By Naomi Bess Leimsider
What really happened is that Daphne shot herself in the head playing Russian Roulette on the shoulder of the L.I.E. going west toward the City—her favorite place in the whole world!—but the quack headshrinkers at school, Daphne’s parents, my mother, my older sister, Carly Ann, who claimed to be Daphne’s best friend, Rodney, her boyfriend, and, he insisted, her husband-to-be, rejected the real story—the truth and the heart of the matter!—as a product of my confused and disturbed mind. It was decided that I must be more than just the harmless developmentally and emotionally challenged adolescent they thought I was. I seem to be displaying psychotic tendencies: Russian Roulette is violent, inventing stories about violent behavior like Russian Roulette implies deep psychological disturbances and around and around again. They told me they are here to help me get through this difficult time so maybe I can still grow and mature into a useful adult. I told them, as always, I feel just fine.
They insisted someone evil murdered Daphne because young ladies with genius-worthy academic records, early admission to several Ivy Leagues, and the sweetest of dispositions would never resort to that kind of violence. If violent things happen, it’s because violence is forced on them. This is the conventional wisdom.
When Daphne was found by the side of the great highway with a bullet lodged in her brilliant brain, they said her tragic murder was the ultimate proof of the many predators who lurk under every nook and cranny in our deranged society just waiting for a chance to strike. The world is a dangerous place for young ladies on the cusp of adulthood! What happened to Daphne was everyone’s worst nightmare realized. The all-knowing authorities claimed they didn’t find the murder weapon, they searched the treacherous forest on the shoulder of the lonely L.I.E. for clues, but I insisted that Daphne’s father’s new ergonomic Model 642 .38 special Smith and Wesson had to be there—it had to be!—and they should look dig a little deeper.
I was told, in no uncertain terms, my delusions had taken a turn for the worse. They were convinced I was trying to dirty Daphne’s squeaky clean reputation. Daphne was a teen-aged girl cut down in the prime of her life on the L.I.E. and Daphne’s father’s gun had nothing to do with it. They told me Daphne was not, couldn’t be, a willing player in her own demise. No further discussion needed. End of story.
Where is Daphne’s father’s gun? I asked.
They’re figuring things out; they’re doing the math.
Anything, anything but the truth! It certainly wasn’t something they thought was ridiculous, something they considered to be out and out insane, like Russian Roulette. Certainly not.
They said: Olivia, you are in deep, deep trouble. Admit your crazy story is a lie. Repent and you will be forgiven.
If I don’t, I’ll deserve the punishment that will certainly come.
As far as everyone was concerned, Daphne was being appropriately treated with the proper pharmaceuticals that were the answer to smoothing the rough spots of the bumpy road that is the hallmark of being a child of divorce and a twenty-first century adolescent. Whatever that means. Modern medicine wouldn’t allow violent or suicidal actions. Thank God for modern medicine! they said. After all, her prescribed pills were intelligently designed to make her as calm and content as a sleepy cat.
Daphne warned me that no one else would understand.
She said: Olivia, you’re the only one.
Daphne didn’t care that I’m in the Special Learners classes. She knew I am forced to take pills by the handful, that I have a mandatory twice-a-week situation with my quack school headshrinker—who are the only headshrinkers the Long Island public school system is willing to provide!—even though I was proclaimed sane and healthy last year by the young, brilliant doctor my mother and Carly Ann insisted was young and brilliant until they didn’t agree with his diagnosis. Daphne didn’t think I’m like my father, who is missing in action from his home in, as my mother puts it, a facility for crazies and malcontents out east. She never thought I was challenged, either developmentally or emotionally, and she believed I am smart and sane enough to bear the weight of such a complicated secret.
I asked Daphne if she was afraid she’d shoot herself, but she said she focused on the rush that came after the click, not the fear. She told me in confidence about the thrill of beating, what she called, the beast in her heart. How that victory made it all worth it.
She said: Olivia, I know I can tell you there is a beast in my heart and it will make sense to you.
I didn’t know what that meant, but Daphne was the smartest girl in the Advanced Learners classes, so I knew it must mean something special.
After they found Daphne by the side of the highway, I didn’t want to tell anyone anything I knew, but Carly Ann sensed a shift in me. She knew I was sitting on something important! She said, like she always does, that she needs to smooth me out, settle me down, keep me on the evenest of keels. She upped my medication, chopped some of my pills into pieces, and gave me an extra chunk along with my usual dose, which she said would calm me down enough so I could tell a clear, coherent story. Then she grabbed me by my shoulders and shook me hard…
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