[Note: BOYS & GIRLS: PART II is under production, and this preview may contain lines and content that do not reach the final book. In addition, this book assumes that you have read PART I all the way through. You can read more about Part I here.]
January 1st, 2017
Kinsky, California, USA
“Yo, Lukas! You’re gonna miss the New York drop, they’re about to do it!”
Aaron was calling out to his friend, still in the bathroom. Lukas quickly flushed the toilet and washed his hands, getting out just in time to witness the event with the others.
“Three… two… one!”
The group saw the ball drop in New York City. There was some polite clapping and mild-mannered cheers from the group.
“Okay, real one’s still not for another few hours. Hey Rose, is there still some pizza in the kitchen?”
Rose nodded at her boyfriend’s request. “You wanted some?”
Aaron shook his head. “Nope. Just wanted to check.”
Rodrigo, from the other end of the couch, raised his hand. “I’ll take one if it isn’t too much trouble, chica.”
Rose did a faux curtsy. “Muy facil.”
Rodrigo smirked. “Glad they’re teaching you something in AP Spanish.”
After Rose left to go to the kitchen, Aaron turned towards Lukas and Kat, who sat next to him on the couch. “So, Cole’s not comin’, huh?”
Kat, who had her hand around Lukas’ shoulder, was the one to answer. “He never returned my calls, so… I’m guessing not. But I’m not too worried. It’s not the first time he’s pulled something like this.”
“Besides, as Emily astutely pointed out earlier…” Lukas added leaning forward in a gossipy whisper, “Maria isn’t here either.”
Aaron smiled. “You think it’s finally happening?”
The boy shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe. Guess we’ll have to see what’s the word tomorrow.”
In that moment, something peculiar happened; the landline to Aaron’s apartment began to ring. Rose, already on the way back from the kitchen, called out to the other that she’d get it.
“Hello, this is the McNamara Household, Rose Kawakami speaking,” she spoke to the person on the other end of the phone. “Yeah, she’s here… alright, let me go grab her. Hey, Kat!”
The others all turned towards the girl. Aaron, in particular, looked rather confused.
“They called my house to get to you? Wonder who it could be.”
Kat seemed just as confused as him. She got up from the couch, taking the landline from Rose’s outstretched hand, and placing the receiver to her ear.
“Hello, this is Katherine Wilkins,” she spoke.
The voice on the other end talked to her. At first, Kat listened. But as the person on the other end continued to speak, Kat could feel her heart begin to pound. Her skin clammed up, and she began to felt like she would faint. In all this lead up, the voice finally told her what she needed to hear. Her expression completely fell. Her body felt like it could collapse. Her eyes widened, and a single tear began to stream down her cheek.
“Okay… okay,” she muttered back coldly. Without listening to another word, she hung the phone back on the line.
Her weak, trembling legs carried her back to the other room. The entire audience of her friends were looking back at her.
“So… what was it?” Sadja asked her from the back of the room, a concerned look on her face.
Kat ignored her best friend, and looked over at Aaron. “Hey, i-is there a place… somewhere private, I-I can go for a second?”
A look of worry crossed Aaron’s face. “You can just go inside my room, it’s alright. Take whatever time you need.”
Kat’s shaky, shell-shocked head motioned over into the hallway, where she slowly shambled over to the room. As she passed, Rose whispered to her.
“Hey Kat… everything okay?”
She didn’t answer. Instead, she opened the door into Aaron’s room and promptly shut it behind her. She locked the door, and fell onto Aaron’s bed. Grabbing the pillow at the head of the mattress, she pushed it over, until her face was on top of it, completely smothered by the fabric.
Then she screamed.
It was the loudest scream she ever let out in her life, only barely muffled by the pillow. Immediately following the scream was a torrent of sobbing that soaked the outer pillow casing in her tears. She laid like this for what seemed like hours but was only mere minutes, gripping a tight hold on the pillow as she let out what the call had done to her.
As she began to grow tired and her cries let out with less energy, she heard a small knock on the door. She got up from the pillow, giving a half-hearted attempt to wipe the tears off onto the inside of her shirt. Slowly she got up, making her way over to the door, as she unlocked it and opened it just slightly ajar.
Lukas was in front of her. He had that soft, gentle look to him that made Kat feel better. The same one she’d see in her concerts. The others looked on at a distance, from the living room. The TV was now off.
“Hey,” Lukas said quietly. “Can I come in?”
Kat looked at the others, then back at Lukas. Slowly, she opened the door – just enough for him to fit. Lukas walked in and sat on the bed. Kat sat next to him, her head turned to the floor and her eyes downcast, not looking him directly in the eyes.
“What’s wrong, Kat?” Lukas asked in a low tone. “What was the call about?”
At first, Kat was unresponsive. She just kept looking down onto the carpeted floor of Aaron’s bedroom, avoiding contact with anything other than the ground.
“Is it… your dad?” Lukas continued, trying to guide her to an answer. “Or your mom?”
Kat began to feel like crying again. She looked over at Lukas, eyes bloodshot, her lips quivering.
“Luke, baby…” she muttered out, “Cole is… Cole is gone.”
The hairs on the back of Lukas’ neck began to stick out. His heart beat arrhythmically.
“What do you… what do you mean?”
The tears began to flow down Katherine’s eyes again. “He’s gone. The p-police called. I was the only contact in his w-wallet other than Marion.”
The boy’s eyes widened. “How… how did he… what happened?”
Kat shook her head. “They said they found him on the shore of the lake by Ednas Bridge. They think he might have jumped off.”
Lukas was speechless. He didn’t cry, he didn’t look away, he didn’t do anything. The whole scenario reminded him of just a few months prior, when Kat took him aside in that empty classroom and told him what had happened to Anita. Now the whole thing was happening all over again.
But now it hits much closer to home.
“And it’s… it’s true?” Lukas asked weakly.
She nodded rapidly, then suddenly grabbed him and pulled him in tightly, bawling into his chest. Lukas stroked her back gently to comfort her. He looked over at the door, knowing that his friends were still out there wondering what had happened, oblivious to the new state of their world.
“We should tell the others,” the blonde-headed boy said in a near whisper.
When the two finally left the bedroom, everything was deathly quiet. Their other friends looked on – some with troubled faces, others just curious – as they waited with expectant breath as to what the couple was about to say.
Lukas, still in shock, couldn’t say anything at all. Words failed him. Kat, brought to confidence by admitting the truth to her boyfriend just moments ago, spoke the dreaded words.
“Cole just passed away.”
The reaction was immediate. Rose widened her eyes, letting out an audible gasp that could be heard throughout the room. Sadja was more subtle, but tears almost immediately sprung in her eyes. The boys looked onward, confused, unsure, as if there had to be more to it all.
“But what… what happened?” Aaron asked, repeating Lukas’ question.
“They don’t know… but…” Kat felt a wince of pain in her body. She took it in, gave a deep breath, then continued. “They think it might be a suicide.”
Rose let out another gasp, though this time it was perhaps more like a whimper. She began to sob loudly, as Aaron embraced her. The two siblings, Maurice and Emily, looked up at each other, solemn, then got a little bit closer. Rodrigo sat at the center of the couch, betraying no reaction, just looking down stoically at the table, twirling a plastic knife back and forth in his hand.
“G-G-God,” Sadja studdered, tears rolling down her face, her face giving a weak smile to hide away the pain. “Th-this year really sucks… doesn’t it?”
After this, she couldn’t hold it in anymore. She got down on her knees and began to cry, just like Rose.
Ash, who stood alone in the corner, had tears well in her eyes but was otherwise able to hold it in. It was while holding back these tears she came to a realization.
“If Maria’s still home… she might not know about it yet.”
The others turned to the girl with blue hair. Most of them, still reeling from the news they had heard moments prior, had nothing to say. But Rose stood up almost immediately, putting her purse back over her shoulder.
“I’ll go tell her. Right now.”
Rodrigo looked at her. “Are you sure? You don’t even know if she’s up right now.”
“She’ll be up. And she deserves to know just like the rest of us. I’ll go tell her.”
In reality, Rose mostly wanted to be out of the house so she could take in the fresh air and be with her own thoughts about what had happened. But the importance of the task also didn’t go past her. She gathered her stuff, with Aaron watching on from a distance.
“Do you want me to go with you?” he asked.
“No, it’s okay. I’ll just… I can just go down myself.”
Rose put her purse over her shoulder and walked out of the room. The feeling in the room was as somber as it ever was. Maurice still stood, blank-faced, fidgeting with his hands in his pockets.
“I guess that’s it for the party, isn’t it?” he asked meekly.
Maria had been sitting in her dining room, waiting. What she was waiting for, she wasn’t sure. Regardless of whether she had something to wait for, she couldn’t sleep. Before she could at least cry, and the crying would make her tired enough that she might be able to pass out and still get a full night of rest. Now she didn’t feel anything. She just felt empty.
The doorbell rang, and she jutted up in the chair. Her heart began to race. She was sure it was him. She quickly cycled through all the things she might say, the reactions she might have upon meeting him, then took a deep breath and opened the door. She was surprised to see it was Rose, and even more surprised to see the look of distended melancholy on her face.
“Hey, Maria,” Rose said with sympathy, “Can I come in?”
Maria was concerned, but opened the door wide. “Sure.”
Rose walked into the dining room, wiping her eyes, while Maria followed her. They sat down across from one another at the table.
“So I’m assuming…” Rose began, her voice almost breaking. “I’m assuming you haven’t heard what’s happened yet.”
Maria could feel a weight in her chest. “What?” she asked softly but directly.
Rose looked up. Tears began to flood down her eyes again.
“Cole committed suicide. I’m so sorry.”
Maria froze. She didn’t know how to respond. She felt her heart sink and the tips of her fingers begin to go numb. But at that moment, she wasn’t sad. She just felt disappointed.
“Listen, Maria,” Rose continued after the bout of silence, “If you need anything, anything at all….”
The question began to circle in Maria’s mind as to whether she should tell Rose what she knew. She did know that, at this point, she was outnumbered. Most people loved Cole. Even part of her deep down still did, too. But she knew what this suicide meant. She knew what he was hiding.
“Rose,” Maria finally let out, a renewed sense of confidence given in the directness of her voice and her stern eye contact to the forlorn girl in front of her. “What I am about to tell you… you have to promise me that none of it will ever, ever, leave this room.”