It's by no means necessary but may be helpful if, before this chapter, you re-read pages 406-408; (when Courtney reads Peter's email). There were just a few small things that Jodi Picoult missed out there. Joking! I in no way own 'Nineteen Minutes' and this is nothing more than the ramblings of my imagination...
Courtney Ignatio was so freaking bored. Josie was her friend and all but there was like, nothing, to do.
And with nothing to do Courtney couldn't help but let her mind wander.
The thoughts crept up on her suddenly, a tightening in her muscles, gross and unstoppable; like a sneeze.
She tried to block the ideas from her mind but they clung to it...This was Josie's room, these were Josie's things. This was where she fell asleep and undressed and where Matt might have pressed her, pressed her naked, against a wall...Stop it! Stop it!
Courtney shook her head, trying to clear it. She dug her nails into her arm, hard. She made it so that rushed to the surface of her skin for some normal, natural reason...Not because her body was heating up, woozy with sunstroke, at the things she'd thought.
It had been hard for her, staying at Josie's house, alone, for so long.
She was sure Josie must have noticed the way Courtney's eyes were drawn to her face- in a sharp, prickly manner, like iron filing to a magnet- and how they found it difficult to stop looking. But, all in all, Courtney thought she'd protected herself quite well, the way she always did...
Let's watch a Paul Walker movie Josie...Let's look up that hot guy from Lost...So, how big is Matt's...weapon then? ...
About the latter Josie had clammed up, told her nothing.
That had frustrated Courtney to no end. Couldn't Josie just see, just for a second, that Courtney needed this? She had to be reminded, as graphically as possible, that Josie was Normal, and wired properly. Josie liked men; she desired men; men and everything attached to them.
Just like Courtney did.
She rolled over on the bed and looked at the photo of Josie and Matt. She'd taken it, she remembered; at Drew's house the time they'd all played 'Never Have I Ever' and Maddie had ended up totally smashed. Matt was grinning like a dork, as usual, his cheeks a little pink from drinking. Josie leaned into him, her eyes throwing back the lights of the party, clattering with colour; like the parrot house at the zoo.
As much as Courtney needed Josie to be with Matt now, as much as she needed that constant reminder: 'Here She Is In A Normal Relationship: A Man and A Woman Got That?' ironically he was part of the problem.
Because Matt was the uber-boyfriend –always glancing around at a party to make sure he hadn't gotten too far away from Josie; calling her up to say good-night, even when he'd just dropped her off half an hour before (yes, Courtney had been privy to a display of that very thing just last night). She'd tried a few times, unsuccessfully, to get them to break up.
She was pretty sure that, if she could just split them apart then she could wrap her arms around Matt's neck, her tongue around his tongue; him around her little finger. And without Matt, Josie would be vulnerable, little. It would only take a rumour, she'd only have to say to Maddie 'Don't tell anyone but apparently Josie...' and Courtney could have her struck off, cast-away.
Josie would have to find a new clique and then she'd be out of Courtney's life, and thoughts, forever.
But Matt was crazy about her; he honestly seemed to prefer Josie's company to anyone else's. And, if she was with Matt, then Josie was untouchable.
So Courtney suffered it, and she Felt It.
She Felt It every second that Josie was around.
Unable to resist any longer she got up...
She wandered over to Josie's make-up table as if in a dream. Her legs felt, fizzy, bubbly, barely able to support her- she nearly fell back down onto the bed. Why? Why was she letting herself do this?
She had no answer.
The shiny gold and silver of the tubes of lipstick mascara were turned deep and plumy colours by the late blackberry-dark outside the window. They winked at Courtney. They dared her. She ran her hand over the tops of them, breathlessly delicately; like ballerina feet across a stage. She wondered at the mascara wands, that got to run along Josie's eyelashes; the blusher brushes that had kissed her cheeks. She came to a bottle of perfume: 'Luscious' by Dior. Courtney was pretty sure she had the exact same one.
But, of course, it smelt different on Josie.
When she hugged Josie, or fastened a necklace for her, or helped her with the zipper of a dress she barely dared to breathe in. She couldn't quite describe the way Josie smelt, it was...new, pure...like the metallic, lilac moment before an April storm. If you breathed through your mouth then it bounced off your tongue and, slipped over your teeth like the word 'Paris'.
It was one of the things Courtney struggled with the most: when she hugged Josie she'd imagine not letting go, when she fastened the clasp she'd wonder what would happen if she leaned down and let her lips ghost against Josie's neck, when she helped with a zipper she'd find herself wanting to pull it down again, to slip her hands inside Josie's dress, to feel weightless, to feel like a kite as her hands touched bare skin.
In Josie's bedroom Courtney opened the bottle, closed her eyes... sprayed Josie's perfume across her neck, her collarbone, told herself it was Josie's kisses; drifting, dreaming against her pulse, her throat...Oh God...Oh GOD STOP!
Courtney's eyes snapped open.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. How had she let herself to this?
Fuck Josie for making her feel like this!
Fuck Matt for getting in the way!
Fuck her for being so stupid; for not cutting Josie's out, before Matt made that impossible.
If she'd got rid of her when she had the chance then things would be different, she told herself.
These feelings would never have happened.
Courtney WASN'T gay. She COULDN'T be gay.
She'd seen the dykes at school, the way they dressed, the way they talked, and walked, and acted and she wasn't a thing like them. She was fine. She was normal.
Besides, when she'd been staying at Drew's house once he'd gone to shower and she'd found his Hidden Magazines. She'd made herself look at every page, all these topless, provocative women. She'd looked slowly, carefully, giving each one weight. She'd felt sick she'd been so frightened; terrified she was going to feel something; that tightening in her chest, that shrinking, sinking tingling in her stomach. Hot. Tipsy...attracted.
She'd felt nothing.
She'd felt nothing and nearly cried with relief. It was as if a test for pregnancy, or the clap...or even cancer had come back negative; that was how happy she'd been.
She'd told herself she was Okay Now. She'd tried to forget.
She reminded herself that, normally, if she imagined girls... if she imagined girls Together then she was pleased with her reaction; proud the way her muscles unconsciously contracted in disgust.
It was Unnatural. It was Wrong.
Unless she imagined herself...unless she imagined herself with Josie.
Josie's daring, cherry-lipped smile...Josie's lips crushing against hers...Josie's hands under her shirt.
STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT! She told herself slamming the perfume bottle back down on the table; so hard that it splintered and cracks split their way up the glass with a sound like popcorn.
Why hadn't she cut her out of the picture? Before Matt, before high school...
There were tonnes of times she could have done it- she thought as she fumbled around with the arrangement of Josie's make-up, tried to hide what she'd disfigured- when they'd first starting hanging out, Courtney recalled, Josie had been a Class A Dork.
Courtney had a brilliant What A Loser look and she could have given it to Maddie, or Emma, or Hayley countless times and they'd have all laughed at that Desperate Wannabee... and left and that would have been the end of it; she could have done it when Josie had worn that ridiculous butterfly dress to John's birthday party. She could have cried 'Geek' when they lost her at the shopping mall, and eventually found her 'in a freaking book shop': tucked away in a corner, reading 'Nature Explorer: The Coral Reefs'.
Or, she remembered, she could have done it straight away...before she'd introduced Josie to her friends, before Josie had ever sat with them at lunch.
When she'd come into her 'bordello' room, to find Josie trying on that lipstick...
She remembered it: 'Positively Hot', a popping, smacking strawberry that her mom had called 'trashy' but that Courtney had thought was a starlet colour; a Marilyn colour. Josie had been putting it on. She'd been trying it on when Courtney was out of the room, and she hadn't even asked...
That could have been the end of it, Courtney reasoned, she could have sent some texts, started some rumours...She was just going through my stuff...Yeah, all through my make-up...Touching it, putting her hands all over it, it made me feel sick...Freak!...Pervert!...Creep!...I just can't get over how she thought she could do that with my things; I'll have to throw them out now, they'll be crawling with...with Her...That's what I said just going through them, taking her pick, trying it...
Courtney caught the scent of the perfume, still winking damply on her neck. She realised what a major hypocrite she was being but, anyway...she hadn't said those things...
She hadn't been repulsed; her stomach hadn't done that Creeped Out tightening; that sort of squishing, like a slug under a boot... like it should have done. She hadn't dropped her binder in horror and told Josie to Get the Fuck out of My Room and she hadn't told everyone at school that they were never to speak to that Perverted Bitch again.
No, she'd smiled at Josie, she'd felt all warm, and golden and fizzy- as if there were bees in her bones, making honey that seeped up to her skin- and she'd said 'Actually...It Suits You'.
Because all Courtney could think about; as a smile fluttered onto Josie's face, as Josie blinked in surprise and her thick lashes- like 'blossom and bridges' Geisha fans- brushed her cheekbones...as Josie's lips parted and she asked 'Really?' in that cocking-her-head nervous-dove way... all Courtney could think about was that; that lipstick had touched her lips, so when it had touched Josie...it was practically like Courtney had kissed her.
Now Courtney flinched back from the dressing table, she covered her face with her hands. OH GOD. OH GOD. OH GOD.
She liked to tell herself she hadn't thought like that, that this hadn't been with her since middle school, since the words 'crush' and 'likelike' had come into her vocabulary.
She tried to pretend that, yes; she had had real Feelings for boys before she met Josie.
Hadn't she bought that poster of Johnny Depp because he gave her insides a little electric shock? What about the time she kissed Drew on the bus, hadn't it felt funny in her chest; like someone was cracking open a bottle of champagne in there?
In a word, No.
These were Feelings she'd read about it magazines, Feelings other girls had for boys...
Feelings Normal Girls had...
But Courtney wasn't normal was she? And, if she was honest with herself, she'd known it since sixth grade...
She was Warped. Sick. Something had gone wrong, with her brain, with her body and she couldn't tell anyone...and, try as she might...sleep with who she might, she couldn't get rid of it.
She was terminal. Infested.
For six years she'd been living her life, stomach churning with the same horrified feeling as the one she'd had when she was five or six on the way home from school. Her mom had suddenly grabbed her, and combed panic-stricken fingers through Courtney's fairy white hair, across her scalp...
"Court, that's disgusting... someone's given you lice!"
Yes, something was reproducing... hatching... crawling... only this time it wasn't 'Little Visitors' who were disgusting, bugs who 'Daddy would comb away' (her mom hadn't been able to stomach it). This time it was something inside her, something that was part of her that filled her with a clammy, feverish disgust; that had her bursting into fear-filled tears because she didn't know what was going on. And this was something that no-one could stomach, least of all Courtney.
Oh God, she thought, she'd needed to vomit. She needed to be sick. That was what she did when It came up on her like this; she'd stuff her finger down her throat until she nearly choked and then splutter and retch it out...there was no better distraction, there was no better punishment.
But she couldn't be sick here. This was Josie's house and Josie would hear her and then she'd come to her; all concerned, all 'Are You Okay Court?', all forget-me-not eyes and There.
There: like she had been for what felt like forever: Northern Lights moving across her face, as she sat next to Courtney in a dark cinema, or letting a tipsy head fall against Courtney's chest- so her bubbly breaths fluttered over her heart; or holding Courtney's hand, kissing her cheek, torturing her.
A 'girl friend'.
Courtney did not need that now.
And besides, she thought, catching a glimpse of herself in Josie's mirror, the throwing up wasn't really helping. Courtney knew she'd always be Fat.
She'd liked her body, she remembered, up until she was about thirteen; and then she's started really seeing it.
Disgusting flab, that peeked and hung out over the back of her bra when she undressed, sometimes even over her jeans when she wore a short top...it sagged, it rolled, a little lip of it.
She knew people stared, she knew they probably said things.
STUPID DYKE WHALE they probably said.
Courtney sank back down onto Josie's bed, the tears now coming thick and fast.
She didn't know sometimes, if she had horrible thoughts because she looked disgusting, or if she looked disgusting because she had horrible thoughts...She'd talked with her friends once, about how fags and dykes should be ugly, so that they stood out, so that people could recognise them...And, Courtney knew, that meant she had to be beautiful, always, always. She had to be sexy and pretty and somehow she had to make herself skinny...so that no one would ever guess.
"Crying isn't Pretty Court!" She was five, and back at the Little Miss New Hampshire beauty pageant. They were running late for Wow Wear and her mom was trying to do her hair and she'd just stuck one of the pins in way too hard and Courtney wasn't being whiney or making a fuss this time, she swore it; this time it had really hurt her. Her tummy felt funny. All she could see were little black and white dots. She wanted to tell her mom that she was very, very probably going to be sick and that she wanted Daddy and kisses and maybe even to be held. But her mom had turned her round, started rubbing at her eyes. "Stop all this!" She'd snapped. "Courtney listen to me, tears are ugly! Tears make you look a mess so if you want to win that crown you need to stop crying right now!"
And she had stopped.
And she'd won.
And she'd never forgotten what her mom had told her; how ugly it was to let people see you upset, to let people know you were hurting.
So, she got up and looked in Josie's mirror. She'd become proficient at disguising a post-crying face, covering up the red eyes, the blotches. She wiped the tears off her eyelashes and was just about to get some foundation out of her bag when something popped up on Josie's computer: You've Got Mail.
At first she thought it might be Matt, sending Josie some cyber –porn. She thought she might mess with him a bit, pretend be Josie...And what better way to distract herself from the aching, terrifying, things she'd been feeling than to make believe for a few seconds, that this was an email for her... from her boyfriend: her boyfriend who she felt Things for. Yes...he set off a Catherine wheel in her chest when he touched her. His big arms and rough, masculine, smell made her feel like singing, and swinging...and getting Merry like Christmas
Yes, this was her boyfriend. That was how he made her feel... and they'd probably be Homecoming king and queen one day... and all her friends were jealous and...
But the email wasn't from Matt.
It wasn't junk mail either.
What the heck was this?
Could this actually be serious?
By myself I'm nothing special...
She couldn't believe what she was reading.
Love Peter Houghton.
Finishing reading the email she was torn in two.
One part of her- the part that had bought the Johnny Depp poster, and kissed Drew on the bus and lost her virginity to Trey last year- was hysterical. This was gold. 'Too fucking good' as she murmured to herself. She was thrilled by how hilarious it was going to be at school, how much Peter was going to squirm, how red Josie was going to go when she found out.
Josie was always so adorable when she blu-...
And, with that, came the other part- the part of her that made heat gush up her neck and across her stomach when she imagined Josie's body against hers, that felt so vulnerable, that felt delirium, that felt fucking- off-her-face- legless-drunk, when Josie slipped out of a sundress in front of her (Josie being unaware, of course, of what it did to her), the part of her that would fall to her knees in a bathroom and try to purge herself afterwards- well, that part knew of somebody who could; if they were stupid, or deluded, or brave enough, have written a very similar email.
And you certainly would never picture us together...
Oh My God, Courtney let out a little mirthless laugh as tears began pricking her eyes again; could the situation get more tragic?
Her and Houghton, her and Peter Houghton: loser, fag, waste-of-space of the first degree, trapped in the same impossible situation with the same girl; a girl it was wrong, wrong, WRONG for them to have feelings for.
The difference was that Courtney Got It. She knew how people, how life, worked. She knew that these feelings were private little horrors, blood stained, embarrassing, painful things. Something that happened to your body, something that you had to endure but that you prayed the world would never see... and that you DIDN'T EVER show people.
But Peter simply didn't understand it did he? Here he was, expressing his pathetic, vile love as if he were allowed to feel that way...
He wasn't going to bother throwing up, or crying, or fighting to keep his feelings in check like Courtney did...He was just going to let them all dribble out and into Josie's inbox.
Not likely, Courtney thought.
She emailed Drew and told him to Spam this out....
She knew Peter would go through hell, and she could watch...and maybe seeing what happened to a creep, who'd felt something they shouldn't, would finally cure her, would finally make her see that This Wasn't Her...Look at Peter, she'd think as Matt threw him down some stairs/ stuffed him in a locker/ stuffed him in a trash can and then threw it down some stairs, she wasn't like him. She wasn't a Freak... a Fag; she belonged on the other side of the coin; with the pretty, attractive Normal people...with Drew who'd wrap his arm round her waist... and with it she'd suddenly feel this heat haze across her skin, this burn-of-hot-chocolate in her stomach...she'd realise that everything she'd felt about Josie was nothing, was a bad dream, was somebody else...
And besides, she thought, torturing Peter would be crazy-funny.
She grinned as she closed the server window, just as Josie re-entered the room.
"What's up?" Josie asked.
"Just checking my emails." Courtney said and she turned round.
She turned round to see Josie: her long legs bare, her cheeks pink. Her hair was wrapped up in a towel but then she shook it out so that it fell down her back like a waterfall, a thick, beautiful muscle.
She was wearing nothing but a short, silk bathrobe and Courtney was instantly dizzy, instantly terrified at the thought of how thin that cover was, how she was far closer to Josie's body than usual.
STOP IT COURTNEY! STOP IT!
Fuck, she thought again, hating herself, more desperate than ever to be sick but now having to smile and gossip and be Courtney Ignatio: The Acceptable Version; hiding everything she felt in front of the person she felt it for.
She had to hand it to Peter Houghton: karma worked quickly on his behalf.
When Peter came into the cafeteria with the gun it would be over for Courtney pretty quickly.
She would never know who the shooter was.
She would just have time to register banging and screaming, and to see John's face go pale and frightened in front of her, before the bullet hit her chest.
It would kill her in seconds; some people would later say that made her One of the Lucky Ones...
She'd get to die relatively...neatly...no writhing in pain, no ugly tears.
As it all went dark she wouldn't think of Drew... or Trey...
She wouldn't think of Josie either.
She'd think of a man with a microphone and a pink tie. She'd be five again, at the Little Miss New Hampshire Beauty Pageant. She'd remember that she hadn't won because she'd fixed her eyes, because she was beautiful.
She'd won because of the Interview Section, because when the man with the microphone and the pink tie had asked her: 'What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?' she'd forgotten the answer her and her mom had practiced. So whilst all the other little girls had said 'a vet' or 'a princess' or 'Miss America' Courtney couldn't remember what she'd been told was the right reply.
"What do you want to be when you grow up Courtney?" The man had asked again.
"When I grow up" she'd said. "I want to be...Well...Errr...I...I'd quite like to be a flamingo because they're pink, I like pink, and I can actually stand on one leg for a really, really long time so I think...I think that would be the best"
They'd adored it, Courtney would remember, they'd adored her...
She'd been like that once.
She'd die thinking that she could never be like that again.
She'd been so focused on getting people to like her that she'd never shown them who she really was and, by doing that- for six years- she'd not given anyone enough chance to love her.
And she'd die before she did.
Just to make it completely clear to all concerned, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with being gay, or lesbian. It's just obvious from the way she treats certain people in Nineteen Minutes that Courtney's character has been brought up/ socialised or whatever to think there's something wrong and negative about it. She is however completely mistaken. Love is love guys.