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The Secret

Losing loved ones is a part of life. Whether death, break-ups, or simply just distance. But when you lose someone and only have yourself to blame? Well, that's a different story.

Being just a 13-year-old girl, I thought I was finally mature. Could do more things on my own. Make my own decisions. I didn't want anyone's help, and I would never let myself be torn down. Dubbed as just another little girl, thinking she had the world in her possession. But I did. I held onto it. Clenched in my tiny fist was the whole world, and not one person could tell me otherwise.

So when faced with a question such as, "Are you gonna tell mom and dad?" I felt the maturity pulsing through my veins. The newly owned responsibility.

"It's midnight...where on earth are you going?" I looked skeptically into my brother's deep green eyes. I thought for sure I was intimidating.

"To Mike's...it's no big deal. Mom and dad won't even know I left. Just a few hours."

Why only go for a few hours? I thought, he IS your best friend.

Now Mike was obviously a drinker. Sometimes he'd come to our house with a water bottle full of clear, weird-smelling liquid. Only I noticed because I liked being the "cool" 13-year-old to hang out with 17-year-olds. Mom and dad never suspected a thing.

Of course, I never drank. Only Mike. My brother only took sips on occasion.

"Who else is gonna be there?" I hope this isn't what I think it is.

"Just a few people. No big deal." He shrugged.

Definitely what I think it is. Definitely a big deal.

"When will you be back?"

"I'll be back by four. Okay? Now are you gonna tell mom and dad? Or are you gonna keep quiet?"

So many thoughts ran through my mind: I don't want you to go...you're gonna drink and hurt yourself. This party isn't worth it. I shouldn't let you...I don't want to...

"Fine. I won't tell. It's your choice." I snuck off to my room and crawled in bed, carefully moving so my parents didn't suspect I was up. So they didn't notice I was assisting my brother in sneaking out.

I went to bed with a sick feeling in my stomach.

The next morning I woke up groggy. I lay in bed, trying to wake myself up. Why am I so tired?

Then I remembered.

I quickly jumped out of bed and ran to my brother's room.

"Please be there, please be there..." I mumbled quietly to myself. Praying to God it was all just a dream. That I didn't let him leave last night.

I got to his room and threw open his door. Empty.

I hurried to the kitchen to see my dad sitting at the table with his head resting in his hand. My mom was pacing.

"Where's Jacob?" I tried to sound as nonchalant as possible.

My father looked up, "We have no idea. His car is gone."

He said he'd be back by four...it's nearly nine. Where is he?

"Did he go to the store?" I covered the quiver in my voice with a yawn.

"No, he'd have left a note like he usually does." My mom was working hard to keep her composure.

Just then, a knock.

Mom ran to the door. It was the police. A whimper escaped her mouth.

"Are you Mrs. Keller?"

"Yes."

"Your son is Jacob Keller?"

She worked hard to keep her voice calm.

"Yes."

"I'm afraid I have some bad news..."

My mother turned to me. "Susan, go to your room. Me and your father have to talk to the nice police officer."

I turned and left, but stayed in the hall where I could hear.

"...He must have swerved off the road. We found his car in a ditch. He was intoxicated. His BAL was .23...I'm sorry. He was dead by the time we arrived."

I gasped. My mother screamed. I heard my dad's chair clatter to the floor. I'm the one who let him go...

I ran to my room and buried my head in the pillow as my first sobs broke free. What have I done?

It was a few hours before my parents came into my room and told me. I acted like it was the first time I heard the words "He's dead."

I was numb for countless days to come. Through his funeral, to his burial, to visiting his grave over the years, the same thought always came to my mind.

This was all my fault.

"So today, Jacob," I read out loud to his tombstone, "I want to say I'm sorry...I'm so, so sorry. I should have stopped you. I should have told mom and dad. But it's too late...and I want you to know I regret it every day." Specks of tears covered the letter I had written him, and as I read, I felt a sense of relief. No one person knew the guilt I had besides Jacob and myself. And it felt good to finally apologize...after five long years.

I lifted my head as I came to the end of my letter, laying it with the fresh flowers at his grave. Somewhere, deep down in my heart, I knew he had forgiven me. He had always forgiven me.

"I love you, Jacob."




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