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I knock on my neighbor’s door, praying he won’t be mad at me. My best friend for 13 years, Chris, answers the door, half asleep. “What do you want Tyr? It’s three o’clock in the morning,” he says, yawning.
“Can I come in?” I ask, tears filling my eyes. Chris steps aside and I walk in, dropping my backpack and overnight bag at the foot of the couch. Chris sits down and I sit beside him, laying my head on his shoulder. “What happened?” he asks, rubbing my back, probably trying to stop my tears.
“My parents are fighting and yelling at each other,” I choke out when I can trust my voice again. “I couldn’t take it.” I sit up and start popping the rubber band on my wrist, a nervous habit I’ve had for the past year.
“Tyrra, stop doing that.” Chris exclaims, reaching for the band, “You are going to seriously hurt yourself.”
I put my hands in my lap, mumbling “sorry.” I look up from my wrist, staring at Chris’s parents’ room. “Do you think mom and dad will care if I stay the night?” I have called Chris’s parents ‘mom and dad’ for as long I can remember.
Chris shakes his head. “No, I don’t think so. Why don’t you take my bed and I’ll sleep here on the couch.”
I look up at him and shake my head. “I can’t do that. I can’t kick you out of your bed. I just want a quiet place to sleep. I’ll take the couch.”
“Are you sure? You can have my bed.” I shake my head and lie down. Chris retreats to his room for the night.
I lie awake for what seems like hours, thinking about all the times I had walked the mile through the woods to Chris’s house. Finally I got up and grab my overnight bag. I glance at the clock on the stove. Five in the morning. I sigh, walking slowly to take a shower and get ready for school.
When I get out of the shower I glance at the same clock. It’s been an hour. I lie on the couch and close my eyes, not planning on going to sleep.
I wake up thirty minutes later to a pair of baby blue eyes staring at me. I jump back before I realize who they belong to.
Kaleb, Chris’s younger brother, is standing in front on me, staring me down like I’m the black plague. “Hey buddy.” I say. “How have you been?” Kaleb nods, not meeting my eyes anymore. I reach for him but he cringes away from me. “What’s wrong, Kaleb?” I ask as Chris walks in. Kaleb runs off, back to his room.
Chris looks at me and shrugs, frowning.”Are you ready to head out?”
I stare at him. “Please don’t make me go to school today,” I beg. “I don’t want to go.”
“You have to Tyr,” Chris says, grabbing my wrist and pulling me out that door.
We walk in silence till we are about 100 yards from the bus stop. I stop and stare at the back of his head. “What’s wrong with Kaleb? I know he’s not talking and I know someone went to the hospital from your house a few months ago but what happened?”
Chris sighs. “It was 3 months ago tomorrow. Kaleb was playing in the road when a car came by speeding. It was almost too late when he saw him. The driver swerved, barely missing Kaleb. We had to rush him to the ER. The doctors say he went into shock. He wouldn’t move for 4 days. When he finally did ‘wake up’ so to speak, he wouldn’t talk. They say he has post-traumatic stress disorder. He hasn’t talked to anyone since he came home.” He pauses and I can see tears form in his eyes. “It was my fault. I almost lost my only brother that day. If I hadn’t wen’t inside to get my skateboard, it wouldn’t have happened.
I sigh sadly, wishing I had been around. “Chris, it wasn’t your fault. It could have happened-“
“IF YOU SAY-” he stops himself, realizing he is screaming. “If you say it could have happened to anyone…” he doesn’t finish his thought. Our friend Ricky walks up then.
“What’s going on guys?” He asks.
“Nothing.” Chris and I say together. The three of us talk until the bus shows up.
The school day goes by as usual, no one suspecting I feel like I’m about to cry. I feel so bad. I should have been around to help. If only I hadn’t been grounded, maybe I could have helped Chris not be so-
The bell dismissing students to lunch rang, interrupting my thoughts. “Tyrra, can I talk to you a second?” my geometry teacher asks as I am packing up my backpack.
“Yes, ma’am.” I pick up the rest of my things and set them in the back of the classroom with the rest of the students’ things. I walk over to her desk and stand in front of her deck. “Ma’am?”
“Your parents called the school this morning. They said you skipped out last night. Is everything okay?”
I rolled my eyes and walk toward the door. I stop just inside the class. “They only reason they called was so they could sound like good parents.” I turn on my heel, mumbling, “Like that’ll ever happen. I walk to meet Chris for lunch.
When I get to the cafeteria, I wait outside for Chris. 10… 15… 20 minutes pass and he still hasn’t showed.
Where is he? I look down at my watch and begin to worry when the 30 minute mark hits. I start to walk off when Ms. Wise stops me. “Where are you headed, Ms. Harris?”
“I was going to look for my friend. I need to go.” I push past her, ignoring her protest, trying to stop me. I walk the hallways checking in every class, thinking maybe a teacher needed his help with something. I even check all the boys bathrooms, knowing no one should be in them since everyone is at lunch.
I finally find him in the third floor boys’ bathroom, huddled in a corner, knees pressed to his chest. He looks really uncomfortable because of his tall figure.
I kneel down in front of him and put my hands on his knees. He looks up at me, face pale, stained with tears. I have never seen Chris cry until today. Even in his all-black outfit, he looks like the little boy I used to know. “What’s wrong, Chris?”
“You brought it back up this morning and- OH MY GOD!” Chris shouts, making me jump. “What did you do to your wrist?”
While looking for Chris, I hadn’t realized I was popping my rubber band. I had snapped it till I was bleeding.
He takes hold of my wrist and puts it under the faucet, turning on the water. I try to pull away but he is holding on tightly. “Chris, let go. You’re hurting me.” He doesn’t seem to hear me. I say it louder but still no reaction; he still won’t let go.
Finally, I say it a third time and I can see the realization cross his face but he still looks mad. He lets go of my wrist and yells at me. “How could you do this now? My brother is sick and you have to go and become some self-injury psycho!”
My eyes widen, but only for a second, then I regain my composure. “Your brother wouldn’t even be sick if you weren’t some skateboard freak,” I yell and run out just as the bell rings, ending lunch.
I run back to my geometry classroom, grab my bag and run to my 6th hour, Biology. Although it is my favorite class, I zone out, reliving the scene in the bathroom.
When the bell rings to go to 7th period English, I jump up and bolt out the door before anyone can stop me.
During 7th period I zone out, the whole hour, wishing I could go home. I’m scared though because Chris and I have to sit together on the bus because of the seating assignment given by the bus driver; or at least I thought we did. When I get on the bus, he isn’t there. I wait but he still hasn’t gotten on when the bus pulls away; he is a no show. This is a regular thing together apparently.
Ricky having football practice and Chris not showing, I ride home in silence. When I get off. I go straight to Chris’s house, hoping he might have walked home.
Kaleb answers the door seconds after I knock. “Is Chris here?” He shakes his head. “Can I come in?” He grabs my hurt wrist and I wince softly in pain.
He leads me back to his room and gives me a sheet of folded paper. I open the tri-fold and read:
Why haven’t you been around? I’ve missed you.
It is scribbled across the whole sheet of paper and I have to read it a few times before I could understand it. I feel my knees shake and the tears forming behind my eyes. “Kaleb, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know what had happened. Chris hadn’t said anything at school.” I hug him and this time he hugs me back for the longest time. I promise I will be around a lot more now.”
“Promise?” When I hear that one word, my mind goes blank and the tears flow. The first word Kaleb had said in months was to me.
I nod not trusting my voice, and wrap him in my arms.
Over the next 6 months, things progress quickly. Kaleb begins to talk to me a lot, and then talks to Chris.
One day, 3 months after Kaleb talks to me, he walks up to Chris and tugs his shirt. Chris looks down at his brother. One thing Chris hadn’t known was Kaleb and I had been talking together.
Kaleb looks up at his brother. “It wasn’t your fault. I was the one playing in the road.” Chris’s whole face lights up. After 6 months, Chris hears his brother talk, just to tell him it wasn’t his fault.
I also find that with Kaleb’s progress, I am successful as well. I stop snapping the rubber band on my wrist and I got my best friend back to his usual self.