Standing on my terrace early that afternoon, I look out at the palm trees and blue skies that surround me. It is past noon, and the sun is shining directly above on this hot summer day. Today, just like most days here in Los Angeles, cars pass, children play outdoors and many people are coming in and out of my apartment building. Among those who are coming in is my roommate Adam. No matter how many reasons I give him to leave and never see me again, he always comes back.
I hear the front door open and close, and moments later, Adam is standing next to me.
“Hi, Anna,” he says with some hesitation.
“Hey,” I say.
I know why he has been acting so quiet and strange around me lately; it is because of what had happened a few days ago. He got me out of two troubling situations, and it wasn’t the first time. I think he is seriously beginning to question whether or not helping me is the best thing to do. Whatever he has been thinking, he has been very careful not to let me know about it.
“Adam, I’m sorry for the other day. I never meant for that to happen…”
“But it still happened. And as always, I helped. But you never seem to appreciate that, or to make an effort to stop making these mistakes,” he sighs. “I just wish you would pull your life together and…” He is interrupted by the doorbell.
He stands perplexed and walks back into the hall. We aren’t expecting any visitors, so who can this be? Moments later, I follow him inside, just as he is opening the door down the hall.
I wish the doorbell hadn’t rang just now. I was finally talking to Anna about the issue. I don’t know why my heart is racing as I open the door. And… before me stand two police officers.
They hold up their badges and look past me into the apartment. Part of me wonders what Anna has done now, but I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough.
“We are here for Anna Young. Is she home?” One of the officers asks.
I look behind me and see Anna watching from down the hall. She has a shocked expression on her face and I wonder why. If the police are here, she has obviously done something wrong; she should’ve been expecting them sooner or later.
The police seem to see her as well, and shove past me into the apartment.
“Anna Young, you are under arrest for the act of arson and for endangering people.”
What? Anna has done something seriously illegal this time. But arson? Endangering people? Since when does Anna do that?
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you?” The officer continues.
While the officer is informing her of her rights, the other officer is handcuffing her. Anna looks like she is close to tears and looks the most frightened I’ve ever seen her. She doesn’t respond to the cop, but rather to me.
“Adam, I didn’t do it! This is a mistake! You’ve gotta believe me. I don’t do things like that,” she says, her voice frantic.
For a second, I don’t know what to say, what to do, who to believe. Is she just trying to get out of what she did? But then I really think about it. Would Anna ever purposefully try to hurt people? Set a house on fire? No. She would never do something like that.
“Would you mind if I spoke to her for a couple of minutes before you take her? Just a couple minutes. Please,” I ask them.
The cops look at each other and shrug. “Two minutes. We’ll be standing by the door.”
“Don’t try anything,” the other tells Anna, rather aggressively.
Anna looks down at the carpet until they reach the door, then looks up at me.
“So if you didn’t do it, then who did?” I ask her.
She sighs, but goes on to ask me, “Do you remember Liam? And what I told you about him? How increasingly unsteady he has become since I met him?” I nod. “Well, he is the one who did this. It was to get back at the people in that house. He took me with him. If he could do this to me, his friend, just to save his skin, I wonder… he is dangerous Adam.”
“I believe you, Anna.” Every other time in the past that she’d gotten herself brought to the police station, she had never tried to lie. She always admitted to me that she did it. “I’ll see what I can do, but until then, you have to go with them. I promise you, I’ll find him and get you out. Okay?”
She nods, smiles sadly at me, and leaves the apartment with the cops.
Later that afternoon, I call all of Anna’s friends, including Liam, and we all decide to meet at a nearby park.
I park my car and begin walking toward the area where Anna’s friends would be waiting for me. I’m not going to tell them what Anna told me, but I just need to hear what they know. Are they in on Liam’s lie? Or do they truly not know the lengths their supposed friend would go to protect himself?
They see me walking toward them and smile, sorrow in their eyes. At least, most of them seem that way.
“Hi, Adam. Were sorry about Anna. None of us can believe she did it,” one girl says.
“Yeah, I know. Neither can I,” I respond. Taking a deep breath, I continue. “Did she say anything strange to any of you in the last couple weeks? About maybe getting back at someone for something? It’s not like her to take things to such a dangerous level, but there has to be some reason for it.” I look over at Liam as soon as I finish.
He stares right at me and says, “Sometimes we don’t know the people we care about as well as we think we do.”
The other friends all turn to look at him. I see surprise in their eyes. “Liam, you and Anna hung out more than any of us did, and even we know she would never try to hurt people. Anna has the biggest conscience of anyone I’ve ever met,” a man says, and looks back at me. “If she had a problem with someone, she would talk to them about it. Not try to kill them.”
I nod and continue to watch Liam. As each friend says what they think of the situation, Liam seems increasingly fidgety and uncomfortable. Once everyone has shared what they know and think about the situation, we say goodbye and go our separate ways.
I decide to follow Liam, and stay a close distance, about a half block behind him. I didn’t exactly have a clear plan, but I know I will confront him at some point.
I may not know a lot about Liam, but Anna has told me on various occasions that Liam hadn’t had the easiest life. Anna felt bad for him, but that didn’t make him a good person.
Liam suddenly comes to a stop in a seemingly deserted area, and spins around.
He has a gun in his hand, and it is pointed right at me.
“Why are you following me?”
“Why do you think I am, Liam?” I say as calmly as I can manage.
“I honestly have no idea. Mind explaining?” He asks loudly, shaking his gun.
Both hands raised over my head, I say, “You did it, didn’t you? And then you pinned it on Anna.”
He laughs. “You see, you care so much about her that you are thinking up lies to convince yourself to get her out of jail, yet again. Helping her is hurting you, man. You’re not gonna be able to get her out of this one. You might as well quit while you’re ahead.”
“So, if you didn’t do it, and I’m wrong, then why are you pointing a gun at me?”
Liam seems stumped, and I use the opportunity to get him to confess.
“I didn’t follow you until I knew for sure. The way you were acting back there… I didn’t need any other proof.”
Liam draws back, and I think I can see fear in his eyes. This is strange. He is the one holding the gun.
“Anna is a good person. She may not make the best decisions sometimes, but she would never do something so horrible. Before they took her away, she told me she didn’t do it.” I push the truth at him even more.
“You only care about yourself, and you did this. You almost killed people, and you got scared and told the cops it was Anna so they wouldn’t figure out it was really you. What did she ever do to deserve that?” I yell.
Liam gets to a point where he is so surprised and scared that he breaks.
“I didn’t know they were in the house when I did it. But those people- they got me sent away from my parents, they took everything from me. I wanted to see how they felt when I took something important away from them. Their house…” screams Liam, his eyes tearing up.
“I’m sorry you had to go through that, but there are other ways of dealing with your sadness than setting people’s houses on fire. Now why don’t you put the gun down and-”
“SO YOU CAN TURN ME IN? NO.”
“You had an innocent person put in jail…”
Before I can finish, multiple cop cars rush down the street and come to stop a few feet away from us. Liam freezes.
But before the cops can approach us, he shoots me in the leg and runs.
I fall to the ground and yell out to the cops, “GET HIM!”
Who called the police? I wonder. And soon I have my answer. I see one of Anna’s friends that I had spoken to earlier run toward me.
“Adam! Are you okay?” She asks, her eyes full of worry.
“I’ll be fine. The police! Did you…”
“Yeah. While all of us were talking, I could tell there was something off about Liam. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I went with it. I followed you and stayed out of sight. I called the police when he pulled out the gun. I can’t believe it… Liam did this.”
I pull out my phone, stop the voice recording and smile at her. “Thanks for that. You know, before I followed him, I decided that whatever happens, recording it may be the only way to be sure the truth gets out. I’m sure there will be no problem getting Anna out now.”
An ambulance approaches us, and as I am brought inside, I see a police officer walking toward his car. With him is Liam, in handcuffs, just as it should be.
I had been in jail for about seven hours when, to my delight, an officer comes up to me and delivers wonderful news.
“Anna Young, you are being released on insufficient evidence. However, some new evidence has come in to prove another party is guilty.”
“Did you get him? Liam Thomas? Is he in custody?” I can barely control my excitement.
“Yes, and it’s all thanks to your roommate, Adam. He and another woman helped us find him.” He opens my cell, and continues to tell me what happened, “There was… an encounter between Mr. Thomas and your roommate,” he says tentatively.
Oh my god!
“Is Adam okay? And what do you mean by encounter?” I can barely breathe.
“Mr. Thomas shot Adam in the leg, but he is in stable condition. Since you are no longer a suspect in this investigation, you can go visit him in the hospital. He insisted on coming to assure you were let out, but a gunshot wound is no joke.”
“I understand, thank you.” I know I won’t relax until I see Adam myself. As soon as I reach the front doors to the jail, I break into a run toward the hospital.
Adam literally risked his life for me. It’s time I do something to help him.
I reach the hospital about a half hour later, completely and utterly out of breath, but I wasn’t about to let that stop me. I walk to the front desk of the hospital and barely manage to utter the words “Adam Steele?” Once they tell me what room he’s in, I’m off again.
The elevator is taking far too long so I use the staircase, running until I finally reach his room.
“Adam!” I squeal. I run over to him and hug him as tight as I possibly can.
“They released you!” He hugs me back. “Yes, I’m happy to see you too.” He continues when I’m still hugging him more than a minute later, and laughs.
I laugh in response, and finally release him.
I look over at his leg, and back at him. “The doctors said it will be fine, I just need to stay overnight and then rest it after.”
I heave a sigh of relief, and begin to cry. “You always help me Adam, but today… you risked your life… for me.” I say between sobs. After a while I stop crying and look at Adam. “You mean too much to me to have me putting your life in danger. You have told me so many times to stop getting myself into things like this, but this time I’m taking your advice. You won’t have to save me anymore. We can actually spend more time being friends. I promise you that.” I say, feeling that something has changed inside me forever, for the better.
“Okay. Just so you know Anna, I wouldn’t do all these things for you if I didn’t feel the same way. You’re not just my roommate, or my friend. You’re my family. I would get shot again to save you, if I had to. Just remember that.”
“I know. And I think it’s about time I act like family, don’t you think?” I smile.
“Yes, definitely.” He says, and smiles right back at me.
Lily Sperber is one of winners of Literature Studio Summer Scholarship 2015. She is a 15 year old from New York who loves to read, write and listen to music. She also enjoys spending time with family and watching TV shows and movies. She is very persistent in accomplishing her goals, and works hard in school. Her main goal is to make a difference in people’s lives, the same way so many have impacted hers.