The Girl Who was Not Invincible

December 11, 2008
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Flip. Flip. Flip. As usual, there is nothing good to watch on TV on a Sunday night. I ponder on whether to put in a movie. Well, maybe not; second semester of school starts tomorrow, and I do not want to fall asleep during first period. I keep flipping through the channels looking for a decent show to watch.

As I hear my ring tone, I look over and see my cell phone lighting up. I reach over and grab the phone and hold it in my hand, hesitating. “Kim’s Cell” is written across the screen.
“Hey, Chels. I have some, uh, bad news,” a weak voice tells me. “Remember Madeleine? Well, she died early this morning.”
“WHAT?!?! How? Why? You cannot be serious! What happened?” I yell through the phone. I feel hot tears well up in my eyes. The muscles in my mouth force a frown and my heart feels like it skipped a beat. My mind is filled with dread; a friend of mine is…dead.
“She had been really depressed since Katrina. She started using drugs to make herself feel better, and well, last night she tried cocaine,” she tells me calmly. Guilt washes over me. If only I had kept in better touch with her. If only I had been a better friend. If only…
“So, she overdosed?” I mutter.
“No, she had only taken the ‘average’ amount, I guess. She might have taken something else with it, too, but we are not completely sure. Look, sweets, it will be okay. It took a while for me to realize what exactly was happening. It will be fine; I promise. If you need me, I’m here to talk. I’ll call you tomorrow to check on you and fill you in on the funeral date. It will be okay. We will get through this together,” she says trying to comfort me.
“Yeah, okay. Bye,” I choke out.
A burning sensation takes over the back of my throat. “She’s dead” runs through my mind like a continuous film reel. My eyes leak salty tears; I cannot hold them back any longer.
I wake up with a chill. I pull my comforter and blanket close around me, making a cocoon. I open my eyes, and they droop back down. But, as much as I would love to go back to sleep, I am unable. A ray of light gleams through my curtains and tells me to wake up. I roll over and hide my head under my pillow, letting out a frustrated sigh when my alarm goes off at that exact moment. My attempt to hide from reality failed.
Socks, skirt, blouse, sweater. I dress in a daze; my body goes through the motions, but my mind is unable to keep up. How will my friends possibly be able to understand what I am feeling? How will I tell them? “Hey guys, my friend just died; by the way, what was that math homework?”
The next few days I keep to myself. Winter Formal is Friday, and with school rules, I am not allowed to miss either Thursday or Friday. So, I find Mrs. Cheramie and get special permission to miss school for Maddy’s funeral. As everyone around me talks of how cute their dates are and the color of their dresses, I wonder how I will keep up a fake smile the whole night as to not depress my date. A funeral Thursday, a dance Friday. How could I possibly have fun? I try to get these thoughts out of my mind and just focus on school work.
The next morning, I wait by the window for my ride to pull up. What is normally a quick drive feels like forever. We pull up in front of the very same place I met Maddy, St. Paul’s Episcopal school, when I transferred there for seventh grade. As I walk in the school, I breathe in all the familiar scents that bring back bittersweet memories. The St. Paul’s Episcopal Church holds a place in my heart; therefore, I could not think of a better place to say goodbye to Maddy. My eyes gaze across the room, and I see all my old friends again. We run to each other, and we wrap our arms around everyone in big bear hugs. All the love and comfort coming from our group is almost overwhelming.
Then I see her parents. Her father’s face portrays pain like I have never seen before. His little girl, his baby, is gone. I hug both of her parents, whispering in their ears, “She will be greatly missed.”
Her mom replies, “Thank you for coming, dear. It means a lot.”
Right foot, left foot. Right foot, left foot. My feet shuffle along the floor as I walk into the church. I am afraid to look up, afraid of what I might see. Maddy was a sweet and innocent girl at only sixteen. I do not know if I am ready to see her yet. What is the world coming to? I scream in my mind.
A cold hand shakes me back to reality: Kim reaches over and grabs my arm. “It will be okay, hun. We’ll do this together,” she tells me.
Arm in arm, we walk towards the open casket. A knife cuts through my heart; she looks beautiful. Her skin is not yet pale and looks warm and soft. Pearls hang around her neck; her hair fixed neatly. Is she really dead? She looks so beautiful, surely she is just asleep, I think to myself. She looks peaceful, like she is catching up on missed sleep. Another arm makes its way around my shoulders; I look up to notice Matt and Ryan have joined us. Matt pulls Kim and me away to keep the line moving. The church is so crowded that my friends and I cannot even find a place to sit. We find a bench in the back hallway and just listen to the service. My head hurts, my eyes sting, and my heart aches. My body gives up. I fall into Ryan’s arms and cry. I do not know how long I cry, but it feels like forever. Before I know what is happening, everyone is standing and watching the family process out.

None of us want to go back to school. How can we? Instead, we go out to eat. We spend that time laughing and sharing stories of Maddy. There is still sadness in the air, but less severe than before. Sitting there, I somehow know we will get through this. As in most life-altering experiences, there is a lesson to be learned. Yes, we are young and free and basically without a worry in the world; however, in a way we are not young, not free, and have many worries. I learned that I am not as invincible as I feel, nor is anyone else. That will not happen to me! What nonsense that way of thinking is!
It happened, and will happen to others in the future. No one can go back and change any of it. I grew up today.
Rest in peace, Maddy. I miss you.

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