There was… so much blood. He gurgled like a fish out of water, choking on the liquid now spilling from his neck. It was so strong — the smell. My stomach churned the longer I looked at him, gasping and writhing on the wet asphalt. But, I couldn’t tear my eyes away. His white t-shirt was now stained red. His movements were sluggish, and when a bubble of blood from his slit neck popped, it splattered. I could feel some of it land on my face, but before I could properly gag, my arm was being yanked away.
“Rosella, we have to go!” She pulled harder and my body jolted in her direction. Next, my feet began to pick up their pace, running with her, puffs of warm air leaving our lungs and we left him, writhing on the cold asphalt. Her blonde hair bounced, up and down, with each stride. Just focus on her, and not the need to vomit, focus on Lillian, not the specks of blood on your face, just Focus. On. Lillian.
“I know, but we don’t have time!” She yells, pulling me along harder. It gets harder to see before I’m coughing over a puddle on the sidewalk. He’s dead. He’s dead because we— because I killed him. I killed someone.
“Rose, I’m sorry,” Lillian mumbled, but I feel her hand running up and down my back when more bile rises up my throat. “Just don’t think about it okay?”
“We have to go to the police,” I cough, wiping my mouth on the sleeve of my sweater and standing upright. It smells like Mom. I want to throw up again.
“What do you mean we can’t. I just- he’s dead, Lillian. He’s dead and it’s my fault.”
“It was self-defense! He would’ve hurt us.” She comes closer, pushing one of my braids out of my face. On the surface, she seems calm, but her hand is trembling when it cups my cheek. “You know we can’t tell the police. I might get off the hook, but that’s only because I’m white. Rose, you know what they’ll do to you. I don’t want you to go.”
“But nothing. We need to leave.” She pulls my right hand into hers, opening up my clenched fist, which I didn’t even realize was holding her pink switchblade — the one she gave me in case something like this ever happened. “Because of this. They won’t know if we don’t tell them.”
“I don’t know,” I pulled my hand out of hers before she was grabbing it again, interlocking our fingers even if mine were caked in dried blood.
“You don’t have to know. Come on,” She tugged me and my feet were moving once again: past the pier where we had our first kiss, past the ice cream shop on the corner we always go to after school, past the man who touched me — the man who’s laying on the asphalt.
“No, because you always get to be Peach! I’m tired of being Mario!”
“Well, we haven’t unlocked more characters yet!” Lillian sticks her tongue out at me and I swear I could punch her. But her hair is pulled up and I can see the stick and poke I gave her last month behind her ear. I don’t know how her mom hasn’t seen it yet, but she probably wouldn’t care. Her parents are much, much more relaxed than mine. She wants to give me a matching one, but we haven't decided on a place yet. If my Mom sees it… oh god.
“Earth to Rose? I know I’m pretty but geez, you don’t have to stare.” She smiled at me and I can feel my ears get hot. The TV casts a blue light on the side of her face that makes her look paler than she really is. It’s a school night and I only came over because we were supposed to work together on our AP Bio project but, here I am with a Wii controller in my hands arguing with her over Mario Kart characters.
“You are pretty,” I blurt out and god damn you mouth! Why won’t you work with me?!
“Oh,” she mumbled, turning her face away from me, though I could see her ears turn red. “I was just joking around.”
“Lily,” I breathed, putting the controller down and scooting closer to her on her bed. My socked feet dangled off the edge, right next to hers. She turned further away before letting out a muffled yeah. “Look at me.”
She turned her head but averted her eyes. Her cheeks were just as pink as Peach’s dress and at this point, I was considering letting her play as her for another round. “What is it?”
“You’re blushing,” I smiled, which made her smack my shoulder. “You’re cute.”
“Just kiss me already,” she huffed which made me laugh. I pushed my forehead against hers barely brushing our lips together before the door to her bedroom was open and she was pushing me off.
“Mom! I told you to knock whenever I have people over!” she yells and I shrink under the uncomfortable weight of the room. Her mother stands at the door with a pinched smile. She was the spitting image of Lily, just with a handful more wrinkles and a few more botox injections.
“Well, there are people who want to speak to you. Both of you. Downstairs. Officers. Do you two know what this is about?”
Images of the man from that night came back and my stomach began to churn. Lily jumped up before she tried to conceal her once widened eyes. “N-No? Why do they want to talk to us?”
“That’s what I came up here to find out. Girls, you wouldn’t have done anything bad, right?” she asks shakily and I have to swallow down the bile that rises.
“No, Mrs. Gray. I don’t know anything about this. We haven’t done anything.”
“I hope so.” She walks deeper into the room, stepping over one of Lillian’s fallen Pokemon plushies before cupping her daughter's face. “Don’t tell them anything without one of our lawyers okay? Those officers are probably just trying to prey on you young girls. That goes for you too Rosella.” She turns to me and I want to throw up again. “You’re a good kid. I know that. We’ll do our best to protect you too. We have some of the best lawyers in the state, so don’t worry sweetheart.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” I choke and try and suck in the tears.
“Amber!” Mr. Gray calls from downstairs and my stomach flips twice as hard.
“Okay girls. Let’s go.”
Lillian holds my hand down the winding staircase. When I look at her, she smiles, squeezing my hand even though hers is trembling just as much. I remember when she held my hand under the streetlight right after… it happened. The feeling of her cold, soft fingers even though mine were covered in dried blood. She had the same look in her eyes as she does now. The same look in her eyes when we’re handcuffed in the back of a cop car, and she leans over to kiss my cheek, whispering to remember what she said that day before going back to her side of the booth again.
She’s elbowing my side after I’ve exhausted all of my tears and I’m folded nearly in half, my forehead resting on my knee. The hiccups rattle my ribcage and I can hear my handcuffs clink together when she elbows me harder.
“Stop,” I mumbled weakly, preparing my ears when she inhaled deeply.
“You stop! We’ve been here for two hours now, Rose. All they said was they’re gonna take us in for questioning. Nothing’s certain yet, so stop crying!” she shoves me again, but I guess I didn’t realize how close to the edge of the bench I was because the wind gets knocked out of my lungs when I hit the ground. She gasps and I don't blame her. I would have too. “Rose!”
“Hey! You two better stop!” A guard from outside the cell yells at us before I’m pulling myself up and sitting on my knees whilst still on the ground.
“Rose, I’m sorry, I didn’t think you would fall—”
“I’m so scared.” I look up at her, tears still swimming in my eyes. “I can’t leave my Mom alone. She said they only took Daddy in for questioning and now he’s gone.”
Lily doesn’t say anything. She only pulls my braids out of my face. I can feel the chain between her handcuffs on my forehead and it makes me cry a little harder. She leans down, placing her forehead against mine.
“I don’t wanna end up like my Daddy, Lily. I don’t wanna go to jail.”
“We aren’t going to jail Rose. We aren’t. I won’t let them do anything to you.”
“No buts!” She bumps her forehead against mine. She glances at the edge of the cell before whispering, “They don’t have any proof. And you didn’t see anything. Nothing’s going to happen to us.”
“Nothing is going to happen to us. Do I make myself clear? We didn’t see anything.”
In that moment, I knew what she meant. My Mom’s lawyers, her eyes whispered to me, the switchblade in my closet, her lips showed me — Nothing is going to happen to us. But that, that’s wrong, isn’t it? The truth is the only thing that mattered. The truth will come out no matter how deep you bury it. Someone will know. But… if we’re the only ones who know then… then what? I know Lillian would follow me down the path of lies and deceit. But what matters is if the truth comes out. If I walk into that interrogation room, would the truth let me walk out? Would the lies follow me and remind me of the truth, no matter how many times I try to hide from it?
“Lillian Gray?” a man who wasn’t previously standing at the bars called out to us. Her forehead raised from mine, not forgetting to place a kiss on the brown skin before she rose. She looked at me, big, brilliant blue eyes smiling before she whispered ‘remember what I said’.
I watched as she was walked down the hall, the man’s hand gripping her bicep. I watched her blonde hair bounce, smelled her perfume as she left me in the cold cell for the last time. I wondered what she would say, if I could imagine the lies leaving her pretty mouth. It was a thought that would haunt me, even after I left the interrogation room and watched the lies follow me in suit.