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I stepped onto the bus tentatively. The trepidation of what was to come hung over me like an axe waiting to fall. I knew that once I got on the bus, I was condemning myself to whatever consequences were sure to follow. I wanted to turn around, to run away and deny that I had ever considered it. That was the easy way out. But yet I knew I could never do that. I owed it to Emily. I had to go.
I paid my fare. This was it. No going back. I knew that if they ever found out that I’d been here, my life wouldn’t be worth living. Where was I going? The funeral of my best friend. The best friend, whom I had killed.
It had all started a few months earlier. I had made friends in my new form with the most popular and influential girls in school. Natalie, Elle, Jenny, Roxanna and Blake were feared throughout the school. And soon, I became one of them.
We bullied a couple of younger girls, but nothing too serious. We never got into trouble, for we were as sneaky as we were malicious. Soon, we progressed onto girls in our own year.
Back at primary school, I’d been friends with a girl called Emily. We were inseparable, best friends forever. Or so we thought. But when we went to high school, we began to grow apart. I never told my new friends about Emily. So that’s why I couldn’t mention anything when soon, quiet Emily became the new target for our abusive ways. I knew if I’d said anything, then my ‘friends’ would have turned on me too, and I was too selfish to stand up for my old friend.
I don’t know who suggested it, but we stole her planner and copied out her email address and her mobile number.
From then on we had a new way to bully. We sent her malicious emails and texts, prank-called her and even set up a hate website about her. Of course she didn’t have our mobile numbers or email addresses, so she couldn’t prove that it was us even if she’d wanted to.
Everything was going well. The hate site was getting over 100 hits a week, and soon even more people joined in. Emily was Pupil Enemy Number One, and really, she had done nothing wrong.
And then came the sleepover. It was Jenny’s birthday, so we all went over to her house. After texting loads of spiteful texts to Emily, I was egged on and almost bullied into sending the last text, before we collapsed into bed, exhausted.
While the others slept soundly, I lay awake for hours, tossing and turning, until the early morning sun rose over the rooftops of London. I just couldn’t get that last text out of my head, which I had dashed off to Emily, just after midnight. The words echoed round and round in my head. ‘The world would be a better place without you.’
As soon as I got to school the next day I knew something was up. The hum of voices resounded around the yard, and teachers stood in tight-knit groups on the school steps, their faces taut. As my friends and I strode through the gates, a hush fell over the chattering students. Accusing faces turned to look at us.
I scanned the crowd for Emily. She wasn’t there. Where was she? She would never be late – would she? Was she ill? What if…? Panic rose inside me.
The head teacher stepped down from his position on the steps. He headed straight for us, and the look on his face confirmed what I’d been too scared to consider.
“Girls, I have some extremely upsetting news for you. Last night, your classmate, Emily Stevenson, took her own life.” His voice was calm, but not yet accusing. Yet I still found it difficult to relax.
“Umm…sir? Why are you telling us this?” Elle dared to speak up.
“Her parents found her phone at the scene of her death. Upon further investigation, they found hateful texts, dating back from a few weeks ago. We have reason to believe that you may have been involved.”
His words were like a punch to my stomach. They knew. And if they knew that it was us that sent those texts, how long would it be before they found out that I sent that final text, the one which made Emily kill herself?
The murmur of voices and scuffing of shoes on muddy ground brought me back to reality. I peered out from behind the large oak tree near Emily’s graveside. The bus journey had flown by, and now I was stood watching the funeral. My body ached from standing still for so long, but I daren’t move. If someone was to as much as glance this way… I didn’t even like to think about it.
I turned my attention back to the funeral. As mourners began to move away, only Emily’s parents remained. I watched them pay their tearful last respects to their daughter. The sight of their grief-stricken, tear-stained faces made the guilt of what I had done unbearable. The only thing that stopped me from crying aloud was the fear of discovery. I wasn’t welcome here, I knew that. But still, I came.
Under the cover of dusk, I slipped out. I laid my meagre bunch of flowers on the freshly dug grave. As I stood there, my mind was racing. What was going to happen tomorrow? Would I go running back to my ‘friends’? As I looked down at Emily’s grave, I knew in an instant that I couldn’t. How could I stand it? Those girls had driven me to kill the best friend I ever had. I would make a stand against them. I would make sure that they realised what they had done, whatever the consequences that were sure to follow.