PIECES OF ME
A police officer shines a blinding light in my eyes. “Do you know why I pulled you over?”
To ruin what’s left of my miserable life?
“Was I speeding?” I have no idea, but the swerving is probably the reason.
He knocks on the roof of the car. “I’m going to need you to step out of the car and show me your license and registration.”
Red and blue lights flash in my rearview mirror, and the dull haze that kept me from falling apart earlier tonight begins to fade.
I don’t want to feel anything. Most of all, I don’t want to remember.
“Have you been drinking?” he asks when I get out.
I consider lying, but what’s the point? There is nothing he can do to me that’s worse than what I’ve already been through.
“Miss? I asked if you’ve been drinking,” he repeats.
I look him in the eye. “Yes.”
* * *
Riding in the back of a police car sobers me up fast, but not enough to pass a Breathalyzer test at the precinct.
“Your blood alcohol concentration is point one.” Officer Tanner, the cop who pulled me over, writes it down on a form attached to his clipboard. “That’s two points over the legal limit in the state of Maryland.”
I stop listening and watch the second hand on the wall clock click past the numbers. It’s 10:20 on a Tuesday night.
The old Frankie Devereux would be kissing her boyfriend good night in front of her house right now, or slaving over her Stanford University application. She didn’t have the personal essay nailed down yet. But she wasn’t worried. With a 4.0 grade point average, eight years of classical piano training, and two summers’ worth of volunteer work at Children’s Hospital, Stanford was well within her reach.
But the old Frankie died with Noah.
The girl I am now is sitting in a windowless interrogation room, staring at grayish-white walls the color of turkey lunch meat after it spoils. Not exactly how I thought the first day of senior year would end. Considering how badly it started, I should have known.
Of course Woodley Prep chose today to hold a memorial gathering in Noah’s honor.
I begged Mom to let me stay home, but she was more concerned about her reputation than my sanity. “How will it look to people if you aren’t there?” It only sounded like a question.
So after fifth period, our teacher marched us outside, where the rest of the senior class was already assembled in front of the English building.
Noah hated English.
They talked about Noah Wells. Captain of the lacrosse team. Blue eyes the color of the sky. The boy everyone loved, including me.
Dead at seventeen.
I watched students who barely knew Noah plant a stupid tree for my dead boyfriend—a guy who didn’t even recycle.
With a Sour Patch Kids addiction like Noah’s, he would have preferred a vending machine.
When the lopsided tree was finally in the ground, Noah’s lacrosse coach said a few words and invited us all to his house that evening for another get-together in Noah’s honor.
Noah died three months ago, and I still couldn’t sleep at night. The wounds hadn’t stopped bleeding, and my school was already tearing off the bandages.
It’s almost over, I’d told myself. Or so I thought.
The poem was what sent me over the edge.
Student body president Katherine Calder had written it herself, and she read the poem in front of the entire senior class while her mother videotaped the performance. The little bitch finally had a meaningful personal experience to write about for the college Common App essay.
Everything went downhill from there.
After spending an hour at Coach’s house, which included an encore of Katherine’s heartfelt poem, I swiped a bottle of wine and drank it in the bathroom. By the time I left, the combination of anger, alcohol, and sleep deprivation had turned me into an emotional hand grenade with a set of car keys.
Mom won’t see it that way. She’ll be pissed. I actually feel sorry for the cop who got stuck calling her.
The doorknob turns, and I sit up straighter. Officer Tanner comes in and hands me a cup of burnt-smelling coffee. “Your mother is here.”
This will be fun.
Mom is waiting in the lobby. Even at midnight, she looks perfectly pulled together, dressed in fitted black pants and a beige cashmere wrap. With only a hint of blush and her blond hair gathered in a low ponytail, she could pass for my older sister. When my parents were still married, her hair was the same shade of light brown that mine is now. I ditched the highlights months ago, along with any trace of the old Frankie.
Holding the white foam cup, I walk toward her. My eyes are swollen, and my face streaked with mascara. I don’t care about getting in trouble. Listening to one of her guilt trips is a hundred times worse.
Mom storms past Officer Tanner without giving him so much as a look. Cops only interest her if the alarm system at our house goes off. “What were you thinking, Frankie? You could’ve killed someone—or yourself.”
“I’d never want to hurt anyone else.”
It’s me I don’t care about.
“Even if that’s true, your behavior over the last few months proves you’re out of control.” Her voice rises with every word. “You’ve been on a downhill slide since Noah died, but this”—she gestures to our surroundings—“crosses the line.”
I’ve never seen Mom this angry, and I know she’s holding back. She hates making a scene in public. I stare down at my black Adidas Sambas, the beat-up pair of indoor-soccer shoes I salvaged from the basement. The old Frankie never would’ve been caught dead wearing them outside the gym. But I wear them everywhere.
“Mrs. Devereux?” Officer Tanner uses his cop tone.
“My last name is Rutherford, not Devereux.” Mom closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, regaining her composure and trust-fund-baby charm. “I apologize, Officer…?”
“Tanner,” he finishes for her, even though his name is engraved on the pin above his pocket.
“The last few months have been difficult for all of us. Francesca suffers from PTSD—post-traumatic stress disorder,” she explains, as if he isn’t smart enough to recognize the acronym. “It’s certainly no excuse, but she’s never been in any trouble before. If you don’t press charges—”