Harper’s hands were shaking.
She gripped the edge of the bed tightly, willing herself to steady her breathing and slow her racing heart. It almost worked.
“What the hell happened?” Katie’s voice sounded so far away. “Is she okay?” Harper felt her mattress sink slightly as her roommate took a seat by her side.
Ivy shrugged, and muttered a reply that was too quiet for Harper to make out. But she was sure she could already guess what she was telling Katie.
How she’d found Harper, sobbing and inconsolable as one of the guards led her down the hallway.
How she’d offered to escort her the rest of the way to her room.
And how Harper had stayed silent, seemingly ignoring all of the other girl’s worried questions.
Harper appreciated Ivy’s gesture. Whether it was out of genuine kindness or simply repayment for the way she had been looking out for her the past few weeks, Harper was grateful. But it was so difficult to find her voice. She wasn’t even able to manage a simple “thank you”.
“I can take it from here.” Katie spoke again. She placed a hand tentatively on Harper’s shoulder, glancing up at Ivy as she did so. “Thanks for helping her.”
Harper sensed a second, softer touch against her other shoulder then. It felt nice. Warm.
“You know where to find me if you need anything.” This time, she was able to make out Ivy’s soft, musical voice.
“Thanks.” She finally managed in a whisper. Had it even been loud enough for the other girl to hear? Harper couldn’t be certain. But the next thing she knew, the warm touch on her shoulder was gone, and so was Ivy. Everything suddenly felt even emptier than it had before.
“Harper. You’re freaking me out.” Katie’s voice broke the silence. It was rare to hear her sound so serious. She didn’t even call her ‘deaf girl’. “It’s… It’s not the baby, is it? Phoenix… He’s okay?”
She nodded slowly, willing herself to finally speak. “He’s fine. It’s… It’s my Oma. Th-they told me sh-she fell this morning… She h-hit her head…”
“Oh shit.” Katie leaned closer to her, placing a small hand against Harper’s back. “Is she…?”
“They don’t know. Sh-she’s in surgery. Th-they said she m-ight not… Fuck.” Harper buried her face in her hands, unable to go on.
Katie let her cry for a few more minutes before finally speaking again. “I’m so sorry. That really sucks.”
Harper felt a sudden warmth rushing from her chest up to her cheeks. “It ‘sucks’? Seriously?” She narrowed her eyes at the other girl. “This more than just ‘sucks’, Katie! She’s dying! And I never got to tell her I was sorry… I was such a fucking bitch. I didn’t wanna admit I was wrong… And now it’s too late. She’ll never know how much I wish I…” Harper shook her head.
“It’s not too late.” Katie replied seriously. “Talk to the director. He’s not a total ass, you know. You might need a guard to come babysit you… But I bet he’ll let you go see her.”
She shook her head. “I can’t do that.” Harper’s voice was soft.
“What? Why not?”
“I just can’t, okay?!”
“What the hell? I thought you said you want a chance to apologize!”
“I do!” Harper cried. “It’s not her that’s the problem.” She hesitated before continuing. There’s no way she’ll understand… “It’s my Papa.” She said at last. “I just… I can’t see him right now.”
Katie stared at her for a few moments, the confusion apparent in her eyes. “His Mama is dying. You need to see him.”
Harper sighed heavily. “Okay, first off, she’s not his real Mama. She’s his Tante. His real parents already died way back when he was a little kid.”
“So what? From everything you’ve told me, it sounds like she’s his Mama in all the ways that matter.” She shrugged. “You wouldn’t call her your Oma if she wasn’t, would you?”
Harper ignored her. “And secondly, you don’t know my Papa, okay?! You don’t know what he’s like. All he’s gonna do is make me feel even more guilty than I already do. He’s just gonna make it worse. And I can’t deal with that right now!”
Katie’s eyes widened. “You’re joking, right? You can’t be serious, deaf girl.” She shook her head in disbelief. “You’re refusing to be there for your own Papa… Whose Mama is dying… All because he might say something to make you feel bad? Are you seriously that fucking selfish?!”
“Ugh! I knew you wouldn’t understand!” Harper practically spat at her. What right did this bitch have to question her? “Let me spell it out for you, huh? He and I… we don’t get along. At all. I hate my Papa. I hate him!”
To her horror, the other girl laughed. “Are you seriously listening to yourself right now? You’re giving me flashbacks to when we were a couple of whiny brats back at school.”
“What the fuck is your problem, Katie?!” Harper was suddenly on her feet. “Why can’t you stay out of my business?! We’re not friends. You don’t know my Papa, and you don’t know me either! So stop pretending you know better than I do! Don’t give me this stupid lecture about shit you don’t understand!”
“Oh, you’re one to talk!” Katie sneered. “You’re the one who doesn’t understand. I’m sure your parents have done plenty to piss you off. But at least they tried. At least they gave a damn about you!”
For a moment, Harper was almost at a loss for words. What is she talking about?
“My parents never wanted a kid.” Katie continued. “They’ll never say it, but I always knew it was true. They never gave a shit about me. They just kept throwing money at me my whole friggin’ life, thinking that would be enough. But it wasn’t.” Her eyes narrowed. “And year after year, even back when we were little kids, I had to listen to you whine and complain about how ‘annoying’ your parents were, or how much they ‘smothered’ you. I couldn’t believe you were so ungrateful!” Katie’s voice had suddenly grown so much louder. “And yeah, I was a bitch to you for a long time. I was a stupid kid, and I took a lot out on you. I went way too far. And I feel bad for it, okay? I’ve been trying to make it up to you now.”
Woah. Harper had spent so many years wondering what she’d done to make Katie hate her so much. What had she ever done to earn that constant bullying? Now, it seemed she finally had an answer. It wasn’t an answer she fully understood, and definitely not one she was expecting. But it was something.
“Look… I appreciate the explanation.” At last, Harper spoke as she dropped back down onto the bed beside Katie. She actually found herself feeling bad for her. Harper knew all too well what it was like to have difficult parents. “And I’m sorry you had problems with your parents. But… so did I. And I know it’s probably not fair to compare my problems to yours. I get it. They’re just too different. But that doesn’t mean my problems don’t matter too.”
“Yeah, I know. And. I know things aren’t perfect with you and your parents. I’m sure you’ve got plenty of problems… I just wish you understood how friggin’ lucky you are.” Katie continued. ” I’ve been in here for nine months, and in all that time, my parents have come to see me twice... Once on my birthday, and the day after Christmas.” She paused for a moment, shaking her head. “They stayed for less than half an hour both times. I knew they only came because they felt like they had to. They don’t care about me, Harper… I don’t have anybody.”
Harper was silent for several moments, lost in thought. Was it true? Did she really have no one? Now that she thought of it, she could never recall actually seeing Katie’s parents show up for anything… Not now, at the prison, and not when they were children either. But she did remember a kind-looking older woman Katie would always run up to and hug after every concert or game back when they were at school together.
“Well, what about your Oma?” She asked at last. “I remember seeing her around a lot when we were kids.”
“My nanny.” Katie corrected her. “Alice.” For a moment, she smiled. “Yeah, she was the best. My parents were always away on business, or taking all these stupid trips together without me. But I always had Alice. She used to take care of me, until I was like fourteen or fifteen. That was when my parents decided I could take care of myself… I never saw much of her after that.”
Katie paused for a moment before finally speaking again. “Hey… Remember the story of how I got in here?”
Harper nodded slowly. “You stole a car, at that party…”
“It was a stupid ‘gala’ my Papa’s work was putting on.” Katie explained. “He practically forced me to go… Papa basically ignores me like, ninety percent of the time. But he always loves parading me in front of everybody any chance he gets. Pretending he’s parent of the year or something.” She rolled her eyes. “Anyway, I was bored out of my friggin’ mind, and a pretty tipsy too… My mind was kinda wandering, and I realized I’d missed Alice’s birthday. It was like a week ago, but it totally slipped my mind til then.
I never called her enough anymore, and I felt pretty guilty about it. So I decided why not give it a try? Better late than never, right?” She paused for a moment, almost laughing. “It was the most awkward time to make a phone call, but I was too drunk to care. I just wanted to talk to Alice…”
Harper felt her stomach sink. She didn’t like where this was going.
“Alice’s daughter was the one who answered.” Her voice was serious once more. “Told me she’d had a heart attack two months ago. Died before they even got her to the hospital…”
Katie’s voice was suddenly thick. “But you know what the worst part was? I went to go tell my parents… And they already knew. They’d known for two fucking months that the woman who raised me was DEAD. And they never even cared enough to tell me. ‘It must’ve slipped our minds,’ they said.”
“Holy shit…” Harper’s voice was a whisper. “That’s… terrible.”
“The only person who ever really gave a shit about me was gone. And I just didn’t care anymore… All I knew was I wanted to get back at my parents.” Katie continued. “So I decided to make a big fucking scene. Embarrass them as much as I could. I screamed at my Papa in front of everybody, then went and totaled one of his investor’s cars. It was so stupid. And all I can think of now is how ashamed Alice would have been if she could’ve seen it…” She shook her head slowly.
It was a few moments before Harper was able to find her voice again. Jesus Christ. And I thought MY parents were bad. “Wow… I’m so sorry.” She said lamely. She wasn’t sure what else she could say.
Beside her, Katie almost smiled. “I’m not looking for pity, don’t worry. I just… I want you to understand how lucky you are to have the family that you do. I’m sure they’re not perfect, but I guarantee they’re a hell of a lot better than mine are… And they need you, Harper. I just don’t think you should turn your back on them. Not now.”
Harper took a slow, deep breath as her mind tried to wrap itself around everything that was going on — and everything Katie had told her too. “Look, I just… I dunno right now. Everything’s so fucked up. It’s… a lot to take.” She replied. “I don’t really know what I’m gonna do.”
“I get it.” Katie assured her. “And I’m really sorry I dumped all my shit on you like that. I probably took it too far…” The girl smiled slightly for a moment. “After all these months in here, I think Dr. S is finally starting to get in my head…” Katie’s expression was suddenly serious once more. “Anyway, the point is, I’m really sorry about your Oma. And I really hope you can put all the shit with your Papa aside long enough to go see her. That’s all.”
God, she makes it sound so easy… “I’m not sure if I can…” Harper admitted softly, feeling yet another round of tears beginning to fall. “But thanks.”
Before you all hurt me for doing this to Joce (I’M SORRY, OKAY?! *sobbing*) I do come bearing some good news? A peace offering?
We will be returning to three updates a week, starting NOW! 🙂 I’m not sure how long I can keep it up, but for the time being, we’ll do three. I’ll go back to two if it gets too much (and let you all know, as always!) The schedule will be the same as when I did three a week before — Weekends and Wednesdays. See you with a new chapter tomorrow! 🙂