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[Yet to have an official title]

Introduction

It wasn’t just a handgun that crashed through her window and struck the dewy grass that night. There were a few pinches of meth tied to it in a plastic bag. Madison was never into drugs, not that I knew of, but then again - I didn’t know she had a gun either.
Madison Marie Launder was born August 8th, 1994. And she died the night before her eighteenth birthday. She was also my best friend. You would think she’d offed herself with the gun, but no; she carved a large slit down both her arms and wrists with an X-acto knife.
Her parents didn’t bother with an autopsy after she was officially pronounced dead, because it was pretty obvious what had happened. What Madison had done to herself.
Besides, both her biological parents - on opposite sides of our town - were shut up in their house - in her mom’s case - and apartment - in her dad’s case - for a week afterwards. There wasn’t much of anything they did then.
When my mom would try to visit Madison’s mom or attempt to bring her condolence casseroles, no one would answer the door. It didn’t matter how many times the doorbell was rung or how long there was pounding on the door.
Of course, I’d be a hypocrite chastising them; I spent four days in my room. I didn’t eat, I peed in a plastic container that used to hold all of my Barbies, and I only took a few sips of water when my mom had been begging from the other side of my bedroom door to drink something for an hour and a half.
I don’t know exactly what pushed me to venture out of my room after those four days. My eyes were only half-open when my legs stood themselves up from my bedroom floor and wobbled out my door.
I made it to the stairs before I passed out - everyone assumed it was because of the malnutrition and dehydration.
My parents are wary of hospitals, so I was only in the medical ward for a day before I was discharged to continue to recuperate at home. Physically, I recovered in a matter of a week. Emotionally and mentally, I haven’t made it past the crash of the gun shattering through window and Madison’s mom’s scream when she found her daughter lying in her own blood. I could hear it all the way from my house.
But today I remembered something about that night, something I must have suppressed until now. It’s been three weeks, but there’s a large detail that had previously inhabited only my subconscious.
I can’t write the words down, even in my awful handwriting. Not yet. Even if I rip this up in pieces, my paranoia that someone will read it will claw at me and that’s a road I don’t need to go down.
I can’t think of one single person I can confess to; I’m sure not even a therapist could hide their disgust. And to think Madison could be snorting at my goofy anxiety today if not for me.
She needed her final apparatus from me, and I didn’t stop her.
For now I’ll just write these random entries as needed and burn it when this journal’s filled. By then I should either be dead or not need it anymore. Who knows which will be the case.
Until my next angsty catastrophe,
Faeden Maynard

Chapter 1

“Now examine your self-portraits, kids.” Ms. Faulkner clapped her hands together enthusiastically, beaming at her students. She may not have become a famous artist in Brooklyn, where she’d endeavored to make it big, but teaching 12th graders in Stuart, Florida no longer ruffled her feathers as uncomfortably as when she was an angsty, young teacher back in the ‘90s.
“How have you changed since the beginning of the year when you painted these?”
A beefy, blonde self-proclaimed ‘hunk’ snickered and whispered something to one of his friends off on the other side of the room. Ms. Faulkner threw one of her infamous glares in his direction.
In response to what he must have said, Ms. Faulkner replied, “Yes, Davis, it’s only been five weeks since this school year started, but it’ll be thirty-one more before you can expect to pass or fail”, she smirked at him, “my class.”
‘Oohs’ echoed throughout the room, and one girl tried made a move to high-five Ms. Faulkner, but was rejected as the teacher walked in another direction and towards a lone girl at a small table, who was staring at what seemed to be a very fascinating paint stain on the white, tiled floor. The rest of the class, the girls especially, turned back to their full-body self-portraits to point out their fat thighs or lopsided faces.
“Maynard, where’s your self-portrait?” Ms. Faulkner asked impatiently.
Faeden ‘Fae’ Maynard lifted her chin and returned the teacher’s gaze, a little surprised before lazily turning her head to the art closet and back without again making eye contact.
“Fetch it now”
Fae obediently stood up out of her slumping position and walked to the art closet. Flipping the light-switch, she reached her hand in to grab the massive paper, and her eyes quickly caught sight of the only other portrait left in the small space. The self-portrait of Madison Launder. Fae quickly exited the closet and made her way back to her seat.
Ms. Faulkner nodded her head in thanks once Faeden had sat back down, and Fae resumed her stare-down with the floor as she just vaguely heard the teacher telling her to “process her past and present self”.
Fae had been telling herself that she needed to regain her focus in her classes, keep up a functioning student facade at school; because if she crashed at home, at least she wouldn’t be graded for it. She took in a deep breath and narrowed her eyes at her self-portrait.
She was a fair artist - even Ms. Faulkner had told her so - and Fae’s inner perfectionist had insisted on drawing every last detail, down to the dimple on her right cheek. Her long, dark brown hair reached down to her chest, and her green eyes stared back at her cheerily. Fae’s own, live eyes stared back blankly. She scanned the rest of the portrait with a tight jaw: long, slender body, piano fingers, a secretive smile, black-painted nails, and a nose just a little too big for her face.
Her self-portrait wasn’t hot, it wasn’t sexy, but it could be described as pretty. Most notably in the drawing, she was happy. So, in other words, Fae was looking at a stranger. At the bottom of the portrait, on the foot, was a signature - a signature by Madison - and a smiley-face to accompany it. Madison had almost never smiled, but you wouldn’t have guessed from her IMs and texts, all chock-full of dramatic emoticons. Fae had received many of those texts to prove it.
At the end of the period, the students piled out of the classroom, and Fae stood up to follow before she grabbed the portrait on her table. She snatched it, and as she passed the garbage can, threw it in before she walked on out of the classroom.

~~~~~~~~~

For a week after Madison’s death, Fae had stayed home from school. Her parents, ordinarily strict about school attendance, consented to that week home, not only because of the death, but because of Faeden’s reaction to it. Nosy neighbors suggested admitting Faeden into the psych ward at a specialized hospital nearby, while others simply suggested taking her to a therapist. Fae’s parents harshly replied and rejected their suggestions, merely giving their daughter an extra pat on the back when they hugged her before bed every night. They couldn’t believe their daughter to be sick, to be crazy enough to be in need of a therapist. It was expected of Faeden to pick herself up promptly and resume a strong front.
Three days after Faeden had returned to school, her parents realized the gravity of the situation - well, kind of. Their worrying increased as their daughter continued to act the opposite of her normally cheery slef, and they tried bribing her, even threatening supreme punishment to get her back to her normal self. But Fae didn’t respond to any of it. Eventually, Faeden began smiling once a day, sometimes more, and her parents were able to breathe a little easier, convinced that she was all better. That this little bump in the road wasn’t going to mean a thing in five years or more. Of course, her parents didn’t realize how much a smile can hide, how much it can mask.
Neither Madison nor Faeden were especially popular in school. In fact, for the most part, they were a two-woman army, facing every step of the day and snotty teacher in the hall with twin comebacks and high-fives.
So when Faeden returned to school, no one knew how to react. The medium-sized town had been filled in on the suicide from the media that covered the story - the kids at Madison and Fae’s high school especially. Fae had anticipated the bug-eyed stares, the shushes, the whispers, but she still couldn’t have even fathomed the utter loneliness she came to feel. There was no eating lunch in the bathroom or dying hair black and hiding underneath a black sweatshirt meant to look like it had been splattered with blood. No, she ate lunch on an empty bench outside the cafeteria and, though occasionally wearing a sweatshirt, kept the hood down.
There was only one day where something happened that Faeden wasn’t able to forget as readily. Faeden avoided eye contact with nearly everyone, mostly keeping her gaze to the ground or at a neutral level in order to not appear as tragically despaired as the students had painted her out to be.
It was her first Friday back to school, and she was sitting on that bench of hers with lunch when she got this odd feeling that she was being watched. Keeping her facial expression blank, she peered around the area and caught a pair of eyes searching for her own. It was a boy across the school courtyard. He had dark hair and glasses, someone she only vaguely recognized as the kid who could, or had, supposedly hacked into the government’s network.
He wasn’t sitting alone. There were a few other computer nerds sitting next to him, but they didn’t seem to notice her like the dark-haired boy did. What seemed like an hour was only a few moments later that Faeden broke eye contact and returned her attention to her lunch. No one else had been so bold to examine her so out-rightly. She was disdainfully surprised at her fascination with the guy; after all, there was something in the look he gave her that was different. Instead of the usual fear or pity, the look he gave her seemed to include a trace of interest, even sympathy. But genuine sympathy, unlike the puppy dog eyes of everyone else who had never even spoken a word to her before Madison’s suicide.
Faeden almost had to force herself to not look up at him again before the lunch period ended. To anyone else, that little interaction would mean nothing, be as insignificant as the booger poking out of any creepy male teacher’s nose in math class. But she didn’t forget it; she couldn’t, no matter how hard she tried to force herself to.

Chapter 2

Smack! The tennis ball hit the brick wall hard, and Faeden swiftly caught it before it bounced rapidly between the two brick walls they were squeezed between. Madison gave her quick thumbs up before motioning for Fae to lodge it against the wall.
“Brian can go to hell”, Madison mumbled about her step-dad, as she caught the ball. The blonde held on to the ball for a few moments, letting her fingers roll it around in her hands. Her fingers were calloused from her endeavors that summer to learn the guitar. Alas, just barely after she’d started, her much older brother Connor, who had let her borrow the guitar for the two weeks he was bumming out at their parent’s place, brought it back with him to his apartment in New Jersey.
And that was the end of her guitar-playing career.
Madison had called Faeden ten minutes before their ball game, telling Fae to meet her at their favorite park, at a specific spot they called their own. The last thing Madison insisted upon was for Fae to “please, PLEASE” bring a ball. Fae had never heard Madison sound so desperate or vulnerable. Madison hung up before Faeden could ask why, but she made sure to get her rump out of the door in record time, ball in hand.
“Ugh, did he rip up another one of your posters?” Faeden scowled, turning to look at her friend.
They both looked ridiculous, lying on their backs, feet against a brick wall, throwing a tennis ball at a larger wall in front of them - waiting for it to ricochet back at them. This activity of theirs always seemed to calm Madison down after a fight with Brian.
“Something like that”, Madison said softly. She sighed and then growled as she threw the ball as hard as she could at the wall in front of them. The ball flew back and bounced between the two walls before it landed and rolled down the alleyway and out of sight.
They were both silent for a minute.
“I..”, Faeden started hesitantly, “Sometimes I feel like you’re not telling me everything”. She looked over at her friend, who was staring angrily at one of the walls. She didn’t say anything.
Faeden continued, “You’re my best friend, Madison. When I came to Stuart freshman year, I didn’t know who to talk to. But when you calmly talked to me after I had had a panic attack in Psychology the first day, I felt a little better. You didn’t think I was a freak like the rest of them”.
Madison sighed. Faeden was pulling a guilt trip and she didn’t want her friend to be disappointed. Faeden was after all the only friend that put up with her no matter what mood she was in.
Her BFFs from elementary school abandoned her after she became angst-ridden come her adolescent years. She never talked to Faeden about the insecurities she had though.
“There are some things I want to tell you sometimes, Fae, but I can’t”. Madison bit her lip and continued, “It’s best that you don’t know”. And she turned to Faeden and looked her straight in the eye.
“I don’t want to hurt you”, Madison said. Her expression suddenly grew weary and she closed her eyes.

"I’ll never let them, I’ll never let them
I’ll never let them hurt you, not tonight
I’ll never let them, I can’t forget them
I’ll never let them hurt you, I promise"

Faeden sang the words softly, but loud enough for Madison to hear. Madison smiled a little, her eyes still closed.
“You’re a gem, Fae. You and I, our own two-woman MCRArmy”, Madison smirked.
“We’ve already got our boots ready for combat”, Faeden snorted, grinning a little. Madison nudged her shoulder and lifted her left leg up appreciatively, admiring one of her beat up combat boots.
“No one can compare. You’ll sing, and I’ll beat anyone who hurts us away with that knife of yours, yeah?”
Faeden suddenly grew a little pale. She ran her finger over the handle of the small X-acto knife in her pocket. She only faltered for a second.
“Get your own weapon, Maddie”, Faeden teased. No one called her Maddie, except Faeden. She knew she was the only one that could get away with calling her friend the name and still stay in one piece.
Madison finally turned and grinned at her.
“You’re my best friend too, Fae.”



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