The Angel I Carry With Me

April 18, 2014
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I stepped out of the car and breathed in the sweet southern air. It has been almost 3 years since I've been to South Carolina. I moved to Georgia when I was 16 after my bestfriend Tristan passed away in October of 2010. My parents thought I needed to move and start over. Tristan's death destroyed me for a long time and it was only less than a year ago when I started to heal. I rarely think of Tristan now but he's all around me and affects who I am and what I do. I still like to close my eyes and imagine his blonde hair, green eyes, and his perfect smile - with the sun glowing over his pretty face.
I met Tristan when I was 10 years old at the fair that comes to our small town every summer. We were bestfriends as young kids and it lasted up until the day he passed away. I remember swimming in the lake on the road where he lived. Tristan lived in a big house and it was the only house on the backroad. We used to ride bikes up and down that road, parked the bikes next to a tree, and took a dive into the lake. When Tristan and I got into high school, we didn't have many classes together and we had different lunch times. He met Collin and Jess at lunch during freshman year. Collin was a handsome, yet outcast goth guy and Jess was the Rock N Roll badass type who spent his weekends getting wasted with his other friends. I don't know why Jess became so close with the innocently perfect Tristan. I guess it was true - everyone loved Tristan. After school, Tristan and I spent time together. Sometimes alone and sometimes with Jess and Collin.
Tristan always made me feel special. All the girls at our school adored him and drooled at the sight of him. No matter who came his way, he always stayed by my side. Many of the girls were jealous and they started talking about me behind my back, wondering why someone like Tristan would talk to a goth girl like me. I talked to Tristan about what the girls were saying behind my back. I told Tristan everything. He would always smile, laugh, and say "Katherine, you're different. It's amazing to me. I see nothing wrong with you". I came to Tristan every time i needed someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on. He always brushed away my tears with the gentleness of his hand.
I don't know what happened to Tristan later that year when spring came along. The light he carried with him grew dark and he looked sad. I'd ask him what was wrong and he'd smile half-heartedly and tell me not to worry. I felt like something was seriously wrong but I brushed it off, thinking he would tell me if there was something wrong. One afternoon, I walked to Tristan's house which was only a few blocks away. I raised my fist to knock on the door of the beautiful big house when I heard his father yelling at his mother. I stepped back, trying not to be nosy. I heard something break and it sounded like glass. I stepped back to the door, listening, thinking something was wrong. I heard Tristan run downstairs and yell at his father to leave his mother alone. I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to make Tristan uncomfortable or embarrassed about what happened. So I went home, thinking it was just a small argument.
The next day at school, Tristan didn't show up which was very unusual because he had perfect attendance and straight As on his report cards. Worried, I walked to his house after school, thinking he was probably sick and needed someone to take care of him. I knocked on the door and his mother answered. His mother was unusually scared and looked really upset. I noticed she had scratches on her arms and bruises on her face and neck. I started to ask what was wrong, although I already guessed. Tristan's father yelled, angrily for Tristan to come downstairs to see his guest. Walking to the door where I was, Tristan held his head down and barely looked up when talking to me.
"Tristan, I was worried. You didn't come to school. Are you sick?" I asked, worried and scared.
Tristan grabbed my arm and walked me down the steps. He looked up at me. My mouth dropped open and tears filled my eyes. Tristan had a black eye.
"What the hell happened?" I yelled
He looked down. I knew what happened. I knew it.
"Your father hits you?! I'm telling the cops, Tristan"
I was so mad. My bestfriend got hurt.
Tristan begged me not to say anything to anyone. He made up excuses for his father's behavior. He told me his father was drunk and it was an accident. Seeing that it would hurt Tristan deeply if I told, I didn't.

I should have.

Intersession came along that October. School was out for a week. The Friday we got out, I searched for Tristan after school to ask him if he wanted to come home with me. I ran into Collin and asked if he had seen Tristan. He told me Tristan was with Jess by the fence which surrounded the school. At th fence, I saw Jess putting out a cigarette and stomping it to the ground. I walked up to him and saw Tristan lighting up a cigarette behind a bush. I got angry and ashamed. I yanked the cigarette from Tristan, threw it on the ground and stomped it. Jess chuckled, told Tristan he'd bring alcohol to his party later that night, and walked off.
"What party?" I asked.
Tristan told me he was hanging out with some guys that night at his house.
I yelled at Tristan, calling him names because he was doing drugs and drinking with Jess. Tristan never did drugs. Tristan was completely innocent.
Tristan stood taller and started yelling at me claiming it was just a damn cigarette and I needed to back off and let him do what he wants. He started to walk away and I grabbed him by the arm. I yelled at him more.
"What the hell is wrong with you, Tristan?! You're partying with the druggie? You're gonna waste your life away because your dad-" I stopped there.
Tristan turned his head, turned back to me and yelled "because my dad hits my mom and I sometimes? Because my family is falling apart? Because I can't take anymore stress, Katherine?!" I could tell he was trying to hide back tears. I reached to touch his face and to tell him everything was gonna be okay. I wanted to comfort him. I wanted to be his shoulder to cry on. I wanted to be there for him as he had always been there for me.
But he stormed off.

That was the last time I saw Tristan.
That night at the party, Tristan got drunk and got behind the wheel of his fathers old car. Tristan ended up at the bottom of the lake where he had spent our time together as little kids.
The next few weeks, I didn't go to school. I didn't eat. I didn't drink. I did nothing. I cried so much the night I heard the news that I couldn't cry anymore. I lied in bed, staring at the wall, and glanced at the pictures we took together that was taped to my mirror. I felt like I was dead too, along with my bestfriend - the angel I once knew.

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