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Do You Trust Me?
“Come on, Alix,” Ace had pleaded. “It’ll be fun!”
Ace had been trying to get me to go to a house party with him – I’d never been to one before.
“I don’t know…I don’t really do that kind of stuff – you know that.”
“Don’t worry – you won’t even have to drink or anything!”
So I’d agreed. When we’d gotten there, I’d been having second thoughts.
“Ace…I don’t know about this…”
“Don’t worry so much!”
“But what if something happens?”
“Nothing’s going to happen!”
“But what if?”
“Lighten up, Alixandria! Nothing will happen. And besides, if something happens, I’ll keep you safe – I promise.”
Then screaming. Ace had lied.
And I couldn’t get those words out of my head.
I promise. I promise.
SIX MONTHS LATER
“Hey, Alix. Earth to Alix – come in, Alix. Do you read me? Over.”
Shaking me verbally from my memory was my extremely dorky best friend, Lena.
As I am equally dorky, I responded as such. “Roger that, Lena. All is good. Over and out.”
We laughed quietly, not wanting to be caught by the teacher. You’d think that a teacher counting down the days until her retirement – she actually had a countdown on her calendar – would be at least a little more lax, not stricter than all of the teachers combined here. And the funny thing is I bet you thought I was being hyperbolic. I wish I was. But, of course, having the luck I did, I wasn’t.
“What captured your attention so completely that you lost focus during such an interesting class?” Lena asked with her iconic sense of humor.
“Oh, you know, this and that.”
“You mean what happened six months ago?”
“…Yeah.” Was I really that predictable?
“You know, you should talk to someone about it. It could rea-“
“I’m not going to talk to some shrink!” I saw the hurt on Lena’s face. Her dad was a psychiatrist and she planned to be one, too.
“Lena…I’m sorry.” She waved away my apology; she knew what kind of therapists I’d seen.
“Lena, Alixandria, is there something you’d like to share with the class?” Our witch of a physics teacher asked us.
“No, ma’am,” we replied. Once her back was to us again, Lena crossed her eyes and stuck her tongue out at me and I knew I’d been forgiven.
About five minutes later, I saw a note slide sideways onto my notebook in Lena’s handwriting.
Why don’t you talk to my dad? Or even to me, if you don’t feel comfortable talking to a professional, she wrote.
I’ve known Lena’s family my whole life; our parents were childhood best friends and her house was literally the one across the street from ours. And if I hadn’t wanted to talk to Lena’s dad, I knew I could trust Lena. She was the only junior in AP Psychology, so that had to count for something.
And I did want to talk to her, I really did. In fact, I’d even tried in the past. But each time I’d tried to get the words to form into the story that had constantly replayed in my mind for the past six months, they wouldn’t come out.
So I replied simply. I can’t yet. I want to, but I can’t.
Lena read it and I felt her gaze on me. Then the piece of paper returned. You know you can’t keep it trapped inside forever, right? You’ll have to let it out at some point.
I knew it would infuriate her to no end, since all she was doing was caring, but I replied with just two words: I know.
Lena didn’t reply after that and soon after, the bell rang.
“Finally, lunch!” I said, trying to ease some of the tension I felt building between us.
Lena looked at me like she was sixty, not sixteen. “Alix, you’ll need to talk at some point. Have you even told anyone?!”
“…Only what was necessary. At the hospital.”
“Alix, that was six months ago! Not even I know the story – and I’m supposed to be your best friend.”
“You are my best friend, Lena!”
“Then why haven’t you told me?”
“Because it’s hard enough thinking about it, let alone speaking it. Because if I do, then it will all be real.” And with that, I left a very shocked Lena and walked calmly to the bathroom, locked myself in a bathroom stall, then proceeded to break down.
Lena just couldn’t take it anymore. Alix had been her best friend for longer than she could remember – literally. It killed Lena to see her like that. She wasn’t sure if Alix could see it in herself, but the change she underwent was apparent to everyone else. Alix used to be so vibrant and full of life. But now, she was becoming so introverted and quiet. It was hard for her to say it, but she kind of hated Ace for doing this to Alix. It was tearing them apart slowly but surely. Lena wanted to deny it, but she knew there was only one way to make things right. And she knew she would have to do it.
Lena walked into the cafeteria and spotted him. Well, it wasn’t like he was easy to miss. So she walked up to his table where he sat now and went right up to him.
“Ace,” Lena said, making him start.
He looked up and saw her. “What do you want?” Ace asked, not without venom in his tone.
Well, that’s new, Lena thought. But she took a deep breath and said, “I want to talk.”
“Okay, let’s talk.”
“Alone, please, Ace.”
“Why? Can’t you just say it here?”
“It’s about Alix.”
That got his attention. “Fine, let’s go.”
Ace and Lena walked out of the cafeteria into a deserted part of the hallway.
“So?” he said. “What about Alix? Is she okay? Does she ever, you know, mention me?” Now his cold reply made more sense. He wasn’t just being a jerk – though at times he could be a high-class one – but he was still hurting.
“She’s not doing so great, Ace. She’s changed – a lot.”
“What do you mean?”
“She’s not that happy girl we knew. She’s so quiet and shy and she hardly trusts anyone anymore. It’s been like this since that night. And she still hasn’t told me about it, Ace. She hasn’t told anyone. I’m so worried about her.”
“And what do you expect me to do about it? If you don’t recall, she kind of hates my guts.”
“Yeah, just a little. And I don’t want you to do anything. I just want to know what happened that night.”
Ace took a deep breath and ran a hand through his too-long hair before replying. “Okay, fine. Are you free after school?”
Lena wouldn’t lie to herself and say she wasn’t disappointed that he wouldn’t tell her now. But beggars can’t be choosers. “Yeah, I am.”
“Meet me by my car; I know a place. You still don’t drive, right?”
“No, I don’t. But why can’t you tell me now?”
“Because, one – if you haven’t noticed, lunch is almost over.” He was right. “And two – I don’t feel like having people overhear it, whether accidentally or not.”
“Oh, and one more thing.”
“Yeah?” I started walking away.
“You can’t tell Alix.”
What. “What do you mean I can’t tell Alix? She’s my best friend!”
Because she hates me enough already and if she ever knew I was doing this, she’d hate me even more.”
He had a point. “Okay, fine. So after school at your car?”
“What if Alix sees and asks me?”
“Say we were given an assignment we had to do together.”
“You’re able to lie so easily to her.”
Ace’s eyes flashed. “You don’t know anything. Never say that again. Ever.”
He looked so menacing that Lena couldn’t do anything other than nod.
He nodded back before turning to go to his friends. Suddenly, he turned back around. “And Lena?”
“Don’t be so quick to judge if you don’t know both sides of a story.” And with that, he turned around and walked away.
What have I gotten myself into?
“Hey, A,” Noah said to Alix as she sat down next to him for the only class just the two of them had together, their last class of the day.
“Hey, No,” she replied in that quiet voice Noah didn’t think he’d ever get used to. He needed to get her to talk, but how? In all honesty, he could only think of one way, but he didn’t think he was ready for that yet. The only possible way he could think of getting her to talk to him is revealing the one deep, dark secret that no one but he knew. No soul – living or dead – knew this.
But at the same time, Noah knew that Alix hadn’t opened up to anyone about what happened that night with Ace and Noah could tell that it was slowly eating away at her inside.
He was trying to find the nerve to ask if she wanted to talk – a secret for a secret, so to speak – when he heard her whisper something to him.
“Hey – you okay, Noah?” Even though Alix was still stuck in her own little world of horrors and memories, she was still able to sense things.
“Yeah, I guess. Alix, I think we need to talk.”
In his peripheral vision, he saw Alix stiffen. “About what?”
“I think you know.”
“No, I don’t. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She was so far in denial.
“I think you do know. I think you know exactly what I’m talking about.”
“I have to pay attention. I’m not doing well in this class; I have to get my grade up.” That was such a lie. They were in History – US History at that. Alix was most likely the best in the class, even then, after all of the things that happened to her. Noah reckoned that she could sleep a whole class and have a quiz on the material the next day and she’d still ace it. Noah knew that she wouldn’t respond to him by speaking now, so he tore out a piece of paper as inconspicuously as he could and wrote down a note to her.
Alix, please. Can we talk? After school, next week, next year, even. But please, can we talk? I have something I need to tell you as well.
After he pushed the note to her, he only had to wait about a minute and a half until he got a reply pushed onto his desk. Are you trying to bribe me? I’ll tell you and you tell me?
Okay, so she knew much more than she let on. …Maybe.
Out of the corner of his eye, Noah saw Alix chuckle almost imperceptibly. But he saw it in her eyes. Okay, fine. I’ll take the bait. What do you want to tell me in exchange?
If you really don’t want to talk, I’m not going to make you. I’m not going to be the bad guy here.
She sighed. I didn’t mean it like that. I just wanted to know what it’s about.
I don’t think I could tell her. Not over a note – and not even the subject. I can’t tell you over a note. It’s too hard.
I felt her hand over mine and gave it a light squeeze. “I understand,” she whispered.
We exchanged a look and smiled. And I knew it would be okay. “Thanks.”
About a half an hour later, in the final minutes of class – you know, the stressful minutes that hold the suspense and tension as the teacher tries to hold the fort as the students try to inconspicuously pack up their bags – he started to get nervous. What if she doesn’t accept me? What if she hates me? What if, what if, what if. But he tried to take a deep breath to calm his nerves.
Then the bell rang. Alix looked at him and said, “are you ready?”
As he followed her out of the classroom, he realized that even after six months, she still didn’t remember. Though he didn’t know anything else about that night, he had been the one who got her to the EMT’s. And though he would never tell her this – or at least so dramatically, no matter how true – he had been the one who had saved her life.
Ace waited quite impatiently for Lena to get there. He paced in the front of his car for about five minutes until he was fed up with waiting outside, the cool November air starting to nip at his face, hands, and feet. So he climbed into the cab of his truck and turned up the heat, propping his legs up on the dashboard.
Finally, what seemed like an hour to him but was maybe two minutes after he got in his car, Lena finally showed up. He was shocked at the relief he felt that she actually came. He wasn’t going to lie; he was kind of expecting her not to show up. And he had kept trying to tell himself that he didn’t even want Lena to show up, that he’d be happy if she didn’t. But of course, he couldn’t lie to himself. He was a great liar when he had to lie to people. But to himself? He was horrible.
“Hey,” she said, climbing into the passenger’s side of his truck.
“Hey,” he replied. Once she was buckled up, he drove out of the student parking lot and out of campus.
“What kept you?” he asked, trying to be nonchalant – or at least sound it.
“Alix wanted to tell me that she couldn’t give me a ride today; she needs to talk to someone. That’s all she said.”
They drove in a quasi-comfortable silence for the duration of the trip. Then he pulled into a parking space in front of a small, vacant playground. Ace knew Lena would remember this place; the four of them – Lena, Alix, Noah, and he – used to go to this place all the time. Up until that night, at least.
They sat on the merry-go-round, each holding onto two of the bars, and slowly starting to turn around, but not going any faster than a slow crawl.
“So…” Lena started.
“So…” Ace repeated.
“Are you going to tell me or not.”
Ace sighed heavily. “I know, I’m just trying to decide where to begin.”
“From the beginning, of course.”
Ace gave her a withering look. “No kidding. Okay, fine. Let’s start with before the party. When I was trying to talk her into going to the party with me. She was really skeptical, but I kept reassuring her, telling her everything would be okay. I…promised her that if anything did happen, which I kept saying nothing would, that she’d just have to call for me and I’d be there for her…
“Okay, Noah, should we just get this over with?”
“I mean, if you really don’t want to talk…”
“No – I do! I think I’m ready to talk to someone. And I…trust you enough that I can tell you.”
“Thank you, Alix. That really means a lot.”
Alix smiled at him. “So, do you want me to go first?”
“Sure, if you want.”
“Okay.” So I allowed the memory that she normally tried so hard to repress to crash and break the barriers of my subconscious to her consciousness. And once it was broken, all of the words I couldn’t find to tell the story magically appeared. And so I began.
Ace had talked me out of my apprehensions and therefore, into going to the party.
Some techno song had been playing with its bass turned up probably as loud as it would go.
“Isn’t this great?” Ace had enthused, yelling to be heard over the blaring music.
“Sure – it’s great.”
Ace must have sense my discomfort because he’d put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Don’t worry, Alix. Nothing will happen to you, I promise. And if you need anything, anything at all, just yell my name and I’ll be there.”
“Not only that, I pinkie promise.”
We’d both laughed and I’d believed him.
I mean, he’d promised.
But I’d been wrong.
“I was so stupid,” he said. “I promised her I wouldn’t let anything happen to her. I failed her.”
“How?” Lena asked. “Tell me what happened.”
“The party started out great; we were dancing and having fun. I mean she didn’t do anything but dance, but I drank some and smoked a little – nothing major. I only had a little buzz, but I was still coherent. So we went on for a couple of hours. I always at least kept her in sight. But when she wasn’t with me dancing, she was by herself, just standing there. There were some guys trying to come up to her, but she just either ignored them or just brushed them off. But I never let her out of my sight. Until it happened.”
“Until what happened?”
“What happened?” Noah asked.
Someone had called the cops and everyone had freaked. I guess I’d been the only sober one there because I’d know that if you get caught, you stay calm – Ace had taught me that much. But those kids had been doing the exact opposite. They’d been running, panicking, and trying to find a place to hide. And in the middle of the chaos, someone had knocked me down. No one had tried to help me up, so the people had started to trample me. I’d screamed for Ace, but he never came.
“I’d heard her calling for me and I kept looking all around for her, but I couldn’t see her. All I saw was a mob of people. They were pushing me around and I just…couldn’t find her. I’d promised to keep her safe and I’d failed, Lena. I’d failed.”
When the cops had gotten there, the only people who had been around were the kids who were passed out drunk, and me – the one who was nearly passed out from loss of blood. The EMTs had rushed to my aid and on the way to the ER, they’d checked to make sure I hadn’t consumed drugs and/or alcohol. I’m shocked they didn’t find pot in my from all the fumes I’d inhaled. “And you know the rest.”
“Say it anyway,” Noah encouraged me. “It will help.”
So I did. I was kept in the hospital for two weeks and at home for another two. For that whole month, I didn’t speak. Not one word. I’d nodded or shaken my heard if they’d asked me a yes or no question and I’d shrugged my shoulders if they’d asked me how I was.
When I’d had visitors, I’d either pretended to be asleep or I’d just stared blankly into space, answering their questions the same way I’d answered my parents. Only when Lena would visit had I given her the smallest of smiles. She’d understood – each day she’d come and tell me about what went on that day – the gossip, drama, and such. She’d stayed as late as she could, helping me keep up with schoolwork. She would never bring up Ace, and Ace never came.
“I wanted to visit, so badly,” he said, pained. “But I didn’t want to hurt her anymore.”
“It was probably for the best,” Lena said. “She wasn’t in a good state.”
“But she isn’t in a good state now either.”
Then, on the last night before I’d returned to school, I’d said my first two words in a month. “He lied.”
“Alix…I don’t know what to say…I’m so sorry.” Noah looked like he had tears in his eyes.
“Thank you, Noah. And thank you for making me talk. I feel…better, sort of.”
Noah smiled at me a little. “Do you still want to hear what I had to say?”
“Just please….just remember, I’m still Noah.”
“…Okay?” I started to get a little worried.
And once they all knew, no one minded. They all loved Noah just as much. Alix finally got the nerve to tell Lena, and she was there for her through it all – all the pain, tears, reality, everything. All that was left was Ace.
ONE MONTH LATER
Alix walked into her class – her only class she shared with only Ace. And for some reason, she wasn’t all too surprised when he sat down next to her. All she had to do was work up the nerve to do something about it. To initiate contact. And maybe to reconcile.
But just as she worked up the nerve to make the first move, Ace beat her to it.