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Life Flat On the Ground, For All to See

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May blamed herself. She had been there and had watched the whole thing. She thought she could have stopped her, or could have somehow helped her while the ambulance came. She and a few other kids, who had been watching, now had the job of having the images replayed over and over again in their minds for the rest of their lives.
They had been playing catch in the forest next to the motorway the evening before I was told. They had then begun to cross the road to continue the game. It could have been any of those five. The car came at sixty-eight miles per hour, around a blind corner. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. The speed limit was seventy miles per hour. The driver and his passengers had to be treated for shock.

Something was wrong.
I saw the bare walls where groups of kids usually huddled around together. I had never, in my three years’ experience of secondary school, seen an empty yard and an empty conservatory, which was easy to see into through the huge windows. Even in the cold winters, the conservatory would be packed full of people.
I pushed it to the back of my head. Maybe it was just a new rule or punishment; the head was always making up these sorts of stupid things.
Anyway, it was not completely empty. Once you had walked under the little tunnel between the languages and science block, there was another patch of outside where the year tens hung out. See? Nothing unusual.
I walked into the dining room where my friends and I met up in the morning before lessons started. I was slightly surprised to find that it was almost empty; Star was usually there. Maybe they had gone to their lockers.
So I headed off to find them, of course. What else could I do, stand around looking like a loner?
As I headed to the stairs up to the locker area I passed a girl in the year below that I vaguely knew. Holly Parker. She was hugging her friend Sarah as they walked, and they were sobbing into each other’s arms. I didn’t really like Holly. She acted kind of fake. But she wasn’t the type to show her true feelings, let alone cry. Had someone been bullying her or something?
I shrugged it off. It wasn’t anything to do with me, why poke my nose in?
Hmm. None of my friends were in the locker corridor. Maybe they’d resorted to the library. I was just about to head that way when I had a thought.
“Peter, do you know where everyone is?” (He was the only person in the whole corridor) He always seemed to know where everyone was, scarily.
“They’re in the chapel.” What? Had people been summoned to an early morning school mass or something? I know that it’s a Catholic school, but few people live up to the name.
“Why?”
“Did you not hear?” I shook my head. “This kid in year eight got ran over last night.”
Secretly I felt selfish hope that it wasn’t anyone I knew. But it could not be true, right? These things just don’t happen to me, or people around me. But a kid…I would still be upset, even though I didn’t know them.
“Who was the year eight?”
“Erm, Bella…Ni...ght or something.” No. I had heard it wrong. It wasn’t her. Out of two hundred and fifty people in year eight…no, that was impossible. It had to be someone else. Or maybe I’d heard the name wrong. Or maybe no one had died at all. But Holly Parker…had known her, and had been in Bella’s class. She wasn’t crying for attention, then. How stuck up of me to think that! And half the pupils seemed to have disappeared. Pieces of the puzzle joined together. Realisation hit me like a bomb. It’s true.
“Bella Night?! Oh. My. God.” It couldn’t be. In the corner of my eyes, Peter nodded slowly, but I wasn’t aware of my surroundings.
Please, it wasn’t true. This was just some nightmare that simply wasn’t. True.
I rushed to the school chapel. I slowed as I neared the door, unsure. I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply as I pushed down the door handle.
Warmth flew into my face. Except it was the wrong warmth. It was just body warmth from the masses of tearful people packed in a tiny room. Almost every face I looked at was sobbing. There was one person sitting at the very front, still as stone, with a similar expression.
Sophia. Her best friend.
It’s real.
I couldn’t think anymore. A huge lump tried to force itself up my throat, but I imprisoned it with a force I didn’t think possible. I sat down on the nearest seat I saw, which was next to Star. I felt faint. I barely noticed the box of tissues on a little table in the middle of the room, and watched as girls cried and hugged each other.
It was the first time I’d seen many of my friends cry.
Out of all of them, I had known May the longest, since I was little, but never, ever had I seen her come anywhere near close to tears. Now, rivers of tears were flowing down her cheeks.
Rachel, who probably had the softest heart I knew, although she hid it very well and never cried, was crying. Hard.
Even the ‘hardest’ of boys were even crying, red patches for eyes, and messed up hair. It really was real.
I went numb. The warmth of the room only reached my skin. Inside, I was a block of ice.
I didn’t move until Anne, who I hadn’t noticed, came up to me and nudged me. “You alright?” She whispered. Of course, she knew the answer to that. I shrugged.
My friends started to walk out of the room, nudging me with them. I wanted to stay, but I didn’t know if I could hold it together if they weren’t there.
The rest of the day became the longest day of my life and possibly the most depressing and quiet day in my school’s seventy-five year history.
It still didn’t seem real. I knew it was, but I hadn’t grasped the fact yet.
Watching it on the news made it seem even more unreal. It was as if it had happened to someone else. It made me feel numb and icy cold again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That was last Tuesday. Now, I twitch nervously in the car as my father drives to a place I haven’t been to in a while. My primary school. No, we aren’t going there, but the church next to it.
Behind my nervous anticipation is longing, longing for the childhood and memories from in primary school. But I’m growing up now. I have not come back to experience those memories again, but I have come back to remember some of those memories, as a funeral.
I’m supposed to be waving my friend Georgina here; she isn’t sure where this church is. But the church bell starts to ring, and there is an old man with a grave expression on his face who gestures to me with his arm from the doors.
I step through the door into the small church. As I knew there would be, the place is full of people. I walk down the centre aisle looking for a seat, when I see my friends, already in place. I can see masses of boys that are seen in school as the ‘hardest’ people…and tears are streaming down their face. It is as if the whole school is here.
They had kept a seat for me. Jasmine hands me a tissue, and I see she has already handed one to each of our other friends. This is too depressing.
We have the opening hymn. This isn’t right. Where, is the rock music Bella wants-would want? Why have we been told to come in school uniform, and not a hooded jacket and skinny jeans just as she would have loved?
It is so cold in here. Even though it usually is cold in this church, it feels colder than should be right.
All the way through I sing the songs and hymns thinking, this can’t be right. I feel sort of numb all the way through. I want to cry, but I can’t; there’s something that won’t let me.
The priest describes memories of Bella that makes everyone smile. Practicing her football skills in her sleep, her crazy hairstyles…and everyone recalls memories of their own. The church seems to get brighter as each memory is recalled, although no light is being switched on.
And then it is over, but not before they carry the coffin down the aisle.
I have never really seen coffins before in real life, so I expect it to be dull and brown and depressing like the ones in films. But no, every inch of it resembles Bella. Except the fact that it is a coffin. It has been painted green, red and white, the green being her favourite colour and the red and white being the colour of her favourite football team.
On top of the coffin lie flowers, which I barely notice, because I am too busy looking at the objects that surround it. A football lies there, as do some of her favourite things.
It should not be a coffin. But…Bella is in there.
The congregation starts to follow behind the coffin, starting from the first few rows, her family, and then her closest friends. When I and my friends are out of the church, the vehicle carrying the coffin is driving away.
I finally realise.

Bella is gone.




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