twenty-eight days after

The colonel made it to Latin the next morning—”I feel awesome right now, because I’m still drunk. But God help me in a couple of hours” — and I took a French test for which I had studied un petit peu. I did all right on the multiple choice (which-verb-tense-makes-sense-here type questions), but the essay question, In Le Petit Prince, what is the significance of the rose? threw me a bit.

Had I read The Little Prince in English or French, I suspect this question might have been quite easy.

Unfortunately, I’d spent the evening getting the Colonel drunk. So I answered, Elle symbolise I’amour (“It symbolizes love”). Madame O’Malley had left us with an entire page to answer the question, but I figured I’d covered it nicely in three words.

 

I’d kept up in my classes well enough to get B-minuses and not worry my parents, but I didn’t really care much anymore. The significance of the rose? I thought. Who gives a shit? What’s the significance of the white tulips?

There was a question worth answering.

After I’d gotten a lecture and ten work hours at Jury, I came back to Room 43 to find the Colonel telling Takumi everything — well, everything except the kiss. I walked in to the Colonel saying, “So we helped her go.”

“You set off the fireworks,” he said.

“How’d you know about the fireworks?”

“I’ve been doing a bit of investigating,” Takumi answered. “Well, anyway, that was dumb. You shouldn’t have done it. But we all let her go, really,” he said, and I wondered what the hell he meant by that, but I didn’t have time to ask before he said to me, “So you think it was suicide?”

“Maybe,” I said. “I don’t see how she could have hit the cop by accident unless she was asleep.”

“Maybe she was going to visit her father,” Takumi said. “Vine Station is on the way.”

“Maybe,” I said. “Everything’s a maybe, isn’t it?”

The Colonel reached in his pocket for a pack of cigarettes. “Well, here’s another one: Maybe Jake has the answers,” he said. “We’ve exhausted other strategies, so I’m calling him tomorrow, okay?”

I wanted answers now, too, but not to some questions. “Yeah, okay,” I said. “But listen — don’t tell me anything that’s not relevant. I don’t want to know anything unless it’s going to help me know where she was going and why.”

“Me neither, actually,” Takumi said. “I feel like maybe some of that shit should stay private.”

The Colonel stuffed a towel under the door, lit a cigarette, and said, “Fair enough, kids. We’ll work on a need-to-know basis.”

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