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Nicholas pushed the VHS into the VCR then pressed pause. “Do we all agree that we should watch this?” he asked everyone. Renee bit her lip, Nikki looked down, Lorin nodded slightly, and Chris averted his eyes to the window.
“Okay,” Nicholas said and taking a deep breath he pushed play.
“Wait!” Nikki exclaimed.
“Nik what is it?” Nicholas asked.
Nikki closed her eyes then said, “I don’t know if I can watch this.”
“Nik…I know it’s hard but she left it behind for us. Us not watching it-it’s like spitting on her memory.”
“Alright, I’ll watch it. But I’m not watching the end…not watching the end.”
Nicholas said, “I know, you don’t have to.” Nicholas pressed play and watched as the TV screen flickered to life.
“Sam…” Renee gasped when she saw her friend on the screen.
Sam’s brown eyes shined as they looked at the screen while she adjusted her black corkscrew curls. “Hey guys! Its Sam…I know if you are watching this then I went through with it. I killed myself. I don’t want you guys to blame yourselves, because it wasn’t because of you. I’m sorry because I know it must’ve been selfish of me but I’m just, I’m just tired. Well I don’t know what to say first. I mean how should I choose? Chris, I guess you might be in a lot of pain and really pissed at me so I’ll talk to you first.”
“You didn’t want to break up with me?” Chris muttered. Nicholas jumped up and pressed pause once more, the button wearing in from so much use after years of neglect.
“Don’t…Chris, we all lost someone okay. Just shut up, keep your attitude to yourself!”
Chris scowled and was about to scream an insult at Nicholas but Renee squeezed his shoulder and whispered, “He’s right Chris. Come on, we just got to get through this and then maybe we can have some peace.” Chris nodded trying to hide the tears in his eyes.
“Okay…” Nicholas murmured pressing the play button softly, noticing the deepening pause button.
Sam’s eyes came to life once more and the light flickered around the room. “Well…Chris. I’m sorry, I really do love you. You are my boyfriend and one of my best friends. I’ll always love you. I just, I don’t know. It is just too hard sometimes. I can’t keep doing this I’ve just been so depressed lately and,” she lifted up her sleeve, “I’ve been cutting. I didn’t want you to suffer if you found out. So it isn’t your fault and I don’t want you to think that I ever stopped loving you because I didn’t, promise. We were going to do all of these things…remember? Go to college together while renting an apartment a few miles away, then get married when I’d finished medical school and after you’d get drafted. Chris…I still want you to do those things, just not with me. I know it might be hard right now to move on but I want you to be happy, not sad, and never depressed. I love you Chris.”
There were tears forming in Sam’s eyes and she brushed them away. “I don’t know who to do now. What do you think guys? I shouldn’t ask you though because I think you’d all start arguing and totally forget about the tape.”
Nicholas and Renee laughed while Nikki chocked back a sob. “Well Nikki, onto you. We’ve been great friends…forever. Do you remember when we first met? I do. It was our first day in the second grade. I was really excited and I sat down to eat my lunch out of my Cinderella lunch box. You came along and sat next to me. We started talking, and I bent down to pick up the penny you ‘accidently’ dropped and when I came back up to hand it to you my lunch box and my lunch was gone.”
Nikki laughed then whispered, “It was such a nice lunch box!”
“Well I found you and after we fought for a few minutes somehow became best friends. I will never forget you, no matter what happens in my life…or after it. Nikki, I know that you are an amazing person. I know you can do anything and believe me, I’m sorry to you, all of you, for putting you through this. But I hope that you can understand.”
“I do honey, I do. Don’t feel bad,” Nikki whispered.
This time Chris pressed stop, waited a few minutes and murmured, “Do you guys want to take a break?” Nicholas nodded and held hands with Lorin who was comforting Nikki. Renee stared at the blank screen for a few more minutes.
“I don’t know if I can watch this much longer,” Renee sobbed. Nikki nodded her head in agreement.
“Nicholas is right though, it would be rude to her memory not to watch it,” Nikki said wiping away her tears and assuring Lorin she was okay.
“Why don’t I make us a snack?” Chris asked getting up, wanting to be away from all the sobbing and sadness.
“Maybe water and crackers, I don’t think any of us are up to a meal right now,” Lorin suggested stretching and opening the curtains a little more. Renee and Nicholas nodded in agreement; Nikki leaned against the wall, not yet ready for food.
“All right, water and crackers coming up,” Chris said trying to smile. Chris climbed the steps feeling his own tears welling up into his eyes. He was glad they had been able to do this on a weekend. It was too tough to have to go to school the next day. Fortunately their parents had left them alone and no one else knew about the video tape.
Chris remembered all the times Sam and him and gone to each other’s houses, gone on dates. It was so perfect back then. How could she have been unhappy? She was one of the smartest girls in school; she had a great boyfriend, loyal friends. That wasn’t the life of a girl who committed suicide was it? Chris drove the thoughts away, knowing that as soon as they infiltrated his mind for too long the tears would never stop flowing.
The water flowed down his dry throat but the crackers were too stale and salty. Chris ate them anyway, they might help him forget. He hated that this one girl, this one funny, sweet, lively, beautiful girl made him, varsity football team half back cry more than he’d ever cried in his life.
“I’ll always love you.” The words Sam had said to him before she committed suicide. “Then why did you kill yourself? Because I can’t bear thinking you were unhappy,” Chris thought bitterly.
Nikki was in the drama club so he was used to seeing so many tears from her but not usually real. Nicholas was quite calm; the exact opposite that Chris has expected the drama club president to be. Usually he was high strung, yelling, making huge motions. Chris could tell he wasn’t helping the situation by being angry but, he hated how Nicholas who was so crazy could be so calm, yet he who was so quiet, calm, and silent was crying like a baby.
Lorin and Renee were the moderate ones as usual. No true club associations except for Spanish Club, it was hard to tell what they were about. It evaded them all how they could be with one another but Sam had really brought them together. Maybe that’s why it felt so strange being there without her now, because at least they were all friends. He was just their dead friend’s boyfriend, no ties to him. Was he just going to be left with the football players who didn’t understand, many had never lost a loved one, they couldn’t relate to his pain. He couldn’t be around people who didn’t know what it was like, he just couldn’t.
Chris walked back down the stairs, the stale, salty taste of the crackers still in his mouth. Nikki stared out the window, letting the sun blind her, ignoring the food and drink. Nicholas ate hungrily with Renee while Lorin sat near Nikki.
They waited for about twenty minutes and when everyone had eaten a little something Chris got up and pressed play, gently, like Nicholas had before.
The video played once more the screen turning from blue back to Sam’s corkscrew curls bouncing every time she moved. “I guess…I need to do someone next. I know Renee probably wants to get this over with so you’re next. What can I say Renee? You didn’t steal my lunchbox but you’ve been with me for just as long. When we met, or became friends rather, it was…oh gosh, it was the middle of February, just a few days before my birthday. My mom had told our teacher, Ms. Elliott, that she was going to bring some treats for the class but she wanted to know what they would like best. You were the only one that voted for banana bread, everyone else voted for cupcakes. But I told her to get banana bread, because I liked it too. Then when we brought it to the school everyone was so surprised. You looked at me, I looked at you, and we clicked. You, all of you really, have been with me through some of the toughest times. So I want to be here with you. I’m really sorry but I hope you can be happy, with someone else who likes banana bread.”
Renee giggled just before both she and Sam burst into tears. Nicholas put an arm around her while Chris felt the tears coming on again. Lorin ate crackers while she shared her chair with Nikki.
“Lorin, Lorin, Lorin, Lorin. I don’t know what to say first. I mean I remember when you first moved here everyone called you Lorin Trout instead of Lorin Tout. So then you started wearing fish shirts. Well then Nikki, Renee, and I started wearing fish shirts. We were so silly weren’t we? Well after all of your allergies and boyfriends we’ve gotten through.”
Lorin laughed remembering their first sleepover when her mother gave a list of all her allergies, habits, and fears.
“You are strong hon…stay strong, love you.”
“Love you too…” Lorin murmured while Nikki and Renee stroked her hair. Nicholas smiled and brought a chair for Chris so they could sit closer. It was better that way, having pain individually hurt too much, at least this way they were together. Chris paused the video again before sitting down next to all of them.
“What do you think?” Nicholas asked. Chris breathed a deep sigh and leaned back in his chair.
“I don’t know,” Chris replied, his face stoic.
“I’m still hungry,” Lorin said.
“Me too,” Nicholas whispered.
“Well how about we make some sandwiches and split them with each other,” Nikki suggested.
“Okay, that sounds good,” Renee said.
“You get to help make them since you suggested it Nik,” Lorin called as she ran up the stairs. Nikki giggled as she followed her friend. Chris was going to stay downstairs but if he was going to be around people who understood and had lost the same person he was going to have to overexert himself.
Nicholas followed wishing he wasn’t there. He loved Sam, and he loved his friends but he didn’t want to do this. He desperately didn’t want to be chosen. What would she say? Would he feel unsatisfied, like he needed more? If he did he could never get rid of the feeling, she was gone now, and there was nothing else she could say to him.
Sam was someone who had really understood him. Realized there was more than just an aspiring actor inside him. He was intelligent and had so many other things. How was he going to survive with her gone? “I hope you’re happy Sam…” Nicholas muttered. He didn’t mean it; he would just miss her, so much.
Nikki, Chris, and Lorin were upstairs making sandwiches while Lorin snaked on potato chips. She felt so strange. She loved everyone but she felt, she felt such rage towards Sam. She had never been this mad at her friend. Why did she do this? Didn’t she know that Lorin loved her? How could she let Lorin find her on the floor, blood flowing from her mouth, an empty pill bottle on the ground? She didn’t want to hurt anyone? Look what she had done to her. Lorin couldn’t close her eyes without seeing her friend that way, and that made any sort of sleep impossible. She loved her but she resented her, but the video, which gave her a new image to see when she closed her eyes made her lose the resentment.
Renee smiled but she felt so dead inside. Her life didn’t revolve around Sam but she was her friend. Why? Was there something else she could’ve done? Could she have stopped her? Maybe, she knew Sam got sad at times but never depression, and cutting? Sam thought it was horrible, it was all a cover. “I hope you’re at peace…” Renee murmured before she bit into her sandwich.
Nikki carried down the sandwiches thinking about her friend. She felt so bad. When Sam had…had killed herself she had been mad at her and fought with her. The last moments she had with her friend were spent yelling at each other. But she still loved her. “I love you too,” Nikki thought to herself when Nicholas pressed play.
“Nicholas, I love you so much. We’ve been friends since fifth grade we’ve talked about so many things. Sometimes I felt you were the only one who can understand me and vice versa. But don’t feel that way about me. You can express yourself to the world. I know how amazing a person you are. Share your voice with the world.” Nicholas smiled then nodded as if they were talking to one another, which was what it felt like.
“Okay I just need you guys to do one more thing for me. Go up to my room and under the mattress are letters to my parents, I want you guys to give them to them. Well…I love you guys, I love you so much. You’ve changed my life forever. Bye.” The screen flickered and Renee got up to turn it off.
“I can’t believe she’s gone.”
“She’s not gone. She’s always with us…always.”
“It’s not the same as-”
“I don’t think it will ever be.”
“I miss her so much.”
“We all do but if she wasn’t happy…”
“That doesn’t make me miss her less.”
“We at least know she loved us all.”
“Come on…let’s go.”
“Don’t forget the letters!”
They all filed out of the room and Nicholas closed the door behind them. Lorin ran back down the stairs and opened it, Sam might want the light.