By Carmella Dileonardi
“Right, but you do it anyway…” Winters repeated, her voice fading out.
Grace furrowed her eyebrows and looked down at her lap, fiddling with the hem of her shirt. “She went through his things last night. I could smell the firewood on her when we hugged. He always smelled like firewood,” she muttered, blinking. “Sometimes I try to think about what it would be like, you know, if he hadn’t died. I keep seeing me in my cap and gown, smiling as I hug him. Even Nick with that toothy grin he only shows to Kelly Merrel.”
The teenager nearly began to scoff as the thought turned bitter, remembering how he had left her this morning. His own sister. Her eyes narrowed down to slits as she glared at the floor.
“I understand that your brother has been showing you some hostility. I just want you to take into consideration that he’s also dealing with the loss of your father,” Mrs. Winters reasoned.
Grace looked up quickly. “I’m dealing with it too, but you don’t see me leaving him a couple blocks away from the school because I’m too embarrassed to show up with him. I’ve always been there for him. Always. I don’t deserve this. Not from him—not now,” she told the women adjacent from her.
“Would you like to continue on Thursday? We never get anywhere when you’re angry,” Mrs. Winters asked calmly. Grace nodded. Standing, she stopped for a moment. “He’s so angry. It’s like he blames me for dad.” She whispered before continuing her route, leaving a frowning Mrs. Winters.
Lunch was surprisingly peaceful—nothing like the previous day. Grace sat, reading a new book that she had swiped from the lost and found. Grace was pleasantly surprised and impressed that someone at school owned a copy of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.
Popping an olive in her mouth, she slowly chewed while soaking up the words on the page. The other side of table moved slightly as someone else sat down.
Her eyes stopped scanning the page. The courtyard was empty; why would someone sit across from her? “I was hoping I’d find you here.” She felt the urge to groan.
“No, that’s not right. I thought our last conversation sent you packing and hopefully on your way to Portland, far away from here.” Grace’s voice was stuffed with sarcasm. Slowly lowering her book, she looked over at Kit who only smiled brightly at her, seemingly unaffected by her words.
Eating another olive, she raised her eyebrows, waiting for him to elaborate on his presence. “I wanted to talk to you, about yesterday,” he told her, placing his elbows on the table. Grace remained silent. She didn’t have much to say, more than irritated that he brought it up.
“I wanted to apologize for just stepping in and—and thinking that I could relate and for telling you how to go about it. I was out of line,” he concluded.
Grace felt guilty that she made him feel in the wrong, to an extent. She knew it was genuine. He didn’t look displeased while talking, like he had to say this to no longer feel guilty.
She warily glanced at him from above her book. Drawing her eyebrows together, Grace swallowed. “Big Joseph Heller fan?” he asked, nodding his head towards the book in her hands. “You could say that,” Grace responded, tilting her head slightly.
She felt the urge to ask him if he read, but she didn’t need him getting the wrong idea. The girl found herself frowning slightly as her eyes fell to the table. “Found it in the lost and found. I left my book at home today,” she soon spoke up, her eyes flickering to meet his. He was staring at her intently. She didn’t like it one bit.