1877 words (7 minute read)

Chapter 2

Walking into the emergency room, I found Abby’s mother and step-father near the receptionist desk. Carla sobbed into John’s shoulder as he held her. I couldn’t look away.

For a moment, her tear-filled brown eyes—eyes the same color as Abby’s—locked with mine, and then she broke away from John and headed toward me. I expected her to yell. I expected her to throw it in my face that this was my fault for abandoning Abby. I expected her to slap me. If I were in her place, that was exactly what I would’ve done. If Abby’s father was still alive, he would’ve done even worse.

Instead, she hugged me so tightly I thought she was trying to strangle me.

"I’m so sorry. I should’ve been there for her. I let her down. I had no idea—"

"It’s okay," she whispered. "Abby forgave you a long time ago."

"H-how do you know?"

"She told me so." She rubbed the back of my head, and I wondered how many times she had to comfort Abby this way because of me.

John approached us, resting a hand on Carla’s back. "Carla, the police want to talk to us."

She nodded and let go of me.

"Ash, we’ll be back soon," he continued. "You might want to call your parents."

I froze. I forgot I even had parents.

As Carla and John disappeared into another room, I sat down and pulled out my phone. I had several missed calls, all from my girlfriend, Brigit. I was about to dial my mom’s cell number when it started ringing again. I didn’t want to answer, but Brigit needed to know the girl she dedicated her high school years to tormenting was gone.

"It’s about time," she said. "Where have you been?"

"I’m at the hospital. Abby’s dead."

She was silent. I continued, "I have no idea what went on today, but I have a hunch you’re the reason she left school in tears. By the way, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, we’re over."

Before she could respond, I ended the call. I called my mom, but I got her voice-mail. I didn’t want to tell her what happened this way, so I told her to call me back and left it at that. My parents weren’t home and they wouldn’t be home until sometime next week. I didn’t expect them to rush home because of this, even though Carla was my mom’s best friend and Abby was their god-daughter.

Putting my phone away, I buried my head in my knees. My chest ached, as if someone reached in and ripped my heart out.

The police had Abby’s suicide note, but I memorized every word. She had said she wasn’t good enough to be my friend, but the truth was she was too good for me. She cared about me more than anyone else ever did, but all the thanks I gave her was to stand back while she got bullied for three years. I never deserved her friendship.

All this time, I thought I was fine without Abby. If I ever needed her, all I had to do was knock on her door. How could I have been so stupid?

Time passed. As my thoughts became a jumbled mess, I wasn’t sure if minutes were all that was passing.

Thoughts of all the things Abby would never get to do ran through my mind. She loved the idea of falling in love, and it killed me she would never have that. She deserved to go to her senior prom. She wouldn’t even get to see the dresses on display in the up-coming months. She loved yellow. She would’ve worn a yellow dress, forcing her date to wear a yellow tie. If I wasn’t so upset, I would’ve laughed at the visual. Instead, I fought back tears.

Abby would never graduate high school. She would never go to college or whatever she planned to do. She would never get married and have kids. So many experiences she was cheated out on, all because of me. Because I left her to endure years of loneliness.

A gentle hand rested on my shoulder, bringing me back to reality. I looked up and met Carla’s gaze. "Ash, did you call your parents?"

"I got Mom’s voice-mail." It hit me just then that I would be going home to an empty house, and for the first time, I dreaded it.

"You’re not staying home alone tonight," she said as if reading my thoughts. "We want you to stay with us until your parents come back." She looked away, her eyes clouded with tears.

"Thank you."

"And, I’ll need your help tomorrow. I-I need to start . . . ." Her bottom lip could Abby do this to her?

"Making the arrangements," she finally said.

"I’ll help." It was the least I could do.

Silence overtook the car ride except for the occasional sniffle from Carla. I sat in the backseat, staring into the darkness. John dropped me off at my house to gather some of my stuff, and as I walked inside, I never felt more alone in my life.

I turned on every light. It was like I was five years old again and afraid of my own shadow. Abby convinced me the dark was nothing to fear. When we were six, I spent the night at her house, and after playing board games and eating overly buttery popcorn, her dad helped us make a tent out of blankets and chairs. Then, he turned on a flashlight and placed it between us, saying, "This is how real campers do it", before he flipped off all the lights in the living room.

I remembered lying there, terrified, but I tried to remain calm. I always tried to hide my emotions from Abby who wasn’t afraid of anything.

"Ash." Her wide brown eyes looked at me with concern. "What’s wrong?"


"You’re shaking. Are you scared?"

I looked around. I couldn’t escape the darkness. The tiny flashlight wasn’t enough, but I couldn’t admit that.

"Ash." She grasped both of my hands in hers. "It’s okay. It’s not that scary."

She flipped off the light. I yelped, but when her body shifted closer to me, I stopped. We were sharing a pillow.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"I-I think so."

"I’m right here. If anything comes to get us it can eat me first, okay?"

We slept this way the entire night. Not a night passed since that I needed a night light.

After washing off the blood, I stuffed a duffle bag full of clothes and other things. I turned off all the lights and walked outside. Other than the glow from neighboring porch lights, the night was a dreary black. November nights in Kelford, Pennsylvania were usually mildly cold, but tonighe seemed colder and darker than usual. I sped up as I neared the house Abby lived in just this morning.

Bracing myself, I opened the door and found Carla talking on the phone. I didn’t want to know what she was talking about, so I tuned her out and shuffled down the hall. I stopped in the open doorway of Abby’s room.

The purple carpet beside her bed was blood-stained, and I remembered my clothes were still soaked in her blood as well. I took my shirt off and slipped on the old t-shirt I planned to wear to bed, even though I probably wouldn’t sleep.

I looked around the rest of the room. It was neat and clean, which was the opposite of mine. Her full-sized bed had a fuzzy yellow blanket on top of it. The wall across from her bed was entirely lined with books. She enjoyed reading, but I guessed her lack of friends contributed to how many she read.

"Ash," Carla said from the hallway, startling me. "John’s getting the guest room ready. You can stay there."

She stayed in the hall with her head bowed. The sight of her dried my throat. It was probably too painful for her to come in. I hoped she didn’t mind me being in the room.

"Thank you," I finally said.

I wanted to know everything I could about Abby. I knew so much already, but I missed out on a significant portion of her life.

Her jewelry case sat on her desk, and a silver, heart-shaped locket lay beside it. It was my gift to her for her fourteenth birthday. On the front were the words Stay true to your heart, and the back read No matter what happens. Inside contained a photo of us from when we were kids. I stuck it in my bag and took a deep breath.

Her laptop pressed against the jewelry box, and under it was a sketch pad.

I never knew Abby could draw, but as I flipped through the pages, I was blown away. There was a detailed sketch of a sunset, a bare tree, one that did have leaves, some rabbits, and a squirrel scurrying up a tree.

Halfway through, the images became people. Portraits of Carla, her father, John, and another guy filled the pages.

Then me.

I looked in the mirror and compared what I saw to the sketch in my hand. Other than the fact my black hair was messed up now, I looked exactly like the guy in the drawing. Same muscular build, and she even filled in my eyes with a light blue color instead of leaving the color out as she had in most of the others. I turned the page, finding another drawing of me.

I swallowed the lump in my throat as I turned the page again. In fancy bubble letters, she wrote "Dream World". She drew both of us, our lips connected, and our arms wrapped around each other. Every detail was flawless, like she traced a photograph.

My face grew hot, but I couldn’t look away. She said in her note that she loved me. There were many different types of love, and I assumed she loved me as her friend or like a brother. I never imagined she was in love with me.

I flipped to the next page, but it did nothing to calm my thoughts. I was kissing someone else. Judging by the girl’s wavy hair, I knew it was Brigit. The word Reality stretched across the bottom.

The rest of the pages were blank. Those two images were the last ones she would ever draw.

Now, it made sense why she always looked miserable when she looked at me. If I had known how she felt, I would’ve convinced her that wanting to date me was a bad idea. It would’ve been better than torturing her all this time.

"Oh, Abby." I pressed my palms against my eyes. "What did I do to you?"

Next Chapter: Chapter 3