The Hanging Tree

Daniel and Cassidy used to be best friends; until they moved to secondary school. Now, Daniel seems to have forgotten Cassidy, but a hand-delivered letter soon makes him remember.

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1. The Hanging Tree

The letter was hand-delivered to me today. I knew it was hand-delivered because my mum told when I came home from school. It was a plain cream envelope lying invitingly on the contrasting slate kitchen worktop with my name sprawling across it in cursive, flowing letters. There it was; the last letter I would ever receive from her. Cassidy; I didn’t know it at the time, of course, but she’s gone now, some place far away that I can never see her again. My mum was staring at the envelope with her mug of tea in her hands. She was the last person to see her; and she didn’t know she should have tried to stop her then. She does now.

 

I love my mum (but who doesn’t – unless yours is a drunk/druggie/home-wrecker, of course). My mum has this wonderful warm smile and work-roughened olive skin – I didn’t get that gene – which glows healthily, no matter the weather. Nobody cares like she does; she single-handedly supplied all the homeless with a blanket last Christmas. You couldn’t find a prouder son than me if you looked to the ends of the Earth. She’s proud of me too – for what, I’m not sure. But there’s never a day that she doesn’t tell me she loves me, or is grateful for what I’ve brought into her life. I’m not the smartest boy in our year, but I’m not the dumbest, so I’d say I’m (hopefully) in the top quarter. That’s one of the reasons my mum says she loves me: I haven’t got the knowledge to boast like the top of the school, but I’ve got enough brains to avoid the idiots at the bottom.

 

My mum looked up at me from over the brim of her mug of steaming drink. Her hazel eyes rested on my blue ones for a minute and a silent conversation passed between us.

“Cassidy delivered this here whilst you were at football after-school.” My mum told me, her eyes drifting back to the letter slowly.

“Cassidy?” – My mum nodded – “But… I haven’t spoken to her since we went up to secondary school. Why would she bring a letter here?”

“I don’t know, Daniel, but she seemed rather upset. Do you want to read it upstairs?” her face was full of concern and I nodded before giving her a tight, reassuring hug to stop her from fretting.

“It’s fine, mum. Cassidy probably just wanted to catch up or something, she loved writing letters – remember?”

“I, guess.” My mum smiled sadly, she had already begun to assume the worst.

 

Steadily, my feet traipsed up the old rust coloured stairs and I found myself at my bedroom door looking at the letter. I didn’t know it then, but I would leave my bedroom a changed man. My hand pushed open the white wood and I dumped my bag unceremoniously onto the floor with a humph; just like every other day. The navy curtains were blowing in the wind that entered uninvited, through the window I must have forgotten to close this morning and my papers that had been strewn across the desk were a messy pile on the floor along with the remainder of my wardrobe. I liked the creased effect on my clothing, which was my style (well, what I told myself anyway…) and I hadn’t used a hanger in five years. Girls hated me for it, they don’t like messy boys (could’ve fooled me, what with all those romance novels – not that I’ve read any!) and I’d often brought them over just for them to start work clearing my floors. It’s pretty obvious I’m not “boyfriend” material, or whatever the girls these days want from a man. The last girl I’d had stay the night was Cassidy, but we were twelve and nothing happened, that would have been weird. She’d liked sleeping on the left so she could look out of the window at the night sky. Cassidy had had a thing for stars since I’d known her, it was something to do with her mum, I think.

 

Cassidy, Cassidy, Cassidy, her name buzzed around my head like an infestation of flies. I had got to read that letter. After clearing up the pile of papers (basically shoving them altogether and throwing them in a draw) I perched on the edge of my bed, my blue jeans scuffing the fresh ivory sheets that awaited me and removed my shoes quickly. I had got to read that letter. But first, I should get comfortable; I threw myself back onto my bed, my head rested carelessly on the crisp, fragrant pillow whilst my socked feet dangled off the end. I guessed I should start reading. For some unexplained (now explained) reason, I was nervous about opening the letter, I had known Cassidy for ages and it was only because we’d stopped talking for no apparent reason that I didn’t know what was going on anymore, there was no reason to be afraid. They were just words. But nothing Cassidy said was just words, they all meant something, they were all meaningfully beautiful. That was her talent, her way with words; she could build a whole new world and destroy one with a single sentence. That was why she was my best friend. I looked down at the sealed envelope balanced on my fingertips. This was the moment I gave up everything as it was, this was the moment Cassidy destroyed a world.

 

With my fingers shaking, I removed the folded paper and opened it up so I could see the rows of elegant writing that waited for me. I started to read…

 

Dear Daniel,

 

I know it’s been so long since we’ve spoken to one another, but I’m about to do something and I need to tell someone about everything, about why I’m doing this. This isn’t fair to you, I know, to leave you this burden, but I had to make sure the person I told was someone I trust. I trust you, Daniel. You must promise me that if anyone asks for this letter that you don’t give it to them, this is between you and me – just like when we were younger. Do you remember when we used to go camping in the summer and I would read you poetry? Your favourite was always Griffin J. Haywood and my favourite… well, there were too many to count. Recently I’ve been reading a lot more poetry, and to make it clear as to why I’m writing I thought I’d include one of my favourites. It’s written by S. Collins, and it’s called The Hanging Tree:

 

Are you, Are you

Coming to the tree

Where they strung up a man they say murdered three

Strange things did happen here

No stranger would it be

If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree

 

Are you, Are you

Coming to the tree

Where the dead man called out for his love to flee

Strange things did happen here

No stranger would it be

If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree

 

Are you, Are you

Coming to the tree

Where I told you to run, so we'd both be free

Strange things did happen here

No stranger would it be

If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree

 

Are you, Are you

Coming to the tree

Wear a necklace of rope, side by side with me.

Strange things did happen here,

No stranger would it be,

If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree

 

Today I’m making my own necklace of rope, and I don’t wish for you to try and stop me. Please, don’t try to prevent me from doing this, there’s too much pain to live with. You understand, don’t you? You always understand. It’s not easy to be doing this, and I don’t need old friends trying to postpone the inevitable. So much has happened since I last spoke to you and I don’t think you can judge me well enough to decide whether what I’m doing is right or wrong. If it was you making this choice, I would let you go, because you deserve your chance of happiness. Trust me when I say I’ve tried to make the pain go away, I’ve read so many romance novels (mainly your favourites) to try and ease humanity back into my life but it didn’t work. I went to a psychologist for answers and he couldn’t give me any help to slip me back into the painless void that I once knew. This forever is unending – I don’t need an eternity – I want a deadline I can work towards. That deadline is today.  Daniel, I know I’m not making it very clear why I’m doing this (even though I told you at the beginning of this letter that I would) but I hope everything will become clear once you’ve finished reading this. In another life, maybe our friendship would’ve prospered and survived, but in this lifetime it ended long ago.

 

My lifetime seems to have ended long ago; it began when we first moved up to secondary school and our friendship drifted apart. I thought I had made a friend in Matilda Hodgkins, but I had never been more wrong. ‘Tilly’ – as she liked to be called – didn’t see me as a friend, she saw me as a target, and she was a good shot. I know you thought I had a way with words and putting the emotion into them, but I was also capable of extracting the emotion. Name-calling and rumours shouldn’t have hurt me, but they did, a lot. Every night I went home and cried myself to sleep. Every night I willed myself to rise above it and ignore her. Every night I wished you were there to tell me you would stop her. The name-calling got worse, and after Christmas we saw the start of the physical bullying. Where were you? I can’t blame you, not really, you didn’t know. I wish you knew. You didn’t have trouble making any friends (I expect you kept your love for romance novels a secret) and I saw you almost every lunchtime laughing and playing football with your gang of friends. Not once did you look over to see where I was; that hurt worse than anything Tilly did. It always would.

 

It seems I’ve gotten a tad side-tracked from the bullying scenario – I’ll fix that now. Tilly had a cruel way with her words and when I started crying, she started to hurt me physically. Her hands twisted into my long hair (that’s why I’ve cut my hair now) and would pull until the roots broke and a bloody clump would wave hauntingly in her hand. She cackled evilly; her voice still runs through my head over and over. The hair wasn’t the last of it, though. Matilda Hodgkins was renowned for her excellent kick-boxing skills. I never stood a chance. I went home every night with bruises on my arms and legs, and still you didn’t care. All I wanted was for you to skateboard over to my house and assure me that bruises were only temporary and our friendship was permanent. That was the last thing I prayed for before I went to bed each night. But dreams don’t come true, do they? Tilly never knew when to stop. You were watching on the day I broke my arm; I saw you. Before I ran screaming into the playground, Tilly had pushed me down the seven flights of stairs in the science tower and had stood on my ankle. When I got out into the playground, Tilly threw me across the playground, my skin shredding as I slid across the hard, cool gravel. My lip split, my ankles were butchered, and still she didn’t stop. A crowd had grown now, and you were in the front row. Why didn’t you do anything? Why? My thoughts were blurred like your vision without contact lenses and everything hurt. Tilly slammed my head into a wall; continuously. All you did was watch! Didn’t you care; didn’t you know that I was being hurt? You did know, and you didn’t do anything to stop it. I trusted you with everything. That was when I knew our friendship was over. For your benefit, I will assume you thought that after this incidence the bullying stopped. It didn’t – but you were past caring. Tilly continued to hurt me, steadily building up from the bottom of the spiral of pain again. Don’t give me your pity. If I wanted it, I would’ve asked. Yet, here I am, writing a letter to the boy I thought deserted me. Can you see how desperate I am now? Don’t try and stop me.

 

Now that that … dire situation is finished, I think we should move on to something else. I’m sure my home-life situation will spark your interest again? My mother had been cold in her grave for six years when you met me, and I was living alone with my father. He had severe depression when she first died, and I caught him tying a rope necklace when I came home from school one day (much like the one I have made myself). He saw me watching him and began to cry whilst I looked on in confusion. He told me he would never do that to me, that he would keep me safe and be a good father. The depression passed and I thought everything was almost back to normal again; the depression hadn’t passed. My father had been improving, his condition was getting better and he’d been taking tablets to help him. There had been no more talk of death since that day I walked home from school. But that all changed, far too quickly. It was night-time when he first lifted the boiling brew to his lips. I had awoken because of the deafening silence that didn’t belong here; my father snored like a caveman – you knew that, but tonight it was quiet. On the kitchen table I found a spilt vodka bottle and a wild-eyed man that couldn’t be my father. It wasn’t my father; not any more. Daniel, I’ve never been more scared than when he stood and walked over to me, his reeking breath reaching me before he did. He blamed me. My own father called me responsible for a death that I would never allow, had it been my choice. What can you do when your own father hates you, Daniel? When your father is drunk out of his mind, and he hates you? I should have run.

 

He slapped me across the face that night (my cheek stings as I remember it) and then locked me in the shed in the garden. There were rats in the shed; you know how much I hate rats. When he came to get me in the morning, I was a pale, hyperventilating wreck. My nails had bled from where I’d tried to claw the door down. He didn’t care; he yanked me up by the elbow and told me to get ready for school. You came and walked me that day – you didn’t mention my torn nails, I’m thankful for that. There was always a bottle of alcohol on the table now, and the wild-eyed man never left. It didn’t feel like home anymore. I wanted my mother and father back; one of them could never be saved…but the other could be. Daniel, you have no idea how hard I wished to be able to tell you what was happening so you could help me, but I was embarrassed that you would think of me as weak and shameful. One night when he didn’t come home I almost called you, I was scared and worried that he might have hurt himself or was unconscious on the side of the road. You must be wondering why I didn’t call you, mustn’t you? I couldn’t bring myself to tell you that my father had turned out like yours. Our fathers were drunks. If I told you that then you would hate me for bringing back demons from your past – ones that were more than nightmares. How did your mother keep her sanity when your father died, Daniel? Couldn’t she have helped my father? Sorry, I didn’t mean to accuse your mother like that. There was another reason I couldn’t tell you, and it makes me burn with hatred and embarrassment whenever I think about it. He had a friend, my father – a new friend.

 

This ‘friend’ was called Ray and he worked with my father at the factory in the management section. I didn’t think too much of it at first, I thought he could help my father get better – well, that’s what I let myself believe. It didn’t start until we were in our second year of secondary school, and at times I wonder why it started at all. Ray was at our house all the time – my father didn’t care or notice because he was out of his mind, all the time. I noticed. He wouldn’t stop looking at me, I used to have to wait until the early hours of the morning before I could shower because I didn’t like the way he stared at me with an ugly hunger in his endless eyes. It started with the occasional brush of an arm, or a careful moving of my hair (another reason I cut it short) but soon he would wait outside my bedroom until I came out for dinner and would try and catch my hand, or hold my waist. There was no lock on my bedroom door, but he didn’t do anything too indecent yet. When we ate dinner he would rest his hand on my knee and I would shrug it off and eat quickly so I could leave. Daniel, if you were there I wouldn’t have needed to worry; if we had still been talking I would have been able to stay over at yours for however long I needed. Don’t lecture me on not calling the social services or Child Line, I would’ve lost my father and been given up to a family who didn’t want, or need me. My father may be a drunk, but he’s still my father.

 

The day I got Ray out of the house wasn’t a beautiful one. Hailstones were falling like tiny meteorites from space and I was in the kitchen cooking bolognaise from old meat and sour tomato juice. My father was out cold on the sofa in the front room and I was alone in the kitchen. It felt good to be alone, cooking away the pain from school and home. Of course, that didn’t last long and Ray soon found a way to destroy the happiness I had found from the solitude of the hailstones. He came up behind me and whispered my name in my ear, his dirty greasy hands gripping my waist. I turned with the wooden spoon in my hand, burning my arm across the blue flames as I did, but I didn’t say anything. Silence was my only weapon. He started saying things, dreadful things, Daniel. Do you remember when I told you I’d promised myself to never kick a boy between the legs? I broke that promise… and I hit him over the head with the wooden spoon… and bit his thumb when he tried to take my face in his hands. That’s when I ran. I ran past your house with the hailstones pounding against my sore skin like bullets from a gun, and I didn’t even stop to look. No thoughts whispered in my head telling me to go back because there was nothing left for me, there was nothing stopping me from running on and on and on until I reached somewhere safe; nothing except for Tilly.

 

Tilly was standing in the hailstones like Satan awaiting the arrival of another fallen angel. No, she was Satan. She saw me before I had the chance to escape and galloped over with a menace in her entire set of facial features. Cruel, arched eyebrows; thin, stretched lips; harsh, cold eyes – there was no humanity left in this soul, had there ever been any in the first place. Outside of school, there were no rules Tilly had to sneak past, and she knew it – oh, yes she did. My head was slammed into the lamppost, my fingers snapped backwards on my hands, my legs kicked until I collapsed. Daniel, it was terrible. By the time Tilly had finished the hailstones had stopped and a sneering rainbow gazed down at me. I used to love rainbows (do you remember our childish quests for the pots of gold?) but now they’re just another reminder of the false beauty we think the world possesses. I guess there must be some beauty in it though, because when I limped back into the house Ray was gone. Nothing of his was left. He had really gone. If I hadn’t just had my insides churned into sausage meat, I would’ve celebrated, I would’ve cheered. But Ray never fully disappeared – I saw him watching me from outside the school gates, or the bottom of my road. Each day he tried to move closer, and each day he failed. I always made sure I walked directly in front or behind the rugby team, they wouldn’t let a strange man touch a helpless school girl. If we had still been friends, I would’ve walked with you – and then I would have felt really safe.

 

I think it’s time I told you the truth, after all I’m never going to get another chance to tell you this. Please promise me that after you’ve read this, you won’t try and stop me from doing this – I know you, and I know you will try. Honour my last wish, please.

 

Daniel, I have loved you since the moment I met you. At first, it was a sisterly love, but it progressed into something more and I didn’t know how to tell you. I wish I could’ve told you on a day that won’t be my last and I wish you loved me back. I know you never will. Tonya Hurley said this in her book Ghostgirl: “Being in love with someone who doesn't even know you exist isn’t the worst thing in the world.” But you do know I exist and that’s what makes this so painful. You might think I’m okay, but I’m not fine at all. All this time you didn’t even suspect a thing, I didn’t realise I was so good at hiding what I feel. If you had known, would you have pretended you loved me? Or would you look at me indifferently as if you had known it all along? Love is cruel, Daniel, I know that all too well. Please, don’t trick yourself into thinking that you love me back – I know you don’t. I’ve seen the way you look at Sophia Grettle; such an ugly last name for a beautiful girl, unless you change it to your own. Sophia Hampshire…how does that sound, Daniel? You’ve loved Sophia for a long time now, haven’t you? It broke my heart into a thousand sharp shards that pierced my soul when I first realised. But I understand; we’re all invisible to the one we crave the most. This was the reason I had to separate myself from you as much as possible – how do you spend your days with someone who can never love you? I said love is cruel, Daniel, but I meant unrequited love is cruel. Love itself is free, soaring, wonderful and alive.  I won’t be alive for much longer, but that isn’t because I didn’t get any love in this life. I had love from my mother, I had love (once) from my father and I had love from you, even if you didn’t love me in the way I desired. Thank you, Daniel, for giving me the longest lasting love I’ve ever known. Even though you were never truly mine, I’m letting you go, like I’m letting the rest of the world go. You were the one light in a dark sky, Daniel, and I can’t ever repay you for that. I love you.

 

My cheeks are wet now with the tears I shouldn’t weep for you, but I still think you should know where I’ll be saying good-bye. Don’t try and stop me, Daniel – what else can I do to stop this suffering? If you did stop me, how would you delete all of my problems? The bullying, my father, Ray, my wild feelings for you that will destroy the last piece of normalcy I had. There’s an end to every story, and it looks like this is my final page. Don’t create an epilogue of more pain. I’ve suffered enough; I go willingly to the sequel of life. But if you want to know where my empty frame shall rest, just look at the tree outside the detention hall at school. I chose this place because I know Tilly has a detention there today. I wonder if she’ll enjoy watching me die; she always loved causing me pain, surely she will be victorious at my end. I shall join the murderer of three, the dead man whose love didn’t flee at the place where we used to meet. Do you remember sitting in that tree when we were younger, watching the older children playing in the sun? We couldn’t wait to join them. Everything changed, and maybe it’s for the better – I knew I could never be yours. So please forgive me for making this treacherous necklace that will separate us forever and be thankful for the few years we spent together. Your heart belongs with someone who isn’t a broken, scared mess, but with a girl whom you know can make you smile. I wish I could have been that girl, but I know now that I never could be. We used to walk the same path once, but now we’ve reached the fork in the road that shall separate us. You are in my heart until my heart no longer sings; and in my mind until my mind no longer thinks. But most of all, you are in me until I cease to be.

 

I love you,

Cassidy

 

P.S. I left you something in the chest beneath the willow tree; I had to move the chest from our usual tree when I realised what I would be using it for and I hope you forgive me for that – but I couldn’t risk you seeing me without a feather of life within me.

 

P. P. S. Don’t forget me.

 

I put down the letter and let a large breath flow from my nostrils. Cassidy; she’s gone. Slowly my hands reached my face and I wiped away the loose beads of water that I hadn’t noticed trickling down my cheeks and nose. My gaze rested heavily on the sheets of paper that held handwriting so familiar it could’ve been my own. These had been her last words. She had given them to me – after all that time I hadn’t even looked her way! I should’ve stopped her, I knew that. But I respected her enough to know that even if I had stopped her, she wouldn’t have been happy. I wouldn’t have been saving her. I would’ve destroyed her. It became clear why the letter had to be hand-delivered; had it not, it would’ve been too late, a good-bye lost on the wind of sorrow. She had left me something. Something was resting in that chest beneath the willow tree. I knew exactly which willow tree she had been talking about. I didn’t even bother to put on a jacket I was so desperate to find out what it was that was lurking in that chest. When I ran downstairs my mum only had to glance at me to realise what had happened. Her hand went to her mouth, and I wish I’d comforted her – but Cassidy had left me something that had to have been especially important to her. It was my responsibility to find it and treasure it. That was Cassidy, she never asked for anything.

 

As my feet flew down our road, I saw the Ray fellow that Cassidy had confessed about. I knew who he was; he was the head of the Cutlery Factory in the south of town. And he had hurt Cassidy. My fist locked onto his jaw the second I reached him.

“What the actual f-” I had cut him off by shoving my fist into his stomach with enough force to have sent him sprawling onto the greying concrete pavement.

“It’s your fault Cassidy’s gone!” I spat at him, giving him a quick kick before hurrying on to the tree. I didn’t turn back to see if he’d managed to stand up, or was following me. I didn’t care if he was; I would’ve sent him straight to Satan’s front door if I’d been given the chance. This wasn’t about Ray though, this was about Cassidy, and I needed to find out what she had left me. She could’ve left me anything; there was a whole variety of things she had owned that spoke of our friendship from when we were younger. I had begun to wonder whether going to the willow tree would help the situation. Our friendship hadn’t been in practice for years, and now she wanted me to have this huge burden on my shoulders whilst she escaped to somewhere far away. That wasn’t fair; but neither was life – Cassidy had served her sentence, her pain was over now.

 

The old iron gates screamed as I pushed them open, and flakes of black paint caressed my skin soothingly as I surged forward towards the grove of trees in which the willow stood. The grove was glorious in the dappled sunlight of autumn and the birds were singing a tune that told of longing and grieving. Cassidy hadn’t bothered to bury the old burgundy chest; instead she’d left it in the weaving caverns of the willow’s roots that spread shallowly across the centre of the grove. I didn’t hesitate to open it. Nostalgia hit me like a tsunami and I couldn’t breathe as items from my past swam up into my vision hauntingly. There were the matching toy bears we’d bought at the old museum; the many plaited friendship bracelets we always lost; the photo albums marking each year of our friendship… There wouldn’t be another. Tucked away from my prying eyes rested a rolled up piece of paper (from the same stationery as the stuff the letter was written on) with a frayed ribbon tied around its middle. I pulled it out gently, positive that this was it. It wasn’t another letter, was it? No, it wasn’t. Once I’d unrolled the top of the paper, I realised what it was – our list for our roadtrip from when we were younger. We’d written it in this very grove when we were nine and had made each other swear that we’d do it together when we had enough money. Slowly, I completely unrolled the paper and a small box fell out from its hiding place. Curious, I stared at it for a while before taking it in my hand and looking it over. I knew this box, it was the one that Cassidy’s necklace came in – I knew that because I’d bought her the necklace in year six. Our last year spent together. My fingers struggled to prise the box open, it had grown stiff with age, and the black velvet wasn’t easy to grip onto. Finally I managed to open the clamshell to reveal the pearl. A pearl didn’t rest on the royal red silk, but a credit card and car keys did. Oh, my God.

 

Car keys? There was only one person who would know which vehicle they belonged to – and that was Lucas. In a town this size, you don’t have many shops used for the same purpose and Lucas was the only car mechanic and dealer for a hundred miles. I went and saw him as soon as my legs stopped shaking from the crazy emotions running on a speeding treadmill around my head. Cassidy, it seemed, had spoken to Lucas a fortnight before and bought an orange Volkswagen campervan with her college fund (she knew she wouldn’t get the chance to use it) and ordered a credit card to be made out in my name – Lucas was one of the most trustworthy guys out there, Cassidy knew to go to him to sort out the details for things like this.

“So, you and the girlfriend planning a trip together for an anniversary, or something?” Lucas asked, wiping his hands on an old greasy rag as he finished fixing up the last few parts on the campervan.

“Err, no. Cassidy isn’t…my girlfriend…and she’s sort of occupied at the moment.” I replied, the toes of my shoes scuffing the oily floor ungracefully.

“Cassidy wasn’t really doing too great, was she?” Lucas tilted his head towards me and his dirty hair fell across his face.

“Did you know she was going to do it?” I had to ask, but the worry in my eyes soon disappeared when Lucas shook his head. Good. The bell from the front of the door rang shrill and clear throughout the shop, interrupting our conversation and I took that as my cue to leave in the campervan. Lucas gave me a wave and a sad smile that I returned almost instantly, it was good to have someone know how you felt (his twin brother had committed suicide as well).

 

The campervan rumbled along the high road happily and stopped pleasurably at the corner of my road where I took the road trip list out of my back pocket and began to read it.

 

Cassy and Danny’s Road Trip:

Go swimming in Lake Windermere Climb a mountain Try out every restaurant along the motorway Warwick Castle Buckingham Palace The London Eye Ring the bells in Big Ben Go zip-lining Visit every museum Dance in the Royal theatre Drive across the English Channel Climb the Eiffel Tower Visit the Louvre Eat macaroons Drive to Italy Get pizza from the Tower of Pizza

 

 

I paused for a moment and laughed, bless our little hearts. The list ended there, we had never fully finished it but these were the places we’d planned to go together when we were still as close as two crossed fingers. This was what she wanted me to do, to go on our road trip as we had always intended. I had to honour this as her last wish; I had to do this as one last act of friendship. As I folded the paper back over, I noticed more (recent) writing on the back. She had written a new list! This one wasn’t a road trip plan, though – it was a bucket list!

 

Get married to the girl of your dreams Tell your children about your best friend Never grow up Never forget Remember all the little things about each other Be best friends forever

 

There was a tick by the last one; Cassidy had never stopped believing in our friendship, even when I abandoned her and let her be hurt. This was true friendship, and it is something I’ve been trying to aspire to for years. Cassidy never left, not really. She would always be here as long as the stars shine and the sun rises, forever and always. I smiled to myself, grateful at having known such a remarkable young woman as Cassidy. She didn’t deserve the life she got, but do any of us? Maybe no-one but I and my mother can remember Cassidy Amicitia, but I promised her, I will never forget her.

 

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