I took a moment to take in the rest of the room, to properly assess the situation. The children were all seated silently at their desks, as was the teacher in the back. It was a man this time – a pity that Ms. Anderson wasn’t here to see this reunion. She’d always hated the two of us. She probably would have enjoyed watching us both die. At this point, I had no illusions that this wasn’t going to be the outcome. All that mattered to me now was making sure that she didn’t kill any of the students on her way out. I wondered if I could succeed in that, at least.
Taylor herself was sitting at the front of the classroom, a young boy huddled on her lap. He was small, even for a seven-year-old, and his eyes were wet with tears. He was shaking but his face was strangely calm, almost apathetic, and I knew right then that he was suffering from shock. He was going to need medical attention soon – looks like Taylor and I were going to have to wrap this up quickly. She seemed to be waiting for an answer as I looked at the child, so I gave her one.
“It’s been a long time, Taylor,” I said, and she smiled.
Todd’s voice buzzed in my ear like a mosquito. “Lily, ask what she wants.”
I shook my head just a little, even though I knew he couldn’t see me. I knew what she wanted, or at least, I thought I did.
“I suppose that asking you to forgive me wouldn’t help at all, would it?” I asked. Taylor gave me a sad smile and I continued. “I’ll take any punishment you want to give me, so could you let the boy go? You’re scaring him, Taylor, and you don’t want to scare him.”
“What makes you think that?” she asked, genuinely curious, and I paused, wondering if I had miscalculated the situation. “Do you know who this boy is?” She continued, sounding almost casual.
I shook my head. She smiled a little wider and her eyes gleamed.
“I don’t blame you, Lily. When I brought up your dad’s gun… I should have known you weren’t ready yet. I should have known you would be scared.”
A part of me piped up and, for some reason, it became imperative that Taylor understood the truth of what I’d done, and the reason behind it. “No, Taylor, that’s not right. I wasn’t scared.” Her brows furrowed as I continued. “Not for the reason you think, anyway. I… when you said that, when you opened up to me about your plans for revenge… I was excited. I was happy. More than anything, I wanted to do exactly what you’d suggested. And that… that was why I was scared. That’s why I asked my parents to switch me to a new school. That’s why I…” I couldn’t finish.
“That’s why you screamed at me to leave and told me you’d tattle if I ever tried to find you again?” She asked, her voice barely above a whisper. There was hurt in her eyes, yes, but there was also understanding.
“Yes,” I answered, “I wasn’t afraid of you, I was afraid of me, and what I would do. So I ran away.”
“You abandoned me.”
“Did you… in all these years, did you ever think of me?”
My voice was breathless when I answered, “Oh, yes. So many times, Taylor.”
Her rueful little smile returned as she readjusted her grip on the boy. “Did you ever expect this?”
I considered lying, but she didn’t deserve a lie, even with what she was doing and what she’d become. “Yes, Taylor. I thought it might end up like this.”
“No… you KNEW it would end up like this.”
We stood there silently for just a moment. Todd’s voice didn’t come back in my ear, but I knew that he was listening intently. I guessed that he was shocked at what I’d just revealed.