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What I Didn't See
It was late summer, on of those hot days with a bleached sky and red faces. We were at the pool, but the water was so crammed with bodies that it was hotter and sweatier than the air. We stretched out on the pool chairs instead and watched everyone pant and splash. Missy was laughing at something I had said, her knees tucked to her chest. I was on my stomach, dangling my ankles in the air and smiling.
I’ve drawn that scene a thousand times, but I’ve never gotten Missy right. At first her face was too sad, then to happy. I still try to match her perfectly to the memory because I want to understand how I missed the signs.
“Draw me something, Addie,” she said suddenly. She knew I had my sketchbook with me. I always did. I reached into my pool bag and found it and a pencil.
“Draw you what?” I drew lots of things, but mostly faces. I loved how a person’s soul was in their face. I flipped to a clean page and sat indian-style.
I started drawing Missy, but she interrupted me.
“You could weather anything with just that book, huh, Addieface.” She laughed. “Look at your eyes! If you concentrated that hard when I talked to you, you’d know all my secrets.”
I grinned. “Don’t I already?” I started drawing her nose.
She stretched out on her back. “The same old blue,” she groaned.
“What were you expecting? Green?” I put down my sketchbook and rolled onto my side, facing her, but she sat back up.
“Let’s go eat nachos.”
“Sure.” I crammed my sketchbook into my bag and dug out my wallet. She came over and slapped my hand.
“I pay. Go away.”
“A singer and a poet. Incredible.” I stood and crossed my arms.
“I hate singing,” she said. She grabbed three wrinkled dollar bills from her back and started walking. I froze.
“You’re kidding.” That was as impossible as me saying I hated art. She walked back and punched me lightly.
“Yeah, I’m kidding. Let’s get nachos. I’m starving.” She smiled, and I felt chilled to the bone.
The nacho cheese was spicy, as usual. I remembered halfway through the snack that Missy hated spicy nachos, though I loved them. It was our only difference we had with food. We even both hated chocolate. Everyone else looks at me like I said I hated them.
“You hate these nachos,” I said, staring at her. We were sitting on the pool chairs again.
“You don’t. I wanted to try them again, anyway.”
She melodramaticly plucked a cheesy chip from the paper tub and chewed it thoroughly. “Yum.” She grimaced.
“You weirdo,” I laughed.
“So I don’t like them. But you never eat them because I’m always around.”
“It’s just food,” I said.
“Yeah, well. Can I see my picture?
“Sure.” I retrieved my sketchbook, flipped to the quick drawing of her face, and passed it to her. She stared at it.
She handed it back. “It’s really great, Addie.”
I looked at it. It was rough, but I had managed her cheekbones perfectly for the first time. I looked back at her. “What’s wrong?”
Her face melted, but she just said, “I don’t have any eyes.”
I stared at the drawing. Perfect cheekbones, chin too pointy, neck to skinny – no eyes. I’d left them out. I hadn’t ever gotten eyes right. I was afraid to draw them because I knew I’d get them wrong.
Maybe that’s what I didn’t see in Missy’s face. Maybe it was her eyes pleading with me, telling me everything, but I never learned how to see them right.
“You’ll figure it out. You’re an amazing artist,” Missy read my mind like I never could hers.
I grinned at her, but suddenly she avoided meeting my eyes. She just flipped open her cellphone and frowned. “Three. I’ve got to get home.”
“I’ll walk you,” I said, standing
“No, that’s fine. You’ve got to get home too. Call your mom.” She tossed me her cellphone. I didn’t have one yet.
“She can pick me up at your house.”
“We live in opposite directions. I don’t want to be a hassle.” She pulled on jean shorts and a spaghetti strap over her tankini and slung her bag over her shoulder. I finished calling my mom and she held out her hand for her cellphone. I gave it to her.
“See you tomorrow, Addie,” she said and walked quickly away.
“See you,” I said. Then suddenly she dropped her bag and ran back to me, strangling me in a boa hug. “Bye!” I gasped. I saw tears in her eyes before she let go, grabbed her bag, and sprinted toward the exit.
The next morning, at 7:03am, her mother called me. Missy had committed suicide the night before.
It took me six months to decide not to follow her. I tried twice, but the first time I told my mom in time for her to save me, and the second she found me before it was too late.
Today I turn sixteen, one year older than Missy will ever be. I found my sketchbook in my forgotten pool bag, so I read it. A picture of Missy laughing. Missy sticking out her tongue. Our feet running barefoot in her backyard. Then the last one. Missy with perfect cheekbones and no eyes. Missy who killed herself six hour later. I sob, ducking my head away, trying not to get smudgy tears on this last memory of my beautiful friend. And suddenly there is a pencil in my fingers and I’m moving it across the a paper, and all the lines and shapes align in my head.
I draw Missy’s eyes. And they are perfect.