Fiction by Lily Boyd
From the minute I saw you I knew you were the one. I knew from your emerald green eyes to the freckles that dotted your face that I was going to marry you. God, I’m such a hopeless romantic. You told me I was a softie for love, and you were right. I am when I look at all those fading photos of us, our smiling four-year-old faces smudged with dirt, climbing trees and roaming the county fair. We looked so happy back then – best friends since birth – our parents joking we were soul mates.
I remember your tinkling laugh, and your endless chatter that made everything sound like an adventure. I remember how you always put on a brave face and never turned down a challenge, taking on life with a skip in your step. And I know that at about this time you would be thinking, “Ben, you are such a dope,” but let me remind you there was a time in your life when you were in love with me, too. I want you to know that I remember the first day I kissed you, and I hope you remember it, too.
It was the day before freshman year. I remember you had tears in your eyes and you were running away from something you couldn’t escape. You had a jagged red scar on your cheekbone. You were talking fast and frantic, wringing your hands, a tormented look in your eye. Your voice fluttered and wavered, bouncing up and down crazily. You spoke about your father’s cruelties – how he expected too much of someone so little. I told you that you were not small or weak. I told you all the things I loved about you, all the things I believed to be true, and that’s when you really started crying, tears flowing down your face like tiny rivers. And you looked so sad. So, I leaned forward, and kissed you. You smiled a little hopeless smile that broke my heart. You told me that I shouldn’t fall for someone broken and shattered, or I might shatter, too. After that, you wore more make-up as if trying to hide something, but you didn’t hide it very well. I saw the marks and I knew. You stopped talking to me after that.
I remember one day, a few months before we kissed, it was a sweltering August day, the heat so intense I felt as if my body would catch fire. You came over to my house with Jamie –he was five then. He looked so innocent with blond curls circling his chubby cheeks. He had piercing green eyes. You both did actually, and you were helping him collect funds for his Cub Scout Troop. You knocked on my door, and yelled my name in a singsong voice that sounded like a bird’s chirp. Your hair was in a high ponytail, dirty blond strands spilling in little pieces in front of your face, and you wore pink track shorts. You smiled.
“Would you like to contribute money to the East View Girl Scouts?” You asked with a gleam in your eye. Jamie’s eyebrows shot up, a little frown formed on his lips, and he spoke with exasperation.
“It’s not Girl Scouts – it’s Eagle Scouts. Got it?” He gave me a look that said, “What am I going to do with this girl? I laughed.
“Got it,” you said, winking at me. I don’t remember if I contributed or not. I probably did. I couldn’t say no to you. No one could.
Jamie looks older now, too old for a ten-year-old. He already has worry lines starting to form, and talks less and less, a labyrinth trapped in his mind he can’t escape. Do you see what you’ve done? You left a wake of destruction in your path. Maybe someday it can be patched up, but the cracks and fractures will always be there, always ready to crumble apart.
You didn’t talk to me very much, but I knew you remembered. I saw you sitting with your friends at lunch. You would laugh and talk, not a care in the world, but I saw the trapped look in your eyes. I saw the way your hands shook as if you were trying to find a solid thing to grab and hold on to. As the days passed, you seemed to slip away, bit-by-bit, part of your soul drifting away, moment-by-moment. The light in your eyes faded, and you, yourself, became a mere shadow of the lively girl we all learned to love.
You used to have a little white C on your locker. It looked just about ready to fall, and every time you slammed the door, it teetered closer and closer to the ground, a dangerous balancing act. That C is gone now.
I remember with perfect clarity the day the call came. Mostly, a day like any other, two weeks before the juniors’ winter concert. We were sitting around the dinner table listening to the rain pouring down outside. Quiet. Just listening, as if we knew the call was coming. The phone rang, a flutter of high soprano notes.
“Who could be calling at dinner time?” Mom said sharply. She was sensitive to those kinds of things. She put on a fake cheery smile as she picked up the phone. “Hello?” she said.
The smile slipped from her face and she started screaming. Not loud screams, but quiet, gasping screams, as if she couldn’t get enough air in her lungs. The phone slipped from her hands, tumbling to the floor. I knew. I knew before she even told me.
Why? Why would you do this to us? You left the world, and never looked back, never thinking about the consequences. Your parents feel responsible, taking me in to fill the void that you created. Did you know that your dad never leaves the house, blaming himself for what you did? Or that your mom never talks? Because when you left, you took them along with you. A part of me left, too, a part I will never get back. And it hurts like hell, you know, just knowing you’re gone. Knowing that you would rather be dead, than spend another second on this shit piece of earth. When I look up at the stars, I try to imagine how scared you must have been, how desperate. Did your hands shake when you tied the noose?
I just want you to know that there are people down here who miss you, and want you to come home. I know I do. When I look up at the stars I see you, not broken, not shattered. I see you whole. And I know that you weren’t all broken – only your heart. You left mine broken, too.