Cara stared into space as she answered Chu, “Samara did it. I-I’m not sure…”
Chu looked at Peters. They left.
Cara shuddered. She wasn’t sure why she’d protected DT. He was the reason Samara was dead. But protecting him felt like loyalty to Samara and that felt right.
“You okay?” her mother asked.
Cara gave her mother the withering stare only family can inflict on someone. She turned away with the force of a slammed door.
They discharged Cara six weeks after Samara’s funeral, four weeks after graduation.
Cara’s Mom had tried to get Cara out to attend Samara’s funeral, but the doctors were nervous about her moving so soon. Cara’s Mom tried to make it happen anyway, but Cara moaned such that her Mom called it off.
It was just as well. Cara was a convenient scapegoat for parents who’d known nothing of their daughters’ drug use, legal or not. Marissa’s parents forbade her from visiting or even writing Cara.
Cara’s Dad called once from California, but busy with his wife and three kids he made no other attempt at contact.
On discharge day, Cara wore a black dress her mother had wriggled her into. She shivered as she waited for her mom to bring the car around despite hot sun.
The orderlies helped Cara’s Mom get Cara into the car. Cara looked anywhere but in her mother’s direction.
The silence was thick enough to slice and butter. Half way home, though, her mother piped up with. “I recorded graduation for you. We can watch it later.”
Cara continued to look out the window.
“They had a moment of silence for Samara and the rest who died,” her mom continued, babbling.
“Just stop, Mom,” Cara said, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Cara’s Mom breathed out through her nose.
“What?” Cara asked, poking the bear in the eye.
“Nothing,” her Mom said.
“No, it’s clearly something or you wouldn’t be huffy.”
Cara’s Mom clenched her fist on the steering wheel. “You haven’t said three words to me since the night this started. And when I try to talk about something else, something happy, you shut me down.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Then how’re you going to deal with it? You can’t sulk your way through life. If you push it down so hard you can’t feel it, you won’t feel anything again.”
Cara laughed darkly. “I won’t be feeling much anyway, Mom.”
Cara’s Mom pushed on too fast for those words to sink in.
“I loved her too, you know. She was like a daughter to me. But she, at least, respected her elders. And Marissa’s Mom? My best friend? She never wants to see me again. Samara’s Dad accused me of neglect, abuse, and every other parenting failure. The hypocrite. You may have taken the brunt, but don’t think you’re the only one who suffered.”
“Mom, Samara died in my arms, my big useless arms.” Cara tried to shrug, but couldn’t.
Cara’s Mom opened her mouth to continue, but Cara’s words hit. She swallowed her response.
They rode the rest of the way home in silence.
To Be Continued…