by Sydnee Cohen
Two years ago today, when the rain poured down from the sky above with such fury and hatred many stayed inside, Morgan’s father headed to the police station. He had been waiting for a call for ten days, and some bad weather wasn’t going to keep him away. Nothing would stop him. His car shook from the rapid winds, the wipers only letting him see six feet ahead. From his car to the stone steps, he was soaked head to toe. Inside, an officer appeared and ushered him to a back room, asking if he wanted any coffee. Morgan’s father didn’t have the nerve to tell him that three in the morning was a bad time for coffee. He took a cup, with cream and two sugars, and understood that it would only make his shaking worse. The officer tried to continue his round of small talk, but he shook water droplets from his hair. He just wanted answers. It wasn’t every day that he got called into the police station so late into the night. In fact, as far as he could remember, they never had. Here he was anyway, needing anything that the officers were willing to give him. Desperate to hear about anything if it had to do with Morgan.
“I have some, I got… information, Dale.” The officer said. Dale was directed to sit. He did. He was a man who always did what was asked of him. He was a semi-truck driver . Always moving about the country where people told him to go. When Morgan’s mother left, he became a single parent like the world told him to do. He had quit drinking because Morgan had demanded. He donated more money than he had to every passerby who asked. His schedule was strict, but he always took off his baseball cap to greet his daughter when he got home. Making sure to call when she would be waking for school. He took coffee at an ungodly hour because he couldn’t say no. Dale’s whole world revolves around being told what to do, and taking care of his girl. So when the officer placed a warm hand on a cold shoulder and said that Morgan had been washed in from the storm an hour ago, Dale knew that his whole world had just collapsed, and he did as he was told.
As the years passed Dale became the storm that night. Cold. Persistent. Unsteady. Keeping Morgan’s room just how she left it. A messy heap of purple clothing. Curtain drawn. Bed unmade. Showing that wherever Morgan did run off to that night, she was in a hurry. And she did run off. Dale had the police check his home for signs of a break in, but all searches had come up empty. She left a mess, and no one knew how to clean it up. To this day people gossip terrible things about Morgan’s death. If she had jumped off the bridge into the levy, if she was killed and thrown there, if her daddy had done it. When the police asked around at the school if anyone knew anything about that night, they got an award winning picture of Morgan. Perfect grades. Perfect friend. Always helping, always there if anyone needed. Can’t believe this happened. Not to Perfect Morgan.
But nobody is perfect.
If an outsider of the town was looking for a more well rounded view of the blonde girl whose body was found pale and wet in the bushes of the flooded streets, something to make Morgan appear more human than the angel everyone painted her out to be, they would go to Kaylen.
Kaylen calls Morgan a Fucking Bitch. With hair like fire and eyes like grass, Kaylen will never forget who Morgan really was.
All those times when Dale would be gone on the road, he would beg and grovel at Kaylen’s mother’s feet. Asking ever so nicely if she could check in on Morgan while he was gone. Morgan was apparently old enough at fifteen to stay home by herself while her dad was gone. He had no other option. Dale couldn’t afford a full time babysitter. Kaylen’s mother would show a flirtatious smile each time saying, “Why of course, Dale-y!” and watched as he would thank her tremendously before adjusting his baseball cap and heading next door to his own house.
That would be the spark that ignited Kaylen’s flame. She wanted to know more about her ex-best friend. Maybe getting some answers as to why they fell out of touch, which would seem impossible with their houses being only twenty feet apart. Windows adjacent. Bus riders together for the past nine years of their lives. Kaylen wanted Morgan back in her life. She had no idea what she was going to get instead.
From her window, Kaylen could spy on Morgan’s room. Watching as Miss Perfect would bring boys and girls into her room. Taking off all of their clothes. On cotton sheets acts of love were committed over and over again. Warm light from the open window leaving the one night couple on full display. A spotlight shining on the main event. Arms and legs tangled against each other in the heat of the moment. As Morgan’s friends left after a night of fun with Dale gone, Morgan smiled pearly teeth at Kaylen. She would put on her show, and Kaylen would roll those grassy eyes before venting to her dog.
Bella, the dog, heard no end of the things Kaylen had to say about Morgan. The dog was old and only sighed when she was hungry or needed to go outside. Watching Kaylen pace across the floor to her bedroom, Bella listened politely to what she was saying. Morgan knew that Kaylen could see her from the window, and she wasn’t set on being quiet either. Morgan knew how much she hurt Kaylen each time she slept with someone new. As far as Kaylen was concerned, this was a personal attack. Morgan with her intentional glances during lunch period. Brushes of her hand against Kaylens side during chemistry labs. It could have all been in her head, but some of it had to be true. She couldn’t have made it all up. The whispered jokes. Hands on thighs. Kissing the girl who had a locker next to Kaylen. Having a boy drop her off after school, much too old to be near her. All of it leads to pain. Morgan would die with the knowledge that when she took Kaylen into her bed the first night her dad was gone, it would be the first night Kaylen had done anything at all.
Kaylen’s mother had sent her to check up on the girl, and Kaylen, like Dale, did what she was told. She would get good grades because she was told that’s what good girls did. She would be a beacon of advice if anyone needed. She would be a plaything to her childhood crush if Morgan asked. Morgan smiled. Worked her charm. And took something from Kaylen that she would hold until even after she died. Kaylen had dreams that she hoped would become reality. Being top of their class. Getting into college. Becoming a doctor, saving people. Meeting her favorite celebrities. But she also had dreams that seemed unreasonable. Ones where she would be dating Morgan after their night together. Two lovers who grew up next door to each other. Some dreams were made to be destroyed. Morgan kept inviting people from school, Kaylen witnessed every night her dreams of romance got crushed over and over again. With different skins and hairs and clothes on Morgan’s bed a piece of Kaylen’s heart left her chest.
The real pain, however, came when word spread about Morgan’s death. Reality hit that she would never get to spend another night with Morgan ever again. Would never hear her voice or see that pearly smile. No more painting each other’s nails, or trying on each other’s clothes. Dale would never come over to beg for a babysitter. Meeting at the bus stop. Fixing each other’s hair in the bathroom. That hope died the same day Morgan did. Out of all the things Kaylen can’t tolerate about Morgan, the one thing that irritates her the most, remains the fact that she died without saying goodbye. Fucking Bitch.
Today was the worst day for Kaylen and Dale, along with many other members of the community. Kaylen’s remorse couldn’t be spotted on her face, in fact, she didn’t look bothered at all as she headed downstairs for breakfast. Her mother pours batter into the waffle maker and Saturday events begin. The weekend looked sadly similar to every other day of the week for Kaylen. Not having friends, she would find herself in her bedroom reading aloud to Bella. She wouldn’t get dressed or brush her hair, she wasn’t going anywhere.
She makes her way back upstairs, waffle in hand, and wonders what book she will be reading today. Her current read drags with mentions of love affairs and happiness, but today Kaylen couldn’t tolerate the reminder of what she couldn’t have. Her mind needs a distraction from the world around her. Something fantastical and time consuming. Anything to take her brain off of the anger and pain coursing through her blood. As she browses the titles on her bookcase she hears a noise she trained for years to listen to. Out of all of the other things on the street or in the neighborhood or the world for that matter, nothing sounds like the noise that comes from Morgan’s room.
With houses only feet apart from each other, Kaylen can identify what noise from the neighbor sounds like. It was always shuffling or loud music of gossip or guests, yet these past two years silence covers everything in thick layers. Not a peep from the entire house. Kaylen would never get used to the quiet, she had told herself. Quiet meant that she would have to accept the fact that Morgan was gone, and some things are better left ignored then to confront them, and it was worth it now. There was noise from outside Kaylen’s window, so maybe hope wasn’t lost after all. Maybe Morgan’s father and the police found another girl’s body, too decomposed by the water that night, and they made a mistake. Morgan was back home, moving around in her bedroom. Making noise. Alive.
Kaylen moves quickly to spot the girl with blonde hair and fair skin. Hoping to see that pearly smile from the window and feel her eyes fill with tears. After all this time, Morgan came back. And Kaylen decides then that she will never let her leave again. When she presses her hands and face to the glass her heart drops into a grave like the one Morgan’s body stays in. In Morgan’s bedroom stands Dale. Kaylen watches as he adjusts his baseball cap on his head twice before deciding to sit on Morgan’s unmade bed. He won’t change anything about her room since the day she was reported missing two years ago. It will forever remain the same room Morgan grew up in, where Kaylen’s favorite memories were created. Where she watches now as Dale picks up a pillow and rubs his sweaty palms over the cotton.
Kaylen watches. He begins to shake. First his head, as if he couldn’t disagree with someone more. Then his chest, his heart bursting inside and his lungs trying to suck in the air. Next his back spasms, lurching him forward as his arms bring the pillow to him. His hands would shake as well, but they are currently strangling the pillow in a bear hug. It doesn’t take someone who was trained to hear the neighbors noise to hear Morgan’s father as he wails.
“My baby! Mr little girl! Oh God… My sweet Morgan!” The next sounds he makes, Kaylen can only be described as choking. His lungs trying to breathe in air while being trapped under the water. Before an inhumane scream of pain emerges from his chest. A fish looking for the lake when it squirms on the dock. A hurricane looking for anything to consume in cities. Needing. Hoping. For anything that can fill the void.
Kaylen can’t process what to do as she watches. This moment should be a private one. Her right hand reaches out towards the strings that dangle there. Giving a soft tug and hearing the blinds close in front of her. Severing her view of Morgan’s father and the last things he keeps of hers. Kaylen walks back over to the bookcase, grabbing a random title off the shelf and heads back to her bed. She falls back onto it. Staring up at the ceiling she tries to let only simple things cross her mind. Who invented popcorn ceilings? Can I get an extension on my chemistry homework? How did she ever find something in common with Dale of all people? Should she paint her room? Will it always feel like this? When will the crying stop, please just make him stop. Startled by a different noise, Kaylen tunes out her questions and focuses on something more gentle, the soft pelting of rain.
Looking next to her towards the window, she can see that the sun went down. A breath Kaylen was holding in her lungs was let go, the last sigh of relief she so desperately needed. The day came to an end. The war was won. Right now the only thing on Kaylen’s mind was sleep. Tomorrow she will begin her regular Sunday activities of eating waffles and reading to Bella. She will continue calling Morgan a Fucking Bitch. Hearing the door shut to Morgan’s room, presumably meaning Dale left it as if he was never there. Everything will be back to normal this community became accustomed to ever since Morgan was found washed up in river water, with no explanation of any of her affairs.
When the day passes, Kaylen can breathe again. Her everyday tasks become bearable. She controls her thoughts, her actions, her reading. She can pretend and act and get by. Kaylen lived two years longer than Morgan ever will, continues to live. And the past two have been tsunamis of pain. But as college and cars and freedom and opportunities are just approaching days away, hindsite. After the storms that passed, Morgan’s funeral had clear skies. That rainbows are signs of light and love. And when it rains…