When Vivian graduates from Harvard, a smile on her lips, Elle, wonderful, pink Elle, on the podium giving a speech, Heather Chandler’s voice sounds like the drain cleaner she choked to death on in her ears. “She’ll find out what you did”, she says and spews red, white and blue. Vivian wants to puke on her again.
Instead, she rushes to Elle, who is soft and warm and kind in a way J.D. never was, and hugs her. “That was amazing”, she says and Elle laughs. “What, like it’s hard?” Vivian kisses her cheek. J.D., with his guts spilling from under his ribcage, sneers. He doesn’t say anything. Vivian ignores him.
“Congratulations on a marvellous graduation!” Emmett bows with a flourish and Vivian grins. “Has prince Charming come to save the day?”, she asks and Emmet shrugs. “Not quite.” He stands up again and straightens his tie. “Your parents are here, Vivian. Over there, with Warner.”
Vivian blinks. J.D. snickers. Ram and Kurt high five and continue leering at Elle, their blood dripping on the wooden floor. Heather Chandler smirks. “Oh, girl, you are busted”, she says and plays with a strand of Vivian’s hair. Vivian shakes her head.
“Why don’t you go say hi?” Elle picks Bruiser up from the ground. “Before Warner starts talking about that diamond.” Vivian nods and turns on her heels, J.D.’s hands firm on her waist. Let me go, she wants to say. Instead, she walks faster.
Her parents look old. Warner is talking to them with that self assured smirk she’s always wanted to punch out of his face and her mother is listening intently and her father swings his wine glass every once in a while.
“Hi”, Vivian says and feels seventeen again, J.D. behind her, Heather Chandler’s laugh in her ears.
Her mother turns around. “Dear”, she says and pulls Vivian into a hug. “We’ve been so worried!”
“Aren’t they always?” Heather Chandler rolls her eyes and leans in to tuck a strand of hair behind Vivian’s ear. “So worried about everything and nothing.” The drain cleaner drips onto Vivian’s robes and she resists the urge to wipe it away.
“I’m sorry”, she says. “I’ve been busy.” Her father puts his wine glass down and Warner nudges closer. “Law school is hard.”
Her father sighs. “We know, honey, but you could’ve at least come home for Christmas once.”
Vivian thinks about how she sees the Heathers on every poster and J.D. in every corner, how she hears the bomb exploding and gunshots ringing and Heather choking and how she never sets foot into a 7/11.
“I was busy”, she says and straightens the folds in her robes.
Warner furrows his brows. “But I thought -”
“Warner! Your brother is here!” Elle smiles at Warner and links arms with him. “He wants to talk to you about something, I didn’t ask what.” She giggles and Ram wolf whistles. Vivian wants to smack him until his gunshot wound doesn’t ooze blood anymore.
“Veronica”, her mother says and Vivian flinches. “Why wouldn’t you come home? Especially after that horrid thing that happened in Westerburg High School, don’t you understand that we’re worried?”
“I’m an adult, mom”, Vivian says and tries not to look at J.D., who is leaning against the closest wall, laughing, and re-bandaging his left hand. He wiggles his four remaining fingers. Vivian’s fingers itch.
“Yes, but we’re still your parents.” Her mother reaches for her and Vivian takes a step back. “Please don’t”, she says and thinks of J.D. and his kisses. “Don’t touch me.”
“What your mother means to say”, her father puts a hand on her mother’s shoulder, “is that we’re very proud of you. Graduating from Havard law suma com laude is quite the achievement. If you want to come home for Christmas, we’ll save you a seat.”
Vivian smiles. “Thanks, dad”, she says.
“That looked unpleasant”, Elle says when Vivian drops into a chair next to her and Emmett. “Are you ok?”
Vivian shrugs. “It wasn’t horrible”, she says. Emmett stands up. “Can I hug you?”, he asks and Vivian nods and rests her head on his chest when he wraps his arms around her. Elle pets her back.
“Are you ok?”, she asks again and Vivian shakes her head. Emmett draws her closer.
“Do you want to talk about it?”, he asks and Vivian shakes her head again.
“No.” J.D. grins at her, bloody gums and exposed ribs and left middle finger missing and Heather rolls her eyes, the drain cleaner dripping from her lips. “I don’t.”
When they’re home and Emmett takes off his suit while Vivian and Elle take off their robes, Vivian stares at the bathroom mirror until she can see the blue of Heather Chandler’s eyes dancing around her.
Stupid, she thinks and splashes water in her face. Stupid, stupid, stupid little girl. Ram is sitting on the counter and staring at her. “Dude, you used to be so fuckable”, he says. Vivian throws a towel at him. Heather Chandler rolls her eyes. “They’re going to find out one day”, she says and ties her red scrunchie tighter. “God, how stupid do you have to be to fall for two lawyers?”
“Shut up”, Vivian says and picks up the towel. It’s blue.
“Vivian?” Elle knocks against the door. “Can you open the door? I need to take off my make up.”
Vivian dries her face and unlocks the door. Elle kisses her and smiles. “Don’t let your parents ruin this day for you.” She goes to the basin and turns on the water. “Oh, by the way, did you see the look on Warner’s face when I dragged him away from your parents?”
Vivian smiles and lets Elle’s chatter wash over her. J.D. rolls his eyes. “She’s such an airhead”, he says.
“Girls, is there an assembly I didn’t know anything about?” Emmett hugs Vivian from behind and kisses her neck. Elle laughs. “We would never do that!”
“I seem to recall a hot day in August when the two of you decided to turn this room into a freezer and didn’t tell me about it.”
Vivian turns her head and pecks him on the lips. “You were working”, she says and Emmett shrugs.
“Can I ask why you don’t talk to your parents?”
Elle turns around, make up wipe still risen to her face and Vivian sighs.
“They remind me of something”, she says and stares at J.D., who is playing with his gun and smiles a bloody smile as he aims at her and pulls the trigger.
“I have to tell you something.” Vivian looks at Elle. “Did you hear about the Westerburg suicides?“