[Original Novella] Exit Party, Part 8 (the finale!)

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Previous parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

The phone rang again. Angie, surely? Something she forgot to tell me. I grabbed at the phone, my still-wet fingers slipping once before gaining purchase on the smooth, flat slab of metal and glass.

But it wasn’t her. The woman on the other end recited my first and last name, then recounted how she found my number scrawled on a folded scrap of yellowing paper, tucked into the pocket of a jacket she once wore to camp.

Unbelievably, it was. She explained that finding the phone number brought back happy memories from camp, so she thought she’d call me and find out where my life went. Of all the fucking days to call, she chose this one.

I hesitated at the last part because I knew it was a fib. She said I sounded like I’d been crying, and asked what the matter was.

She asked if I had a little bit of time. Said she’d spent the evening working up the nerve to call, and wanted to say some things to me.

Angie just indulged me in the same way a minute prior, so I could not find it within myself to refuse her.

I answered that I did vaguely recall.

I filled in the gap. She laughed. I noticed a slight slur to her speech. Not yet as drunk as I am, but well on her way.

I assured her I remembered that part.

She was definitely weepy now. It tinged her speech as she answered.

Despite everything, I smiled. Too much feeling. Too much, at a time like this. she insisted.

I told her that she was only ever like ten pounds above average. She told me I clearly didn’t understand the hearts of women, and I agreed that was probably true. We both laughed at that, through the tears.

I asked why she was asking.

A sharp pain pressed on my heart. I could practically hear her deflate through the phone.

I cut her off, assuring that wasn’t it, the pain in my chest only growing more severe the more she spoke.

But try as I might, I could imagine nothing to say which would not sound like an excuse to her. Which her fragile heart would not eagerly mistake for rejection, a feeling I know all too well. There was simply no alternative but to tell her everything.

So I poured my guts out for her. Turned myself inside out, like how a starfish eats. I told her about my selection letter. About all the preparation up until today, about the guests waiting outside. I told her about Angie.

Again, I shut her down.

She broke up on the other end, all I could hear was drunken blubbering. Oh. Of course. I slumped against the door and let myself blubber too, now that the full picture had suddenly come into focus. No use fighting it back at this point, may as well feel all of it.

Stars. The beach. Dogs, trees, concerts. Summer sunshine. The sound of Angie’s laughter. No, no more Angie right now. I have to belong to Kaitlyn right now, at least until the call’s over. her voice was so soft now, almost whispering.

The stabbing sensation in my chest was unbearable now. There was just nothing to say that would make it any better. she asked, voice trembling.

I have never been terribly good at bluster. But I’ve also never been so powerfully motivated until now. I lied through my teeth, recalling just then something I heard recently on the radio.

It was the last thing I could do for her. To posture and thump my chest, so that she wouldn’t be afraid. She’d find out it was all a sham when her turn arrived, but she might at least sleep soundly every night until then.

I steeled myself as hard as I could in order to maintain composure. It was unexpectedly grueling.

she asked. This time I answered honestly.

She lingered, as did I, each of us listening to the other’s breath. I told her to just hang up, because there’s nothing that will make it easier. So she did. I finished putting my clothes on, occasionally glancing at myself in the mirror. Imagining how I’d look lying down with my arms crossed, eyes closed.

Dad’s voice. When I emerged from the bathroom, body still steaming, he knelt in the hallway with a circular saw, plugging it into the wall.

Near as I can figure he was fixing to break the door down, if it came to that. It was either going to be him, or the men in those helicopters. I guess I’d rather he do it, all things considered. He stared at me, blinking in disbelief. Shielding his eyes, in the darkness of the corridor, against the light from the bathroom door which framed my silhouette.

He stood up, brushed himself off and demanded to know what I’d been doing in there for so long. He shouted and gesticulated like he always does when he’s this mad, but I just waited him out. It’s not like he’s going to kill me or anything.

Everybody was still in the livingroom where I left them, chatting nervously to one another about the helicopters and tapping away at their phones. They all balked at me when I entered the room. Despite being surrounded by all of these people, all of them important to me in their own way…as the curtains finally begin to fall, and everything draws to a close…I have never felt so completely alone.

I didn’t bother answering, except to ask where the gun was. I smoothed my shirt, then tried to do something acceptable with my hair so I’d look alright for Dad’s camera.

Nothing left that I want to say, and only one thing left to do. As I kneel on this cushion, I find myself grasping inwardly for anything I can use to fight back the fear this time. Thoughts of Angie. I remember every tiny detail of that Summer we spent together. Thoughts of Kaitlyn. The future we might have shared, in a different world.

It gave me the strength I hoped it would. The strength I was missing before. All at once, now. No hesitation this time, all at once. Just one last, big push. Got to keep those memories running through my head as I tilt it gently back towards the canvas, slide the barrel of the gun into my mouth, and squeeze the trig

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