right now—that I was stupid, fucked up, maybe I deserve it. I don't know.

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Except where otherwise noted, all material on this site is © 1999 Rebecca J. Stevenson