I never told anyone about Jane, partly because I'd have lost a lot of face if the lads knew how much time I spent looking at pictures of a teenage girl. I suppose I could've battered them - especially Tom, the gobby twat - but that'd be admitting guilt.
I'm not a nonce. I never wanted to shag Jane, even when both of us were the same age. She had one of those faces you had to grow into. She'd have been a decent-looking thirty year-old, all things considered. I went on one of those sites that age you fifteen years with a school photo. Jane: overbite, bitten nails, fidgety fingers. She's looking into the camera instead of at it; her pupils had that surprised, confused look of someone waking up from a nightmare. It was a look that seemed surprised that anyone would want to take a photograph of her. I have one of her in my office. Most people assume she's my kid. Can't really correct them, can I?
When I go to the storage centre there's not much to look at. A few books. Her clothes, minus the school uniform. It's all shreds now anyway. The train tracks tore them off along with half her small intestine. Glistening worms writhing in blood, staining what was left of the white blouse. Autopsy mentioned a half inch embedding where her bra had got caught, cutting right through the skin. First time I ever saw a pair of breasts. One of my mates, Jase, used to call her Jugs and grab her from behind. Idiot did it once in a science exercise and shocked her into dropping her test tube. In hindsight I'm glad he got a scar. The scrapbook was a shock: pouts and pin ups and hands over breasts. Blonde, red, brunette, even a girl with purple hair. The only recurring traits was big breasts. Either she was a lez or she had something to prove.
Her diary trembles under my fingertips. The pages whimper as I touch them, pretending to be harmless. Most of it is harmless. Parents. Poetry fragments. Stuff people wrote to her. You know she kept penpals? Did role playing games too, which we knew. It's all pretty harmless. Then she starts talking about him. Us.
His name was Peter. We used to take turns with her. Me, Jase, Ryan. I still use the account. I've changed the password: it's not janesaslag anymore. The second time I read the diary I started matching it to the chat log.
I should really get to bed. So tired. Oh well, it's my own fault for talking to boys all night, right? I say boys, I mean a boy.
That a hooks onto me somewhere behind my eye. I flip a few pages.
Jason is such an idiot.
Had a great time rping with Peter. Nice guy.
We thought it was so funny. It was like a secret club, a society of three. It was as innocent as dominos for us, and Jane was just another something to knock over.
Peter and me were chatting for a bit today. He's American, said if I ever wanted to go over I could stay with his family in Chicago.
Jason, you shit. I remember the time she stood up for herself. Tried. Said she was sick of it. We told her it was a joke, and for us it was. How did we manage to make her the bad guy? Daft, ugly Jane, spoiling our fun. We meant it, too.
I started reading the entry. I'm not squeamish, I've read plenty of suicide notes in my profession. I'm used to people who want to die. I... In a way, I wanted her to want it. If I could find that sliver of something wrong. But there's nothing. Not once did she say it. She didn't plan it; if I was going to do that and I'd planned it then I'd probably do it in privacy. Jane wouldn't have wanted us to see. Or maybe she would have. She didn't want to die: even her character was called Vivian(google said it meant life). Listen to me, talking about her like we were friends.
*I told Peter about them today for the first time. He's taking ages to reply - I was really scared. I didn't tell him in case he thought I was whinging. I didn't want him to think I was a bitch. Maybe I am just taking the joke badly.
Crap, he's replied. Wait a sec... Oh thank God. He understands.*
If I had any sense I'd put the book down.
Peter understands. I'm not just being stupid. He says they're arseholes. I don't know why that's making me feel so much better. I feel a bit more sane. There's three of them, and I thought that if it was just me who wasn't getting the joke that I must have been the problem. It's not like that. I'm so happy. I feel lighter, like I can face them tomorrow. I'm going to walk right past them because they don't matter - they're stupid, nasty little boys and I'm not going to let them fill up their miserable little lives by caring about they're opinions anymore.
I shut the book and wiped my face. The dust in there was irritating my eyes. I remember that conversation. I remember her smile in the train station, just sitting there staring ahead as we jeered at her. I only did it once that time, then I went to the platform edge with a cigarette for my excuse. I heard it all. I heard Jase calling her jugs. I heard Ryan mimic her high voice. She didn't say a thing. She just stood up and walked towards the platform edge. She stopped well before the barrier. The worst bit? When I caught her eye, she smiled at me. Only one of the bullets got through her shield.
"All right, Vivian?"
Jase is a shit. Even on the day of the funeral he was a shit when I went to the funeral. "What, were you in love with her or something?"
"No! I just didn't want her dead."
I carried the book out with me. It's locked in my desk at work, with a photograph of her. I didn't love her. I didn't even know her that well, except through Peter. I wonder if her character's still wandering around cyberspace.
I open my laptop. I log in. Peter's trained up pretty well now - fifteen years of practice has let him get hold of some nice armour. With a quiet breath I click the horizon and watch him stride into oblivion, watching to retrieve Vivian and aid her in her fight against the three goblin princes.