“I might be able to solve that problem,” I say.
“I can’t wait to see what Flower Girl has to say.”
Feeling lighter after my call with Megan, I reach Victory with a little time to spare. As I walk through the doors, an idea pops into my head. Before classes start, I go to the computer lab and print out the lyrics to “The Way I Am.” It’s the song Audrey sang to Matt and me when she was joking around about our crush. But I realize that it sums up our friendship, too.
With a bunch of curious students watching, I tape the lyrics to the front of Audrey’s locker, then, smiling, head to English alone. Matt’s chair is still empty, but I know he’ll come back soon.
When I visit my locker again before lunch, there are more lyrics taped to Audrey’s. By the end of the day, her locker is completely covered by handwritten and printed scraps of songs tacked on in Audrey’s honor. As I read through the lyrics, I finally understand.
Everyone misses Audrey; they weren’t faking it.
I’m not alone.
A little over a week later, responding to Megan’s fantasy Grammy speech, I blog my gracious Oscar acceptance. Then, back on earth, I check Facebook. It’s not something I do a lot. Having to start a new profile every time I change my name, I never have very many friends, so there’s not much activity on my pages. When I last checked in Seattle, I only had sixteen friends, and most of them were bus kids.
That’s why, after typing in my password and checking my notifications, I’m surprised to find thirty-two friend requests waiting for me, all from kids at Victory. Most of them are straight-up requests, but a few have sweet notes about how awesome Audrey was and how cool it was of me to start the lyric tribute.
I accept every single one without hesitation, then check my wall for new posts. Nicole Anderson, formerly Nicole Yang, a bus kid who lives in Atlanta, posted a “positive energy” message in light of Audrey’s death. I smile about both the note and the fact that Megan’s obviously looking out for me. A girl in my history class sent me a virtual hug. I scroll down and get a jolt when I see a post from Matt.
I miss you.
I don’t know why, but I don’t write back right away. I’d rather call him. See him in person. Look in his eyes and really connect with him.
For the moment, I move on.
I notice that Megan’s online the second before she sends a friend suggestion. It’s for Nora Emerson.
I sigh deeply, considering what to do. The night in Seattle when Megan and I found Nora feels like years ago, but two weeks have passed. So overwhelmed and exhausted by everything with Audrey, I’ve been pushing thoughts of Nora away. But it’s time to deal with this. The need to know what happened to Nora—to know for sure if she’s Case 22—overtakes me.
I click to add her as a friend and type a cryptic personal message to her: “I want to hear your story. I’m like you.” As if she was waiting by the computer, she friends me immediately. Since she’s online, I open the messaging program.
Nora, it’s Daisy from FH. Call me if you want to talk.
I type in my cell number and hit return, then watch the clock. The phone rings before two minutes have passed.
“Hello?” I say.
“It’s Nora,” the voice on the other end of the line says. Unsure, she adds, “Emerson.” Her voice is the same as the day she brought me the birthday invitation, except she was more confident back then.
“Nora, it’s okay,” I say. “This is Daisy. You knew me as Appleby. You probably thought I was dead until you saw me in that mall.”
“Oh my god I thought I was going crazy!” The words tumble out of her mouth before she exhales loudly into the phone. “They showed me pictures from your autopsy.”
“They did what?” I ask, appalled. Is this what the program is turning into—a ring of deception? Nora’s quiet, so I clarify. “I don’t know where the photos came from, but they were fake, Nora. I’m very much alive.”
“I knew it,” she admits. “Even when they showed me the photos. I knew it was you in that mall. You look exactly the same, only… better.”
“Thanks,” I say quietly. Neither of us speaks for a few seconds. “So, who showed you the photos?” I ask gently.
“Two policemen,” she says. “I told my mom about seeing you, and she called the police. The next day two of them came to our house.”
“I see.” I know that those “policemen” were agents, but somehow, even after being relocated, Nora still thinks they were cops. Is it possible she thinks that her car wreck was an accident? Is it possible that it was, and that the agents just happened to be trailing her because of me? Is it possible that they jumped on an opportunity to both save and silence Nora?
“But like I said, I didn’t really believe them,” she continues, interrupting my jumbled thoughts. “I had this feeling. I knew it was you. I told my mom, and even though she told me that I should let it go, I talked her into promising that we’d go to the station the next day and talk to the chief. Then that night I went out with Gina, and on the way home, I got in a car accident. That sort of overshadowed everything.”
Her voice wavers like she’s going to cry, but she sniffs loudly and holds it together. I stay still, remembering what Mason says about people being allergic to uncomfortable silences. According to him, the best way to get someone else to talk is to hold your tongue. His strategy works.
“I woke up in this tiny town with my parents thanking God for saving my life and telling me stories of a Good Samaritan who pulled me from the car. But then they said that we had to live in Franklin and use new names and not tell anyone who we were before, and at first they wouldn’t answer any more of my questions. I thought I was going mental….”
“Are you okay?” I ask after her words trail off. I can’t help but feel sorry for Nora. Being Revived at this point and having closed-off parents who won’t tell you anything has to feel terrible.
“I had some bruises,” she says. “They’re healed.”
“That’s not what I meant,” I say.
“I know,” she says, but she doesn’t elaborate or answer my question. “It’s… I don’t know. I don’t really want to talk about the accident. It’s still too fresh.”
“Okay, then let’s talk about the drug,” I say.
“What drug?” Nora asks, genuinely clueless.
I scrunch up my face, confused. Didn’t they tell her anything? It strikes me that I might completely freak Nora out if I drop the whole Revive program in her lap at once. I decide to let her steer the conversation.
“Um… didn’t they use some kind of a drug to save you?” I ask.
“Huh?” Nora asks. “Oh, no, the Good Samaritan did CPR for, like, twenty minutes, until the ambulance came.”
“Do you remember it?” I ask.
“No,” Nora says. “I passed out when I was still in the car.”
Or died, I think to myself, but don’t say. This is all too weird.
“So, why do you think you’re in Franklin?” I ask.
“Oh, I know why we’re in Franklin,” Nora says. “My parents eventually fessed up to that much.”