Elyria High School, the biggest high school around for miles. Elyria is a small town inside of Ohio where I go to school. Literally everyone who lives in Elyria either goes to Elyria High or one of the three middle schools around; or there are two elementary schools too, I believe. I don’t know for sure. I don’t know everything about my town.
I just know that it’s a pain to get from class to class in under three minutes. Once upon a time, when I started here as a freshman three years ago, it was six minutes, but teachers and the principles began to see how students would linger in the hallways and get into trouble and it went from six glorious minutes to breathe between each class to a three-minute scramble.
I have mastered this scramble. You used to meet me outside my classroom, or I would meet you outside yours and we’d power-walk through the crowded hallways. We’d stop at my class or your class first, say goodbye, then power-walk to our own class. We had a few classes together, which was always convenient, especially during Sophomore and Junior year, but once we began as Seniors together, we drifted apart.
You were more interested in art and writing classes for your extracurricular and I preferred digital design and video editing. It was the only reason we split apart, because other than those two or three classes, the rest matched up.
We still made time to be together after school and on the weekends. We’d carpool in the morning; take turns so some days you’d pick me up and other days I’d grab you, and more often than not, we’d spend the ten minutes before school starts making out in the back of your car, or my car.
It was nice.
Until it wasn’t.
I grit my teeth at the sound of my name before forcing a genuine smile (so amazingly real no one had been able to tell it was fake for the last month), shut my locker, and turn to face my dear friend Katrina. She’s a pretty girl, just not my type, though it doesn’t stop me from admiring her wavy shoulder-length dirty blonde hair and her soft green eyes framed by thick black glass lenses.
“Kat, how are you?”
She hitches her backpack over her shoulder some more and holds out her hand, offering me a piece of gum. I stare at the gum for a minute before taking it, unwrapping it, and shoving it in my mouth to chew.
“I’m alright, Mel. How about you? You never answered my texts this weekend, I thought maybe you were like, dead or somethin, you know?”
“No, Kat, I don’t know. Why do you assume that?”
I think she can sense the irritation in my voice because she immediately changes the topic without answering my question, which is fine because I didn’t want her to answer it anyway. If I’m becoming so obvious about this situation with you, then things are going to spiral downhill fast.
“I have tickets to an orchestra concert this Friday night if you want to go. I wanted to ask you first before I asked Daniel, you know? I’d rather you go than him.”
“Why?” We trudge down the hallway slowly. Classes didn’t actually begin for another six minutes, so we have some time before we have to separate.
“We may have gotten into a fight and I’m not ready to forgive him.”
I refrain from rolling my eyes. The last thing I want to hear about right now is Kat’s boyfriend, mostly because when we talk about it, it reminds me of you and I don’t even know if you and I were exclusive or not. I like to think we were, but the way you reacted that night I- Well, it kind of shows me that maybe I’m the reason you’re gone. I screwed up.
“Alright, what time Friday?” I ask reluctantly. I don’t really want to go, but if I keep blowing off my friends and family, they may actually start prying for real.
Kat grins, her pink and purple braces showing. “7:30, but we should get there early, like 7:15, because if we’re late, we won’t get in. I can pick you up if you want, and after, maybe we can get something to eat, it’ll be so much fun-“
I listen up until she starts rambling. I walk with her for a bit though, surprisingly relieved that she’s not asking questions, and instead just rambling a lot. At least this way, I have her company, but she doesn’t expect too much out of me.
That’s kind of how our friendship has always been. We’ve been friends longer than you and I were friends; Kat and I go way back to elementary school. Best friends because, at the time, our parents were close, but then Kat’s mom passed away and our families grew apart. Kat and I didn’t though. We stayed close, hanging out and using one another as comfort and peace even when we didn’t talk for a few weeks at a time.
In a way, she was my only true friend. It didn’t matter how much time passed between us; she was always there when I needed her and I was always there when she needed me. Sometimes we’d go through periods where we needed each other day and night, and that was okay, because that just meant we still mattered to one another.
“Warning bell is going off, Mel.” Kat pats my cheek, trying to gain my attention.
I blink, focusing on her. “Right, sorry, I got a little lost in my thoughts.”
“That’s okay! I’ll text you in lunch?”
“Yeah, I’ll keep my phone on silent.” I watch her walk past me and down the hallway to her first class before I put myself into motion moving forward to climb up the flight of stairs to the third floor for history.
I melt into the crowd between classes. No one notices me as I walk with my head down, an earbud in my ear and my backpack over my shoulder. When you and I walked together, we were very noticeable. You were the girl everyone loved; you were sweet and open and friendly, and even if someone didn’t know you, they acknowledged you. You were just the kind of person, except of course, when you were drunk. It didn’t have anything to do with your looks or the fact that you were, to put it in simple terms, popular. You still hung out with me even though I was a nobody, but your presence made me a somebody, and people noticed me too.
Without you now though, I’m invisible. Which isn’t even that awful considering I don’t want to be noticed. It’s just not the same without you around.
By the time my lunch period comes around, fifth period for me, I duck out of the side doors of the building and trudge towards my car. I don’t give a second thought to if security has seen me or not. I can’t handle the rest of this day feeling this way, being so quiet and empty and invisible. I miss you and your noise. I miss your hand subtly brushing against mine as we walked, and I miss the way you’d sometimes tug me into the bathroom, shoo everyone out, and kiss me like a secret.
I miss the way you wanted me.
I tug my keys from my backpack pocket and unlock the door to my tiny black Nissan Sentra, the first car my parents ever gave me. I hate it, in all honesty. My dream car is a huge dark blue truck, like a Ford or a Toyota. Unfortunately, I can’t afford any of those with my unemployment, and the fact that my parents won’t give me anything extra or unnecessary unless I work for it, like cleaning the house.
Sometimes I get people who ask me to babysit or run errands for them, which is nice, and I make a temporary decent amount of money. I was looking for jobs back when you and I were still a thing; I wanted to have money to take you places you deserved. I guess it’s a good thing I never did because we were never a thing.
And now, I’m too low to even try getting a job. Any moment I’m not at school or a session or faking wanting to be around my friends, I just lay in bed or sit around. Mom comments sometimes on my ‘laziness’, but I know she doesn’t understand. I don’t expect her to understand. Mom is perfect, pristine perfect, which is why she pretends not to notice dad’s drinking problem. She knows it’s there, but if she pretends it isn’t, then she can call herself the perfect wife for loving him without judging him.
I know she judges him.
I put the car in reverse, pull out of my parking space, and take off towards the beach. It’s October in Ohio, meaning Autumn is underway, but it’s still warm enough to enjoy the beach. It was one of our favorite places to hang out together. Both of us in bikinis, a blanket underneath us, and the sneaky way we would kiss and trail our fingertips over each other’s stomachs, and then our breast.
I knock the memories from my mind and focus on driving. If I keep thinking about you right now, I was going to lose the steadiness to my hands, and the calm way I am breathing. It hurts thinking about how we were, and now how we are.
I don’t even know if you’re okay.
At the beach, I grab the blanket from the backseat of my car and follow the path down to the sand. I lay out my blanket over the sand and settle onto it, watching the distant blueish green waves crash onto the shore. The wind is moderate today; enough to make my hair fall out of place, but not enough for me to pull it back into a low ponytail. This is the wind I love most, though you’d disagree and say the fierce wind is your favorite.
No one else is here. The beach is empty, lonely, the shoreline crying out for someone to fill the spaces left now that Autumn has come and school is in session. This is the time you loved the most. When the beach was completely empty, or nearly empty, and it was just you and I.
I hate the quiet now. It’s just me and the great vast lake gazing at me with hard eyes but open arms. I have a sudden image of myself standing up and running towards the waves; I fall, crash, get sucked in where no one finds me again. I drown in the thick depths of dark water, sinking to the very bottom to be picked apart by fish.
I sigh to myself as I force the image away. If Dr. Bailey was in my mind, she would tsk and jot something down on her clipboard and ask me why I feel like doing that, or why my mind has produced that image.
As stupid as it sounds, it’s partly because of you, and partly just because of me. But why, she would ask, and I don’t know how to answer that without giving everything away, and I’m honestly not ready to tell Dr. Bailey everything. If I tell her everything, it means that I have to accept the truth about you.
After spending two hours sitting and staring and thinking on the blanket at the beach, I head home. I’m still home early from school, a whole hour early, but as I enter the house and find it empty, I don’t bother caring. Dad is most likely at the office working and sneaking drinks, and since I can’t hear mom’s voice from her office, I know she’s at her work as well. It’s just me, as it always is, and somehow that is comforting, and somehow it just makes me feel lonelier than I’ve ever been.
This time, I busy myself with cleaning. The house isn’t that much of a disaster to begin with; I’m an only child, we have no animals, and with as much as mom and dad are gone, it’s normally just me around here. Cleaning takes me about twenty minutes tops; clean the dishes, switch laundry, vacuum, sweep, pick up stuff from the tabletops and that’s that. Everything is perfectly pristine once again.
I rack my brain for something to do; something far more productive than I’ve done in weeks, but I come up blank. I could do homework, but even if I do, there’s a chance I won’t stay at school long enough to turn it in. I could watch movies or read a book or work on some of my video editing- I opt for that, turning on my heel and heading towards my room for my laptop. I tug it out of my bag and carry it with me towards the living room, needing to be out in the open as opposed to being cramped in my room for the time being.
I open it up and wait for it to boot up, tapping my fingertips on the edge of it as I wait. Sometimes it takes a bit; it’s not a super old computer, but it’s not as though I can afford a brand new fancy touchscreen one like my friends. They all have a job and save the money. I’m lucky if I get anything from my parents for anything unnecessary.
When it finally boots up, I open up the video document of you and I last year at your poetry presentation. It was the first time you did slam poetry and you were amazing. I videotaped you so you’d always remember that moment, and I was editing it so it was clear and perfect. It had been a long project, mostly because I was adding in the other slam poetries you did over the year. It’s pointless now, but I still like to edit it. I like hearing your voice, seeing you move and speak, your face lit up with so much passion I can feel my heart burning in my chest.
I get to work, cropping, changing, taking out bits and pieces to make it flow together and take away moments in which you were talking afterword and pieces of us talking that I forgot about when I was taping it. Hearing you speak in these videos makes me believe you’re right down the street. I smile, I laugh, I gasp in awe when your poem sparks inside me like it always does.
After a while, though, I exit this fantasy. I save my work, I shut down the computer and I draw my knees to my chest on the couch. I check the time on my phone and see that an hour has passed, thankfully. Even though it hurts to have heard your voice like that on the video, it made time pass. More and more these days, that’s all I’m doing; passing time. I just want every second to pass by so I can forget I’m supposed to be living.
The door opens and dad comes in, and surprisingly, his eyes aren’t too bloodshot. I look over at him, tilting my head a bit with curiosity.
He tugs off his jacket to hang up, same routine as always, then comes over to sit next to me. “Hey, Mel, how was school?”
“It was fine.”
I shrug and look away. If he isn’t drunk, then what’s going on? Dad is almost always drunk.
“Mel, you can talk to me.”
“I know, dad, it was just fine.”
He sighs, almost disappointed. “Alright, well, I’ll go make dinner. Your mom is coming home early. I have something to tell the both of you.”
“What is it?”
“I’ll tell you at dinner.” He leans over and kisses my temple, then gets up and heads towards the kitchen.
I watch him go, completely perplexed and also a little concerned. I run through every possible scenario in my mind; dad is cheating on mom, dad and mom are divorcing, dad is quitting his job, dad got a new job somewhere else, dad has news about you… The list goes on and on until I feel like I might explode.
I wait a few more minutes before I get up and move into the kitchen, leaning against the counter closest to the doorway to watch him cook. I watch the way he cuts up chicken, seasons it, and puts it on the skillet. I stay quiet, but I know he knows I’m watching.
“Melody, watching me isn’t going to get me to tell you.”
I almost think he’s scolding me, but when he turns a bit, I see the ghost of a smile on his chapped lips, his face unshaven and surprisingly warm.
“Please, dad? You’re making me worry.”
He sighs, but then nods, turning to face me. The chicken sizzles in the skillet, and to keep myself busy, I grab frozen carrots from the freezer and mashed potatoes from the cupboard to set on the counter next to him before finally meeting his eyes.
For a moment, we’re both silent, matching eyes just gazing at one another. Finally, he speaks.
“I joined an AA group.”
I let that sink inside my mind before I can give him a response. “Alcoholics Anonymous?”
“You don’t need that dad-“
“Melody, I haven’t been sober in years. It’s taking its toll on your mother and I. And we both agreed that I need to sober up and be a better father.”
“You’re a great father.” I mumble.
His blue eyes well up with tears and he moves across the small space between us to hug me; a tight hug that, for the moment, makes me feel completely pulled together and not as if I’m tearing into pieces. I bury my face into his chest and let myself feel like a little girl needing her daddy again.
I didn’t know how much I needed that until he hugged me.
When we draw apart, dad puts the frozen carrots into the microwave to heat up, and I get started on the mashed potatoes. Helping him with dinner keeps my thoughts from you, and instead, I think about dad going to the AA meetings.
And it’s then that I decide that when I see Dr. Bailey on Friday, I would open up a little more.
Your eyes were darker than the woman sitting across from me; in comparison, her skin must have been a lovely shade of caramel, while your eyes were chocolate, sometimes light, and sometimes so dark they appeared black. It was my second favorite thing about you, if I’m honest, but I don’t speak it aloud, even though the woman across from me is watching expectantly with her clipboard settled on the knee that’s crossed over her other leg. Right over left, to be precise, and the clipboard is angled; left-handed.
She doesn’t speak. I don’t speak. We wait, the clock ticking ticking ticking almost like to the sound of my heartbeat. I feel like my body has been numb and is only now coming back, pins and needles spreading through my chest- someone once called this anxiety, I think. Or maybe that’s what you told me, and I assumed back then that you knew everything.
My own blue eyes side-glance at the ticking clock, taking in the time; 3:42 p.m and I nearly sigh in relief. Only 18 minutes left and I could be free.
“Melody, it has been 42 minutes and you’ve only managed to say hello and nod to my comments.” The woman finally speaks, her lips turning down into a frown. She’s lovely, actually; nothing compared to you, but lovely all the same.
I almost feel bad to be so difficult towards her. I imagine she must have a family at home, maybe a couple of kids and a loving husband or wife; someone who would pull her light brown hair from the bun it’s in and let it cascade down her shoulders. It must be long hair, and soft, maybe wavy? I occupy myself with these thoughts to avoid responding, but her patience is wearing thin.
“I understand the topic is not one you come willingly to discuss. Oftentimes when patients are forced into therapy by their parents, they show resistance. I won’t pry or force you to speak of anything you aren’t ready for, but I would like if we could talk about something, anything that may be on your mind.”
I sigh, a soft little sound just under my breath and dart my glance towards the clock again. 3:45 p.m. Only 3 minutes since I looked the last time.
“Alright.” I supply, my gaze falling on her shoes; simple small black heels with pantyhose. She was dressed professional, I expected that, but wasn’t it a bit cliché for her to be wearing the black pencil skirt with the blue blouse? Did all professional women wear the same thing? “I don’t think it’s necessary for me to be here. My parents made a mistake. They often do; they don’t know me at all.”
“Why do you think they don’t know you at all?”
I’m a little unnerved that her expression doesn’t really change. I know she wants me to talk about the real reason why my parents shoved me into this, but I’m not ready. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready; some things are just too hard to confront.
“Because they don’t. I can’t remember the last time my mom or dad took a moment to ask me about my day, or about school, though that doesn’t matter because I’ve been skipping it as much as I can-“
I huff, annoyed that she interrupted me, but I give her the satisfaction of answering it.
“Because I’ll never graduate, I’ll never succeed, and my entire existence is void.”
This catches her attention. She jots something into her notes, pauses to look at the clock and decides we have enough time to continue a little bit.
“Can you tell me when you started feeling that way?”
“I’ve always felt that way.” I admit, opening up a little more. It felt almost good… nerving shaking good. “Ever since I can remember. I’d wake up and just want to go back to sleep, or I’d think about the different ways it would be possible to cause an accidental death; I used to ride the bus in middle school and I imagined the bus rolling off a bridge we drove on, or crashing into a building.”
The woman makes more notes on her clipboard. A hint of a smile crosses her lips, pleased to have gotten progress with me, but I can see in her eyes that she was also concerned.
I look at the clock and I nearly jump out of my seat in relief. 4 p.m. I am free.
“Alright, Melody, that does conclude our session.” She stands, tucking her clipboard underneath her arm and gestures for me to follow her.
We walk out of her office, down the hallway and exit a little door into the main waiting room. We approach the secretary window, and the man sitting there smiles when he sees the woman.
“Dr. Bailey, what can I do for you?”
“Schedule Melody’s next appointment. Thank you, Thomas.”
He nods, looking towards me once she walks away.
“Alright, we have openings next Tuesday, Friday or Saturday?”
I tug out my phone to check my calendar. The first few times I tried hard to get away without scheduling, but somewhere along the way, I began to indulge myself by coming to them, if only to make my parents pay for something this useless.
“Friday. Anything after 4?”
“What about 6?” Thomas asks, watching me for confirmation.
I nod and he starts making the arrangements before handing me a card with the time and date on it. “See you then, Melody.”
“Yeah, see you then.”
Everything reminds me of you. I still have some of your sweaters, and you left your perfume at my house; I wear it every day. I’m not sure if you even liked that one as much as the others, so maybe you left it perfectly because you knew I liked it. That’s my theory anyway, why else would you leave it? Besides that, you also left all the pictures we had developed on my desk. I thought you were supposed to take them with you; that’s the whole reason we got them printed.
I stare at them now, sliding picture after picture to the back of the pile as I flip through them. I run my fingers over the picture of you; chocolate brown eyes, chocolate brown hair and coppery skin. You were always taller than me, even in middle school, back before you even knew my name, and you were so flawless. You still had acne like all middle school kids, and you would bite your nails while we watched movies in class and you were kind of obnoxious, but to me, you were flawless.
All those things about you, even all the faults, they made me feel smaller. It made me feel like I’d never be capable of being your friend.
And then high school came.
I shake my head at the thoughts, setting the photos down again. I trail towards my bed and climb in, curling the blankets tight around me. If I try hard enough, I can forget you for a little while. If I try hard enough, I can just sleep a while.
I don’t sleep. Your presence feels stronger today than normal; you’re running through my mind a mile a minute. I swear I can smell you in the pillow next to me, in the spot next to me where you slept many times. I swear I can see the indention of your body, and as my fingers reach to brush over the sheets, I feel my heart sink to find that there is nothing of you there. My sheets are still intact, my bed is clean of you, and I feel lonelier now than ever.
I get out of bed. I drag my feet towards the living room and plop onto the couch. The house is silent for a Sunday; the shades are drawn, keeping light from entering the living room, so I reach for the TV remote. If I’m going to be drowning in darkness and horrifying memories of how you touched me right here, I was at least going to do it with some noise.
I turn on the first show that pops up on my Netflix. I watch it a bit at first, allowing myself to lose my thoughts by focusing on the show, but after only a few minutes, my thoughts drift right back to you; your hand brushing up my thigh, your lips by my ear.
I shiver involuntarily just at the memories between you and I. I exhale slowly, focusing on the way my chest rises and falls with my exhale inhale and then stand up abruptly. As the show continues to exhibit noise throughout my ever silent house, I pace in front of the TV, back and forth. The movement clears my head a little bit, but only a little, because you’re still on my mind, it’s just less… physical.
The front door opens and my dad walks in, swaying a bit with the toxicity of alcohol through his veins. I don’t need to have known where he was to know he’d been drinking. He was constantly drinking, never sober but never blackout drunk either. He was a happy medium; intoxicated but still functional for the most part. I once watched him down ten beers in one night and he only wound up a little unsteady on his feet and his words a tad-bit slurred. He was still reasonable; he could still process thoughts and events.
Mom hates that about him. Sometimes, when they think I’m asleep, they argue about it for hours on end until mom has to excuse herself because she has another work call. No matter where she goes, she’s working. She does half her work from home; an office branching off from our kitchen that is almost always sealed shut. Sometimes we can hear her working through the door. Her voice has a distinct sound to it when she’s upset or getting heated; almost like an adult would speak slow and careful to a child while trying to hold their temper. Other times, she just explodes her voice shattering glass even though she isn’t shouting.
“Hey dad.” I greet a little begrudgingly.
He looks up at me as he wiggles off his jacket, hanging it up on the coat rack by the front door.
“Hey, Mel, how was your session today?”
I grimace, my gaze falling on the TV to avoid looking at him. He always had a habit of asking that, and I always gave the same answer.
“That’s good.” He saunters towards the kitchen, his blue striped button up untucked and unbuttoned at the top; I imagine he must flirt with other people while he’s out drinking. He always comes home rumpled up with his short brown hair a mess like someone had been running their fingers through it.
I don’t comment on that, though. My parents have enough troubles as it is, so if dad wants to come home rumpled and fix himself before mom comes home to see, or before she bothers to notice it in all honesty, that was their business. I have my own issues as it is.
I watch him as he moves across the room in that slow, lazy ‘I’ve got all the time in the world’ stroll that sometimes annoys me because I just want him to move into the next room. “What’s for dinner?”
He pauses, his head turning to meet my eyes for a split second and I have to look down hurriedly. I can’t stand looking into my dad’s eyes because we have the same color and same type. It makes me feel like he’s staring into my soul or reading into my lies; you had the same effect on me, except I liked it when you looked into my eyes because I wanted you to see my soul and see my lies.
Dad shrugs. “I suppose I’ll text your mom and ask.”
I nod and let him continue his stroll until he disappears into the kitchen. I reach for the controller and turn Netflix off, and I trudge right back to my room. I shut the door behind me and lock it before falling face first onto my bed with a sigh.
I’m not really sure what my life has become. My energy is low, my thoughts are overwhelming, and one way or another they always come right back to you. You and your brown eyes and your brown hair and that subtle smile at the camera; not quite genuine, but not quite fake, just somewhere in between.
My phone buzzes and for a second, I think it’s you asking me to come hang out, but as I dig my phone from my pocket, the only name that pops up is my mom. I don’t bother opening the text. I toss my phone onto my pillow and I situate myself so I can lay on the bed with my head on the edge tilting down towards the floor.
My own brown hair brushes against the carpet and I feel the blood start rushing to my head. I read once something about how if all the blood rushes to your brain for too long, you can die, and I find myself thinking about yet another way I can accidentally kill myself.
The funny thing is that no one knew about these thoughts until I slipped up in my session. You didn’t even know about these thoughts; I kept them from you because I didn’t think you needed to worry about me. You did sometimes when I was having a bad eating day; either eating too much or not eating at all, and I thought the last thing you honestly needed was to know that I imagined different scenarios in which I could have myself killed.
I know I’m too afraid to do anything drastic; I’d never shoot myself or slit my wrists. I’d never overdose on medication or jump in front of a car in the middle of the street. Actions like that show intention to kill myself. What I long for is an accident; car accident, hit by a car while I’m walking across the street in a cross-walk that says I have the right-away, accidentally slipping and falling and hitting my head so hard I just bleed out, or maybe even something not so crazy. Maybe something as simple as passing away in my sleep.
There was no one to talk to about these things. I can’t even explain where it came from, when it began and why it’s so important to me. All I know is that it started and it won’t stop.
The soft rapping of knocks on my door makes me get up, head turning upright so the blood rushes back towards the rest of my body. I stare at the locked door for a moment wondering how much time has passed and who may be on the other side. My mind entertains the thought that perhaps you’ve come back, ready to accept the words I said to you and tell me you’re sorry for even daring to leave for a minute.
Of course, that’s not the case.
“Melody, dinner is ready.” My mother calls through the door, voice neutral for now.
I know if I frustrate her even the tiniest bit, it’ll be cold.
“You never eat anymore.”
I roll my eyes at that. I know she doesn’t care too much about that; she just wants a reason to assert some control over the situation currently causing her more ‘stress’ than she already has. She spends more of her time complaining about work and how dad and I only make her feel crazier than she already appears, so that’s why I don’t feel the need to even bore them with the glorified details of my days. They didn’t even care so much about you, even though they accepted that you were a big part of my life.
“I’ll come out in a few minutes.” I reply, and after a second, I hear her huff and stalk away from my door.
Thankfully. I was beginning to think she might actually try to bust the door in. I brush my hair back, fixing the mess it had become while I had been hanging upside down, then slip off my bed to rummage through my dresser.
I pull out a tank top and polka-dotted pajama bottoms, tugging them on after I shed my outfit, and finally make myself leave my room again.
I move quietly down the hall towards the dining room and take my seat across from my mom and dad. Dad looks surprised I’ve come out, but mom looks smug, as if she knew I would come out if only to keep her from pulling out any tricks to make me.
For several minutes, silence ensues. Mom and dad eat; I play with my food. My stomach growls, begging me to eat, but I ignore it.
“How is Dr. Bailey?”
I look up when mom speaks, then try to hide a grimace at her words. The last thing I want to talk about right now is Dr. Bailey and our session. It’s not as if mom needs to know, and Dr. Bailey is sworn by client confidentiality to keep what we talk about between us, not that we’ve really talked about anything at all.
Until today, anyway. I just had to open my mouth today. Now Dr. Bailey is probably at home thinking about me and my suicidal thoughts, and the low self-esteem I’ve had since I can remember. Most kids have an excuse for these things; I didn’t. Sure, my parents did give me all the attention in the world, or the way I wanted the attention, but they were my parents and they cared. If they didn’t care, I wouldn’t be stuck in these therapy sessions to begin with.
I know my parents love me, but my perspective is so skewed because I don’t love myself. I don’t even like myself. I look in the mirror every day and I only hate what I see more, and it’s not as if I’m fat or disgusting. I’m average. I could stand to lose a few pounds, and if I made a better effort to wash my face every day, my acne may not be so inflamed, but I was average and that wasn’t bad.
I just thought it was bad.
I blink and shake my head. “It was fine, mom.”
“Do you want to talk about anything?”
Dad looks at me a moment, his blue eyes bloodshot, and I have to look away. He’s been a drinker ever since I can remember, but that doesn’t mean it’s never bothered me. I know he does a great job at holding his beer down. I’m glad of that because it could turn really ugly if he couldn’t, but at the same time, I’ve always been uncomfortable with beer.
Even when you were still around and we went to crazy parties and you wanted to drink illegally. I remember so many times I was the one dragging you back to my place afterwards so your parents wouldn’t find out. I didn’t know your parents, at all, but I assumed they wouldn’t like to see you like that. I didn’t even like seeing you like that. It made me uneasy, and you were such a mean drunk.
You never believed me when I told you, but you were.
I look up at dad again, forcing myself to meet his eyes.
“You know we love you, right?”
He gives me a little smile, an almost sad little smile. “Good. I don’t want you ever to think we don’t.”
“Even if we have a hard time showing it in the way you probably expect.” Mom chimes in, and for once, she looks almost loving.
I feel my eyes well up with tears and I nod. “I’m tired. I’ve got a big project to present at school tomorrow, so I’m going to go to bed.” I stand up quickly and retreat to my room.
Dinner starts out as quiet as it normally does. Dad and mom sit next to each other and I sit on the opposite side, actually eating bits and pieces of my food. My gaze flickers from dad to mom multiple times before mom finally catches on and exhales in that way that shows she’s bordering on annoyance.
“What is it, Melody?”
I shake my head quickly and cough before shoving a piece of chicken into my mouth. She frowns and turns her gaze onto dad, who gives a shrug and a tiny smile.
“Liam, what is going on?”
“It’s just, you know when we talked about the AA group?” He starts, waiting for her to nod before he continues. “I looked into it today on my lunch break at work and joined one.”
Mom is quiet for a moment, her startling green eyes studying him. After another moment, which felt longer than it actually was, mom leans in and kisses him. A real kiss; the kind that makes teenagers yell ‘ew stop it’, except I just smile.
My parents don’t kiss. They don’t hold hands or act sappy. They work and that’s it, so the fact that this apparently meant so much to mom that she kissed him, it meant something to me too. It made me feel like we’re all piecing ourselves together somehow.
She draws back and gives dad a genuine smile, one that lights up her whole face and makes her seem younger than she usually does. Dad smiles back, and his smile is warm and lopsided. He reaches to tuck her pretty platinum blonde hair behind her ear before they both go back to eating. The difference, I notice, is that when mom puts her free hand on the table, dad places his over hers to hold it.
It’s nice to see them holding hands. It warms my chest, and I smile a bit as I focus on eating my food again. Silence ensues again, for a little bit anyway, and then mom speaks.
“So, how was school, Melody?”
“It was fine.”
“Did something happen?”
I shrug lightly. “Katrina invited me to an Orchestra concert Friday.”
“That’s nice! I didn’t know you two were still talking.”
“Oh, yeah, we do. Not all the time, but we do. So I’m going to be out late Friday.”
Mom looks at me, green eyes studying me a moment. I don’t quite hold her gaze, only glance at her. “How late?”
“Oh, well, I have a session with Dr. Bailey at 6, and the concert starts at 7:30, but Kat said we should be there at 7:15. I’m probably just going to meet her there, and I’m sure the concert is an hour or so. Maybe 11 at the latest?”
“Well, alright. Just make sure you have your phone available.”
“I will, mom.” I push my chair back. “I think I’m going to go do homework now.”
I take my plate to the kitchen, toss my half-eaten food into the trash before setting my dish in the sink. I duck out of the kitchen and head towards my room without looking back. The Orchestra concert is no doubt only an hour and a half, which means afterwards, Kat and I will probably go grab dinner.
I know it’s a good thing to do. I need to get out and do something with someone, it’s just that thinking of you makes me want to nothing but lie in bed.
In my room, I shut the door and lock it before stripping down to panties. I tug on a yellow tank top and blue plaid pajama bottoms and climb into bed with my phone. For a while, I just scroll through social media, liking posts, sharing posts, mostly the blogging experience, but after a while, I find myself scrolling through your old blog and I sigh as I take in the date of your last post; September 6, 2015. Almost a month and a half ago.
I make myself exit all my apps and plug my phone in, then turn on my side and try to sleep.
In the morning as I grab my backpack to leave for school, I notice mom and dad curled up on the couch together. Both of them are sleeping; dad’s got an arm around her and mom’s face is smooshed up against his chest. For a split second, I remember you and I. We once curled up on the couch like that, though rather than sleep, we would tease one another to see who would kiss who first.
Seeing my parents like that both warms me and hurts me, so I quietly open the door and shut it without a sound to get in my car and drive to school.
At school, I park and grab my backpack and start the five-minute walk towards the cafeteria, since the parking lot is so far from the actual school. With so many sophomores, juniors and seniors that drive to school every day, it’s difficult to have enough space for nearly 2,000 students in one place. I’ve noticed that the college campus, which I’ve drove by far too many times, is quite larger, but I also know that there is more freedom with college.
My parents want me to go to college, that much I know. Anytime something in the mail comes for me about college applications, they try to make me apply, but I just don’t know if I want to go to college. You didn’t, that much I do know. You told me you just wanted to have a lame fast food job and spend the rest of your life having fun and splitting rent with a bunch of roommates in an apartment.
And it did sound fun. You had me thinking that’s what I wanted, but now, I just don’t know. School in general just doesn’t entertain me. I hate homework. I hate grades, and I don’t even know what I’m most interested in. Sure, there’s digital designing or video editing, but I just don’t know if it’s something I want to ruin for myself by making it into a job.
I enter the school cafeteria and track down Katrina to stand with her before the bell rings. Daniel is with her, and with Daniel is his best friend Stanley. As I get closer, I can hear the ending of Stanley’s sentence.
“…so I took him home and we kissed. We kissed! I didn’t even realize it was a date at all.”
“What happened?” I ask as I finally reach them, and Stanley turns to me with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen.
“I asked Jack Bottman to hang out with me last night. I figured it would just be as friends, but we wound up going to dinner and talking a lot, and then we went to see a movie, and afterwards when I drove him home, he kissed me goodbye!”
“Definitely wow.” Kat adds in. “I figured Jack was as straight as they came.”
“That’s what I thought too.” Stanley admits. “I mean, I asked him to hang out cause I like him, but also because I thought he’d be a good friend, so I think I just got the opportunity for a friend and a boyfriend!”
Daniel places a hand on Stanley’s shoulder, looking proud. “You’re growing up, man. I remember when you couldn’t even talk to a guy.”
I giggle and Kat joins me after a moment, to which Stanley gives us a playful glare before he fixes the braid his long black hair was in.
“It’s senior year. We’re almost adults, right?” Stanley turns the conversation towards serious, which makes me nervous immediately.
“Shit, that’s true.” Kat murmurs. “Almost four years ago we all walked in here for the first time as little babies. I didn’t know Daniel or Stanley; Mel, you didn’t know Maple or anyone but me-“
“I knew Maple.” I interrupt. “We went to middle school with her, remember?”
I hate Kat right now for bringing your name up. No one has really mentioned you in a while, not since they realized how screwed up I’ve been, but I suppose time goes by and they forget.
“Right, but you didn’t know her.” Kat reminds me.
“Yeah.” I let the conversation drop away, so Daniel picks it back up before awkward silence can ensue.
“Well, Stanley, I think you and Jack should double-date with Kat and I.”
Stanley grins. “Yeah, I’ll ask him! I have first period with him-“
And just then, the bell rang, signaling that students could now officially enter the rest of the school. I turn abruptly and walk off without the others. My mind is spinning with thoughts of you; we used to stand together in the mornings like this, so close our hips brushed and our fingers would bump. As soon as the bell would ring, we would scamper off to one of the empty classrooms we knew weren’t used for class first period and spend the ten minutes before the warning bell making out.
I hear Kat call my name from behind me, but I slip past the crowd to get towards the front and head up the first flight of stairs to the second floor. I head to my locker to switch out books so I’m not carrying every single one of my books and then head directly towards the next flight of stairs to the third floor for my history class. I settle into my favorite seat in the back and try to make myself disappear.
Thankfully, even though the ten minutes go by so slowly, Kat and the others don’t come to my class and see what’s wrong with me. I don’t want to explain that even just hearing your name still sends hot waves of anger and love through me. I can’t explain how even though I know you destroyed me, I long just to feel the brush of your fingers over my cheek or through my hair or even just brushing against my own.
You left such a large mark on me that I’m surprised it’s not physically noticeable.
In third period, pre-calculus, Daniel purposes moves his seat next to mine right before the bell rings so I can’t move. For the first several minutes as our teacher, Mr. Stenson, speaks about math I could care less about, Daniel is silent, but then he nudges a folded up piece of paper at me.
I’m grateful we sit closest to the back, or else I wouldn’t risk opening the paper. I’m already lucky enough that the school doesn’t realize that the phone number on my contacts form is no longer even set up with a voicemail we can access. Any messages they’ve called and left on our home phone voicemail can’t be checked ever since dad accidentally disabled our password. No one has bothered fixing it since; it wasn’t as though we used the home phone.
I unfold the piece of paper quietly, sighing to myself.
I’m sorry we brought up Maple in the cafeteria this morning. I know it’s a touchy subject. If you wanna talk about it, just lemme know, okay?
I tap my pencil lightly against the desktop before scrawling a reply under his.
I’m fine, you know that right? I don’t need to talk about anything.
I turn a bit in my seat and nudge the paper back onto his desk before turning to face Mr. Stenson again. He’s still rambling about goodness knows what.
For a little bit, I hear Daniel scribbling behind me, but I pay no mind until the paper is nudged at me again. I sigh again and take the paper, watching Mr. Stenson carefully to be sure I’m not caught before I look down to read Daniel’s horribly long note.
Look, when Maple left, it kind of took its toll on all of us. Maple was a great girl and we all know what she meant to you. I know you’re seeing some sort of therapist, and that’s great, but that person is never going to know what we know about Maple, so seriously, if you need to talk, I’m here for you, and Kat is too. We’re a group, you know? I’ve always got your back. We love you, Mel, just remember that. You don’t have to shut us out. We just want what’s best for you.
I roll my eyes a tiny bit. It’s not that I don’t believe them; I know my friends. Kat has had my back since elementary. Ever since she and Daniel began to date back in freshman year, Daniel has had my back, and when Stanley joined our group in Sophomore year, he was the first person I came out to because I knew he’d understand the most. They’re the best kind of friends anyone can ask for, but I just can’t talk about you when it comes to them.
I don’t know how to explain that to Daniel though, so I settle on a simple reply.
Thanks, Danny. I’m glad to have you and the others in my life, and if I need to talk about… Maple, I will. Just not now. I’m fine, I just need time.
I send the paper back to him, but as I do, a throat clears and I look up to see Mr. Stenson staring at me.
“Do you have something to share, Melody?”
“Oh, no Mr. Stenson. I was just giving Daniel his paper, it fell on the ground.” I lie, hoping he’ll buy it.
“If you can’t be bothered to pay attention, then you can leave.” His eyes, framed by thick round silver glasses, are small and narrowed. His blonde hair is slicked back, his dress attire that of a dark blue polo and black slacks.
“I’m sorry.” I tell him, then lower my gaze.
He goes back to teaching and I stay still for the rest of class. I stare at my paper and don’t move.
At the end of class as I go to move, Mr. Stenson gestures to me. “Melody, please stay after class.”
Daniel stands up and touches my shoulder lightly. “I’m sorry, Mel. You can blame me, okay?”
“Yeah, see you later Daniel.”
He leaves me, though I can tell by the look in his hazel eyes he is genuinely sorry. I know he’ll make it up to me later. I approach Mr. Stenson’s desk, my backpack over my shoulder and my notebook hugged to my chest.
“What can I do for you, Mr. Stenson?”
He frowns at me as he takes his seat at his desk.
“You’re failing all your classes right now. You’ve been skipping classes, and we haven’t heard from your parents or seen any written excuses. What’s going on?”
I’m a little surprised Mr. Stenson cares so much, but I decide to respond anyway.
“I’m just going through some stuff, Mr. Stenson. I’m seeing a therapist right now and trying to get better.”
At least the concept of a therapist might get me a little off the hook. It seems to work too, because Mr. Stenson’s expression immediately softens and he nods.
“Alright, well, if you need someone to talk to, you can talk to any of us, or your counselor, okay? We all know you’re a very bright student, Melody, and we’d hate to see you lose your Honors diploma because of some issues.”
“Of course, Mr. Stenson. Can I be dismissed?”
He nods, waving me away, and I bound out of the class and straight towards the bathroom. The bell rings, signaling the start of fourth period, my physics class, but instead of even bothering to show up late, I lock myself in a stall, sink to the floor with my back against the door of the stall and I cry.
I manage to make it through the rest of the day without bailing halfway through. Granted, I did cry through all of fourth period and didn’t really pay attention to any of my other classes except for my Visual Media and my Entertainment Marketing/Media Productions. I really love anything to do with videos and photography and technology, really. I think I want to go into producing when I get out of high school. A movie producer most likely, or the editor of the movies really. Anything that has to do with a camera in my hand and a computer at my will.
After school, I meet Kat by the cafeteria doors leading outside. When I skip, usually, Kat leaves if I don’t show up, but today, she looks both surprised and relieved when she sees me coming towards her. She tugs lightly on Daniel’s arm, who looks up and is relieved to see me as well.
“Hey guys.” I greet.
“Hey, you didn’t get killed by Mr. Stenson?”
“Nah, he just wanted to know why I was failing classes, so I just told him there were some issues going on.”
Kat tries not to let her expression shift, but it does, into part annoyance, part sadness.
“What, Kat? Is there something you want to say?”
“What, no.” She shakes her head. “Of course not.”
“I think there is and-“
“Mel.” Daniel cuts me off, and I look between them with a sudden realization.
“Oh my god. You lied to me, Daniel. You two are sick of me being upset about… about her.”
“You can’t even say her name!” Kat retorts.
“Katrina, calm down.” Daniel murmurs, but I let out a bitter laugh.
“No, I want to hear it. We’ve been friends for how long, Kat, and I’ve never made you feel like shit when you grieve.”
“But that’s the thing, you’re grieving over someone who didn’t even love you! She just used you, Mel, and you’re letting it tear you apart. It’s not like you were married, or even a couple!”
I flinch at her words. My expression grows cold. “You don’t know anything about what we shared, Kat. You only started really talking to me again once she left.”
“I didn’t like her.”
“You didn’t have to. You’re my friend. You’re supposed to support me!”
“I don’t have to support your stupid decisions.”
“Fine.” I snap. “Forget about Friday. Forget about anything between us. You have no idea what I’m going through right now. You have no idea how much I’m hurting.”
And the thing, I realize, is that she’s never known. I’ve never shared with her the thoughts of dying or the times I decided self-harm was a better escape during my first two years of high school. I’ve never told her about how hard I fell for you when you and I finally started to get close. I never told her about how being curled up against you felt like home; the same way Kat feels when she curls up against Daniel.
Katrina didn’t actually know me. She just thought she did.
I turn abruptly then, ignoring Kat as she calls after me. I don’t bother going to my car. I toss my backpack when I get outside and I start running; I run so hard for so long that by the time I stop, I realize I’m lost and very much out of breath and thirsty.
But it doesn’t matter.
You made me into that.