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It Happened Last Night

Nikki Morett

 

The Avery sisters sat sprawled across the bedroom floor, pillows and photographs scattered around them on their shag carpet. It was a hot summer night, and the girls’ clothes clung to their skin while their thick brown hair stuck to the back of their necks. Although the sun had gone down hours ago, the room was still thick and heavy with heat and humidity. The girls were currently in Alice’s room, which was technically Alice’s and Ellie’s room, listening to a Fleetwood Mac record while sorting through the polaroids they had taken on their vacation to their grandparents’ house in Lake George.  It was a common occurrence for the girls to gather in Alice’s room, due to it being the biggest bedroom in the house and it having a balcony that they could open the doors to for a breeze.

“Alice, where are the photos we took yesterday when we were driving home?” Monica asked her sister. The girls had just arrived home to California from their trip to Lake George a couple hours prior.

“In my suitcase still.”

“Grab them.”

Alice crossed the room to her closed red suitcase thrown lazily in the corner. Tucked neatly into the front pocket, she pulled out the stack of polaroids and handed them to Monica.

Monica handed half of them over to Cesca, who shifted through them lazily, only paying attention to the ones she was in.

“How you feeling, Cesca?” Monica asked casually. She had asked Cesca this, due to the unspoken incident that had happened at the Lake House the night before they drove home. The younger girls perked up in anticipation of Cesca’s answer, having been too afraid to mention the incident themselves.

Monica was 19, making her the oldest sister, who thought of herself responsible for the younger girls. She was closest to Cesca, who was 17, due to them being the closest in age. Growing up together, they knew each other inside and out, and often Alice, who was 14, and Ellie, who was 13, wished they were older in order to not feel “left out.”

“Fine?” Cesca responded, confused and unaware of why Monica and the girls had been weird with her the whole trip home. With a groan she lifted herself off the carpet and went on the balcony to smoke a cigarette. Monica rolled her eyes at her response. Typical Francesca she thought. Never willing to face her problems.

“Mom’s gonna smell it.” Ellie sighed, flipping a page in the book she was reading.

“Nah.” Cesca answered unbothered.

“You really think she doesn’t have her window open too?”

Cesca paused, only for a moment, and then took another puff.

“Mom went to bed hours ago. She was tired from driving.” The smell of the smoke filled the bedroom and mixed with the smell of the sharpie Monica was using to label the Polaroids, and the nail polish Alice was using to paint her toes.

The phone on Alice’s nightstand rang shrill and unexpectedly, startling all four Avery sisters. Alice flung herself across the room to answer it, hoping the noise didn’t wake her mother up in the room down the hall.

“Hello?!…Jesus Christ Debbie, it’s 3am!” The spiral chord of the dial phone stretched as Alice sat back on the floor. She swore under her breath as she realized she had smudged her nail polish on her frantic journey across the room.

When Alice’s voice grew quiet on the phone, Monica glanced up from her photographs to see what was going on. Debbie was Alice’s best friend, but the girls referred to her as “the fifth sister” because she was constantly over at the Avery house. Monica couldn’t fathom what Debbie could be spewing to Alice that was justifiably important enough to be calling the house at 3am. But when she noticed the pale, distant expression on Alice’s face, panic rose in her gut. That would be the second time she saw that expression from one of her sisters in the past 2 days.

“What is it, Alice?” Monica whispered to her sister, trying to mask the sudden fear in her voice. Alice sat staring blankly and expressionless, and did not answer her sister.

“Alice!” Monica hissed. “What is it?” When Alice still didn’t respond, Monica grabbed the phone from her, lifting it to her ear with burning curiosity.

“Debbie, what the fuck is going on?” Monica demanded. Hot, bothered, and exhausted, she was losing her patience fast. She hated being scared and hated even more getting worked up for no reason.

“Monica…I-I really don’t know how to say this….”

“Debbie, I swear to God just-”

When Monica’s unoccupied hand flew to her mouth to stifle a gasp, it was enough to capture the attention of Francesca. Watching the drama unfold from the balcony, she finally put out her cigarette and reentered the room. Goosebumps pricked her arms and a knot started to form in her stomach. There was very little that shook up Monica, and Francesca knew that if the news was enough to make her gasp, it had to be something serious. The knot grew wider as Monica said her goodbyes to Debbie and hung up the phone. She solemnly turned toward the sisters.

“Can somebody flip the record?” Ellie said, still engulfed in her book, completely obvious to the situation unfolding around her. The rest of the girls did not respond, but stared at Monica silently, anxiously waiting for her to speak.

“It’s Sam.” Monica said cautiously, staring only at Francesca. “Sammy’s dead.”

Francesca’s eyes widened in shock. Sam Rodriquez, known by all the girls as people know each other in small towns, had been Francesca’s crush since her Freshman year. Although she would never admit it out loud (Cesca was “too good” for high school boys), her sisters had all known she was sweet on him.

“How?” Cesca remained seemingly calm and collected, but her wavering voice betrayed her. Alice silently crossed the room to hold Cesca’s hand, although she might as well have been invisible to her, Cesca’s eyes were locked with Monica.

“A car accident.”

“When?”

“Last night.” Monica’s face was more scared than it was sad, and it frightened Francesca. She realized all her sisters’ eyes were fixed on her with that same frightening look. Like she was an alien or something.

“What?” She snapped. “I barely knew him.”

“We know you liked him Cesca, you don’t have to say it, but we know you did.” Ellie sighed and crawled over to her so she was sitting at her feet. Ellie leaned her head forward so it was pressed comfortably against Francesca’s leg.

“Like him or not,” Francesca said sternly. “I barely knew him-”

“Are we not going to talk about what happened?” Monica sounded furious and Ellie noticed she was visibly shaking. Although the younger sisters knew immediately what Monica was referring to, Francesca was as confused as ever.

“What are you talking about?” Francesca matched Monica’s tone. She had never seen her older sister look at her like that and it made her heart race, from fear or anger, she wasn’t sure.

“Cut the shit, Cesca. I’m talking about what happened that same night. The night Sam apparently died?” The air in the room grew thicker, not with heat now but with tension. Ellie found herself holding her breath.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Monica, what the hell?” Cesca looked at Alice and Ellie at her sides. The two girls got up slowly and walked to the other side of the room where Monica was standing, never taking their eyes off Francesca.

“Maybe she really doesn’t remember…” Alice offered quietly, not daring to get in the middle of her two eldest sisters. The look Francesca was giving Monica could kill.

“Remember what? Jesus Christ, just tell me! The three of you are pissing me off!”

“You woke up screaming!” Monica raised her voice, taking a step towards her sister. She was still shaking. The fact that Cesca didn’t remember made the situation somehow worse and she was confused. “You woke up screaming that night at the Lake House. The last night. Woke the three of us up, we were terrified, thought you were fucking dying or something!”

“Okay, and? I had a nightmare so what? I was probably half asleep still thats why I don’t remember!" Cesca was furious that her sister would bring something so insignificant up at a time like this. "What the hell does this have to do with Sam?”

At that moment Ellie started to weep softly and Alice immediately took it upon herself to console her.

“I can’t believe you don’t remember. It was a dream or something and you kept screaming…” Monica had tears running down her face and felt nothing but pure fear and confusion.

“Screaming what?!”

“You kept screaming his name, Cesca! You were screaming for Sam! You kept saying ‘Sam’s dead, Sam’s dead, Sam’s dead!’’’

"No." Cesca's heart sank all the way to her toes and chills flooded her body. "NO!" It didn't make sense.

"You did! You kept saying that Sam was dead..."

All the Avery sisters were crying now, Cesca fell to the floor in sobs and her sisters fell in around her, huddling together despite the heat.

“You kept screaming for Sam.”