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And Now She's Gone
I saw her walking down the street yesterday. She looked beautiful as ever. Tomorrow is her birthday. I was going to go up and tell her Happy Birthday, but decided not to.
Yeah, I still remember her birthday. And I'm sure she still remembers mine too. Birthdays never change.
And even though she'll be turning sixteen tomorrow, I can still remember when we were twelve, when we first met each other.
I had just moved in next door and was a bit shy. I wasn't always the best at making friends, but she was my complete opposite. When Natalie saw me, standing outside, watching the mover guys unpack our stuff, she waltzed right up to me and said "Hi, I'm Natalie! What's your name?" She was bright and cheerful.
And beautiful, in her own way. She had blond hair that came just past her shoulders and bright blue eyes that were clear as day. But the thing I loved most about her was her smile. It was like the sun beneath a layer of darkness. It was amazing.
"David," I mumured. Like I said, I was shy.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, David." she said politely, holding out her hand for me to shake.
I took it and shook lightly. Then she cracked up laughing. "I'm never this polite! I'm just copying off how my mom greets people. But you should see me in real life!"
Her laugh was exuberant and care-free. Like she didn't care what anyone thought of her. She was herself, and proud of it.
"You wanna come down by the pond with me?" she asked.
"Sure," I agreed, a bit unsure of myself.
But she grabbed my hand and led me down towards the pond. Once we were there she slid off her shoes and waded in the pond, sighing in relaxation as the water cooled off her legs, which were hot in the blazing summer sun.
"Come on in, the water's fine!" she called to me. I hesitated before slipping off my own shoes and stepping into the cool water, which was like heaven on my scorching legs.
I closed my eyes, relaxing for a moment, but a burst of cold water in my face caused me to open them back up. When I looked at Natalie, she was cracking up. "Oh, you think that's funny?" I challenged, beginning to loosen up around her. I splashed her back, "Now, that was funny!"
We both laughed and splashed each other for what seemed like hours. I'd never opened myself up this much to anyone. But Natalie had a certain way of breaking through the outer shell.
Ever since that day, we've been best friends. We would go out to the pond, or to each other's houses, or to the park pretty much every day.
We would play pretend games, like one where she was a princess and I was her knight in shining armor. And I would have to go and rescure her from the evil king. But she would always end up pretending to be a knight too, saying that being a princess was too boring.I also loved to draw, so we'd pretend that I was a famour artist. And I would sketch her portrait.
We'd also tried making a "phone" out of two rolls of string and two tin cans. Then she would open up her bedroom window and I'd open up mine, which were across from each other. We each one end of the "phone" and tried to talk to each other from our seperate houses. Our "phone" actually ended up working. We were so proud of ourselves.
And I remember that once, while we were down by the pond, she told me that she thought I really would become a famous artist some day. And I drew a sketch of her, down by the pond. It had been the last sketch I'd drawn of her, and by far the best.
And that same day, right after drawing the sketch, she kissed me on the cheek.
We'd had so much fun together.
But then summer ended and eighth grade started. I would see her in the hallways with all of her friends and I would try to say hi to her, but all she'd give me was a simple wave.
She was friends with all of the popular girls at school. She looked like one of the populars too. She wore preppy clothing like them, instead of the normal t-shirt and cut-offs she would wear during the summer. And she had hair straightened every day. In the summer, she would just sweep it back into a quick pony tail.She also wore make-up, which I'd never seen her wear.
And as eighth grade went by, she became less and less friendly. Less and less like herself. She began ignoring all of my calls. And never answering the door when I rang her doorbell. Once, her front door was open and only her screen door was closed. So I walked up and rang the doorbell while she was sitting on the couch, watching TV. You could see the couch from the door, so I looked right at her and waved. She looked at me, stood up, and walked upstairs.
Since that day, I haven't been going to her house anymore.
The summer after eighth grade ended was extremely boring for me. I only got to talk to her once. It was when her new best friend, Lauren, the most stuck-up girl in school, was away on vacation. I rang her doorbell once, just to see if she'd answer. To my surprise, she did. So I asked if she wanted to walk down to the pond.
She scoffed and said that the pond was full of fish and other "unmentionables", as she put it. But she agreed to take a walk down to the park. Most of the way there it was silent between us. I didn't know what to say to her anymore. She used to be so easy to talk to, but now she was like a whole different person.
When we got there, we sat on the swings, and then I finally broke the silence.
"Why don't we ever hang out anymore?" I'd asked.
"I don't know." she replied.
We didn't speak to each other anymore. But as we were walking back home, her hand accidently brushed against mine. But what I felt wasn't just the warm touch of a friend. It was different, electric almost.
I knew she felt it too, but none of us mentioned it. After that, we didn't see each other again. Until high school started.
Now in the hallways, I didn't even recieve a wave when I said hi to her. So I didn't bother to say hi anymore.
But I still missed the fun we used to have. The pretend games, going to the pond, all of it. But maybe Natalie had just matured, grown up. Maybe I was just immature.
At night, I'd watch her walk out of the house with her friends and head off somewhere in one of their older boyfriend's cars. I hadn't ever had a girlfriend.
Natalie had five boyfriends a month. And every single one of them was a popular, cocky jock.
Since I didn't really have any good friends, besides a couple of guys in some of my classes who I rarely talked to, I focused mainlyon my art. I'd entered a piece into the art festival at school. To my pleasure, I'd won first prize.
So at the art festival, after everyone had recieved their prizes, I was shocked to see her there.I remembered hearing one of her more distant friend's names be called for third runner up. That was probably the only reason she'd shown up.
She was surrounded by her group of friends. And they began walking up the aisles of art,glancing at each piece, not exactly interested.
But when Natalie got to my piece she stopped. She studied this one more closely and I knew she remembered it.
A girl with bright blue eyes and shoulder-length blonde hair, sitting on a log in front of the pond. Her smile was wide and filled withjoy.
Shedidn't wear anymake-up and her hair was pulled into a loose pony tail.
But she was beautiful anyway.
"What a gay drawing," one of her friend's scoffed.
"Well what do you expect? All guy artists are gay!"another one laughed.
Natalie looked at me for a moment, our eyes meeting. And I felt that same electricity as when I'd brushed hands with her on the way back home from the park.
She remembered the painting. I could see it in her eyes. She remembered that day at the pond. The day she'd kissed me on the cheek.
"Yeah, that's just about the gayest thing I've ever seen!" she chuckled haughtily before walking off.
And that's when I knew that I was the one who'd matured, not Natalie. She wasn't even herself anymore.
That's when I knew that she was gone forever.