Saturday, March 16, 2013
I don't belong here. The pews are filled with your family and neighbors. Your mom gestures to me. I walk over to her, close enough to see her fallen mascara and her brown eyes blinking back tears. She tries to hug me, but I break away, unable to see her frailty. I walk out of the church, bitter tears dripping down my face. I can't do this.
"Katelyn, dear, it's not your fault." She folds her crepe-paper hands on the desk, gazing at me with unadulterated pity in her bleached-blue eyes. As if that's going to help.
"If it's not my fault, whose is it?"
"He had a mental illness. It couldn't have been helped, really." I try to fall asleep. Why does the school pay for a counselor who wears hair extensions and gives gaudy speeches like she's trying to save the world? Does she really think that her words are going to make me forget my pain, the sleepless nights of texting with you? Does she think that's going to make me forget your smile and the way you watched my debate competitons and laughed with me afterwards, your eyes shining?
Her words only bring me back. "You're not to blame," she harps. Well, that clears it up. She doesn't know what I did. I fought with you. You needed me more than I realized. I let you down. I yelled at you, played the bad guy until I won. I didn't talk to you for days until you died. A tear runs down my cheek. I wipe it away with a bitten-down fingernail. I don't want her sympathy. The woman looks up at me.
I roll my shoulders back. She can't make me a coward. I fold my hands uneasily. She reaches out to me, placing her fragile hand on top of mine. I stand up, knocking the chair back. Only when I get to the bathroom do I let the tears fall from my eyes.
I scrolled on my phone, checking for new messages. My screen lit up. I clicked on Zach’s text. My hands started trembling. He can’t be right. I called him. The dial tone sounded. I called again. I leave a message. He calls back, his voice shaky. “Kate, Jamie’s dead.” His heavy silence stuttered, his shallow breathing transmitted through the phone. I hung up, unable to listen to your best friend cry.
We walked down the beach, holding hands. You stopped to laugh at something I’d said. Your green eyes sparkled. “Did you hear about how Montgomery led the Battle of—“
I hushed you. I was tired of battle talk, always this war, that war. Life was nothing but a series of combat for you. I drew closer to you, protecting myself against the overcast sky and jaded winds. I kissed you quickly, letting the moment linger between us.
You glanced at me, your tired eyes scanning my mood. “Let’s go.”
“In the water?”
You nodded. I took off my shoes quickly, and we walked together on the deserted beach barefoot. I linked my arm between yours, hugging you for warmth. You nodded again and we took off, circling the beach, arms spread wide, and dashing in, letting the frigid waves pull us under.
The next morning, the school president announced the news. “It is with deep regret that we inform you of a loss of one of our students, Jamie Holmes.” I sit in my seat, feeling numb. The math teacher doesn’t look at me. I bite my lip. The girls in the back whisper. So much for delicacy. I taste blood, pooling on my lips. It tastes like corroded metal, the shrill cry of an unspoken scream. Perfect.