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I winced as Xander slammed his venti Americano onto the table. I knew he would be upset with me; I’d never kept anything from my best friend before.
“Xander, I wanted to tell you,” he glared at me through unseeing blue eyes.
“Bull crap Keely! If it weren’t for the fact that you flinched when I grabbed your arm earlier I never would have known! We are best friends, Keels; we don’t hide things from each other.” As he spoke his expression went from one of anger to one of concern. Seeing him upset because of me made my heart feel as if the Evil Queen from Snow White was crushing it in her hand. I rubbed my shirt sleeve into the already raw flesh on my left forearm; I felt a small trickle of blood coming from one of the thin slices left by my comforting blade. A sigh of relief escaped my lips as I reveled in the pain, it was barely audible but I knew that Xander had heard it, he hears everything.
“Give me your hand,” I placed my right hand in his left, “No,” he shoved my hand away, “Your left hand,” I reluctantly gave it to him.
“Xander,” my eyes filled with tears and my voice was hoarse, “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t cry Keely. I’m not mad at you,” he squeezed my hand reassuringly then carefully pushed up my sleeve. He gingerly felt my scars, sorrow written all over his face, searching for the blood that he knew was escaping my veins. His fingers brushed lightly over the 40 scars on my arm. When he found it he gently held a napkin there. I watched him intently, vaguely wondering how he was so precise and gentle despite his lack of sight. At that moment I knew that if I truly loved my best friend then I would stop cutting. If I couldn’t stop for myself, I’d stop for him. “Now is there anything else you want to tell me?” He asked picking up his Americano. He kept a tight hold on my hand so I wouldn’t try hurting myself again.
“Yes.” His eyebrows rose in shock, he took a deep breath and immediately calmed down. “My…my p-p…” I covered my mouth not wanting to let out the sob that was burning in my throat.
“It’s okay Kee. I’m here, no matter what. I’m going to pray for you really quick, okay?” I nodded my head. He bowed his head, cupped my small hand in both of his, and started praying. I quietly sipped my vanilla soy latte and watched him. The passion he has when he prays is intriguing. He’s not like most Christians who claim to “love Jesus” and “obey him,” Xander actually lives out everything he believes in and has ever since I can remember. Too bad God and Jesus are just made up to give people hope. Xander said “amen” and I knew that was my cue to tell him but the lump in my throat wasn’t allowing me to talk.
“Keely?” he asked.
“Huh?” my voice shook.
“Tell me. Please, I want to help you,” his eyes glistened with tears and that broke the dam I’d built, letting out all of my tears from the last year and a half.
“My parents…they…they—” my voice broke in a sob and it took a few minutes for me to be able to speak again. Xander sat quietly, rubbing my hand comfortingly. “They hit me…and punch me…and just hurt me in any way they can. They hate me. Addalynn doesn’t even know, to them she is perfect and I’m just the stupid kid they had on accident. They said if I told anyone they’d kill me. Xander, I’m afraid of what they are going to do to me. They’re right, you know.” Tears rushed down my face faster when I realized that it wouldn’t matter if they did kill me, no one would notice.
“Oh, Keely, why didn’t you tell me sooner?” I heard the suffering in his voice, “What do you mean ‘they’re right’?” Xander seemed genuinely afraid for me. I’m probably just giving myself false hope but he might actually notice if I was gone.
“I’m worthless. Useless. Stupid. Ugly.” I paused, “A mistake.” Each and every word cut me like a knife but I know they are the truth. These words give a whole new meaning to the saying “the truth hurts.” Thankfully besides the baristas, who knew us by name, we were the only ones at Starbucks because now Xander’s face was covered in tears. He had the rare ability to truly empathize with people and literally feel their pain.
“Keely.” I looked into his eyes, “I need you to listen to every word I say. You are not worthless, useless, or stupid. First of all, you are the definition of a nerd; you are in every honors and AP class possible, not to mention that you are acing all of them. Secondly, God has a plan for your life, Keely, you are here for a reason, otherwise you wouldn’t be here at all.”
“Xander, if God is real then he must hate me.”
“Keely, God loves you more than anything!”
“Really? ‘Cause if I loved someone I wouldn’t put them through all of this s***!” A pained expression crossed Xander’s face.
“I don’t know how to explain why you are going through this; I just know that if you trust in God then it will all work out. But, if you don’t want to hear it, I’ll just drop it. You still aren’t useless, you help me around everywhere and I’d probably go insane without you.” He said with a chuckle, “And just so you know, you are the most beautiful person I know and you are definitely not a mistake.” I could tell that Xander wanted me to believe him but I didn’t know if I could. I mean how would he know if I was beautiful or not?
“Xander, you are blind so for all you know I could be the ugliest person you know.” I never pointed out his blindness but I needed to this time. He just shook his head at me.
“Keely, I know that you are beautiful.”
“No you do—”
“Keely listen!” he snapped, “I know you are beautiful because I know how wonderful your heart is. You are so kind to everyone and you see their beauty even when no one else can. Why can’t you see the beauty in yourself?” Tears filled my eyes, threatening to spill over.
“It’s getting late, we’d better go,” I said harshly. I was done with the conversation. Xander just nodded and stood up while unfolding his cane. I got up, stood next to him and offered him my right arm so I could lead him to my old, beat up car. We rode home nearly in silence. When we got to Xander’s where we were warmly welcomed by his mom. She immediately noticed the tension between us and invited me in for fresh baked cookies. I started to decline using my lactose intolerance as an excuse, but really I just wanted to leave. Mrs. Payka told me that was nonsense; she’d made sure that she used all lactose free ingredients for me. I reluctantly agreed with a smile on my face. Xander and I sat at the kitchen table with a plate of cookies in front of us.
“Cookies at twelve o’clock and milk at two.” Mrs. Payka told him and immediately Xander reached for a cookie. “Stay as long as you like Keely,” she said before leaving us alone.
“Keely,” Xander started.
“Yes?” I replied a little coldly.
“I’m really sorry for being harsh with you. You have to understand the position I’m in, what would you have done if the roles were switched? How would you have reacted to that?”
“Probably the exact same way,” I admitted. I didn’t want to think about if our roles were reversed. I would be devastated to find out that Xander was cutting, but that’s different, Xander is an amazing person.
“Keely it kills me to know that you hate yourself so much that you harm yourself. It kills me that your parents don’t see the amazing person that you are. It kills me that they abuse you. What kills me most is that you didn’t tell me. Did you think I would leave you in the cold?”
“You know me better than that Keels! You should know by now that I love you so much and would never want anything to happen to you.” My mind got stuck on the words “I love you” and I only half heard the rest of what he said. Xander doesn’t throw around the word “love” like most people so I knew that he meant it, like he meant everything else. Maybe there is some hope for me. Maybe he truly does care.
“Keely, I need you to promise me something.” Xander said breaking me out of my thoughts.
“Anything.” My voice had a tone of desperation that I wish hadn’t been there.
“Promise me that you won’t cut and if you do then you have to call me right away. Promise me that you will call even if you just feel like hurting yourself. Promise me you will tell me if they ever hurt you.” Xander’s voice was strict but filled with concern.
“I promise.” I grabbed his hand and squeezed it, reassuring him that I intended to keep it.
“Good. Now onto the real reason I wanted to talk to you tonight,” his solemn look quickly changed into a brilliant smile. I vaguely wondered what he was up to but I was more focused on how to keep my promise.
“Keely Lynn Anderson, would you go to homecoming with me?” My eyes shot open and my jaw dropped in shock. I was not expecting that.
“Yes. Of course!” His smile grew, if that was possible.
“So now my next question,” he took a deep breath, “Do you want to go as my girlfriend?” It took every ounce of strength I had not to burst into a fit of girly squeals and happy jumping.
“Yes. Yes. Yes.” This time my smile grew. Xander exhaled a sigh of relief and I let out a nervous giggle. If you would have told me in third grade that I would fall in love with this kid and one day date him I would have laughed and told you that we would only be best friends forever. I’m so glad that I was wrong. My phone buzzed and Addalynn’s name popped up on the screen, I quickly opened the message and read it. “Where are you?” I replied, “At Xander’s I’ll come home soon.” I exhaled in irritation, always when I was happy.
“What’s wrong?” Xander asked concerned.
“Nothing, Addalynn is asking where I am. So I guess I better go home.”
“Oh, okay. Tell her that I said hi.” Xander had a sad smile on his face. I gave him a hug and promised to come over tomorrow. I got in my car and drove down the street and parked my car in the driveway of my house. I took a deep breath and touched my arm about to rub my shirt into my cuts before I remembered my promise. Keely Lynn you will keep your promise to that boy, you cannot lose him, I scolded myself. I walked through my door and braced myself for the disaster that was almost sure to happen.
“Addy, I’m home,” I called. There was silence except for the TV in the family room. I walked in there hoping to only find my older sister but of course my parents were sitting happily on the couch. Well happily until I walked in the room, they turned and glared at me.
“What?” my father barked.
“Where’s Addy?” I asked coldly
“Her name is Addalynn, don’t ruin a pretty name by not using it,” my mother snapped.
“Whatever.” I said under my breath. Mom almost sprinted to me and smacked me right across the face, I flinched at the pain but was used to this so it only stung slightly. “You don’t want precious Addalynn to find out you hit me do you?” I taunted, they would never hurt me if she was home.
“Too bad sissy’s not here to protect you,” my father said as he stalked toward me. My parents looked like two lions following their prey. My dad came up and pushed me into a wall and smacked me. I apologized over and over and over again but both of them continued to kick and punch me. After about half an hour they stopped because Addalynn said she was almost home they sent me to my room and told me they didn’t want to see me the rest of the night or all day tomorrow. I stumbled up the stairs to my room bawling, this is the worst I’ve gotten in a really long time, I’m shocked I didn’t pass out from the pain. I fell into my bed too exhausted to cry. In the back of my pounding mind I remembered that I had to call Xander, I promised him.
“Hello?” Xander answered
“Hey Xander, it’s me.”
“What’s wrong?” His voice was panicked, “Please tell me you didn’t cut.”
“No, I didn’t, I promise you I didn’t.” I took a deep breath about to tell him about my parents but then changed my mind. “I have a question.”
“Go for it,” I heard the smile back in his voice.
“Earlier when you said you loved me, did you mean it?” I asked in a shaky voice.
“I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it. I love you, Keely.” There was so much warmth in his voice that it felt like he’d wrapped me in a warm blanket.
“I love you too.” I replied with tears in my eyes knowing in the back of my mind that this could be the first and last time I say them to him. “I gotta go,” I lied.
“Hold on, I want you to listen to a song before you go to bed.”
“Okay what song?” I said knowing that I probably wouldn’t listen.
“When She Cries by Britt Nicole,” he said, “Good night, Keely. I love you.”
“Okay, I love you too.” I whispered before hanging up. Tears welled up in my eyes, the last time I would hear his beautiful voice. I knew he would be upset with my decision but he’s strong, he would be able to handle it. I looked in the drawer of the night stand that stood to the left of my bed and found the gun I’d hidden from my father so he wouldn’t try to use it on me. I took it out and made sure it was loaded, and of course, it was just my luck that it was empty. I opened my door silently, heard the TV blaring down stairs and snuck down the hall into my parent’s room. I found my dad’s bullets and sprinted into my room. This needed to happen quickly before Addalynn got home, it would kill her to hear the gun shot, I wouldn’t put her through that. She would probably be the one to find me but Xander would help her, probably tell her I’m with God or something like that. No, Xander thinks I’m going to hell because I don’t believe in Jesus. Well if that’s the case then so be it, hell couldn’t be any worse than this.
I loaded the gun and turned the safety off; I held the gun to my head. I gazed around my spotless room, my bed sat in the middle, flanked on either side with a night stand. My book shelf was on the left hand side of my room next to the closet. On the far right wall was my desk with my laptop and several notebooks. No time to write a note, no need to Xander would know why and he would tell Addy. I took cleansing breaths, trying to forget they’d be my lasts. I momentarily thought about how my parents probably wouldn’t even leave the living room once the shot was fired. Instead of a funeral, they’d throw a party because I was gone. Well good, at least I won’t be burdening anyone. Just as I was about to pull the trigger my eyes landed on my laptop with YouTube already open from when I used it earlier. You have time to listen to the song. Xander would want to know that you listened to it, I’m sure that Addy would tell him I did if I kept the page opened.
I looked up the song, clicked on a random lyric video hoping to calm myself by reading the words. “Little girl terrified, she’d leave her room if only bruises would heal. A home is no place to hide. Her heart is breaking from the pain that she feels.” I noted that I lived out these lyrics, I’m sure that’s why Xander chose the song. I almost shut it off when the chorus started to play, “Every day’s the same, she fights to find her way. She hurts, she breaks, she cries, and tries to pray. She wonders why. Does anyone ever hear her when she cries?” I zoned out for the next few lines, letting the chorus fully sink in. I pay more attention to the line “Pulling down her long sleeves to cover all the memories that scars leave. She says, ‘Maybe making me bleed will be the answer that can wash the slate clean.’” At this point, tears started flowing from my eyes, this song explained exactly how I felt, and it captured every emotion. “This is the dark before the dawn, the storm before the peace. Don’t be afraid ‘cause seasons change and God is watching over you. He hears you.” Those last three words of the bridge hit me hard and I fell to my knees sobbing. I didn’t know how to pray or what to say to God, but I tried my best.
“God, I don’t know what to do but all I know is that I need you. God I believe in you. Please help me! Hear me! Please, please, please.” I cried, all of a sudden everything Xander had ever told me about God made sense. “She’ll be just fine ‘cause I know He hears her when she cries.” The song ended and I knew that God had heard me. When my tears stopped enough, the first thing I did was throw the gun as far away from me as I could. Xander always says that everything happens for a reason, maybe that’s why the gun wasn’t loaded and why I decided to listen to the song.
This time I promised myself, I would not cut again. I would not commit suicide. I would talk to God and He would hear me.