“Courtney, you have guests.”
“I’ll take them upstairs.”
When we arrived at Courtney Trudeau’s house, Karina and I were quite surprised to find that it was… well, completely normal. As for any house in Cobb County, it’s fairly nice, two stories, a big front yard, the works. And Courtney’s mother, the kind of fit, skinny middle-aged woman you’d expect in a house like this, seemed perfectly nice when we explained we were friends looking for a quick chat, as suspicious as it sounded.
Courtney, who’s bringing us upstairs to her bedroom right now, doesn’t look much different than she did a few months ago–she’s still wearing all black and rocking the goth style with her bright white hair–but the fact she let us in means things can’t be too bad.
We enter her bedroom, which is dark, lit only with lamps. There’s copies of paperback novels laying on her nightstand, and clothes scattered on the floor. The walls are covered in posters of bands, most of whom have huge hair and thick eyeliner and are brooding to the camera with scrunched up faces. Though, there’s also anime-looking idol singers, including some one particularly cute Asian girl with her finger to her pink-colored lips and star-shaped sunglasses named, apparently, Soli☆. I’m not one who buys into the obsessive idol singer business, and I think it’s sometimes incredibly manipulative, but– I do have the sudden urge to check out this person’s music, I will admit…
In other words, though, this bedroom is very normal for a teenage girl. And despite having been only six or so months since her life was turned completely upside down, Courtney doesn’t seem all that poorly off. Besides the fact she did a horrible thing that’s almost unforgivable, I’m kind of glad for her.
She turns around to face us, then sits on her bed, hands on her lap. “So you have more questions,” she says.
“Oh, um, hello Courtney,” Karina says. “Do you remember us?”
“Vaguely,” she says. “I remember telling some young couple a lot about Jones, and you’re the first ones to visit me since she blew up that factory.”
“And tried to kill the mayor,” I add.
“We do have questions, though,” Karina says. “How have you been holding up since everything?”
Courtney scoffs. “Like you care. I’m the villain. I can see it in your face,” she says, pointing to me. “You still think I’m a monster for what I did, that you can never forgive me for ruining a girl’s life. And, you’re right. You should never forgive me. I sure haven’t.”
“That’s not a good way to think,” I say. “I’m sure people have forgiven you.”
“Not at school. Not with you.”
“Well, you at least have to–”
It hits me that all this talk about forgiveness and forgiving yourself youself is extremely close to what Karina and I discussed last night on the rooftop.
And for the first time since then, I realized that maybe I still have a ways to go with forgiving myself, too.
So with that in mind, I say, “You can’t just not forgive yourself. It’s been a long time. If you’re sorry, then you should be able to move past it. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, but what you think. As long as you’ve tried to repent for what you did, you should be able to redeem yourself.”
“Ha, that’s just what she keeps saying,” Courtney says. “Not today. Sorry.”
“She?” Karina tilts her head to the side. “Who’s…”
“I figured you came here asking about her, so I guess I’ll tell you,” Courtney says. “Since you helped stop her.”
“Helped is putting it lightly,” I say.
Courtney gets up and goes over to her desktop computer, where she pulls up her e-mail client. “This is it,” she says. “Ever since May, Jones has been sending me an e-mail every week or two. It’s always from a different address so it gets marked as spam. But I always know it’s her.”
She opens the first one, dated May 6th:
I hope this e-mail finds you well.
One day, we will meet again, and I imagine you will have words to say to me, none of them nice. Fists may fly. And when that happens, I will accept your pain with gladness, because more than anything, I want to be your friend again. And I will do whatever it takes to achieve that.
I know you haven’t forgiven me, because I destroyed your life. To that, I could say that you, too, destroyed my life, and Kylia’s as well. But instead, I will say that we all hurt each other in our own ways, and the only path for us is to reconcile.
I don’t expect us to ever go back to normal. But to know that you are doing well will put a smile on my face, so I hope that you will reply.
Thank you, Courtneyexr,
“Did you reply?” asks Karina.
“No, not to any of them,” Coutney says. “But she keeps sending them anyway.”
“Are you really okay with these?” I ask.
“Yeah, I kind of like them,” she says. “It’s nice knowing someone’s thinking about you.”
“Are they all like this one?”
“Not really. It’s like she’s pretending I’m sending messages back to her. Like, this one was a little weird to me.”
This one is dated May 17th:
Living without my family has been very tough.
There are a lot of things I took for granted when my parents helped me with things, and they are even tougher now. Like laundry. I have to hand-wash my clothes twice a week, and it takes a very long time. Have you ever hand-washed anything, Courtney?
And food is a very difficult situation for me. At first I bought convenience store food for the most part, but recently I realized it was starting to impact my health, so I decided to start cooking with a pan and portable burner. It’s been a resounding failure thus far.
I never expected to enter adult life in such a unique way, but I hope I can survive it.
When we get to the end of the e-mail, Karina and I eye each other. We both know what the other is thinking.
“Hey, Courtney,” I say. “Do all of Jones’s e-mails have those weird typos near the bottom?”
She blinks a few times. “Oh, maybe. I never paid much attention to them. I did think it was weird how there was always some gibberish, but maybe it was some glitch on her computer or something.”
“If it’s okay with you, could we… have a copy of all of these e-mails?” I pull out a data drive and offer it to her.
“Okay, I guess. They aren’t anything special,” she says. “They’re nice, but she never really says anything specific. I think she’s trying not to give away where she lives, so she just talks about generic topics.”
“Maybe she’s waiting for you to reply her back,” Karina says.
That elicits a “hmmm” from Courtney.
I copy the e-mails to my data drive, and, with not all that much else to ask Courtney about, Karina and I get ready to leave.
“Sorry to bother you,” Karina says. “But, thank you for helping us.”
“It was nothing,” Courtney says. “Anyone who saves people like y’all is worth helping. Even if I’m not worth saving myself.”
“Courtney…” I begin. “I hope you can learn to forgive yourself soon.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
And so will I.