“Why would she hurt a girl for liking me,” I asked my bed once again. My bed was warm and comforting as ever, listening to me throughout the night as I woke up over and over again, but even it could not bring me any peace. I shouldn’t have yelled at Regina. I was just so angry at the idea of her hurting Emma that I acted irrationally. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure what Regina did or why she blamed herself. Yet, she obviously caused it somehow, or she wouldn’t have been upset. Something was definitely stressing her out, or she wouldn’t have cried so easily. Regina doesn’t cry. Of course, I couldn’t honestly remember Regina ever feeling guilty either, not that I could even remember her doing something wrong. If she did do something wrong, she had always been too clever to be caught. Why would she openly admit to hurting someone so suddenly?
Girls were frustrating enough when they weren’t breaking legs, causing broken legs, or whatever this actually was. I couldn’t decide how to feel about Regina now. “Betrayed” was the word that kept coming to mind. If she ever thought of me as a friend, she wouldn’t purposely ruin opportunities for me to expand my friendships, even if they made her jealous. What kind of person would do such a thing? Yet part of me could hardly believe Regina really did it. She always seemed to have a kind heart, even if it didn’t reach her eyes half the time. I remembered countless times when she fussed over scrapes I got and insisted on bandaging them herself. Whenever I needed anything, she always tried to help, even when I was too stubborn to want it. Yet Emma obviously wasn’t the first person to fall victim to Regina’s… whatever she did.
I needed to talk with Jarod, so I got out of bed and started getting ready for school without even bothering to get any work done. Mother was in the process of cooking breakfast when I walked into the kitchen. “James, is everything alright?” I stole a piece of bacon off the plate where she just had placed it. “Not precisely. I’m surprised Regina didn’t call you yet.” She looked confused, so I continued. “We got into a bit of a fight yesterday.” By her expression, I was certain mother hadn’t heard a thing about it. “Well, ‘fight’ might not be the right word. She basically confessed to causing Emma to break a leg, and I yelled at her for it.” Mother turned to face me and said, “James! I can’t believe you yelled at the girl. Regina would never hurt a fly.” I spread my arms, pleading for an answer. “Then why did she admit to it?” Mother opened her mouth to say something, but shut it again and thought for a moment before saying, “I don’t know, James. I’m sorry. I just can’t believe she would hurt someone.”
We didn’t talk long. I grabbed some toast, ate it, and took off for Jarod’s before father even came out. Mother knew I felt she was biased and didn’t protest much, though she couldn’t resist telling me that I needed to talk with Regina about what happened. I walked slowly to Jarod’s, knowing he probably wasn’t even awake yet. Mrs. Davis opened the door and was obviously surprised to see me, though she was quick to smile. “Come in, James. What brings you here this early?” I smiled and replied, “Thank you, Becky. I’m sorry for intruding this early, but I really need to speak with Jarod about some girl troubles.” Mrs. Davis gave me a knowing smile and said, “Jarod told me you’ve been dating around lately. Well just go right on in. He gave a nice, loud groan when I knocked on his door a bit ago, so I’m sure he’s partially awake.” I laughed and thanked her again.
I knocked on his door, not wanting to catch him with his pants off. “Mom! I can sleep another ten minutes. Give it a rest.” I replied with a mock feminine voice, “Sorry, dear, but you shouldn’t be doing such naughty things in there so loudly! The neighbors called, and their daughter is quite disturbed!” There was a brief moment of silence followed by laughter. “James! Don’t say things like that. The neighbor’s daughter is like eight!” I walked into his room and told him, “No wonder she was so disturbed. What are you up to?” He was sitting in the dark at his computer, reading through something. “Huh? Oh. Nothing.” He turned his back to the computer and asked, “What’s up?” I edged past a pile of clothes, looked past his shoulder, and saw paragraph titled “spontaneous combustion.” Jarod enjoyed reading tabloids and other off-the-wall reporting for kicks, not that he actually believed most of it. “Spontaneous combustion, huh? Saw a fire somewhere recently?” He sighed and told me, “Actually, there have been a number of cases of people spontaneously combusting in the city recently.” Jarod turned back to his computer and brought up a different article.
The moment I saw the picture of the article I was in shock. My mind raced as I read through the unbelievable story in front of me. Georgina Martin was found dead days after I had gone shopping with her. She apparently hadn’t shown up at work the next day, and the police discovered enough of her teeth remaining in an ash pile to believe the ash was once her. The article seemed a bit far fetched, but I doubted her picture would actually be there if Georgina wasn’t actually missing. The next article he brought up showed five girls who apparently went missing at their school dance, the dance I attended with Michelle. Five piles of ash were supposedly found in the school’s basement that night when the police and fire department were searching for what set the alarm off. I dropped onto Jarod’s bed in complete shock. Even if the spontaneous combustion was complete rubbish, the fact I had been at both locations around the time the people went missing was freaky. “Dude, what’s wrong,” asked Jarod, “There’s still another article, though this one’s less conclusive than the others. Apparently a guy went missing and a couple witnesses claimed they saw him turning to ash as he jumped from his apartment.”
I barely even heard what he said, such was the state of my shock. “Jarod, you don’t understand. Georgina was one of my clients! I went shopping with her on Thursday, and then I went to Michelle’s dance at that school on Saturday.” His mouth was open for a moment before his typical ear-to-ear grin split his face. “That’s awesome! Did you see it?” I gawked. “Jarod! She’s possibly dead, and I saw her that night. I was acquainted with this woman, and I was in the school when the fire alarm went off.” The smile left his face, and he patted my shoulder. “I do see how that would be a bit rough, but these events are so rare. I can’t believe you were there for it twice! I told you tabloids do have some truth hidden in them.” I was in no mood to argue about it. I didn’t really know what to feel. Georgina had made me very uncomfortable, but she… I suddenly realized that the last half of her payment did arrive, so maybe I wasn’t there when she died. Maybe I should consider going to the police and confessing to having been there, but I didn’t honestly see how that would help either.
“Why is life so crazy?” Jarod looked me seriously in the eyes and told me, “Life’s not crazy. It’s just you.” I couldn’t help laughing, though my voice sounded a bit off in my own ears. “You are so wack. I just don’t know how to take this.” Jarod smiled, saying, “If you knew how to take this, I’d worry about you. This situation’s bizarre. You need time to relax and tell me the details.” That was Jarod alright. He could be very helpful while not being helpful at all and pull off the paradox with casual grace. “Jarod, you’re truly irreplaceable. Let’s talk about something else.” He looked hesitant for a second and explained, “Lemme grab a quick shower and some cereal. Want any?” I nodded my ascent and sat at his computer desk to reread the articles. There wasn’t really anything I could do, having not witnessed either case, but the odds of a person being at separate cases of such a rare event were astronomically bad. There must have been some sort of link that I was missing.
Jarod was back after a bit with two bowls of Cocoa Krispies, which made me smile. All of his favorite cereals were probably intended for kids. “Mom says you wanted to talk with me about girl problems. What’s that about?” I explained to him what transpired with Regina which lead to him simply exaggeratedly mouthing “wow.” After a long pause, he continued, “Told you she’s out to get girls that like you. I can’t believe she confessed though. She’s usually so clever. Maybe the devil does have a conscience. I don’t see why else she’d be crying about it.” I sighed. “I really don’t know how to feel about any of this. Part of me wants to apologize to her for yelling yesterday, but if she really broke Emma’s leg, she deserved it.” Jarod considered this for a bit and told me, “You’re going to apologize. Yes, Regina’s the devil, but you’ll feel guilty if you leave things off with a friend like that.” He was probably right. “Jarod, about Prom.. Are you going to kill me if I don’t go?” His face said he hadn’t given that a moment of thought yet. “Let me talk with Laura at school today before answering that. We probably should take off soon.” I had been right earlier. This was going to be a long day.