The sky was a gloomy blue with the mid November air blowing against my body which I could feel even through my jeans and sweater. The leaves had changed from red, to orange, and to brown before they finally began to fall, barely any leaves remained on the trees but if there were still leaves not on the ground yet then they were on the brink of dropping. Winter was threatening to drop a snowstorm on us but fall wasn't reluctant to leave just yet.
Like most good days me and Arianna went to our park, but today Arianna just seemed like she needed to get out. The days seemed to get longer and drag us through the mud every step of the way, it had been almost two weeks and Luke was scheduled to come back to school in four days which to Arianna's dismay was too soon for comfort. Her nerves were getting worse but her she was, sitting next to me on our merry go round her blonde curls limp around her face hiding the depressed look that was edged into her face.
Her entire being was practically breaking down and she wasn't getting better anytime. Most nights we'd be lucky if she slept at least six hours, but other nights like last night she'd wake up in a cold sweat screaming at the top of her lungs. Her dreams always takes me out of sleep to find her flailing around as if fighting someone who wasn't there.
“Anna it's okay it's okay please listen to me calm down you're safe!!" I tried to scream over her but it would only make matters much worse, her eyes shot open and she brought to fist up colliding it with my chin sending me dropping to the ground and groaning in pain. But I pulled myself off the ground and yanked her small form into my embrace, she of course fought me with the little bit of might she had but soon realized who I was.
Her big hazel eyes found mine and she whimpered, "Ruby?"
I nodded and she laid her head back on my shoulder, I kissed the top of her head as she cried harder. Kelly stopped coming in after the first week of late night screaming, she hasn't been really handling the situation the best but she tried. The eight hours we spent at school were dreadful because the entire school knew Luke was found guilty and Arianna was accused of lying. Everyone took the time out of their days to remind Arianna of the day that destroyed every last ounce of hope she had left, the once joy filled out going girl I once knew now sat beside me completely lost and questioning life itself.
My head snapped up and I looked at her, "Yeah Anna?"
"Do you ever wonder what would happen if I was gone?" Her question shocked me and I sat up straight taking in what she had just asked me.
"Why do you ask?"
"You know I just thought that since everyone hates me now I think it'd be better for everyone who doesn't care for my existence now." Her bright eyes now dull stared at the sky never daring to even look my way.
"Don't say that, you remember that book I got us the other day Thirteen Reasons Why? That girl Hannah thought no one would care if she killed herself because most of those people were the reason she killed herself, but look at what happened Clay cared, others cared, some people actually regretted ever even treating her like crap."
"That was a book."
"Based off of an actual attempt at suicide." I stated, "She had people who cared but realized it too late, you have people who care and would be lost with you gone."
She contemplated this as her eyes searched mine, but in the end she looked way and back to the clouds, "I wonder where the clouds go when they're gone. I wanna go with them."
And just like that, Arianna was gone lost in her scattered thoughts and jumbles of mixed emotions. What about this conversation was right? Nothing. But what did I do to try and get Arianna to elaborate on why she was thinking about such a thing like that? Nothing like the naïve little girl I was. After a while it had started to get dark soon I pulled Arianna from her spot and yanked her to the car without a single fight or argument. The drive was silent except for Arianna's low breathing and the radio on low but loud enough I could hear what song was being played. On regular nights we would have rushed into Fanni's for our specials even though we'd already be too cold, but ever since what happened Arianna couldn't bring herself to face Freddie. Either he might think she bailed on him and hate her or she might be too embarrassed to face him with the truth. To be honest I saw Freddie at the trial he was in the back of the crowd, our eyes met and he gave me a sympathetic look which I returned but his eyes were already fixated on Arianna whose eyes were trailed on the floor. I never told her I saw him in that crowd but I wish I had because the longer she stays away from Freddie and Fanni's the more her fears of rejection grow worse.
When we came to our street Arianna's house was dark and Kelly's car was gone, "My place." She looked up and nodded, this was another new routine since our parents thought smothering us would make things better they took shifts on who would 'babysit' us each day. When my parents worked Kelly looked after us and vice versa, it sucked but we had gotten used to it, I parked in my drive way and made my way out but turned to see Arianna still in her seat.
"I love how beautiful the stars look, they shine so perfect I wanna be a star." She sighed and I made my way to her door and grabbed her hand, "You'll be the most beautiful star the shines brightly in the dark night sky one day."
"One day." Her words seems open as if she was questioning them, but before I could ask she climbed out the door and wrapped her arms around me as if trying to suffocate me. I didn't hesitate before I wrapped my arms around her too, she started to cry again and I didn't know why but tears began to cascade down my cheeks too. We stayed like that for maybe twenty minutes before my mom came out and told us to come inside before it got too cold, but Arianna pulled away slow and whispered in my ear, "I love you Ruby you're my best friend."
This was the first act of love and emotion Arianna had displayed in weeks and I know it sounds selfish but I'm glad it was toward me, I didn't know when her next display would happen so instead I smiled and cherished the moment, "I love you too."
Slowly we made our way into the house our arms still wrapped around each other, but once inside we rushed up the stairs before my mom saw our tears and made hot chocolate. Once in my room I laid down on my bed stretching to get comfortable and looked to my right to see Arianna had picked up the one picture I held dear to my heart. It was a picture we took at Caleb's going away party, me and Arianna had talked Caleb into letting us have some beer when Luis came rushing over with his camera. He demanded we take a picture before the night was over so me and Arianna took big sips of our beers and crushed together in make sure we all fit in the picture, Luis's arm was around me, Arianna, and Caleb's shoulders, Arianna had her arms around me and Luis's torsos, but Caleb he had his arms wrapped around my waist. I blushed a little and you could see it in the picture if you looked directly at my cheeks, but just as Luis snapped the picture someone at the party screamed 'Unicorn Placenta' which made all of us bust out in a laughing fit. So to say we look like lunatics in the picture but I always liked it.
A tiny smile formed on her face, "I love this picture its my favorite."
She put the picture back down and looked at me, "Hey Ruby?"
"When I'm gone..." I stopped her.
"Arianna I thought we had passed this.."
She looked at me, "Just listen to me. When I'm gone I want you to remember me like this girl in the picture, the one who was always happy in any situation, the one who didn't care what others thought, the one before Luke even saw me, the same little girl you grew up with."
"You're still that girl Anna, you just need time to heal."
She scoffed, “Time. Heal. That’s what everyone has been telling me time will heal the bruises that have been left behind. But you know what Ruby time must really hate me because it feels like he just left me behind and never looked back, screw time Ruby I’m done I just can’t handle it anymore.”
I felt bad but instead of letting me approach the subject she laid next to me on my bed and began to trace the lines and curves of my face, “I want to remember everything about your face.”
She started at my chin and worked her way up to the curve of my nose, the circles I call cheeks, to my eyes and finally ending at my eyebrows. I raised one eyebrow and she even traced the new curve of it, I didn’t stop her because I knew she was content so I left her keep tracing. The moonlight shone bright enough I could make out the soft curve of her cheeks surrounded by her blonde waves, I wanted to stay up all night just letting her trace my face but sleep was creeping up on me and I couldn’t fight him anymore.
Just as sleep overcame me I could hear her soft whisper, “I love you Ruby and I’m doing this for you and me, tell Caleb I love him.”
And darkness claimed me.
With a jump I woke up and sighed, I hate having bad dreams but I’m just glad I never remember them. My breathing was heavy and sweat drenched my forehead, I better be quiet before I wake up Arianna. Slowly turning over I came face to face with an empty right side of my bed, I leapt up surprised and searched the room to find no Arianna.
No answer. She’s probably downstairs with my mom, I thought and stretched my legs over the side of the bed waiting for the Crack sound. Walking to the bathroom I brushed my teeth and wrapped my hair up in a clip my bangs and some strands of hair still fell in my face stubbornly, I groaned but ignored them. I walked out again and down the stairs, still no Arianna, so I just followed the smell of bacon into the kitchen to see my mother sipping a cup of coffee badly dancing to a song on the radio. I giggled at her movements as she tried to do the right dances, when I laughed to hard she turned and smiled at me.
“Was I that bad?”
I nodded, “Oh yeah you were that bad.”
She laughed and placed a plate of eggs and bacon in front of me and it was hard to restrain myself from just digging into the plate with my hands. Biting into a strip of bacon an amazing taste exploded in my mouth like every time I had bacon and I loved it, but then I remembered the reason I did come down here.
“Mom have you seen Arianna?”
“No I haven’t I thought she might still be sleeping I hadn’t seen her all morning.” I froze and the bacon in my throat get stuck making me start to cough, “Oh sweetie are you okay!?”
I calmed down and gulped the bulge in my throat, “Yeah I’m fine, are you sure you haven’t seen her?”
“Yeah I thought she was still sleeping.”
“No I woke up and she was gone.”
She scratched her head deep in thought, “Maybe Kelly came home this morning and Arianna just decided to go home.”
“Yeah maybe I’m gonna go check on them I’ll be right back.”
“Be back soon there’s gonna be a heavy thunderstorm today so let me know if you’re gonna stay over there.”
“Got it.” Slipping into my Uggs I grabbed a hoodie off the coat rack and rushed out the door , I ran across the street and burst through the front door my breathing heavy. Once my breathing slowed I heard the snoring from the living room, there on the couch was Kelly binders and magazines thrown all over her and her hair in a messy bun toppling over the side of the couch. A giggle escaped my lips as I began the climb up the stairs to Arianna’s room, “Anna?”
Her room door was closed which for the past few months meant she wanted to be left alone so don’t come in, but I didn’t care I pushed the door open and found it empty.
“Arianna where are you?”
No reply. I sighed and sat on her bed in hope she’d be in the bathroom, I waited then Creak. I jumped to face the closet where the noise had come from, I reached for the bat Caleb had made Arianna keep next to her bed in case a burglar got in and she needed to protect herself. Gulping the bulge in my throat I and gripped the bat tight in my hands and then Creak, I swung the door open. Everything happened as if I were watching a movie in slow motion, all sound left me not even the sound of the metal bat dropping to the ground drew my attention.
Slowly my hearing came back as tears filled my eyes and the scream that erupted in my ears terrified me before I realized it was my own, my knees gave out from under me and I dropped. There before me her hazel eyes were open staring back at me, her limp blonde curls that surrounded her pale face, and the bright rainbow colored rope that wrapped around her neck. In front of me hanging three feet off the ground by the metal pole in her closet was my best friend. Arianna!
Feet pounded up the stairs but I didn’t have to look up to know it was Kelly, “What’s happening….Arianna!!!! Oh my god!!!”
She screamed and ran down the stairs the loud stomping of her feet and the door slam scared me, but my eyes never left her. Anger boiled inside of me as I grabbed the bat and bashed it against the metal pole until it gave way, she dropped to the ground and I screamed at what I had just done and why I had to do it. The rainbow jump rope around her neck was one I had given her years ago when she threw away the one her dad had given her.
I scrambled to my feet and lifted her in my arms, her limp form looked so fragile in my arms and it was almost too easy to lift her up. I cried as the blonde strands fell away from her face and collected in a bunch behind her ears.
“It’s gonna be okay Anna you’re gonna be fine.” I whispered hoping she heard me. In the distance I could hear the ambulance and police car but I just cradled Arianna in my arms rocking back and forth softly. Feet pounded up the stairs and at the door appeared two paramedics a young one and a one probably in her thirties, the old one pulled in a gurney as the young one came to my side.
“Sweetie I’m gonna need you to let go so we can get her to the hospital for help.” he whispered but I shook my head.
“No she needs me, I can’t.”
He frowned and pointed at me to the other paramedic and together they hoisted me and Arianna onto the gurney and carried the gurney down the stairs. Outside it was pouring but as we made it out the front door and by my parents and Kelly I saw the dead look in Kelly’s eyes, the tears in my mother’s, and like always my dad didn’t even bother looking. We were lifted into the gurney and it sped off, the young paramedic came to my side and held my eyes before either of us said anything.
“Is she gonna be okay?” I asked but he said nothing, “Please.”
“I don’t know but how about I stay with you until we both find out?” I thought how could he be trying to flirt with me in this kind of situation but then realized he was just being nice and helpful, I nodded softly and he rubbed my arm comforting me. It sounds weird a random guy rubbing my arm and yet I was glad he was, is that ironic? Yeah I don’t know. The ambulance stopped and we were yanked out and through the door, once there five nurses and doctors surrounded us but looked down at me and frowned.
The young paramedic looked down at me and sighed, “You need to let them take her away so they can make her better.”
I hesitated but let him lift me off the gurney and on my two feet once again, I glanced at Arianna and just as they were about to take her away I saw it. Something was in her hand and I had to get it, my hand clasped hers and they yanked her away her hand slipping from mine but a picture was left behind in my palm. My eyes roamed over it and my eyes began to water, Caleb’s going around party.
I flipped it over and saw her small and perfect handwriting:
I love you Ruby BFF, Remember me.
I gasped and felt myself drop but the young paramedic caught me and let me cry in his arms, he didn’t tell me to stop or calm down he just let me cry.
I slowly pulled away and saw my parents and Kelly rushing to my side, Kelly’s arms circled around me and her sobs flooded my ears. That’s when reality hit and my entire body shut down, they tried to talk to me but I didn’t respond because I couldn't hear them over the silence. Kelly pulled away and tried to look me in the eye but I resisted every attempt, at the end they gave up and let me drown in my sorrows alone. My head rested against the wall that supported me the same spot I had been in since we got here, I didn’t dare move because if they came and said she was looking for me again I would miss it.
A shadow appeared above me and there before me stood the young paramedic with two Styrofoam cups in his hands, he offered one to me and reluctantly my hand circled around it accepting it. It was a coffee and had just the right amount of cream and when I took a sip there was just the right amount of sugar, the whole time our eyes never left one another his eyes fixated on my reactions.
He snapped out of it, “Oh nothing just hoped I’d get you talk its been a while you know.”
“Wanna tell me your name I never got it?” He asked and I looked up to see my mother consoling Kelly and my dad talking with a nurse, I sighed and looked back at him.
“I’m Ruby and that girl earlier was Arianna.”
“My best friend.”
He frowned, “You seem close.”
I nodded but the tears threatened to come back and he must have noticed, “I’m Scott.”
“That’s nice, thank you for um being so nice..” a door opened and a doctor walked out.
“Arianna Taylor.” He called and I leaped up and to his side, my eyes searched his and he sighed, “I’m so sorry we tried all we could….”
He never finished because darkness came over me and my head knocked to the ground.
White. White is all that I saw. Opening my eyes hurt but after a second they adjusted and I found my eyes searching the room to find out where I was. The tight windows, the white floor and walls, and the hospital gown that nestled weirdly on my body all added up to hospital. I groaned at the sharp pain in my head and the urge to just take a Tylenol but knowing the doctors they won't let me have any.
"Ruby?" I turned over and saw Joey, he engulfed me in a hug and I hugged him back, his muscles had gotten bigger and his stubble had grown into a shadow making him look much older than he was.
He smelt like sweat and axe which made me gag and him pull away, “Sorry I know you hate my axe. How you feeling?”
“I’m fine what happened?”
He chuckled but it died quickly, “They said you fainted and hit your head pretty hard.”
I was confused then it hit me. Arianna. My eyes widened and he saw this and quickly left my gaze, “Joey where’s Arianna?”
“Ruby I don’t think…”
I grabbed his shirt and pulled him close, “Tell me where she is.”
He sighed and pulled away, that’s when i saw the tears that made my stomach drop, “Ruby she didn’t make it, it was too late by the time you got to her this morning she was already gone.”
The air was knocked out of my body and the numb feeling soon followed, I looked into his eyes mine filling with water and his already tipping over, “No she’s fine I made it there in time she’s okay Joey please tell me she’s gonna come walking through that door shouting ‘sike’ or ‘just kidding’. Please Joey please tell me she’s okay.”
His eyes stayed on mine but he said nothing, my heart broke and I cried and screamed. I think I screamed so loud the whole hospital heard me but since this was a hospital screaming was normal so no one rushed in, except my mother.
“Oh my poor baby you’re up, oh I’m here mommy is here!” She engulfed me in her arms and almost took the remaining breath i had left from screaming, “I’m right here.”
“Mom let her go you’re gonna suf-” He stopped mid sentence and my mom pulled away to glare at him, swiftly she smacked him behind his head.
“Don’t say something so hurtful like that Joseph that was very insensitive.” She lectured but he just rolled his eyes, “22 has done nothing to make you more mature.”
“Mom it just slipped by accident.”
“Well be more careful next time.”
I groaned, “Please stop it neither of you are helping God!”
They both looked at me and sighed, “I’m sorry.” They said simultaneously.
“When can I go home?”
“Well me and your father have to take home Kelly so Joey is gonna take you home but they said when you wake up you can leave.”
I nodded and she handed me my clothes, kissing my forehead swiftly she walked to the door and vanished. I quickly changed and met Joey by the nurses station, he grabbed my bag and led me out the front door to and to his old red pickup truck. I remember all the summers me and Arianna would sit in the back of the truck trying to get tans and laughing at the neighbors and the funny things we would say was going through their minds. The closer we got to the truck the more the tears threatened to drop, and like I expected the minute I reached the truck the tears began to fall as the memories continued to flow in. I didn’t care that the rain was beginning to drench my clothes and my hair all I thought about was the soft smiles and secrets we shared in that trunk.
A sob left my lips and Joey noticed, he had to carry me to the other side of the car and put me in himself. I couldn’t bring myself to look him in the eyes so I just avoided his gaze, he sighed and ran back to the other side and jumped into the car. Slowly my head leaned down again the cold window and I watched as we left the parking lot and got onto the road, I said nothing to Joey and he said nothing to me. But when the tears continued to fall Joey grabbed my hand and held it tight, I was glad he was there for me but I still felt as if his touch were a million miles away.
When we pulled up into our driveway I felt as if I were being carried by someone and not my own feet but I watched my feet slowly make their way into the house. Not caring I just walked passed everyone and up to my room not even my mother’s pleading voice could make me even stop. Once in my room I broke down, I groaned and yanked my curtains to the ground, threw my desk to the other side of the room, threw all the books from my bookshelf into the closet which I slammed shut. The mirror on the back of my closet door shattered on impact a few pieces of glass fell onto the ground but I didn’t care as I leaned against the wall and slowly slid down it. The sun was long gone but the little light from outside shadowed over my room allowing me to see the mess I had created, it helped nothing, trashing everything I had did nothing to make me feel better.
Shifting to the side a crinkle came from under me, I reached in my pocket and pulled out the picture. Our favorite one, she would use this one as her way of saying goodbye but now something about it screamed emptiness and the love that I would never have again.
Arianna was gone like a feather in the wind, and here I felt like a rock under water. Stuck and alone, the tears fell and splashed onto my knees as I gripped the photo in my hands hoping if I wished hard enough the girl in the picture would appear before me. She never came.