Authors: Juliette Caron
Pictures of You
By Juliette Caron
Copyright © 2014 by Juliette Caron
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted without the prior
written permission of the author.
First paperback edition: May 2014
The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Pictures of You / by Juliette Caron
In a moment, September Jones’s life is changed forever. After her best friend, Abby, is killed in a hit-and-run accident, September struggles to face each day. She turns to junk food, bad TV and journaling to cope. When September meets handsome, mysterious Adrien, who’s given himself two weeks to write the perfect suicide note, and nice guy Chris, her new coworker who has some troubles of his own, she realizes she’s not the only one dealing with personal demons.
Pictures of You
reminds us of our human capacity for resilience, forgiveness and hope.
Ages 12& up
Cover photo credit: Depositphotos
For Anne, who was my Abby.
For Jeff and Mom who helped me get through it and a whole bunch of other stuff.
For all those musicians who changed my life by having the courage to share their amazing talent.
Your last words didn’t surprise me. You said
“September, I’m sorry to say it, but rock ‘n roll is dead.” That’s exactly something you’d say and although the phrase may be trite, to me you couldn’t have been more brilliant. And I said, “Yeah, this crap makes you lose your faith in humanity.” And then we burst into laughter
I loved it when I made you laugh.
Our cheeks hurt from laughing all the way from Los Angeles to New York. High on sticky, carefree summer air, we were in the anything-became-as-funny-as-hell state of mind. We’d taken a road trip across the country—a trip we’d promised to go on together since we were thirteen. With stiff backs, numb butts and stomachs sick on junk food, we were more than happy to get back home to familiar beds.
We were just thirty minutes away from home. Thirty minutes away from safety.
I didn’t see the man in that ugly van. I only saw a flash of brown racing diagonally across the freeway, over into our lane. I wondered if my frail, mortal experience would be coming to a halt as I let off the gas and swerved, trying to miss him. People say your life flashes before your eyes at times like these, but that wasn’t the case for me. Only one thing shot through my mind: I have to get out of this.
I remember the impact and the sound of crushing metal. I’ll never forget that sound. My yellow Volkswagen Beetle didn’t stand a chance. The little car flew into the cloudless summer sky like hang-gliding Big Bird and turned over and over. Crushed ginger ale cans, empty Fritos bags and apple cores flew around like white flecks in an agitated snow globe. They say we flipped five times. I screamed and screamed. You were silent. Your frail arms cradled your head in attempt to protect yourself. Your green chiffon scarf slid off your neck and out the window, slipping away like mortality. We landed upside-down. Funny how the car was broken—totaled—but the radio still played that song. To this day I don’t know the name of that nauseating song.
Upside-down, we hung like sloths from our seats, our belts keeping our bodies suspended. Your long, flaming orange hair fell down, the tips sopping up blood from the ground. I noticed the sprinkling of freckles across your nose and cheeks. They stood out like the moon among stars against your salt white skin. There was blood. Lots and lots of blood. That salty, metallic scent, mixed with your jasmine perfume, overwhelmed me. Blood dripped, like a leaky faucet, to the roof of the car. Like tears, it drizzled from the gash at the top of your head and out of the corner of your perfect mouth.
I remember people calling. So many voices. “Hey! Are you okay?” “Hang in there, I just called 911.” Also, “Ughhh. I can’t look. I think they’re dead.” I looked down at my body. Was I dead? No, I saw the rise and fall of my chest. I felt strangely fine.
I turned to you. “Abby,” I whispered. Your eyes met mine. You smiled weakly, your face was strangely serene. You moaned, too weak to say anything. You reached for me, but your hand, shaped like an eagle’s claw, moved only a few inches and fell. You wore the silver charm bracelet I’d given you on your birthday six years earlier, do you remember? I gave you a charm to add to it every year. I saw your last breath. I watched your bright indigo eyes—those eyes that saw no bad in the world—close.
Those eyes I’d never see again.
I laughed out loud when they brought in the cherry wood casket. Who were they kidding? Abby wasn’t in there. She was alive, breathing, probably singing in some bar in Manhattan, wooing men with her dark, smoky alto. She played the guitar like nobody’s business, too. She
be in there. Life was not life without my Abby. I mean if she was truly dead, I’d have no other choice than to throw myself in front of a semi. And what was the deal with the red roses everywhere? Abby was a daisy girl. This was a weird dream. Nothing more. Right?
Her two younger brothers, Luke and Mitchell, plus an uncle and three cousins, sat the shiny, oblong box down on the special stand thingy. Luke, in hysterics, his face tomato red, fled the room. Poor Luke. The congregation turned simultaneously, creating a pretty wave, similar to something I’d seen a crowd do at a Mets game. Mitchell had a funny smile on his face, almost a confused smirk, as he sat down beside his parents.
noticed all the noise around me. It was awfully loud for a funeral. Further proof I was going to wake up at any moment. The noise: dreary organ music, thunderous sobs coming from some old lady sitting in front of me and a toddler throwing a tantrum. “I want the cookie. Give me the cookie!”
Between the creepy
ancient looking stained glass windows, the overwhelming smell of perfume, moth balls and perspiration and people packed in as tightly as canned beans, my claustrophobia kicked in. Maybe I would leave the room wailing. Maybe I should join Mitchell outside. Tempting, but no. What kind of BFF would I be?
Abby was apparently dead and me, well…according to the doctors I was lucky. I’d left a mangled car with only a bruise the size of a grapefruit on my leg, a seatbelt-shaped cut on my shoulder and a headache.
I hardly paid attention to the songs and prayers and the monotonous speech g
iven by an exceptionally obese pastor or reverend-type guy. (Abby and her family were devout Christians.) Instead I looked around the room, amazed at the strange variety of people sitting around me. Abby had the most unusual friends, not unlike exotic fruit in the produce department. I saw hair that made up every color of the rainbow, guys in funky ties and jackets, girls wearing rock band tee’s with too-casual-for-church skirts and more piercings than I could count. My gaze rested on Mary, who sat several feet to my left, Abby’s
best friend (“My
second-to-best-friend, only after you, September,” Abby had sworn once). I’m ashamed to admit this, but I pretty much hated Mary because of it. This month she stained her hair an eggplant color and added another tattoo to her growing-like-dandelions collection. I knew this because she sported a white, rectangular bandage on the back of her neck, like one Abby had when she opted to have the word “Freedom” forever etched in her right forearm on her eighteenth birthday.
Then there was Abby’s band mates sitting directly behind me. Marcus, the eternally frowning bassist. Guitarist Keaton, who was one funny chin short of being a super model. Keaton and Abby had dated off and on over the years. They were on when she died. The final member was Tyrone, a scrawny punk with pimpled earth-colored skin.
Even Abby’s parents were “alternative”. Her dad, Jed, sported longish hair and combat boots. Her mom, Hannah, wore heavy Egyptian-style eyeliner and a cute little nose ring. I watched the backs of their heads, wondering how they were dealing with all of this.
I took one last glance around the room and then I saw him. Probably the hottest guy I’d ever laid eyes on. I mean, I’ve seen my fair share of good-looking guys, but this guy was gorgeous. Who was he? And more importantly, how was I going to meet him? Why didn’t Abby ever mention she had a friend/schoolmate/cousin who was so—
To my surprise, my ex-boyfriend John and my
older sister April slid into the empty spot next to me. I don’t know what shocked me more: my sister coming or my ex, or their coming together. Or did they come separately and just so happen to arrive at the same time?
April had always hated Abby. She thought my best friend was weird and irresponsible and had her head in the clouds and April wasn’t afraid to voice her opinion about it. On several occasions. April and Abby were as alike as cheesecake and Brussels sprouts. Abby was warm, affectionate, spontaneous, free-spirited, whereas April was more uptight, demanding, goal-oriented. A perfectionist. Even the way April dressed here at the funeral made her stand out like a Disney princess in a Gothy vampire movie. Hair precisely pinned back, pink cardigan and matching skirt neatly pressed. Only Michelangelo could apply makeup with such precision.
John’s presence baffled me. What was he doing here, of all places? Unlike my sister, John didn’t hate Abby, but he didn’t exactly like her, either. Plus he dumped me a month ago, after nine near-perfect months together. I really loved him. I would’ve married the guy. Well, not immediately, but maybe after we both did a little more growing up. I never thought I’d see him again. Yet beside me he sat, looking especially handsome in a sharp suit, with his sleek, gorgeous hair neatly combed (which he inherited from his Native American mother).
“Hey,” John mouthed, smiling warmly, showing off his perfectly straight, glow-in-the-dark teeth. He squeezed my hand. His hand was soft and warm and comforting. A part of me wanted to hang on to it—I needed John right now, more than ever. But I quickly pulled my hand away and crossed my arms over my chest.
“Hi, John. What are
doing here?” I whispered.
“What do you mean? I liked Abby, too,” he said. I wasn’t buying it. John and Abby weren’t close at all. In fact, he’d always resented Abby and Keaton’s tagging along, which wasn’t a regular thing. He preferred one-on-one time with me—all the time. Anyone who diverted my attention made him jealous and insecure.
I leaned forward and waved at April. She smiled, but it seemed forced. Plus she was drumming her professionally manicured nails on the edge of the bench like she was nervous or bored, while John had the weirdest look on his face. What was that? Guilt? Amusement?
Something was up, I was sure of it.
Aunt Louisa spoke next. Her boxy dress had slipped from her shoulder, exposing much of her lacy bra, which, unfortunately for the rest of us, she never caught during the length of the talk. Her words blended together like pancake batter as I practiced my origami skills on the cheap, poorly xeroxed program. I wrinkled my nose at the picture they chose of Abby for the cover. She’s always hated that photo. She wore a phony grin and had just gotten a bad haircut. It didn’t do her justice—why couldn’t they’ve chosen a better one?
Jed, Abby’s father, spoke last. I tried to pay attention, but his ocean-deep voice broke up like an out-of-range cell phone. “Abby was a special girl—er—woman.” A soft chuckle. “Well, she’ll always be
little girl, even now that she is no longer with us. Everyone who knew her…” I shoved the program into my purse and played with the silver butterfly ring on my pinky finger. “…an extremely lovable girl. Sweet as maple syrup.” I moved on to ironing the wrinkles out of my skirt. Was that a Cheerio stuck to my blouse? I looked over to see if John had noticed, but he was looking straight ahead. The suspicious expression he wore a moment earlier was replaced by genuine sadness. Weird. “Everyone here knows she was an incredibly talented musician. In fact, an indie record label had expressed interest in signing her band just a week before her…” he coughed into a fist a couple of times, “passing…She had so much promise…”
When Jed finished his eulogy, I looked behind me to steal one more glance at that gorgeous boy, but he was gone. Oh well. He was probably one of those guys with zero personality.
The funeral ended with Abby’s aunts and her mother, Hannah, singing
Be Still My Soul
. Hannah was the only one with a nice voice, but it came out funny when the sob-a-thon started. Aunt Louisa’s voice was passable. The third lady—I forgot her name—should’ve been shot.
For the length of the song I urged myself to cry.
This was a funeral, after all. Isn’t that what people were supposed to do at funerals? I thought of the blood in the car, I thought of the body—Abby’s perfect little body—in the box, stiff and lifeless. Nothing. I forced myself to think of never seeing her again, but I didn’t believe it. I
believe. My very survival was dependant on my best friend’s existence. I needed her more than I needed anyone. I half expected her to show up now and plop down next to me, laughing her adorable, throaty laugh, poking fun at Aunt Number Two’s horrible singing, the overkill of the rose displays, this whole silly charade. I moved onto thoughts of tortured puppies, starving children in third world countries, freezer burned ice cream, World War III. Nada. My usual easily spilt tears pulled a no-show. My traitorous eye ducts refused to cooperate. What kind of a best friend was I? Couldn’t I shed a single tear at her funeral? Even Mary leaked like a bad roof. I couldn’t let the second-to-best friend show me up. But she did.