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Secrets, Secrets Are No Fun...
To Those It May Concern,
I have a secret.
A secret that I‘ve kept for two years.
A secret that I’ve shared with only myself and my nightmares.
And for a while, I was okay with that. My secret was none of anyone’s business except my own. Hiding it became second nature, as did lying. No one had any idea.
But guilt is something that is hard to ignore. A poking in the back of my head, a tingling at the base of my spine every time I lied, every time I came up with an alibi . It became impossible to bear. I was not a good person. I was not normal.
Everyone has secrets, I assured myself. But who was I kidding? This wasn’t even a secret anymore. It was an intolerable burden. And I was getting sick of it.
Drugs were Anna’s best friend. They came before her family, her friends, and me. And when she was found dead in her bedroom with white powder scattered about the floor, it wasn’t hard to deduce what had happened. An autopsy wasn’t even needed. Everyone mourned. And everyone moved on in due time.
Except for me. Because what I had done and what I had witnessed that night mocked me every second of every hour of every day, spinning around in my now horrifying and paranoid mind.
Let me say one thing before I tell the real story that my conscience now forces me to tell. I did not kill Anna. And the police can put that in whatever reports that they want when they find this on their desk tomorrow morning. And if this is a police officer reading this, I hope you do not expect me to confess to killing Anna Taylor later on in this note. Because no matter how many times you read this letter, no matter how many times you try and read between the lines to try and find some kind of confession, there is none.
Sorry if I disappointed you.
So why did I write this? Why did I take time out of my day to tell a story about a case that was already closed?
I’ll tell you why. Because I’m the only one who knows the truth in this sleepy little town. Because, if you read carefully, this is the only place where you will find out Anna’s real killer.
Yes, I said killer. That was not a typo. And I’ll tell you right now, the killer was not cocaine. If there had been an autopsy, the fact that Anna had been murdered would’ve been brutally clear.
I had promised to keep the secrets that no one knew encased the night of my friend’s death in order to keep someone else safe. But what he did was wrong, and he knows it. I can’t continue to protect someone who doesn’t deserve to be protected.
This promise and secret that I’ve kept for so long may be the only thing I have left. And if I let that go, I don’t know what I’ll do.
But, let’s begin. This is not a story that I wish to tell.
But it’s a story that I have to tell.
We lived in the kind of town where everyone knew everyone. Parents had gone to high school together, businesses were family owned, and the narrow streets lent themselves to large block parties where, if you hadn’t known someone beforehand, you were introduced. It was quaint but a bit claustrophobic.
Anna and I lived two houses apart, and had kept walkie talkies under our pillows late at night since we were in second grade, when phones were confusing and communication limited, usually, to school. We were best friends.
But a lot has happened since second grade. Anna grew up and she got into a crowd she shouldn’t have gotten into. She didn’t listen to her parents anymore. Sometimes, their arguments were loud enough to be heard down the street. She tried some things she shouldn’t have tried. Her grades dropped. Her parents split.
She became the neighborhood bad influence. Mothers and fathers told their kids to stay clear of her. She dated too many boys to count-and did too many things with them to name. The outfits she wore could barely be considered clothing.
Our friend Freddy and her went out. Then her and our friend Tommy did the same. Then her and our friend Justin. She blasted through every guy she knew, ruining every friendship that she had with them. Freddy was the most heartbroken. Tommy was the angriest. But her and Justin were still going strong the night she died.
Anna and I still fit perfectly together. My parents split, too, and soon after my father died of a heart attack. My mother became a drunk.
We both came from shattered homes, and we both loved each other more because of it.
Sometimes Anna was the only thing that kept me going.
Anna Taylor sat on the hardwood floor of her mocha beige bedroom with a small baggie filled with perfectly white dust that I have seen on after school specials many times before. She waved it in front of her seven friends’ faces , grinning with her dilated blue eyes wide. “My cousin sold some to me yesterday, and this is all I have left.” She spoke at a speed that was difficult to comprehend. “You guys have to try some. It’s way better than pot. ”
I didn’t like pot or any drugs Anna had pressured me to try. And I wasn’t trying this one. No way. Coke was hard core. I wasn’t going to risk it.
And, for the police officers reading this, yes, I tried pot. Once. But I am not in possession of any and I am never trying it again. So just focus on the actual story.
Anna opened the packet and stared at the tiny pile of powder. Then she glanced up. Her foot was tapping violently against the floor. “Who wants some?” She laughed at the awkward silence that followed after her question. “You wouldn’t believe how amazing it feels. You can take on anything when you’re on this stuff.” Her eyes darted around the room like she was looking for something that she would never find. “It’s such a rush.” She dropped the baggie into Reggie’s open palms. “Try it, Reg.” She pursed her lips and smiled. He lifted it so it was eye-level. He studied it for a minute.
Reggie Smith was always interested in drugs that Anna brought home. He didn’t even care what it was-if it got him high, it was fine with him. I can’t even count how many drugs he’s tried-and how many times he almost died because of them. But he didn’t care. He smirked at the bag in his hand, brown eyes swollen with interest.
Anna was getting impatient. She snatched the drugs from his fingertips. “Here,” she said, opening it and putting a tiny pinch of it on the side of her hand, which was balled up into a fist. She shoved her hand under his nose. He sniffed and tilted his head back. Anna giggled and clapped with pleasure. Reggie’s pupils’ were widening already and his fingers started tapping at an insane speed. “Woah, man,” he leaned over to Justin and pointed at Anna’s hands, which now clenched the bag with anticipation for the next taker. “This is trippy.”
Justin Felton was no druggie. A high achiever, he often refused the drugs that Anna offered him. But, now that he was dating Anna, he was following her around like a lost puppy and doing everything that she asked. Anna raised her eyebrows and sprinkled some powder on her fist again. Justin took some. Soon, him, Anna, and Reggie were each talking fast and declaring their invincibility.
Tommy Jones took some, too, expanding his drug horizons from pot to coke. Then, lastly, quiet Sammy Williams, folding to the peer pressure filling the room, took a deep sniff and smiled shyly.
Fred Shepard and I were the only ones not high yet. And, to tell the truth, it did look fun. They were all full of energy, shouting and laughing at things that I didn’t understand. Maybe one pinch wouldn’t be so bad…
“I want some,” Fred said, reaching for the bag. He grabbed it, but it was open, and the powder flew everywhere. It sprinkled the floor in various places. Thank God. What was I thinking? I was about to try cocaine. How could I be so stupid? Now that I looked at them, they looked more dumb than cool, anyway.
“Freddy!” Anna screamed. “Wow, you’re such a klutz.” Then she laughed. She laughed loud and hard and uncontrollably until everyone joined in.
Fred was always the brunt of the jokes. He was clumsy and awkward, and wore huge, wire-rimmed glasses that hid wide green eyes. But he meant well, I suppose. He squirmed as everyone giggled.
When the mocking finally died down, Freddy looked at everyone in the group in turn, lingering on Anna’s tan face. Then he laughed. Laughed when everyone else was silent, and kept laughing, until he couldn’t breathe. Wheezing, he smiled. The mood shifted. “Let’s play truth or dare,” he suggested.
Everyone agreed, still going at a million miles per hour from their beloved high. They ignored the coke all over the floor.
So there goes your cocaine theory. She did not overdose. Anna Taylor did not OD.
Freddy touched Anna’s shoulder. She shrugged him off. “Me first,” she said, grinning devilishly. “Rachel, truth or dare?” I was a chicken. I picked truth. Anna’s eyes narrowed. “Tell us a secret.”
There was a long pause. A secret? I didn’t have secrets.
Freddy started chanting. “Secrets, secrets, are no fun, unless you share them with everyone!” The group joined in. Freddy was watching Anna, but otherwise, I was the focus. Which was something that I wasn’t used to at all. I blurted out the first secret I could think of.
“I cut myself.”
I immediately wished that I had picked dare. “What?” Anna blurted out. She reached out to hug me. I swatted her away. “Rachel!”
“It’s no big deal!” I insisted. “It was once or twice.” Which was a lie. Not that it mattered.
Anna shrugged and jumped up onto her bed.
“Dare! Definitely dare!” Anna chose instantly. Of course he picked Anna.
Freddy thought for a moment, and then got up. “Wait right there,” he told her. And he left the room.
When he came back, he held an open beer in his hand. He handed it to her and smirked.
And that’s exactly what Anna did. She snatched the bottle out of his hand and swallowed the alcohol in three gulps. Everyone in the room cheered her on.
“Bye, Anna, thanks for….Well. Thanks.” Justin was leaving, still energetic but beginning to crash. They kissed and he left. As soon as he disappeared down the sidewalk, Anna turned to us.
“My mom’s coming home soon from her date.” She made a face. “We better hurry up.” She went to go back to her room to clean up, but stumbled. I caught her from falling and smashing her face against the tile in her kitchen. She waved me away. “I’m fine,” she insisted. I shrugged and let her go. She stumbled again, but regained her balance. She led us back into her room.
Suddenly, one by one, everyone faded away and left, except for Anna, me, and him. He was smiling at Anna like he knew all of her secrets, like he knew everything about her and there was no way of hiding. Anna was throwing up into her wastebasket. “Bad…batch…” She said between hurls. But I knew something was wrong. I knew this wasn’t just the drugs.
I looked at him. He wasn’t worried like I was. He was…happy. This wasn’t normal. This was wrong, wrong, all wrong. He shouldn’t be happy. He should be-
Anna made a choking sound. I jumped to my feet. He stayed stationary. I held her hair back as she vomited violently again. I felt her back heave and curl in on itself in agony. She hadn’t taken that much coke. This couldn’t be an overdose. It just couldn’t.
She threw her head back, holding back the barf and choking on her own vomit. I told her to let it go. She did. And then she died.
It was painful to watch. She went slowly, trembling and suffocating as her throat swelled up. She was trying to say something, something important. I could see it in her eyes. Her hands were starting to lose their tight grip on her bed sheets. “My-” Her words were quiet. I leaned in and tried to listen to her. “EpiPen!” I jumped up. I was right. This wasn’t an overdose. She was having an allergic reaction to something. Something deadly to her if ingested.
I ransacked her room, searching for the little injection that would save her life if I found it. A little yellow pen was all it took to save her. And I couldn’t even seem to do that right. He just sat there, watching, almost indifferently.
I opened old mahogany drawers and search through piles of laundry and bags full of weed. No EpiPen. No EpiPen. No EpiPen. I turned to him. “Help me!” He didn’t even flinch.
Anna was going into anaphylactic shock. I’d seen it before on TV once, when a girl was allergic to tree nuts and she had to go to the hospital. It’s an ugly, disgusting thing to see, because you know that the person is dying and it’s not a vision I care to describe. She’s in my nightmares still. Her pale, clammy face.
Suddenly, it was there. In front of my face. A yellow tube with a needle inside. An EpiPen, hidden in the tiny drawers of her computer desk, under some drugs that I had never seen before and never care to see again. I pulled the needle out of the tube and read the directions as quickly as I could. This was Anna’s only chance. If I screwed this up, Anna was dead. No way around it.
I sat next to Anna on her bed, took a deep breath, and stabbed. The needle plunged into her thigh and released a liquid into her bloodstream that was meant to counteract the poison in her system. I just hope it wasn’t too-
Her face was blue. Her face was blue and soaked with sweat and she was looking at me and she was crying with those blue eyes of her and they seemed so perfect compared to the green ones that he was watching us with as Anna slowly drifted away. I had taken too long. She was gone and there was no way to stop it now. Was I an accomplice?
I stared at Anna’s body, and then at him. For a while he just sat there, content with his work. But I saw it sink in. He thought that he hid the horror that crept up his face but he didn’t. I knew that he had killed her. I could see it.
I flung myself at him, tackling him and attempting to strangle him. I’m not proud but I’ll admit it. I tried to kill him. Unsuccessfully, unfortunately. He pushed me off. He was terrified now. Crying, I stood. “Why,” was all I could say. “Why. Why. Why.” My face was going numb.
“I didn’t…” Then he went silent. There was no getting around it “You know why.” I knew why? Of course I knew why. It was obvious.
Now he smiled at his handiwork. “Crushed peanuts in the beer. I didn’t need much. She was too high to notice, anyway.” His face dropped suddenly again. “You. Can’t. Tell.”
Was he threatening me? No, no, he was scared. Scared of what he had done. It was so clear now. he had planned it all. The spilling of the cocaine, the truth or dare. It all looked like an accident. He had killed her. “I loved her, Rachel, I really did. But if I couldn’t have her…” His green eyes bore into mine. “Why should Justin?”
But I felt bad for him. I felt bad for the boy that had murdered my best friend. I felt bad for the boy that had taken the last thing that was worth anything in my life from me. I felt bad for the boy that had practically killed me as well. What did I have left?
Nothing. I had nothing left. Mom was drowning in booze, Dad was dead. And now Anna was dead, too. Dead without any hope of coming back and I could’ve saved her. I could’ve saved her. But I didn’t. And now there’s nothing.
“I won’t tell. I promise.”
I agreed to keep his secret because I needed something in my life to keep me going. Knowing this secret made me important, made me useful. I’ve given away the secret now. Tell Freddy I’m sorry that I couldn’t protect him, but he knew this was coming. “Because I loved them” is not a good reason to murder someone, and tell him that it will never hold up in court.
If you were expecting my confession letter, this was not it, and you’ll never get one. I couldn’t live with my lies anymore. The thing that I thought had kept me alive was killing me. And now I can’t find the EpiPen for guilt and I have nothing left.
This is not a written confession.
This is a suicide note.
I’m sorry to everyone whose lives I’ve ruined and will ruin after I do what I’ve promised myself I‘d do. Anna. Freddy. Mom. Dad. I can’t protect anyone, not anymore, not even myself.
I thought secrets made me useful. I thought secrets made me worth something. But secrets can came back to get you.
I’m sorry. I hope you find Freddy and give him what he deserves. I couldn’t keep it in.
Thank you, I guess. When you get this it will be too late.
I know I made mistakes.
But this is not one of them.