I can't believe it. No, I won't believe it.
I should've guessed.
I bet you're getting tired of this. Getting mysterious tapes in the mail, wondering if it's from a secret admirer, and finding out that it's just old me. Right, Marcus? Right, Courtney?
I never wanted this from the start.
Well, I can't say that I'm sorry. If you've ever received tapes from me before, you don't deserve apologies.
So. Why am I getting another set of tapes, you ask.
Is this another "second set"? Am I supposed to be the guy who knows "all the secrets" once again?
Maybe Hannah isn't dead after all. Maybe she's going to pop out from nowhere and say, "Hey guys, you know I said how every single one of you made me kill myself? Surprise! I actually faked my death and you guys are now officially off the hook!" Maybe you're nodding your head and thinking, "So that's why she didn't get a funeral! Wow, I am so smart."
I would never do that. You know that, Hannah.
No. That would be plain stupid. And I'm not that forgiving.
Right. Of course.
I bet you all just feel like family now. How sweet.
Sarcasm is literally dripping out of every world she says. I can't help noticing how compared to the original tape, this one is so filled with hatred.
Don't worry. You don't have to endure my irksome droning for long. I'll make it quick. No jokes this time. You'll find out why you got another set of tapes soon.
I actually liked the 'dead girl' joke. It was funny. Ironic, but funny.
I consider turning off the tapes altogether. If it doesn't concern me, there's no use listening to them. Not if I'm the third wheel.
This time you get a whole tape all to yourself, so don't turn this off. I know you felt left out on the last recording.
My face flushes red, pink, and finally a deep purple. How could Hannah say that? I don't want a tape of my own! I didn't really mean it! It's bad enough hearing her voice after so long. Why does she have to rub salt in my wounds?
I poise my finger on the stop button. I'm going to show her. I'm going to stop the tape and there's nothing she can do about it.
Seriously. Don't stop the tape.
My finger drops.
Startled, I press a whole bunch of buttons at once. The tape stops, fast forwards, rewinds, and plays until I give up and finally just yank my headphones off.
The blond, preppy cheerleader is staring at me with a slightly vacant look in her eyes. We've never talked much, we had a few classes together at school but that was it. For a moment, I have absolutely no idea why she would be standing in my garage.
"Oh, you're using your Walkman. I was going to ask if I could borrow it," she says. Of course. She's the next person on the list.
I pretend not to know anything. "This old thing? Nobody listens to cassette tapes anymore. Why would you need it?" I ask.
Jenny's cheeks redden and she stammers for a while until she finally opens her mouth. "Uh, you see, I'm doing a school project on old electronic devices and you're the only person I know who owns one." I can tell she's lying. She's a terrible liar, even worse than Clay.
"I don't suppose you have a spare. Well, I'm gonna go see if anyone else in the neighborhood has one," Jenny says, slowly backing out of the garage. But her expression is doubtful. I know why. It's an impossible task. I own the only Walkman in town.
"Wait! I'll give you this one," I eject the tape and hand the Walkman over to her. Jenny looks relieved.
"Thank you so much. I'll bring it back as soon as possible."
When she leaves, I sigh. At least she didn't try to steal it, like Clay did. I would've been annoyed.
I pick up the first tape and wonder if I should just give up trying to listen to it. Then I think better of it. I need to know why I'm on the tape. What did I do?
So I head to my old Mustang and start the car. I turn the heater on full blast and shivering from the cold winter air, I pop the tape into the stereo, close my eyes, and start listening.
This time, I'm gonna go through each one of you in no particular order. Brace yourselves. First stop, Zach.
I remember Zach. He was the one who stole Hannah's little notes of encouragement.
Did you think you'd be first, Justin? Wake up, honey. Not everything always has to go your way.
Ouch. Hannah is harsh. But she has every right to be.
I'm not gonna tell you what number you are. Because if I did, you'd all skip to your number and get rid of the rest of the tapes. Which I can't let happen. How will you learn your lesson otherwise?
She's got a point. But I want so badly to just listen to my tape and pass it along to the next person.
Pass it along. Suddenly, I feel sick. I am on a new list of thirteen people. No, fourteen. And who knows which number I am. The people ahead of me have already listened to what horrible things I did to Hannah and probably hates me for it. Maybe I'm the last person on the tape.
So this is what the thirteen felt like.
But anyway, back to you, Zach.
*This chapter isn't finished yet, but it's going to be pretty long so I'm gonna upload my work so far for now.