Gone...The hotel room was dark. As I walked over to the table the money and the gear was gone. I touched the place where the dark canvas bag had been hours before my future was stolen away into the night. I saw a white slip of paper, a note I couldn't bring myself to read. Then again what did I expect from a guy like him? I sighed looking at what was left of our bridge game from last night cards spread across the floor a single ace hanging in suspense on the edge of the table. The shadow beneath the card lay over the carpet in the dim golden lamp light over the worn rough surface. It was almost like time was frozen looking at that card hanging there the smell of cigarette smoke lingered in the air. I saw my entire life on that card as I flipped it to the floor in an ungraceful landing. I trudged over to the bed laying down my lungs felt heavier than usual. I could feel sleep tugging at the corners of my mind. The lights were blurring in and out of my vision creating a golden mass of light. I felt myself sink into a deep sleep, when I woke up again it was later in the night and I heard an all too familiar voice.
"Psst." She said sprawled on the other bed.
I was shocked and stood frozen. It couldn't be. I tried to sit up but couldn't. I couldn't move. "Psst..." she hissed again. I started and looked over. "don't move" she said. It wasn't like I had a choice I stared at her. I was confused how could this be? Cassie was gone, I was so happy and then... I took a closer look...I saw her clothes were worn. The sky blue dress she wore was now grey with dirt and tattered with rain adorning her body the way a limp husk might clothe a rotted corn cob. Rips covered the once smooth fabric of this ungodly dress I saw upon Cassie. Her skin was pale, discolored almost white. The air around her was icy. The smell of burnt ginger and cloves burned my nose reminding me vaguely of a bakery. I saw that her hair was limp and wet, black...the kind of black you only see in your nightmares pulling you in surrounding her face in an angle that made you look twice trying to figure out just what was so strange. The blood in the veins crossing her body were blue her blood was...frozen and dead. Dead....I quickly realized she wasn't breathing as a cold chilling smile played on her lips. Then she began to giggle the sound grated against the silence a dry raspy crackle. The sound reminded me alot of waves crashing on rocks or static. Slowly evolving into hysterical laughter as Cassie held her sides her deathly thin arms clinging to her sides as she rolled on the bed. I barely recongized her laugh. Sinking,sinking down I went feeling so heavy I could barely sit up. She clapped her hands gleefully as she quieted. "You're dead," I whispered. She simply smiled "Hello Hannah."
Chapter 1 - Monday Mourning
So she tells me, the words dribbling out with the doughnut crumbs, commas dunked in her coffee. She told me in four, no five sentences. I can't let myself hear this but I couldn't stop the words from slithering into my ear.The part that stood out the most in my mind echoed through the empty space between me and my step mother- er ...Jennifer.
..Body found alone....
I stood frozen the news had not quite sunk in yet the words were still bouncing off my head around and around they swirled whispering. When they did my walls go up and I shut down.
It's not nice when girls die.
"We just didn't want you hearing it on the news or at school," Jennifer said.
I just nodded numbly pretending to listen...she couldn't tell the difference. I turned to open the dishwasher the steam floats out of it. The steam froze as it hit my face. "I'm fine." I lie. She reaches for the box of oatmeal raisin cookies on the counter. "This must be awful for you," she crooned. She rips off the cardboard ribbon. "Worse than awful please hand me that tin," she said.
I take a small yellow tin out of the cupboard and hand it to her. "Where's Dad?" I asked to break the silence. She pauses. "He had a meeting," she says. "Who told you about Cassie?" She groaned. "Your mother called," the lid clamped onto the tin with a snap. I pulled out the top rack picking up each plate they must have weighed at least ten pounds. My hands were shaking as I slowly picked them up placing them carefully in the cabinet. I leaned into the dishwasher wishing I could curl up into a ball between a bowl or a plate and sleep until spring.
I wished I could climb in, close the door and have Jennifer turn the dial to Scald and press ON. I looked solemnly at the remaining glasses feeling them vibrate with little screams when I touched them. If I squeezed them hard enough they would shatter into a million pieces. The glasses would burst into shards flying around the room slicing the air into pieces.
Here I stood putting away dishes like a girl... A real girl one who didn't have dead friends, one who was sucessful and ate like a good little girl. Miss america. Just knowing I was alive... it almost felt like a lie.
My blood pumped rumbling. boom,boom. My attention snapped back to Jennifer as she spoke the key word bound to catch my attention.
"...and your mom wanted-"
"Huh?" I said. Jennifer rolls her eyes.
"I was saying your mother thinks you should visit Dr. Barker immediately."
"No point," I said quickly.
'Why not?" She asked as she stuffed a cranberry muffin into her mouth with her sausage fingers. Jennifer eyed me suspiciously.
"Because me and Cassie hadn't talked for months."
"Cassie was your best friend," she said.
"Not anymore. I'll see Dr.Barker next week like I'm supposed to."
I flinched at the disgusting sight as crumbs covered the counter. Her fingers were coated in a thick, shiny buttery slime coating her fingertips. They passed over the counter grabbing holds of a napkin leaving a smear across the smooth surface.
Jennifer raised her eyebrows. "I suppose its your decision. You don't want to stay home? Your father and I would understand if you did."
"No it's fine. Really," I shook my head and stretched a smile over my face.
Jennifer looks at the clock. "Aria!! Seven minutes!!" She yelled at my sister who didn't answer hypnotized by the television.
She turned back to me. "Promise you'll talk to your mother about the appointment at least?"
"I promise," I said.
A long silence went between us. "I'm sorry but I'm glad you didn't hang out with her anymore," she said.
"Why?" I said. "Cassie was a mess she could've taken you down with her," she said.
I reach for the steak knife hiding in the nest of spoons. The black plastic handle is warm. There is Jennifer holding cookies. There is Dad's empty chair pretending he has no choice about these early meetings. There is the shadows of my mother hanging on the wall. Who prefers phone calls to face to face its alot less messy. Here stands a girl clutching a knife.There is grease on the stove, sweat in the air and words, words, words. We block it out trained not to see the reality of the situation.
...body found alone...alone.
Someone just ripped of f my eyelids.
"Thank god you were stronger than she was," I just nodded.
Jennifer, satisfied turned to little Aria who was now prancing into the kitchen. Aria sets her cereal bowl next to the sink.
"Did you remember the cookies?" she asks her mother. Jennifer shakes the tin. 'Come on we're late." Aria trudges to get her backpack and her coat. Her sneaker laces flopping.
"Aria lets get going tie your shoes," Jennifer
Aria looked at her shoes for a moment as thought trying to figure out what shoes were. She should still be sleeping, but Jennifer drives her early to school early four mornings a week for piano lessons and conversational French. Third grade is not too young for enrichment you know. Jennifer stands her skirt so tight her pocket gape open rounding her figure. She takes the coat off the back of the chair, puts her arms in the sleeves and starts to button up. I looked to see Aria still struggling with her laces with one shoe tied pitifully hanging onto the knot she tied. I swooped in.
"I can't keep doing this you're too old," I said with a smile. Grabbing the laces and fixing them.
'Yes you can silly," she said with a laugh. I patted Arias head as she beamed and turned away skipping out the door effortlessly.
"Wait emma! I'll be right there!" Jennifer said.
Jennifer turns to me with a hand on her hip.
'Why don't you have one of the doughnuts? I bought oranges yesterday, or you could have toast or frozen waffles."
Because I can't let myself want them. because I don't need a doughnut (410), I don't want an orange (75) or toast (87), and waffles (180) make me gag. "No thanks," I said.
"What are you eating for breakfast?" she asks. Here we go. "I'm not hungry," I say sharply. I can practically feel the tone of her voice from across the kitchen.The tone is sharp as a knife. It's an accusing tone one I've heard many times. Hannah did you eat today? What did you have? Was it good? Where's the reciept? Oh hannah dont lie to me. Hannah its okay eat, eat, EAT. Jennifer looks up to the cabinet where my previous meal plan had been taped up. It came with the discharge papers when I moved in six months ago.
A sour puff of coffe breath floated across the kitchen spalshing into my face. dont say it dont say it. "Trust Hannah," she said it.
The tape lines left on the wood were a haunting memory telling tales...tales of fights, screaming. Yes, the lines were red hot words thrown like vicious grenades in a house of beasts. Exploding with emotions and blame. I wave away the ghosts and focus on Jennifer . Jennifer with her brown hair, her glowing eyes. I see Jennifer with her freshly ironed skirt and elephant thighs. I see Jennifer with her pale makeup slathering her face in an egg shell white.. I see Jennifer with her dark lipstick and pearl like teeth. I see Jennifer with her briefcase hanging faithfully by her side. I see... a monster.
"I'll eat when I get to school," I say. Jennifer pauses for a moment as we look at eachother. The hornk honks it looks like emma got into the car. After two more honks and gleeful laughter from outside Jennifer sighs breaking her stare and the silence. "Ok," Jennifer says hesitantly. "At least eat something," she says. I pick up a muffin from a carton on the counter covered in a thick slime ., and two tablespoons of butter [ 75. ] I almost choke as the slimy food crawls past my tongue and down my throat sinking to my belly with a sickening plop. I feel that I have successfully overcome her suspicions as she smiles at me satisfied. I smile victoriously. Jennifer does not notice my expression she is too busy straightening her cuff.
This is how our family works we know there's a problem but instead of fixing it we throw it in the corner for a time out and pretend we don't see it run rampant. We pretend to not see the shattered glass and broken hearts. We do not see the waterfalls of tears flooding the steps.We do not see the fires slowly licking at our insides and the horns on our heads we are fine.
Jennifer is very clean and crisp always striving to make a good impression. Impressions...hah!
I am the whisper on the street and therefore my- ...Jennifer's greatest disappointment. I'm not like Aria the golden child of our family I don't play piano. I am not learning five languages like Aria. I am not athletic and I do not get a 4.0 grading average at a higher grade level than my class. Aria is Jennifers way of showing to the world that she is the perfect mother. I'm too busy thinking to notice Jennifer heading to the door until a gust of cool air rushes into the kitchen. I look up and smile.
Jennifer turns to me with a smile as she closes the door behind her. Now I am alone.
When I was a real girl, with two real parents and one house and no blades flashing,...
Breakfast was granola topped with fresh strawberries. At cassies house we'd eat waffles topped with thin syrup that came from big glass jars the real stuff not the fake stuff. No, I can't go there. I won't pollute my insides with oranges or waffles or scritchyscratchy shards of toast, ethier. Yesterdays dirt and mistakes have moved through me. I am shiny and pink inside, clean.Empty is good, empty is strong. But I need fuel I eat ten raisins (16) and five almonds (35) and a green bellied pear (121) (=172) the bites scrape down my throat. I take my viteamins and crazy seeds that keep my brain from exploding one fat white, and two poppy red. I wash it down with milk.
Silence echoes throughout the house except the metronome droplets drip, dripping from the sink are currently holding my attention as I pierce them with my eyes. The droplets drip, drip, drip in the sink. The steady silver beat is the pounding of my heart drip, drip,......drip,.....drip. The beats of my heart spread farther and farther apart as time slows down in my mind.
body found alone....
I can see the dust motes floating in the gray light of the morning leaking through the window. When the water stops I wait ... I stand for what seems like hours waiting, waiting for my heart to stop for my eyes to close. I wait to drift off into dreamland never to return. I wait to feel the harsh slap of the pale linoleum on my face as I collapse to the kitchen floor. I wait and wait... And nothing. Nothing happens I am still standing still...alive. And I am ashamed. It will be time for school soon but I feel no rush.
I stand for a few more minutes before I move. Finally as the moments tick by I decide to grab my raincoat pinning up my hair in a beret. The beret is a blue studded flower, a rose. I look in the hall mirror accented by the pale blue wallpaper. I look at my dark wavy hair and glowing green eyes. I can see my collarbones clearly engraved in my ivory skin and smile at this little triumph. The silver frame surrounding the mirror traps me in a frame like a photo of a princess long ago. But I have no time to romantisize. The cold air rushes at me surrounding my skin in an icy shroud.
I turn and close the heavy door using all of my strength. Trudging down the black driveway my sneakers thudding on the cold, wet concrete. The leather feels cooler than the air outside as I slide into the seat of my truck. A white pickup to be exact. I sit motionless. I turn the key slowly my joints creak reminding me vaguely of what a freshly ravaged corpse might feel like if she was alive and perhaps that is exactly what I am.
I'll truly never know, honestly it baffles me to think of what I am. I was a real girl once upon a time, one that could sing, dance and laugh but one day I floated away I just split in two. I don't remember much of those old days anymore. I don't know where the other half of me went. Perhaps I left it in my other pants.
The rumble of the engine filled my head vibrating up my spine. Thoughts drifted through the numbing fog in my mind. Alone. The engine grumbled louder now jarring me a bit. I imagined all the cogs and wheels and wires running turning furiously towards an unknown destination. A merciless factory of electricty and oil. The engine was like a loyal dog in blind faith doing as its driver commanded. My body went on autopilot. Perhaps my car wasn't the only one with a driver. At some point it begins to rain as the silence is filled with gentle pitter patter of droplets on the hood and the roar of the engine. As I approached a red light the red glowed in the dim, grey early morning. I watched the diamond rivet's run down the smooth crystal creating both an elegant yet rustic and articulate work of art swept clean by vicious wipers only to be started again. The diamond rivers shone dancing before my eyes down, down , down they went.The diamonds were hypnotizing. Seconds dragged by like hours and the minutes dragged by like years as I tapped my fingers on the rough rubber grip of the steering wheel. Tick. Tick. Tick. I want to wake up I want to curl up and sleep forever...
.. Darkness falling..
forever is a dream...
I closed my eyes only to awake to the harsh cries of a mechanical beast howling. My eyes blinded with a sudden green hue washing over my face. My heart is racing as I tense beats pounding in my ears looking wildly around me. My foot shot forward lurching my body as I scrambled to find the brake. I couldn't find it my foot just hit air as I slid out into the center of the intersection. The engine revved with the slight touch of my foot on the pedal as I slowly eased it again now going at a normal rate. This was a lesson learned as my vision grew faint and my stomach groaned I could feel it shrink another size. I couldn't drive like this I needed to rest pulling into the nearest BP station.
The air at the gas station is heavy with diesel and the smell of rancid deep-fryer fat from the McDonald's next door. Five days ago I weighed 101.30 pounds. I had to eat at Thanksgiving (pigs descending upon gallons of hot steamy slop polluting their insides.), but since then its been mostly water and rice cakes. I am so hungry I could gnaw off my left leg I am not hungry. I stick six pieces of gum into my mouth as a blast of Mister mango coats my tongue in a thick heavy syrup. I chew the gum into one giant wad of fruit and fill the tank. I am disgusting.
My timing is perfect, and I wind up in the biggest traffic jam this town has ever seen. The cars around me are driven by mad animal's fat with fingers like stuffed pork rings. We roll along at 3 miles per hour I could walk faster than this. They chew on their words spitting out mangled, gurgled sentences that in truth have no real meaning things like "how are you?" and "I'm great." When in reality no one wants to know and nobody is great.
Somewhere between Rose street and Route 28, I begin to cry. I turn on the radio, sing at the tops of my lungs, Adele and the voices of dozens of underground indie bands fill my head shredding my vocal chords until I feel like I'll never stop screaming. I scream and scream and scream feeling the vibrations desperate needing something, anything. I turn it off again. I beat the steering wheel savagely with my fists until I can see the bruises, and with every mile, I cry harder, it is no longer just raining it is pouring and my face is flooded with a sea of salt, saline and water.
…body found in room alone…
What was she doing there? What was she thinking? Did it hurt? Even in death she found ways to frustrate me. I don't remember how many times I'd seen her cry how many times she hinted at the void so deep within her that I couldn't pull her out of. But as time went on she appeared less and less. Till eventually she didn't come around at all.
Never again I said to myself. She found new friends to hang out and laugh with she was never alone. Her new friends draped around her neck like boas or medals of honour. She never did have people trouble. Guys worshipped the ground she walked on and the vicious populars faded in her new light. It was tenth grade when we separated within two weeks of the start of school. It was like every part of her was prepared over the course of middle school Cassie had always had boobs and by eighth grade she was a real knock out she came in first place then again she always had she was the queen after all.
Over the summer Cassie's Body had gained publicity and at sophmore year she was now the target of every man within five miles of her. Even I was awed by her Cassie always had to stand out and make some sort of scene. Her stare was intense, her eyes were striking, her walk was a saunter she screamed confidence so loud you could swear that you could feel it surrounding her like a shroud.
No girl dared challenge her she was lean, mean and in charge and all because inside she was disappearing it was all she had now. The night she finally called I had been trying to contact her for weeks finally she did call. I was the root of all evil, Cassie said. A negative influence, a toxic shadow. She needed to move on with her life, redefine her boundaries, she said. I was the reason she cut classes and failed French, the cause of everything nasty and dangerous for her mistakes.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
I was the reason she didn't run away her eigth year in junior high. I was the reason she didn't gobble a bottle of pills when she thought she was pregnant. I listened for hours when she was in trouble or felt like giving up unable to be stuffed in the mannequin shell society had painted for her. I understood what triggered her earthquakes, most of them. I knew how bad it hurt to not understand to be alone. I knew how much it hurt to have parents who couldnt see you even if you were standing in front of them stomping your feet. But remembering all that was too complicated for Cassie. It was easier for her to dump me one last time.
I could remember one summer in particular that was hard to forget. It was the very first time I was sent to the hospital we were just leaving the cabin at Okinawa Camp a stupid dinky summer camp our parents forced us to go to. The sun was hot on our heads in tan short shorts we both had returned from a successful breakfast our inside clean and pink untainted by food empty and strong.
"Hah you ready?" Cassie purred her eyes gleaming. I examined her blue-green eyes against her pink hair. I smiled remembering her mother's reaction.
"What am I being ready for?" I said.
"That," she said pointing to a sandy blonde lifeguard. The guard' name was Kevin he was volunteering he was toned and definitely Cassies type. Every girl was raving about him since we got here. I rolled my eyes.
"Yeah so?" I said.
"So naive, You madame are about to witness a drowning," she laughed smiling devilishly at me.
"Wait who's drowning?" I laugh in confusion.
"Me silly!" she just looked at me as our sneakers crunched over the gravel drive towards the lake. I remember passing the camp flag limply hanging in the still heat. I slowly let my brain process what she had said.
"I don't get it," I said pouting slightly.
She sighed exasperated and waited. I imagined it for a moment. I could see Kevin swooping in to save her with some romantic dialogue. Did you fall from heaven baby? Are you a star? Cus I'm wonderstruck.
I laughed and then I began to crack up giggling hysterically.
"What?" she said defensively.
"Could you get any more classic?" I laughed. I looked to see her smile and giggle.
"Yeah? Well if you're such an expert why don't you do it?"
"Huh?" I said shocked and continued, "Cas I don't know about-"
"No really I insist this is your time to shine," she cut me off.
This had disaster written all over it. There was no way she was getting me in that water.
"Come on go ahead it's not like you have anything to lose!," she said excitedly.
"Cas I'm not exactly the best actor," I explained wincing at the faint memory of the third grade play when I threw up on Tommy thompson's shoes.
"This is different give it a shot!" she said teasing me she was certain I wouldn't' do it.
"Fine," I said. She looked surprised I agreed and a little pissed. The guard looked over and I blushed. As she saw this she gave me a firm push towards the water.
I was nervous as I slowly approached the water my footsteps ringing in my ears as my heart beat faster. Crunch, crunch, crunch. There's no way someone like that would go for me. Did I even shave my legs? Oh no! I blushed harder thinking of being known as cactus legs.
When I did reach the water I saw Cassie inch closer to Kevin greeting him with a friendly smile giggling sneaking glances at me. I dipped my feet in the cool water swinging them back and forth. The water glinted in the sun almost gold. Cassie flashed me a thumbs up. I took a deep breathe and then...I jumped flailing in the water. I cried for help but Kevin and Cassie seemed to ignore me I heard parts of their conversation.
"What' up with your friend?" Kevin glanced over I was still flailing.
"Ugh she's such a spaz probably just messing around trying the whole fake drowning trick."
Kevin laughed. "But can you blame her?' Cassie said.
"Oh? what do you mean?" he said smiling his eyes now were completely averted. Wandering over her chest.
'Well you're pretty handsome if I don't say so," she smiled sweetly holding one hip flipping her hair.
"Not too bad yourself goregous," he said stepping closer.
She giggled touching his arm rewarded with a sly smile from Kevin. He stepped closer till her chest was on his. I couldn't watch aymore. I stopped flailing. She betrayed me it had been her plan the whole time I felt hurt but just as I was about to grab the dock I slipped.
Something was wrong a deep pain went through my chest the water was crushing and suffocating me. I began thrashing again but it wasn't working it was as though I was in thick syrup pushing with all my might.
It didn't feel like I was pretending anymore. I desperately tried to swim but my arms were weak and void of much strength and then my body quit and refused to move as I sank under choking swallowing water. Thrashing the bubbles blinding me as I panicked. I lost all direction my vision blurry from the green water more water pouring in my lungs choking. I screamed silently fading into the black of the lake.
When I woke up the emt-person and cop were frownig. My blood pressure was that of a cold snake. My heart was tired and my lungs wanted a nap. They shipped me off to a hospital with steely eyed nurses who wrote down every bad number. In pen. Busted me. Mom and Dad rushed in side by side for a change, happy that I was not dead. A nurse handed my chart to my mother. She read through it and explained the disaster. Then they fought. I was stressed/ overscheduled/manic/ no depressed/ no-in need of attention/ no in need of disciplin/ in need of rest/ in need/ your fault/ fault/fault. I was stuffed with tubes going in and out of my body like thick coils of snakes filled with white cloudy dreams. I felt like I was floating everything was foggy.
Cassie escaped as usual. Not a scratch. Insurance more than covered the damage, so she wound up with a fixed car and new speakers. Our mothers sat down for a talk, while cassie got her nails done at a salon, Cobalt blue, while I sat locked up sugar water dripping in my veins.
I didn't learn what happened till later while Cassie was flirting with Kevin a counselor found me and dragged me out. When they called the squad they learned I was under wieght. Later I learned they had found I was only 88 pounds in the danger zone.
While I spent what I thought was three weeks was actually 3 months of hospitalization. I was alone Cassie didn't even bother to visit my mom and dad just cried and fought about who's fault it was I didn't catch much of it though I was too busy watching gorillas dance on my wall while ghosts wailed on my floor. As usual Cassie had gotten off with a warning and counseling. I remember earning my levels of clearness because I was such a good GOOD little girl. That's it Hannah eat, eat, eat just one more bite.. please Hannah for me?
When my head cleared because I was such a good little girl eating every bite of mushy disgusting polluting food and getting as fat as a pig I was released from the hospital at 108 pounds. I cried for hours when I got home. This was how it was with Cassie she came around two weeks after I got home acting as if nothing had happened. Cassie was never the one at fault she never said sorry because after all it had to be bad evil Hannah who influenced Cassie not to eat. They found out after Cassie passed out at school from malnourishment. Of course since it was all my fault with peer pressure and so on she got no consequences just a warning. That's why she didn't visit why she didn't call why she waited two weeks because Cassie was perfect and so generous for showing wretched Hannah a second chance at being her friend though she didn't' deserve it taking me under her wing again building me up. I didn't see it then but I see it now when I separated from her all those second chances ended.
I didn't answer when she called I was too angry. But something happened between the dead time of Saturday night and the Sunday morning of the six months we' ignored each other, she called me. She was drunk-dialing, or prank-calling. I wasn't going to let her sucker me into being her friend again so she could turn around and crush me one more time.
I didn't pick up. I didn't listen to her messages yesterday. I
was too angry to even look at the phone. There's a dead girl on
my phone and she's still waiting for me. I pull over and reach
down pulling out the smooth cold surface of my outdated
blackberry. The screen flashed. [26 missed
Cassie called 26 times starting at 11:30 Saturday night.
Retrieve Voice Mail
"Hannah? It's me. Call me."
She sounds anxious.
Second message: "Where are you? Please I'm sorry."
Third: "I'm not playing, I need to talk to you."
"I know your getting these messages."
Cassie, two days ago, Saturday.
"Please. Please call me."
'You can be mad at me later okay?"
"There's nobody else to talk to Hannah I'm all alone."
"You're right it wasn't your fault."
Next: "Please, Hannah." Her voice was slurring.
"I can't get out. can't out." long silence.
Two more hang ups.
3:20, very slurred. 'I miss you. Miss you."
I sigh slamming the phone shut as new tears run down my face. There's no point in asking why, even though everybody will. I know why. The harder question is "why not?" I can't believe she ran out of answers before I did. I need to run, to scream, to fly, to start walking and never stop anything to overcome the aching pound of my racing heart. Cassie. Rain, rain, rain, drowning me. Was it easy?
I don't bother taking shortcuts, I do not forget to turn at the stop on the corner, I do not get lost, not even on purpose. I arrive at school on autopilot; late. The last buses have pulled up out front. I do not get out of the car I cannot move. Cassies at the morgue. Last night she slept in silver drawer like a throne like the queen she always thought she was.
I don't walk in until second period trudging down the hallway. My backpack has a whole new weight to it on my shoulders as I take in a deep heavy breathe the air feels thick like the very matter around me was weighed down by her absence everyone could feel it. No one really smiled it was quieter, different. The only sound was the flickering of rumors spreading like whispers baiting the air with the fresh scent of raw meat. I'd heard the rumors about Cassie there were several theories. Some say that she'd committed suicide after a fight with her mom. Others say she was raped and murdered in the hotel by some guy online and the other rumor was that she was poisoned. All the awareness of Cassie's death made other people more observant and alot of attention fell on me as though I were the living image of the grave. "Dead girl walking," they whisper perhaps not with their mouths but with their eyes. To them I am a ghost a repulsive thing. When I get close boys inch away. girls wrinkle their noses with steaey eyes and whisper.."What's your secret?" They chant this over and over taking me in pouring thier souls into my eyes hoping to lose that last ten pounds. The eyes of those girls wanting to lose to become skinny like me gives me a sense of private satisfaction and makes the rest worth it. I ignore my grumbling stomach telling my self. "You are strong" retrieving my tardy pass iIlooked to my left reading the maroon numbers and letterings that labeled each classroom.
When I arrive in Ms. Fletchers I shroud my face with my hair avoiding the stares. The last thing I needed was a staredown with a pack of vicious humans.Cassies friends glared at me the most left with no one to blame thier grief turned into resentment. Who ever told you humans had a sense of deceny clearly dont remember their highschool years. Always striving to be the best, the most popular, the strongest. Only top dogs survive in these seas and the waters were in an uproar flooded with heavy waves of midterms. The salty spray from the sea on the rocks were the whispers in the locker room. Old shipwrecks of broken hearts upon which sat singing sirens eager to draw in new prey. Yes here was your own personal hell I used to call home.
There was once was a day when little Hannah was not the failure she is today. She used to be bright eyed and sweet, well liked by everyone. Once upon a time Hannah ruled the school. With her soft wavy hair and understanding eyes "She's precious" parents would say. "She's hot" guys would mutter. Hannah knew back then the world was hers. Star of the soccer team, straight A's and all the friends she could handle. Days filled with secrets, giggles and moms cookies.The days when friends weren't a problem. I never noticed it before but perhaps the real change in my life happened when Cassie came. Maybe it was something in the wind but I just knew. When Cassie came to town she wasn't really accepted everyone had thier social circles. Cassie fit into none of them. She tried to make friends but elementary school politics were very complicated back then.
With a little help from me we became unstoppable soon we both were the most desired. We would sit in our tree house and plot crushes and parties, even sleep overs. We would go on adventures swearing sacred oaths and mashing berries on our faces, legendary sword battles in the back yard with twigs. Riding bikes and laughing all the way.
However these over bearing rather classic thoughts are not what holds my main interest. At the moment I have become hypnotized with the branches swaying in the wind, the rain running down the window pane. Aghast at Ms. Fletchers chin hairs. Im enchanted by the shiny point of led on my pencil. Anything to draw my attention. This will be a long class I fear. However, I don't sit in my seat long as Ms. Fletcher flicks her tongue poisoning my ears with nonsense of angles and rotations. The intercom comes over the school. "Hannah Rochelle to the guidance counselor's office." I pause to smile music to my ears. Once upon a time I would feel self conscious I would feel the eyes boring into my back. Once i had been shy about being noticed but after Cassie left I was stronger today was no exception but we all knew there was a different reason I held their attention. We all knew the uneasiness that filled the air was not for the usual reasons. This was no petty moment of silent judging this was a trigger of which I had two choices. I could pull it as chaos unfolds or I could shrink. I was in this moment no longer one of them no longer a student I was the best friend of the dead girl the proof that Cassie once existed. I represented something they desperately wanted to forget and they resented me for it. No one wants to remember not really we all cry and say well never forget but secretly we hope we do. We hope that the memories will bury themselves never to rise again to haunt us. Though try we might no one can get rid of places, objects or people we can only ignore them in hopes theyll go away. It had been happening all morning. I don't even feel the stares anymore as I get up almost collapsing surprised at how heavy my bag had gotten over the weekend. I shake it off padding down the long empty hallways.
Surprisingly when we arrived the girls must not have quite settled it was quiet.However it wasn't long before the guidance counselor opened the session and the girls turned it into a drama. I had expected bitter girls whining and groaning of days lost with thier worste frenemy a true production even bullshit himself would be proud of. None of these were her real friends not like I was. Though this moment has far exceeded my apprehension it was all my expectations had hoped for and more. Girls spun tale after tale of the times they had with cassie every moment of trashy movies, every bag of potato chips, every swimming pool, every football game, every party, every second of "great importance" vying for their time in the limelight. tears and tissues littered the floor. I sat on the floor meekly using my usual blending skills as I sat and listened to girls cry and share their experiences with Cassie. It was like I wasn't even really there as if I were something as idol as a clock on a wall. I let myself drift running my fingertips over the rough orange carpet until the counselor called my mind back to attention.
"Well if that's all you ladies have to say I think you should get back to class," No one moved some because of class most because it had taken us by surprise after being so comfortable.
I wasn't aware my mouth was moving until I heard my voice betraying my mind to be silent taking me by surprise.
"Is anyone going to the funeral?" Everyone looked at me a moment as though they'd really forgotten I was there and then talked with each other.
"I'm going," said one girl.
"I don't have a ride," said another.
"I can drive you," said a third.
More voices as i watched discussing carpools and moms, vans and older brothers.
"Let's go together!! As a group!"
"That's a great idea!" Said one girl.
"Yeah!" said another.
The counselor smiled. "Well it's great you all are supporting each other, but perhaps that isn't such a good idea grief can often mean to be a solitary thing." she said smiling. Nobody smiled back. 'But we all loved Cassie it only makes sense we go together." said one girl I recognized her as a girl named Kara. Her fiery red hair blazed against her pale face in the small room making her all the more striking. "Well I suppose but i suggest talking to all of your parents the guidance counselor said clearly impatient. After drinking cheap dollar store punch and eating one crumbly off brand cookie we were all ushered out of the office. As I turned to leave I heard a voice call me back. "Hey Hannah," It was Britt from the populars. "Do you wanna sit with us at lunch today to talk about plans for the funeral? Like stuff we're going to say and things," she said. "Oh, uh sure," I said a bit surprised. With a small half hearted smile I turned and walked down the hallway.
When lunch time finally arrived my stomach churned at the smell of the food drifting towards my nose. I'm starving I'm fine. The slop steamed rolling towards my nose in heavenly waves. It glistened with grease under the bright lights. Stay strong. I didn't bother getting any real food I just grabbed an apple  and a yogurt . When we sat back down everyone looked at me wondering why I was sitting with the people who actually mattered. I didn't bother to look though even I had to admit I felt strange. This was not my usual territory. The air felt different here. I sat for a moment soaking it in afraid to break the spell of harmony. The girls prattled on about whether we should match or say something together maybe we should make a cheer in Cassies honor. I said nothing I was too busy dreaming about princesses dancing in silver coffins.
"Alright step up," Jennifer said.
I stepped up the tattered yellow robe hanging limply around me holding my hands just so making sure the quarters I sewed into the lining of my pocket didn't jingle there were hundreds of them. My stomach gurgled and sloshed as I stepped on the scale from the 48.3 ounces of water I drank before being weighed. The cool steel weights felt strange in my underwear as Jennifer recorded my numbers. "104 you've lost a bit," she sighed. 104 far from dangerland I smiled in triumph as she put away the sorry faded torn notebook. Weighing me every Wednesday was a requirement for letting me out of the hospital my second time being emitted. She turned to me as she left the bathroom. "Put your clothes on quickly it's almost time for school," she said closing the door. I took this as my chance to place the weights way in the back of the bathroom cabinets hidden behind the bleach and shrugging off my robe hanging it behind the door. Now it was the moment of truth as I rid my bladder of all the water contents taking a deep excited breathe. It was time to see how all my hard work payed