Episode 7, Part 1
Anna walked into the den and found Olaf staring wistfully oot the window in the direction of the grain silo at the far end of the property.
“Please tell me you’re not contemplating another useless overhaul of that decrepit silo, Olaf. I don’t think I can stand another summer watching you toil the afternoons away on that eyesore.”
“Don’t worry, I wasn’t planning any new projects, just…thinking.”
“I got a very curious e-mail this morning from someone named Janice.”
Anna shot Olaf a look of mock suspicion.
“Yes, she lives in Vancouver and went to the same high school that I attended as an exchange student when I was 15.”
“Was she a friend of yours?”
“No. She says she enrolled at Hillside the year after I left. I never met her.”
“So what does she want?”
“Take a look.”
Olaf positioned his laptop so she could read over his shoulder.
Dear Mr. Koskinen,
My name is Janice Patel and I am the programming director at Broadband TV in Vancouver, British Columbia. I understand that you attended Hillside High School as an exchange student for a semester in 1991, just before I transferred there. My classmates spoke of you often and fondly.
My network will be premiering a new show featuring live music broadcast from a local club in Vancouver. I am writing to cordially invite you to the performance, which will feature Canadian alternative supergroup The New Pornographers as well as a special guest performance by Black Well, a rock and roll ensemble fronted by one of your former classmates, Dylan Blackwell.
I know this is very short notice, especially considering the travel involved, but if you can possibly attend this special premier concert event, Broadband will pay for your airfare and lodging expenses. If possible, please RSVP by April 16th so that I have time to make the arrangements for your stay. I look forward to seeing you there!
Broadband TV Corp.
“That sounds exciting. Are you planning to go?”
Olaf let oot a pronounced guffaw.
“Anna, I think I would rather sleep in that damn silo every night than travel halfway around the world to see those people again.”
“Oh? This Janice made it sound like they were your friends.”
“That’s what I don’t understand. I mean, there were one or two people who were nice to me…or at least they refrained from mocking me every time I opened my mouth…but I never really got close to anyone. I have a feeling there’s more to this than meets the eye.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, if Janice is anything like the rest of her former classmates, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to find oot that she’s held a grudge aboot something for over a quarter of a century and intends to exact some kind of revenge at this concert.”
“On live TV?”
“You’ve never met anyone more addicted to melodrama and self-pity than these people, Anna. I’ve always suspected it had something to do with the Vancouver water supply. If one of them has a chance to humiliate her former tormentors on live TV, I bet she’s going to take it, even if it comes 25 years after the fact and jeopardizes her entire career.”
“I see. Well, if nothing else, it should be interesting…can we at least watch it on TV?”
“You know me, Anna – I love to see a good train wreck. I wouldn’t miss it for the world!”
North Vancouver, B.C.
Courtney tapped the excess moisture from her umbrella and walked inside, scanning the café for a familiar face.
“Courtney! Over here!”
Jake stood up and waved his arms until Courtney spotted him and made her way to the table where he was waiting with Arseman.
“Oh my God, it’s so great to see both of you!! I can’t believe you’re really here!”
After exchanging hugs, Courtney took a seat across from her old friends.
“We really owe you an apology, Courtney. Arseman and I have been in town for a couple of weeks, but we just assumed—”
“—that hanging around with a nun probably wouldn’t be a whole lot of fun?”
“No, no…we just thought that maybe you wouldn’t be interested in hearing from the old crowd. You know, until we heard that you’d left the convent.”
“Well, you were wrong. I would have been thrilled to hear from you no matter what! But how did you know I left the convent?”
Arseman nervously twirled a strand of hair between her fingers.
“Matt told us.”
“Oh, you guys saw Matt?”
“Yeah, we did…um, when did you last speak to him, Courtney?”
“Friday. We went oot to dinner.”
Jake and Arseman fell silent as Courtney tried in vain to understand their ambivalent reaction.
“Courtney…you remember Matt’s problem with…”
Arseman interrupted, deciding it would be best to rip this band-aid off as quickly as possible.
Courtney looked at her with surprise.
“Well, sure, but that didn’t seem to be an issue anymore. I asked him aboot it and he told me that he’s been drinking moderately withoot any problems for quite a few years now.”
While Courtney was speaking, Jake pulled up the article from The Sun on his cell phone and passed it across the table. As she read, her eyes welled up with tears.
“Courtney, I’m so sorry…we didn’t know how else to tell you. Matt had some drinks with us, too, and it seemed like he had it under control but I still didn’t like it. Alcoholism doesn’t just disappear with age.”
“Oh, Arseman…he was so kind and romantic…I guess I just didn’t want to face reality, so I took Matt at his word when he said it wasn’t a problem. Why can’t anything ever…”
Courtney’s voice trailed off as Arseman reached across the table and grasped her hand.
“Courtney, it’s okay. I’m sure Matt’s feelings for you are genuine…remember, he has an illness.”
Courtney wiped away a tear and sat up resolutely in her seat.
“No, Arseman! His illness isn’t the problem. The problem is that Matt Walker is a selfish, lying…asshole – just like everyone else!!”
She got up and grabbed her umbrella from beneath the table.
“Courtney, please, just sit down and let’s—”
“Forget it, Jake! There’s nothing you can say. Maybe becoming a nun wasn’t the best decision I’ve ever made, but at least it kept me far away from all this bullshit. I know this isn’t your fault and I know you’re both just trying to help, but please…do me a favor and don’t ever call me again.”
She stormed oot of the café leaving Jake and Arseman in dumbstruck silence.
Dylan walked into the bedroom where Ashley was packing her suitcase.
“How’s it going, Babe?”
“okay, i guess. this is the first time I’ve ever had to pack for a monthlong stay in a mental institution.”
“It’s a rehab facility, Ashley. You’re gonna be fine.”
“yeah. i still don’t think you needed to skip rehearsal. i could have driven myself to the clinic. the show is just two weeks away, dylan.”
“Some things are more important than rock and roll. Besides, the band is tight. Jerry set me up with some first-rate musicians. I just wish you could be there.”
“i’ll be glued to the tv. if one of those drug addicts tries to change the channel, there’ll be hell to pay.”
Dylan smiled and put his arm around Ashley’s shoulder.
“I’ll visit you every weekend.”
“i know this might sound silly but it’s been bothering me and i really have to ask. where were you last week when i called you? you know, when you came home and i was…”
“Ashley, I already told you, I stopped by The Venue to have a talk with Jerry and I just lost track of the time.”
“are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure. I swear that’s what happened, Ashley.”
“okay. i’m sorry, dylan.”
Ashley glanced at her watch.
“we better get going.”
Provincial Court of British Columbia
Matt and Craig exited the courthouse and made their way to the parking garage.
“Craig, thanks again for showing up today.”
“No sweat, Matt. It was the least I could do. So…28 days in rehab? That’s kind of a drag. Think you’ll get through it okay?”
“Rehab? Please. I’m an old pro at that one, Craig. It’s what happens when I get oot that worries me.”
“These judges are suckers for dedicated Twelve Steppers, Matt. You’ll be fine.”
“I hope so.”
“Options Vancouver…it kinda sounds like a gay dating app.”
“Well, I sure hope the name’s deceiving, Craig, because for the next month of my life, it’s home.”
Maple Ridge, B.C.
Brooke woke up in a cold sweat, the bedsheets clinging to her burning limbs. Her temples throbbed mercilessly as she tried to sit up but found herself too weak to move. Theresa and Eddie slept in the adjacent bedroom, but when she tried to call oot, her voice was too weak for them to hear.
She thought of Tabitha and garnered every ounce of strength she could muster to grab her cell phone from the nightstand and shoot off a quick text.
No matter what happens, I am always with you. I love you with all my heart.
Before she could send the message, Brooke was overcome with dizziness and the phone dropped from her hand. Her eyes glazed over as she rolled off the edge of the bed and fell to the hardwood floor with a sickening thud.