Lucy’s mother called to tell me that Lucy was dead. I didn’t answer the phone.
Night was softening by then, fading to early morning, and the light coming in from the street was wavering and yellow. When the machine kicked on, my recording declared my absence. It was unnerving to hear the sound of my own voice. The digital girl, speaking in the silence of the room—genial, inappropriately cheerful to be out.
Mrs. Parker sounded choked, like someone talking through gauze. At first, her narrative was stiff and factual, but then it started to come apart. “My girl,” she said. “My little girl.” And then she started to cry.
I saw Lucy die. Friday, just before midnight, on the roof of a nightclub called the Clifftop. This isn’t my secret. No one would dispute the cold hard facts, that she circumvented the railing and then went over.
Just before this, she’d caught me in the cocktail lounge to tell me all about her new friend.
“He says he’s been watching me,” she whispered, breathing clouds of booze and sugar against my ear. “He says I’m the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen, that I’m precious when I sleep. Mara,” she said, slipping her hand into mine, “I think he might love me.”
“That’s not love,” I told her. “That’s obsession.”
It was the last thing I said to her. Five minutes later, she took a header from the trendy rooftop dance-floor, tangled up with the sleep-fixated boy, and everything got crazy. It’s Saturday now, if only on a technicality, and my eyes are hot from crying.
After three minutes, the machine cuts Mrs. Parker off and then there is nothing but the drip of a faucet, the refrigerator humming briskly to itself.
Lucy is sitting in the corduroy chair by the end-table. She is sitting very still, and when she smiles, it’s something cold and empty that only happens on her mouth. Her eyes are like two polished stones. Her gums look bled-white.
I hug my knees and think about impact, about terminal velocity. “Why are you here?” I say, looking at her sideways, resting my head on my arms.
Lucy doesn’t answer and her bland, unblinking gaze never leaves my face.
Lucy smiles wider and taps her index finger against the armrest, a gentle whisper on the upholstery. One and one and two. Tap-tap-tap. Third time’s a charm.
Lucy’s mother called to tell me that Lucy is dead.
There’s no disputing a fall from fifteen stories, but they cannot for the life of them find her body.
This doesn’t come as a shock.
The girl sitting across from me in the corduroy chair does indeed look dead.
I know that she fell from the Clifftop, because I was there. I saw her go, tangled with the hungry-looking boy who held her close at the bar. Who pressed against her, kissed her in a ravenous way that I have never been kissed, and when she pulled back, her lipstick shade was one I’d never seen her wear, a red so thick it was almost garish—slick sheen of syrup and dying things.
Mrs. Parker’s message talks about official statements and funeral arrangements. But when she says that the service will be at one on Tuesday, she is understandably confused.
She said she knew from the police report and from the numerous eye-witness accounts, that the copper-haired jumper was her little girl.
I’m sitting across from the thing who is not Lucy, rocking softly, hugging my knees. She fell. I know this, because I saw it. I know that her passionate, nocturnal friend did this to her.
Mrs. Parker thinks that Lucy took the short way down and that’s the end of it, but I know the truth.
I know that she will always get back up.