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We should have spotted it from the beginning. A jovial individual transforming—no, abruptly converting—into an introvert? It was unheard of. And we ignored it. We refused to look past her superficial exterior; her good-humored personality had been helping us cope with our own lives in some small way.

I still remember the last day I spoke to her—one of her last days, actually. If I had known that then, would I have acted differently?
She walked into class as per her normal schedule, but the trail of friends that usually escorted her to class was absent as it had been for the past month. She passed my seat, and refused to look up. Refused to acknowledge my presence.
She proceeded to circle the last row and made her way to the assigned seat next me.
“Hello Ellie,” I said. She looked up briefly, but I didn’t notice the red tint to the rims of her eyes. I didn’t know she had been crying herself to sleep for the past three weeks. I was plagued by my own curiosity, my own desire for her to return to normalcy.
“Hello,” she whispered so softly, I barely heard her. Her tone was ever-so-slightly curt, but I was having none of that. I planned to confront her, find out what was happening. But when the words came out, they sounded wrong. “What’s wrong with you?” I demanded.
Her head raised, and she made eye contact for the first time that day. Her chocolate-brown eyes pleaded me to ignore her, to let her sink into her secluded world.
“Why are you acting this way? So he broke up with you. Big deal! Get over it already, you’re pissing us off.” My voice rang throughout the classroom; my peers raised their heads towards us, and the classroom became eerily silent. The teacher was running late. Had she been there then, I would have received a detention for “uncalled behavior.” Looking back now, I wish she was.
Ellie looked down at the floor. Tears welled up in her eyes but she didn’t let them flow. Her once-manicured, now-bony hands picked up her books, and she ran out of the room.
That was the last time I’d seen her. She called in sick for the next three days. On the fourth day, her mother went to work after seeing Ellie off at the bus stop. She returned home that evening to find her daughter’s lifeless sprawled on a beach chair in the backyard; a bottle of pills was in her hands.
I discovered later from her mother that Ellie’s parents were going through a divorce. And three weeks ago Ellie had been diagnosed with first-stage leukemia; the day after her boyfriend of three years broke up with her.
Ellie’s death wasn’t a suicide; it was a murder, a murder of words. For years later, I lived with the guilt of knowing I was one of the reasons for that murder. She was on the edge of that cliff and I had pushed her forward ruthlessly. The feeling of remorse ate away at me for the duration of my entire life. The worst part was—I received no punishment but my own. Soon I had become the empty shell that Ellie was, faking joy and interest. I carried her with me everywhere. And when death came to me at the age of 64, I was content, knowing that I could finally apologize to her.



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