7: Damsels in Distress

I listened in on my bug over that week – it had, conveniently, a setting to keep the messages when I wasn't there to listen (because I had actual classes, which might shock you). It heard a lot of boring crap that my other, irrelevant classmates did – break-ups and exam stress and blah blah blah. None of this mattered to me.

It took a while until I found an appointment with someone who was there over Duncan's death. "Hello. I'm glad you could find the time to come speak with me."

The voice I heard reply surprised me. "It's okay, Ms. James. I'm just... coming in, like you asked," Meg? What was she doing there? Sure, she had known Duncan, and liked him well enough, but they weren't particularly close. Was Meg a mess after Duncan died? I couldn't remember. Honestly, after Duncan died I wasn't paying that much attention to the rest of the universe.

"Okay, Meg," said Ms. James, in that patented comforting counselor's voice. "Do you want to talk to me, about Duncan?"

I heard Meg hesitate, and listened in closer. "Honestly, Ms. James, I'm not sure why you called me in here. I knew Duncan, but he and I weren't close and..."

The words rang false to me somehow, and I could tell Ms. James didn't really buy it either. "Really, Meg?" she asked, then paused. "I remember having you in here, after he died. You were inconsolable. You threw a lot of my stuff against the wall."

Meg hesitated, trying to come up with some kind of excuse. "Well, okay, maybe I freaked, but – I did know the guy. And then he was dead; it scared me, it hurt me, I guess."

Ms. James sighed. "Listen, I'm not really meant to do this – there are confidentiality rules, but he's dead, so I think I can wave it for now," she said, and I leaned forward toward the bug, interested. "A while before his death, Duncan came in here, talking about a friend – a female friend. He thought she was in a lot of trouble; he didn't tell me who she was, but he said he needed help to find out how to help her. He said he had gotten closer to her recently, and that she was in a lot of trouble – sometimes she'd just cry, and let him hold her. She never told him what was actually going on, and he was so scared for her sake."

Pause. "Does that sound familiar to you, Meg?"

Meg sniffled, and said, "Yeah." Her voice quavered on the word, and I just sat there with my mouth agape. Why hadn't Duncan told me about her? If there was one person that had taught him how to deal with fuck-ups, it was me, and he would have to know I'd want to help him – her – right?

Oh god – was Meg his big secret?

"Why don't you try telling me the truth, Meg?" Ms. James said sympathetically, and Meg gave a brief, humorless laugh.

"I was so screwed up," she admitted. She took in a deep breath. "I was just... a mess. I don't even know why. Then there was Duncan. It was an accident really; I was hidden behind the gym, bawling my eyes out over nothing in particular, and he found me. Didn't ask what was wrong. Just gave me a hug and told me everything was going to be okay, and y'know what? I actually believed him."

She paused, sniffling back her tears again. "It sort of went on from there. When I was feeling like a mess, like the world was about to come crashing down on me – which was a hell of a lot – I'd just, go to him and everything would be fine. Then... he died."

"Meg, were you and Duncan romantically involved?" Ms. James asked sympathetically, and I heard the pull of a tissue out of the box.

"I wish," Meg said. "I was pretty much in love with him, but he – come on, you knew him and Veronica. It would have taken elephants to rip those two apart. Then he broke up with her, and I couldn't make a move then – Veronica was my friend too, and that would be horrible to her. And two weeks later, he was dead – this is my sort of luck."

"What were you struggling with, exactly?"

I heard Meg recoil like she didn't understand the question. "W-What?" she asked.

Ms. James gulped. "Meg, Duncan was very worried about you. He thought something was wrong; you have already admitted you weren't in a good place then – do you want to talk to me about what was causing this?"

I sucked in a breath, and Meg hesitated. "Oh, no, it wasn't... It wasn't really anything in particular; you know? I was just stressed and stuff, kind of over-reacted," it all sounded false again, and Ms. James could tell it too.

"Meg, if there's something wrong, I urge you to say something about it. If you don't feel comfortable talking to me, is there another adult or staff member you'd feel comfortable talking to? Have you tried speaking about it with your parents?"


"Meg, is there a problem at home?"

"No," Meg bit back lightning quick. Too quick. I remembered that sort of defensiveness, although obviously, I didn't bother with it anymore. "No, it's okay. I should – I should go; I have to get back to class,"

"Meg, wait!" Ms. James said, but Meg had run out before she could finish. I let out the breath I hadn't realized I was holding, and bit my lip. Meg Manning needed a hell of a lot more help than I had realized.

I skipped most of the not-Duncan-related conversations; they were boring and annoying – I was starting to realize that Rebecca James had one of the worst jobs in the world.

However, one of them caught my attention. "Ms. Sinclair," Ms. James said, voice frustrated and disapproving. Obviously, Madison had done something bad.

"What, Miss?" she replied in her perfect catty voice. Ms. James sighed.

"Madison, you were brought in here after you started an altercation in class." She paused before asking, "Could you tell me, in your own words, what happened?"

Madison hesitated. "I don't know... Dick was just acting like a douche again; he pissed me off, and was like... grabbing me, so I just kinda shoved him away."

Ms. James sighed. "According to your classmates, what happened was that Dick was holding onto your arms, and then you slapped him and yelled 'Don't touch me.'" There was a pause.

"I overreacted?" Meg offered weakly, and Ms. James sighed.

"Madison, was there a reason you reacted like that? Your friends have been concerned about you lately – Angie came in here a few days ago, saying you were getting distant and moody," Ms. James said, and I bit my lip.

Madison snorted. "Yeah, everyone's being all big compassionate for me," she muttered bitterly.


"Look, Miss," Madison said, taking in a deep breath. "I'm fine. I just acted a bit weird – you know me, I'm a crazy bitch. I don't need anyone talking to me; I don't need people asking me what's wrong. Nothing's wrong, and I'm fine," her voice quavered on that last 'I'm fine', which rather gave the whole thing away.

Ms. James sighed in defeat. "Okay. But it there is something wrong – my office is always open; you know that, right?"

"Yeah... I know that," Madison said shakily. "Thanks, Miss. I think... Can I go back to Clemmons' office now?" she asked, and left.

Ms. James eventually went on to talk to someone else, but I wasn't paying attention. Because I could remember saying things a lot like what she had said, and that whole thought just made me sicker and sicker.

"Logan," Ms. James said as I sat uncomfortably in her cotton-covered chair. "You started a fight in your English class today."

"Really? Never noticed," I bit back. "It wasn't a big thing, really. The guy was saying shit, so I punched him," and I really didn't want to have to think about what that guy had said.

She sighed. "Listen, Logan. We all know you're having a difficult time – we know how close you were with Duncan Kane," she said sympathetically, and I flinched. I didn't want him brought into this. "But this reaction... Logan, is there something you want to tell me about? Did you response to these comments because of a particular reason?"

I drew my arms closer to my body, and clenched one of my fists, digging the nails into my palm. If I didn't, I would just start laughing at the whole idea I was meant to tell my problems – given how badly everyone reacted last time I tried that – and it wasn't really funny.

"No," I said. "Just, you know me, being the obligatory psychotic jackass." I paused. "I'm fine."

I had been lying my ass off then, and I was pretty sure Ms. James could tell. I remembered what started that fight; some douche saying something about which way I swung. It wouldn't have mattered all that much, but the timing meant I was on edge. That whole fight was just a couple of weeks after I went to Shelley Pomroy's party.

I felt the bile rise in my throat, because I knew, just knew, what had happened to Madison. I didn't like her, but she wasn't anywhere close to deserving that and she wasn't looking like she was going to talk about it. Of course, knowing the wonder of the 09ers, I doubted any of her friends were going to call her out on it and say something was wrong – hell, her boyfriend had been making out with her best friend while some bastard was...

I grimaced. Madison Sinclair, Meg Manning – my problems with the girls at this school.

The next one was actually Duncan relevant, as I found myself listening to the interview with what was probably the most important person in his life – Lilly Kane, his big sister.

"Hello, Lilly," said Ms. James.

"Hey, Becky," said Lilly brightly, not a lot like the girl who was trying to talk about the cold-blooded and unsolved murder of her brother. Oh well.

"It's Ms. James," she reprimanded. "You missed our last three-" she was cut off mid-sentence by the loud snap of Lilly's gum, and I heard her breathe sharply in frustration, resisting the urge to throttle. I had that problem a lot with Lilly myself. "That's very annoying."

"Sorry," Lilly replied and apparently, disposed of the gum. "So... what do we talk about?"

"Well, what do you want to talk about, Lilly?"

"In general? Because, y'know, there's this sale on down-"

"Lilly," Ms. James warned. I frowned. Why was Lilly acting like this? Yeah, she was a bitch, but if there was one thing she always cared about, it was Duncan.

"Okay, yeah, I know. But the thing is? I suck at reflection. I don't like thinking about the past much. I loved Duncan, and I miss him like hell, but talking about the whole thing is not going to make it any better. I just wanna forget the whole thing and move on; that okay with you?"

"Lilly, it's okay to have to deal with the pain. Your brother was murdered," Ms. James paused with emphasis. "You can pretend to put that behind you, but you'll have to deal with it sooner or later, and I don't think making in 'later' will help."

"I'm an in-the-moment kind of girl, Ms. James. Besides, who cares if I go all mental breakdown-y?" she said it flippantly, but there was an undertone of fear in her voice.

"Is that what you think, Lilly?"

Lilly dismissed that. "Whatever, it doesn't matter. I don't know why I came here anyway – Duncan is dead, I'm not and it's that simple. That boy was a champion of not talking about his issues; seriously, wherever he is he's probably proud."

I heard the rustle of fabric, and the sound of the conversation get muffled, as if by fabric – a bag? Wait, Lilly was stealing the stapler? Who the hell steals a stapler?

Ms. James sighed, not noticing this pointless kleptomania. "Okay, Lilly. But if you do not want to deal with the circumstances of your brother's death, then how do you expect to find – and I always hate using this word, but it is appropriate – closure?"

Lilly groaned. "Oh God. Miss, closure was invented by movie writers. In reality? No such thing. I don't need to do anything about this," Lilly said, and then stormed out. Irritatingly, she still had the stapler, so she had wrecked my whole plan of electronically eavesdropping on the rest of the interviews, although I didn't know who else it would be – then again, I hadn't been expecting Meg's, so maybe Duncan was keeping a couple of secrets from me.

Eventually, the bug started emitting the white noise of a car. Lilly was driving somewhere, who cared?

However, once she had stopped I heard the roar of a different engine approaching. "Hey," Lilly said, voice suddenly sounding a lot for vulnerable than she had dared to sound when talking to Ms. James. "It's good to see you."

The other person laughed humorlessly, and I frowned in puzzlement – that voice sounded familiar, but I couldn't place it without them actually talking.

"Well. Wasn't expecting you to say that one again, Lilly girl," they said and my jaw dropped. I realized whose voice it was.


He sighed. "So, what is it Lilly? How many months has it been since I actually existed, again?" he sounded bitter, and I was sort of guessing that this was not a new thing – there was something going on between them before.

She pauses. "I... I should apologize."

"Damn right you should," he said. "I loved you, then you used me up and went crawling right back to that Echolls kid – least you figured out what a shit he was."

"Weevil, please don't," Lilly whispered, much weaker than she usually sounded. "Don't talk about him, please," she said, her voice wavering. Something about this seemed wrong; why was Lilly suddenly acting broken?

Weevil chuckled. "Oh, I get it. We're coming back to Logan fucking Echolls; fabulous. Forget it Lilly," he said.

"No!" she cried out sharply, and there was no doubt in my mind that he had just tried to leave. "Please Eli, don't go. I need you."

"Really," he said dryly, sarcastically. It seemed to strike a nerve in Lilly.

"I love you!" she almost screamed. She sounded so desperate; terrifyingly, heartbreakingly desperate. "I love you... Please, tell me you know that. I don't need anyone else, I don't need to be that great whore, I just... I love you Eli, I love you," she said, fading to whispers again as the sentence went on.

"Loosen your grip Lilly, you're about to suffocate me," Weevil muttered, and I heard Lilly sniffle. "Hey, what's wrong?" Weevil asked. "Lilly girl, are you crying?"

"No," she said. "Come on. I love you, I know you still love me..."

"What makes you so sure?"

"If you didn't, why would you even come here?"

"Touche," Weevil paused after that. "No, Lilly. It's not going to work. I don't know what self-validation you need me for this time, but you ripped my heart out once and I'm not giving you another chance. Sorry."

Lilly's tone went hard and cold and bleak. "What? You think I haven't changed? Do you? Do you think I'm that same girl?" she said, anger growing in her voice until she was yelling.

"How are you not?" Weevil retorted.

"Get out!" she screamed so abruptly it made me just. "Get out, Weevil, get out!"

A motorcycle engine roared away, and I just sat there, listening to the sounds of Lilly sobbing loudly to her own ears.