Comfort in a Rose This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

January 5, 2012
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He used to tell me occasionally that when he woke up, he woke up in a forest. I, trying not to upset him, asked, “What did you see in the forest?” He began to explain, “I saw gigantic trees whose leaves were always green. There were tulips and daisies sprouting out of the ground in patches. The ground was dirt but there were no rocks and it was soft under my feet. There were birds singing and squirrels chasing one another up the trees.” I would always ask, “Did you see anyone you know there?” He would reply with, “When I looked passed the trees there was a hill and on top of the hill was a rose bush, I think it was Mom though. She always loved roses.”

I wanted to believe in this beautiful place Eric saw. I wish I could have seen it. I knew I shouldn’t wish to see such things since they usually weren’t so beautiful. Just like a rose, they seem nice but once you explore them further you find that they can be dangerous. These things he was seeing were all just alternate realities that were created within my brother’s mind on account of his schizophrenia. He had struggled with it as long as I could remember. My mother was his rock that kept him on the ground. She knew all the right things to say to make him feel better. After the car accident that left our family motherless, my father and I took on the responsibility my mother had once held. My father loved my brother and me more then anything but he could never understand what my brother was going through. Instead of comforting him, my father would just get angry not knowing how to handle anything. Since my dad couldn’t grasp the concept of what was happening psychologically to Eric, it was my job to help my brother through it and keep him safe.

Eric knew that what was happening inside of his head when he wasn’t in a schizophrenic state and he hated it. He didn’t understand why it was happening to him or what he did to deserve it. These lingering questions made him very depressed. He would come home from school, on days when he did get up enough courage to even go, crying and asking why he couldn’t just make everything go away. He refused to take any kind of medicine though. He felt that if he took the medicine the disease had won in a sense and he thought it meant he wasn’t strong enough handle it himself. He didn’t want to give in to it.

Eventually, it all became too much for him. It was during second period French II Honors that I received a call down to the office. When I took the first step into the office, the secretary had tears rolling down her face. I immediately knew what happened. Eric hadn’t come to school today. I had failed him. I picked up the phone lying on the old wooden desk of the secretary. “It’s your father,” she said. The conversation with him happened as followed:


“Yeah Dad...?

“He’s gone…”

That was it. I put down the phone and fell to the floor. I knew what had happened from those two words, “He’s gone.” I knew it didn’t mean Eric ran away or skipped town. It meant that I hadn’t kept my promise to him to keep him safe and strong.

On March 25th, 2011, Eric Lennox left the world and everyone who knew him and cared about him in it. He was only fifteen.

It had been almost a year after Eric’s death that I met Hadley. Hadley transferred into our school as a junior and was placed in my homeroom. She was very quiet. For the first month she wouldn’t talk to anyone. She had a very pale face and a look in her eyes like she was always lost. I knew this look because I had seen it before in my own brother’s gray eyes.

At lunch one day, I had noticed she was sitting alone, shaking in a corner of the cafeteria. She was trying to bring the food up to her mouth but her hands quivering motions didn’t allow her to do this smoothly. So, she threw the food down and put her face in her hands. Her head suddenly shot up and her eyes got big. Her lips started moving like she was talking to someone but there was no one around.

“Jess, can you save me a seat? I’m going to go talk to Hadley.”

“Sure, I guess.”

All my friends gave me odd looks but I shooed them away. I walked over to Hadley. She had managed to find the darkest section of the cafeteria to sit in. I could see why when I got closer to her. Her eyes were red and filled with tears and her cheeks were rose red and flushed. Sitting in this dark corner wouldn’t allow anyone far away to see what was actually happening.

“Hi Hadley.”

She stared up at me with a look of panic on her face and quickly picked herself up from the picnic style lunch table and ran off. I watched her run out of the cafeteria and all I could think of was Eric. I couldn’t let her spiral into the same thing my brother had. Hadley needed me and I needed her.

Ever since Eric, I had slowly started to doubt and second guess everything I did in life. I needed to help this girl to know I was capable of getting someone through hard times.

I got up and raced out of the cafeteria. When I got into the hallway, I looked down both ways like I was about to cross a street. At the end of the hallway, to the right, was a section of stairs no one used. For months after Eric I had cried there so, I assumed Hadley had found this place too.

I walked down only to find I was correct. I opened the doors to the stairs and there she was, curled up into a ball and notched in a little recess in the wall. When I walked in she almost sprung up but I stopped her.

“Hadley, I want to help. Please don’t run away. You hear them too, right? The voices?”

She gave me a look I can only describe as an I-just-watched-the-scariest-movie-of-my-life-and-am-now-terrified-to-look-under-by-bed look combined with an I-just-almost-drowned-and-am-never-going-near-water-again look. She knew that I had just figured out her biggest secret.

“My brother was the same way. He heard them and he felt like he couldn’t escape. Do you feel like that?”

She nodded.

“Do you know what used to help him?”

Shaking her head, she finally uttered the first words of what was to become a very long friendship. “No, but I would more then anything want someone to help me.”

“He would tell me about what he heard and saw. He’d explain to me everything he felt.”

“ he’s cured of it?” Her eyes lit up with hope and I thought to myself that I shouldn’t have ever started this. I now would have to explain everything about my brother to a complete stranger struggling with the same illness that caused Eric so much pain.

“Hadley, he wasn’t strong enough to overcome it. He tried to. I wish I was there for him more to help him get through it. I don’t want to let that happen to you. I can’t.”

“You don’t even know me.” Her response was cold, but I was consistent in my attempt to get through to her.

“I know more then you think. You see things that aren’t there but, you think they’re real. But, you’re completely conscious of this after they’re over and things become familiar.”

“You’re wrong. Obviously your brother wasn’t as messed up as I am.”

I was curious to what she meant by that. I asked her and she replied with, “I can’t tell the difference anymore. The line between reality and these alternate realities is blurred. It doesn’t make sense. I’m at a point to where I’ll be sitting in class and some a person dressed in Renaissance clothes will come in and sit next to me and I think they’re a student! I know you’re think I can tell the difference now but it’s hardly ever like this. I just…”

She stopped mid sentence and her eyes got big again.

“She’s not here. She went out. I don’t know when she’s getting back but she’s not here! No don’t come any closer! No!”

Hadley dropped to the floor crying uncontrollably. I got down on my knees and held her. She refused to open her eyes. There was someone else in this little staircase with us. I couldn’t see him but he was obviously here. Hadley had seen him and he apparently wasn’t a favorite of hers.

“Will you let me help you? I will do all I can to save you from this. Who was that that you just saw?”

She lifted her head up and put her hands in front of her face. She looked through her fingers like she was watching a horror movie. “It was my dad. He died when I was ten but he used to abuse me when my mother wasn’t around to stop him.”

I was taken aback by the news she had just shared with me.

“Come with me, we’re leaving.”

We exited through the front door, not telling anyone where we were going and not caring. I took Hadley to my little ’04 Mini Coop and helped her in. I drove us around the state for hours, just listening to what she had to say. She explained everything she had seen before or heard. She told me about her dad and how he terrified her. I took mental note of it all. She apparently had never seen anyone about her illness which shocked me. She told me her family was poor so she couldn’t afford it. I knew right away I had to call someone for her. I dropped her off at home around seven o’clock. When I pulled up to my house I ran in and did some research online. A half an hour later, I had called a psychiatrist and set up and appointment for her. I used the money I made over the summer scooping ice cream and my waitressing money to pay the expenses. Over the next few months, Hadley and I went to Dr. Murphy’s twice a week. Her condition got significantly better.

In August, the last appointment before we switched to once a week before school started, Dr. Murphy asked me to stay. I had cried during that session seeing how much better Hadley was.

“Taylor is there something wrong?”

“Nope, I’m just amazed at how much better she is. I know Eric’s looking down on me and is proud.”

“I’m sure he is. This is an incredible commitment for a seventeen year old to keep up. I’m very proud for what you have done for her.”

When we left the office, I, for some reason, drove a different way home. Taking this new route took us through the back roads in the middle of the woods. I could see the sun setting through the branches in the trees and it was beautiful. Then I looked a little harder. This place looked familiar. There were trees whose leaves were always green and patches of tulips and daisies sprouting from the dirt. Beyond it all was a hill. On top of the hill were what seemed to be two rose bushes. I smiled.

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