The Death Of Mary Kline, by Ryan Kelly

So far, Matt’s stamina was making up for his lousy kissing.  It was a rainy day at the pool, so I had locked the gate; we had plenty of time to go at it.  Matt was on top of me and emotional, like he always was during my lunch breaks.

“Katie, I really think I’m falling for you,” he said.  He took a few breaths and slowed down his delivery.

“Oh, Jesus,” I said, but it wasn’t in sexual ecstasy.

“What?  Something wrong, babe?”  He was out of rhythm now, and he wouldn’t stop looking me in the eyes.  I hated when people looked me in the eyes for too long, it always made me have to answer them honestly.

“Listen, Matt, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea here.”

“Why?  I really care about you, Katie.”

“Matt, we’re just having fun, can’t you just relax?”

“I haven’t felt like this about a girl in a long time.”  I sighed and closed my eyes.

“I go back to school at UCLA for summer classes in a few weeks.  I told you this.  Besides, we would never work.”  Matt rolled off of me, his wet frame slapping against the tile of the office floor next to me.

“Why wouldn’t it work?  Do you not have any feelings for me?”

“Matt, you’re 26, and I never even would have met you if you didn’t always show up here with Jamie.”

“Oh, so it’s about my sister?”  He was really getting on my nerves.

“No, well I mean, yeah, that’s part of it, but it’s not just because I’m friends with

her.”

My cell phone began to ring from the pocket of my jean shorts.  I patted Matt on the chest and scrambled over to my pile of clothes.  My All-American Rejects ringtone had looped several times by the time I realized who the call was from.

Incoming Call… Jane Garner”

Jane Garner?  I hadn’t talked to her since we graduated from McCauley two years ago.

“Who is it?” Matt asked from across the room.  He had sat up now and started to put on his swim trunks, but I was already flipping open my phone.  Any excuse to get a break from Matt was worth it.

“Hello?”

“Hi, is this Katie?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh, good, this is Jane Garner.  Remember?  From McCauley?”

I put the phone on speaker and placed it on the counter.  I started putting on my lifeguard one-piece.

“Oh, yeah, hey Jane.  How are you?”  I looked over to Matt while I changed.  He was sitting against the wall with his arms folded, avoiding eye contact now.

“I’m good, sorry to call you out of the blue like this, but I figured you should know something.”  I rolled my eyes a bit to Matt and smiled warmly, but he got up, lit a cigarette, and stepped outside underneath the awning, leaving the sliding door open.

“Don’t worry about it, Jane.  What’s up?”

“Well do you remember Heather Kline?  She graduated with us.”

Did I remember Heather Kline?  I wanted to shout.    I wanted to reach through the phone and choke Jane’s scrawny neck.  Did I remember Heather Kline?  I think the real question was ‘Did I remember that time Heather Kline fucked Toby Chandler?’  The only boy I ever really liked in high school; the only boy at Lincoln who wasn’t embarrassed to be seen with me and my brother Nicky after school; the boy who told me at a Drama Club cast party that ‘He just wanted to be friends because he didn’t want to ruin the great thing we had’; that boy; an exceptional boy.  But as Heather proved, a boy nonetheless.  So yeah, I remembered Heather fucking Kline.

“Yeah, everyone knew Heather, Jane.”

“Right.  Well something terrible has happened.”  Something terrible?  I didn’t know whether to cross my fingers or pray.

“Really?  What’s going on?”

“Well, I don’t really know how else to say this.  Heather’s sister died this morning.”  Matt turned and looked over his shoulder, still burning his cigarette down.  I picked the phone up and turned it off speaker.

“Wait.  Mary?”

“Yeah, I know.”

“What the hell happened?  Was she in an accident?”

“Well, all I know is that Mrs. Kline found her in the basement.”  I ran my hand through my hair and sat directly on the floor, Indian style.

“Wait, she didn’t… you know?”

Matt had flicked the butt and turned completely around now.  He was leaning halfway into the office shack, watching me.

“No, I don’t think so… but do you remember how wafer thin she used to be?  I

think it might have to do with her anorexia, and Chloe Anderson told me that she was a cutter.  I’ve been texting everyone and seeing what they know about it.”

Jane was really a winner sometimes.

“When did this happen?”

“Around nine this morning.”

“How is the family doing?”

“I don’t really know, but talk about bad timing… Mary was supposed to graduate from McCauley in a few days.”

I told you she was a winner.

“Wow.”

“Yeah.  Well, I just thought you should know.  I’m calling a lot of McCauley people right now.  The wake is in a couple days, so maybe I’ll see you there.”

“Okay.”

I closed my phone and dropped it back on the counter.  Matt had come back in and started walking towards me.

“Did the that Kline girl really die?”  I walked past him, grabbed his Marlboros, and went outside in the drizzling rain.  I sat and dunked my feet at the edge of the pool.  I lit one of his squares and started thinking about Mary.

Mary was a lot different than Heather.  She had to starve herself to be skinny and cut herself to feel happy.  She had a good singing voice, and a soul.  I liked Mary a lot.  She was a lot different than Heather.

Matt had come outside, too, carrying an open towel over his head to protect himself from the rain.  He sat down next to me on the edge of the pool and draped the towel over us both.  I flicked my cigarette into the pool and put my head on his shoulder.  I didn’t care if he got the wrong idea this time.

RYAN KELLY earned a B.A. in Literature in 2009 from John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio.  While there, he was published six times in the university’s biannual literary magazine, The Carroll Review.  Ryan is the only student to ever receive both the university’s writing awards in the same year (2009): The Joseph Cotter Poetry Award and The David LaGuardia Fiction Award.  He is currently working on his M.A. at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

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