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Things I Should Have Said
It took me double my usual time to do my makeup on the first day of school. The tears just kept flowing, and eyeliner doesn't work well on wet surfaces.
This was the first first day of school without him. The first of 180 that would follow. Soon, that 180 would turn into 360, and then that 360 would turn into 720. But it was that sort of thinking that had locked me in a haze all summer. It scared me to think of how detached I'd been. Honestly though, it was scarier to think of how easy it would be to fall back into that detachment. Particularly, how much I wanted to.
I was driving to school that year. I got into my car purposefully, like an excited senior would. And then I got to the woods. The early morning fog sat right on the ground, making my familiar trip seem foreign and ominous. It was like everything around me; the trees, the long stretch of road, even the birds were screaming at me.
"Why aren't you back home in bed?"
"Why are you even bothering?"
"Are you crazy? You're wasting your time trying to move on."
During every class, my eyes darted toward the door every time someone walked by. It seemed all too possible that the next time, it would be him, subtly asking me to go see him. In the afternoon, I left class and roamed the hallways. I felt like a ghost, haunting my school, searching for my lost love. Whenever I turned a corner, I expected to see him in his usual pose. Leaning up against the wall, one leg bent up against it as well. His left hand would be in his pocket, his right hand on his phone. Waiting for me. When I passed our stairwell, I stopped to daydream.
"How'd you get to be so perfect," he'd whisper as he kissed my neck. I'd smile and blush, saying nothing in return. He knew I thought he was perfect. He was the best thing that ever happened to me.
The spiral downward began at a sweet sixteen. The guy didn't know; he was just flirting. And I didn't stop him. But Danny saw. He walked off behind the building with his hands in his pockets, like he had somewhere to go in that mess of trees.
Anna drove us to go look for him. Danny would've killed her if he knew she was driving his car, just because we were too young for our licenses. But he hadn't left us much in the way of another option. We had no luck.
I slept over their house that night. Their house had assumed the position of my safe haven; my real home. My muscles unclenched every time I stepped onto their threshold. Most of the time I didn't even realize how tense I was. It was like magic.
I went upstairs to wash off my dripping party makeup, and saw his bedroom light on. With each step I took toward his room, the intense relief I felt shifted more toward anger. How could he worry us like that? After the day we spent trying to coax him off the train tracks, we were worried every time he was out of our sight. For him to leave us there with no (legal) way of going to find him, he had to be beyond selfish. I started yelling at him. He listened calmly. He was just laying on his bed, staring at the ceiling, not saying a single word. I felt like hitting him.
I was crying by the time I ran out of things to say. I was trying so hard to provoke him, just so he would say something. Anything.
"Say something!" I begged. My voice was hoarse.
"I love you," he offered. It was like he hadn't heard a single word I said.
A chill ran down my spine when I heard his voice. It was tight, like he was holding back, and it made me nervous. My anger had subsided, especially by the time he took my hands and pulled me closer to him. I saw so much conflicting emotion on his face. It made me sad.
"I love you too," I answered, defeated. My heart was aching. I wanted nothing more than to just lay in bed with him, pretending we were a married couple without a care in the world. I wanted to breathe in his intoxicating scent forever; close my eyes and let him take over my whole being. He already had the best of me anyway.
His face was striking. I could stare at it for hours and never get bored. He used to have long, dark hair, but he cut it all off. I liked it better that way anyway. It let his gorgeous green eyes shine through. They were subtle though; unassuming. And he had a smile to match. I wanted to see him smile. He told me once that the only time his smile was real was when he was with me. Again, I smiled and blushed, saying nothing.
His face was angular, but soft. His cheekbones were perfect, as were his lips, nose and toned body. He only worked out because he was jealous of his good-looking best friend. Without him for motivation, he wouldn't have bothered.
I'd gotten so caught up in his face that I hadn't noticed him rolling up the sleeves on his black button-down shirt. He cleaned up quite nicely, by the way.
That's when I saw the blood.
"You promised me you'd stop," I said quietly, almost whispering. I couldn't even make eye contact with him. Here I was, standing before the person I thought I'd known as well as myself, and he'd been keeping that important secret from me. I could've helped. I could've made him happy.
Maybe I hadn't known him as well as I thought. Maybe it was all in my head.
"I do it because I have to. I can't help it. I'll never be good enough for you anyway so it doesn't even matter."
"You are good enough for me," I squeaked. "I need you."
"You don't need me," he scowled. "Why do you feel like you have to lie to me? Why do you feel like it's your job to make me happy?"
Because it is, I thought. I love you, so it's my job to make sure you're happy. I didn't day that out loud though.
"I never lied." I was so hurt that he would accuse me of something like that. That's when I realized that never once had I reciprocated when he said something nice to me. How could we ever be the same after this?
"I did this for you," he yelled at me, in reference to the cuts. "I did this because I will never be able to fit anywhere in your life. I'm not good enough for my own f***ing family. Why should I have any hope that one day I'll be good enough for yours?"
"You just are!" I yelled back. "Why does it matter why we belong together as long as we know we do and we don't leave each other?" I paused to take a deep breath and compose myself. Danny was shaking. I wanted to hold him, not yell at him.
"You're right. You're everything-every single G*d-d*mn thing I thought I could never love. You smoke, you've done hardcore drugs, you've had s*x, and your bedroom is messy as f**k. But I got over all of that because I love the rest of you. You're the most passionate person I've ever met. You treat me with more love and respect than I could ever deserve. You're open-minded and you care so deeply about people. You love more fully than I thought anyone could, and I'm so beyond lucky to have you in my life."
"But I'm ruining you!" He insisted. "You're so beautiful. You're untouched, and I destroyed you." He caressed my face, and a little blood smeared on my cheek.
"God, what is wrong with you?" I yelled. I had more to say but he cut me off.
"What's wrong with me? I'm clinically depressed. I have severe anxiety and ADHD. I'm a second year senior. My family is disappointed in me. The love of my life can never be with me-"
"Can you stop, please? If you asked me to marry you right now, I would. I would marry you today. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. So don't you dare say that we can't be together. Please believe what I'm telling you. It's the truth and I wouldn't lie to make you happy. Lies would hurt us both in the end. I love you so f*cking much so calm down," I pleaded.
"I already took the pills though," was his response.
I froze. "What?"
"I said I already took the pills, Nina! You're too late!
I don't know how long Anna was there, but she was standing stunned at the doorway when I looked up. She stayed there for a second before taking action.
"Throw them up," she ordered. "Go do it now."
I was doubled over on the floor crying. He wasn't going to go. He wouldn't move. They stared at each other, daring the other one to back down. And I couldn't do anything but sob on the floor. The love of my life, but more importantly my best friend was standing before me dying, and all I could do was cry. I was weak and pathetic, and I didn't deserve him. I wanted to melt down into the lowest layer of hell and watch him move on from me and heal. I hadn't fixed him, I'd ruined him. And he thought he was the problem. I couldn't live with myself.
Danny didn't die, although his episode did end up warranting a few days' stay in the hospital to recover and be put on suicide watch. Anna and I didn't leave his side the whole time. I didn't even leave for food. I wanted to be there for him like I hadn't been up until that point. Plus, I didn't have much of an appetite. If Anna went to the cafeteria, she brought me something she knew I would like, even though she knew I wouldn't eat it. She didn't talk to me though. Not a single word in the whole five days. It was far. I wouldn't have blamed her if she didn't want to talk to me ever again. It would hurt, but it would be fair.
The day he was released, Danny put a shaky arm around my shoulders and whispered that he loved me. Anna squeezed me tightly and kissed my cheek, still without words. Then they got in the car. Through the window I saw Anna cry for the first time. And then they left. That was it. I never saw them again.