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Tears for Rachel (Part 2)
I left the house rarely. Sometimes I went on errands with Mom. Sometimes I sat on the tire swing in my backyard and just stared at the grass with a blank, gray face. Mostly, I sat around in the house. I went to bed early and woke up late. Sleeping was a good way to escape my pain. You can’t feel anything while you’re asleep. I slept in my closet burrow a lot. The blankets in there were soft and smelled like a nice, old grandmother; the kind of grandmother who makes apple pie and has lavender-scented candles lit around her house. The space was small, so I couldn’t stretch out. I had to stay in my armadillo ball. But that was okay.
Fun opportunities came and I passed them up. My family went to the beach without me. My friends invited me to the movies and I declined. I was too depressed to go anywhere; too tired to shower, put on reasonable clothes, and comb my hair. My mind could not remember how to live through a normal day.
Mom was very nice to me. She didn’t yell at me when I watched TV all day. She didn’t seem to care if I never showered. I could see her thought process all over her face. She was thinking, If I tell her to get out of this slump and move on with life, is that being insensitive? If I let her continue to be depressed like this, is that being a bad mother? Mom said nothing, except for the occasional “Do you want me to get chips at the store?” or “Have you seen the TV remote lately?”
Nelly helped me cope. She crawled into my hideaway with me, curled up, and slept beside me. Her wet, sloppy tongue licked my face and she put her paws on my lap sympathetically. Eventually, the blankets changed from the wonderful grandmother smell to wet dog. I didn’t care.
August arrived with sweltering weather. My room was a greenhouse, and I was a dying plant. The 6th of the month was an awful day. Rachel and I would have been leaving for New York City. Dad asked me if I still wanted to go. I shook my head. How could I go now? It would be like rubbing it in Rachel’s face; saying “Ha ha! I get to go to New York and you don’t!” I knew it wasn’t really like that, but I told myself it was true. I couldn’t have fun without my best friend.
On August 15th, I decided to actually get ready like it was an average day. And it was. I got up at a normal time. I dressed in a tank top and shorts and went downstairs for breakfast. Mom and Dad were in the kitchen brewing a strong coffee that stunk up the whole first floor. I could barely breathe. Coffee is gross. I poured myself a glass of milk.
Mom looked at me and was as shocked as she would be to see me hula dancing on the table. “Good morning,” she said. “How are you doing?”
“Good,” I responded. What did she mean by that, though? Was she asking how I was doing with Rachel’s death? I didn’t think so. Was she making sure I wasn’t sick? Was it just a generic “How are you doing?”
Mom sat next to me and looked into my face with softhearted eyes. “Are you feeling better?”
I nodded slightly and looked into my milk.
“You’re still sad, aren’t you?” Her tone was very understanding, not cold like “Come on and get over it!”
No response from me. I was stone-faced, trying to penetrate my vision through the opaque, white milk.
“It’s okay,” Mom went on. “It’s okay to be sad.”
I didn’t want to talk.
“But I’m worried about you. You seem so depressed. I know what you’re feeling, but it is time to get back into reality. You’ve done nothing all summer. Don’t you feel like doing anything? Going to the beach, the mall? Babysitting?” Mom pleaded.
I sighed. “Yes.”
“Alright. We can go wherever you want.” Mom was desperate to get me out of the house.
I still didn’t look at her. “I want to go out and play with Nelly.”