The Skeleton Tree

For the Fault In Our Stars competition.
Rowan remembers the days spent with her old best friend, Henry, who seems to have disappeared out of her life. Wanting to get their friendship back on track, Rowan finally realises why they had drifted apart in the first place.


10. 10

Henry died right there, beneath the Skeleton Tree, the tree where every single significant event in my life took place. I think I died right there with him.

They told me later, that the ambulance people found me, my arms wrapped around his body, refusing to let him go. They eventually got me off, to find him long dead, and realised they'd never have been able to save him. It got his internal organs, and his whole body failed.

I sat there in the cold, as he was taken away, where I was met by my parents, who had been called. One of the ambulance men recognized me, being a friend of my dad's, and called him. They tried to talk to me, but I just stared. I watched the police come, put tape around the trees, and search the area for weapons. They figured I was too shocked and bereaved to answer questions, but urged my parents to get something out of me. They took me home, and washed my hands, which were crusted in his blood. We sat in our living room, me still in my blood-soaked T-shirt, as I stared out the window. I saw the worried looks in their eyes, the whispered comments.

"What was she doing with him? I thought they weren't friends."

"Why won't she talk?"

"Why was she with those people?"

The first snow fell that night. Of course it did. It was Henry's way of saying goodbye, to everyone. He always loved beauty, and he made our world truly beautiful, so when I woke up the next morning, I didn't cry. I realised that what I really had to do was tell the police what happened. Raise awareness to bullying, self-harm, depression, bereavement and every other thing that Henry suffered from. He was a broken boy, ready to crack at any moment. This just tipped him over the edge.

I went downstairs, told my parents everything, who cried and called the police, who I told everything to once again, and again, and again until they got the story. They asked me why I didn't tell them. I told them Henry didn't want anyone to know, and I love him and respected that.

That's when I cried. The shock was over, the cold was gone. Everything was too normal, yet how could it be normal without Henry walking the planet anymore? I climbed out my window, and sat in a field, crying and screaming at the sky.

Henry was gone. He'd never get old, get a job, get married, or run away with me. He had left me in this cold, empty world. I was finally feeling just how he had felt. Alone, forgotten. The pain tore through me, and I didn't think I would ever feel okay again. There was no dignity in the way he left me, no bravery or heroism. Just a broken boy dying from a stab wound, just to be forgotten by the world. Just another kid dead because of gangs. People will role their eyes when they see it in the paper, wonder if perhaps someone should do something, but rule it out. Kids like this get into their own messes, of course they die.

Henry's dad was arrested for child abuse. Henry's friends were arrested for manslaughter, and all the other crimes they had committed in the process.  Henry shared a funeral with his mother, to which not many people attended. Everyone had given up on that family. It was dull and everyone wore black, and a lot of people cried. They didn't cry because they loved him. I reckon people just cry because the atmosphere is sad, and another child's life is wasted.

We moved away, to start fresh, just what I always wanted. I made friends again, who treated me with caution, but supported me. I grew up, I traveled, I did everything. But never once, ever,  did I forget Henry, the true love of my teenage life, and the Skeleton Tree that was there for all of it.


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