I had never expected it to turn out this way. Things like this never happened in the movies. The popular cheerleader was supposed to end up on the top of the pyramid, literally, not lying on the floor. People tried to convince me that it wasn’t my fault that Meredith Hansen was now 6 feet underground, but we all knew they were lying. It was all fun and games until it wasn’t. In fact, it was never fun or a game in the first place; it was just a coping mechanism for my struggles. I’m Paige Parson, and this is my story.
When I was in the seventh grade, I was 150 pounds at 5 feet tall. I didn’t exercise, I ate a bunch of fatty foods, and I didn’t really think much of it. One day, my mom, my sister, and I went to the doctor's office for a well check. My little sister, Rosemary, was the opposite of me. She played soccer, was super popular, and was thin and beautiful. Obviously the doctors wouldn’t find anything wrong with her, but with me, I knew that I was going to be told to go on a diet or laxatives or something. When we saw the doctor, he gave us our weight and heights, checked our blood pressure and things like that. The doctor did our examinations, but then my mother suddenly ushered me out of the examination room. She told me to wait here because Rosemary and her had to talk to the doctor privately. That was the start of something fishy. I knew that something was wrong, but I didn’t bring it up with anyone.
Several weeks after our well check, I noticed Mom and Rosemary leaving multiple times a week for “an important errand” or “a trip to the store”. I always asked to come with but the answer was always no. I didn’t understand why my mom and my sister were always going out and not letting me come. I probably should’ve asked about her earlier, but being my young ignorant self it didn’t cross my mind. On a stormy night, I waited outside my mother’s door for my mom to braid my hair for bed. I heard my mom talking, so I just assumed it was one of her clients on the phone, because Rosemary was at a sleepover and my dad had left us 4 years before. Naturally, I listened through the crack of the door.
“Yes, yes, I know. Are the blood test results in yet?” I heard my mother say on the phone. What was this about? I thought. I kept listening to the conversation.
“Yeah the bruising gotten worse! She gets bad headaches and her skin had some speckles like the last time we checked.” I could just tell that this was about Rosemary. I got closer to the door to maybe hear a little more. I hear the person on the other end of the phone’s voice. I think it was our doctor! I tried to make out some words but it didn’t work.
Then I abruptly heard my mom’s words through a loud animal like sob. “Leukemia! How am I supposed to pay for treatment? What about my baby…” I took it in that my sister had blood cancer and she might not live into adulthood. I couldn’t take it so I opened the door and ran into my mom’s sad embrace.
We spent months, in and out of hospitals. Right when we thought she was getting better, she just got worse. I decided to do something for me and for Rosemary while she was in the hospital through the course of many years. I decided to start exercising and eating right while Rosemary was getting treatment. I ran a lot, ate nothing but vegetables for a day, and so much more to be fit. Eventually I got so in shape that in my freshmen year, my gym coach asked me to try out for the cheer squad. Surprisingly I made it on the team! The day I made it on the team, I found out that a new treatment that my sister was trying was starting to seem effective! Things were starting to look up!
For a year, things were looking good until one day, things weren’t. The treatments were seeming to work for a bit, but then the cancer came back. Rosemary was so tired! We all were so tired. We prayed that Rosemary would be strong enough to make it through this, but in the end she wasn’t. When the doctor broke the news to me, I wasn’t that surprised, since things weren’t looking so great, but I was devastated and still in shock. The day of Rosemary’s funeral was the worst day of my life; it was the day that I realized that it was goodbye for perhaps ever! It was also the day that I completely fell apart.
After Rosemary’s death, I started coping with cheerleading, more specifically the cheerleaders. The cheerleaders at my high school were like the stereotypical cheerleaders; dumb, blonde, and mean. My cheerleader friends, Maddie and Alisha, were my go to people. The power group was Maddie, Alisha, and me, Paige, and everyone knew it. Maddie and I weren’t necessarily nice but we weren’t incredibly mean, but Alisha was all about revenge. Alisha had one cousin that she hated named, Meredith Hansen. Alisha had always had a bad relationship with Meredith every since they were little. Meredith was a piccolo player in the school band and had perfect straight A’s. Alisha was just a C average bratty cheerleader. Sometimes Alisha would trip Meredith down the stairs, etc. Alisha and Meredith both loved singing though and that’s where things got especially messy between them. Meredith had gotten the solo and Alisha didn’t. That was Alisha’s breaking point, and also where I come in.
I was so frustrated with Rosemary’s death I didn’t want to think about making new friends even though I knew what Alisha was doing was wrong. I also didn’t want to deal with Alisha’s revenge for ratting her out, so I played along with teasing and shoving Meredith. I figured as long as nothing too serious happened it would all be fine was my mindset. All we did was “gently” tease her and trip her in the hall, what I thought was nothing much.
One day, at my home, my mom and I were going through Rosemary’s old stuff before school. Old earrings, pillows, and other things like that of Rosemary’s we were going to give away to family or donate. We went through various clothing, jewelry, pictures, etc. until we got to one of Rosemary’s soccer jerseys, not just a regular jersey, but her favorite. I think at this point my mom went numb emotionally and thought we could just donate it. I obviously argued with her, but she wouldn’t let me keep it because it was too small! I didn’t get it and I didn’t know what to do with my anger… so I took the anger to school with me.
When I got to school, we went with our normal routine of teasing and tripping Meredith at school but this day I let it escalate way to far. We took Meredith to the bathroom and I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to make this girl feel my pain. I decided to scream awful names at her. I told her she was worthless, and then I decided to try to drown her. It felt good for a moment, then I heard Maddie and Alisha scream at me to stop, so I did.
Maddie took me to the principal’s office which I didn’t deserve. I deserved to go to jail for trying to drown her, but I didn’t! I just got suspended for three weeks. What was worse than me feeling like she was worthless, was Meredith feeling like she was worthless. Because of me and Alisha and Maddie, she got severely depressed. A few weeks after I came back from my suspension, the news came on and I saw that Meredith Hansen had committed suicide. I knew it was my fault. It was my fault that this girl killed herself. Because of my choices and my actions, a teen girl took her life. I decided to quit being on the cheerleading squad and go back on the bottom. It was all fun and games until it wasn’t.