The Million Dollar Girl
A Novel

Robert Harris
Version Date: October 11, 2008

Chapter 26

Amy spent much of the night tossing and turning, thinking, crying, worrying, praying, and then starting the cycle over. In the midst of her stroll down the path of life, a mountain had begun to fall on her, and the rocks continued to pound her into the dust. The plagiarism charge, the threat of failure and expulsion from the university, the seemingly incontrovertible evidence, the stupid comment about feminine wiles, the note tying her to exam cheating. And then there was Tina Nicole. Poor Tina. And that horrible counselor. What was going on? And here she had thought herself stressed last year as a freshman by what now seemed an easy workload and a carefree existence.

She looked at the clock so often that the numbers seemed almost frozen. Twice she wondered if digital clocks could start to run slowly as the batteries went down. Then she noticed that the time had ever so slowly advanced into the early hours, causing her to get upset that she had not yet fallen asleep.

At one point, she thought she heard people talking. Alarmed that she might be hearing voices that were not there, voices that would mean for certain that she was losing her grip on reality, Amy bolted upright in bed and listened carefully. She could hear Markayla’s quiet breathing in her peaceful sleep across the room. It was strangely a source of irritation for the exhausted and now cranky girl. Then she thought she heard the voices again. Turning her head back and forth in order to locate the direction of the sound, she zeroed in on Tina’s bed. The nightlight shining through the door from the bathroom cast just enough light for Amy to see that Tina was wearing headphones. Tina must have been listening to the radio when she fell asleep, and now the voices talked to an inattentive audience. Amy felt herself relax a little, feeling more than ever the heavy tiredness on her body. She flopped back on the bed, pulled the covers back over her, and put her pillow over her head to shut out the sounds.

Insomniacs can seldom say when exactly they fall asleep. They can often remember counting the rotations of the blades in the ceiling fan, or hearing the romantic noises of cats outside, or how they tried futilely to find the right position to lie comfortably. But what time it was when they finally fell asleep for any length of time, they do not know. In Amy’s case, however, it was just before dawn when her body and brain collapsed into neutral and sleep took her off for the troubled journeys of another dimension. Amy was usually a moderately light sleeper, but she did not stir at all when Tina’s bed squeaked slightly or when the well-oiled door made a single click.


As hard won as it was, Amy’s sleep was not without difficulty. She dreamed that she was in jail, locked away in a dark and dripping cell after being convicted of plagiarism.

“She’ll never get out,” a voice said. Then she heard screaming and shouting, and in her dream she saw people storming the prison.

“Someone get her!” yelled a deep voice. They were coming for her, to kill her. Imprisonment was not punishment enough.

More voices seemed to be talking loudly, and one said, “Call the fire department.” Her cell seemed to be on fire. Did she smell smoke? She heard footsteps, pounding along the floor, approaching her cell. They were coming for her. It was a mob with torches and pitchforks. She felt like a hated ogre. Were they going to burn her out?

Now someone was hammering. Strong men hit the door to her cell with sledge hammers. It would not be long until the door flew open and she was murdered in her bed. The hammering was loud and fast. Then it slowed and got louder. Now the men with hammers had firearms and the hammering was gunshots. They were firing into the lock to break it. Amy ducked to the floor to keep from being hit. She awoke from the worsening nightmare just as the door to her dorm room flew open. The door swung all the way open and slammed against the wall.

“Amy! Hurry! It’s Tina! Come. Get up!” The voice was Melanie’s. Amy struggled to shake off the last vestiges of sleep and stand up. The lights in the room came on. Amy squinted painfully, the lights nearly blinding her. Melanie rushed over and grasped Amy’s had, pulling her out of bed.

By this time, Markayla was awake, too. “Tina? Where is Tina?” She began hunting for her glasses.

“Come on,” Melanie said.

“Okay, I’m coming,” Amy said and moved toward the door, grabbing her robe from the floor, where it had been dumped during the restlessness of the night. The cold of the night air helped her fight the sleepiness.

“Hurry, Amy. She’s on the roof. I think she’s going to jump.” There was genuine concern, if not fear, in Melanie’s eyes. They ran.

When Amy and Melanie got downstairs and around to the front of the building, they saw five or six other students standing on the lawn and looking up. Tina stood on the edge of the roof near the street. She was wrapped in a bed sheet and wore a garland like a crown, made from the local trees. Instead of looking back down at the others or responding to their appeals, she was standing silently looking into the sky.

“Come down, Tina,” someone said. “Everything will be okay.”

“Why is she up there, anyway?”

“Don’t know,” someone else said. “Bad trip, I guess.”

“Nah. It’s more like too much party and too little girl.”

“But she’s not stumbling like she’s blasted.”

“It’s more like she’s been popping.”

“My sister got drunk one time and climbed on the roof.”

“Did she jump?”

“Nah. She hurled all over the people trying to rescue her. Don’t stand too close.”

“Hey, Tina, jump! I dare you!”

Amy looked furiously over to see who had said that. It was Jeremy.

“Shut up, Jeremy,” Amy said harshly but quietly. The girl clinging to Jeremy to keep warm made half an effort to scold him as well.

Looking back up, Amy said loudly, “Tina, it’s Amy. Please come down. I want to help you. Please.”

“Yes, Tina,” said Markayla, who had come up behind Amy, “we are here to help you. We will see that everything is all right.”

Tina looked down in her roommates’ direction. Amy was not sure whether Tina recognized her or Markayla. Tina’s face showed no acknowledgment. She turned her head and looked back into the sky. Then, holding the sheet up like a cape, or like wings, Tina said, loudly and out into space, “I am the goddess Astrea. I am ready to return.”

“Told you she was drunk,” someone said.

“Are those teddy bears on her pajamas?” someone else asked. “Why is a goddess wearing PJ’s with teddy bears on them?” The questioner was obviously amused.

Tina inched her toes over the edge of the roof.

“Tina, no! Come down. You’ll get hurt!”

“No!” someone else said.


A siren could be heard in the distance, approaching. Then a second siren joined in.

“I hear you,” she said softly, so that Amy could barely make out her words. “I am coming.”

Tina closed her eyes and wrapped the sheet around her in an embrace. She did not jump. She simply let herself fall off the roof. Two girls screamed.

“Whoa!” Jeremy said.

The landscaping around Pelletier was fully mature, having been planted when the dormitory was built twenty years ago. As a result, Tina fell only about six feet before she hit the top branches of a tree. Her body fell snapping and crunching through the slender branches, then rolling and bouncing onto thicker ones until the tree had no more to offer. After another short free fall, she hit a thick hedge next to the building. Finally, she landed on the over watered soil under the bushes with a gentle thud.

The bystanders rushed up toward her. Her body was still mostly wrapped in the bed sheet, but spots of blood began to soak into it. Leaves and debris and mud stuck to her arms and face and in her hair.

“Tina! Tina!” Amy was yelling, as she came up to the girl. She wanted to take Tina’s head in her hands, but knew she should not move her. So she wiped the hair and mud from Tina’s forehead. “Oh, Tina.”

Tina opened her eyes slowly. “Amy,” Tina said. Then she closed her eyes.

By this time the paramedics had screeched into the parking lot near the dormitory, an ambulance was pulling into the entrance just a hundred yards away, and the campus police were scorching the road just outside.

Soon Tina had been immobilized on a spine board and loaded into the ambulance.

“Is she dead?” someone asked.

“Looks like it.”

“Did you see the trees and the blood? Probably broke every bone and ruptured every organ in her body.”

As Amy wiped enough water from her eyes to begin to see clearly, she saw Jeremy standing there.

She gave him a look of disdain. “Jeremy, how could you? You don’t even live around here. You are such a jerk.”

“Hey, Amy, I didn’t think she would jump,” Jeremy said gamely. “That’s too bad. And you should be careful who you call a jerk. It’s not like I pretend to be so holy and then plagiarize my papers or anything.”

The gossip mill had already spread the news, Amy realized. Now her reputation was ruined. No one would ever trust or respect her again. She knew now she would have to drop out. But that was for later. The siren of the departing ambulance refocused her attention on Tina. She ran over to Melanie. “Melanie, I’m going to the hospital,” she said. “Markayla, you should go back to bed. There’s nothing you can do at the hospital. I’ll go with you later on during the day.” Before Markayla could answer, Amy ran back to the room and called Matt.

A sleepy “Hello?” was answered with, “Tina jumped off the roof! I don’t even know if she’s alive. She’s bleeding. She didn’t look good. Can you take me to the hospital?” Amy was already pulling jeans on while she cradled the phone against her shoulder. Since she was already wearing the usual T-shirt for her sleepwear, she was nearly dressed. She stuffed the bunches of extra shirt into her jeans and zipped them up.

“Hello?” Matt said again, not sure what he had just heard. Amy was speaking quickly and excitedly while Matt’s brain was still strolling into consciousness.

“Matt, it’s Amy. Tina has jumped off the roof. We need to go to the hospital.” Amy was now looking for socks.

“Hospital? Okay,” Matt said. “What time is it?”

“I don’t even know. It doesn’t matter. I’ll meet you at your car in five minutes. Where are you parked?”


Go on to Chapter 27
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About the author:
Robert Harris is a writer and educator with more than 25 years of teaching experience at the college and university level. RHarris at virtualsalt.com