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Author's note: Everyone wonders about the mysteries of life and death, and there are many stories of what afterlife is like, but I wondered if maybe there could be somewhere between life and death, and how it would affect someone who didn't die. That was the idea behind this story.
"I've always thought that life was something you're allowed to take for granted. I mean, everyone gets a chance to live. It's something given to everyone, so why would it be a treasured gift? You don't earn more life by being noble, or kind, or smart, or open-minded. It's taken away from everybody, regardless of how you live it. It isn't a privilege to live, everyone gets their turn. So, really, it isn't something to thank God for every day, because one day it'll end. And that'll suck. But why waste the life you're given being so god damn grateful for it instead of going out and living it?
Then there's the grand question. What is the meaning of life? We ask ourselves this as if there's one specific answer, one statement that explains why people live and die. That's it. I think that's ridiculous. The meaning of life changes for every living soul ever to exist. Everyone is different, so their purpose in this world is different. Anyone who thinks otherwise is wasting their time. You shouldn't waste away whatever time you've got trying to answer a question that doesn't have an answer.
And death. What is death anyway? Is it a glorious afterlife with harps and babies with wings and diapers? I doubt it. I'm not a Satanist or anything, I just feel like nobody in this world is perfect enough to be blessed eternally when they die. But on the other end of the spectrum, very few people deserve to be endlessly tortured. Like, unless they kill children for fun, and rape anything they see, chances are, they've done something good to repent the bad. I feel like death is one big blah. You're just gone. It's sleeping eternally, plain and simple. You have died and there's nothing you can do about it.
Of course, this is just how I feel about all of this. But I think I'm right. I mean, what else is there to it?"
And with that, I move back to my seat. I don't think my oral report was that special, at all. It was way too short, for one. Secondly, it isn't something I spent hours researching, working to perfection like most of my assignments. It is what I think and feel. Honestly. But the entire room is silent. Not one of thirty-six obnoxious, immature teenagers is speaking, or even moving. I could drop a pin...screw that, I could drop a feather, and its landing would have been supersonic in comparison.
It seems like the entire period passes until Ms. Kane speaks, "Well, thank you Adrianne for that...thought-provoking piece. Next up is Rhia Dahjong." The pretty Indian girl looks baffled. She gets up to go recite her report on "The Biggest Question In The Universe."
She passes me and I hear her mutter to Elise, her friend, "I don't want to follow that!" It comes out louder than she means it to.
"Well somebody has to," Will Arkon, a popular hotshot, whispers to no one in particular.
I am puzzled by all my peers' eyes still glued on me after my speech. It is like they all discovered that I hold all of the secrets about life and death. I don't, of course...well...not yet anyway. At this point, there is no way of me knowing what I soon will learn about the secrets of life and death. No way of knowing what The Edge will do to me.
I wake up the way I usually do--with Jesse jumping at the foot of my bed screeching, "ADRIANNE BISHOP, IT'S TIME TO GET UP!" Then, incredibly pleased with himself, he giggles. "That rhymes!" He does a little dance, his green eyes sparkling. He then prances off the bed and out of my room calling behind him, "You have to get up soon for school, Adri!" I groan and practically roll onto the floor, pushing myself onto my feet to look around my familiar room.
My bed is a queen-size with a black, electric blue and hot pink bed set. At the moment, the covers are all strewn about because of my typical furious movements when I sleep and Jesse's jumping on my bed. My carpet is--or really was--white and soft, but coke spills and nail polish have altered its quality over time.
To the left of my bed are two doors: the door to my closet and the door to my bathroom. My closet isn't too big because I don't have that many clothes. I just don't like to shop. I have what I need, a few pairs of jeans and shorts, a reasonable amount of tops ranging in niceness from simple tees to blouses, and four pairs of shoes. Yes, four. Grey toms, navy flip flops, chestnut Uggs, and a pair of black, six-inch pumps for incredibly special occasions. My bathroom is all marble with a large, porcelain bathtub, and a typical shower.
And finally, there is my favorite part of my room--actually my favorite part of the whole house. My wall is painted totally black, but one day Russ, my best friend, came over with two tubs of paint. Electric blue and hot pink to match my bed set. We coated the wall with bright handprints and footprints and we made the prints spell out words like "Adri's Room," "We so cool," and "Go crazy." The best one is "Can't Touch Me," on the ceiling. It looks amazing.
Like a zombie, I move to my closet and pull out dark wash skinny jeans, a red and black tribal-print tee, and my toms. I go into my bathroom to put it all on and I brush out my long, black hair, leaving it wavy. I also put on my everyday makeup: eyeliner, mascara and nude Baby Lips. I look fine so I brush my teeth and head down to breakfast.
Now, let me clarify something. I have the absolute best family situation possible. My mother and father are inconsequentially in love and they both have great jobs that pay well. They insist on biweekly family time, and family meals whenever possible. They love me and Jesse, my six-year-old brother equally. Jesse is absolutely adorable and I love him with all my heart. He's the sweetest little brother and we never fight except for when he wakes me up the way he does on the weekends.
So walking down the stairs to see my father drinking coffee and telling Jesse a joke and my mother frantically running around the kitchen to have all of today's food ready to eat together before I have to go to school is not a rare sight. I take my place at the table across from my brother and next to my dad. Dad hits the punch line of his joke and Jesse erupts in furious giggles, throwing his tiny head back and opening his mouth as wide as it goes as he laughs. Dad has a satisfied smile on his face. He's always thrilled when Jesse or I finds one of his many jokes humorous.
"See Adri?" He asks, turning to look at me as Jesse is still cracking up. "I am funny." He sits up extra-straight as he gloats. He's already dressed for work in a blue button down, black slacks, and a striped navy and royal blue tie.
I roll my eyes and look at him. "To Jesse. He's six, dad. Six year olds find everything funny. I wouldn't get too proud of myself." Dad pouts and crosses his arms over his chest like a three year old girl. I shrug as if to say. "I'm brutally honest." As I look at my dad I see where I got my dark brown eyes and angular facial bone structure. The genes from my mom, however, consist of my thick, ink-black hair, my semi-tan skin tone, and my petite, thin frame with pretty average sexual features.
Next thing I know, eggs and bacon are loaded onto my plate and steam rises from them, filling my nose with the wonderful aroma of Mom's cooking. Sure it's just eggs and bacon, but it's still done better than Dad or I could do. I watch Jesse, sitting on his knees, piling salt onto his eggs while Mom gives him a squirt of ketchup for them. Without asking for help with cutting anything up, he shoves a huge piece of egg, covered in ketchup into his tiny mouth.
"Yummy!" He mumbles through his bite of food, making a little bit of it reappear on his plate. Ew. Mom gives him a napkin but he shuns it and throws it back onto the table. Mom sighs and shakes her head. Dad chuckles a bit. Jesse has not yet learned proper manners, but his personality is still a diamond in the rough. His charisma makes a room feel so much brighter, his bubbly approach to everything makes it seem like there are no worries. He hardly ever cries, never has. In terms of appearance, Jesse is like a male copy of Mom, with his curly black hair and expressive blue green eyes.
I eat my breakfast to mindless chatter with my family, bringing up simple topics like us deciding what restaurant to meet Dad at for dinner since he gets off work late on Thursdays. He's an architect so he works all day anyways, but on Thursday he volunteers extra time. After a few minutes of going between options we decide on Olive Garden which is closer to where Dad works than Arrivadercci, a fancy little hole in the wall Italian place. It's also more likely for Jesse to find something he wants at Olive Garden.
When the clock says 7:30, I bid my goodbyes and go to my driveway, grabbing a hoodie to go along with the chilly November air, and text my boyfriend, Emmett.
Me: Are you on your way?
I am a firm believer in spelling out words completely, especially over text. Unfortunately, everyone I'm surrounded by is not. This includes Emmett, Russ, all female friends I have, and even my dad. And much to my displeasure, my phone buzzes and the text is from my father, and not Emmett.
Dad: U 4got ur lunch.
Come on Dad. It's easier to just spell out the words. Not to mention it embarrasse me when he does it. I sigh and run back in the house to grab the lunch my mom still makes for me even though I'm in tenth grade. I get another round of good-byes before going back out to wait for Emmett. I also get a big hug from Jesse.
Right when I get outside is when Emmett pulls his 2006 Cadillac into my long driveway. He smiles his winning smile that shows of his white teeth. Emmett is what you call incredibly attractive. No, scratch that. Emmett is what you call a sex god. He has incredible bone structure, mysterious grey-blue eyes, pouty red lips, and close-cropped sandy blond hair. He's got toned muscles from frequent conditioning because of lacrosse. Yes, he's a "lax bro," and a very good one. He's got a loving and carefree personality and so many girls have major crushes on him and consequently hate me, thinking I'm not good enough for him.
I happily get open the passenger-side door and crawl inside. Russ, my best friend and Emmett's cousin is in the backseat. Russ, short for Russell, has been my best friend since third grade when he cheered me up after Phoebe Lancer, my best friend at the time, told me my hair reminded her of spider legs. I cried during most of recess until Russ came over and told me my hair was pretty and Phoebe was just being mean. We have been inseparable ever since. And thank god no one mistakes is for a couple. They never have and they never will.
Russ was the one who set Emmett and me up. I hadn't had a boyfriend since sixth grade when I dated a guy four years older, Jeffrey. Jeffrey turned out to be a total perverted douche who wanted nudes, in yes, sixth grade. I had closed myself off from guys since, but Emmett, who had his heart broken by Annalise Taylor, a popular girl in his grade, which is a year above Russ and me, had allowed me to open up again. We clicked quickly and have been dating for about three months. Because Russ and Emmett are cousins, no one's ever a third wheel.
"You really texted me? I'm always on time, Adri," He teases, his eyes flickering. I blush and shrug, pecking him on the cheek as he pulls out of the driveway. My eyes scan the car I've been riding in for months, seeing the usual cracks in the leather, the dust collected on the dashboard, the smudged windows and the two coffees in the cup holders. Emmett and Russ always brought me some since Mom is so worried about my growth being stunted by caffeine. Not that it'll make much of a difference, I'm only five-three.
"I've told you no make out sessions when I'm in the backseat," Russ pretends to gag behind us, rolling his soulful hazel eyes. I always think dating Russ is one of the grossest ideas in the world, but when I focus on his looks, he's not ugly. He has shaggy brown hair with natural copper highlights and a tall, lanky frame. He has frequent girlfriends and one-night stands, and so I lecture him about respecting women and I can tell he feels bad, but he always shrugs it off.
Emmett laughs. "Sorry man, it'd be easier if she wasn't so damn gorgeous." And tingles crawl up my spine in the best of ways at his flirty words. He sneaks a wink at me and I giggle like a little girl. I quickly clear my throat and swallow my girlish behavior.
"Ick, nasty. Adri's cute but she's not that attractive," It's nice to hear that I'm even remotely pretty. I mean what girl doesn't want to hear that sort of thing? It doesn't matter who says it, it'll always feel great. Cute, pretty, gorgeous, hot, sexy, beautiful, it doesn't matter, it improves any girl's self-esteem.
I look at him through the rear view mirror and stick my tongue out. "Asshole," I taunt, flipping him off. All of this is done in the most loving of ways. Russ and I never fight. The mere thought of it sounds ridiculous. We have never had any fights at all apart from one in sixth grade. Russ hadn't approved of Jeffrey from the start, and he let me know it. I recall the day as if it was a few weeks ago instead of years
I had been giddy all day, my face in my phone, eagerly awaiting any new texts from Jeffrey, my boyfriend of a little over a week. He was a sophomore in high school and I knew him because we both went to the same pool. I had ogled his six pack all summer from my and Russ's usual spot by the snack bar. We had met when the pool had it's "Teen Night," a sort of party for all kids going into sixth through twelfth grade. When Russ threw a beach ball too far over my head, he got it for me and told me he thought I looked the best in my bikini out of all the girls at the pool that night. I was very pleased and asked if he wanted to come play volleyball. By the end of the night, we were making out on top of the picnic tables at the pavilion.
He, his friend Chad, Russ and I hung out together the last two weeks at the pool before school started and he asked me out the day before the first day of school. I said yes, and we were practically glued to each other as much as we could be, if not in person, by phone. It was a Sunday afternoon and Russ and I were at Manchester Mall. I giggled as Jeffrey texted me saying that he wished he could go shopping with me and pick out a few outfits on his own.
"What's so funny, Adri?" He asked, peering over my shoulder as we walked past Hollister where a cluster of teenage girls were fawning over a black miniskirt. While I hated shopping, I loved walking around the mall, people-watching. Russ and I would make up ridiculous stories for everyone we saw, but that day I was more interested in what Jeffrey had to say than the greasy old man at Auntie Anne's.
As he read my text, Russ's face clouded over. He looked at me sternly like he was my older brother instead of a fellow eleven-year-old. "That's gross, Adrianne. Why are you gonna let him talk to you like that?" I scoffed and looked at him with exasperation, trying to breeze through the bickering like it was no big deal, but he used my whole name. He never called me Adrianne unless he was being really serious.
"It's a joke, Russ. Don't get your panties in a twist. He's my boyfriend, he's supposed to like how I look." I rolled my eyes and put my phone in the back pocket of my shorts. We walked past McDonald's and Russ stopped in his tracks. "Russ, come on. Don't make a scene over this tiny thing."
Being as stubborn as he was, Russ didn't move a muscle. He crossed his arms over his chest and shook his head. "It's not a tiny thing, I mean has he sent you stuff like that before?" I shrugged, even though the answer was yes. But that's not what he wanted to hear and I'd only make matters worse if I said so. "And the first day you guys talked to each other he was taking advantage of you and tried to feel you up!"
I snorted indignantly. "You're just jealous you didn't hook up with Cindy Larson." I argued, looking at my best friend with narrowed eyes. A few people had stopped and turned their attention to us. Russ barked out a laugh and stepped closer to me.
"I don't give two shits about Cindy Larson, I'm worried about you! That guy is bad news. Doesn't it bother you that he's four years older and is kind of obsessed with your body? He's a perv, Adrianne. You deserve better." Russ wasn't budging and I didn't like all the attention we were getting. But I wasn't going to lose the fight either.
"God you're acting like you're my boyfriend instead of my best friend! Do you like me or something? I mean that's the only explanation for you making a huge deal out of nothing! Jeffrey is my boyfriend now. If you don't like it, then leave. Just stay out of my business!" I shouted, expecting him to apologize and come with me to hang out for the rest of the day we had until my mom would come to pick us up.
Russ shook his head. "I don't have a crush on you and you know it. You're acting like a little kid over all this and it's really getting me annoyed with you. Y'know what, maybe I don't even know you. Maybe you are Jeffrey are perfect together. Don't even worry about giving me a ride home, I'll call my mom. I'm leaving, just for you." And he turned on his heel and strode towards Sears.
"Russ, come on!" I called after him. A cluster of people were watching me as a few tears stung my cheeks at Russ's words. When my best friend didn't turn around I snapped at the people staring at me. "What the hell are you looking at? Go back to your shopping." And I bolted for the nearest bathroom, crying my eyes out and texted my mom asking her to pick me up early. When she pulled up to the curb outside Macy's, Jeffrey had texted me again.
JeffyBoo: Cld I evr get a pic of u in a bikini?
Bile had risen in my throat, and my heart ached at the idea that Russ was probably right about Jeffrey, and I had just yelled at him for it.
I wince at the memory. Russ had given me the silent treatment for as long as I dated Jeffrey. When I dumped him cold after he called me a whiney b**** for refusing to send him naked pictures, Russ had accepted my frightful apology, thankfully, but I was always scared to date after that. I had lost trust in guys and was scared to lose Russ for even another second.
"I'll live with your name-calling, Adri. It doesn't faze me. I'm too tough," He jokes, then he furrows his brow like he does when he realizes or remembers something. "Hey I heard people talking about you last night at Yogu-bar." Yogu-bar is the local frozen yogurt place. My stomach lurches. I make myself scarce. Generally I'm only talked about in spite by jealous girls who want Emmett for themselves or by guys who thought I have a "rockin bod." But I really detest both scenarios so whenever Russ says that, I get incredibly uncomfortable.
"Oh yeah?" I ask, doing my best to keep my voice even. Russ nods, putting his arms across the backseat.
"That Indian girl, Rhia, was telling her friends about how you were like a philosopher in class with your oral report. She said that everyone thinks you're some sort of psychic genius or something." My eyes widen. I know people had reacted to my report, but I didn't realize it was that big of a deal. I didn't realize it was so good that people were talking about me because of it. I'm strangely both flattered and wary. What was so great about it? What I said was truly how I feel about the whole ordeal.
My mouth goes dry for a moment as I think of something to say in response. I swallow before saying. "I see, well it wasn't that great. She's probably overreacting because her report on why global warming is happening was five minutes of s***." Russ gives me a knowing look, not appreciating my modesty, but doesn't argue.
"Will told me about it too at lacrosse yesterday. He said you were like God giving humans answers. But sexier than a bearded guy with scars." Emmett offers, I snap my head to face him and I give him a look clearly saying that I was not in the mood for him being on Russ's side. Unfortunately, Emmett isn't the sharpest tool in the shed, an doesn't pick up on my wish to shut up on the matter.
"Really, it wasn't a big deal, just an oral report," I try to reflect my irritation in my voice, but Emmett doesn't pick up on it and he rambles on. I see Russ shaking his head at his cousin's idiocy. I want to too, but I take a look at him and think, 'He's lucky he's so damn pretty.'
Emmett shakes his head. "Will said you were like the most striking, captivating thing he's ever seen in that moment." I find it hard to believe Will Arkon even uses words like striking or captivating. He probably said hot and smart and Emmett is trying to make him sound far more intelligent than he is. While Emmett isn't too bright, his friends Will and Jared are a lot worse and they've both made a point of saying to Emmett, in front of me might I add, that I'm f*ing sexy and Emmett's a lucky, lucky boy. Let's just say I prefer Emmett to his friends.
"Emmett," I start, my voice clipped. "Drop it. It's not a big deal, okay?" Emmett seems to finally get the hint and he lets the subject drop. By now, we are at the parking lot of the school, and I get out of the car, my two favorite guys beside me. Putting my report into the forbidden topics of conversation is a nice start to a hopefully wonderfully normal day.
I love routine. I adore sticking to a typical schedule, going along with an expectant sense of how things will go and taking the day on knowing what's going to happen next. Surprises are things I generally don't take well. Take Russ and my fight in sixth grade. It upset me for forever and has affected me up until now actually. I plan everything out in advance and I like when all my ducks are in a row and I know what's coming next. It's just how I am.
So walking into homeroom and seeing Mrs. Solibur scribbling on the board gives me a lovely sense of tradition. I take my seat beside Faye Barton and Oliver Raiko. I brace myself for Faye's bubbly compliment on something about my appearance and Oliver's snide comment about my second place in the race for top spot in the grade, right behind him.
"I just love your hair, Adri!" Faye exclaims in a hushed tone. I smile at her and say thanks. Next I feel Oliver's finger poke my arm and I turn around to him looking me up and down with a look of envy...that's strange.
He runs a hand through his coppery hair and narrows his eyes at me. "The oral report isn't even a big grade, yet it put you into the lead." What? My report put me ahead? This is a shock, actually. "A tenth of a percent, that's all you have on me, but it's enough. I mean I heard it was good, but I didn't know it was better than mine. Well played b****." Oliver doesn't really like me. Ever since I got valedictorian for middle school, barely winning in the last quarter of eighth grade, he's made a point of trying his hardest to beat me. And I haven't returned the favor, so he's usually beating me. But apparently that damn report is following me everywhere.
Once we go through morning announcements, Mrs. Solibur begins a lecture on Shakespeare and I'm left in my seat just wishing the report would disappear. I don't even know anything about life and death. I'm fifteen, how could I?