Ari's Story | Teen Ink

Ari's Story

February 25, 2012
By KCmariposa BRONZE, Augusta, Georgia
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KCmariposa BRONZE, Augusta, Georgia
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Favorite Quote:
"If God had wanted me otherwise, he would have made me otherwise."

Author's note: I was inspired to write the story of my life to help others who go through the same situations that I have. I hope that most people who read this will learn how not to react. I reacted unhealthily and although, some amazing things have come out of my life, I would like to save others from experiencing the loss and troubles that I have gone through.

My life is so unfair. Yeah, it is. Come on, what type of girl is nerd for crying out loud. This is horrible. I don’t want to be this way. Change me please. What did I ever do to you, God? Can’t I just be normal? Well, just give it some thought. Amen.
I was running late for school, again. Why did my birthday have to be so late in the year? I’m so sick of being fourteen. I want my permit. My mom is always running late. My teachers are threatening me with detention for my tardies now. Mom! I need to go to school.
“Give me just a sec, I need to fix my hair!”
Fine! I’ll go grab a different shirt, this one’s too bright anyway.
“After you’re done with that, go crank the car.”
Okay, I will, if that will make you go any faster.
“Just do it.”
As I sighed, I walked into my room and scoured the floor for a black shirt. I don’t know what’s been up lately, but bright colors just haven’t been fitting my mood. I spotted a black t-shirt on the ground. I grabbed it and pulled off the shirt I was wearing. I took a minute to look at myself in the mirror. God, I was just undeveloped everywhere except for my brain. I could care less about being smart, for once, I would just like to be normal. I grimaced and pulled on the new shirt. This is fitting kind of tight. I guess it’s time for me to try another exercise plan. They never work, but I’m not stupid enough to try a crash diet. Well, it’s off to another day of hell on earth. School.

I cranked the car and sat in the passenger seat. I anxiously glanced at the clock. 7:43. Seventeen minutes until the bell rings. After the fifteen minute drive, I could make it to class on time, if I ran. It’s not like I don’t run everyday anyway. My mom slammed the door and walked to her door, as my sister, Jenna followed her closely behind, dragging her tennis shoes and lunch begrudgingly behind her. Shoot! She’s going to yell at me for not walking the dog this morning.
“Ariana Rae! How many times have I told you to walk the dog before you leave for school?”
“Uh, after today, 769 times.”
“I don’t need any of your smart comments young lady. Just do it and you won’t ever have to hear me say it again.”
“Ughh, yes, ma’am. Can we just get to school now?”

Fine. Remember, you need to use the office phone at lunch and remind your grandmother that we need her to pick you up today.”
Great. Another car ride with Grandma. What could be worse?
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll call her.” I grimaced. Today might actually be worse than yesterday, if that’s possible.
Great, we’re here. Hell. It’s not to say I don’t like school, I just don’t like people. I would not consider myself a sociopath, but more of a freak. I ran to my homeroom, glancing at my watch. Thirty seconds. I turned the corner and ran in and sat in my seat in the back corner. I have to admit, no matter how much the people here suck, I never have to deal with them. I’m practically invisible. I have zero friends. That makes it easy, in a way. If I never get close to anyone, no one will ever really know my secret. The secret. There it goes again. People will never understand me.

I shook my head. This is not the time to cry. Just forget about it and draw. I pulled out my notebook and my favorite pen. I used to draw in bright and vivid colors. Now, I draw in all black. I drew a butterfly. My favorite insect. Well, it used to be; but lately, I’ve been extremely attracted to spiders. Oh well, I guess I’m changing. I was pensive for all of my first period government class. When the bell rang, I sighed. Time for health. My health teacher, Miss Smith, hated me. I was the only student of hers to never take notes or appear to listen. Yet, I still passed her class with straight 100s. I’d never missed a single question on one of her tests. They were too easy. I brought my notebook back out and doodled throughout my class time. I answered three questions and gave a presentation on AIDS. My “peers” were shocked that I knew so much about the subject and were appalled at my college vocabulary. I should have left that section out. My parents have told me not to show off, but yet again, I did. Shoot.

I left class five minutes early and headed to gym. This is the only class that I did not have a perfect 100 average in, only because every time I go to run or jump, I trip over my own feet. I’m a natural klutz, but that doesn’t stop me from having to take gym. Crap, there’s a skills test today. Maybe I should skip. I would, if it would help. Coach always makes us retake our skills tests if we miss them, so there really is no point. I’m not going to be prepared either way. Might as well fail today. What unit are we on? Basketball, of course. I glanced at my sheet of paper, it read:
Skills test. Stand at the free through line and shoot 10 free throws. I’ll grade accordingly.
This might actually be easy. I took a gulp of air in and closed my eyes as I let the ball sail through the air. Air ball. I took the next shot, and as I jumped, I slipped. Air ball. I stood up, and as I was going for the next shot, another kid collided with me. I fell to the ground, landing on my ankle wrong. I glanced at it and saw blood. I stood up quickly and pretended to actually care about my next seven shots. I pretty much just threw them towards the basket. I held back my whimpers as I walked to the table where I wrote down my number of misses. 10. My parents aren’t going to like this. I managed to get another zero in gym. I quickly got a note from Coach to leave and go to the office to call my mom about my ankle, not like she was going to do anything about it, but at least I got to leave. I gave the secretary my mom’s number. Was that a dirty look? I guess she is just tired of having me in here, calling family members. Everyone else in school has a cell phone, but my parents won’t buy me one. They keep saying that I trip enough that I would break it within the first week. It’s true. I got my mom on the phone and she told me to suck it up. So I limped to my next class.

My favorite class, literature, was next. My professor for lit is amazing. He’s kind of weird, but definitely a lit nerd. He lets me sleep in class because he knows I know what he’s teaching. I walked in and slept through 4th period. He woke me up and gave me a pass to Spanish.

Could this day get any worse? My ankle was killing me, but not like I’d ever let anyone help me. I looked around at the desks in the classroom. Each girl in my class had their boyfriends holding their hands. Deep down in my heart, I longed for a boyfriend. Not like that’s ever going to happen. I picked up a book and started reading, while Senora taught the other students. It’s not like I needed to listen. God blessed me with such an extraordinary talent that I had been able to speak Spanish since my dad taught it to me when I was four. Ten minutes before class ended, I went up to the front of the class and recited my poem for the class. As I finished, I expected a round of applause from my peers but all I received were scowls. Senora pulled me aside. Frantic thoughts flew threw my mind. Did my accent slip? Did I pronounce one of the words wrong? Did I forget a word? Not that any was possible, but you know, I had to consider the possibilities. I had been speaking Spanish for ten years so that eliminated the first two choices; and I had memorized the poem over a month prior to today. There was no way I had forgotten a word. Forgetting that Senora didn’t know that I was fluent in Spanish, I rambled off in her native language.
Que tal, Senora?
“Nada, Ari. Yo quiero ue usted participle en este concurso de poemas.”
Oh, I didn’t do anything wrong. I know my parents would be happy to see me participate in something, so I figured why not.
Por que’ no? Me encantaria.
“Gracias, Ari. Eres muy fantastica.”
De nada, Senora.
I grabbed my bag and quickly left the room. That contest was tomorrow. I would have to brush up on my reciting skills. I quickly went to the office and requested that another phone call be made to my family today. I recited my grandmother’s number to the secretary and talked to my grandma on the phone. After reminding her to pick me up, I headed over to the lunch table that I sat at every day. I pulled out my chemistry book and started reading next quarter’s unit.
The rest of the day passed fairly quickly. I sang my Alto piece in Women’s Chorus exactly on pitch, took a quiz in Chem and passed with a 107, and figured out every single problem in math before the teacher was done lecturing. I hopped in my grandmother’s car and she drove me to my mom’s school where she teaches. I walked in and sat in the room with the baby grand piano. I started playing. As I played some of my favorite pieces, I recited my poem in my head and out loud. I knew I had it memorized, but it still made me nervous. After about an hour, I went and helped my mom clean her room and we headed home. As soon as I got home, I called my best friend, Trinidad. Trini used to live about 2 miles away from my house but when her parents got divorced, she moved out of state. Now, we see each other once a year and talk about once a week. After I told her my good news, I quickly excused myself and told her I had to go eat.
After I finished eating and conversing with my parents, my dad told me how proud he was of me. He wished me luck for the competition the following day. I hopped in the shower after examining my finger nails. I turned the water on ice cold and took my time as I showered. I pondered the events of the day and prayed.
Dear God, Please help me to do well tomorrow. This is something I want to do to make my parents proud. Thanks for giving me the opportunity.

The next day, I woke up at 4:30 AM and rode the school bus to the college where the contest took place. I recited my poem and unfortunately, was awarded third place in my division. I took my medal and got on the bus. I had failed.
On the ride home, we stopped at a fast food restaurant for ice cream as a treat. That is when I noticed him. He was tall and blond. He had a voice that sounded like pure honey. Usually, I’m not one to pay attention to guys. They usually find me bland and dull, compared to the other girls at my school. He noticed me though and started talking to me. He asked me some of my hobbies and ambitions. I told him that I wanted to get into the highest singing group at my school. Shocked, he asked if I went to Lillyport High. I rolled my eyes and replied with a yes, and asked why. Turns out, he goes to my school. This might turn out amazing. I asked what his name was, and he replied “James.” He asked my name, and I replied “Ariana, but I go by Ari. He told me it was a beautiful name, and then, we proceeded to file back onto the bus. After the end of the trip, I went home, threw my medal into my medal pile in the corner of my room. It had long passed the time where I had room to hang up my medals on my wall. They were completely covered now. I laid down to sleep, knowing that tonight would be worse than most. I suffer from insomnia and extreme nightmares. Well, I have always suffered from the insomnia but the nightmares came about last year after the accident. The day.

I was hanging out with some friends at the lake. It was actually a teen group event. We had just gotten out of the water and finished eating, when my friend Mia suggested that we go for a drive. I replied with a “yes” and I took the driver’s seat. Soon, we ended up racing with our teen pastor and a buddy of his. We were in front in a golf cart, and they followed behind us. I was going faster than I should have and wasn’t paying attention. I suddenly looked up and a tree was in front of me. I freaked out. I span the wheel as far to the right as possible to avoid colliding with the tree. When everything caught up with me, I realized we were flipping. The golf cart rolled completely over us and landed back right side up, still running. I suffered a minor concussion and a gash on my back. My friend Mia bruised her back. Mia’s sister, Deli, hurt her foot and broke it in several places. It was so bad she had to go to the hospital and have surgery. It put her into a wheel chair for months after the accident. And Jenna, well, she bruised her tailbone. It was horrible. It cut Deli’s foot open so far that you could see the bone and tendons. It will always haunt my nightmares until the day I die.

I dreamt about the accident that night. It was just as horrible and vivid as the day I experienced it. The next morning, I woke up, shook my head, and kept going. It was Sunday. It was time for church. I loved church. It was amazing. I had two really awesome teen pastors, I had Mia, and ultimately, I could worship by singing and playing music, my one true desire in life. Nothing could ruin this day for me, or so I thought.

I stepped into our church building at exactly 9:03, I could never forget the time I thought my life was over for the first time. There would be more, I was sure of it. My life sucked, it was bound to happen; but as I stepped into the building, Mia ran up and she simply whispered, “I have to tell you something.” All of the sudden, my euphoria dropped. I had never had high self-confidence, but I knew this had to do something with me and her. My thoughts raced frantically, She’s leaving me. What did I do to deserve this? This is my only friend, and she’s abandoning me. I guess that’s what I deserve, you know. I’m not cool or pretty, all I am is a nerd. How long did I expect Mia to keep going on like it was fun to hang out with me? All I do is drag her down. Well, at least I know what she’s going to tell me. I can’t be shocked now. I deserve this. I’ll save the tears until I get home. My life is over. That’s it. It’s over.

I ambled begrudgingly to my teen room, up the stairs. I only fell once on the way up. I stepped into the room and instantly, you could feel the tension in the room. Yep, I was right. I guess she never forgave me for the accident. Mia stood up and said, “We’re leaving.” Instantly, my head started spinning. My own conclusion was accurate. I knew this was coming, but I didn’t expect it to be true. I felt like I was going to pass out. I quickly excused myself and went and talked to my mom across the hall. All she could muster was a “Maybe it’s for the best.”

The rest of the day went by, but I couldn’t focus on it. My heart wasn’t into my piano music that day, nor was it into my singing. I was there in person, but not there in soul or mind. As soon as I arrived home, I ran into my room and locked my door. Nobody would ever be able to break through my life again. Right then, was when I vowed that no one would ever be able to make friends with me again. I had lost too many friends that way. I vowed that I would be a different person from then on. I believe that is when things took a turn for the worse in my life. I didn’t care about doing the smart things anymore. I was hurting so bad. I just wanted it to end. I lay on my bed and cried.

After what seemed like hours, I sat up. I was in so much pain. I thought through things; and randomly, a thought flew threw my head. I should have known better and just ignored it; but at the time, it was a desperate thought for desperate people. I was desperate. I thought about all those people in the world that cut themselves when they were emotionally hurting. I knew it wasn’t smart, but I figured, “Hey, my life is over anyway, nothing matters. I’ll try it” I scoured my room for a pair of scissors and held them to my arm. I was scared. I knew how much damage this could actually do. I’m smart. I’ll know how deep to cut. Just enough to cover my pain. Just enough to bring the attention to my arm and away from Mia. And just like that, I pressed the blade to my arm and thought to myself This is for you Mia. Very quickly, I had four or five cuts on my arm, oozing blood. It felt... invigorating. I felt alive. They burned and the blood pulsed down my arm in a smooth crimson ribbon. I no longer thought about Mia and my troubles. I thought only of the current moment. At once, I knew that I was in danger. I threw the scissors across my room and bandaged my arm. I could never be so stupid again. What was I thinking? Another night of sleep quietly enveloped me, and I slowly drifted off into a peaceful dream.

I managed to make it through the next couple of weeks without any big roadblocks. I passed every test. I slid past everyone except James. He noticed me at school. Everyday, he would talk to me. I felt him getting closer to me. I couldn’t have that so I changed my route to each of my classes. He caught my hints and backed off. After my first cutting experience, I had taken to wearing all black or dark colors. My hair managed to always cover my eyes. I was too ashamed for anyone to figure out what I had done, and my eyes are the window to my soul. I was always sad. The cuts never did make me forget about Mia completely. I was a completely different person. This was not Ari.

Soon enough, I was so depressed that I was posting depressing quotes all over my social network profiles. I was still cutting. I wasn’t Ari. Ari would have known to stop. I was addicted. I was making many more stupid decisions. To lose weight, because I was not perfect, I stopped eating. I skipped breakfast and lunch every day. I only ate half portions for dinner. I started running everyday. In total, I only took in about 300 calories every day. I was killing myself, quite literally; but I was at the point, I couldn’t stop. It was so much fun to live on the edge like this, to know that you were being stupid, and that you could easily kill yourself with one of these decisions. It wouldn’t be long before these decisions caught up with me.

I moped through school every single day and finally gave up on hiding my gift. I started answering questions in school. I always got them right. Kids started teasing me for it. They didn’t know that I was born this way; they thought I studied every single night just to show off for them. It wasn’t true. The more they teased me, the more I cut myself. Eventually, I was so embarrassed and upset by the teasing that it made me start considering other options in my life. I was actually driven to the point of suicide. Yeah, I know, pathetic, right? One night, I was so upset that I wrote a suicide note and tried to slit my wrist. It wasn’t deep enough to do any permanent damage, and that quickly cured my desire to end my life for a while. I still thought about it every day though.

One day, I was finished with my homework and was just bumming on one of my many social networks when James started an IM with me.
“Hey Ari, are you okay?”
“Not really, J, it’s hard to explain.”
“Well, I’ve noticed your depressing posts lately and your change in personality. I wanted to know if I could help.”
Does he actually care about me?
“Um, I don’t know if you can help. It’s something that happened recently, that’s it.”
“If you ever need to talk, you can call me, here’s my phone number.”
Oh my gosh, did he just give me his phone number?
“Thanks. I might just take you up on that sometime. It might be nice to talk to someone who wants to listen for once.”
“Why don’t we stay after school next week and we can talk for a little bit?”
I don’t want to get close to him and make him think I’m a freak; but, this might be a good chance to talk.
“Sure. Why not?”
“Great, what’s your last class of the day? I’ll meet you there and walk you out.”
“Great, see you then.  “
Things were looking up. I was suddenly looking forward to that day. I covered my arms in makeup so he couldn’t see my scars, not knowing how much I was actually going to tell him. When the day finally came, I was absolutely ecstatic. I don’t even remember why. I grabbed my water bottle out of my locker, and he walked me to an empty classroom and we just talked. It felt like days that we talked. He asked what was up, and I answered truthfully. It seemed for once that there was someone who actually understood me. At the end of the conversation, he saw me glancing at a piano in the middle of the room. He asked if I played, I replied with a yes. He scurried over and played a song for me on the piano, his fingers gracefully gliding from each key to the next. Soon thereafter, he played a song we were both familiar with. We broke out into song and starting harmonizing. The euphoria in the room was absolutely electric. I couldn’t let this go.
He got a text from his mom saying that he had to go, so he walked me out to my mom’s car where she was impatiently waiting on me. I got in, but thanked him before I left. I told him that he had made me happy, for the first time in a while. He smiled and said he would talk to me the next day.
Weeks passed by and our routine stayed the same. We walked and talked. I have to admit, that over time I did develop a slight crush on him; but mostly, he was my best friend. I will never forget him for that. He has saved me a lot of grief and helped me come to grips with things that I can’t change. We texted once school was over for the day. I would stay up till the early hours of the morning texting him. It was great.
This was around the time that I developed a passionate love for butterflies again. One day, I saw one outside, but instead of seeing the standard butterfly that I would usually see, I saw the deep comparison between humans and butterflies. I realized how similar we are, even though, no human alive would probably admit it. My favorite butterfly, I call the J Butterfly because of James. He opened my eyes up to so many things around me, that I didn’t notice because I was stuck on myself. Butterflies became a special thing to me. A symbolization of life. The reason for my existence. The hope in my darkness. The reminder of light when I was happy.

As I approached the end of the school year, I began to make more “acquaintances.” I had three or four “friends” the last couple months of school. One thing about me, is that I can get sick and stay sick for a long time. I had spent this whole school year sick. My girlfriends promised me that when my sickness showed any promises of letting up, that we were going to have a group slumber party. I agreed to that, considering that I hadn’t spent the night at anyone’s house in over two years. Around the end of the school year, as James and I were spending most of our time at rehearsals for one of our performances at the end of the school year, my illness started letting enough to wear I could breathe. I called my buddies and we set up a date for the slumber party. It was the night before our performance. That was one month away. They were going to pick me up after rehearsals and we were going to watch movies all night long. I really couldn’t focus on that much though, because I still had finals that I had to deal with.
One day, I was at lunch, studying Chem for the thousandth time, when I saw James walking towards me. This was our time when we always talked. He came up, glanced at me, and kept walking. I figured he was kind of busy or something. Later on that day, he avoided me and again, later on. When I went home, I found out something tragic had happened in my family. I was upset from being blown-off by James and everything else that happened. In an attempt to control my feelings, I grabbed my final schedule out of my backpack and scribbled a note on it. I have to admit, that I wasn’t being nice in it, but I never planned on it being seen by anyone. Basically, it was a suicide note that I blamed all of my problems on James. I knew he would never see it so I figured it would be okay. I crumbled it up and threw it back into my backpack. My fury released from inside, I didn’t have to worry about anything else. I finished my homework, lay down, and fell asleep, hoping that I would be able to figure out what was up with James.
I got to school early, for once the next day. I ran up to J and talked to him. Apparently, he was just busy the day before, stressed about some tests and stuff. He apologized for blowing me off. I told him not to worry and that I completely understood. My mind was completely clear, I was happy, and my behavior the day before was completely excusable. The note slipped to the back of my mind, and I never gave it a second thought.
The night before, I had actually gone through this weird fascination with breaking bones. I stayed up researching how to break a bone and went outside I tried it. I drove my bike into a telephone pole, I fell on my arm multiple times, I beat my arm with a hammer, and then crossed my arms on top of each other and forced myself to land on them like that when I fell. The ending result was a bruise the length of my radius. It stretched from my wrist to my elbow on both arms.
Later on during the day, while I was in chorus, the guidance counselor interrupted and requested that I follow her to the office. I figured that she just had some questions for me about my family. They were always calling me into the office to dig into my family history. They always wanted to know what languages we spoke, where we were from, and how many siblings I had. This was just going to be some routine thing. As I followed her into my office, she had me sign in. I had never had to do that before. Hmmm… Okay, well, they must be trying to keep track of people in here better. I signed it and the guidance counselor took me into a room and shut the door behind us. She asked me to sit as she did the same. That is when the sheer blanket of cold panic settled on me. I knew that this wasn’t a routine visit. There were no “questions” for me about my family and its questionable background. This was about him. Right then and there, I knew I had to get out of there. I had too many secrets and there was no way she was ever going to find out about them. I instantly started mentally chastising myself for being so careless. I wondered how she found out. It didn’t matter. Knowing how it happened wasn’t going to get me out of there. I thought about the day before. I thought about the big huge blackish purple bruises that stretched across my arms. I thought about the multiple cuts, freshly cut and healed over, that decorated my arms in a random fashion. I knew that I had to make sure they were covered when the time was right. She held up the “note” and said, “Ari, do you recognize this?” As she began a cold, hard gaze into my eyes, I subtly covered my wrists to hide the scars and the bruises with my somber black long sleeves and started shaking, out of pure fear, fear for what was going to happen with all of this. I responded with a simple “Yes.” My throat was thick, my mouth so dry, my tongue was stuck to the roof of it. I don’t remember the clear details of how everything went down, but one thing I do know is that James knew about this. Since my name was not on the note, they went to the person whose name WAS on it. James told them that it was my handwriting but he didn’t understand. He said that I was one of the happiest people ever, now. He said that I couldn’t have meant it. He told them to not think anything of it. Well, they did. Everyday, I thank God for how James has been the best person in my life. I easily talked the guidance counselor out of calling my parents and telling them about this mishap by using my extreme acting. I scrunched up my face and released a flow of tears that had the potential to flood the room within a couple of minutes. I quickly thought of how to convince them to let me go. I quickly told them the story of how I met James. I told them about the butterfly that flew over us when we met. I told them about mine and Trini’s friendship. I let them know how perfect my life was. I didn’t let them see into the pure hell I was living. I let them believe the happy part and that was enough. They glanced at me and knew it was a mistake. They knew that I obviously didn’t mean the note. They could see the honesty in my face, even though it was completely feigned.
Later on that afternoon, I had to stay after school for some rehearsals for a big performance in the summer. James was going to be there. I needed to thank him for standing up for me. As I was walking to the room, he walked out, glanced at me, and said “Ari, can you tell me what was up with that?” Knowing that I would explain later, I said, “There’s nothing to tell.” With that, he grimaced and walked off towards the cafeteria. Little did I know, that he had decided to cancel this friendship right then and there.
The severing of my friendship with James is something that I would never ever want to experience again. But more recently, looking back on it, there is one detail that I have failed to mention that came out of this disaster, that would have changed how my life is today had it not been for my decisions made during that time. During those seventeen days, I made one decision that rocked my world and changed it for the better. I didn’t know it then, but then again, when do we ever know how a decision is going to affect us in the long run. About a year before this, Trini had mentioned in an off-hand comment about this guy she had noticed at one of her fiddle performances. I didn’t get much except a “Hey Ari, I saw this kid at my performance today. I think I kinda like him.” Typical me decided to just accept her comment and keep going, knowing that I would never hear about this kid with no name again. A couple of months later, she sent me another text. “I met that kid today. His name is Aaron. He’s pretty cool.” As time went on, I heard more and more about this random fiddle player named Aaron.
I knew that Trini liked him. There’s no lying in our friendship. She could try to avoid the topic as much as possible, but I knew better than to believe her. She completely liked him. Being the little sister I am at heart, I decided to try to bug her just a “little” bit and get to know him better, in case they were to date in the near future. On May 18th, I logged onto one of my social networks, feeling as depressed as usual, without James, and called Trini. I attempted as subtly as I could manage to inquire about her secret crush. What was his full name? His birthday? Where did he live? I soon acquired enough information for me to find him on the network. I didn’t mention to her exactly what I was doing. I knew she would not approve. I sent him a friend request along with a message that said, “Hey Aaron. I know you don’t know who I am, but I’m Trini’s younger sister.” I never exactly expected him to reply. I typically sent her crushes messages like that as a joke to bug them just a little. Not much later, I got a reply, saying, “Hi, lol, nice to meet you.” I replied once more and completely moved on, never expecting to talk to this mysterious boy anymore.

I don’t remember much about the following seventeen days but they were horrible. It was the last week of school. One of the seniors handed me my yearbook. I immediately thought to myself that the only signature that mattered was James. Years from now, his would be the only one that mattered. All week, I tried to talk to him. I stopped by each of his classes and waited on him. Each time, he would brush past me and ignore my attempts. Finally, I lost my temper and when he was headed to his World History class, I stood right in front of him and blocked him from moving. I stopped and said, “Hey! James, can you sign my yearbook after school? Your signature is the only one left that I want.” He replied with a “Yeah, sure.” Then, he kept walking towards his next class. Defeated, I moped off to my lunch table to cry. I tried to explain it to him. We had several rehearsals before the performance. I was so sure that I was going to be able to get him to talk. I brought a huge bag of his favorite candy to one of our last rehearsals.
Knowing that I didn’t have the guts to walk straight up and talk to him after everything that had been going on for the past couple of weeks, I open the bag and started snacking on it, hoping that he would see it. Looking back, he probably did see, because he couldn’t have not seen it. Our chorus director placed us side by side for rehearsals. That was when I heard him sing for the first time. I almost broke down crying right then. His voice was perfect. He was perfect. He was my friend, and I lost him. It was my entire fault.
When I walked out of the school that day after rehearsal, I sat in my car and broke down into tears. Over this time, my mom had noticed that I hadn’t been talking to James a lot lately and knew that we were fighting. The only way she knew why we had fought was because she snooped through my texts and saw the text I had sent to one of my teen pastors about being sent to the guidance for suicidal thoughts. My mom tried to comfort me and told me that he probably was busy; but I knew better. I was so stupid for screwing our friendship up. From that day, I cried myself to sleep every single night. Every single night. There was not one night where I was strong enough to not think about him. Every single thought of mine was consumed with him. I wouldn’t last much longer this way.
As the days slowly blurred together, I just existed. I no longer lived, I just existed. In fact, I went to my friend’s end of the year party and met this girl. This girl, I owe almost everything about my present to. Her name was Everlyse. Everlyse went to our school but I didn’t have any classes with her, so we had never met before. She started talking to me at the party and asked if she could come over and hang out. I figured that I had nothing better to do, so I said yes. The following day, she showed up on my front door like a lost puppy. She was happy. Her happiness was contagious. I became happy for a moment.
We stayed up all night. She poured out her heart to me, a total stranger. She told me her life story. She talked about her past, her hurts, and her struggles; and in light of her life, everything I was going through didn’t seem as bad. Eventually, she coaxed my story out of me. I told her everything. I told her about James, about my brain, and about my life. She gasped in the right places, cried in the perfect moments, and smiled at the happy moments. She was a perfect friend.
Soon, Lysa came over again. While she was over, we went shopping. I found a game that I had wanted to get because James had it. Even though it hurt, I found it at a good deal and figured that I could at least have it as a reminder of our friendship. When I bought it, I went home and we texted James, just to see if he would reply for once. Since our fight began, we never texted or talked. Predictably, he didn’t answer. I didn’t expect him to reply. Everlyse left early that day, because I had rehearsals for my upcoming trip with my chorale group.
Rehearsals. I dreaded them because HE was always there. He had to be. He was in the highest chorus level at my school. I saw him and inside, my heart dropped. He looked amazing in his sapphire blue t-shirt and jeans. He was like a perfect angel, molded from God’s hands. I shook the feeling when he glanced at me and walked off. I fought off the tears as I sang through the rehearsal. I was supposed to be going to my girlfriends’ house that night, but all I felt like doing was crying. I didn’t want to bum them out, so I walked over to my mom. She grabbed me in a big hug as the tears streamed down my cheeks, because I saw James glance my way. He was never going to go away. My life was forever destroyed with no hope of repair. I was a butterfly with an injured wing, a wing that would never heal.
As I cried in my mother’s arms, he started walking over towards us. Out of habit, I turned around to not have to look at him. He came up closer and looked at my mother and said, “Mrs. Lopez, may I talk to Ari in private for a minute?” She immediately replied with a “yes” and he grabbed my arm and walked me off into a private room. Frantic thoughts ran through my head. What does he want? Is he finally going to tell me that he hates my guts and never wants to see me again? What does he want? He grabbed my arm and pulled me close. He got down low enough to gain eye contact with me and said, “Ari, will you please explain what happened that night? Tell me exactly what everything meant” I sighed and figured that I would have to explain it eventually.
I started out by saying “I just want to let you know that I never meant it. It was just my way of venting.” He nodded, and I kept going. I said, “James, I was upset in math class, and you were on my mind. I was upset, so instead of doing something harsh and irreversible, I scribbled that note, because I knew that nobody would see it. It was never meant to make it out of my backpack. It accidentally slipped…” By that time, I was sobbing uncontrollably as he took me in his arms. He whispered in my ears, “I understand. I understand. You could have just told me.” I told him that I had been planning on it that day. I cried some more, as I told him that I missed having him as a friend. He told me, “Ari, I thought I was really the reason you were upset. I figured that if I removed myself from your life, you would be happy. I thought you were one of those friendships that I could just turn my back on and never look back on them again, but you’re not. You’re more than that; and I miss you.” I whispered back, “I miss you too!” Then, we hugged, and he hooked his arm in mine as we walked back out into public. He asked me about the game I had texted him about earlier that day, right before, his mom cut him off. He apologized and told me to text him.
Directly following, I went home with my girlfriends from school for our planned slumber party that I was all of a sudden so excited about. I could barely pay attention to the movie that we watched that night. I did not even go to sleep until three o’clock in the morning. Even then, my thoughts were consumed with the euphoria of knowing that we were friends again. The minute I was dropped off at my house, I ran in and called Everlyse. I don’t know when she became so important to me or why, but she did. I immediately relayed the events that had occurred since we had talked last, and then quickly excused myself to prepare for that night’s concert.
I don’t remember much about that concert, except that I had some strange kid ask me for some mints, and I refused to give him some. I sang with full passion that night. Oh, and when I walked in, James started laughing because my music notebook had a big huge sticker on the back of it. He walked over to me and said, “Ha! You and I are really alike. I had that same sticker on my notebook in the same place.” Sure enough, I glanced at his, and you could see it on his notebook. The performance went very well, and afterwards, my grandmother took me out to eat my favorite chocolate chip waffles at a restaurant with my mom, sister, aunt, and uncle.

The days that followed were amazing. I prepared with many rehearsals for our chorale tour. He smiled when he saw me in the halls. I smiled when he texted me. Life was amazing. The days before the trip started counting down. We got on the subject and he asked when we were leaving. I told him that we were leaving the following Thursday at four o’clock in the morning. He started talking about his flight out of town on that Wednesday. Then, we started talking about random stuff like school and our schedules for the following year. Finally, Wednesday arrived, and James and his little sister, Sarah, were flying out. I wished him a good flight as I prepared for my departure the following morning. I signed onto my social network for what seemed liked the first time in forever. Aaron was online, and I had this random urge inside my head to bug him. I had friended him during an extreme part of my depression, and part of me didn’t know why. I still didn’t even know WHY I wanted to talk to him, but I did. Our first real conversation was pretty awkward. I didn’t know what to say, but I just kept talking. I’m pretty sure I scared him in the beginning when I mentioned topics like my “rain outfit” which consisted of the color green, because I had theorized that people are happier when they wear green in the rain, since it matching the “clear” color of the raindrops. I talked to him about my trip and my awesome choral group. Then, we talked about lettuce and hunting for four-leaf clovers. When he started replying with “Yup” and “Lol”, I knew that I had pretty much bored my stranger for the day and bid him farewell, so I could finally prepare for the trip. I had been putting off the packing for weeks. Everlyse called right as I had finished packing. We talked for a while before I went to sleep.
The next morning, I arrived at school at four o’clock in the morning. My mom and I loaded our things onto the bus and we took off. I sat next to this girl from my chorus. Her name was Leah. We spent the whole fourteen hour drive to our performance venue, reading anime and listening to Japanese music. By the time we got to our destination, I was so tired, I just collapsed into my bed after we signed into our hotel. The next morning, we had practice. We practiced our piece for five hours and were finally released for free time. I took my time to go look for a new set of headphones since mine had broken on the drive up. After a couple of hours worth of shopping, my mom and I headed back to our hotel for some well-deserved rest. The rest of the trip went by pretty fast. Every day we had rehearsals in some weird venue that wasn’t even similar to the performance venue. That Saturday, we finally practiced in our real performance venue. It was a lot different. There was an orchestra and it was a lot bigger than I had imagined. I have never been one to get nervous, but it put butterflies (and not the good kind) in my tummy.
That night, we wandered around town and attended random shows across the city. My group, being chaperoned by my mom, went to get some food. I was still in my vegetarian phase (I became a vegetarian in April, right before James and I had our fight, to compete for a Vegetarian Scholarship). Well, while we were pondering on delicious type of food we were going to eat, it started a torrential downpour. As rain bounced off the ground and everything around it, I switched from being a mature, philosophical teenager to being the teenage girl that I have buried deep down inside myself. I went into hysterical mode because it was raining and I didn’t want my HAIR to get messed up. See, I have super curly hair and I had straightened it so that James would notice me more easily. So, I’m running under awnings because I didn’t have an umbrella while the rest of my crew did. I constantly insisted that I didn’t need an umbrella, understanding that in my complexly disastrous mind that to ask for someone’s umbrella is admitting defeat. Therefore, I was drenched from head to toe, before a soon-to-be senior from Lillyport quietly sneaked up behind me and gently held the umbrella over my head. To this day, I don’t think I would have ever gotten to know him had it not been for that. His name was Jordan. Jordan slowly became one of my best friends, and even later, one of my slight crushes.
We ended up going to a random Irish pub in town, even though it was a school trip, and my chaperone (once again, my mom) really shouldn’t have taken us somewhere that would have been a “bad influence.” We sat around and goofed off, our grins each unique by a crooked tooth or gap or braces.

Finally, the performance day came. I woke up around three o’clock that morning to get my hair ready. I took a whole hour to straighten my hair and put in into a French braid. I ironed my chorale outfit and put in on, hours before I even had to be ready. I wasn’t able to sleep any longer anyway. The excitement for my performance kept me from getting a good night’s sleep. I read my Bible for a little bit and then, prepared to wake the rest of my roomies in our hotel room.
I don’t think that they appreciated being woken up as early as they were, in the beginning, but as they prepared for the performance, they were grateful that they had enough time to prepare. As we made our way to the venue, I checked my phone for any texts before I walked on stage and was not able to reply. I had fifteen texts from my little sister, Jenna. They all said the same thing.
“Don’t trip.”
My family has this habit of making fun of my life, all of the small and big things. One day, we will be sitting in our living room at home, and the topic of school will come up. My father will say,
“Jenna, I want you to be smart and not have friends, just like Ari.”
And Jenna will reply with an,
“But, I like having friends, Daddy! And, I’m smart too!”
They also loved to make fun of the fact that I am a natural-born klutz. I have hurt myself many times on accident like last Christmas, when I accidentally slammed my hand in the car door or when I dropped a whole pitcher of sweet tea on myself when I was trying to get some eggs to cook breakfast. They have this really embarrassing video of me trying to walk up a staircase and tripping every time I tried to go up. I am awful, when it comes to coordination.

So, here I am, standing backstage, ready to walk up and sing my heart out in front of thousands of people, and my little sister says the three words that will actually make me nervous. “Do not trip.” She must have wanted to give me a heart attack and it probably would have worked if James wasn’t standing next to me, when I read it. He read it as I did. Thoughts were racing in my head, as the text registered in my head. To be honest, I didn’t really consider the fact that I could fall in front of thousands of people. James, on the other hand, knew that he had to calm me down and fast. He started joking with me, saying that I wouldn’t trip, but that I would fall with exquisite grace. He made jokes about the floor being lonely and that I was friendly enough to give it a hug. In the end, he made me calm down enough to not be nervous.

One, two, three. Here I go. I took my first step onto stage. Immediately, each step afterwards just came naturally. For once in my life, I was graceful. I glided over to my spot on the first row, right next to the orchestra bells and the African drums that were required for our piece. Our conductor walked on stage, and that is all I can remember from the performance itself. In all reality, it is hard to concentrate on what is happening around you when you are performing because of the fact that you are focusing on your pitch and diphthongs. As soon as it was over, James met me at the door of the stage and gave me a hug. We were both ecstatic that it was over.

Right after our performance, we had tickets to see another group perform. So, we all took our seats and waited on the performance to begin. I was looking up different colored hair dyes that I could buy, because my mom promised me that she would let me dye my hair blue after this performance. While I was surfing the dyes, I got a text from James that said,
“Hey, I’m outside.”

I replied back saying that I was looking at hair dyes. Soon enough, the performance began. No offense to the performing group, but they were absolutely horrible. As the two hour piece dragged on through the first movement, everyone around me in the venue had fallen asleep. Then, James texted me and asked,
“Are you bored yet?”
“Yes, I’m bored. Everyone is asleep around me. HELP!”
“Just tell someone that’s awake that you’re going to the bathroom and then come hang out with me. LE-DUH!”
“Oh, le-duh! That would makes so much more sense than staying in here. See you in a minute.”

I quickly excused myself to the bathroom and found my best friend, sitting by a window, looking absolutely amazingly gorgeous in his chorale tuxedo. He looked like a model for a tux company. He patted the seat next to him and we immediately submerged into a conversation about Japanese anime. We talked about random stuff for hours. As time went on, I lost my concentration on the music notebook that I had in my hands, that contained my badge into our performance’s after party later on that afternoon. He and I walked around the venue, arms linked, reminiscing about the trip and our favorite excursions. After what seemed like a blink of an eye, the second performance was over and it was time for us to leave. He grabbed my stuff, without me noticing, and walked me over to my mother, where she was promptly walking out the door. She asked where my badge was. I replied and told her that I had no idea where my music binder was and that my badge was in it.

For the next forty-five minutes, we scoured the building for my notebook. Not being able to find it, we begrudgingly gave up and continued on to the party, hoping that I would be allowed in, even without the badge. In the time that I was stressing over all of this, I forgot to turn my phone off silent, so every text that I received, I did not realize that I had gotten them.

When we finally got there, we realized how strict the security actually was. There were two gates that we had to show our badges at. They were counting the number of people they let it. Thankfully, I was able to scoot past the first gate, when James ran up to me, waving my music along with my badge.
“I smile to myself now, as I think back to about how I should have just checked my texts. He was my best friend. He is my best friend and I owe everything I am today to him. Walk up to him one day and talk to him. Ask him if it’s true. He’ll deny it. Sometimes, I think he denies it, just because he, himself, believes that it is not true. Alas, it is. I will love him forever, until the day I die, because he brought me back to being happy. He made me Ari again, and for that, I owe him my life.”
In gratitude of our performance, we were supplied with a scrumptious meal of salad, meat, various assorted vegetables, and some pasta. I, still being vegetarian, picked up a plate full of salad and crisp yellow squash and made my way to the oblong table where I sat with some newly made friends from the trip. Their names were Gracie and Reece. Gracie is this amazingly genius girl in my grade who loves to sing. She is such a talented singer. When she sings, people who are dying are happy they are alive, butterflies swarm around her to hear the sound of her voice, and the universe is in harmony for the time being. Reece, on the other hand, is a singer too, but that is not what stands out to me. She is a sweet Catholic girl who loves to have fun. She is the dorkiest person I know that is still cool. Anyway, I sat down with them and we talked about different guys at the party, as we devoured our delicious salads since we were all famished.
After the party, I went to the hotel and bought Everlyse, Jenna, and my older sister, Trinity, each souvenirs. I took them into my room, wrapped them, and wrote notes to each of them.
A little side story about my “older” sister, Trini.
Trini is the first friend that I have ever had. She attended my church for a long time. Eventually, her parents divorced and she took turns going over to each parent’s house for “their weekend”. Soon enough, she moved in with her mom. Not that I don’t love her mom, but it seriously cut down on time that we could spend with each other. Her dad was the one who took her to church. Well, eventually, her mom decided to move about three hours away, and while they were there, living with Trini’s grandmother, Trini found her passion. She loves to play music. Specifically, she loves to play the fiddle. So, her grandmother signed her up for a band and now, to this day, she performs in the band, playing fiddle and singing. Now, I love Trini. We grew up together so long, that we decided that our irrevocable friendship couldn’t even be defined by the overused term “best friend” that teens today use to describe each person they hang out with. Most people call acquaintances their “friends”, friends their “best friends”, and best friends their “BFFs.” Therefore, she is my “older sister” and her little brother, Otis, is my “little brother.” Just a side story that may help you understand later. 

Soon, it came time for our boat ride tour that we had scheduled. So, we boarded our long charter bus and anxiously awaited the sight of the cerulean water and the tours boats crowding in the harbor. When we finally arrived, I went aboard the ferry with Gracie and Reece, planning to spend the whole time with them. As we began our adventure throughout the vessel, we wandered around to find the mysterious things that were about. We found a pretzel store and a dingy, half-lit bathroom, but that was it. We quickly resigned to standing on the balcony of the boat and absorbing the fresh air as we observed our surroundings. That was when I found James on the boat. I waved at him but resolved to myself to stay with my friends. I wasn’t going to abandon them this quickly for a guy, I thought to myself. Once we got to the island, we got off the boat and waited on our second group of people on the next incoming ferry.

While we were waiting, I saw a fish aquarium in the middle of the ferry “terminal”. I wandered over to it and started tapping on the glass, completely distracted by the purple fish on the inside. Soon, I was murmuring “Here fishy, fishy. Come on boy, come on…” to it repeatedly, probably boring the fish with my monotonous chant that continued on for several minutes. As I was still chanting, James crept up behind me, making no noise whatsoever, and jabbed me in the sides. I jerked in fright as I released a blood-curdling shriek that would make one’s hairs stand on end. He broke out into a hearty chortle, as I regained what little composure I had left. I made my best “scowl” face to make him think I was angry with him, even though, inside, I was giggling like a little girl because he had taken the time to come and talk to me.
“James!” I said. “What the heck were you thinking?! You know I’m extremely on-edge. You really should be more careful. You might kill me one day.”
He simply smiled at me and struck up a conversation as quick as lightning that he knew would draw my interest like a fish is attracted to bubbles or an ADD teenager is attracted to shiny things. We talked about everything under the sun, when we finally heard the loud horn of our approaching ferry, announcing its arrival to us. He grabbed my hand and we embarked the ship, not knowing what to expect. He immediately led me to a comfortable seat in the back and we talked again. For hours, we conversed. We talked about my birthday and his, our favorite sodas, our favorite snacks. I made a point to memorize everything I could about him. The time flew by faster than I thought it would, and I soon found myself telling him bye for the summer. See, after the trip was over, he was flying to a different state to lead a vocal music camp. I hugged him and asked him to text me. We separated, walking away each other, one baby step at a time. I was scared to leave him, but I had to.

The days after the chorale trip couldn’t have gone fast enough for me. I didn’t get to see or talk to James because he was so busy. I was already counting down the days until open house when I could see one of my three best friends in the whole world. James, Trini, and Everlyse. I sat around my house bored, twiddling my thumbs, around and around, the endless cycle of monotony, waiting for the days to pass by like the hundreds of cars on an interstate.
I spent most of my time actually conversing with Aaron. He had a crush on Trini, and I knew that she had a crush on him as well. Our conversations were still awkward, but at the same time, quite entertaining. I felt like I could be pretty honest with him. He was easy to talk to, and since I had never met him, if I screwed up the relationship by saying something stupid, I wouldn’t ever have to deal with him in person. Meeting new people scares me, but I was completely in my comfort zone pouring my heart out to this complete stranger over the Internet. We actually had a lot in common, or so I learned from our multiple conversations over the summer. He was absolutely obsessed with music, and so was I. We both sang in our choruses at school. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, the confirmation that we would become closer friends dwelled. It didn’t announce itself to us then, but even then, I’m pretty sure I had an idea of it.
Finally, the end of the monotony was visible on my horizon. I could see the day approaching nearer and nearer. Three days. Two days. One day. Eventually, my countdown reached zero. The day of open house. It was a big day for many reasons. One, I would get to see HIM… Two, Everlyse, James, and I would find out if we were lucky enough to have received classes together for the year. Third, I would finally leave my boring and uneventful life at home. The one malevolent item that darkened my list of reasons was that I was back at school. Which meant, dealing with the kids. Yeah, I have James and Everlyse. I love them very much, but that doesn’t change anything. I still hate people and I always will. Not because people are awful, well, yeah, because they are. I just am purely afraid. They hate me too, so it’s okay.
Friday, August 17th, 2009
When is she going to get here? Trini’s mom just called me an hour ago. We’re throwing a surprise party for her. Jenna and I are part of the surprise but she doesn’t know it. Trini thinks that she is going shopping for a new bathing suit.  Mommy is so good at keeping surprises. I wish I had taken the time to get her a birthday present. But, hey, I didn’t know I was actually getting to see her for her birthday. I can’t wait to see her face! (59 Minutes Later) TRINI!!!! We run up and scream and hug each other, tighter than we ever have before! Still caught in her bear hug, we jumped in the convertible and drove back to her step-dad’s house where the party is. We walk into the house, looks of monotony pasted on our faces, to keep from revealing the surprise. Our whole joint family jumps from behind the couches, screaming “Surprise!” and “Happy 13th Birthday!” Trini starts to cry. I don’t know what to do. The emotion is overwhelming. I love it. I miss this part of life. I don’t want to go home.
As I walked into school, I remembered that surprise party. Dang, I wish that Trini could be here now. I imagined her next to me as I walked through my familiar teal colored hallways of Lillyport to find James and Everlyse who were waiting on me. Open house, I thought to myself. It’s finally here. Happiness. I get to see them both! Maybe I’ll have classes with them .Oh boy, I hope I do. I walked down the calming bluish-green hallway, all the way to locker 543, where my sophomore schedule would be waiting on me.
I twisted my lock left then right then right then left in the right order, when I heard the familiar snap, pop, and squeak of my open locker. Eeearghhh!! It squeaked, as I opened it.
Dang, it looks so empty without my books in there!
I quickly noticed the sacred, mutilated paper that obviously had had trouble when being shoved the slot on my locker door. I clasped the paper in between my hands, waiting to find James and Everlyse, before I even glanced at it. I ambled around the school for about seven minutes until I found both of them sitting in our Lit teacher’s classroom, with a Mountain Dew sitting next to them, with a butterfly drawn on the lid. Obviously, the magical cool liquid was meant for me. I quickly took my seat, a huge grin, permanent on my face. We all quickly caught up to speed, realizing that none of us had even glanced at our schedules yet, keeping them a secret for not only themselves, but all three of us. At the same time, we each removed our schedules out of our jean pockets and looked at each other, the same thought running through each of our minds.
Who opens theirs first?
We each closed our eyes, sent a prayer up to God, and ripped them open. Excited, I think to myself, Oooh! I got Spanish, Lit, Math II, Chemistry, Piano V, Music Theory, and Women’s Chorus. To himself, James thought, “Oh! I have AP Chem, Latin II, AP Lit, Math III, Chorale, Music Theatre, and AP US History. To herself, Everlyse thought, “ I have SPANISH, AP WORLD, BALLET IV, BIOLOGY, GYM, HEALTH, MATH I, AND ETHNIC DRUMS!” Little did we know that we did not have a single class together .I could see it before I ever saw their schedules. Immediately, I was tears; they immediately understood and threw their schedules to the side of the table. We hugged each other, tears streaming down our faces in torrential downpours. We didn’t have any classes together. One more year of hell, until we could make it right. One more year was it.
I wandered around the school until I found Jenna. She was new to Lillyport and I knew that my parents were counting on me giving her a tour of the school, not really caring if the information was accurate or not.
“This is the Salmon Hall, where you will have all of your social studies and literature classes. The Teal Hall is the Science hallway, and the yellow hallway is where all math classes are held. Easy enough, right?”
She replied saying, “Yes, can you answer one question for me though, Ari?”
I told her yes and asked what her question was.
Jenna smiled her smart aleck smile and asked “ Why do the blue and red hallways get special names, but the yellow hallway isn’t gold? It’s just…. yellow.”
I laughed and thought about it for a second. Truthfully, I had never thought about it before.
“Just because.” I said. I had no better answer for her.
We left soon afterwards. Jenna felt confident enough for school the following Monday and I was just ready to go home and cry. The minute we got home, I ran to my room, screaming, tears streaming down my face. When was this ever going to work out for me? All I wanted was to have classes with James and Everlyse. It wasn’t going to happen. I felt that deep down inside, and knowing only one way to cope, even though I knew James would be upset, I ran back to my one escape. It was the one thing that could make this pain disappear. Cutting. Deep down inside, I hated to do it, but in the heat of the moment, I was actually excited to return back to my old habit. James would be so disappointed. I shouldn’t be doing this. You’re so stupid, Ari. Don’t do it. Don’t do it. I dug through my drawers, searching for my blade so I could escape. The more I thought about it, the lamer and more pathetic it sounded; but I was convinced I needed it. I wasn’t in control. As my fingers brushed against the frigid blade, it felt as if a current of electricity was flowing through the point of contact towards the rest of my body. The effect was exhilarating. I clasped the blade and quickly returned back to my old addiction. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. I kept going all the way until I was dizzy. This time it was different. I didn’t feel much happier. The blood did not have the same effect. Instead of placating my agitation and making me feel safe, it made me queasy. The smell was nauseating. As the odor of rust and salt lingered in the room, a cloud of black overcame me and the next thing I knew, I waking up, my head pounding. I grabbed the nearest object that would support my weight and pulled up on it. As I let go of it once standing, my legs wobbled before I collapsed, and that was when I knew that I was in danger… again. It reminded of when…
October 24, 2010
It’s my 14th birthday. Woo-hoo! Church time!! I finally get to apply for a job. I supposed it’s pathetic that is the only thing I’m looking forward to about this birthday but whatever. Who’s the guy motioning for me? OH! It’s Spencer, the saxophone player, duh! Well, I should be polite and go talk to him. What does he want though? I guess I’ll find out.
“Ari, I want to give you a birthday present” Spencer told me.
That’s weird. Nobody knew it was my birthday, but okay! What type of person can refuse a birthday present? It’s going to appear rude. Anyway, it’s probably a doll or some piano music. People just never get that I’m not that person, but okay, I thought to myself.
“Sure thing. You don’t have to though…”I told him.
“I want to though, come and look at it.” He replied.
“Okay, will do. Following you, sir.”
We walked through the church, upstairs to the choir’s waiting room. Right there, wrapped and sitting on a chair, was my birthday present. Let me tell you. It wasn’t just some piano music or a baby doll. It was HUGE! I anxiously glanced at him and baby-stepped towards the gift, wondering if it was a joke or not. He smiled, so I figured he was serious. My fingers grazed the shiny butterfly wrapping paper, the excitement in me bubbled. I took the edge of the paper between two fingers and gently ripped away the wrapping. Inside was something I had never imagined I would get in my life, let alone as a present from a complete stranger. It was a studio-quality, 88-note, weighted-key keyboard. This electric keyboard ranged in price from $700 to $1000 retail price.
“What’s the catch? I asked this complete stranger, eying him carefully.
“Easy. There are three things. One is really optional, according to your confidence in that extreme intellect of yours. One, I want you to take piano lessons from me. Two, I want you to play in the church’s band on Sundays. Three, and this is the optional one, the keyboard has a quarter stuck between two of the keys. I’m afraid to open it, because it will fall apart once taken apart, but I have faith that you will know exactly how to do it. Is it a deal?”
I pondered this deal for a second. I despised playing in front of people, but I’m pretty sure I could weasel out of that part of the deal. On the other hand, I needed some real piano lessons because I felt like I was not learning what I needed to under my current piano instructor. Lastly, I knew that I was not confident in my technological abilities enough to attempt to remove the coin that was jammed in the keys; but it was optional, so I did not have to worry about it.
“It’s a deal! When do lessons start?”
“Next Sunday, I’ll send you an email about it and tell you some about myself so you can get to know me. By the way, I’ve already cleared this with your parents.”
Oh wow. He really wanted this to happen. Well, at least I will have some normal piano lessons now.
That night, I fell asleep feeling better than I had in months. The care that came from that one gift made me feel special. Wow. A piano.
I checked my email and sure enough, faithful to his word, there was an email. It gave me details about the lessons I would be taking from him, told me about his service in the war, his phone number to text in case I had a question about the piano, some random thing about him, and asked me some questions about myself. I didn’t think anything about it. I responded and continued on with my day. Soon, enough though, as the months dragged on, I was messaging him a lot. He friended me on all of my social networks and would message me all the time, starting out with something like, “Hey! How’s my beautiful butterfly?” He found songs that he labeled as “our” song. I ignored it, because I didn’t want to ever have to ask for help. To me, help is one of those things you ask for if you are weak. One thing I am not is weak. So I left it alone. But things got worse as time went on. My parents leave me at home all the time, a product of their undivided trust in me. That’s something I am super proud of. He would text me and ask if my parents were home all the time. Having enough self-preservation for myself, I would always reply with a yes. I wasn’t stupid enough to say no, even if they weren’t actually home. I was afraid.
I always had rehearsals with band, even though I wasn’t playing. I had wiggled out of each of my “required” performances. I feigned illness. That is also another talent that I have. I’m an extreme make-up artist. I can pale skin and put wrinkles on someone, also black eyes and hollow, sunken-in cheekbones. Every time I was supposed to play, I simply woke up “sick” and missed church. Simple enough, but it didn’t get me out of rehearsals. I had to go to every practice. The only thing that really upset me about them was that we did not practice at our church building, so we had the burden of moving our instruments to the member’s house where we practiced. The worst part was that it was a second story practice room; therefore, each week, I had to carry a 25 pound keyboard, which was 53 inches long, up a flight of stairs. Being the opposite of graceful, it was hard for me to make it up the stairs without tripping over my feet or giving the floor a hug. Plus, I also had to play. I hated rehearsals. I really did. Soon enough, my band members caught on and to save my precious keyboard, they sent Spencer to carry it. Of course, the keyboard was in my mom’s car so I had to go with him to unlock it. Each time we were down there by ourselves, it got awkward, to say the least. He was always a very touchy person. He was always hugging me. When I say “hugging”, it was never a “church hug”. You know, the hug where you really are only hugging to be polite. It was more of a “relationship hug.” That made everything a thousand times weirder, since he was twenty-four years older than I was which put him four years older than my mom. What adult guy hugs a teenage girl with one hand running through her hair and the other hand on her butt, pulling her closer to him? A creeper is who would. Spencer was that type of guy, most definitely. Every week I dreaded it, because I knew my mom and dad trusted the “church” people like him. He was creepy and it was absolutely disgusting. What is the worst part of it all is that I am a pacifist so I didn’t believe in solving anything through violence. The downfall to it was that I could never prevent him from doing anything to me because of that.
As time went on, he found out my address and brought me money to my house all the time. He paid for my concerts and youth conferences. For Christmas, he gave me fifty dollars so that I could download some new music and video games. He gave me $150 for my youth conference in Atlanta, Georgia, the following January. It still sends shivers down my spine, to know how close I was to disaster. I should have confided in someone before it came to the point it did. He started pushing me for so much more than I was ever willing to give anybody, let alone him. After our “hugs,” he wanted to kiss. Creeper to the max, is what I thought. He always told me that he would come over to my house when my parents weren’t home and try me out. He said I would be great in bed. How I ever let it get that far, I’ll never know. What I did know is it had to stop. I purposefully got caught hugging him at rehearsals one week. I didn’t care how much trouble I was in. It was helpful to be out of the situation. Even now, I don’t regret the months of restriction I went through in order to escape the situation. It led me to meeting James anyway because the whole situation was what started my depression…
A shiver sent down my spine as I shook away the memory. I don’t need to think about that. What I need to do is fix this. For an hour, I slowly and painfully dragged myself across my bedroom floor until I reached my bed where I pulled myself up, too weak to support myself enough stand up. I pulled my long sleeves down to cover the cuts, and I fell asleep to escape the tears that were my reality; even though, I couldn’t escape the nightmares that followed.
The next morning, I woke up with a pounding headache, my sleeves caked with dried crimson blood, and a sore, achy pain that stretched across my whole body. I limped into the kitchen and took a couple of pain relievers along with a sip of water and a cracker. I returned to my bedroom, my comfort, my solace, and laid back in bed and waited on sleep to return. It was Saturday. There was only one more day separating me from the day when I had to return to the social hell that I knew of as school. I’d rather have been burned alive than return on Monday. Sleep finally overcame my helpless spirit for another day and got me through the day afterwards.

The first day of school passed without any specific significance. I had lunch with Gracie and her friend Lizzy. I hated my piano class and came home in resignation. It was going to be an awful year. I attended school the next day with that attitude and came home in more depressed mood than the day before. I told my mom with no questions asked that I was leaving my special school. The school I had to audition to get into. The school that is one of the top schools in the nation. The school where I was one of nine people to get accepted for the year. I was going to give it away because of the turn of events that had come my way. She responded telling me that she agreed that I couldn’t deal with it but that I had to finish out the week. Immediately, the thoughts started zooming through my head, me, being barely able to catch them, since they were going faster than race cars in a speedway.
Oh. What about James and Everlyse? What about school? I’ll have to go to the one I’m zoned for. Am I just going to give up this easily? It’s not going to be better at another school. What am I thinking? Why did my mom say that? She was supposed to argue and convince me to stay!
I went to school the next day in tears and told Everlyse that I was leaving. The wounded look on her face and the tears that followed were the first dagger to my heart in the day. I let anybody else who I thought would care know, except James. He hadn’t talked to me all morning. I knew better than to overreact this time. I left him alone and waited until our normal talking time after my Literature class and his Latin class. He smiled and waved and he whispered “Hey Ari” in my ear. That inevitable smile that comes when we talk crept slowly onto my face, as it always does.
“What’s up?” James asked as we walked towards his next class.
“J, I’m leaving Lillyport…”
At that instant, I knew that I would never be able to leave Lillyport. The look on his face hurt me worse than watching a thousand polar bears die or watching a butterfly have its wing ripped, worse than seeing a wounded and abused puppy look at you with its pathetic tear-filled eyes. It was the dagger that killed my heart’s desire to leave. I would rather put up with all the hell at Lillyport than to ever hurt J as much as that face would have led me to believe would have. I sniffled, holding back tears, and told him to text me later. I ran off as fast as I could before he saw the first tear spill over my eyelid.
When I got home that afternoon, I texted Trini and Aaron for a little bit and then finished my minute amount of homework before getting on the computer and messaging James. His chat box popped up and we carried on our conversation.
“Ari, you can’t leave.”
“Yeah, I can, James. :’(“
“Lillyport is like a marriage. It will sometimes get on your nerves but you can’t divorce it. It’s not right. You put too much work into it, to give up now.”
“I never thought of it that way, J. What do you think I should do?”
“Stay. Talk to me when you feel bad. I’ll make you feel better and change your mind each time.”
“I don’t know that I can handle it, J. It’s stressing me out and you know, I really need to visit Trini. Time with my best friend would totally help.”
“I know, Ari, I know. I’m sorry. I’m here, and you’re strong enough. You are strong, Ari. You can do it.”
“Okay, I believe you. Hey J?”
“Thanks, and yeah?”
“Thank you, you are amazing, I love you. Going to go eat dinner. Text me.”
I signed off, grabbed my phone, and made my way to throw something together to eat. My family had really lost their talent for making me food, since I had become vegetarian. I found a piece of brownish lettuce. It wasn’t nearly enough to make a salad. So, I settled for the traditional PB&J sandwich. Two slices of bread. I searched for some peanut butter in the cabinets. I grabbed the nearest jar of creamy peanut butter and then ambled to the refrigerator and hunted for my last jar of strawberry preserves. When I finally found it, I slapped together the messiest sandwich anyone has ever seen and walked back towards the comfort of my bedroom to consume my yummy supper.
I made it through school pretty okay for the following months. Nothing out of the ordinary happened. I just existed. I didn’t hang out with anyone and I didn’t communicate. I made it through just fine. I took my PSAT and scored super high on it. I got a 100 in Chemistry for the first semester after dedicating all of my free time into an extra credit Chem project that illustrated the relationship between energy sublevels and electrons through butterfly species. I took the time to form forty butterflies to represent each electron in the element Zirconium. I painted Spicebush Swallowtails, Purple Emperors, and Diana Fritillaries until I was blue in the face. Then, I made flowers to represent each energy level. The teacher kept my project and that began our friendship through the year. I go to her when I need prayer or want to talk. She’s super awesome.

Around this time, Aaron and I were talking quite regularly. Over the past couple of months, our strange, awkward, and unconventional friendship had evolved into something greater. It wasn’t quite a “real” friendship yet, but we talked quite regularly. In a way, he was the only constant person in my life. Trini was always busy with her other friends. James was always flirting with other girls. Lysa was just so absorbed in her relationships at school and her crushes. I needed someone who could just talk about anything whenever I needed them to. Aaron fit that position perfectly. Therefore, every day I possibly could, I signed on, hoping to find him online. We talked about everything under the sun. Our conversations typically revolved around bass singing and butterflies, but we could relate any topic to those two, somehow. One day, he confided in me one day that he actually really liked Trini. He asked her to their school’s homecoming dance. I sat at my home, at the computer desk, flipping through the pictures, not being able to control the happiness I felt for them. Soon after the dance, I convinced Aaron to ask her out. It took a multitude of emails, providing sufficient evidence proving how much she actually liked him. Obviously, Aaron didn’t have the highest confidence in himself.
Also, James started dating this girl named Alice. I skipped school regularly so that I could avoid one day of hell as a break. I made a visit up to Charlotte, North Carolina, on one of my skip days to stay with my friend Liza for the weekend. I made it through each day by texting my three friends for life, James, Trini, and Aaron. I talked to Everlyse when I was at school but she just didn’t understand anything that was going on. She was extremely focused on her crush, Royce, finally asking her out. Other than that, nothing extraordinary happened and I made do with life.
Soon, it drew close to my birthday. I was planning on taking my Trini with me to a butterfly house in state. We began planning it for weeks. Each day we counted down the days until we could see each other again. During one of my conversations with Aaron, I mentioned our trip in a side comment, and he jumped at the proposition of him being able to go with us. Deep inside, I longed to meet the guy that I was dependent on, my best friend’s boyfriend, my friend, by this time. My mom agreed that he could go with us, and I immediately told him that he could. Well, about a week before the trip, my mom told me that if she took us, that she wasn’t going to have the money for gas or food, just because of the ticket cost; so, I canceled the trip last minute, apologized to Trini and Aaron for the trouble, and cried myself to sleep that night. Unobserved, my sister Jenna had a twinkle in her eye at the other side of the house.

Jenna began planning my party from the minute I canceled the trip. She immediately called Trini and pretended that it was one of her friends on the phone. They talked for hours, planning every little detail for my surprise party. I admit, I was a little suspicious, because Jenna became extremely paranoid over the week, never leaving her social networking accounts or her phone lying around. She jumped when I was around her. Plus, all of a sudden, all of my friends were suddenly interested in being “friends” with her, conversing with her in the halls at school or at car line. Trini called me five days before my birthday and told me that she was coming down for the weekend. The ecstasy was amazing. I hadn’t seen her since July. It was October. I hated going long periods of time without seeing her. It was going to be great. That was Wednesday.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
I just woke up.
Crap! I woke up late, again!
Momma, why is it seven o’clock in the morning and I’m just getting up?
“Um, well, I woke up late.”
Shoot, I need to get ready.
Hurriedly, I yanked a hair brush through my hair, ignoring the pain at my roots from the ripping of them, and gulped down a quick breakfast. I finished all of my extra homework and gathered everything for school. Then, I ran into my room and switched into a different set of clothes for school. A black t-shirt and jeans, how original.

As I finally settled down for the morning, my sister ran into our computer room, choking back sobs. As paranoid as I am, awful thoughts and ideas started running through my head. Oh no, the dog got hit by a car. Oh no, Trini died. Maybe Jenna broke her foot or favorite nostalgic knick-knack? What happened? Oh no!

“Umm, Ari, OD is dead.”

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAATTTTTTTTTTTT?????????????? You gotta be trippin’ girl!?

“No, I’m serious. Go look for yourself.”

As I made the long and depressing journey to my cluttered, hard to maneuver room, thoughts started to run through my mind. What am I going to do without him? I can’t live without him. He’s my only friend. He’s my only friend. When I finally made it into my room, there OD was, my Siamese sable Netherland Dwarf rabbit, sprawled out across his hutch, dead. Dead. There was no going back for him. His life was over. His heart had stopped beating. It was the end for him.

Overwhelmed with emotion, I broke out into a torrential downpour of tears. As they flooded from my eyes, my mother came in to verify the assumption. He was dead, cold, no longer warmed by Life. Tears streaming down my face, we picked OD up and buried him in our flower bed.

Today is going to be a bad day at school. I can see it now. OD is dead. Everything else is going to go wrong.
Did I ever mention that I’m a pessimist? Well, I am.

I walked into school that morning, depressed, thinking about the death of my beloved rabbit. He was gone. Immediately, when I stepped into school, three days before my birthday, my history project partner, Darla, ran up to me, enveloping me in her harsh chides of “Ari, I lost our papers, and you walked out of class yesterday, so now we are going to fail our project, because it is DUE TODAY!”

Immediately, the world began to spin around me, as I because dizzy with paranoia. I don’t know about anyone else, but I am extremely prone to extreme paranoia. It attacks me, like a wolf attacks a wounded predator, easily with no chance of being fought against. I broke down in tears and collapsed on the ground, not caring who thought that I was a freak. They thought it anyway, might as well give them a reason, was my logic. A zero. A zero. I’m going to fail. I’m never going to be Valedictorian this way.

I walked to the front office, grabbed the phone, and dialed my mother’s number on the hundred-year old dial pad on the telephone.

MOMMY!!, I roared in my mother’s ear.

I then retold the whole situation and the events that occurred to my mother, the only person who would listen to me. She carefully explained and laid out directions of what to do. She said to take the zero, knowing that it wasn’t my fault, and just take it in stride.

One thing I have to say about my mother is she has never been one to fight. She also has mercy and grace, enough for everyone else on the face of the planet. I, on the other hand, have enough patience to sit on the ground and cry for hours, because something doesn’t go my way.

I immediately stormed through the courtyard and made my way to our history teacher’s class. I slammed through the room, and demanded that she give me grace. But Lo, and behold, my papers were on her desk anyway. I snatched them from her desk and ambled out of the room, thinking to myself, Ohmahgursh! I’m such a flippin’ moron. She could have gotten me in trouble for my behavior in there.

I took the papers and finished the project with Darla and we turned it in. Finally, a good part of today. I thought to myself. As I made my way to Senora’s class, I heard the most detrimental thing a person like me, who has experienced the things they have, could hear. A call to guidance.

Ohmahgursh! What am I being called to guidance for? I didn’t do anything. I’m clean. I don’t cut anymore. I’m not suicidal. What’s wrong? Does this deal with James? I just got him back as a friend. I don’t want to lose him AGAIN! Those were the thoughts streaming through my head as I made my way to the office. Everlyse had been called to, so it might have to do with our friendship triangle and its members. I had no idea, though. When I showed up, Everlyse and I were the only ones in the room. I thought to myself, Ohmahgursh… That was the only thought going through my mind at the time. The counselor started off by talking about her headache, and then the conversation went as follows:

“Afternoon, girls. I have a headache, and what I’m about to tell you won’t make it any better.”

Sob. Sob. Sob. Was the only thing we could reply with. I could read Everlyse’s mind. James. What did we do?

“I’m sorry to say that neither of you have been picked for the Honor’s Program for our state.

Oh, well, that sucks… I’m not going to cry, even though James made it in. I’m not going to cry.
We both walked out of the room, composed, as the counselor waved us off. We stepped forward a couple more steps, before we both embraced each other and tears began to stream down my face. She consoled me. All I could think was This was my last chance with James. My last chance.

Today really sucks, I have to admit that. It really does. I repeated this to myself throughout the rest of the day. It was an early release day, so I didn’t repeat it that much longer. I just prayed that the day would end soon so I could go home and go to bed, ending this hell of a day early. My dad picked me up and took me home. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and began to check my texts.

37 Incoming Texts

What the heck? I’ve only been at school for half a day. What’s up with this?
As I read through the texts, all of them held the same frantic message. “I’m sick. – Trini”
The world was officially over. I sat on my couch and cried myself to sleep.
Viernes, 21 de Octubre de 2011.
Twelve hours of darkness and despair later, I finally opened my eyes. It’s Friday. Today is a better day.
I hopped up, cleaned out OD’s cage, called my mom at work to see if I could get a new bunny. She said yes. I immediately attacked every pet website online to find me a perfect dwarf rabbit that I would love with all of my heart. I found him. His name was Oar-E-O. Yeah, I spelled it that way on purpose.

My dad and I went to the grocery store, along with Jenna, to get food for the following week. While we were on the cake aisle, my sister asked me, “Ari, what type of cake do you want?”
I replied with an “I don’t freaking care. I’m not having a party, why do I need a cake?”
She smiled and just asked again.
Frustrated, I said to get one box of white and one of chocolate. If I was going to make a cake, at least it was going to be awesome. The plan started forming in my head then. Rainbow. Cake.

We rushed home, and Jenna and I started on my cake. We made all of my “necessary” health switches so it would be lower in fat, to satiate my need/desire to lose weight. We switched the oil for apple sauce, the icing for fat-free whipped cream. Then, I poured random food dye into different parts of the batter. It was rainbow, my desire accomplished.

After my cake came out of the oven, I never saw it again. Jenna took it and hid it somewhere in the house. Me, being a butthole, was in the mood to bug her about it.
“I hid it. DUH!”
Give it to me!

This went on for about three or four hours, when finally, I called my mom and started complaining about my sister and her antics. Since my sister is the spoiled one of the family (at least in my eyes), my mom didn’t do anything about it. She said to let Jenna do what she wants to do. Simply, instead of dealing with the torturous life that my family has planned for me, I walked outside, plodded over the driveway, and sat by the mailbox and cried. Tears had never streamed in rivers down my cheeks this strongly before. Life was scary. I was scared, not only for my life but for my sanity. Hours later, I lifted myself up and walked around. I heard my family calling me from inside, but I was too numb to care. To avoid interaction with human society, I hid in the one place nobody would find me. In my house. More of, in my backyard actually. I hiked myself over the fence and climbed down into the jungle of poison ivy. I sat in my backyard for hours. Crying. Finally, I gave up and walked back into my house and texted the only three people in the world who could make me happy. James, Aaron, and Trini.

Trini was still sick and still apologizing for not being able to chill over the weekend. Aaron, on the other hand, was sending me weird texts like "Don’t search in the areas of your house that you abnormally visit. Supernatural things may happen!!..." and “Don’t worry. I have your present. I have to make sure I get it shipped on time.” He was just trying to get me more hyped up about the party, trying to get a reaction.
Well, I have news for you, Aaron, I’m lying here on the couch for the rest of my life. I’m never going to move and I’m never going to deal with anything again. This is my future. My couch.

My eyes eventually shut, and soon enough, I was drifting off into la-la-land, to the world where things made sense. That night, I dreamed of Aaron, James, and Trini. They were all at my house and I was smiling. The grin on my face can’t even be described with words. Looking back, I think that it is impossible to have a smile that big anymore. The smile that completely radiated an electric happiness throughout the dream was caused by my three best friends, Aaron, James, and Trini. I am happy.

“Is she awake?” was the first question that I heard as my eyelids fluttered sporadically as I exited my dream world.

Well, dang Jenna, I wish I was asleep because you’re making my life a living hell. Thank you!!

“She’s awake.” I hear her say. I don’t even care. Tears start to flood my eyes. I prepare myself. The rivers are about to flood. I need to get out of here. NOW.

I picked up the phone, called my mom, and she promptly asked me if I wanted to get out of the house. I told her yes and agreed to meet her outside when she pulled up. As our family car pulled around the corner, I was already outside in the fall weather, in a pair of cut-off jean shorts, which were way too short to be wearing, and a t-shirt. It was frigid outside and I was shivering, but I was still excited to be leaving my sister and her obnoxious shenanigans. I jumped in the car and my mom asked if I wanted to go look at e-book readers, something that I had been wanting for a while. I agreed, knowing that any place would be better than home. We got to the office supply store that sold them and looked for about one and a half hours.
This is absurd. Yes, I want one, but I’m never going to let them buy me one. It costs way too much, way more than I am comfortable with them spending on me for my birthday. Dang, my fifteenth birthday sucks. Let’s leave so they don’t have to rub it in my face that they have all these awesome e-readers and I don’t. It’s been 1 ½ hours anyway. I’m done. I think I’d rather put up with Jenna’s crap than this.
I walked over to my mom and asked her to go home. She gave me this blank stare like I was insane, so I went back to browsing their selection of e-readers until she was ready to leave. For another hour, she asked me which one I liked better and what colors were available. She also asked if I liked the older or new generations and if I wanted a touch screen or not. I answered all of her questions honestly. I wanted the older series and I’d like it preferably black. White gets dirty too easily. After I finished answering all of her inquiries, she called the attention of the salesman in the red and black checkered shirt. Oh gosh, she’s going to get it. Immediately the tears started flowing and I begged her to stop. I didn’t want her to buy it for me. I wasn’t sure that I was going to use it enough to actually make worth the money that she was going to pay for it. $114. Way too much for anyone to spend on me, especially for my birthday. She bought it anyway, making sure that I got the generation series I wanted along with the black outer shell. I involuntarily clasped the box in both hands and focused on each of my steps as I walked towards the car, so I wouldn’t lose my balance, fall, and crush the precious device that I had been blessed with for my birthday. Once we finally got to the car, slowed down my focused steps, my mom insisted that I plug it in and charge it while I played on it, in the parking lot. I insisted that we go home, but before she would even leave the parking lot, she called my sister and told her we were on the way home. I heard her scream this odd scream, it sounded like she was being murdered actually, and then she muttered “okay” into the phone and hung up on my mom.
On the way home, my mom and I stopped by the local coffee shop for a Frappuccino, sat outside in the café and talked about the latest drama with Everlyse and Royce, her boyfriend. We talked about their relationship, the pro’s and con’s of it, why they were even dating, their personality types, and if it would work out. We were out until midnight before she finally brought me home. I ambled through the house long enough to plug my e-reader into the computer and then took my phone and took comfort in my room, laying down, in the frigid temperatures, under five thick, wooly fleece blankets. I grabbed my phone from my pocket and sent Trini a text. She didn’t reply. She’s probably asleep since she’s sick, you moron. Don’t freak out. Text her in the morning. Right then, I heard people in my house, and I caught on. I quickly grabbed my phone before I fell victim to sleep and quickly tapped out the small text saying, “Hey Aaron, going to bed. Good night. And btw, thanks for your present, it’s amazing.” Before he could respond, I drifted into my dream world.

I woke up super early the next morning because my mom had agreed that I could go adopt my precious Dutch dwarf bunny rabbit, Oar-E-O, from an animal shelter about an hour away from our house. I quickly showered, shook the water out of my hair, and tossed on my super soft brown organic cotton Earth t-shirt along with a pair of jeans and jumped in the car, texting Aaron and Trini, telling them that I was going to pick up my new precious best friend. Aaron wished me luck, and Trini didn’t reply, obviously still “sick.”
This ride to pick up Oar-E-O is taking forever, I know it’s an hour away, but seriously. I’m just ready to get him. And I can’t wait until I get home to hang out with Trini.
I had figured out the night before that my best friend forever was being sheltered in my sister’s room which would explain Aaron’s texts. He was in on the surprise. “Don’t go into any room you wouldn’t normally go into because something supernatural might happen.” That obviously meant that my best friend was not “sick” anymore and she mysteriously in my house, coincidentally, also in the room that I would never go in, my sister’s room. “Don’t worry. I have your present. I have to make sure I get it shipped on time.” That was referring to Trini being my present, and her travels as being shipped. I had it all figured out and I was super excited to see my older sister, my best friend. This was obviously going to be the countdown until my not-so surprise birthday party. We got to the shelter, petted Oar-E-O while paying for him, picked him up and put him in his box, and started the long trip back home. As we drove down back roads, I knew then that this bunny was definitely not normal and definitely meant for me. First, he hopped out of the box and sat in my lap the whole ride home, never getting freaked out from any crazy right-hand turns or my mom’s extreme split-second braking. He just laid there. Also, he was a war bunny. He had a piece of his ear missing. This let me know that he put up with a lot and would relate with me quite easily. We could help each other out. I’d comfort him and he’d comfort me. We were meant for each other.
Finally, we pulled into our garage. I quickly analyzed my garage, looking for any differences and minor details that had changed. I saw what I was looking for. A piece of crepe paper was carefully wedged between the wall and the door that led inside my house. This let me know exactly what I need to know. I carefully placed my bunny down in the car, shut the door, and screamed a blood-curdling scream. I knew that this would trip them up long enough to make this surprise interesting. I picked up my bunny and placed him in his box, and carefully, walked up the three brick steps that led into my house. One…Two…Three…Go! I opened the door, prepared for my sister and Trini. That’s not what I got. All I received for opening that door was my sister and her friend, Rosa, pelting me in the face with rolls of toilet paper. Wow. Definitely not what I expected. I give her props. Maybe my assumption about Trini was wrong. But the more I considered everything, the more I knew she had to be there. She never gets sick. She was part of the surprise. Jenna and I have this way of making everything a game. At her last birthday, we hid every single one of her presents and had a party scavenger hunt to find them. She was going to surprise me with every guest, which hopefully was just Rosa, Trini, and maybe even Everlyse. Doubtful though, considering, I had talked to her the week before, asking her to hang out today. She said she was busy. Unless… it was part of the surprise.
I screamed as the toilet paper made contact with my face. I set my bunny down and gave Rosa and Jenna hugs. In mid-hug with Rosa, the doorbell rang. Trying to be a smart-aleck, I looked at my sister and told her to get it while I put my bunny up. When she said no, I asked if I should get it. You could tell she was getting irritated. One more and then, I’ll actually answer the door. I wonder who it is? It’s Trini. I know it is.
“Jenna, you should have told Trini to wear a coat outside. It’s cold. Do I need to look through the peep-hole to see who it is first? Momma taught us to not open the door for strangers.”
“Just open it. I know who it is,” she snapped back.
I can’t wait to see Trini’s face. That’s the only thought that ran through my mind as I unlocked the door and twisted the door knob as slow as possible to build the suspense. What was there was something I was not prepared for.

The look of surprise on my face probably didn’t compare to the noise that came out of my mouth. I shrieked when I had opened the door enough to see not Trini but James, standing on my front porch, doubled-over, gasping for breath, waving hello to me. I turned around and walked off from the door, shocked, not knowing what to do. How the heck did James accidentally break down in my neighborhood and show up at MY house? Why is he here? What the heck? No way!? Those were the only thoughts that ran through my head, until the shocking revelation hit me. I just left him at the door!!!! I need to let him in. Embarrassed, I quickly skipped to door, and opened it as fast as I could, to let him in. In the process, I smacked myself right in the forehead with it. Dang. I couldn’t be more embarrassed right now. I hugged him as he walked into my living room and turned to look at me.

“Hey Ari...(gasp)... Can I get some water? I was running late. I had to park up the hill to keep you from seeing me. Did I miss the surprise?”

“Uh. Yeah. Sure. Follow. Me.” I managed to stutter back, still in strong shock that my best friend and crush was standing in my house and asking to drink water out of my faucet in my house.

As I led him through my humble abode, he rambled on.

“I’m sooo sorry I missed the surprise. I’m soo sorry, Ari. I missed the surprise”

He paused as I turned right from our dining room into our kitchen and then whispered in my ear, “Or did I?”

Before the words registered in my mind, Trini jumped off the counter and attacked me in mid-air. Scaring the living daylights out of me, I collapsed on the cold floor, in tears, from shock. She and James stood there, giving me time to recover from the happiest two moments in my life. The ecstasy in the room was amazing. I was soaking it up, even though tears were still streaming down my face. Several seconds later, I jumped up and pulled them into a huge bear hug that lasted for several minutes. Grinning from ear-to-ear, I walked back into the living room where James reminded me that I had to take my new bunny and put him in his cage. I picked up Oar-E-O and carried him into my room and placed him into the late OD’s cage, before pouncing onto my bed and the blankets. Immediately, I knew there was something wrong. Not only were Trini, James, and Jenna staring at me like I was a psycho, but my bed felt weird. I started to get up but before I could get balanced, a hand clasped around me ankle and gripped it for dear life. I shrieked, and Everlyse climbed out from underneath my bed as Reece rolled off my bed and onto the floor, beside me and Everylyse, who were currently giggling and hugging each other, telepathically communicating with each other.

James is in my house, Lysa!

“I KNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

We quickly returned to reality and everybody filed out of my room, towards the part of the house where my birthday party was going to occur. They all grabbed each other’s hands and shouted SURPRISE! I smiled. Man, best life ever. I love these guys. We ate pizza and opened my presents. James made a homemade card that enveloped a purple origami butterfly, addressed to Ari. Lysa bought me a plaque for my bedroom that had a guitar on it with purple butterflies swarming around it. Reece bought me a gift card that had butterflies drawn all over it. My sister, Trini, had the best present out of them all. Hers was a red glass butterfly necklace. I immediately took it out of its purple box and hooked the clasp around my neck and beamed the biggest smile I could towards all of my closest friends, except one. I couldn’t help but notice the missing presence of the friend I had never met. The one I talked to all the time but had never seen his face. Aaron was not at my party. Not that I expected him to be, his family had never met me nor mine him. I definitely noticed, and it was the only thing that made my birthday anything less than perfect. After presents, Lysa and I cut the cake, a follow-up to my joke proposal to her the week before. Everybody loved my rainbow cake idea. I introduced strawberry ice cream to James for the first time. How could he have never had the best Neapolitan flavor ever?! That is beyond me. After gorging ourselves with food, we lounged in the living room and finished my perfect day with my favorite romantic comedy that had all of us laughing the whole afternoon. At one point, James had to leave to give his friend a ride to work but he left his jacket so that I had a guarantee that he would come back. After he returned, we had a toilet paper war and then, my grandmother Amelia Lopez came by to visit. We all ran outside to greet her and she rewarded me with my birthday present check. We crowded back inside and then, we began goodbyes with everyone except Trini. I gave hugs to everyone, first James, second Rosa, following with Reece, and finally Lysa. The real party had yet to begin. Just wait.

God, that was amazing, thank you for an epic sister like Jenna, and even better friends like James, Lysa, and Trini. They’re amazing. Amen.

After everyone had left, Trini and I immediately knew what we were going to do with my birthday check. It would sound stupid to any other person in the world, but we knew how we wanted to spend the rest of our day together. We were going to go to the local little kid’s gaming arcade and buy $30 worth of tokens and play games together all afternoon and snack on yummy pizza and soda. We weren’t planning to go until 8:00 that night though and right as we were trying to find something to do, a kid I used to go to school with named Sampson texted me and asked if my mom could do the face painting at his neighborhood’s football party. My mom agreed, and I figured that Trini should meet Sampson anyway, since he had this major crush on me, even though he was three years older that me! I decided it would be fun because there was enough room to play football, the one sport I could play, and also, there was free food. We grabbed a football as we left for the party.
When we finally got there, my mom had a line of people waiting on her to paint their faces, so Ari, Jenna, and I went with the flow and did whatever we pleased. First, Jenna did a “photo shoot” of Trini and I. Sampson came up and introduced himself to Trini. She was shocked to see what she saw. He towered over both of us at a startling 6 foot and 5 inches in height and at least 240 lbs. in weight. His giant figure cast a shadow over us in the daytime and shielded us from the harsh winds that were attacking us from the east. Afterwards, we played football with Sampson until it got cold enough that we couldn’t feel our fingers from the numbness that came with the harsh fall winds. We bundled up in blankets and sat around a blazing fire in the center of the field to bring warmth back into our bodies. Almost too soon, the end of the day approached, and the seconds where ticking down to eight o’clock when we would go do some major gaming. We said more goodbyes and made our way to our favorite place in the world. We hung out at the same arcade since we were little. We weren’t about to break the tradition any time soon. We handed over my wad of birthday cash to the cashier, ordered a pizza and cokes, and ran off with our shiny tokens, towards the games like we were little kids again.
We played and played, all night long. We had pictures of ourselves sketched. We competed against each other in air hockey. We played on the multi-colored, durable plastic inside playground that smelled of generations of little kids. We shot the tokens at the little pictures to get tickets, and we even found this gorilla game that we dubbed as the “torture device” because every time we pushed the token in its slot, we had to put our hands on the handle bars and grip it while the game administers a “voltage shock” to them. In actuality, the “voltage shock” was simply high speed vibrations that vibrated the inside our hands to make us feel like we were being shocked and therefore, feigning pain in our bodies. We didn’t know any better though. Trini would let go within the first couple of seconds. I last all 120 seconds more than once. I have that fighting spirit that keeps me going. I don’t want to be weak, therefore, I will do something even though it hurts me like crazy.
At the end of the night, we were completely exhausted. Barely able to move, we trudged out of the arcade and made our way to the car. On the ride home, we managed to stay awake because we were completely hyped up on Mountain Dew and sugar. We changed into our pajamas and collapsed onto our futon, prepared to stay awake all night, taking advantage of any time that we had together. We talked about Aaron and her relationship with him. We talked about James and my imaginary relationship with him. Eventually, we fell asleep in the middle of one of our conversations. Quicker than we could have ever believed it was possible, it was 7:00 AM, Sunday morning, and Trini’s mom was banging on our front door, ready to pick her up and take her home. I sat on my driveway, after watching her car drive away, and sobbed, grieving her once again absence in my life.

After a while, I went back in and started to text her and Aaron. I mentioned to Aaron about a slightly possible volunteer opportunity I might have near their town. I had already discussed with my mom the possibility of visiting them while we were up in the area. I just needed to find out if he was going to be in town, since my potential visit was planned for the weekend of Thanksgiving. I didn’t tell Trini, right away, because for a while, I actually considered keeping my visit a secret and surprising her. Aaron said that he would be gone that Friday and Saturday morning, but that if I was able to visit on Sunday, we would finally get to meet. I explained the situation to my mother, and she became hesitant, wondering if a three-day visit was a wise choice. Disappointed, I informed Aaron that the probability of getting to meet him while I was up visiting was quite low.
I wound up telling Trini anyway, because I wanted to make sure that she would be in town as well. With my visit planned, all I had to do was wait. I had less than a month until I could see her again. Life was good. School was slowly becoming easier for me to deal with, and I depended on my unhealthy resolutions for the pain a lot less. Lysa was a little harder to deal with. After Royce broke up with her, she constantly insisted that she was depressed, because she needed a guy’s attention in her life. Even though it totally was not true, it still was hard to convince her otherwise. I completely left it alone and just avoided most conversation with her in general. The countdown began once more, and the week of Thanksgiving finally arrived.
For the beginning, I spent my time in Myrtle Beach. Typically, a family that visits Myrtle Beach plans on swimming, lounging in the sun, and soaking up as many UV rays as possible. Jenna and my mother enjoy that a lot. My dad and I on the other hand are completely opposite. I completely detest the sun and water. Yeah, I will take my sister swimming and I will get in the water; but when the depth approaches anything deeper than 5 ½ feet, I become paranoid and freak out. I spent most of my visit, attempting to locate a signal for my phone, so I could text Aaron and Trini. Trini was dealing with her own stuff, like her school’s wrestling team. I leaned on Aaron, especially that week. I mean, Trini was excited for my visit, but her excitement in no way compared to the excitement from Aaron. In my own special way, I was extremely excited to meet him as well, maybe even more than I was to see my best friend again. Day after day, I laid on my bed in my hotel room, texting Aaron until late hours of the night, for as long as I could. Finally, it came time for us to head home.
I stayed up all night long with my mom, helping her prepare our family’s Thanksgiving dinner. We smoked a huge turkey for the dinner and made mashed potatoes. By the next morning, there was so much food, we could barely fit it on our table. Family from all around came to visit and eat Thanksgiving dinner with us. Usually, my family had a rule about texting at the table, but I didn’t care. I texted Aaron and Trini anyways. I kept my phone hidden under the edge of the table, chatting with my two amigos. As soon as the meal was over and everyone was gone, my family disappeared to their own parts of the house and laid down to take naps, extremely worn out from entertaining guests all morning. I, on the other hand, don’t take naps, and was left completely to myself, except my grandmother who was on the computer, playing computer games and checking her social networks. I texted Aaron and we agreed to call each other. Over the past several months, I had gotten used to not only being able to text him but also hear his voice. The feeling was amazing to have people to talk on the phone with. Trini never had much time to call anymore.
The minute he called, I picked up the phone. I chillaxed on my couch, phone in one hand, and smiled. We talked about singing and his vacation at the beach, where he currently resided. I began to beg him to sing for me. I had heard so much about his deep voice, from not only Trini, but him. I longed to hear his extremely bass voice. He finally complied and sang a couple of notes. The notes were so low and loud that my grandmother who wasn’t even near me could hear them. I grinned and laughed to myself. He sounded amazing, but it had caught me off guard. After about two hours, I finally got off the phone with him, so he could return to his hotel. Only a couple more days until I could meet him. I could wait. For the rest of the day, I texted on and off, drifting off into sleep, every once and a while.
The next morning was Black Friday. We got out around three o’clock in the morning to go shopping. My family has this extreme habit of shopping and purchasing useless items that we will never ever use again. We bought a new TV and a couple of DVD players. Soon, my family grew tired of shopping and returned to our humble abode. It was almost time for us to leave. The excitement began to bubble inside me, and I couldn’t wait to be with my older sister and Otis. I would be visiting both of them for the weekend, along with the possibility of meeting Aaron on Sunday, if I could convince my mother and grandmother of the value of meeting him. They didn’t exactly understand why I was so captivated by the thought of getting to meet my sister’s boyfriend, but in my logical world, it made every bit of sense. He was one of my friends, I argued, and I couldn’t wait to finally make his acquaintance.

Finally, Friday afternoon, we left. I called Trini and asked for her address so I could plug it into my GPS. I sent her and Aaron a couple of final texts before departing. After the first couple of minutes, the excitement of my visit quickly dwindled and I settled down for a long drive. Two bathroom breaks and a stop for dinner later, we finally arrived at my sister’s house late that evening. I hopped out of the car before it had not quite stopped moving and scurried over to the door.
This is it. I finally get to visit Trini. This is just what I need to relieve my stress. I have the whole weekend with her. This is going to be amazing.
I kept thinking the same thing as I gently knocked on her door. Seconds later, I began to freak out.
What’s wrong? I knocked on the door! Why isn’t she answering? Did she forget that I was visiting? Oh goodness. Did I tell her the right date? I’m such an idiot. I probably have the wrong house. What have I done?
As all the paranoid thoughts ran through my head, I ran back to the car, where my grandmother and mom were staring at me.
“Did she answer?” asked my mom.
No, she didn’t. I thought I saw the door move, but no one came out. Can I have your phone? I’ll call Trini. If she doesn’t answer, I’ll call Otis.
I dialed her number on the keypad, as I briskly paced in front of the house. C’mon! Answer the phone, sis. Answer the phone! When she didn’t answer, I punched in Otis’s number. He answered with his typically groggy voice, saying, “Oh! You’re here! YAY!” The front door opened, and I immediately became delighted to see my older sister run out, followed by my little brother. We embraced for what seemed like forever, before we finally broke the hug and went inside. To my dismay, they weren’t alone. Trini’s friend Ella was there with us. Instantly, my euphoria diminished as I realized that I wasn’t going to have my best friend to myself for the whole weekend. Oh well. At least I have her, even if I have to share her. It will be fun. Ella will probably back off since she knows that I only get to visit every once in a while. Well, Ella really didn’t back off. She made it in every single picture I took. She followed us everywhere. Which I can’t complain about, because I really did get to spend time with Trini, and that was the most important thing. We walked around town, went shopping, and just plain goofed off, especially in the local Mexican restaurant where we dined for every single meal that weekend. As Friday and Saturday drew to a close, I knew it was time to beg my family to let me stay just ONE more day so that I could meet my friend Aaron. For hours, I sat in our hotel room, begging on my knees, to let us remain in town to meet him. It was really important. I needed to meet him. Finally, they complied, and I snatched my phone out of my back pocket and swiftly sent him a text telling him to come to Trini’s house in the morning, so that I could meet him. Although we were staying one more night, we still had to leave rather early the next morning so that we could make it back home before twilight. I laid down that night with a huge grin on my face. God, thank you. I finally get to meet Aaron AND I get to spend an extra day with Trini. You are truly amazing and thank you for this opportunity to spend this Sunday with my friends. I love you! Goodnight. Amen.

Early Sunday morning, I woke up, prepared to make the most out of the little time I had left in town. We were at Trini’s house way before any sensible person was even considering waking up. I let myself into the house while my family waited in the car. We had agreed at the hotel that this was my moment and that they didn’t want to interrupt. I woke Trini and Otis up. They hugged me and we planned our surprise for Aaron. Otis pretended to be asleep, and I crawled into bed with Trini. We hid under the blankets and checked our texts from Aaron. He was on his way. We waited patiently for him to get there. As we heard his truck drive up in front of the house, silence draped the room. We hushed each other under the blanket and lay completely still. He let himself in and began whispering quietly to the lump on the bed that made up me and my sister.
“Trini, wake up. I’m here. Is Ari here yet?” he whispered quietly.
I subtly nudged her and jumped up quickly out of the bed. The look on Aaron’s face was priceless. Unfortunately, Trini didn’t catch my clue that we were to jump together, so she was startled as well. I took a step towards him, utter confidence overcoming the shy and introvert being that composed my whole self. Looking my friend straight in the eyes for the first time ever, I uttered my first sentence to him.
“Man, you’re short.”
He laughed and I immediately knew that he was going to be an awesome friend. He seemed like the perfect boyfriend for Trini. Ella wasn’t there that day, so we grabbed some baseball gloves and a baseball and headed over to a nearby field to play catch. Although that was our intention, I departed from our intended past time long enough for all of us to spend time rolling down the slope that led down to the field. For what seemed like hours, we rolled down the hill, over and over again. Eventually, we began a type of “human bowling” where one person would roll down the hill and try to knock the others over. As perceptive as usual, I did notice the behavior of everyone the whole day. Trini didn’t exactly seem herself. Neither did Otis. In my opinion, everything was perfectly fine, but I noticed some tension. At one point, before we went to lunch, I pulled Trini to the side and asked her what was up. She mentioned that she was considering breaking up with Aaron. She said she just felt like it was time, that they weren’t compatible, and that she just didn’t feel like it was working out. I nodded my head, not completely understanding what she meant. They were perfect together. It was her choice though. I left it alone. Dear God, just help Aaron to take it easily. Everything will be fine. I know he still REALLY likes her, but they did make a promise to stay friends if they ever broke up. They will be fine. Please help it to be okay. Thanks, God. Amen.
Something about Aaron really intrigued me though. After finally getting around to our baseball game, we headed over to the Mexican restaurant for one last meal. On the walk over, he randomly left us to go to get some caffeine. I didn’t understand why he was isolating himself. I wanted to spend more time with him, but I felt awkward. It was the first time I met him, but I felt that I needed to show him that Trini was mine and I was more important to her than he was. Call it being territorial, if you must, but that is how I felt. Eventually, he came back and we stood in the middle of the parking lot at the restaurant. I had made him the promise that I would sing him my highest note, since we were both obsessed with singing. All of a sudden, the thought of singing in front of him made me nervous though and instead of singing, I demonstrated how I could lead my Mexican tongue trill into a high pitched squeal. He and Otis both covered their ears, while he laughed.
“Dang, that’s high.”
I smiled and nodded my head in agreement, as we made our way inside. For the whole time we were eating, we all tried to make the best of the little time that I had left. Only two hours left. So we took pictures and threw food at each other across the table. I licked Otis’s ear for a picture. We tried to feed Trini beans since she detests them. The whole time my “family” was goofing off, Aaron sat off to the side, not involved with our shenanigans, save a few pictures or so. After our meal, we made our way back to the house, so we could hear Trini play her fiddle for us before we left. She pulled out her fiddle and prepared it so that we could hear her play. As she was preparing, Aaron was suggested that she use her shoulder rest. You could tell she didn’t like his suggestions, and she completely brushed him off. She gave us a shy smile and played a couple of songs for us. Immediately afterwards, her grandmother urged Aaron to play us a few songs on the fiddle as well. He played a couple of songs that he had actually had posted on the internet. Her grandmother even wanted Aaron and I to sing together. Nervous and shy, I politely refused to sing. Time seemed to stop for just a few moments, as I cherished the last few minutes that I had with my family before returning home.
As we made our way out to the car, I looked back at the house. Tears welled up in my eyes. I was going to miss this. I felt at home here. I was going to miss everyone. Trini. Otis. Even Aaron, as distant as he was. This was home. For a brief moment, the thought of transferring here flashed through my mind. I quickly put that thought away, knowing that there was a reason for everything and that I knew I would going to college with Trini and Aaron in just a couple of years. I gave Aaron a quick and awkward hug and hugged my little brother for what seemed like forever. I am strong. I can say goodbye this time. It’s not a final goodbye. I’ll be back. I held my façade strong until I wrapped my arms around my older sister. Immediately, tears began to stream down my cheeks. I can’t do this. I don’t want to leave. I can’t. I love them all so much. Why? Why do I have to leave? This is my life. I’m going to miss them so much. Everyone. I quickly brushed away the tears, sat in the car, and as we drove off, waved goodbye until I couldn’t see them anymore. We stopped by the field to grab something that I had accidentally left there, and while we were stopped, I sent Otis and Trini a text telling them that I loved them. While my phone was out, I also typed out an apology to Aaron for being territorial and apologized for not included him as much while we were there. I felt so awful for not including my friend while I was there. I had worked so hard to meet him, and I didn’t even hold a complete conversation with him. I slipped my phone into my pocket and drifted off to sleep, prepared for the monotonous ride home.

Hours later, we finally arrived back home. I glanced at my phone. Aaron had replied, as well as Trini and Otis. My siblings’ replies both read of how much they had cried when I left. Aaron’s reply read something of how grateful he was to finally get to meet me and his insistence that it was okay. I didn’t believe him very well. I pounced onto my couch to spend my last day of Thanksgiving break, chillaxed, reclined on my couch, texting Aaron and Trini until I fell asleep. Jenna brought me my dinner. As I slowly began drifting off to sleep, my phone started vibrating and flashing like crazy. Not only was I getting several texts from Trini, but she was calling me. Something’s wrong. I reached for my phone, gave my dinner to my dog, and walked into my bedroom, closing the door behind me, for confidentiality.
“Ari. Are you there? ARI!!”
Yeah, Trini, you there? What’s up? What’s the matter?
“It’s Aaron…” I heard her sob over the phone.
What’s the matter with him?
“He’s acting all weird. He left my house like an hour ago. He started texting me a little while ago, telling me how cold he felt. I think he’s depressed, dear. I don’t know what to do, but I’m scared.”
Let me text him. If he wants to, I will call him. Calm down, sis. Go take a shower and I’ll text you in a little. Everything will be okay.
“Okay, good. I thought you would the best person to handle this. You know, since you went through all of this yourself.”
Yeah, that’s probably true. I’ll text you in a little bit and will let you know what’s up.
“Thanks. I love ya, sis.”
You too! Peace out!
After I hung up the phone, I sent him a text. Immediately, he replied with the same mannerisms that Trini had described to me over the phone. Instantly, I knew that he was depressed, and that Trini and I needed to give him as much help as possible. I didn’t want him to be a lost cause, like I was. I didn’t want him to become someone like me who never had anyone to help and depended on such things like cutting and eating disorders to get me through the pain. I wanted to be there for him. Even though, I had only met him once, I didn’t want to lose him. For the next three days, I texted him, called him, and coached him through his emotions.

In the midst of all the turmoil and emotional drama going on with Aaron and Trini, I had my own battles to fight here at home. One day, I had to go to work with my mom. Typically, on days like that, I would text Trini and Aaron while I meandered around the building where she worked. This one day I went was different. Yes, I was still texting both of them, but Sampson decided he wanted to hang out with me while I was there that day. I didn’t think much about it and easily consented to chilling with him for the day. He bought me a can of Mountain Dew before we went into the auditorium and watched music videos. While we were sitting in the sound booth, things went from a comfortable level all the way to a creeper level that I was not comfortable really quickly. One minute, we were watching music videos on the computer; the next moment, he was clasping my hand between his warm, sweaty, sticky palms. He looked into my eyes and slightly puckered his lips. I quickly caught onto his hints and jerked my hand away. I informed him that I had no intentions of kissing anyone in my future for a long time, and that he might as well back off, because I wasn’t going to. Somewhere, I think that he took that as me playing hard to get, because he kept going.
Against my better judgment, I stayed in the room, convinced that he would back off. I pulled my phone out and placed it on the counter in front of me. I promptly typed out a message to Aaron that basically said, “Help. Awkward moment. Oh goodness. Help, Aaron!” I didn’t know what else to do. Even though, he lives more than three hours away, I still felt like he was my protector. I didn’t know how he could help. I didn’t know how much I would be able to tell him. There was so much about me that he didn’t know. He knew about my depression and cutting experiences, but he didn’t know about Mia and the wreck or about the fiasco with Spencer at church. He didn’t know much about why I was the way I was, or why this situation probably frightened me more than it should. Really, Sampson holding my hand sent chills up my spine and made me want to crawl in a hole and die.
After I sent Aaron my text, I slipped my phone into my back pocket. Sampson began to try to make more moves. He grabbed my hand and tried to hold it. Mentally comparing our weights and heights to determine how much of an advantage I would have against him, it dawned on me that I didn’t have a chance against this colossal giant who sat next to me. If I attempted to fight, I knew I was destined to lose. The only thing I could do to protect myself was to not fight. He clasped my limp hand in his, as he pulled me closer to him. Eventually, after enough work, he had me in his lap. He released my hand and put his hands up on my body. One hand reached up across my chest and rested there; whereas, the other hand dropped lower. I was extremely aware of situation I was in but could not figure out how to escape it. I sat there for a couple of minutes, so disturbed and sickened, before I stood up and walked out of the room. I kept walking towards my mom’s office. When I got there, I sat down and tried to gather my thoughts. I had escaped.
Rather quickly, he followed behind me and entered her office. He nodded his head at me and glanced in my mother’s direction.

“Mrs. Lopez, can Ari come to the auditorium to help me find my guitar?”

“Sure, why not,” my mother unknowingly replied.

I was then forced to walk out with him. The minute we rounded the corner, he grabbed my arm and led me to the auditorium. The lights were off and the whole auditorium was completely dark. Still grasping my arm with a mighty grip, he dragged me to the stage and inside an alcove directly to the side of the stage. I had a feeling that his “lost” guitar was sitting there. From the little light that was in the room, I could see the silhouette of his face looking at me. Shivers sent down my spine, and an alarm was going off in my head as I just stood there, paralyzed, his grip on my arm still mighty as ever. He kept his grip on my arm with one hand and put the other hand around me and pulled me close. The cold truth slapped me in the face. I knew exactly what was coming and there was nothing I could do stop it. He leaned his head in closer and closer and finally placed his lips on mine. I resisted. Alarms still ringing in my head, I kicked him to try to offer some form of resistance to him. I felt myself go limp in his grasp…

Somehow, I just couldn’t avoid dangerous situations, no matter what. I quickly made my way to my mother’s office where I scoured the room, searching for something to help. I spotted a bottle of blueberry scented hand sanitizer. I pumped the bottle and poured enough germ killer into my hand to fill my palm. I then spread the hand sanitizer all over my face and arms and neck. I desired so hard to be cleansed from all the dirtiness that had gone on that day. Thankfully, my mom’s shift ended about fifteen minutes later, and she drove me home. The minute we got home, I shut the door to my room and lay down on my bed. I just wanted to sleep. I wanted to rid my mind of all things that had gone on that day. I felt unclean. I wanted to cry. I knew I couldn’t tell my mom, dad, or sister about it. Too many questions, like why didn’t I fight, would be asked. As I lay there, wishing to die, I because aware of my phone vibrating in my pocket. I really considered ignoring it. I couldn’t talk to anyone. I was too ashamed. I argued with myself for a few minutes before finally complying and checking my texts. All of them were from Aaron who was freaking out and extremely worried. I texted him back, replying, telling him that I had just experienced an awkward situation and that I was ready to cry. Just like the best friend he is, he immediately inquired what was wrong. I knew my trust in him was paramount so I started explaining what had happened with Mia and the wreck along with the situation with Spencer at church. After I was done explaining all the events that had led to the situation with Sampson, I explained everything that had happened that day, leaving out most of the extreme details, since they pained me to even think of them. While I talked to Aaron about it, I also confided in Trini and James the events that had occurred. All three told me the same thing. It wasn’t my fault, Sampson was a creeper, I should stay away from him, and that if I needed to, they would all three be there for me if I needed someone to talk to. I kept texting Aaron and eventually coaxed him to complain about his day. He swore he didn’t have a right to complain to me after my day, but I desired to hear about his day, not only to distract me from mine, but to also help him. His happiness was my primary concern.

The days kept coming. Each day was the same. I dealt with my own demons and fought to cope with all those events at my mom’s job. I fought to help Aaron and keep him happy. A lot of drama went down when Ella confided the secrets of his depression to the school’s guidance counselor and also to a teen suicide hotline. But through the midst of all the drama, I tried to remain as constant as I could for my friend. Trini wasn’t that much of a help, never having gone through the situation herself. I spent most of my time when I wasn’t on the phone with or texting Aaron, on the phone with Trini, calming her down. I had to deal with school, along with helping out my best friends. It was finally the weekend after my first week back to school and I was extremely exhausted. In all honesty, I didn’t feel too hot either. I felt like there was a ginormous steaming rock that was plopped in the middle of my stomach. It was just sitting there, weighing it down, and searing everything around it. Each night, he would get off the phone, telling me that he was going to take a shower, to cleanse him of the depressing emotions. Fearing for him, I stayed up night after night until he fell asleep, so I could be guaranteed another day with him, another day to make everything right. Later that week, when Trini and I both felt that his depression had made a turn for the better, she broke up with him.
Needless to say, it didn’t help his emotional imbalance. It more of sent him into an emotional tailspin. Whatever work we had put into him over the past week had completely been negated. He was just as bad off as he was the week before. Knowing that I could make things right, I counseled Trini with her break up, as I video called Aaron. I spent every day for the following weeks, working with them both. Talking both of them through the breakup. I did my best to make things better. Even though I am nowhere near perfect at helping, I did the best that I could. I video called him every single day that I could, so that I could be there for him to talk to. I talked him out of cutting and other means of relieving the pain and just let him vent to me whenever he felt necessary.
Over time, Trini began to talk to me less and less. My parents were vaguely aware of the situation that had occurred over the past couple of weeks and forbade me from talking to my friend Aaron again. Knowing that blowing off our friendship was never going to happen, I ignored their commands and kept doing as I willed. Each night, I sat at my computer, to talk to my friend. We talked about whatever he felt like, about whatever he needed to get off his chest. Days went on like this. One day, Trini texted me and I mentioned that I was bored, and she replied with the comment of “Well, why don’t you just video call Aaron? That seems to be what you do all the time, anyway.” Then, I began to become really paranoid about my friendships. If she really felt that I was giving Aaron more time, than the obvious solution was to spend more time and attention on her and cut back how much attention I gave him. Easy, right? No.

I called her and apologized. Shortly after I got off the phone, I texted Aaron telling him that we could no longer video chat. I didn’t wait for a reply. I threw my phone on my bed and searched for an outlet for all the frustration that had built up inside me during this time. I walked outside, and screamed and yelled for what seemed like hours. I relieved as much stress as I could in that visit to the woods. I came back in, calmer, and grabbed my phone, ready to deal with whatever situations I needed to. My phone had dozens of texts from Aaron, apologizing, for what he blamed as his fault. I immediately became nauseous. He really thought that I was serious when I said that. Well, at the time, I was serious about never video chatting with him again. I mean, come on! Any dunce could figure out that obviously my relationship with Trini was more important that my relationship with him. I had known her since I was born. He, I had known for less than a year. To describe my friendship with both of them, percentage wise, Trini had a 100%, while Aaron had a 95%. The extra five percent, that she had, made all the difference in the world. I was willing to throw away a perfectly great friendship with Aaron just to keep her. As all logic and reason soared through my mind, I let my emotions take control for a moment, long enough to know that even though she was my best friend, I depended on Aaron and our video chats. They were just as much therapy to me as they were to him. I couldn’t let them go. There had to be a different solution. All I had to do was find it.

The weeks dragged on from the beginning of December when Aaron had first gotten depressed and Christmas slowly approached. Trini was supposed to be making a visit down here sometime, and I had finally become aware that I needed to go shopping for presents for her, Aaron, and Lysa. I went to the local emo store in the mall and purchased a pair of spider earrings for Lysa; but shopping for Aaron and Trini was harder. I texted Aaron every day and each afternoon, when I got home, we would video call. It was actually an addiction of mine at that point. There was no way I could give up those moments when I could see his face and talk to my newly found best friend, in the absence of Trini in my life; for, over time, Trini had slowly separated herself from me. We barely texted, because she was always busy with Ella and her other friends, Scarlett and Arabella. Aaron was always there for me. We stayed up late every single night, texting each other until one of us, usually me, fell asleep. Eventually, I settled on a *&#$%@$#*$ for Aaron and a photo album for my sister. For endless nights, I stayed up late, video chatting with Aaron as I worked on hunting down every single picture I had of Trini and I from the time we were born up to my most recent visit. I leaned on him more and more as time went on. I soon found myself longing to talk to him, when he was gone, playing at gigs. I soon found myself eager for each conversation and whatever it would bring. I looked up to him as a big brother. He was there for me when everything went down between Sampson and I. It was an awesome relationship. We addressed each other as Bestie. That’s what his name was in my phone. I really did enjoy talking to him.

Christmas break was finally here and I had nothing to do. So, each day, I stayed at home and texted Aaron. Trini had stopped texting me. I knew that I was going to get to see her when she came down to visit the weekend after Christmas, so I wasn’t worried whatsoever about it. Aaron and I talked each day. One day, while we were on video chat, I made the comment that I needed to go to bed but that I was going to get up super early the next morning. In response, he asked me what time I was getting up. Jokingly, I threw out the first random time I thought of. I told him, “Oh, 3:00 AM.” He nodded and told me that he would wake up with me. Inside, I laughed because it was funny that either of us would even consider getting up that early, especially on Christmas break. I told him to text me and I signed off my computer. We texted until I fell asleep shortly afterwards. That night, I was kept company by severe nightmares that had haunted me since Sampson had “kissed” me. I woke up, sweat rolling down my forehead, and glanced at the clock. It was 3:23 AM. I knew I wasn’t going to fall asleep anytime soon after that nightmare, so I pulled my phone out from under my pillow, to discover texts from Aaron all the way from when he told me goodnight the night before all the way up to five minutes prior to when I woke up. Shocked that he actually had woken up at three, I was grateful for him and responded. For the rest of the morning, we texted, confiding in each other. I remember specifically listening to nightmares that he had along with telling him about several nightmares that I had had in the previous weeks. I talked to him, telling him how thankful I was that the only thing that happened between Sampson and I was a forced kiss. It could have been so much worse, I told him. Right then, he decided to tell me that he would never let anyone ever get farther than that, that he would protect me as best as he could from where he was. It sounded like a good idea to me. The whole night had gotten me thinking and I had no idea where those thoughts were taking me.

Since I had to go with my family to Mississippi the day after Christmas, we decided to celebrate our Christmas dinner on December 24th and our Christmas Eve on December 23rd. On my Christmas Eve, I sent him pictures of my presents and we conversed all day long. As the night came to a close, we agreed to wake up again at 3:00 AM. Actually, it became a slight tradition of ours for the remaining fraction of Christmas break for us to wake up at 3:00. I finally drifted off to sleep around midnight and a couple of hours later, I was awake, laying on the couch, texting my Bestie, happier than any other person in the world. Aaron was my bestie and I loved him for that. I opened my presents and dug through my Christmas stocking. After the excitement of the presents was over, I spent the rest of my Christmas talking to him. At the close of the day, my mom, Jenna, and I headed up to Columbia where we would spend December 25th or our “second” Christmas with my grandmother, my Aunt Ada, my Uncle Aiden, and my cousin Elvira. I didn’t want to leave my house, because that meant that I wouldn’t be able to video chat with Aaron that night. We got there about an hour later where I still maintained our tradition of waking up at three o’clock in the morning.

That morning, we talked about what he got for Christmas and we celebrated the holiday together. We planned on cherishing our last day together before I left for Mississippi the next morning where I would have no phone service. After his Christmas lunch, he called me and I sat outside by the pond behind my grandmother’s house while we talked. Truthfully, I could talk to him for hours. He is just so inviting and I can’t help but want to talk to him. After what seemed like just a short amount of time, we got off the phone so that I could finish celebrating Christmas with my family. We ate Christmas dinner and finished opening some last minute presents, along with playing a friendly game of charades and bowling on our gaming system. As the day drew to an end, we returned home for one night before we would leave in the morning for our trip to Mississippi. I stayed up as late as I could that night. I didn’t want to leave. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to text. It made me miserable to know that I wouldn’t be able to text at all for a whole four days. I wanted to cry.

I woke up at 4:30 AM the next morning, so that I could text Aaron as much as possible before I left. I didn’t want to leave. As I got in the car, tears streamed down my face. There was no way I could make it without talking to him. I kept my phone in my hand the whole trip and whenever I found even the slightest signal, I attempted to send a text to him. We pretty much played a game called “Freeze my phone” that whole week because whenever I didn’t have a signal, he did and he would try to blow my phone up with how many texts he sent me. In return, whenever I found a signal, I would try to get his to spontaneously combust. As a record, he sent me like 131 texts that froze my phone for at least 30 minutes. There was nothing to do in Mississippi besides shoot my BB gun, so my family drove me out to a parking lot, where we set up spare Christmas ornaments and shot at them for target practice. While we were in Mississippi, we also figured it would be a good time to teach me how to drive since I had acquired my driving permit the week before. The first time I drove a car, I drove on a main highway in Mississippi and it scared me so badly. After driving my family’s automatic truck as well as I did, my family assumed that I was prepared enough to drive our new stick-shift car. After repeated attempts to drive it, I could crank the car but could not shift into 1st gear; thus, resulting in the flooding of the engine more than once that afternoon. I easily gave up and stayed with driving the automatic. The second day I was there, I managed to make a short phone call with Aaron while shopping at a strip mall there in town. I promised to call again as soon as I could manage. I missed hearing his voice. I missed talking to him. The next night, we were at the movie theatre all night so I couldn’t call, but the night before our departure, I was able to call him. I lay on my bed as I talked to him for hours in my room. We talked about everything under the sun. If there is anything he is gifted at, it is keeping up a conversation. I can call him and talk about nothing for hours and never get bored.
While we were on the phone, Trini called, so I quickly excused myself from my conversation with Aaron and switched over to her line. I was excited to finally get to talk to her; but as I said hello, my mother came in and told me to get off the phone, because she was under the impression that the whole time I was on the phone with Aaron, she thought I was talking to Trini. Things pretty much fell apart from there. My mom started yelling at me because I was still in contact with Aaron and yelled at me for doing that to Trini.
The opaqueness of the situation suddenly clarified. I understood exactly what invisible struggle I had been facing with my mother from the time she told me that I couldn’t talk to Aaron to then. Knowing my mother, she probably thought that Trini was mad at me because I was talking to Aaron. Little did my mom know, that Trini had specifically asked me to talk to Aaron, to keep him company, and make sure that he was happy. I tried to explain that to my mom, but she wouldn’t listen. She told me that I had betrayed my friendship with Trini. I spent the rest of the afternoon in tears, wondering how I would ever get her to understand that he was my Bestie. I would do anything for him. She didn’t understand. She never would.

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