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A Handful of M&Ms
"Claire," I asked one evening, "Why do you like math?"
She shrugged and grabbed a handful of M&Ms from the jumbo bag on my nightstand. Her body was lean and long, and her newly painted toes kissed the railing at the end of my bed. They were an interesting color; looking were a deep purple in one light and an angry blood red color in the next. They made me think about my own blue nail polish that were chipping off and I wished-not for the first time-that I was more like Claire.
I tucked my legs underneath me, rustling the papers full of functions and equations that I was studying for the final I had tomorrow.
“I guess I like it because it’s so predictable,” she said nonchalantly, popping another M&M into her mouth before continuing. “All you gotta do is plug in numbers or use the right equation and the answer will come out right unless, of course, you’re a dumbass.” she finished looking at me pointedly.
I hit her shoulder with my notebook, kind of stung by her comment, but she was already laughing. “Shut up,” I half-teased. “I am not a dumbass.” Claire was always on the A or B honor roll. Always. And I, being consistent, was always below average, missing the cut off by more than a few digits.
Claire bumped my shoulder with hers lightly. “I know. I was just kidding,” she told me but there was a little truth in it. Being Claire’s below average untalented younger sister had no perks whatsoever-unless you counted the fact that everyone wanted to be Claire’s friend and would use you like a stepping stone to get to her.
I sighed, “That’s the only reason?”
Her chin rested against my shoulder as she smiled at me. “Yup.”
“What about when you screw up and you have to erase the whole thing and start over?”
Claire leaned back, her golden hair fanning out on the pillow like a halo. Her palm was dripping with color, the M&Ms melting into her hand, and a red trickle of dye slowly slithered between her thumb and index finger and dripped on my comforter. “That’s the thing,” she said.
“There isn’t any screw up you can’t come back from.”
I turned to look at her. Her eyes were closed, her eyelashes tickling her cheeks. She looked like she was asleep but her cheeks were too rosy and her lips twitched with a smile. One orb of blue peeked at me before she laughed and popped another M&M into her mouth.
She was dead two months later.
My mom found her, lying in her bed like she laid in mine, perfect and beautiful, but she didn’t smile, didn’t do anything at all, and the worst part of it was that she was still so f---ing pretty even when she was dead, even after what she did. People that she didn’t even know came to her funeral.Their clammy hands embracing me, telling me that they were sorry for my loss and saying they’d pray for me and my family. Even Margaret Brenner, who cheated off of every single one of Claire’s Chemistry tests came with big fat tears rolling down her cheeks leaving behind streaks of mascara.
It was disgusting.
No one could bring themselves to ask how she did it. Maybe they already knew. Or maybe they made up their own story.
Something about how she couldn’t deal with the world anymore and decided to end it one day. A theory that could very well be the truth but I will never know. The fact is that no one was there to see the prescription bottle tipped over on her nightstand, the little white pills spilling all over the surface and melting in the sun just as the M&M’s had melted in her hand.
I sat in the pew, drowning out the priest and stared at the coffin behind him that held her. Nail polish, CDs, balloons, candy, flickering candles, and other random items were placed beneath the casket at my parent’s request so that everyone could bring something that reminded them of Claire. The more items that poured in, the more I realized that none of us really knew her at all. All the pieces we thought we knew about her didn’t add up, no matter what equation or function I plugged it into. When the preacher asked us all to bow our heads and pray, heads dipped around me and people closed their eyes but I stared straight ahead, looking at the casket, and wondered if she regretted it, even for a minute. Claire was so sure of herself it was hard to picture her anything but confident. But just for a moment, I saw her in her bed with her hair fanned out behind her and a single tear rolling down her cheek, wondering if she did the right thing.
You're wrong, Claire.
There are some screw ups you can’t come back from.