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With a heave, I threw my backpack over my shoulder and headed towards the stairs. What a day it had been. My absolute best friend, Liz and her twin Rachel, had gone ahead on my request while I stayed back to clarify various things with my teachers, so I had to walk home alone. Liz and I told each other everything. We were inseparable and every second without her was torture. Rachel and I were close too, but not as close as Liz and I. I had always hated silence, and as I walked, the only thing that kept me from going crazy was the constant thud of my shoes on the sidewalk along with the whoosh of passing cars.
After fifteen long minutes of solitude, I reached my house. Once inside, I skipped up the steps to my room. I slammed the door behind me and ripped off my shoes and socks. I slid my backpack off my shoulders and felt instant relief from the ache of countless books and binders.
Sooner than I expected, it was time for swim practice. Even sooner it was over. As we drove home, we passed the scene of an awful accident. The front end of the van had been smashed by an oncoming S.U.V. That section of road had been blocked of from the rest of the road and it looked like they had used the Jaws of Life to get a passenger out. Amazingly, the driver’s side was virtually untouched. As we drove away I realized that van looked exactly like the van Liz’s parent’s drove. Scenarios began to run through my mind. Where they okay? Where they dead? I checked my mom’s face for any reaction at all but she had been too distracted with the road and singing along to the radio.
As we pulled into the driveway, I jumped out of the car and wrenched the front door open. I darted up the stairs and into my room where I flipped open my laptop in a hurry. I tapped my fingers on the desk impatiently as I waited for the internet to load. When it finally popped onto my screen, I opened my inbox and searched for any new e-mails. Nothing. I took it as a good sign, thinking that if anything had happened Liz or Rachel would have sent out an e-mail. I was not relieved though. I trudged down the stairs with the burden of anxiety and worry sitting heavy on my shoulders. I shoved some spaghetti-os into the microwave and leaned against the counter to wait. Just as I did, the phone rang.
“Hello,” I spoke into the phone.
“Hey Emily, I need to tell you something,” Liz said. I could hear that she was struggling to keep it together as she spoke. “We were on our way back from the pool after we left early and Rachel was in the front and, and…” Liz’s voice quivered as a flashback to what I had seen earlier that night ran through my mind. “And an S.U.V came out of nowhere and ran into Rachel. They took her to the hospital but no one could save her.” Liz’s sobs were very audible over the phone.
“When?” I asked in a shaky voice.
“Half an hour ago.” Liz said.
“Oh my God! What can I do?” I asked.
“I don’t know!” Liz cried.
“I’m so sorry, Liz,” I said in an attempt to console my weeping friend.
“Bye,” Liz said and abruptly hung up the phone.
I walked slowly down the hall to my parents’ room so I could tell them what had happened. As I explained, reality hit me like a brick wall. While I walked to my room, tears burned my eyes and blurred my vision. My heart felt as if it was being torn to pieces. I desperately wished for the hurt inside me to stop. I felt life as I knew it crumbling and all the debris was tumbling down to bury me.
The sun peaked through my curtains the next day, but I did not move. I had skipped school and it was three in the afternoon. I hadn’t eaten a thing all day. I simply lay in my bed and let memories of Rachel flow freely through my mind as I held a picture of us together close to my heart. That was all I had. Memories. So many tears had fallen from my eyes that there were known left to cry but my heart was still being ripped apart inside. Suddenly a glimpse of Liz hopped through my mind. She had always been there for me and now I was sure she needed me. I slowly sat up and pulled back the covers. I let my legs dangle over the edge of my bed before taking the first step. I trudged down the stairs and reheated some pizza. While I waited, I called Liz. When I got her machine I left a simple message, “Liz, I'm coming’ over,” and hung up the phone.
After my meager meal, I discovered a note from my parents explaining that they had gone to my Grandparent’s house and would be back at eight. I hastily put on some clean clothes and walked out the door.
I knocked on the Liz’s front door and waited. The door opened and Liz’s mother gave me an unexpected hug. I handed her the basket my mother had put together and walked through the door. She walked away so I ran up the stairs to Liz’s room.
Liz was lying in her bed staring over at Rachel’s empty one. I thought of all the times we had spent together up here. Today, though, the room felt different. I stood in the doorway for a while, trying to come up with a plan. Finally, I took my first step into the silent room. The floor creaked under my foot but Liz didn’t acknowledge my presence. I felt a sudden wave of emotion wash over me but I fought it back. I took a deep breath and whispered, “Liz?” as I took another step into the depressing space. There was still no reply or sign of life from my broken friend, not even when a cool breeze swept through the open window. I sat down at the foot of her bed and set a hand on her leg. Liz turned her tired head and looked at me with the most sad, forlorn, lost eyes I had ever seen.
“She’s gone,” whispered Liz before bursting into tears. Liz had always been a skinny little thing and was light as a feather, so I had no trouble when I reached for her shoulders and lifted her up. Her arms hung at her sides like limp noodles. She let her head fall onto my shoulder, and I wrapped my arms tightly around her. We held each other for what seemed like hours. We didn’t need words to describe how we felt.
“Okay,” Liz whispered to me. I loosened my grip on her shoulders and stood up. I walked to the bathroom where I wetted a washcloth with warm water. I wiped the tears from Liz’s face and grabbed some clean clothes from the dresser.
After she had changed, we went downstairs and found her mother.
“Do you mind if I take Liz out?” I asked.
“Uhmm,” was the only answer I got, but I took it as a yes.
Liz and I walked first to my house, where I grabbed my phone and a flashlight and left a note for my parents. Next we went to Ellie’s house where we dragged her off her couch and onto the sidewalk and went on with our pilgrimage. We made similar stops at Alice’s and Michelle’s, Haley’s and Marie’s. Each time we dragged them from their place of mourning and into the fading sunlight.
With our group finally assembled, we walked around our small neighborhood until we reached our favorite spot under the biggest tree in Ringwald Park. We sat down in a tight circle in the dark, empty park under our tree and shared stories of Rachel. We comforted each other as tears flowed from our eyes and trickled down our faces. It was then that I realized that we could somehow make it through this. None of us would have to go through this alone.