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Be My Bee This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

You used to say that it’s easy to forget people. Remember last summer, when we packed up for the picnic, after dad’s friend’s funeral? I do. I’m sure you do too. You had on that purple sweater with the elephant on the front. The one that Teddy got you for your fifteenth birthday. The one that you had started to wear more and more around the house to hide your body from our parents so they wouldn’t worry.

You explained to me that people are like bees. Sometimes they stay and make life sweeter. Then they sting you and go, leaving only a little prick in your arm that eventually fades, along with your memories of that bee. You said it casually, detached, like almost everything you had been saying around that time. Like you were watching from above. Like it was no more important than the fat-free mayonnaise that you were spreading on my turkey sandwich. When I asked you what kind of sandwich you were going to have, you told me that you had already had lunch. I knew you were lying. I could always tell. You would tilt your head and look at me out of the corners of your eyes.

You want to know something? I thought it was funny that you thought you could get away with things in front of me. For some reason, you didn’t notice that I watched everything you did for my entire life. For a while, you were perfect to me.

Can I tell you something else, now that we’re having this discussion? I hate fat-free food. I’d rather eat a raw stick of butter. But no. “Fat leads to being overweight, which leads to obesity, which leads to heart failure, which leads to death,” you said. Not that your “knowledge” helped you. Fat didn’t touch your body for two years, but you still had heart failure. You still had a heart attack. You still died, Steph.

So you don’t forget them. They aren’t just bees. They don’t just fade from your mind. If anything, you think about them more than before. And it’s not just that. I knew that you were sick. We all did. It’s that I watched you suffer. Everyone did. But it wasn’t everyone who could have done something. It was me. And I didn’t do anything about it. I saw you weighing yourself in the shadows at night when you thought I was asleep. I could see the blue glow of the scale. I imagined the numbers dropping by the day. I could smell the puke on your breath when you came out of the bathroom. You didn’t fool anyone with your obsession with Tic-Tacs. Especially me. I saw you rubbing your stomach at dinner time, staring wistfully at the food, even when you claimed that you weren’t hungry.

And summertime. Remember that time that mom and dad made you bring me to the beach with your friends? You wore that yellow bikini, the one that you had bought in the winter but hadn’t been able to wear yet. Your hipbones poked out of your skin. When you leaned over to get the lotion out of your beach bag, I could see all of your ribs. I could have said something then. I could have handed you my bag of Smartfood cheesy popcorn. I could have jumped onto the lifeguard tower and shouted out. But I didn’t.

Do you know why I didn’t say anything? Why I watched you hurt yourself for almost two and a half years? I was jealous. There I was, in my blue striped one-piece that was given to me for being part of the swim team, my broad shoulders pink from the sun. And then there was you, looking like a Hollister model. Your collar bones were a frame to the top of your chest, your shoulders narrower than a ballerina’s.

Now I know that I should have done something. Anything. But I still didn’t.

At dinner now, mom and dad won’t look away from me until I go back into the kitchen for seconds. And when I do, I can see their eyes glistening, thinking that if they had done the same with you, if they had paid attention, you could still be alive. Sometimes when I come out of the bathroom, I find mom standing around the corner, pretending to be doing something else, something other than trying to hear me potentially trying to throw up my dinner. I think that she knows I’m not, but she wants to make sure that I don’t die too.

Do you remember when I came home from school two years ago, after that man who was bullied as a child came in to speak to us? I told you about it while you turned sideways in the mirror with your shirt rolled up, staring at yourself. Do you remember what I told you he said? He told us about the time he tried to kill himself after a rough day at school. He said that suicide is selfish, because although it seems like an easy way out for you, it isn’t for the people who know you. But you know what is also selfish? Starving yourself. It isn’t something that is done in private. It’s something people watch happen. They want to say something but they can’t, not wanting to pry. It’s a losing battle on both sides.

Then you died. How is that fair to the others around you? Did you ever even take a moment to think, to just pause, and to wonder how it was affecting the people around you, or to consider what would happen if you didn’t stop?

Of course you didn’t. That’s why we got a call from your lacrosse coach on a tuesday night. That’s why we had to rush to the hospital, had to wait in that bleached waiting room. That’s why I had to listen to mom’s sobs, to dad’s feet pacing over and over again on the floor. I had to listen to the doctor say that you hadn’t made it, that your heart couldn’t take it, that your body couldn’t function properly anymore. I had to feel the air race out of my body, had to try to find the ground again.

So please, Steph. Just answer me. You started this mess. You dug the hole. You pushed me in. So throw in the ladder. Help me out. How can I make you my bee? I’m tired of seeing the bump on my arm. What am I supposed to do? Visit your grave? Bring you flowers? Volunteer at an orphanage? Go up to the girl in my class who has lost thirty pounds since the beginning of the year and say “hey, have I ever told you about my sister Stephanie?”



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graceh22 said...
Jan. 13 at 1:21 pm:
This was really good! I loved the imagery! It was great!!!
 
crazygracieThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Jan. 16 at 5:09 pm :
Thank you so much!!
 
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