The Cold Inside (a serial novel) Chapter Thirty-Eight part two
The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Thursday January 26, 1995
The Miller house was quiet now; Ronnie’s two sisters were at school, his father was at work and his mother had gone out to pick up a few things. Ronnie had skipped school to be with Pam. They spooned together in Ronnie’s cramped bed, the curtains drawn against the afternoon light. Pam stared at nothing, stroking Ronnie’s arm idly.
I’ll close my eyes… She thought to herself, …I’ll close my eyes and when I open them again everything will be all right. Mom will be alive and this will all just be a bad dream.
Of course it didn’t work, just like it hadn’t worked when she was three years old trying to understand why her Daddy had gone away.
“Did you need anything?” Ronnie asked for the hundredth time.
Pam shook her head.
“You should eat.”
The fact that it had been her brother Tristam only made it worse. Should she have seen this coming? Could she have saved her mother?
“I talked to Monique.” Ronnie’s voice was soft.
“She called from the pay phone by the student commons.”
“She said the police picked up the geeky kids Tristam was friends with and took them down to the station house for questioning. I wonder if they think they were involved somehow.”
“I’m surprised the police aren’t trying to blame Evan’s drugs for this.” Pam shrugged, “They blamed it for everything else, that’s all they could see.”
“You have a better explanation for why the whole school went crazy?”
“I think…” Pam grimaced at the very thought, “Never mind. It’s crazy.”
“You think its something in the cafeteria food? Some bad meat loaf?”
“It’s just…” Pam shook her head, “I mean Evan sold to everybody, he sold it to the janitor and college kids but the only freak outs were at our school.”
“At our table Ronnie.” Pam said, “Why was it just the kids at our table?”
He shifted in place, “I don’t understand. What you are trying to say?”
“Tristam.” She said, “I know it sounds crazy but I think somehow Tristam was behind it all.”
“Pam…” Ronnie kissed the back of her neck, “You’ve been through a lot.”
Pulling away from him Pam kicked free of the covers and got to her feet; she was wearing one of Ronnie’s mother’s sweatshirts and a pair of shorts. It was all she could do; her own clothes were behind police tape in the crime scene that had been her home. The family photographs that dotted the room made her feel all the more alone. Her mother had never been one for that kind of thing, she felt cameras and videos kept you from being ‘in the moment’ but now all Pam had was memories; for all the world knew the Blooms might never have been a happy family at all.
“You don’t understand, you didn’t live with him. Every day he just went a little bit crazier and Mom just kept trying to save him.”
“That’s because your Mom was a great lady.”
“…was a great lady.” Even now the words were like a blow.
It took a few moments for Pam to find her voice again, “Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night and I would hear him talking loudly to himself but when I went to his room to tell him to pipe down he was fast asleep.”
“Maybe he was faking.” Ronnie got to his feet and approached her cautiously.
“Maybe but sometimes the things I heard him say… I only got bits and pieces but it scared me.”
“Sounds to me like you were half asleep and don’t know what you heard.” Ronnie hugged her from behind, “And how could your brother cause car crashes and fights and all the other weird stuff that happened? I mean even if he is crazy he’s just one crazy kid. What can one crazy kid do?”
She ran her fingers over Ronnie’s thick hands, “What time does your Mom come home?”
He kissed her ear, “She’s clothes shopping, it could be hours.”
“Take me to bed.” Pam pressed herself against him, “Make me forget for a while.”