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The Secrets That I Keep

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Ever since I was a young child, I was taught that to guard a secret is to lay down your life. Turns out, this teaching was true, except, thus far, it hasn’t been my life laid down. These words, now, live only in my memory. And from what I’ve learned, the memory is the only place safe from those who would thieve my words away. Besides, it’s not as if those who would take my words would remember them the way I do; or even remember at all. The memory is a powerful thing.

November 22, 2007.
Dear Journal,
Guess who I saw today? As you may have guessed, it’s my birthday. Well, anyways, he said that now that I’m fourteen, I’m old enough for jewelry of my very own. He got me a locket. It’s such a dainty, little thing; quaint, precious, and special, only to me. He had it custom designed by one of his brother’s friends. A tiny little willow tree with vines that twist and bow lovingly around the edges of a cross. He’s such a Catholic, to a fault. Nevertheless, it’s okay, because I can understand why he loves the church so much. I still can’t tell you his name (I know mom reads everything I write), so I’ll just say, I’m completely and utterly in love. Don’t laugh. I know I’m fourteen, but even he says he’ll marry me someday, and he’s nineteen, way older, smarter, and wiser. I’m sure of it. Well, I gotta go. Mom made this weird type of chocolate lava cake I’m not supposed to know about, and she’s calling me down for my surprise birthday party. I mean, come on… seriously, who wouldn’t notice the like fifteen cars parked on the side of the road half a block away. In front of the house no one lives in. Duh. Well, see ya.
Love,
Skeeter
“My birthday had been an absolute train wreck,” I looked over at the boy sitting on the park bench table, “Can you believe her freaking cake actually exploded on me? How do you get chocolate cake to explode by having it just sit there?!? It’s cake. Come on.” The boy laughed around my anger and hopped up onto his feet. He was tall, like basketball player tall. However, he didn’t flaunt his height like most guys would, he wore it in a kind of strange and gangly fashion, like he wasn’t used to all the extra arm and leg length he had. He looked like his skin was a little too loose on his frame. He also had these eyes, it’s like, impossible to describe. I’ve just never seen eyes like that in anyone, especially a black person. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, he’s black. Not like dark truffle black, more of a mocha latte, hold the whip, somewhat black. In addition, his eyes were super hunter and electric green. It was highly strange on someone like him, but they seemed to fit his face okay, so I let it slide. Yeah right, like I could’ve done anything to change them anyways.
Jonny was special to me. Special in a way that can’t really be replaced. Ever. He had fire, strength, passion, and promise, a person like him was invaluable. To me, anyways. I was lucky I found him, if I hadn’t, I’m pretty sure I’d be even more lost without him, had I never met him.
“At least you’ll never forget it? That’s the best I got, I know it’s pathetic, but I’m pretty sure the whole explosion thing was exactly what your mom was going for. She tends to be… unique, to say the least.” He walked over and grabbed my hand, rubbing it softly between his pull the circulation back to my icy fingertips.
“Yeah, but why does my mom have to be the freakish one? Why can’t I have a semi-normal mother?” I was being a complete blowfish and I knew it. My mom had only done what any other mother would have done. She just blew her role out of proportion. “Besides, moms are supposed to love you, not try to explode you.” I blew my bangs out of my eyes. How I hated those stupid bangs. My mother made me get them because they made me into her little girl again.
Jonny stroked my hair down my back. “Hey, let’s get out of here, okay? I’ll take you to Indiana Beach for the day.” Oh… it sounded so enticing. I wanted to, really badly. But mom would notice I’m gone. “You can tell your mom that you’re staying the night at Paige’s tonight. And it won’t be a lie. We’ll go to the park, have some fun, bring back some kind of fat stuffed animal for your pixie, drop you off at her house, and call it a night. Cool?” I nodded blankly. I loved that he could practically read my mind and come up with a fast solution. “So get going.” He smacked my backside, and forced me to realize he wanted me to go to mom and tell her tonight’s “plan.”

January 3, 2008
Dear Diary,
Yesterday was, by far, the scariest day of my life. I was walking on the icy puddles between the trees at Lion’s Park and he was swinging. Right? I walk over to him and he starts arguing with me about the dumbest thing ever, my freaking hair. He stands up, grabs a fist full and pulls it over my shoulder telling me that it was perfect the way it was, he didn’t want me to dye it, not even with Kool-Aid. So, I tell him to lay off, Kool-Aid comes off in like two weeks, and he got even madder. But he just stood there. Not saying anything but the expression on his face got weaker and weaker. And he looked like he was looking somewhere far away. And then, he fell, like flat out fell to the ground. Some fat-ish dude from the pagoda calls an ambulance and says he’ll pay for it too. I was told to go home. Dave would come and get me later. I’m really scared, this has never happened before.

Love,
Skeeter
“Where is he? It’s been over a week. Tell me where he is!” I have Dave by the shoulders, and I’m running myself ragged with worry. But who wouldn’t? I was frantic. Dave’s glasses slid down his nose a bit. He was a short man, almost shorter than me, so maybe five foot three. He had no hair, and his arms wouldn’t lay flat to his sides, he had too much muscle. Dave was not someone to mess with, but right then, if he had gotten in my way, I would have gladly torn him apart.
Dave stood there silently beneath my scrutiny. Like he was half-way afraid to answer, half-way downright angry. I did NOT care. I think he read in my face that I meant business because he pointed to my shoes by the door and motioned for me to get in the car. His saying nothing said absolutely everything. I laced my shoes deliberately, taking my sweet time because I was almost afraid of where I was being taken. Dave had always said I was more mature than most other girls my age, that I could face down problems with a level mind and a steady hand, but when it came to this, I felt like taking my fourteen-year-old self and breaking down into a steady stream of tears, begging him to just tell me.
I didn’t though. I stayed cool and collected and took my seat in the passenger side of Dave’s rusted, red, ’87 Ford Pick-up truck. The thing sputtered more than an old man with tuberculosis, but if it got me to where Jonny was, I would have ridden bare-back on a wild mustang down I69. I was through with playing games. Dave pulled up into Visitor Parking at Parkview Main, I felt my stomach drop, I had hoped we were going to be passing by this place, but I guess I’d already known my final destination.
The hospital waiting room was just like every other hospital I’d ever been in. it stunk of antiseptic and illness. As soon as I stepped my foot in the door, I wanted to step right back out. We didn’t stop at the front desk, instead, Dave just stalked forward slowly. I had no choice except to follow. I don’t remember the room number, or even which floor I was on, just that I was in the wretched place, passing door after door with curtains pulled, old men coughing, a few children sleeping. All of them had tubes and wires sticking all over their bodies. And the blood bags…? Don’t get me started on the gagging reflex…
Jonny was the only one in his room. The curtains were drawn and the bed next to him was neatly and generically made. I swept aside the curtain and struggled against the tears at what I saw. Jonny was ash grey all over and more gaunt than I’d ever seen him. He had a feeding tube shoved down his throat, a wrist IV with four tubes joined into it and heart monitors strapped to him. He didn’t even look human. I choked back the urge to scream at all the nurses bustling around him, and instead grabbed for his hand. “Everything’s gonna be all right baby. You’ll see. Everything’s gonna be just fine.”

August 19, 2008
Dear Journal,
I went to one of the chemo sessions yesterday while Mom and Don were in Busco. Dave said this might be my only opportunity. He hasn’t gotten any better, and the cure is making him worse. But everyone says it ‘s gotta be worse before it can get better. I guess I can believe that. Sorta. Kitty’s been ragging on me to hurry up and pick a boy already. I can’t… He still needs me, he’s still alive. I really wish I could tell her. This secret hurts to keep. The session itself didn’t look so bad. Dave and I stood with doctors in a room with a window looking into the room he was in. He laid on a hospital table while a loud machine with lights went around him in a circular motion. It didn’t look painful, or even like anything really, When it was done, some doctors went in for some blood samples, mouth swabs, and some other standard procedure things. Then we left. About an hour later, at his house, he started screaming. His ashy face was all red and white splotchy and his whole body was contorted, like he had every muscle tensed from the pain. I can barely even write it without thoroughly shaking, it was so scarey. I think mom’s calling, I have to go…


Love,
Skeeter
He was deathly still, lying on the ground in front of me. I knew he was just playing, but it still gave me the chills to think that sooner than later, he was going to permanently be that way. Makes a girl wanna cry. I bent down and reached out to cup his cheek with my hand. His flew up and grabbed mine toppling me over onto his chest. “Don’t DO that Jonny, I don’t wanna break you.” And it was true. Jonny was now six foot two inches in height, and almost exactly a hundred thirty pounds. The last doctor’s appointment put him at 3.7% BMI, and decreasing. He was dying of malnutrition at this point. He refused to eat.
“Do I get a kiss?” I shook my head at him. “Pretty please?” He jutted out his lower lip in his pathetic excuse for a puppy face.
“Let me make you something to eat. It’ll be awesome. We can do the ‘Everything but the kitchen sink’ pizza.” I looked at him, trying to put concern out of my expression and add hopeful joy. It’s extremely hard to be happy when all you want to do is cry. Rolling me off of him, he sat up and looked me over a couple of times before hanging his head between his knees.
“Okay,” he said “But I still deserve that kiss.” I nearly jumped on him, pressing my lips to his.
“Promise to help me eat the whole thing?” I pulled my mouth back a little, teasing him.
“Okay…”
“Whoop whoop!” I wrapped my arms up and around his neck pulling him close. He was going to eat! I couldn’t have been happier.

September 3, 2008
Dear Journal,
Hallelujah! The doctors said, “Remission.” He’s getting better! He’s getting better! Oh, I could just jump up and down screaming right now. My guts are all in knots from the explosive joy I have to hold in. I’m gonna freak out in a minute! Oh my God, thank You so much, You have no idea how much this means to me…


Love,
Skeeter
“No… No, no, no, no, no… what do you mean?” My head was on full throb from the excessive crying. “No, no, no, God, no…” Jonny held my hands tight to his chest. How could he? After all I’ve done?
“Her name is Ravyn…” Nope, can’t hear you… I’m not listening… lalalalalalala… “I’m sorry Jay.”
“Sorry? How can you be sorry?” Tears flushed down my cheeks in a steady stream. People were sorry for breaking someone’s iPod, or for accidentally dying their dog pink dumping Kool-Aid on them, or even for cussing them out. No one was sorry for cheating on their faithful girlfriend with a hooker from a strip club and then telling the girlfriend about it. “You had no right! I have always been here, I’ve done everything I could possibly think of for you… why her!?”
“It just happened Skye, I swear I didn’t mean for it to…”
“I don’t wanna hear it, you’re as bad as Erik.” As soon as the words left my mouth, I regretted them, but I didn’t have long to feel contrite. I felt Jonny’s hand before I even saw it move. It struck the side of my face with such force, my head twisted painfully to the left and my right cheek went up in flames. For a moment, time stopped; I felt my heart beating my ears, my hair growing, and tears forming in my eyes. Jonny stood rigid with his hand raised, looked at my face, then at his own hand. Slowly, his hand lowered, and I began to back away.
“No… please, Skye… don’t do that…” I couldn’t help it. All those years of torture by my mother’s fist, my father’s belt, Bill’s everything, not Jonny too. God… not Jonny too. I involuntarily took another step backwards, fighting the urge to flee. But I wouldn’t let him any closer. I didn’t want him with in touching distance again. Licking my lips, I tasted copper; my mouth was bleeding! Why!? He was the one that dried my tears and bandaged my wounds, not put them there himself. No way could I stay there; I turned heel and fled through his front door, letting the screen slam behind me. Rocks shredded my bare toes and the cold wind whipped around my arms. Who could feel anything though, right after they’d been betrayed?
I ran until I reached my sacred place, my haven, where I dropped. The tears were a steady stream at this point, and there was no stemming the flow. I just let them fall. It’s not like I could’ve stopped them anyways.


October 11, 2008
Dear Journal,
My sorrow is beyond compare. This is my last entry, because what need is there to write when the one I wrote for and about is gone? I knew it was going to happen, I just didn’t know it was coming so soon. Jonny didn’t want to be alive anymore, and yes, I can freely write his name now, I’m putting you into hiding. I knew about the pact between Erik and him, I guess I had just hoped they had forgotten. Journal, three days ago, Jonny died through the hands of his brother in a contract assisted suicide. His death was quick and painless for him, but entirely earth-shattering for me. I have spent the last three days in his apartment, stemming the flow of hatred, anger, sadness, guilt, and overwhelming pain, so that I might pull myself together enough that I can get up and move again. Three days ago, Journal, was our anniversary. And in the years to come, it will always serve as a reminder to everything I lost. I don’t know when his funeral is, I have been disallowed from attending. But Journal, the secrets I will always carry should never be a woman’s burden to carry alone. And now it is I who long to die. I love him forever Journal. Thank you for the memories.

Love,
Skyla Bear





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