He got up and started down the aisle to leave.
I bit my lip, making up my mind and standing, starting after him. With shaking fingers, I reached out and grabbed his hand, which was mostly covered by the sleeve fabric on his lovely green sweater.
He turned as he felt my touch, staring into my glossy eyes, clearly startled.
"...Can I walk with you?" I asked, forcing the words out and dropping his hand apologetically.
"Yeah, I uh... Yeah," he nodded, offering to take my bag off my shoulders and lightening slightly. My heart stung.
"I got it, thanks," I smiled, and the bus driver cleared her throat up front.
We quickly loaded off the bus, the snow crunching under our feet like corn flakes as we made our way into the suburbs. My house was in the opposite direction of his, but I didn't care as I walked beside him towards his own house. I had to talk to him, had to speak to him, before…
I sighed, my breath billowing out in white clouds into the cold air, breaking the growing silence.
"...Have you been okay?"
"Yeah, yeah," he lied, shrugging. "...I'm sorry, but, uh... Why, uh..."
He used to never be so shy. My chest ached, and I watched him carefully.
"Yes?" I prompted quietly, then immediately regretted my rudeness, suddenly sheepish.
"Why do you care? No offence, but... I didn't think you even knew me..." He stared at his shoes.
My voice dropped to a whisper, and I reached an arm up and touched his arm gently. He looked up at me, and the words almost didn't come out because our eyes had met.
"Harry, I've seen the notes..." I murmured, feeling my eyes tear up again. I quickly raised a forearm to my face, covering my lip as it began to tremble. Turning my head away, I bit my cheek, fighting back tears. I wouldn’t cry in front of him…
We had stopped crunching along in the snow.
"Skylar, I..." His voice had cracked.
"Don't do it, please," I choked, looking over at him and clenching my jaw.
"How did you... I didn't think you knew I existed," he said, his eyes clouding. He stared at me, and I saw his eyes fill with tears.
I shook my head, really crying now that he had begun to as well. "Don't do it, Harry. Please. I– I think you're beautiful."
He gaped at me, and I gasped, covering my mouth again before turning and dashing away.
"Skylar, wait!" He called.
I slowed for a moment, but I was too mortified to talk to him again, so I kept running.
When I reached my house a few blocks down, I bustled into the kitchen from the back door and hurried down the hall to my room, ignoring my mother's questioning comments and slamming the door, sprawling on my bed in defeat.
I sobbed uncontrollably, curling up into a ball and hugging my favourite blanket to my chest.
How had I been so stupid?! Why did I say that? To his face…
I was terrified of what he thought of me now.
I remember the way how, throughout the past few years, I had believed to have fallen in love with him. First his smile, then his laugh, the way his eyes lit up, how his voice sounded in the morning, how his voice sounded all the time... And when all those bright things had gone, I was left to realise that I loved him underneath all of it. I loved him.
Just this year, he had stopped laughing, barely ever smiling on the bus or even at school. He still sat next to his friends, but when they would make a funny remark in effort to lighten him, he would give nothing but a tiny smile, not even the old spark in his eyes left over.
I slowly sank with him, afraid for him, wanting to lift his saddened heart... But I would have to talk to him to do that, and I could never get the guts to do so.
Then the notes came. First, they seemed like just jokes, mere teases, saying things like "you stink" and "you're weird" and such. He'd wave them off nonchalantly, throwing them away and moving on. But then they started getting worse. Personal, even. "How can you live with yourself?” “You're a player” “Everyone hates you." It wasn't as easy to take the comments as teasing, to toss them aside like they were nothing.
I watched him drift into the darkness, into a depression that always seemed to anyone to have but one lingering, single, inescapable, foreboding conclusion.
Death by choice.
I saw the downward spiral, helplessly standing by, scared to ever say anything for fear he would just be angry or neglect me. I guess the fact that I was leaving anyways drove me to finally speak to him. I was relieved when he hadn't pushed me away from the start, because he’d let me walk with him, but then after I'd let slip that I found him attractive…
I was just glad I was leaving the next morning.
But fear ebbed at my chest as well. What would happen to him, after I was gone? Was I the only one who would try to stop him? Had I just blown my chances?
I buried my face in my pillow, sobbing harder as my mum slipped into the room.
"You alright, honey?" She asked, sitting down beside me and brushing her fingers across my back. "Was it boys? Don't tell me you tried liking that Ian boy..."
Anger flashed through me. How could anyone be so selfish as to think of themselves and cry about being rejected when there could be people around them weighing the options of life or death? I was being unreasonable with my thoughts, but I was genuinely aggravated and I couldn't stop getting mad at one thing after another.
I sobbed harder, shaking my head angrily. "No, Mum! Gosh, is that all that matters to you anymore?! Is that all anyone thinks matters with teenagers?! No!! He could DIE without me, Mum! The notes, I..." I trailed off, shoving away when she tried to hug me.
I leaped to my feet and fled again, this time outside to my yard and straight into a snowbank.
The dirty ice crystals stung my face, neck, hands, arms, and chest, but relief flooded through me at the sharp sensation. It was distracting me from my current thoughts, making me focus on how the cold burned rather than how big of an impact I could make on that boy's life.
However influential the snowbank was on my mind, it's effects didn't last long. A thought hit me like a blow, and I froze, my heart sinking.
What if, by my previous actions, I had driven him to want to commit suicide even more? Fear shot through me, and I felt nothing but the foreboding emotion, numb as I hurried back to my house.
I stumbled up the porch steps, flying into the kitchen and accidentally knocking something over. I quickly forgot about it, seizing the phone and punching in numbers frantically before I realised that I was dialling my mum's number. Then I realised that I didn't even know his number. By then my father had drifted over, yelling at me, probably for knocking over whatever I'd tipped loose on my way in.
He took the phone, continuing into a rant that slurred into a blur for my ears. All I could think about was Harry, searching desperately for any form of a plan that could help him…
"...Do you understand, Sky?" My dad's last words slipped into focus.
I nodded emptily.
"Good. Now you better get off to sleep, we have a big day tomorrow. Goodnight, princess." He ushered me off to my room.
My mind was fuzzy, and I don't barely remember putting my PJ's on, brushing my teeth, and crawling into bed. I don't remember falling asleep. But I do remember that I was certain about one thing: I had to wake up early the next morning.
~The next morning~
My alarm went off, and I slipped on my boots. I hadn't been asleep for the last hour, having woken up from anxiety. But right then, I had to forget the butterflies in my stomach–it was time to go.
I brushed my teeth quickly, putting my hair up into a half-hearted bun and hurrying out the door with just a paper in hand, not caring what my parents would think when I was gone if they woke before I returned.
I was in my pyjamas, with messy hair and a note clutched in my trembling hands, heading to the bus stop. At this point, who cared about dignity? I had to see him. One last time. To make sure…
I arrived before I was ready to recite the lines I'd practiced over and over this morning in my mirror and on the way here, and my hands were shaking even worse. I began to panic, but I couldn't afford to show it, because he was coming. No, he was there. Almost. One more step…
"Skylar?" He said. I looked up, feeling the colour rush to my face. He was staring at me. "Why are you in your pyjamas?"
The bus would be here soon. I needed more time. Would the bus ride be long enough? No, I couldn't risk it.
"Pyjama day at school," I coughed quietly, finalising my decision to ride the bus. My parents would ground me. But it was worth it, if I could stop him.
"Oh," he nodded, looking confused. He was wondering how there could have been a pyjama day without his knowledge, I guessed. I bit my lip and tried to ignore my guilt. "Uh... Yeah, cool. Where's your bag?"
"Forgot it," I lied, dropping my gaze. “Uh... Harry?”
"I... here," I shoved the note into his hands, clenching my teeth to keep them from chattering. I was still trembling, though, and he'd noticed.
"Thanks," he took the note, but didn't read it right away, instead pulling off his green sweater I loved so much and offering it to me. "You're... cold..."
I shook my head, staring. "Oh, no, I–"
"Skylar, take my sweater, you're freezing."
I reluctantly pulled it on over my head, obeying. "Thanks. But aren't you cold?"
He shrugged, tugging his sleeves down over his hands. He hadn't worn a teeshirt in forever, even in summer. I assumed there were battle scars that kept him from doing so.
Then he turned his attention to the note, the one I’d scratched out this morning in a final effort to get him to change his mind with words, figuring I'd be too tongue-tied to actually speak, which I'd been correct about.
He read it carefully, his eyes growing big a they scanned the crumpled page.
I grimaced, feeling myself tear up. If he was freaked out, if he hated me... I didn't know what I would do.
He looked up at me after reading it a few times, meeting my gaze evenly. I stared at him, into his eyes, because I knew I would hate myself forever if I looked away from their gorgeous emerald depths on the last day.
"I won't do it," he whispered, and by the sound of it, he had a lump in his throat. As did I.
Tears of relief came, and my voice caught. "Harry, I–"
"Because," he continued quietly. "Because I think you're beautiful, too."
And it was small, but…
I didn't get on the bus that day. I went home with his sweater and his e-mail, both of which he'd given me. Still today we're in touch, and close, too. He's gotten much better, and he thanks me all the time, though I hate it. I would have been dead, too, if he had done it. We both saved each other.
I still like him, and I'm too afraid to ask him if he still thinks I'm beautiful. I'll never forget that day. I'll never forget the day that he told me I was beautiful.
And I'm no hero, but I'll never forget the day that I saved my best friend's life.