‘It’s not necessary to slam it. I already got the message that you’re angry.’
I pull the drawer out and slam it again. I do it four more times. ‘No! Now I think you get the message!’
‘It is time for your nutrients.’
‘Like you ever cared about that before!’ I pull the bottle of nutrients from the refrigerator and pour the measured amount into a glass. When I put the nutrient bottle back in the refrigerator, I grab a container of mustard. I squeeze half of its contents on top of my prescribed beige brew. I glare at Lily, daring her to stop me, and I swig it all down. ‘There! Done!’ I slam the glass down on the counter, half expecting it to break.
‘You shouldn’t have done that. It might not … go down well.’ She sighs like she is tired, and that makes me angrier.
‘Why couldn’t you just butt out like you always do?’
‘It’s not right, Jenna.’
‘Says everything in the universe.’
‘I think he was enjoying it.’
‘For now, maybe.’
I want to cry. I want to sob loudly. I want to beat something. Anything. I want to pound on her chest and say, Please love me. I want that minute back when I was kissing Ethan and now was all there was. I want someone in the world to answer why.
And suddenly I feel weak, like every question in my head has collided against another and won’t let me think. Now is the only word that comes out, and I know it makes no sense, but I say it again. ‘Now.’
Lily’s face wrinkles for a moment and then I see her hands stiffen, and the stiffness travels all the way to her mouth. She stands there staring at me like I have just recited a speech instead of one simple word. ‘It’s better this way,’ she finally says. ‘For Ethan and for you.’ She leaves, and I hear her walk down the hallway to her room and close the door, and I wonder if she will even notice the down-turned picture or her out-of-place shoes.
Mustard and Kisses
It is only half past twelve, and I am already back in my room. My insides are shivery. I’m not sure if it is the half bottle of mustard I just swallowed or thinking about Ethan kissing me.
I don’t care if the mustard goes down well or not. It was worth watching Lily stand there helplessly. She knew she couldn’t stop me, and the little click of power that ran through me did go down well.
I scan my empty, no-personality room, and my gaze stops at my Netbook. I should watch another year of Jenna. Or learn more about my neighbors the way Mr Bender does. I feel like I should be doing something else. Hurry, Jenna. But instead I sit at my desk and lay my head down, wishing I could sleep and wake up a new me.
Sleep doesn’t come. Neither does a new me. I stare at my awkward monster fingers and feel my clumsy funny feet sliding back and forth on the floor beneath me, listening to the creaks and ticks of the house, and the heaves and sighs of restoration.
Jenna Fox / Year Sixteen
I place the last recorded disc of Jenna’s life into the Netbook. What is there left to learn? I have more holes than substance, but I’ve pieced together a girl with the scatter of memories that have come back to me, and a life recorded beyond reason. I was treasured. Adored. Smothered with hopes. I was everything three babies could have been. I danced as hard as I could. Studied as hard. Played as hard. Practiced as hard. I pushed to be everything they dreamed I could be.
But with all the scenes, the birthdays, the lessons, the practices, the ordinary events that should have been left alone, what I remember most are Jenna’s eyes, flickering, hesitation, an urgent trying. That’s what I remember most from the discs, a desperation to stay on the pedestal. I see that in her eyes as much as I see their color. And now, in the passing of just a few weeks, I see things in faces I didn’t see before. I see Jenna, smiling, laughing, chattering. And falling. When you are perfect, is there anywhere else to go? I ache for her like she is someone else. She is. I am not the perfect Jenna Fox anymore.
Like all the previous discs, this one begins with her birthday party, a lavish private affair somewhere in Scotland. Mother, Father, and I all wear kilts, and ‘Happy Birthday’ is played by a legion of bagpipers. The disc moves on to a school outing on a schooner. I scan the faces, looking for Kara or Locke. A few faces are familiar, schoolmates I remember, but not my friends, not the faces of my dreams. Where are they? Jenna’s hair whips across her cheeks. She glances at the camera and for a moment becomes rigid, forcefully tilting her head sideways, silently pleading for space. Instead the camera zooms in. I can almost see her cave. Surrender. And then suddenly she runs. Weaving herself through the crowds of classmates. Away. And the camera shuts off.
Another scene begins. Jenna in pink tights, her hair pulled into a glittered bun.
‘Give me a twirl, Jenna,’ Father calls.
Claire comes into the room. ‘Got everything? Shoes? Costume?’
‘Yes,’ Jenna says.
‘What about that makeup?’ Claire asks. ‘A little overdone, don’t you think?’