I’m freezing. I have been for the past week. Looking back, hearing Wendy’s voice…“just numbing the pain.” How could I have been so clueless? How could I hear that from my best friend and not give it any thought? Everything that happened in that final week of her life and I was stupid enough to not put together the pieces.
It’s raining; hasn’t completely stopped for a week. I watch the back and forth of the windshield wipers sweeping away the water. The grass seems as if its permenantly flooded. I’ve been walking outside when it pours whenever my mom leaves the house, which she doesn’t do often because she’s scared that Wendy’s death is going to make me do something drastic. Something drastic is what I need to do but it’s not going to be something to cause myself physical harm.
I pass another stop sign. Whatever. If mom wanted me to get to school in a safe manner, she would have driven me herself. I drive into the parking lot, trying to pull myself together enough to dodge the kids walking to the school. I find a spot towards the very end of the lot.
I take a deep breath in and let it out. I get out of the car and start towards the school. Last time I did this, Wendy was walking besides me. “Just numbing the pain.” Those g*dd*mn words again, get out of my head.
My thoughts are interrupted by the bell. Late. Awesome. I make my way to my first block English class, ignore the sub’s request for a late pass, and walk to my seat. The stares that I get are ridiculous, everyone noticeably turning their heads, their eyes following me to my seat in the back of the classroom. But I don’t care. I might have cared a week ago, but now life is just blah.
Today’s subject: commas. Ugh, seriously, senior year and people still can’t get these? I put my elbows on the desk and rest my head in my palms. I stare at my favorite poster in the front of the room: “writing is the soul on paper”. What draws me to this, I don’t know. I can’t write for anything, maybe it’s that I wish I could, who knows?
As I’m staring down this poster, my thoughts run wild, but I don’t try to stop them. I’ve got the next hour and a half to think things through.
I go back to that Wednesday morning. I’m in my car on my way to Wendy’s house; I used to pick her up from school because her parents were too busy getting divorced and didn’t have the money to buy her a car. She has long sleeves on; it’s May 22, she’s going to be hot in that school. She gets in the car with tears in her eyes. She’s been crying a lot lately, but every time I see her cry, it hurts me too, “What’s wrong?” I say.
“You know how I called you after school yesterday about Alex being a complete jerk?” Wendy had confronted Alex, her year long boyfriend, about how controlling he was. He wouldn’t give her any freedom and the only person he would let her hang out with was me because me and him were friends too.
I put the car in reverse and pull out of the driveway, “Yeah, what about it?”
She waits a few seconds and takes a deep breath before she begins, “Well after I called you, I was so upset, and I just wanted to talk to him. I called him and asked him if we could talk. He said that he could come over but I told him that my parents went out; he knows that I think it’s inappropriate to be alone. So I said that if he wanted to talk, we could meet at Starbucks or something. He called me a b*tch and told me that the whole God thing had gone too far. That if I was going to be so pure and not even be alone with him, then I wasn’t worth the trouble anymore and…” She breaks down in sobs right there in my car, “he broke up with me.”
I’m shocked. So much so that I realize I’m not paying attention to the road and I swerve into oncoming traffic. I correct myself and turn to comfort Wendy; “Aw Wendy, I’m so sorry.” I can’t think of what else to say. Her and Alex were such a cute couple and I feel so bad but I am terrible at being a shoulder to cry on. I’m always so awkward.
She looks up at me, tears smearing her make up, “Why does this stuff have to happen to me? Why can’t my life be good like yours?”
Ugh, I hate it when people claim that my life is perfect, it’s beyond imperfection. “My life isn’t perfect. We all have things that we go through that suck. But you have me, okay? I’m always here for you.”
She manages to make a small smile appear on her face, “You’re the best.”
When we get to the school, we both get out of the car and start walking toward the building. She mumbles something, but the only part I heard was, “…just numbing the pain.” I’m not sure if she meant for me to hear it so I ignore it, but there’s something weird about today. I just have a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach.
When we reach Wendy’s classroom, I turn to her and smile; she does her best to smile back. Her mascara is still a bit smeared, but you wouldn’t notice it if you didn’t know that she was just sobbing her eyes out. Besides, she has gotten really good at hiding that kind of stuff. She’s a completely different person at school than she is at home or with me.
I’m not the hugging type of person, but I give her a hug anyways. I feel so bad for her, being punished for trying to be a good person. She doesn’t deserve this crap. Why can’t it be me instead of her?
I get to my first block English class, five classes down from Wendy’s math class. Our teacher is out on maternity leave and we have this creepy sub that likes to stare at all the girls. I don’t pay attention to him though. I just sit there and stare at my poster on the wall. I tend to get all A’s in my classes despite my daydreaming.
When the bell finally rings, I walk out of the classroom and head down to Wendy’s locker right outside of her first block class. She’s always there before me so when she isn’t today, I am concerned. I turn around and see her walking towards me, the tears present again in her eyes. Before she gets to me, I step her way.
“I didn’t get in.” she says when we’re in talking distance of each other. Her voice is barely a whisper. I see that she’s not quite crying yet but the tears welling up in her eyes are threatening to drop.
“You didn’t get in what?” but then it clicks: Northwestern. She applied for a journalism program there. She’s an amazing writer and I thought for sure she would get in. It was her dream.
She sniffles, “I got called down to the counselor’s office during first block. I got all excited thinking maybe things were looking up and maybe I got in.” She leans her back against the lockers, “When I got down there, Mrs. Marshall had me sit down and gave me a letter from Northwestern. I opened it all excited. It said that they really liked my writing but they didn’t have room in the program at this time and that I should try again next year.” She slides down so that she’s sitting on the ground against the lockers, I do the same. “Why can’t things ever look up?” the tears that were welling up in her eyes fall down her cheeks.
I don’t know what to say. Nothing I can say will get her into the program at Northwestern, nothing I can say will bring Alex back and make him not a douche bag, and I can’t do anything to put her family back together. So I just sit there next to my friend as she cries. The school passes us and doesn’t even glance down. Unaware of how unfair the world has been to this one undeserving girl.
The bell rings and we’re still sitting there. A couple of lingering kids rush to their classrooms. Silence fills the vacant hallways. We’re both looking ahead at the lockers across from us. Wendy has tear stains on her cheeks.
After sitting there for five minutes, I break the silence, “You think we should get to class?”
She speaks as if she didn’t hear me, but she wasn’t ignoring my question, she really didn’t hear me. Her head is so full of things that I couldn’t even imagine thinking, “I feel like the world hates me.”
We’re not going to class. She needs help. “Wendy.”
“Yeah?” She said, not moving.
I breathe in hard and spit this sentence out delicately but quick, like ripping off a band-aid, “Do you think you should go talk to somebody?” The words I’ve been trying to build the courage to ask her.
She looks at me now, “Who would I talk to?” Her eyebrows are scrunched together, confused.
I have to be gentle here, “I don’t know; someone who can make you feel better. The world doesn’t hate you. I feel terrible sitting here watching you to think it does. I feel like talking about all these things that have happened to you could make you feel so much better about life.” I turn towards her. She’s back to looking at the lockers.
Her voice is sharp, “You listen to me. I will not talk to anybody. There’s nothing to help. I have bad luck and the world likes to dump it’s sh*t on me,” She turned her face to me, “That’s all. If you say something to anyone, this friendship will be over.”
I stay quiet. How does someone take that? Just as I open my mouth to sigh, she interrupts me.
“Do you understand me?” I look at her face. Its stone, no one is going to make her change her mind.
“Yes,” I say, “and if you won’t talk to anyone professional, I hope you know that you always have me.”
Without a word, Wendy gets up and starts walking towards the doors to the parking lot. How is she going to get home?
When she’s about five doors down, I get up and follow her in that direction. She pushes open the doors and turns right. Strange, the parking lot is to the left. I run up and grab the door before it slams shut and peek my head outside the door. She’s walking home.
“Miss Graham?” I pull my eyes away from the poster I wasn’t even aware that I was still looking at. I shake my head to rid my mind of the sight of my friend. It felt as if I was actually there. The picture of Wendy walking towards her house disappears and I see the sub standing in front of me, seating chart in hand. I look around, the class is gone.
“Sh*t, sorry.” I hate swearing in front of adults. I think it’s so trashy, but lately I’ve just lost the energy to care. I gather my books and slide out of the room.
I should have followed her. I should have known that she wasn’t in the right state of mind to be alone. I shouldn’t have been worrying about my math test second block. I shouldn’t have gone to class. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Next block, math. I’ve been dreading it since I woke up this morning. I try to fight the urge to skip but when I walk in the room and see all the little teacher’s pets already sitting there two minutes after the bell to let out first block went off, discussing the lessons that they’ve had, I crack. I can’t do it. I sneak out of the room before anyone sees me and head out to my car.
But I can’t go home. Mom’s there and she would freak if she knew what was going on in my head right now. Ugh, I’m just so exhausted. I get to my car and get in. I recline the seat and rest my eyes.
I’m in math class. The teacher is handing out our tests. This is the one subject I am terrible at, yet I am in pre-calc. I have no clue how I got there but I’m there and barely hanging on to a C-. I need to get a good grade on this test to keep that grade going into the final.
I’m half way into the test when my phone vibrates in my pocket, people within hearing distance of the loud vibration of my phone turn and glare at me. I figure it’s just a text and it’ll stop after vibrating twice. But it doesn’t stop. Someone’s calling. I feel my face getting red. I reach into my pocket and glance at the caller ID. It’s Wendy. I think back to our conversation in the hallway. A chill runs up my back. Something’s wrong.
I stand up and walk to Mr. Burke’s desk. We’re not supposed to use the bathroom during tests but hey, I’m a girl and we have an excuse that’s bound to work every time, even with the stubborn teachers.
He takes his time writing out the pass and I unknowingly start tapping my foot. When I see he’s finished signing the pass, I grab it from the desk, his pen just barely off the paper and speed walk out of the room.
As I’m rushing out to my car, I call Wendy. My phone is between my ear and shoulder and I’m fumbling with my purse, digging for my keys. It rings five times and goes to voicemail. “Sh*t.”
I drive the route to Wendy’s house figuring I’d see her walking on her way home but I pull into her driveway not having seen her the entire way there. The garage door is open and there’s no car inside. Wendy’s mom had stayed home from work that day because she was sick, she wouldn’t have gone out. There was a spare set of keys to the car on a hanger by the front door that she kept just in case she was to lose hers. Wendy was never allowed to drive it because her mom didn’t want to be “stranded” at home without a vehicle.
I sit in the driveway for about five minutes until I decide my next action should be to go to the door and ask her mom if she knows where she is. I get out of the car and walk up to the front door. I hesitate before knocking. I have to plan what I’m going to say before I say it.
Thirty seconds or so after I knock, the door opens and Wendy’s mom is standing there. You can tell that she’s sick, her eyes are puffy and her nose is red. Her hair is up in a messy bun. She looks surprised to see me, as any parent would be at ten thirty in the morning on a school day. She coughs before speaking, “Um Amber?”
I put my hands in the pockets of my jeans, “Uh yeah. Hi Mrs. Moore, I was wondering, is Wendy home?”
Her eyes get wide, “Why would she be home? It’s a Wednesday. She’s at school, where you should be too.” I feel bad being here, it’s obvious that she’s losing her voice and she sniffles and coughs about every ten seconds.
“Well, actually,” I look at the ground, “Wendy left school before second block today. I saw her walk out and I saw out the door that she was heading here. I got a call during class and it was her so I left and tried calling back, but she didn’t answer, so I came here and thought she’d be here and the car isn’t in the garage so I figured maybe you let her drive somew—“
She was out the door heading for the garage. When she sees the empty garage, her mouth gapes. “I have been in bed all morning; the garage door was shut last night before I went to bed.” Her expression changed and she ran into the house as fast as a sick woman can run and when she came back out, her face was a mix of anger and disappointment, “The spare keys are gone.”
So I was right, she stole her mom’s car. But where could she have gone? Her only other family is five states away.
Wendy’s mom calls her cell phone. Five rings and a voicemail later, she looks at me. Her face worried, “I’m going to call the police.” She walks away slowly, sadly but with purpose.
I barely hear her or notice her leave. I’m standing there stupidly looking at the ground, thinking of somewhere, anywhere that she could be right now. Where would she want to go in a time like this?
Mrs. Moore is still in the house and I get in my car and drive away. I’m driving for about fifteen minutes down by the forest-y part of town. Part of me trying to find Wendy and part of me just wanting a quiet place to think. I’ve been down here before with Wendy, Alex and my ex-boyfriend whom I was dating at that time. I remember that time, when things were so different. Happy even. I remember the laughs and the two guys trying to climb the trees. Then, I remember that down toward the end of the trees, there’s a dirt road. I drive that way and slow down to take a look at it. Far from the end of where we’d ever ventured down that road, I see a car. Mrs. Moore’s car. The car that Wendy stole earlier today. There’s smoke coming out of the front of the black SUV and chills run down my spine. I get out of my car and start sprinting towards the scene, gravel flying up behind my feet.
I’m gasping for air when I finally reach it. The entire front end of the car is crumpled against a tree, the biggest tree for miles. It’s on the left side of the road and from the looks of it; the car is only damaged terribly on the left. The driver’s side. I look through the passenger’s seat window which was still intact and see Wendy in the front seat. The airbag is deflated and hanging down onto her lap. Her head is resting on the steering wheel. There’s blood streaming down her face. It takes a second for me to put together what I’m seeing, but when I do, I realize that this was no accident.
I open the passenger seat door and climb in next to her. I say, “Wendy,” as if she’s just going to wake up and look at me.
She doesn’t move. Her body is limp, no life left in it. I put my ear as close to her mouth as I can to attempt to hear any signs of life. I hold my breath, nothing. I’m shaking right now sitting next to my dead best friend. As I’m sitting there, tears begin to fill my eyes and reality sinks. The car is still smoking. I look toward the center console and see a piece of paper tucked between it and the seat on Wendy’s side. I reach over and grab it. It’s written on a piece of notebook paper. I unfold it and my hands begin to shake, it’s the note that I never wanted to see. It begins, To whoever is the one to find my body. It’s Wendy’s neat handwriting, no doubt. The tears that were hesitating at my eyes begin to fall; I get out of the car, walk to the other side of the road and continue reading.
So much has gone on in my life this year. It’s supposed to be the best year of high school, right? But it seems as if it’s the year it fell apart. Everything was going great until Mom and Dad filed for divorce in September. How could two people who, together, created two beautiful children, just stop loving each other? Then there was Alex. He was such an awesome guy and then he just randomly turned on me for loving God and wanting to be the person that He wanted me to be. I couldn’t handle that. These things ate at me every single day of this year. Until once more, the world just struck at me again and didn’t let me into the program at Northwestern, the only reason I wanted to go there in the first place. I know that I’m a good writer and after being told by teachers and friends that I was sure to get in, that news just tore me apart. There’s nothing I want to do besides be a journalist. There’s no other profession in this world that can better suit me. So if they think that I can’t do that, what’s the point?
I would love my parents to know that I love them…together. Not separated. When they weren’t together, I couldn’t stand the sight of either of them. And to Alex, I want him to know that despite how controlling he was, I did love him at some point, but it just became too much and I lost track of who I really was because I was too concerned with being who he wanted. These next words are the hardest to read, And to Amber, I need her to know that she is my best friend and that she’s the only one that I fear I’m hurting by doing this. She told me that I could go to her no matter what, but I couldn’t let anyone see how weak I really was. I hope that one day she can understand that this world obviously didn’t want me. I know that all I have done in all of their lives, in everyone’s lives, is cause them pain at some point or another. I can’t hold the sobs back and I begin crying. I attempt to read the rest of the note through the tears fogging my vision.
I know I was all for God and everything but all these events that have happened made me question whether there even was a God. If there really is someone out there, I’d love to know how doing these things to me would show me His fatherly love. I don’t understand how a God that is supposedly so good and holy could cause me so much pain. So I decided, screw it. Screw the mask that’s been glued to my face and screw whoever is up there doing these things to me.
People may think that this is the end and a terrible thing. But in reality, I’m ridding their lives of a burden, the burden of my constant bad luck in life and my constant tears and constantly having to worry about being my shoulder to cry on. I don’t want to be anyone’s burden.
Whoever you are reading this note, if it survived this crash, I ask you to please not let anyone know of this note. Whether you’re a complete stranger or a close friend. No one should know that I killed myself. I’ve given up. No one should know how weak I am unable to endure life as every other human being is. I may not know you, but I love you for keeping this secret. If I don’t know you and you do this one thing for me, you are someone that I wish I had the pleasure of friendship with during my life. What you’ve seen is an accident.
I look up at the car. I can’t betray my best friend. The last request of her life was to keep this quiet so that’s what I’ll do.
I reach into my pocket for my phone and dial 911. A lady answers and before she’s finished with her greeting, I say, “There’s been an accident.” I don’t have to fake the sadness and fear in my voice, it’s all real. The lady asks where I am, it’s hard to tell because I’m not even sure where it was but when I attempt to describe it, it seems that she knows the place I’m talking about. She asks me a series of questions that I’m not even sure I answer correctly and tells me that the rescue squad is on its way. I remember giving her Wendy’s mom’s number.
After she hangs up, I stand there with the phone still to my ear staring at the “accident”. My best friend is sitting dead in that car and I have no idea what I’m supposed to do about it. Why didn’t I try to save her?
My phone vibrates in my hand; I don’t bring it from my ear to look at who it is. I press the answer button and hear the voice of Mrs. Moore. “I—I just got a call from the police. Wendy’s been in an accident.” She’s crying and I can hear the clanking of car keys in the background.
I can’t let her know that I was the one to find her dead daughter. I fold the note up, stuff it in my pocket and start speed walking to my car waiting by the main road, “What? Where? Wh—when?”
“I don’t know but I just called her father and he’s coming to get me and I’ll be on my way over there soon.” I can practically hear the thoughts going through her head, the picture of her daughter in her SUV bleeding and not breathing.
I’m practically running to my car now. No one can know that I was here. Not even the rescue squad, I try to hold back the tears that I’d been crying and attempt to comfort Wendy’s mom, “I’m sure she’s okay. I mean she’s gotta be.”
Wendy’s mom begins to agree with me and attempt to assure herself that her daughter is okay.
I have to think on my toes, “Do you want me to meet you at the hospital?” I’m praying that she says no.
“I think this is a time that her father and I need to be alone, but thanks for asking,” she never was very fond of me.
“Okay. Well if you guys need anything, let me know.” It’s hard to keep my composure throughout the conversation. She tells me that Wendy’s dad just got there and they’re on their way to the scene. I reach my car, get in and start it. I speed to the nearest parking lot, stop my car in the back of it, pull the note out of my pocket and let the sobs resume. I’m here for an hour until a phone call from my mom forces me to cease the crying and drive home for dinner. I throw the note in the glove box and start for home.
The bell to end second block wakes me from a nap that I didn’t intend to take. I open the glove box and pull out the note that I haven’t looked at since that day. I close my eyes and squeeze the note in my hand. I know what I have to do.
I get out of my car, note in hand, and begin to walk the direction that Wendy took from this school on the last day of her life.
While I’m walking, I look around at the soggy grass and the soaked trees. I think about the words that I will say. Wendy would thank me for this.
I walk up the drive way of Mrs. Moore’s house. It takes me ringing the doorbell twice for her to come to the door. It opens a crack and I can see half of her face. Her eyes are puffy and she looks years older than she did a week ago.
Here it goes. I hand her the note that has been crumpled in my hand the entire walk there; she says nothing, just stares at me, so I begin. I take a deep breath in and say in my calmest voice, “Mrs. Moore…I have something I need to tell you.”