Our friend group was always beautiful. Twisted, but beautiful.
Ahmed, the serious, brooding type who could always be found with his nose in a book.
Jaime, the new French intern who was eager to please everyone.
Rosalia, a sweet, doe-eyed girl who modeled and had a successful career on YouTube as a beauty influencer.
Leonard—whose zodiac sign was coincidentally a Leo—a software engineer who always worked late nights.
Zara, a lovable medical student who was constantly telling the rest of us that Grey’s Anatomy was inaccurate to a degree that baffled and angered her.
Lou Elle, author, party girl, and professor at Harvard.
And me, Everly, a confused twenty-seven-year-old who was “in-between jobs” after getting fired from a law firm I had worked at for two years.
We were inseparable—meeting at least twice every week for cards, clubbing, or whatever it was that we wanted to do.
That was why it was such a surprise when Zara was murdered and we all became suspects in a high-stakes murder case.
The police aren’t friendly. They have each of us in different rooms. White, clean rooms, rooms that look like they’ve been sterilized ten times over. The chair I’m in is uncomfortable and hard. I don’t bother telling the officer on the other side of the desk I’m allergic to metal. I doubt he’d care.
It's 5:00 in the afternoon and he's probably had a long day.
He steeples his hands on the desk, looking bored and tired. “Everly Rosette Brown. My name is Jacob. I’ll be interrogating you today about the death of your friend and ex-girlfriend, Zara Michaels-Rashid.”
I don’t know how this could happen. Zara wasn’t meant to find out, but when she did, she was furious. We never meant to kill her. I don’t even know how she was killed. We had discussed ways of silencing her, but never planned to follow up on them.
This interrogation will determine whether I go to prison or not. The police won’t care that I didn’t kill her. They’ll see room for intent, and that’ll be enough to convict me.
They’re judging me. I can tell by their judgy little faces. It ain’t my fault. I’m already different from them. My Southern accent is sharp and twangy compared to their soft, California-sunshine voices.
They’re reading my transcript right now. Their faces give it away. They think I’m guilty. Zara and I had our ups and downs, but I never thought that’d be enough to send me off to jail.
Our last fight was the worst—bottle broke, our neighbors reported us for all the screaming, and our friend group was almost shattered. It had been years since high school, but we’d shifted right back into our old patterns.
Now that she’s all gone and dead, I can’t. Can’t think, can’t breathe. The last thing I told her was that I hated her. Over a goddamned phone call.
Maybe that's enough cause to rule me as guilty, but I don't know how this will go. It's going to end up with me leaving with a weight on my heart, or in flames.
I don't know how the others are faring now.
I am scared. I could be deported. My English is bad, and when they question me, I could stutter. They might think I am guilty then.
I have no idea what Ahmed is thinking right now. Perhaps he is as flustered as I am.
Or perhaps he is cool and calm, just like he was when he realized Zara knew about our affair.
My eyes betray no emotion. I barely breathe. I sit in the chair and don’t fidget. I’ve rewatched Quantico too many times to know the drill.
I smile at the officer. “Thank you for your time.”
I talk my way out of the interrogation smoothly. I’m used to attention. I’m used to answering dangerous questions. And I’m used to smiling and looking pretty and getting out of trouble.
Only this time, I’m not guilty.
In fact, I’m far from it.
Jacob’s breath smells like whiskey. He really shouldn’t be day-drinking, but here we are.
“Why did you two break up? What were your problems?”
“She realized she was straight. And I realized that she was taking advantage of me.” My words come out clipped and forced.
Jacob nods pensively. “When was the last time you talked to her?”
Unintentional tears well up. “I was wishing her happy birthday.”
Somehow, they’re convinced I’m not guilty. They’ve released me. The sky outside is a deep, pink-red and I can taste the breeze on my tongue.
It reminds me of freedom—soft, fleeting, and beautiful.
I’m thinking about how this will shatter our friend group. Nothing will ever be the same. Not our poker nights. No more drinking till we get rip-roaring drunk. No more dancing or laughing or good times.
Tears are slipping down my cheeks and down to the ground. I can’t smile anymore, can’t put up a façade.
This is too much. I’m not the party girl anymore, just a professor who has no idea what to do.
They’ve come in and told me what Jaime just said. I’m cursing that fool. He gave it all up, and we’re in deep shit now.
I knew he was sensitive, but not enough to destroy both of us. I didn’t kill Zara.
Maybe he did.
My efforts to protect Ahmed and Jaime were in vain. They sabotaged themselves. They’re probably going to jail.
I saw them kissing at Microsoft. We were meeting at my office to toss around some Ping Pong balls and I had gone up to check the security feed one last time.
It wasn’t a normal, let’s-do-it-for-the-heck-of-it kiss. It was a passionate, deep, throbbing kiss, the type that was supposed to be shared during morning-afters in bed.
I knew that Zara had been unhappy with Jaime for a long time now. Their relationship was on the rocks, and if they broke up, it would mean the end of our little friendship circle.
So I took matters into my own hands.
But Ahmed and Jaime had to screw it up with confessions. My efforts were for nothing. They didn’t know I’d killed her. But they were going to prison for life.
And I’d walk free.