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Scars That Last
A cold breeze flitted through the cemetery, alerting me that it was indeed the start of autumn. I shivered, pulling my jacket closer around me and pushing myself off the cold cement that was the grave. The grave has been here for a while now, but every time I see it, a fresh wave of pain washes over me. I hear children laughing somewhere in the distance, making my stomach tense and my throat tighten as I remember all the good times we had. I miss her so much it causes me physical pain. I stand up and do not even bother to brush away the tears that started streaming down my face. Bending over, I trace the letters that are on the headstone. In memory of Annabelle Allen, beloved daughter and sister. Autumn was my favorite season, but it also meant the end of so many things.
I avoided my mother’s concerned look as I walked through the front door. She never asks me where I have been anymore, because the answer is always the same. I go to the cemetery every day, to get away from my parents and the rest of the world for a little while. Ironically, the cemetery is the only place where I can easily think about my sister.
“Hazel, I know you are…devastated. We all are. But Annabelle would not want you to stop living. Remember that.” She turned away and I hurried to my room, thinking about what my mom said. The thing is, she is only half-right. Right after the funeral I was so overcome with emotion. I never want to feel like that again. That horrifying, overwhelming sense of loss and sadness. I never stopped living, I just stopped caring.
The monotony of school is dragging me down slowly; I think I am going to go insane. Speaking of insane…Naomi, my best friend, bounds around the corner, almost knocking me to the ground as she tackles me in one of her death-grip hugs.
“Hazel! Hi! How was your weekend? Do not answer that. Bad question. Are you ready for English? Don’t answer that either, I know you are, my little professional writer. What‘s your average in there, 110?” I closed my locker and shrugged, used to her rapid-fire way of talking after seven years of friendship. And in the past year, after Annabelle died, she has gotten used to my shrugs and silence.
“Okay, then. Love the enthusiasm. Keep it up. Remember, do what you love and love what you do. Go in there and write me a novel.” I rolled my eyes and slung my backpack over my shoulder.
“Sure thing. Bye, Naomi.” I waved over my shoulder at her, continuing on the path of endless boredom that is school. Only seven hours to go.
At lunch, I ate in the library like usual. I cannot stand the noise in the cafeteria. Everybody is so…lively. I waved my ID at the librarian, letting her know I was here. She nodded, barely taking notice of me. I sat down in the silence and opened my chemistry textbook to get a head start on the homework. It was going to be a long day.
Finally, the last bell rang and I was free to leave. In my rush to get the heck out of there, I rushed out the front doors and into the parking lot. I was wrapped up in my own thoughts and was not paying attention to what was going on. I heard people shouting and I looked up. Just in time to see a car racing towards me. And it wasn’t stopping.
As I faced the blue car about to run me down, I blanked. The only thing I could think about was Annabelle. About how she was in a similar situation a year ago. About how I couldn’t push her out of the way in time.
Screech! That‘s when everything rushed back to me at once. The squeal of the tires as the car failed to brake in time. The shout as I felt something heavy push me. The pain as I fell to the concrete, bashing my head on the ground, but untouched by the car. Blackness surrounded me like a blanket, gradually becoming tighter and cutting off my senses.
I woke up in a hospital. The same one where they took Annabelle. I remember it immediately because of the ugly, lime green wallpaper. I remember the day we were brought here vividly.
Painful flashbacks filled my thoughts as I struggled to sit up right. From the nurse’s painfully heartrending expression, I knew what had happened. I knew that there would be no hospital bed to sit by, waiting for my sister to wake up. Because there was no sister there to wake up. She was gone.
Annabelle on the curb, on her toes, arms outstretched a bird about to take flight. She looked back at me, motioning for me to follow her across the road. We were going to be late for school. She quickly looked left, the way the traffic usually came when we walked down this road. But as she crossed the road, a car came speeding around the corner from the right. The person driving tried to brake, but it didn’t work. They slammed right into her, sending her soaring through the air like a rag doll. Then drove away. Quickly. A scream like I had never heard before was coming from somewhere, and it took me a good fifteen seconds to realize it was coming from me.
The flashing lights. The sirens. It was all too much. The only thing I could think was ‘why’? Why was this happening? Everything around me was such a blur. But I will always remember the moment she was hit. Always. I should have noticed. I should have been fast enough to push her out of the way. It’s all my fault.
“Whoa, not so fast.” A gentle hand pushed me back down. “You’re all right, but you should rest for awhile, you got a pretty bad concussion from hitting the concrete. I’ll go get your parents.” The expressions on my parents faces were enough to make the tears I was holding back burst out. They had already lost one daughter, I can’t begin to imagine what would happen if they lost another. They held me in a tight embrace, almost as if they thought by never letting me go, nothing could ever happen to me. I smiled weakly up at them.
“I’m fine. I’ll be fine.” They nodded and stepped back, just as Naomi stepped in. She stood at the door awkwardly, tears glistening or her angular face. My mom cleared her throat.
“Hazel, we are going to go get some coffee. We’ll let you and the hero here talk.”
I looked at Naomi, “What do they mean ‘hero’?”
She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, pushing her bangs out of her face.
“I pushed you out of the way.” I stared at her in shock.
“Well, I obviously didn’t want you to die. You‘re my best friend, I‘d do the same thing if it happened again. It was all so surreal. I was following you from class…I can’t even remember why now. But I saw it coming. And I pushed you out of the way. What happened to Annabelle…I never want that to happen to anybody.” She was speaking in her usual rapid fire way, but in a hoarse whisper. When she saw my tears, she spoke up again, this time even more quietly.
“Hazel, Hazel you couldn’t have done anything. You didn’t know what was about to happen. She…she couldn’t have been saved.”
“But what if I had-” She cut me off.
“Hazel, if you think about all the what-ifs, you’ll drive yourself crazy. The possibilities are endless. No matter how harsh this may sound, what happened happened. And there is no way to change that. I knew Annabelle, too, Hazel. She wouldn’t want you to be guilty, she would want you to be happy again. If not now, then someday soon.”
I looked out the window across from my hospital bed. The ground was covered in crunchy, brown leaves and the trees were decorated with red and orange leaves. From the open window came the scent that could only be described as fall. Naomi came to sit beside me, gazing out the window as well. I knew I had reached a fork in the road. I would either continue blaming myself for Annabelle’s death or accept that I couldn’t change what happened, and that it wasn’t my fault. As I watched a lone leaf slowly falling from a tree, I came to a silent conclusion.
A few days later, after finally being released from the hospital, I found myself once again at Annabelle’s grave. I knelt down, pressing my hands to the cool concrete. Reaching out the touch the headstone, I felt the inevitable tears come.
“Hi.” I whispered. I knew that she wasn’t here, but a part of me always hoped she could hear me. If she can, I hope she knows that I’ll never forget her. But that I just don’t blame myself anymore. No matter what, she will always be my sister.