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Every morning when the sun has just started to rise, or, rather, trying to poke through the gray storm clouds, I sit curled up on the window seat with a mug of hot chocolate in my hands, afghan wrapped around my shoulders, letting the little bit of sunshine come through the filmy, grimy window in streaky, yellow bursts. And I watch. I don't watch the cars slipping and sliding down the street (the street is usually wet, it rains nearly everyday here), or the Weight Watchers ladies taking their morning jog, or the birds whizzing past, searching for a dry, warm place, or the daily commuters walking down the street carrying purses or briefcases on their way to their boring, miserable jobs. I watch the corner. The corner across the street from my house, the street corner between the Robinson's house, where simple, kind, neighborly Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, who always wave to me when I get the mail and Mrs. Robinson is out gardening, or I'm out tanning on the rare summer day when the sky is clear and sunny and Mr. Robinson is getting into his car to go somewhere or other, and the Bee's house, where Mr. and Mrs. Bee and little Bobby Bee and tiny Baby Bee live. Quiet folk, keep to themselves, kind of shady if you ask me. One of the reasons they were a suspect in the murder, but there was no evicence, and honestly, I doubt it was the Bees. I watch the corner.
Back to the corner. I watch the corner. I watch anyone who walks there, any car who pulls over next to it, any dog or cat that wanders into it or any bird that flys near. Any raindrop or snowflake that falls there and any rare ray of sun that falls there. I watch the corner because a girl died there. Mallory Carlson, a.k.a. Mal. A stray bullet hit her in the back of the head. No one knows if it was intentional, or an acciedent, or if Mal just happened to stumble into a gunfire war between a gang or two drunks. No one knows, because no one saw. But that's really not important to the story. The important part is that Mal was my best friend.
I remember everything that had anything to do with Mal dying. I remember the phone call from a friend of ours, Felicia. I remember sitting on my couch with Us Weekly open in my lap, watching The Bold and The Beautiful. I remember the house phone ringing. I remember originally thinking I would let the machine get it, but by the third ring I decided to just answer it. I shuffled over into the kitchen and picked up the receiver.
On the other end there was only snuffling and sobbing.
"Hello?" I repeated. "Who is this?"
A throat being cleared, then, "A--Al--Alexis?"
"M--M--Mallory's d--d--dead!" and then more sobbing.
"That's a really sick joke, Felicia. Not funny." Cause we did play some pretty sick jokes on eachother back then, our group of friends. Not so much anymore.
"I'm n--not j--j--joking! Mal's dead, she got sh-sh-shot!"
And I remember standing there, holding the phone to my ear, The Bold and the Beautiful playing in the backround, not saying a word, not daring to breathe. Then I remember dropping the receiver, and the phone breaking in two with a crack when it hit the linoleum, and then falling to my knees, still hardly breathing, not making a sound. I remember being in shock, miserable, desperate, disbelieving shock. And then i remember crying. I remember my mom coming home from work, and finding me like that, the broken phone infront of me, on my knees on the kitchen floor, crying, the TV still making sounds in the backround I barely heard. I remember my mom's cell phone ringing before she could ask me what on earth had happened, and her picking it up, and saying "Yes, Deborah?" Deborah was Mal's mom. And I remember the gasp of shock, the one tear that slipped down her face, and I remember her hanging up the phone and slipping it back into her purse. And I remember her standing there, one hand on one of the kitchen table's chairs, looking like she wasn't quite sure what to do with herself. And I remember her coming over to me and kneeling down and wrapping her arms around me, because it was the only thing she could do.
I remember Mal's funeral. I remember Mom and Dad and I driving there, in our black mourning clothes. I remember Mal's mom crying. I remember standing with Felicia, Jamie, and Cassi in a circle, Jamie smoking a cigarette and Jamie sipping from a water bottle, but we all knew that there sure wasn't water in the bottle, and none of us saying a word, and the awkward, empty, strange gap in the circle where Mal would have been standing. I remember Jeremy's hand on the small of my back and his lips on my cheek, and I remember the quiet limo ride to the cemetery. I rode with Jeremy, Cassi, Felicia, and Jamie, but my usually loud, upbeat, joking friends and boyfriend didn't utter a single word. Nobody said much of anything that day. I remember the white casket being lowered into the ground and I remember the pastor telling us all to pray and I didn't. I remember Mal's mom screaming and trying to throw herself down along with the casket that held Mal, and I remember Mal's dad holding her back and dragging her away. I remember Jamie, Felicia, Cassi, and I having our arms around eachother and crying together, Jeremy standing awkwardly to one side. I remember thinking that in all our years of growing up together as best friends, none of us had ever thought that we would be losing one of us at fourteen. I remember Jeremy holding me and me sobbing into his chest, and him stroking my hair, trying to make everything better. I remember he couldn't.
I remember that party a week or so after the funeral at Jamie's house for me, Jeremy, Cassi, Felicia, of course Jamie, and our parents. We had all grown up together, all the parents knew eachother and the kids knew everyone's parents, we had grown up together not as best friends but as sisters, I remember us being there for eachother. I remember some of Mal's family showing up, her cousins who I knew well, her grandmother, her godmother, and three aunts and one uncle. I remember Jamie standing on a chair with drink in her hand saying, "Tonight we do not mourn Mallory Marie Carlson's death but celebrate her life and good times we all had with her. There will be no tears tonight, only laughter, and we will all come together as people who loved Mal to celebrate her, and remember happy memories we have and will always have with her." But there were tears that night. I remember watching Cassi slip out the back door and following her out of worry. I found her standing on the back porch crying quietly. When I closed the door behind me she turned round. I remember her mascara in long streaks down her face. I remember hugging her and kissing her on the cheek. I remember her going home early because of the state she was in. I remember telling her parents and them hurrying out the door to make sure she didn't do anything stupid. I remember standing with my head on Jamie's shoulder laughing while she told Mallory stories. I remember hugging her mother and talking to her cousing Trish. I remember hoping that Mallory was watching us and smiling. I hoped wherever she was, she was happy.
I remember Jamie slowly straying away from Cassi, Felicia, and I in the weeks and months after Mal's death. I remember that by the one-year-anniversary on Mal's death, none of us had spoken to Jamie in weeks. I remember walking around to the back of the school one day looking for Jeremy and finding Jamie slumped against the wall smoking meth and pot alongside all the kids people called goth and emo. And I remember staring at her, my mouth open, and i remember her meeting my eyes and staring at me as if I was a total stranger.
I remember that fight with Jeremy, how we had screamed and yelled and I had cried. I remember how he had told me that I needed to let go of Mallory and move on, and telling me I was living in the past because of her. I remember him getting in my face and screaming "MALLORY IS DEAD!" and I remember telling him to get out and never come back, and I remember him saying "That's fine with me!" and walking out the door, slamming it behind him. And I remember never speaking to him again.
I sit on the window seat watching the corner, then I get up and head for the bathroom to take a shower. I dress and throw my hair into a ponytail and walk out my front door. I look both ways and cross the street. Then I stand at the edge of the corner, the tips of my sneakers just touching the curb. I put one foot on the corner and then the other. I move towards the center and stand there. Rain fell down around me and wind blew my ponytail side to side. "Mal?" I whispered tentatively, questioningly, almost hopefully. And then a breeze tickled my cheek and I could almost feel Mallory there, standing beside me, holding my hand, helping me face the world. "Always remember," I whispered. "Promise." Because best friends are never truly separated, not by life, or by death, or anything in between.