Author's Note: This is really mostly fluff to help you learn more about Daphne and Brooke. AND it's cliffie –free, we promise. :)
'Photos And Memories'
I woke up in a cold sweat again. It was hard to catch my breath. I stared around the room wildly, trying to diffuse my thoughts, and separate dream from reality.
I wiped my forehead with the back of my hand and sat up. The clock on my bedside table was flashing 4:53 in the dark, the thin lines of bright red staring back at me in accusation.
My stomach lurched uneasily. Lately, I kept getting that downward-spiral sort of feeling in my gut, and it kept me from sleeping. This was just another of those nights. Resigned, I staggered out of bed with a squeak of the mattress, and shuffled my way out into the hall. I had realized soon after Brooke's death that CSI came on at 5:00 in the morning, if you knew where to look.
I helped myself to one of mom's left over sympathy cookies, nibbling tensely on the edge while I flipped through the channels until I found the one I wanted.
It was an old episode, a recent rerun, but I couldn't remember what happened in it... I leaned forward eagerly as the show played out, trying fiercely to forget about everything else and focus completely on Grissom's team.
I had most of the old episodes of CSI memorized by now, and it was incredibly odd how I didn't recall this rerun. It was from a few weeks ago.
I had been obsessed with crime shows since I was little, ever since my dog went missing and I was convinced he had been kidnapped in the middle of the night. CSI was always my favorite; it had gotten me through some tough times like these. I could practically be a CSI by now. I knew the drill… I would know what to check for if they ever needed me at the scene of a crime.
When the show ended, the first rays of sunlight were just breaching the horizon, bringing with it a calming sense of a clear morning. There was a bird signing somewhere outside my window, it's chirping almost drowned out by the traffic noise of the street behind it. I felt unbearably heavy and tired, and though it was morning, I just wanted to sleep. But I couldn't; I hadn't been able to slip into a peaceful, refreshing REM sleep for so long now.
At six-thirty, I decided to stop staring off into space and to make breakfast for my mom instead. She had to work this morning, and she'd be too busy to make anything but black coffee for herself. Personally, I felt in a chocolate chip pancake-making kind of mood, which I later regretted – the simplicity of them left a lot of time for thinking about things that I shouldn't have.
I wondered if anyone, even my own mother, understood how much Brooke's death was affecting me. Maybe, if she had just died, plain and simple, of something nonchalant like a heart attack or a car accident, then I would be okay. It wouldn't have terrified me like it did. Instead, she was murdered through mysterious circumstances, and I had found out that she had never been honest about the life she was leading behind my back.
"Ouch!" I wrenched back my hand from the sizzling frying pan with a cry of pain. I hadn't been paying attention, and I'd touched my finger to its hot side.
"You okay, honey?" Mom called, appearing around the corner with a lithe grace. Her eyes looked sympathetic, and I thought there was more to her meaning than just burnt fingers.
"Yeah, Mom, I'm fine. I'll just run it under the water." I said through clenched teeth, squeezing the offending blister with my other hand.
"I want you to lock the door behind me, okay? We don't want a repeat of the other day…" Mother shivered, "That was troublesome. I'm so glad that no one was here when you arrived! Imagine how bad I would feel if…" She chose to let her words trail off, realizing what she had been saying. "Why don't you call some friends to come over for the day?" She added after a moment, "That would be fun, huh? You spend so much time all by yourself lately."
"I hang out with Tyler sometimes." I pointed out. Not that what we were doing was quite as casual as hanging out.
She nodded, "Good – call him. There are still lots of cookies left.... Have you been eating anything lately?" She considered my slim physique skeptically for a moment. I pushed my half-eaten cookie from earlier further down the counter inconspicuously.
"Yes Mom!" I rolled my eyes. In truth, I hadn't really been eating much at all, but I did try. I was just never hungry anymore.
She didn't respond to my attitude at all, and instead grabbed her heels and rushed out the door, kissing my head on her way past. "I love you honey!" She waved from the doorway.
Four hours later I was sitting on the living room floor, flipping through the thick pages of Brooke's huge photo album. The first few pages were pictures of she and I, taken years ago, progressing steadily to the present, marking a few special occasions.
There we were, the first day of the second grade, Brooke's cheek and mine pressed together as we smiled wide for the camera. I had a missing front tooth and a splotch of something pink of my cheek, but beside me, Brooke was radiant. She commanded the camera's attention, even at the age of seven. Her wild auburn hair looked regal rather than unruly, and her overlarge front teeth seemed to suit her pretty mouth. Her arm was around me comfortingly, and I remembered that no one else had wanted to be my friend that day. Brooke was the exception to every rule. She was so sweet to almost everyone.
The next page jumped five years to my twelfth birthday party. The background was filled in with a mass of people, proving the wonders that knowing Brooke had worked on my popularity. I sat in the foreground, in the very middle, behind a marvelous chocolate birthday cake. I looked like I was laughing; my plump lips parted in a shy smile and my hazel eyes shined as I looked at the camera. Even with me upfront and center, however, I was not the focal point of the photo. Once again stealing all the camera's focus, a supremely beautiful and humble looking Brooke peeked out from behind me, only half of her face showing, her navy eyes sparkling with excitement under her long, dark lashes. She was trying to be subtle about placing an enormous silver tiara on my head.
I sighed as I scanned the rest of the pages.
There was a photo of us at Six Flags one year, and a shaky photo of us standing under the Eiffel tower in Paris, Brooke alight in the dim glow of the evening. There was one of us at Canada's Wonderland, two of us at an animal reserve last summer, when Brooke was going through her "determined to help the animals" phase. The very last picture that marked our adventures was a photo taken only a month ago, at our school's spring dance, with Brooke looking positively tiny next to me in my high heels. Her hair was slicked back out of her face in a low ponytail, leaving only one curl to hang onto her forehead. Her fair skin and navy eyes were accentuated and glamorized by her long, sequined midnight blue dress that clung to her like silk. She looked like a supermodel. I, in contrast, looked pretty. Just pretty. My hair was set in large curls that cascaded to my shoulders, and my white dress gave my beige skin a faint glow. We looked incredibly happy, especially Brooke, who looked almost ecstatic, but there was something else in my expression. I couldn't remember that dance very well – everything seemed so long ago and out of focus in contrast to Brooke's death – and I couldn't quite recall how I had been feeling. Probably a little bit sick, I guessed. I recognized a grimace hidden under my bright smile. It made me vaguely itchy.
The rest of Brooke's album was dominated by sections dedicated to her other friends – the ones I hadn't known about. Some of the people in there I didn't even know. There was a page full of photos of Brooke and Rochelle, surrounded by lots of people and flashing lights. There were pages of Brooke and Tyler, dating back to their "happy" days before it all went downhill, and there were many photos of Brooke with her "Sunday school friends": Kaylea and the children that Brooke had taught in church.
There were pages upon pages of Brooke with so many different people, doing things I'd never even imagined Brooke doing. In one photo, she was holding weed up to the camera, a giddy expression on her angelic face. In another, she was chugging alcohol with a small group of people around appearing to chant. There was photo of Brooke appearing to do something I didn't even want to think about my best friend having done… stripping, maybe? Ugh.
All the photos in the album, while they were completely surprising and new, gave me a weird feeling of déjà vu, as if I had lived this moment before.
Feeling dizzy, I pushed the photo album away, and lid back on the floor. The room was spinning, and I felt a little stomach sick. I was snooping through Brooke's stuff as if her wishes didn't matter to me anymore. Sure, I only wanted to solve the mystery surrounding her death, but it still made me feel terrible for looking through her things. And what made me feel worse was what I found in them. I hadn't known Brooke, not at all, really. Why had she pretended to be one way with me, and was really all those other ways, too? Why was she hiding pieces of her life from me, her supposed "best friend"? And why had she even felt the need to live these spearate pieces, anyway?
I felt almost angry with her; I wanted to yell and scream and kick and argue and cry. I wanted Brooke, alive and well, to stand there and explain herself to me. I wanted to not only sort out her life… I wanted my life back, as well.
Author's Note: Ta Da! Just a few chapters left until the big mystery is finally solved! :) Who else is UNBELIEVABLY excited for the new Harry Potter movie? :P Anyway, more chapters soon, hopefully. :D It's summer, so we've got time on our hands.