My Life Undecided

Jessica Brody

Square Fish

MY LIFE UNDECIDED (Charred to a Crisp)

The police station smells like burnt toast. As if someone popped a piece of sourdough in the toaster oven and forgot about it. Or maybe the flecks of smoky odor are just lingering in my nostrils from the fire. Rebellious stowaways clinging to the inside of my respiratory system like an annoying guest who refuses to leave long after the party is over.

And trust me, the party is way over.

I don't know how much the firefighters were able to salvage of the house. When I was taken away in the police car, the flames were still relentlessly devouring the place.

It feels like I've been in this stuffy little room forever. I think it's the break room because there's a table in the corner with a pot of coffee resting on a rusty electric warmer and every five minutes some cop comes in, pours himself a Styrofoam cupful, and gives me one of those "Boy, did you screw up" raises of his eyebrows.

There's absolutely nothing to do in here. Nothing to read and nothing to watch except the clock on the wall. And trust me, that thing has got to be broken. I swear it only ticks every five seconds.

There's a fat, balding man who keeps popping his head in to tell me that he's "working everything out," and that I "shouldn't be worried." He's supposedly a social worker who's been assigned to my case. And all I can think is Great, now I'm a case.

I keep waiting for them to bring Shayne in. At least then I'd have someone to talk to. She was right next to me when the cops showed up...and the fire trucks, and the ambulances, and the news vans. Her last words to me before I was handcuffed and taken away were "Don't worry, Brooks, we're in this together."

But for the last six hours, there doesn't seem to be anyone in this but me. Oh, and Phil, the way-too-happy-to-be-here-so-early-in-the-morning "social worker." I figure they're probably holding Shayne in another room. They always do that in the movies. Separate the criminals to see which one will talk first. Well, if they think I'm going to rat out my best friend, they've got another think coming.

I mean, the whole thing was initially her idea. But I'm the one who said yes. I'm the one who got us into the house. I'm the one who turned on the stove...

Fortunately, it wasn't my house. It wasn't anyone's house, in fact. That was the brilliance of it all. Or at least, that was supposed to be the brilliance of it all. It's funny how the word "brilliance" can take on a whole new meaning when you're sitting in a police station at seven in the morning.

Perspective.

Also a bitch.

Because according to Phil, the fact that it wasn't my house may not necessarily be a good thing. It's all so confusing and overwhelming. Everyone's been throwing around words like "trespassing," "arson," "jail time," and "underage drinking," and I have no idea what any of it means. Well, apart from the underage drinking. That one, unfortunately, I'm pretty familiar with. Especially now that the spiked punch is starting to wear off and the hangover is settling in. Believe me, it's not making this situation any better. I really wish I liked the taste of coffee right about now. Even that stale pot on the table over there is starting to look better than this tornado of a headache that's brewing above my temples. I try to sleep by resting my head down on the table, but the hard surface of the wood only exacerbates the throbbing. Would it kill them to bring me a Tylenol? Or a tranquilizer?

The door squeaks open again a little after ten a.m. and just when I think I'm about to get another disappointing glare from one of Colorado's finest, the uniformed officer with the name "Banks" engraved into his badge looks down at the clipboard in his hands, then up at me, and says, "Brooklyn Pierce?"

I nod, my pounding head still cradled in my hands. "Yes?"

I pray he's going to tell me that I'm going home. Or that Shayne is in the other room waiting to see me. Or that the get-out-of-jail-free fairy has come to wave her magic wand and spring me from this place.

But he doesn't say any of these things. Instead his forehead crumples and he studies my face with this confounded expression, as if he's trying to remember the capital of some obscure Central American country. "There's no chance that you're Baby Brooklyn, is there? That little girl who fell down the mine shaft all those years ago?"

Fantastic, I think with a groan. Just what I need right now. A reputation for making headlines.

"Yes, that was me."

Officer Banks raises his eyebrows, seemingly impressed at my celebrity status. "Wow. No kidding? So what was it like down there? Were you scared?"

"I don't remember," I reply through gritted teeth. "I was two."

He seems to be oblivious to my displeased tone because he just keeps on talking. "How did you end up down there again? Chased a rabbit or something?"

"Lizard," I mumble.

"I bet you regret that decision, huh?" Banks remarks with a chuckle that grates on my nerves. "Not the smartest thing in the world, was it?"

"Is there something you wanted to tell me?" I nod hopefully toward his clipboard.

"Oh, right," he replies, snapping himself back into the moment. "Good news. Looks like you're going home."

Thank GOD!

I jump up from my chair and rush toward him, feeling like I want to wrap my arms around his portly middle and squeeze him. Obviously, I restrain myself.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" I exclaim. It's about freaking time they let me out of this hellhole.

I think about my soft, comfy bed, my fluffy white pillow, my clean, cotton pajamas. Fresh underwear. Toothpaste and mouth-wash. All the things you take for granted until you're stuck in a place like this for six hours straight.

But my relief is short-lived. Because the next words out of his mouth are the scariest ones I've heard all night. Scarier than "arson," scarier than "trespassing," even scarier than "jail time."

Officer Banks drops his clipboard down against his thigh and offers me a sympathetic wink. "Your parents are here."

MY LIFE UNDECIDED Copyright © 2011 by Jessica Brody