Fall from India Place Page 68

Nate’s words of wisdom stayed with me through the rest of the day and well into the evening. I returned home that evening with a box from my parents’ attic in my arms. I dumped it on the floor of my bedroom. At first I flicked through the pictures of Marco and me from the last few months that I’d taken with my camera phone. From there, I dug through that box and unearthed all my old diaries.

For hours I pored over the documented history of my teen years, filling myself up with all my old feelings for Marco, and hoping they’d collide with the new and somehow breach the blockade of fear.

Because one thing I did know for certain – Nate was right. That kind of regret was a lesson I didn’t want to learn.


I knew there was something wrong as soon as I stepped into the school.

There was a hush in the air.

Walking down the first corridor of the English department, I thought I heard sniffling coming from one of the common rooms. I was about to stop to listen harder when Nish called out to me from the open doorway of the staff room.

As soon as I saw her face I knew my gut had been right. Something was very wrong.

“Can you come here?” she asked softly, looking stricken.

I hurried over to her and she gently guided me into the staff room. Eric, Barbara, and two other members of the staff were in the room. Barbara had tears in her eyes and Eric’s features were strained, his face pale. “What on earth is going on?” I asked. My pulse started to race as nervous butterflies took flight in my stomach.

Nish grabbed hold of my hand. “Hannah… Jarrod Fisher was killed on Saturday night. We just found out this morning.”

I stared at Nish blankly, trying to make sense of her words. “What?” I shook out of her grip, glancing at Eric and Barbara. “Is this a joke?”

“Hannah, I know he was a favorite of yours. I’m so sorry.”

“I don’t understand.” I looked back at Nish incredulously. “I don’t… I don’t… no.” I shook my head.

Her kind eyes grew wet with tears. “He got into a scuffle with an older boy. The wrong boy. He pulled a knife on Jarrod. Jarrod died in surgery.”

A knife? Jarrod?

Smart, charming, funny Jarrod, who I’d told umpteen times that he needed to check that short fuse of his. Jarrod, whose mum and wee brother relied on him. Jarrod. A fifteen-year-old boy who had his whole life in front of him.


Just… gone?

No more?

It wasn’t possible.

The sob burst out of me before I could stop it and then I was in Nish’s arms, bawling the burning pain of his sudden loss into her shoulder. As I thought about his mum and his little brother and the grief that would gnaw at them, that would ache in every muscle, and hang in a dismal pall over their lives for the months to come, I only cried harder.

The tears finally had stopped. I attempted to catch my breath as I pulled out of Nish’s arms. “I’m sorry.” I swiped at my cheeks, feeling embarrassed for breaking down in school. One look at my colleagues’ faces, though, and I knew they understood. Jarrod had been that kid for me, the one where I really felt I could make a difference in his life. It was hard in our job to feel that way, to feel like what we did mattered. I’d imagined discussing university choices with Jarrod next year, helping him get funding, feeling proud of him and how far he’d come. I’d felt like I saw him when no one else did and I’d hoped that it mattered to him.

It was like I’d stepped into some horrible, surreal nightmare.

Children didn’t die in knife fights in my world.

Where were we to stop that?

How could it be that he’d been in my classroom just last week, and now I was thinking about him in past tense? How did someone go from being this tangible person to being a ghost, a player in a film reel of memories?

The tears started coming again.

“Hannah.” Nish rubbed my arm in comfort. “You’re going to have to get yourself together, sweetheart. You’ve got classes, and you’ve got… you’ve got your fourth-year today.”

Oh, God.

How was I going to make it through that class when his empty chair would be staring at me the whole time?

I blew out a shaky breath and wiped at my tears. “I know,” I said, my voice trembling, my lips quivering. “Just give me a minute.”

“His funeral is on Thursday,” Eric told me. “Thursday, eleven o’ clock at Dean Cemetery.”

I winced, sucking in my breath to hold back another flood of tears. “Do you think they’ll give me time off to go?”

“Hannah, you were his favorite teacher,” Eric said kindly. “We’ll make sure you get to say good-bye.”

I pinched my lips together, my eyes blurring with fresh tears.

“Get rid of it now,” Nish said softly. “So you can face the kids.”

My first class that morning had not been easy, but it was my first-year class and they were subdued by the news of Jarrod’s death, which had already met their young ears as it passed through the school halls, and they quietly put their heads down and got on with the task I gave them.

It was when my fourth-years walked in that I felt myself waver and I had to turn my back, suck in the emotion, and count to ten before I could face them. When they were all settled in their seats, I looked them over, taking in the tearstained faces of some of the girls and the shocked, pale features of the rest of them. Even Jack looked upset.

I knew some of them had never been touched by death, and most of them had never been touched by the death of a peer – someone so young, so vital. There is a general belief in one’s own immortality when you’re young, that you can see and do anything and you and the world as you know it will still be there in the morning.

I wondered how Jarrod’s classmates and friends were coping with their sudden mortality.

My gaze came to a stop on his empty chair and I leaned back against my desk, my fingers curling into the wood.

“I wish I could tell you why,” I said, clearing my throat when my voice broke on the last few words.

Staci, a pretty blond girl who sat at the table behind Jarrod and often walked out of class with him, caught my eye as she swiped angrily at her tears.

“Why it is that life can change so quickly?” I continued. “How it’s possible for a heart to stop beating so suddenly, instantly breaking all the hearts that were ever connected to it? But the truth is there is no sense in what happened to Jarrod. None that I can see. I wish I had a better answer, but I don’t.”

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