Chapter 20: Window Shades


A note from PublicApology

It's wild to me that the view count has nearly doubled in the past month even with my inconsistent uploading.

Emily IV

June 5th, 2013

It’s Grace’s birthday today. She turns 15 just in to for her sophomore year to begin. I’ve seen her at least once a week through Skype calls with Sara. Grace has been getting better at doing her make-up thanks to Sara and I. She’s becoming the beautiful girl I know she can become.

It’s been about two weeks since our last call so seeing her in person makes it all a bit more surprising. She’s a bit taller and much prettier than on video.

I’ve been back for three days now. I spent my first entirely with my dad. Jerrica hasn’t seen him in three years so we made it a day. We went to Seattle and spend half of it on the pier. Dad has gotten another job and was able to keep the house although he’s struggling with saving up any money. I’ve forgotten what it was like to see his smile.

The second day, Jerrica spent the entire day with my dad while I was with Grace and Sara. I thought about telling Cody that I was back. It’s the only reason why I texted him. I miss him. I want to tell him I’m sorry that I am so distant. It’s cruel and I didn’t want to do it but I had to. I had to show him how much he hurt me. Maybe then he’ll understand and we can finally be together.

“You haven’t told Cody you’re back?” Sara asks. We’re dying her hair back to her natural brown color. Grace is helping me keep the bleach off the ground.

“I’m kind of scared too.”

“He hasn’t been the same without you.”

“I know.”

“He’s been pretty sad, actually,” Grace mentions. “You should go see him.”

“I know, I know.”

“Ach,” Sara winces. “The bleach is starting to burn.”


I text Cody. I invite him to Grace’s birthday party with the approval of the girl in honor. With the text, he’ll now know I’m here.

Sara finishes the decorations in the forest’s campsite while I manage to tie up the last balloon to the gazebo. Jerrica sets up the grill and Grace messes around with the music on the speaker.

Isaac is the first to show up, then Chris. These two were the only two invited in the first place. Isaac has been into bodybuilding, he’s been getting bigger. Chris has stayed the same although the bags under his eyes are heavier. The birthday party officially starts when Isaac rolls up a blunt.

Jerrica starts the burgers with a blunt in her mouth. Chris and Isaac start a game of Uno with Grace and Sara. I don’t like to play card games so I watch instead. Chris wins in a matter of a few turns, which was enough time for the first round of hamburgers to roll out. The game starts again and this time the loser all takes three shots. I’m forced to take three just because I’m not playing.

Cody texts back.

“It’s really u, isn’t it?”

I look up and I see Cody standing at the entrance of the campsite. He hasn’t been taking care of himself. I smile at him, then wave. The group takes notice and all invite him in. Cody greets everyone, then greets Jerrica.

He turns to me and says, “You’re back.”

I smile and nod.

His eyes are still gentle. “I’m glad,” he laughs nervously. “It’s not permanent?”

“No, it’s just for the summer.”

Cody joins in the game and he’s the only one who manages to beat Chris. Sara convinces me to play a game. Isaac manages to get multiple plus fours and is out of the game for a while. Sara and Grace only manage to mess each other up. Chris ends up with Uno, but I pull out a plus two. Cody reverses him and Chris draws two cards before setting down a green three. I hit him back with another reverse but he puts down a green one as the first card he draws. Cody plus two’s Isaac and declares Uno. Grace puts down a card, then Sara. From what I gather the only card Cody has in a red one. I blue skip Chris, but it was a mistake. Cody puts down his last card, a blue 7, and wins.

We all take three shots.


The music is turned up all the way and we’re all drunk enough to start dancing. It’s a small and simple birthday party which is all I could ask for. I dance mostly with Grace and Sara. Cody is intentionally avoiding me, which is fine. We still haven’t apologized to each other.

I notice the way Grace glances over to Cody. She likes him but the feeling isn’t mutual. Cody doesn’t even bother to look at her, he looks at me instead. There’s tension and I’m not sure I like it. Jerrica notices this as well and pulls Cody to the side to talk to him. I let it go and carry on with letting the music control me.

I get tired and sit down with Sara. I watch as my sister and Cody catch up. “You think it’s alright with him being here?” Sara asks.

“Yeah,” I smile. “It’s gonna be okay.”

“He doesn’t seem mad at you, do you think it worked?”

I sigh. It’s the only thing I could hope for. It was a stupid plan to begin with. We have our issues we need to work out and I thought some distance would make it better. “Yeah, it did.”

Sara laughs. It’s been so long since I heard her laugh. She’s been getting better. “You’re a moron.”

I laugh with her. “I missed us.”

“Well, it took a while but things are getting back to normal.”

Normal. That word is such an oxymoron. Nothing is ever normal. Nothing ever will be. The only normal thing are the clouds that loom over Darkwood. It’s the only thing that hasn’t changed since I left. I don’t think it ever will.

“What are you doing here?!” I hear Cody shout.

Sara and I look over. It’s Andrew with a handle of vodka and his shit-eating grin. “What you can’t have a fucking party and not invite me. It ain’t right!” He looks at all of us. His eyes stop at me for a moment and then at my sister. “Ems’ back? And her fine sister? Right-o!”

“Leave!” Cody tells me.

“What?! Why the fuck should I?”

“Andrew, you should go, I don’t want you here,” Grace tells him. “It’s my party, I didn’t invite you.”

Andrew gets offended, he frowns. “Nah, fuck both of you. I’m just here to party.” Andrew rushes over to the table next to us and slams the handle down and takes one of the baking patties and eats it half raw. “Let’s get this rager started, shall we?”

“Andrew, leave!”

“Majority votes, hunnie. Gay Isaac, y’mind?” We all look at Isaac. He doesn’t say or do anything. “Sara?” Sara puts her head down. “Ems’ sister?” Jerrica looks at me for what to do. “Ems?” All eyes are on me. Everyone wants me to tell Andrew to fuck off.

Maybe if it was a few months ago when I hated Andrew for getting me in that accident, but it wasn’t his fault. It was mine. Andrew only tried helping me and there wasn’t anything he could do. I thought I hated him because he destroys everything he touches but being away for so long made me see things aren’t that simple. Andrew likes to play hard but deep down I know he cares. It’s the only reason he’s here right now. He’s hurt his friends don’t want him anymore. I think Sara understands this the best, which is why she hasn’t said anything.

“I think it’s best if you left, Andrew. Nobody is comfortable with you around,” I finally say.

Andrew drops his hands to his sides. I’ve really hurt him now. Even if I don’t mind him staying, everyone else wants him gone. “Chris?”

Chris stands up from leaning against the gazebo. “Sorry.”

Andrew scoffs and paces back and forth for a bit. “Well isn’t this fucking wonderful. Aren’t we all just fucking peachy? And here I was thinking you guys were my friends. But oh no, Cody fucking hates me so not I’m allowed to spend time with the only people I like. Just a bunch of fake boys.”

Cody rushes to Andrew and grabs him by the collar. “What is your fucking problem?!”

Andrew laughs, “Oh ho, what? You’re gonna lose it again and try to beat the shit out of me again? I’m ready for it Cody-cakes.”

“No one wants you here, no one likes you! Just fucking leave!”

Andrew grabs Cody by the collar too. They have each other by the throat. I look over at Sara. We’re worried the two are going to start fighting. The last time it happened both of them practically broke each other’s faces. Grace screams at them to stop.

“What the fuck did I ever do to you Cody? You think it’s all my fault huh? I’m not the one who killed her. I’m not the one who crashed the car. You’re just projecting, mate.”

I’ve seen Cody explode only a few times. It’s going to happen again but my body is too stiff to move. Everyone is too stiff to move. I look over to Jerrica, she’s just fascinated by it all. I look over to Grace, who is being held by Sara. they’re both scared.

Cody pushes Andrew down. “You did! You did fucking kill Elizabeth! You’re the one who fucked her up on all the coke and molly! You’re the one who fucking gave her all those ideas that nothing ever fucking matters!”

Andrew just laughs as he gets up. “You’re hilarious. As if I’m the one who fucked with her head all the time. What did you tell her again? That she’s in the tall grass? That she’s Morning Glory? You’re a headfuck, Cody, you already have been. Emily knows,” Andrew gestures towards me. “He’s been fucking with your head all this time hasn’t he?”

“Andrew, stop it!” I tell him.

“Or what about you Grace? Doesn’t he fuck with your head too? You like him, he knows that and yet the two of you are best friends now, leading you on and on,” Andrew turns his attention back to Cody. “You’re just a joke, mate.”

Cody should explode now, but he doesn’t. Cody doesn’t say anything. He just stares at Andrew without moving.

Andrew laughs again. “Don’t like being called out on your bullshit? Do you want to know what Ellie told me? She called me the best fuck she ever had.”

“You fucking bastard!” Cody snaps. He charges at Andrew but Andrew punches him in the gut. Andrew tries to throw a punch but Cody tackles him to the ground. I see Cody punch Andrew in the face a couple of times.

Chris charges in and tries to pull Cody off but isn't strong enough. Isaac runs in to help him and it takes them a few seconds to pull Cody off. Cody struggles to break free and headbutts Chris to free his arms. Chris doesn’t struggle and pulls Cody completely off.

Andrew is laughing like a maniac. He gets off and wipes off the blood on his face. Cody breaks free from Chris and Isaac. Cody is calm again. “That’s right, you’re a fucking monster.”

“Are you done?!”

“Both of you, stop it! You’re ruining my birthday!” Grace yells.

“She’ll still be here if it wasn’t for you letting her meet Lyle. That’s who she got the gun from, isn’t it?” Cody exhales and composes himself. “He killed her.”

“And he’s going to fucking kill me if you don’t help me like I fucking asked. He’s going to kill us all, but whatever. Have you stupid little party,” Andrew starts to turn around, “It’s fucking shit anyways,” and leaves.

We all stand awkwardly for a moment. I’m finally able to hear my heartbeat. It’s racing. Sara sighs and lets go of Grace’s hand. “Glad that’s over. How did he find out?”

No one knows. Andrew has a supernatural sense when it comes to finding shindigs. Grace walks over to the table and makes herself a drink. I walk over to Cody who’s wincing in pain. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” he says rubbing his stomach.

“You lost control again.”

Cody locks eyes with me. “You cut your hair. It’s nice.”

I can’t help but smile. “You should sit down, you’re hurt.”

Cody just smirks and goes over to sit down next to Grace. I sigh and control my breathing afterward. Everyone’s silent so the only thing that’s playing is the music which makes everything awkward.

Sara slaps her thighs and says, “I’m going to make sure he’s okay the bastard.” She waits for Grace to nod before she goes.

“Well that was pretty intense, Gracie are you okay?” my sister asks while grabbing a drink from her.

“I just want to drink.”

“You and me both,” Jerrica laughs. “Want one, Cody?”

“Sure, why not?”


Sara ends up coming back an hour later and we decide to end the outdoor birthday party. She takes a slightly drunk Grace home for her mom’s birthday dinner. Isaac and Chis go their separate ways and Jerrica lies about Dad needing her help so Cody and I get to be alone.

It's awkward at first and I hate it. I don’t think I can remember the last time there was this awkwardness between us. Cody is different now, he seems so unsure of himself now. It’s like he doesn’t know what to do. The very first thing he tells me is that the treehouse was destroyed by a lightning strike a few weeks ago.


“Yeah, yeah. There’s nothing left but your polaroids scattered everywhere.”

We decide to go check it out to save whatever is left. It’s been weeks and nobody has told me. If anything I expected Cody to text me when he found out, but he never did. Maybe I don’t deserve to know, I did leave after all. The walk through the woods is a short one and we find our trail to the treehouse under five minutes. It’s been raining a lot lately so the creek we usually just walk over requires us to jump across it. Cody manages just fine but I stumble on my landing and almost fall. Cody grabs my arms before I do and catches me.

The treehouse is gone. The wood is shattered and scattered everywhere and the polaroids are everywhere. They’re all mostly ruined but I manage to find some intact under the broken wood.

“Are you sad?”

“Of course, you idiot.” I stare at one of my favorites that I’ve taken. It’s been completely ruined and I can barely tell what it is. “Are you trying to guilt-trip me?”

“What?” Cody scoffs, “No. I just never told you. I thought you should know.”

“Oh, right. My bad.”

“You’re bad at saying my bad.”

“And you’re bad at making jokes,” I laugh and with that, the awkwardness ends between us.

Cody chuckles and then ends up laughing against his will.

I dreamt about this day, about what he would say and what I would say. I had anxiety attacks over it and it’s been on my mind before I even boarded the plane. I wonder if he will forgive me, I wonder if he hates me. I know he missed me.

Cody doesn’t talk about it. He’s avoiding it as I thought. As much as I want to talk about everything, he doesn’t bring anything up and acts like everything is fine between us. Jerrica told me that I should just force it out of him because he’ll never have the guts to get angry at me. Soran told me that I should go back and apologize, that I’m acting like a kid. Perhaps he’s right.

It’s just one of those things that I have no idea how to handle. I took him by the throat to make him understand how I feel and yet I’m a coward for wanting to act like I never did that. Andrew called Cody a headfuck but I’m just as much as a headfuck as him. We’re just too headfucks trying passive-aggressively trying to get back at each other. Soran is right, I am acting like a kid.

Cody isn’t my entire life. I shouldn’t focus everything around him. I’m so afraid of being alone that I never learned how to. Soran has been helping me out with this. He doesn’t play games, he doesn’t bullshit around. Soran doesn’t tell me what to do or say and treats me like a person, not his girlfriend.

That’s why I like him so much.

There will be a point where I have to tell Cody that I can’t marry him; that we work best as friends. I thought I could do it here in the ruins of the treehouse but I just can’t. Instead, we just ruminate over our memories here while that overhanging thought is above my head. I don’t think I can ever tell him.

Things are always changing, and there isn’t a single thing that anyone can ever do to stop it.

A note from PublicApology

Window Shades - U.S Girls

About the author


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