By Riley Cardoza
Darcy was gone, suitcases shoved into the trunk, one last wave through the rain-streaked windshield as she followed her father’s car down the block. But Connor snuck into her room anyway. Her mother was out and Darcy’s window was unlocked, so with a swift shove and a stooped crawl, he clambered inside.
It didn’t look any different at first. Her bed was still made, a gray comforter atop crisp white sheets, and her dresser and desk lined opposite sides of the room. But the walls, those pale blue walls, were stripped bare, as was the inside of her closet, the whisper of empty hangers rustling together as he threw the door open. And in the corner, the trashcan overflowed with all the things she’d left behind. Trevor crossed the carpet with four hushed steps, knelt beside it, and pulled out the remnants of her tortured life here, one by one.
Her noise-cancelling headphones lay mangled on top, twisted at an unnatural angle with the wires knotted together. Below that, his fingers closed around a box of matches and loose sticks of incense, and when he held those to his nose and sucked in, it was almost like she was there, lighting a match and breathing in evenly as the voices swarmed above her head. There were scattered CDs, too, and a noise machine stuck on the beach setting. Connor remembered trying to fend off the crashing of waves and the chatter of seagulls when he slept over that time. It had kept him awake for hours, but she hadn’t been able to drift off without it, even in his arms. He continued to dig, through the crumpled receipts and the ripped tags and the discarded granola bar wrappers, until his hand scraped the bottom of the trashcan and emerged with a small stack of photos, a trio.
The two on top were almost identical, if not for the rise of the sun in one and the setting of it in the other. Both featured the same black car, the one Darcy had followed down the block, parked in the same spot beneath a tree. Connor squinted his eyes, thought that maybe if he looked close enough, he’d see what had tipped her off. Had his mom left a sweater draped over the seat, dark strands of hair on the leather, a foreign shade of lipstick in the center console? Finding nothing of value, he set those aside and held the last photo between two careful fingers. It was Darcy in the school bathroom. He recognized the yellow tiles behind her head, the pair of sinks, the vibrating pain in her eyes as she pressed down on the shutter. It was a look he’d come to know very well, a look that cut him so deeply, a look that had single handedly led him to do what he’d done. He couldn’t hurt her anymore, couldn’t add to her pain, so he bit his tongue and swallowed the truth, and now she was gone.