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Her Last Breath
The simple life I had enjoyed for 16 years became not so simple the night my best friend was found hanging from the ceiling fan in her room. Pam and I met in second grade. Her family had just moved to my town. I still remember thinking how weird she was because she didn’t speak to anyone except for the teacher for almost two weeks. The day she finally spoke was, to me, a memorable one. The class bully, Brandon, and his friends, Chris and Justin, were bullying Pam because she was so shy. I was ready to go over and defend her when she picked up a big rock and threw it at Brandon, hitting him straight in the nose. Brandon began crying. Blood flowed from his nose. Chris and Justin ran away, scared of of Pam. After that, I went up to her in class and told her what she did was awesome. In response, she smiled and spoke for the first time. She said, “Thanks!”
9 years of friendship followed after that day. Her parents became sort of like my own and mine became hers. We insulted our siblings, each other, ourselves. We became sisters. The only serious fight we had came when I began to like my current boyfriend, Noah. He, like Pam, had just moved to town, right before freshman year of high school. Also like Pam, he was shy. Maybe even shyer. It was cute, though I felt a little bad for him. Pam and I knew each other, and everyone else knew each other. He didn’t know anyone. The seats weren’t assigned, so I sat next to Pam near the back. Despite having Pam, I still felt nervous. It was high school, after all. Noah was the only one standing besides the teacher, a middle aged woman named Mrs. Thompson. When I caught his eye, I gestured to the empty seat next to me. He quickly sat down, looking relieved but still shy.
I looked over at Pam, who mouthed, “He’s cute!” I rolled my eyes and tried to pay attention to Mrs. Thompson. The rest of the day passed rather quickly.
New Kid, as Pam liked to call him, was in three of my classes: physics, U.S. history, and english. Pam, sadly, was in two of my classes: spanish and physics. I noticed that in each class we had, Noah sat next to me. I didn’t mind, however. All that mattered was that he felt safe. It took only a handful of of group projects, late night texts, and jokes for Noah to turn our duo into a trio. What took longer to develop was my crush on him. Pam had been right that first day. He was cute. And really nice. And, in general, a good person. Taking Pam’s advice, I asked him to homecoming after the last class of the day, feeling terrified. He looked surprised at the question, but, to my great relief, he smiled and accepted. My hands were shaking slightly as I walked back over to Pam.
"So," she started, looking excited, "what did he say?"
I smiled at her, joy replacing fear and anxiety. "He said yes! Holy crap, I thought I was going to have a heart attack or something over there."
Pam laughed and shoved me gently. "My little girl's growing up!"
I raised an eyebrow and shoved her back. "I’m older than you, you idiot, what are you talking about?"
She just smiled, looking over my shoulder at someone. I turned my head and saw Noah about twenty feet, talking to some other boys in our grade. Just the sight of him made me blush and face Pam.
"Wow, you've got it bad for him, Gen."
"Shut it. Let's go, my mom's here." I grabbed my backpack and headed towards my mom, Pam right behind me.
"Do you think he'll make a move on you at homecoming?"
"Pam, shut up!"
The fight between us occurred in the cafeteria at school, the day before homecoming. Pam had been complaining that I'd been spending more time with Noah than with her ever since I'd asked him to homecoming.
"I can't believe you'd ditch me just to hang out with some boy!" Pam yelled, looking tearful. I threw my hands in the air, feeling frustrated.
"What are you talking about? You encouraged me to get closer to him!" She crossed her arms.
"Yeah, I told you to get close to him, not leave me in the dust to get in his pants."
"How– I would never abandon you for some boy, Pam! You're my best friend! I can't believe you actually believe I'd do that."
I wiped my eyes before turning away from her. I could see Noah from the corner of my eye, about to walk in.
"Don't bother coming over to get ready, and get your own ride," I told her before rushing out, ignoring Noah's concerned, "Imogen?"
My mom asked me what was wrong, but I ignored her and barely spoke until the next night, when I had to get ready for homecoming. My dress was short (I couldn’t stand long dresses back then) and a pretty turquoise colour, my shoes silver and not too high. My mom helped me with my hair, which reached my lower back, curling it and making it look less messy. I really can’t remember if I used make up, but knowing me, I probably did. My mom looked proud and excited when I was finally done getting dressed, and I felt pretty. Something I’ll never forget was Noah’s face when he arrived and I opened the door. It made me buzz with excitement, sent the feeling of pins and needles down my arms and in my hands.
“Imogen, you look. . . amazing.”
I blushed and smiled, stepping back so he could enter. My mom introduced
herself before forcing us to take multiple pictures.
“Mom, enough!” I exclaimed once I believed I was permanently blind from the
flash. Noah laughed next to me, his arm around my waist.
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry. Let’s go pick up Pam and we’ll be on our way.”
“Oh, Pam’s got her own ride. We don’t need to pick her up.”
My mom frowned but didn’t question it.
My mom waved goodbye to us before driving off. Noah and I walked to the
entrance of the gym and showed our tickets and IDs so we could enter. Inside, it was colorful and loud. Noah grabbed my hand and looked at me.
“What do you want to do first?” he asked me.
I looked around at the people dancing, and at those sitting at the tables set up.
Others were outside, taking a break. Some hadn’t arrived yet.
“Dance,” I answered, pulling him toward the dance floor.
One part of me wanted to find Pam and talk to her, but another part just
wanted to stay and dance with Noah, so that’s what I did. I quickly forgot about Pam as Noah spun me and twirled me. I laughed, feeling happy and carefree. In between songs, I looked around and spotted Pam, who looked beautiful but sorry.
“I’ll be right back,” I told Noah. He nodded and watched me walk over to Pam.
Trying not to sound angry or mean, even though I was really angry at her, I
asked, “What do you want?”
She took a deep breath. “I am really, really sorry for what I said, Gen. I was just
jealous. It’s been me and you for years, and that changed once Noah joined our group, and I wasn’t used to it. Please forgive me.”
Because I was still angry, I wanted to reject her apology, but she’d been by my
side for almost a decade and I didn’t want to lose her just because of some fight.
“Of course I forgive you, Pam. You’re my best friend.”
She grinned and threw her arms around me, hugging me tightly. “Thank you!
And again, I’m really sorry.”
“It’s in the past now. Want to dance with me?” She started to say something,
but was interrupted by Noah walking up.
“Imogen, come dance with me,” he insisted. I listened to the music and
realized that a slow song was playing now. Pam pushed me toward Noah, smirking.
“Go dance, you big dummy.” I took Noah’s hand and let him lead me to the
Once there, I put my hands on his shoulders, and he put his hands on my
waist. hoped no one, especially him, could hear how fast my heart was beating.
Noah leaned forward. “You know, you look stunning tonight. Really,” he
whispered in my ear.
I blushed and hit his shoulder gently. “Oh, be quiet.”
He laughed and pulled me a bit closer.
“Sue me if I want to tell you the truth.”
I rolled my eyes, determined to keep my hands on his shoulders so they
“Hey, can I ask you a question?” he asked.
“Why did you ask me to come with you?”
I remained calm and responded with, “Because Pam told me to.”
He raised an eyebrow, cocked his head. “And why did Pam tell you to ask me?” Looking down at my feet, I said, “Because she knew I had a crush on you.” “What was that?”
My face was definitely on fire now. “She told me to ask you to homecoming
because she knew I had a crush on you.”
When I looked back up at him, his grin was as bright as the sun. “You have a
crush on me?”
“I just said that, yes. I have a crush on you. I’ve had one on you for a while.”
He moved one of his hands up to my face and cupped it. “Well, I have a crush
on you too.”
Normally, I’d doubt anyone telling me what he was telling me, but I believed
him because he was grinning so widely and looked so relieved.
“That’s good to hear,” I responded before kissing him.
Weirdly, those were the memories that I remembered after the police officer
told me what had happened to Pam. I could feel his stare, and my mom’s, but I didn’t react or speak.
“Imogen? Are you okay?” my mom asked.
I looked at her and then the officer before turning and going up to my room,
closing the door behind me and locking it. I grabbed my phone off my nightstand and called Noah. He answered quickly.
“Hey Gen! What’s up?”
In a monotone voice, I said, “She’s dead, Noah.”
His tone became concerned and curious. “What? Who is?”
My voice cracked ever so slightly when I spoke again. “Pam. She. . . They found
her hanging from her ceiling fan. She killed herself.”
“I’m coming over,” he said before hanging up.
I put my phone back on the nightstand and sat down on my bed, staring into
space. I knew that I should have been crying. My best friend was dead, after all. But no tears appeared in my eyes. I could only think. After what seemed like an eternity, there was a knock on my door.
“Gen? It’s me.”
I got up and unlocked the door before going back to my bed.
Just like my mom and the police officer, he stared at me. I could feel his worry,
his concern. He walked over and sat next to me, taking my hand in his and squeezing it. Pam’s last words she had spoken to me were on rewind in my head.
“The Spanish final tomorrow is going to kill me!”
“The Spanish final is going to kill me!”
“. . .going to kill me!”
“. . .kill me!”
Had she known yesterday that she was going to kill herself, that her parents
would find her, that she’d leave me an emotional mess, forever missing her?
“Gen, it’s not good to suppress your emotions and your feelings, especially
with a situation like this and so personal.”
I looked at him and all at once, everything hit me. I burst into tears. Noah
wrapped his arms around me and pulled me close, letting me cry into his shoulder. Pam was dead. She killed herself, my Pam. How had I not seen how miserable she’d been, so miserable that she felt that the only way out was by hanging herself? I was her best friend! I was supposed to be there for Pam all day, every day! My crying increased.
“What am I going to do without her, Noah?” I asked in between sobs.
He sighed, “I don’t know, Gen, but we’ll figure it out. I promise.”