Torrie, Jay and Me This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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“Do you want to go on the seesaw? I bet you haven’t done that in years.”

Fragments of light glistened through the black abyss with the moon providing just enough to make everything glow. A bitter wind swept through me. It was hard to believe jovial children had occupied this playground earlier that day. Everything seemed utterly lifeless.

Lifeless … The word echoed through my mind. Don’t die, Torrie. Not now.

What the heck, I thought and followed Jay across the schoolyard toward the seesaws. My feet sank deep into the pebbles. There was something very nostalgic about the moment. It was as if I were six years old again.

Jay held his end of the seesaw steady so I could get on. He mounted and situated himself so he almost looked distinguished, but that only lasted a moment. Our weight difference caused me to fly upward, and Jay landed on the ground with a thud.

“That was classic. Where’s a camera when you need one?”

Jay pushed off the ground and I gradually floated back down. Unexpectedly I began drifting upward again. I looked at the ground which should have been under my feet, but there was just air. Jay’s legs were too long, or maybe mine were too short.

Nothing about that moment seemed real. I almost forgot why I was even there with Jay. He wanted to cheer me up, to take my mind off the accident.

I’m sorry I didn’t keep in touch with you, Torrie. What happened? We swore we wouldn’t drift apart. We never should have had that fight …

Jay could tell I was thinking about her again. “Wanna go on the swings?” His voice cut through my silent wandering. I woke up.

Wake up, Torrie. All you have to do is show a sign that you’re okay.

“I’d love to. When you were little, did you ever have a contest to – ”

“– see who could swing the highest?” we asked in unison. My laughter trailed off.

I wonder if you remember, Torrie. I always used to win. Well, not always. And now you’re lying in a hospital not knowing if you’ll ever walk again.

I forced myself to smile and continue the conversation. The swing was higher off the ground than I remembered.

“I bet I can go higher than you,” he said. I shook my head. Leave it to Jay to turn a childhood pastime into a challenge. We rhythmically pumped our legs forward and back, and my hair blew around my face as I sailed through the air. I looked over at Jay. Although he had the same sparkle in his eye and he threw me the same half-smile he always did, there was something different about him. Or maybe there was just something different about the way I saw him. The sparkle fell down his face and into the wind.

“Oh, Liz, smile.”

I really wanted to, but it hurt to smile. I couldn’t tell if the wind was burning my face or if it was the single tear that rolled down my cheek.

We hopped off the swings and started to walk back toward his car.

“You know,” he started, “you’ll do so much better if you keep your mind busy with something else.”

God, Torrie. Why did you have to be so stupid? Why did you have to get in the car with someone who was drunk? You never even saw the curve in the road. The last thing you saw was the tree …

“I’m sorry. What did you say?”

“Liz, let’s talk. You want to know what ticks me off?”

“What?”

He almost didn’t wait for my response.

“How the most beautiful girls hurt themselves for no reason.”

I finally broke down. My blank stare welled up with tears.

“Come here.”

I fell onto Jay’s shoulder. We stood there while he held me and let me cry. I finally realized what was so different about Jay: the sparkle in his eye was a tear I had never seen before.

“I want to fix the world so you never have to cry again,” he said.

That night I cried for Torrie, and Jay cried for me.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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