This is a story in four parts.
<< Part 3.
“Are you sure?”
This was the third time Detective Morales asked me if I consented to being questioned without a parent or guardian present. I heard that when you asked for a lawyer, then that meant you were guilty. I had nothing to hide from the police; plus, my parent or guardian was dead. I had no one to sit beside me to hold my hand and tell me that everything was going to be okay. My grandmother was too old to make the trek to Washington. I usually always had Rose. And even she was gone now.
“I’m sure, sir,” I answered, grating the palms of my sweaty hands against the underside of the metal table. “Am I in some kind of trouble?”
“No.” He shifted in his seat, bringing his small notepad towards him. He twirled a ballpoint pen between his fingers. He’d been biting the cap of it since I arrived. What did he have to be nervous about? I was the one holed up in an interrogation room. “I just have to ask you a few questions about your whereabouts on the night of August 17th.”
The day Emily died.
“I was at school.”
“What were you doing between the hours of 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.?”
I discovered Emily’s body at 8:15 p.m. A whole two hours after the pool was supposed to be closed.
“I was swimming,” I admitted. My heart stomped around in my chest. I hoped I wouldn’t have to answer how I got inside the pool. I wouldn’t want anyone to know how. The pool was my haven. It was my safe place when things got too crazy in my mind. Swimming calmed me down.
“Were you alone?”
“And what time did you stop swimming?”
“Around eight, I guess.” Guess. That wasn’t the correct word to use. “Eight,” I repeated, more confident than before.
Detective Morales nodded and wrote an 8 on his notepad. He circled it twice. “And what did you do after that?”
“I, um, took a shower.” I brought my fingers to my mouth, picking at the skin on my nails. Stop, I told myself. He’s going to think you’re lying. I sat on my hands.
“And then what?” He implored.
“I blow-dried my hair in the locker room. But I kept smelling something.”
“You kept…smelling something?” He repeated. His beady eyes danced between mine. He sounded as if everything that was coming out of my mouth was a lie.
“Yeah, fishy. It smelled fishy. I smelled it when I walked in and I just thought a girl, ya know, forgot to flush or something.” My cheeks burned.
“And you went looking for the odor?”
“Right.” I nodded. “It was foul.” I felt my lunch creeping up my throat ready to project across the room at the memory. “I walked into the bathrooms and checked all the toilets. There was nothing in any of them, except, when I got to the one marked ‘Out of Order’.” I could remember the sound of my shoes against the tile. I could feel the door handle in my hand. I remembered the way my breathing slowed. It was all too familiar. Before I knew it, tears popped into my eyes. “It was Emily.”
“What were you doing at the pool, Miss Coolidge?”
The detective’s face was distorted through my tears. “Swimming, sir. I was just swimming.”
“Are you aware that your school’s pool closes at six p.m. on weekdays?”
“Yeah, I know,” I answered knowing what his next question would be and what my response would have to be. I would have to tell him the truth. I would have to tell him why I needed the pool to keep me sane. I would have to tell him something I hadn’t told anyone for a very long time.
“Then why were you there?”
“Because…” I tried my best to keep my composure, but my shoulders shook from trying to keep the tears back. My nose stung. My eyes burned. “I kept hearing her scream.”
The detective’s eyes grew wide. He had to understand that I needed the pool. I needed to swim whenever I heard her. If I didn’t, there was no telling what I was capable of.
“Emily?” He asked, his pen upright, ready to take down my answer.
“No, sir. Mine.”