There was one insight into the plight of Mike Berry. Melissa Berry, Mike's sister was going through a terrible time of her own. Her and Jana Peterson had been friends a couple of years before, and she knew that Jana had been on the river bank that day. When it had all happened, Melissa had sat in her room with her year books, finding photos of all the kids who were at the river that day, moreover, the kids that had specifically been right there when Charlie fell in. Charlie Foster was a sophomore, like her, but there was only the freshman photo of Charlie. There was no sophomore photo of Charlie when the yearbook had come out the week before the accident. Either Charlie had been absent that day, or he had chosen not to have his picture taken, the latter was probably true, as Charlie rarely missed a day of school. There was a paragraph at the bottom of the sophomore photo section that stated the students who were not photographed in the yearbook. Oddly, he was not even mentioned in the paragraph. Several days after the accident, she had called Jana on her cell phone, to see if she could find more information about what had happened. Of course Jana was forthcoming, maybe a little to much so, but Jana had said that day was very much on her mind, and she memorized everything she saw, including all the kids who were there and exactly what had happened from her perspective.
"Okay, she said, I'm going to tell you what happened, but you have to keep quiet about it, I don't want to get anyone in trouble." She had said.
"What do you mean? responded Melissa, whose going to get into trouble?"
"We were playing Marco Polo on the bank of the river. We used to play it here all the time in the water, but the water was too high and fast." She told Melissa.
"So, what happened?" Melissa said. She could feel her heart pounding and the palms of her hands getting clammy. "What happened!" She said again.
"There was a hat, a fedora hat. The person who was it wore the hat. That's the way it worked. So everyone could see the person, you know, who was it. The person who was it just had to close their eyes, you know, it was a trust thing. When it was Charlie's turn to be it, Mike pulled the hat down over Charlie's eyes, you know, sort of kidding around. When the hat was pulled down, Charlie started the game. "Marco." "Polo." This went on for awhile, and Charlie was getting closer and closer to the river because he couldn't see. Everyone who was there knew that Mike went down to keep Charlie from falling in the water, but then Charlie said, "Marco." and Mike said, "Polo…" And Charlie grabbed onto Mike. He just reached his arms around Mike and sort of latched onto him, grabbing his shirt. Mike told Charlie to let go, but Charlie wouldn't let go and Mike pushed Charlie, you know, just to get him off. Charlie was holding onto Mike so tight that it ripped Mike's shirt off and he staggered backwards and fell into the river."
"Oh my God…" Melissa responded, "Oh my God… So—"
"So Mike thought it was his fault, but it really wasn't see…it wasn't Mike's fault at all because Charlie was holding him so tight—Mike just wanted to get Charlie off of him, see?"
"Yes. So Mike pushed him into the river, or, at least, thought he did." Melissa offered.
"Yes. So when the cops came and started questioning everyone, no one told that story. They just said that Charlie fell into the river, you know, sort of by himself. Everyone kept Mike out of it, because, well, everyone knew that it wasn't his fault."
"Everyone but Mike," responded Melissa.
"Yea, I guess no one thought he would take it so hard, you know. When the cops questioned him, well, he just went along with everyone else, and that's the way it went down." Jana said. "Are you alright?" she offered.
"Thanks for telling me, can I call you again?" She said to Jana.
"Of course you can. I mean is Mike alright? I mean, he hasn't been at school and everyone's wondering what's going on…" Jana asked.
"No, Mike's not alright. He's at my Aunt and Uncles in Colorado." Jana responded. "It's been really crazy here with my folks and all, Mike had to go to the hospital and everything. Things are really screwed up."
"Well, if you talk to Mike, tell him that we all stand behind him, and we miss him." It wasn't his fault, I mean if you think about it. He just wanted Charlie off of him, that's all, it could have happened to any one of us. I mean, I can't explain how tightly Charlie had onto Mike, like he was crazy or something. I think maybe Charlie thought—"
"Charlie thought what?" Melissa said.
"Maybe Charlie thought Mike was about to throw him into the river." Jana finally explained. "Okay, like he was scared, because some boys had been threatening to do that, you know, throw him into the river."
"What boys, Melissa quickly asked.
"Oh, you know, those boys at school who hate Charlie Foster. That's what I know, that they had threatened to throw him in, earlier, I mean. When he first got there with Mike and Kyle."
"So, Charlie came with Mike and Kyle?" Melissa asked.
"Yes," he did Jana replied.
"Why did Charlie come with Mike and Kyle?" asked Melissa.
"No one really knows. I mean, maybe he asked if he could ride with them. Maybe they found him on the road." Replied Jana. "No one knows why Charlie had come with them. I have to go, my Dad's home," Jana finally said. "Goodbye. I'm glad you called. You tell Mike from me, from all of us who were there…"
"I will," said Melissa. "I will. The weird thing is that I really wanted to go to the river with Mike that day. Except I was grounded. I mean, I never have even been to river, or where you guys all go, but I wanted to go that day. My Dad said, "No." That's weird, isn't it?"
"Yea, that is weird." Bye."
Melissa took out the freshman yearbook and turned to the page with Charlie Foster. She stared into the one eye that was visible and she began to cry. (what a mess), she thought.
The fact is, there were many kids scanning their yearbooks for pictures of Charlie Foster, after all, he was dead. Many of the kids who sat next to him or saw him in the halls begin to rethink anything that connected them to him. The fact that Charlie said very little about himself, or even spoke during any of his classes created a mystery that baffled the students. There was one student who had a connection to Charlie that know one really even knew about, and that student was Jeff. Jeff and Charlie were in an English class together, even though Jeff was a senior and Charlie was a sophomore. Charlie rarely spoke in class, but Jeff knew this, that Charlie was very smart. Charlie was the only sophomore in the class, he would had to have been. One day, Jeff looked on Charlie's desk and there was a book. It was a book that was old and tattered, but Charlie brought it to English every day. The title of the book was 'The Idiot' by Fyodor Dostoyevski. When Jeff first saw the book on Charlie's desk, he chuckled to himself, and thought, (wow, that really makes sense!) He thought that maybe Charlie was taking lessons from the book and it seemed to all make sense that Charlie would be reading a book called, 'The Idiot'. He didn't say anything to Charlie, but a few weeks into the year, his curiosity got the best of him. He checked out the book at the library and started to read. At first, the Russian names of characters in the book were so hard to pronounce that he couldn't keep track of any of them, but then he applied a trick his teacher had taught him. Memorize what the names look like. Sort of like a picture of them. This helped, but it was still very difficult for him to get through, until about page sixty, when it all begin to make sense. After that, he would read the book each night until he was finally finished two weeks later. Jeff always looked at the book on Charlie's desk when he came to class, but now he couldn't help staring at it, and then stare at Charlie. One day, he spoke to Charlie and asked,
"So, are you Prince Myshkin?"
Charlie turned to look at Jeff slowly and carefully. "What?"
"Prince Myshkin. In the book," he allowed.
"Oh, Charlie had said, "Well no, but I guess I…" he stammered.
"What?" Jeff said.
"I guess I kinda do relate to him… I mean, he…" All the color drained from Charlie's face.
"No, its okay, I understand," said Jeff. "You don't have to answer. It's quite a book," Jeff said, and then class began.