“Elijah, I can’t do it!” I cry out, terrified.
“Roxy, look at me!” Elijah says from my right. “Don’t look at the ground, just look at me.”
I take a deep breath and slowly tear my blue-gray eyes from the grassy earth below me. I tighten my small arms around the tree and look over at Elijah.
“That’s it,” he says slowly with a smile. “Now lift your foot and find another nock to put it.”
I carefully lift my left leg and move it further up the tree, and very carefully rest it on a tiny knot in the tree trunk. I take another deep breath and slowly lift my right leg up.
Then it happens.
My left leg slips and I fall from the tree. I cry out in pain as my left knee slides against the rough bark of the tree bark.
I land on my side on the green grass, and Elijah carefully climbs down to me.
“Roxy, are you okay?” Elijah asks me, carefully lifting up my skinned knee.
I shake my head. Tears are threatening to spill over my eyelids but I will not ever let Elijah see me cry.
“Are you hurt?” Elijah asks.
I’m about to tell him, yes, but then I realize that my knee only stings a little bit. It’s bleeding but it looks worse then it actually is.
“No, I’m okay,” I say. “Just scared me a little bit.”
Elijah smirks and brushes a hand through his dark brown messy hair. “Good,” he says.
“But, I’m mad at you!” I say with a laugh as I tackle him into the grass. I start ticking him and he laughs and begs for me to stop.
“Roxy, no!” he yells while laughing.
“Say you’re sorry, you little worm!” I laugh as I keep tickling.
“Alright, okay!” he gasps between laughs. “I’m sorry I tried to teach you how to climb a tree!”
I roll off him and lay on my back as the warm summer heat wraps around me.
“We should get some ice on that,” Elijah says motioning towards my knee.
I shake my head. “Don’t worry about it,” I say. “It only stings a little.”
“You’ve been so stubborn for as long as I’ve known you,” Elijah says with a playful smirk.
I grin to myself. I’m nine years old and Elijah is two months older than me, and even though he’s really annoying, he’s been one of my friends for as long as I can remember. Our parents are friends, and when Elijah and I were born, our parents started bringing us whenever they got together.
“And you’ve been so annoying for as long as I’ve known you,” I retort with a smirk of my own.
“Oh, Roxanne,” Elijah says. “I’m going to find a way to always stick around and to always annoy you.”
I didn’t know it then, but Elijah kept that promise.
It’s been about nine years since Elijah died, and I still think of him almost every day. Doctors found cancer in his brain when he was ten years old, and he died in his sleep when he was eleven years old.
He had been in what I called his ‘skater boy’ phase. He wore colored skinny jeans, baggy t-shirts, and Vans sneakers that became scruffed after a while. While I just wore dark jeans and t-shirts because I didn’t care how I looked at eleven.
I pull my black Mini Cooper into the parking lot of the cemetery and grab my jean shoulder bag and my guitar from the driver’s seat. I step out of my car, lock it, and slip the keys into my bag. It’s six o’clock and the sun is about to set, so no one’s around, and I’m glad. I have something different for Elijah today.
I make my way to the left side of the cemetery and stand in front of Elijah’s grave. There’s a tall oak tree behind his headstone. It almost looks just like the one he tried to teach me to climb nine years ago.
“Hey Elijah,” I say quietly. “You used to say that you liked different things, so here’s something different for you.” I carefully set my guitar down on the grass next to Elijah’s headstone, and reach into my bag. After a few moments of searching, I pull out my gray journal and open it. Inside, there’s a drawing of me and Elijah when I had just turned ten. This was before he was diagnosed, and his mother had come outside for a picture. I found the picture a few days ago, and I drew a copy of it.
In the picture, my left arm is slug over Elijah’s shoulders and I’m leaning forward with my tongue sticking out. Elijah’s in mid-laugh as he’s doing bunny-ears behind my head.
I grab a rock from the ground and use it to hold the drawing to the ground in front of Elijah’s headstone. Then I reach back into my shoulder bag and pull out my black notebook. I lay it on the ground and open it to the right page. Then I pull my guitar onto my lap and take a deep breath.
“I wrote you a song ‘Lij,” I tell him as I strum the opening chords.
I’m surprised how easily my voice comes when I’m singing Elijah’s song. When I wrote it, I broke down in tears and had to finish it after I was done crying.
“I miss you, Elijah,” I say when I’m done the song. “I miss you every day.”
I’ve been thinking about Elijah so much lately and I wish I knew why. I wish so much that we could have those happy memories we used to have. I miss when he makes me laugh. I miss when we played games and had competitions on who was a faster swimmer (I won that hands down). I remember that the town we lived in had outdoor movies in the summertime, and Elijah and I used to bring our sleeping bags to everyone we could go to. We would sneak popcorn and drinks in, and try to hide the pop from our parents.
Now, they have a drive-in theatre, and I know that Elijah would have loved it. He probably would pick me up in the GMC pickup truck that he always wanted. He’d have blankets in the back, and we would put the tailgate down and wrap ourselves in the blankets and watch the movie with popcorn, gummy worms, and pop we would sneak in.
But that can’t ever happen now.
“I miss you, Elijah,” I say as tears gather in my blue-gray eyes. “God, I miss you so much!” I promised myself I would never cry in front of Elijah, but I can’t help it. The tears spill over my eyelids and the pain explodes from my heart.
“Damn it, ‘Lij!” I yell. “Why did you have to die? I need you!”
I sink to my knees in front of his headstone as the tears create a river down my olive-colored skin.
“Help me, Elijah!” I sob. “Please come back! Come back and make me happy! Come back to me!”
I wipe the back of my hand across my face and put both my notebooks back into my jean shoulder bag. I sling it across my shoulders and grab my guitar. I have to go now or else I’ll completely break down. So I turn away from Elijah’s grave and walk back towards my car. The sun is almost set and the sky is a blanket of orange colors.
It’s a good thing I didn’t turn back to look at Elijah’s grave as I walked away. I don’t think my heart could handle what I would have seen if I turned around.
I’m so lost in my thoughts the next day, that I don’t hear the bell ring for a break. My best friend Krista actually has to shake me gently before I break out of my trance.
“Earth to Roxy,” Krista says. “Come on, it’s break time!”
I slide my history book into my backpack and stand up.
“Let’s get out of here!” I say.
The sun’s shining outside, so we go outside and sit down in the bright green grass.
“Well,” Krista says, her dark brown eyes shining with excitement. “It’s June! School’s almost over!”
“True,” I say with a smile. “One more year, and then we can graduate from this place!”
Krista smiles, but then her eyes lock on something behind me.
“Look’s like someone’s checking out the sexy Roxette!” she says with a sly grin.
“What?” I ask.
I turn around and immediately see Noel Kingston looking at me. Apparently, he’s the hottest and most popular guy in school. He’s the quarterback, and I’m the captain of the cheerleading squad, so apparently people ‘expect us to get together’ or something.
But I’m not attracted to Noel. Or to anyone right now. I used to love reading about romance, but then Elijah died and it was like a trigger in my head was switched from the romantic setting to the unromantic setting.
“He’s yours if you want him,” I say turning back to face Krista.
“But Rox, he’s the cutest guy in school!” Krista whispers furiously. “Why don’t you just go out with him?”
“Because I’m not into him,” I say back. “I’m not into anyone,”
“Yes you are,” Krista says with a smile. “I can tell.”
“Fine,” I say. “Who am I into?”
Immediately, the smile melts from Krista’s face, and she chews on her bottom lip.
“I know you’re into someone,” she says. “And I know who it is, but you don’t so I’m not going to tell you. I’m sorry Rox.”
“Don’t worry about it,” I say. “It doesn’t matter.”