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I watched her through the glass walls that surrounded her. The perfectly done-up face was bent over a piece of paper, her shoulders slumping over as she wrote. Her obviously dyed dark hair fell over her shoulders as she moved her pend across the page. She must have known we were all there, but she never gave any indication of it, pretending to be completely engrossed in her writing.
I knew they were lies, those words she wrote on the paper. Lies she was trying to protect herself with - stories of what a kind, charitable person she was and how dearly she cared for humanity. It was disgusting. I turned away from the glass room and wandered through the building, greeting the people I had once known when I was young, all present to testify and show support/
It meant a lot to me - all these people gathered to bring her to justice. I should have been happy, but the hole in my heart was still there, turning the days into torment. God, I missed him. It had been twelve weeks since I had gotten the call. I was sitting in my apartment watching TV, waiting for him to come home. I answered on the third ring. I was discovered three days later, unresponsive, curled up in a tight ball on the floor of the bathroom.
"Hi." A voice came from behind me. Sarah. My best friend. "Sweetie..." That was all it took to bring the tears to my eyes once again. "Oh, honey," she cooed, gently putting her arm around my waist and leading me into my room. I was once again shocked at how tall she was. She had always been taller than me, but I felt so small wrapped up in her arms. For the next few hours, she listened, her kind face nodding and contorting itself to make empathetic expressions as I choked out my story.
"She-she saw me walking down the street one day with him. I had know her when I was little. She didn't like me. I-I guess old hatreds don't die, because she leaned forward and whispered 'b****' as she passed by. That upset him. He-he spoke to her, asking... asking her why she would say such a thing. Demanding that she stop. You could see it her eyes that she wasn't going to.
"It-it turned out that she was a new... a new secretary where he worked. Every time I went to his office, there was a new insult. I-I ignored it. I could take it. But I didn't know about him. She was getting to him. She-she was sending him little notes. I guess... I guess she left them on his desk or attached them to reports or something. I don't know. But they each said a horrible, terrible thing. He told me about each of them. I... I did everything I could. Everything. I told him he was amazing, handsome, incredible - and he was. He is. I confronted her and asked that she stop. She laughed in my face. I went to his manager and told him. But she was clever - oh, she was clever. She stopped for weeks, but she still kept at him. She-she would make these... these remarks. They didn't sound like insults, but they were. She's been doing that... that for years. So she wouldn't get caught. But... but soon there was another note. It said simply, 'Go Die.'
"He was a man unlike any other, but... Sarah, he's been depressed for years. I thought he was beating it. He smiled when he told me the darkness was beginning to recede. But I guess she brought it back. I could see it... I could see it in his eyes: he didn't believe me when I told him how amazing he was, what a flat-out horrible place the world would be without him, how much I love him. They were all so true, but... but he didn't believe me. So..." The words wouldn't come and I couldn't calm myself. The tears ran like miniature waterfalls down my face. She knew the rest of the story, anyways. He had taken his own life that night. She had broken him down until he was nothing. I could still hear the promise he made me when we were young: "I'll still be here when you wake up in the morning. Promise." He had wrapped his arms around me and held me close. I sobbed harder.
The next afternoon was the trial. I saw her in her class box that morning, a blank look plastered on her face as she gathered up her defense. She had the same absence of emotion in her eyes as she read from those papers, defiantly lifting her chin as she demanded to be seen as a wonderful person. It didn't change as dozens of people stood up and told the Counselor of her deeds. They described how she tormented them in elementary, middle, and high school. Those who had worked with him described his decline and her cleverly cruel taunts directed towards their own selves. Finally the Counselor called a break for dinner and rest. I would tell my story in the morning.
As had been my habit for the past twelve weeks, I ate nothing at dinner. I simply sat and listened as the others discussed what a wonderful system this was - how great it was that bullies were brought to justice now in front of Councils, much like how criminals would be tried in front of judges and juries. I said nothing the whole night and retired early to my room, despite Sarah's protests that being in a social situation would take my mind off my current position.
On my way to my room, I stopped in front of one of the glass walls that formed her prison for the duration of the trial. She was kneeling on the ground, body bent forwards so that she was almost in the fetal position, her back shaking as if she was crying. It was how I had knelt on the floor of the bathroom after the call, retching in the toilet.
I wondered what had happened to make her that way. I wondered what had led her to put that note on his desk. I wondered what it was exactly that made her cry like that. Remorse? Self-pity? She must have felt my eyes on her because she flew to her feet in one fluid motion and and turned to face me, her face red and swollen from her tears and her eyes burning with hatred. She flew at me, pounding on the unbreakable glass, screaming incoherent nonsense at me. When you're walking through Hell, these things don't matter to you, so I didn't move. When she sunk again to the ground, I turned and walked calmly to my room, grabbed a sheet of paper and pen and began to write. Two hours later, I was back at the glass room. With a piece of tape, I attached my writing to the wall so that she could read it. I retreated and sat on a bench about twenty feet away to watch her read it.
We dreamed of having children together. Four, we decided. We would live in a house by a lake, where the children would learn to swim. We had the house picked out. I would have been our wedding gift to each other. They tore down that house a week ago, but it didn't matter. He was torn down before it.
He sent me an email before. He told me how much he loved me, how much he hated leaving me, how much he regretted that those children would never be born. But he had to go, he said. This world didn't want him in it. At the end was a link to our song. He knew I wouldn't check my email until morning, when it was done.
They found him in a bathroom at the office. He didn't want me to be the one who found him first. He was selfless, even as he left. The world lost an amazing man because of you. You let the darkness in you destroy and corrupt you. Then you let that darkness beat down a man who had been fighting his own darkness for years.
I love that man, but I will never hold his hand again.
On the last word, she knelt on the floor before the glass, stunned. Tears fell onto her cheeks, smudging her recently-applied mascara. She looked as if all hope had abandoned her. I looked down at the piece of paper I had held back, still laying in my hands. Do not cry, for you do not know what tears are. I was not that cruel. I crumpled it between my hands and returned to my room.
The next day, I told his story with faltering words but no tears. I was empty of nearly everything but the hole in my heart. When I had finished, the Counselor asked me what I believed her punishment should be. I hadn't been expecting that. She was sitting there, that blank stare plastered upon her face. But today, that stare was different. Instead of defiant, she looked defeated. Suddenly, it dawned on me.
"A tattoo," I said. The Counselor looked at me as if I had lost my mind, but as I explained my idea, she began to nod and, finally, to accept it.
That afternoon, I stood in the back of a tattoo parlor, eyes fixed on the inside of her arm as the needle grazed over it, painting black script on her white skin. When it was done, it read "never lose hope", something he always whispered in my ear when I was upset. Beneath it was his name and the year of his birth and death. She looked up to where I was leaning against the wall. I could see her taking in my ill-fitting clothes and the dark purple circles under my eyes. Finally, her eyes came to rest on the ring I wore on the ring finger of my left hand.
"I'm sorry," she said. I didn't doubt it.
"Can you ever forgive me?" I looked at her sitting there and felt the answer stirring in my gut. I had to tell her the truth, no matter how much it may hurt her.
"No. It's not my forgiveness you should be asking for, anyway." I said it gently but with finality. Suddenly, I couldn't stand it anymore. I couldn't look at her face anymore. I walked out of the tattoo parlor and didn't look back. I never saw or heard from her again.