Casey!" I called, my footsteps automatically quickening to catch up. She turned her head around, features sullen. I had had a crush on her for years. How childish it seemed now, the word "crush". Nevertheless, I fell into a steady pace alongside her, my heart thumping as if I was back in middle school. I was never this confident. Well, I never appeared this confident. Now all my senses were on alert, and I knew for a fact that something was wrong.
"Hey Kyle." She gave me a smile that didn't reach her eyes, pulling uncomfortably on her bag strap.
"What's wrong?" I blurted, making us both stop. Right there on the sidewalk. Her eyes were a hurricane of emotion. Longing. Sadness. Desperation.
"Why?" Her voice was barely a whisper, and she coughed to clear it. "Everything's fine."
"Okay." My voice was unsure, and she bit her lip.
"I'll…" She trailed off, and I wondered what she was contemplating. Finally, Casey looked up into my eyes. "See ya."
Her body turned to leave, but in a spontaneous moment, I grabbed her shoulder.
"No." I swallowed, suddenly nervous. My eyes lowered to the cracked, grey pavement. She almost looked amused. Well, she tried to look amused.
"I…I want to talk to you. For real." My eyes flickered back up to hers but she looked away. I was very aware that my hand still rested on her shoulder. She tore her gaze from mine.
"I can't. Not now." Those should have been casual words meaning that she had somewhere to go. If it wasn't for the way she said it.
Her words sounded too final, as if it was too late for us to talk. Too final. My chest constricted and my eyes widened. I blinked, clinging to my composure. My voice broke under the strain.
"Please? It won't take long."
And just like that, she was powerless. Something changed in her that second, and I was grateful for it.
"Okay Kyle." We walked over to the swings to sit. Suddenly, we began to talk.
We talked about everything and nothing at all. After a while, we started to laugh. Casey's smiles lit up her face, and they were the most beautiful I had ever seen. She laughed, and with each joke, her mood lifted. Her muscles relaxed. She tossed her golden hair and her blue eyes sparkled. Then, I made her laugh so hard, she fell right off the swing and knocked over her bag.
Its contents spilled onto the ground.
Casey was facing the other way, rolling, for a spit second before she realized what had happened. When she did, she spun around faster than I'd seen anyone move. But it was too late.
I scooped up the bottle.
"Casey…" I didn't know what to say. What do you say when your worst suspicions prove correct?
"Kyle…don't. Don't…try…" She wasn't very convincing. And I knew. I knew why. She thought didn't want me to try to persuade her not to…not to kill herself. But we both knew what she really wanted. I needed to do something. And I did.
The pills landed with a sickening clank inside the metal trash can. She buried her face in her hands.
"Why now? I can't turn back, Kyle, I just…" She dropped her hands, and I watched the tears stream down her cheeks. "Can't."
"I'm not going to let you. I -" My voice was suddenly shaky and my eyes struggled to keep her gaze. This went against everything in my shy nature, but it need to be done. This was my moment, the one I had been waiting for since middle school. "I care too much about you, Casey. I've watched as guys broke you down and trust me, it was agonizing. Every moment of it. You have no reason to believe me, but please, just…" I couldn't. I didn't know what my next words could possibly be.
She broke into a sob, and I moved forward to comfort her. She leaned away.
"I…I can't…" I knew she couldn't. But really, I had to. I leaned in, closing her into a gentle embrace. Apparently giving up, she threw her arms around me. When the tears subsided somewhat, she sat back. Our arms still encircled each other, but there was a distance between us that allowed her to look at my face when she spoke next.
"When I was walking, I was trying to think of reasons…not to." Her voice shook. "I couldn't. Not one. I don't know if my brain had already shut down or what, but I couldn't think of a single thing to live for. I thought maybe, if I could just think of one thing, I could stop myself. When I couldn't, I thought that was it. Then…" She hesitated. "This sounds stupid."
"No! No, it doesn't I promise you." I tried to tone down the defensive not in my voice. She laughed lightly.
"You haven't heard the next part." I smirked and she shook her head. "I saw you. Yeah, it was idiotically romantic. But I thought maybe I could find it in you. My one reason." She looked away, but I cupped her chin in one hand.
"I'm not letting you go." Determination flared up inside of me, and I had never felt so sure in my life.
"And there it is." She smiled. It was brilliant, and radiated all the way through her very being. "Thank you."