Like The Prose Day#10

Today’s story and the next two are interconnected – today you get to read the first part of a whodunnit (although it’s possibly more of a ‘whydunnit’) and then tomorrow (and the next day) you’ll get a different version of the same story. You’ll need to see whether your perceptions of the four main characters change depending on who the narrator is. Also, because I’ve written quite a few literary pieces recently, I’ve decided to switch genres and give you all a bit of American-themed YA fiction.

Triple Aspect: Ally

May 1st, 3am:

I still can’t believe it’s happened. The red blood spilling from Mandy’s neck looks strangely artificial – almost as if it’s a staged scene for a whodunnit; but the police presence and the murmur of voices in the corridor outside and the shocked faces of Ken and Emma all conspire to convince me it’s real. And I know that at some point I’m going to have to explain what happened.

April 29th

The four of us – me, Mandy, Ken and Emma – have been pretty tight since we met up at the start of the year. For some reason, we just gravitated towards each other and found we were hanging out all the time. I suppose it helps that Mandy and Emma share a room and that Ken and I are in the same dorm because, apart from that, we’re all quite different. Mandy’s really outgoing: vivacious and incredibly pretty with long, black hair that spills over her shoulders and she’s into some crazy bands the rest of us had never heard of before. She’s really into music and theatre and a whole bunch of arty stuff, which is just as well since Emma’s one of those arty types too – makes her own jewellery and her desk’s always littered with glue and fabric and little gems.  Emma’s attractive, but in a quiet, understated way. She’s had a tough time this year – her parents were fighting a lot when we arrived for the start of the college freshman year, and recently her grandad’s been pretty sick, so she’s been a bit withdrawn for the last few weeks. And Ken – well, Ken’s a walking cliché: he’s the typical American college student, here on a football scholarship (which is just as well since I don’t think his GPA was that impressive), all tall, tanned and toned with teeth that must have cost his parents thousands. (I don’t care what you say: no one has teeth that are naturally that perfect.) I know you must be wondering about me too – well, I’m just average, I guess. I’m majoring in English, like Emma, so that’s another thing we have in common.

It must have been a couple of months ago when Ken and Emma started dating. I knew she’d liked him for ages – she confided in me some time in the first week that she had a crush on him but she thought he’d never look at her like that – but then the four of us went to a concert together and it all just snowballed from there. I have to admit, I was surprised – I’d always thought Mandy was more his type; but they seem to get on well and he’s been really supportive of her recently, giving her the space she needs because of her grandad – a lot of guys would make a fuss if their girlfriend wanted to be left on her own, night after night, but he hasn’t complained at all.

Mandy’s been good about giving Emma her space too – it can’t be easy sharing a room with someone who’s going through an introspective stage like that, but she’s been disappearing every evening and not coming back until late so that Emma doesn’t feel under any pressure to make conversation. Although …

I think one of the reason’s Mandy’s out so much is because she has a new boyfriend. She’s being really secretive, though – doesn’t want to spill any of the details to me or Em. OMG – what if he’s married? No, don’t be stupid – we’re still in college – and how on earth could she hook up with an older, married guy when we only ever go out as a group. So, not a married man, then – but why won’t she tell us anything? Maybe he’s one of those really nerdy guys from Psych 101 – there’s a red headed one who keeps offering to lend her his lecture notes. I wonder if Ken knows anything? We have a class together later on, so I’ll ask him then.

May 1st, 1am:

The rest of the dorm is asleep as we creep along the corridor and into Mandy’s room – it’s lucky she rooms with Emma, otherwise we’d be disturbing a disgruntled third party with our loud whispering and tipsy behaviour. I can’t remember now whose idea it was for the four of us to go out tonight – and I’m amazed that Emma agreed when she’s been so withdrawn recently. Anyway, we went downtown for food and then found this cosy little bar that seemed quite empty – I still don’t know whose idea it was to order beers – or how we managed to get served when we’re so obviously underage: all I know is that all of us are definitely the worse for wear – and maybe that’s why Ken and Mandy start fooling around a little when Emma’s in the bathroom – nothing serious, but they break apart guiltily as they hear her re-entering the room – and then a look passes between them and I suddenly know – and I wonder if Emma’s seen it too.

May 1st, 2.17am:

A little later, Emma tugs at my arm. “Can I have a quick word?” She obviously doesn’t want to talk about it in front of Ken or Mandy, so we step outside the room for a moment, into the quiet of the deserted corridor, and then Emma looks at me, her eyes full of tears. “Did you know?” she asks brokenly. “Did you know what they were up to? Am I the last one to find out?”

And she looks so broken that I just want to put my arms around her and hold her until she feels safe again. And I still can’t believe that Ken would do something like that to her. And as for Mandy … “No,” I tell her gently, “I didn’t know until this evening.” And I try to put an arm around her, but she shrugs it away, too hurt to let anyone else near her. And at that moment, I almost hate Ken and Mandy for what they’ve done to her.

May 1st, 2.30am:

I let her cry and then give her a few moments to pull herself together before we re-enter the room. I don’t want to think what Ken and Mandy might have been getting up to while we were outside, but at least they have the decency not to flaunt what’s going on in front of Emma.

I think perhaps if Ken and I had left then, things might have gone differently. Emma could have talked to Mandy and told her she knew about her and Ken, and they could have talked through everything and maybe salvaged their friendship. Or if Ken had taken Emma outside himself and been honest with her – told her about Mandy and said he was sorry – done all of that in private. But no, our Ken’s not bright enough to know how to do the decent thing – I mean, he tried, but he just ended up making a mess of things.

“I don’t think this is working out, Em,” he says suddenly. I wonder if Mandy feels as uncomfortable as I do.

For the next few minutes, we listen as Ken pulls out every trite break-up line in the book. (Perhaps there is a book and he’s memorised it – that’s the sort of thing Ken would do.) On and on he goes, platitudes spilling from his lips –“It’s not you: it’s me” and so on and so on. Emma’s face is white as he says it and I’m amazed that she doesn’t scream at him or swear or any of the other million and one things you’d expect someone to do in a situation like that.

Ken’s finally finished. I think he’s managed to convince himself that what he’s said is true, but the rest of it aren’t buying it for a second – not even Mandy.

“Ems,” she begins uncertainly, “he’s not worth it.” She takes a deep breath and Ken suddenly realises what she’s going to say. He signals desperately with his eyes, but Mandy ignores it. She’s always had a thing about being honest.

“For the last week,” her voice wobbles, “I’ve been meeting Ken when I said I was going out.” Emma’s face crumples. She can’t bear this. “He told me the two of you had broken up, but you didn’t want to talk about it. If I’d known you were still together, I wouldn’t have let anything happen, I swear. I never meant to hurt you, Em,” Mandy continues, tears shining in her own eyes. “I’m so, so sorry.”

I watch Emma anxiously, aware that this could tip her over the edge. A few months ago, she told me she used to self-harm – faint scars crisscross from her wrist to her elbow on both arms – and I wonder if she ever told Ken or Mandy. For a while, she doesn’t do or say anything; then, “Thank you for your honesty,” she says to Mandy and she crosses over to her desk, her fingers nervously straightening all the craft stuff that’s laid out there.

Looking across at Ken, I feel far angrier with him than I do with Mandy. If he wanted to end things with Emma, then he should have done it properly – not lied to everyone and hoped for the best. “Come on!” I tell him. “We need to leave,” but his eyes are fixed on something behind me and so I turn to see what’s going on.

I gaze at Emma in shock. There’s a knife in her hand and for a moment, I think she’s going to attack Mandy or Ken, and then I realise that she’s going to cut her own wrists in front of us. She wants to punish them both for cheating on her by making them watch her die. I don’t think the others realise that, though: they seem frozen with fear, unable to say or do anything that will stop her. I’m going to have to get the knife away from her, before she hurts herself, so I reach over, as slowly as I can, not wanting to frighten her – and it might have worked, but Mandy panics and shouts, “Stop her!” and Emma whirls round and…

            The red blood spilling from Mandy’s neck looks strangely artificial – almost as if it’s a staged scene for a whodunnit; but the shocked faces of Ken and Emma convince me it’s real. And I know that at some point we’re all going to have to explain what happened.

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