‘I’m getting along with Natalie and Trisha very well lately. They apologized to me about their preconceptions, which I had to apologize to them about in return.
Up until now, I’ve tried my best to make everyone think those very things about me. For me to all of a sudden wish that I hadn’t done so is arrogant. But, they’re really nice people.
In homeroom, I sat next to the window ready to sigh, but caught myself with a smile. There was nothing in particular to smile about, but Rose would tell me that that’s a better reason than any.
She didn’t show up at school today and I don’t have any way to contact her. Oddly enough, as it’s unusual behavior for me, the empty seat beside me made my heart sink every time I looked at it. School bored me more than usual and I started having irrational fears that Rose may have been in some kind of accident. It’s Friday, so I already missed the chance to see her for the whole weekend now. I’ll have to wait until Monday.
The rest of the day was a slog and so was the weekend. It felt like it would just never end. I couldn’t stop myself from remembering the image of her empty desk.
Luckily, she was back on Monday.
Rose was already sitting in her seat when I arrived at homeroom. Seeing her again sent a wave of relief over me.
“Hey,” I wave to her, but she doesn’t seem to notice.
She’s drawing aimless scribbles, unlike her usual artwork. Her expression is blank and she simply stares at her desk.
“You alright?” I put my hand in front of her face and wave it.
“Ah!” Rose jumps up, startled. “Oh, you scared me!”
“What’s going on? Why’d you miss school on Friday?”
She smiles more bright and vibrant than ever before, “Don’t worry about it, it’s nothing. I was just a little sick, is all.”
“If you say so… I can’t doubt a smile like that.”
“Anyway… I got to see my sister again! She’s usually not around, so it was nice talking to her.”
“Well that’s great. How old is she?”
“Same as me.”
“Wah!? This may be rude to ask… but doesn’t she live with you?”
“Oh, don’t worry about that! It’s nothing so sensitive. She just goes to a boarding school for smart kids.”
“Wow, well it’s nice that you got to see her again.”
Rose only smiles in return.
It became routine for Trisha and Natalie to sit with us at lunch. Trisha is pretty relaxed and Natalie is funny. Our group somehow had a really great accidental chemistry. I usually tend to be a pretty negative and serious person, but I’m balanced out with Rose’s lighthearted optimism. Trisha is chill but is balanced with Natalie’s antics. By simple chance, this became the only group that I ever want to be a part of. Everyone is always having a good time and we haven’t argued since we met each other.
“I’m glad that I gave them a shot.”
Though despite seeing all of that in hindsight, when we’re all together I only ever look at Rose.
Towards the end of the day, it suddenly starts raining. There was no warning; the clouds rolled in suddenly and the rain came shortly after. I checked the weather nervously as the day drew to a close, but it didn’t get better. The rain kept picking up the closer school got to dismissal.
Unluckily for me, I just so happen to not be taking the bus today. My Mom is driving me home, but it seems that she’s caught up in traffic, leaving me stuck inside the school building. The forecast hadn’t predicted this terrible weather, so I don’t have an umbrella handy either. Everyone at school already hurried home so I ended up left alone to sit and listen to the rain.
In the empty, out of session school, I sit on a bench beside a large window which is being pelted with rain. Thunder strikes occasionally and large flashes of light fill up the window. Headlights of cars in a hurry to get home barely shine through the splashes of rain. With them, I hear their tires fling up puddles onto the sidewalk.
Eventually, boredom overtakes me and I stand up to walk around the halls. The rainy scene outside is a bit melancholic. It’s reminiscent of how I used to be.
I begin to aimlessly walk through empty hallways, waiting for a text from my mom. Everyone else had run home, so there isn’t even one other person that I can see. But, although faint, I can hardly make out an echo through the halls.
Unable to hold back my curiosity, I follow the sound down the hallway. As I approach the noise, it starts to sound like sobbing. It’s muffled, but I can hear the pain seeping through the sound. It mixes with the rain pounding against the roof in harmony, creating a soul crushing feeling.
I gently slide my hand across the wall as I slowly arrive at the classroom that the noise is coming from, which also happens to be where the art club usually meets.
“That voice sounds… familiar,” I think to myself.
‘Why…? Why am I remembering this? Not again… Why did I have to make it to this part again?’
Slowly peeking my head around the door, my eyes become glued to the source of the tears.
Rose lays her head in her arms on top of a desk. Her body shakes uncontrollably as the tears soak into her sleeves. A portrait lies beside her, but it’s face is covered by her arm. It appears to be a portrait of a man, but not the same one in her usual art.
I slowly reach out my hand towards her back, preparing to calm her down, but then a thought occurs to me.
“She probably doesn’t want to talk right now. She would have asked for help if she needed it. I’ll only be causing her more trouble by forcing her to talk when she isn’t ready yet. But… that smile earlier today… She seemed so happy. What could have happened?”
I grab my hand and pull it back, just as my phone vibrates in my pocket silently.
“I’m here,” it’s a text from my mom.
“Tomorrow,” I confirm to myself and sneak out of the room.
“Good morning!” Rose exclaims as I enter the class.
“Guess what?” She starts with a bright smile on her face. “On the way to school today-”
“Good. It looks like she’s doing better. I’ll do my best to forget about it for now. If she mentions it later then I’ll listen, just as she did for me.”
“Are you listening?” She asks.
The teacher interrupts, “Quiet down now. I’m going to take attendance.”
Quickly, Rose adds, “Let’s talk on the roof during lunch today.”
“Huh? What’s that all abou-”
“I said quiet!” The teacher glares at me and waits for several moments to continue with attendance.
It kind of feels like Rose timed that so I wouldn’t be able to question her…
On our way to our next class I try to bring up what she said in homeroom, but she only smiles and tells me to wait.
The infinite possibilities for what she could want cloud my mind.
“Did I do something wrong? Did something happen to her?”
Eventually, after what felt like an eternity, my final class before lunch ended. I ran straight to the roof as fast as I could. Somehow though, Rose had still arrived first.
I push the heavy door open and the bright sun burns my eyes. The sky doesn’t have a single cloud in sight, yet it’s still freezing cold. Most trees surrounding the school are evergreen. Despite appearing to be a normal summer day, the wind coldly threatens us to go back indoors.
Rose stands with her back to the door and puffs of her breath disperse in the cold, “Hey.”
“Hey… What was it that you needed to talk about?” I ask cautiously.
Slowly, she spins around smiling, “Can I borrow your homework?”
“Huh? That’s it? Are you sure?”
“Yeah. That’s it.”
“...” No words come out.
“Y-yeah I guess you can but-”
I stop myself from continuing. I don’t want to pressure her…
No, who am I kidding? That can’t possibly be it. I wonder why I can’t just ask her what’s wrong?
I continue, “Want to go to lunch now?”
“I’ll catch up,” For a moment, her smile wavers and her voice trembles. “I’ll meet you there.”
“Are you really alright? You’ve seemed a little bit down lately.”
“Yeah. I’m fine,” She turns back around. “Don’t keep Trisha and Natalie waiting or they’ll be disappointed.”
“Alright…” I hesitate, but end up turning around and shutting the door behind me.
After getting to the lunch room, I talked with Natalie and Trisha for a while, but Rose never made it. The whole group felt off without her. I kind of felt like an outcast without Rose to balance out my personality. It didn’t seem like they felt the same way though, so I’m probably just too self conscious. They seemed to be having fun, but I was bored.
When I made it to the next class, Rose was back acting normal again. This time though, the corners of her eyes were very slightly red. Was it simply the cold or…?
I talked to Rose on our way to the buses after dismissal. I try my best to keep talking to her like normal, despite my concern.
“Maybe I can cheer her up indirectly?”
With a proud smile on my face, “I can’t believe that we’re in highschool. Even more than that, I can’t believe that I care. Most of the time we’ve known each other, I’ve been pretty friendly, but I used to be really awful. Even more than you think. It’s thanks to you that I can make friends now. Because of that, I can’t wait to live highschool to the fullest. Let’s graduate together.”
Her eyes widen and her mouth freezes open for a moment. Recovering, through a little laughter she replies, “Of course! Is it even possible to graduate alone?”
“If it’s possible, then I would’ve done it without you. Really, thank you.”
“Oh man. You’re embarrassing me. I’m just glad that you can be happy now.”
Before we even made it out of the building, Rose tapped me on the shoulder and turned towards the stairwell, “I’m not taking the bus today. I’m going to wait on the roof for my dad to pick me up.”
“Oh, well, have fun. I’ll see you later.”
‘Why…? Over and over again I have to repeat the same mistakes. I feel sick.’
The next day, something felt off.
With just one look at the school, my stomach begins to churn. It feels like I’m going to puke.
Gentle snowflakes fall down for the first day of the year. They land on the grass and on the sidewalk, but all melt immediately. The school building has a police car parked outside it and officers are pacing on the roof of the school.
With every step I take towards the building, my legs get weaker. They carry me through the halls and into homeroom, but Rose hasn’t arrived yet.
I throw myself into my seat and tap my foot impatiently as I wait for Rose to make it. A headache sets in and it starts to get hard to think straight.
The old angry grouch of a teacher walks in solemnly. She steps in carefully and doesn’t raise her voice for the class to quiet down. She simply waits until all eyes are on her to begin talking.
“There have already been numerous rumors as to what happened last night. It pains my heart to say it, but we lost a classmate yesterday. And to many of you, a friend. Yesterday, on the rooftop-”
The more words that leave the teacher’s mouth, the more erratic my breathing gets. I lose control of it quickly. Cold sweat pours from my face and my throat begins to dry up from my heavy breathing. A lump lodges itself in my neck. The world starts to spin around me as I hyperventilate.
Then the words come out, confirming my nightmare.
“Rose Bailey committed suicide.”
The words pierce my ears like a knife. I desperately grasp for my chest as it becomes hard to breathe. My nails dig through my shirt and draw blood from my chest.
And suddenly, the world was black.
I slowly open my eyes to my bedroom’s ceiling.
“Thank god. It was just a dream…”
Feeling a wet sensation on my forehead, I reach up and pull a wet towel off.
“What’s this? Did my mom put that on me while I was asleep?”
I feel a sharp pain on the surface of my chest. My breathing quickens pace. The sound of my heartbeat begins to speed up and I can feel the thumping throughout my entire body. Carefully, I look under my shirt.
Two curved indents of my nails are scabbed over on my skin.
“It was all real…”
The door opens and my mom exclaims, “You’re awake! Thank goodness!”
She runs over and hugs me. I feel all of the power in my body leave. I can’t even feel the warmth of her hug.
“I was so worried for you!” She continued. “You fainted at school. I heard the news. I’m so sorry, baby.”
I simply cannot possibly believe it. Despite all of the panic throughout my body, I can’t manage to cry. The tears won’t fall and I won’t accept this outcome.
“The idea of living in a world without her scares me. No. I refuse to believe in a world without her.”
Suddenly, my panic attack stopped.
“Hey. Can you drive me back to school?”
With a little bit of convincing, I managed to get my mom to agree to bringing me back to school. It’s almost lunch, but that’s the one part that I don’t want to miss.
I sit down at my usual table to see Trisha and Natalie absently pushing their food around.
“Hey,” I greet monotone.
They look up slowly and look relieved to see me.
“Thank god that you’re still here,” Trisha says.
“We thought that you might’ve-” Natalie’s voice trembled and then turned into tears. Trisha looked down at the table and wrapped her arm around Natalie, pulling her closer.
“You look like you’re taking it pretty well,” Said Trisha.
“Heh. Not really. I fainted when I first heard the news. I guess it just doesn’t feel real yet…”
‘“And it never will.”’
“Oh. Sorry if that came off as rude. I’m still a little- you know.”
“Yeah… we all are right now.”
I wanted to see how Natalie and Trisha were doing, but seeing them now, I realize I never cared about them in the first place. None of them matter. Not a single one in this school besides her.
Passing through the rest of school like usual, the usual from before I learned to smile- before I met Rose, the new usual, I finally made it back home. My mom continues to dote on me in concern and I insist that I’m fine. Eventually I make it to night, when I’m all alone in my room.
“It’s my fault that she killed herself. She wouldn’t have done it if I would’ve helped her. I should’ve tried to help even if she didn’t want it. She practically told me that she needed help, but I averted my eyes. She was smiling an awfully lot lately. With her it’s hard to tell which smiles are real because she insists on smiling when she’s sad. She must’ve been covering up her tears with a smile. The day she died, she smiled brighter than ever. She never once let me see her in pain, not on purpose.
Why couldn’t I just ask, ‘What’s wrong?’ All I ever asked was, ‘Are you alright?’
I was afraid. I was afraid that she would be afraid of something. If she was weaker than I thought she was, then who would be there for me? I was worried that my image of her would change if I knew her problem. What if she wasn’t the goddess I saw her as? How could Rose not be happy all the time? I was scared that her problem would be too much to handle and have a negative influence on me. I was afraid. I was worried. I was scared. I was selfish. I was an idiot.
But, she’s dead now. She’ll never come back. What do I do now… Without her? Maybe I should just die too…
No. I need to remember her. More than that, I don’t even have to live here. If this is the future, then I’d rather live in the past forever. So that’s what I’ll do.”
Despite my perfect memory, there’s one object that I’ve kept for old times sake. I open my desk drawer and stare at the piece of paper inside. A test marked one-hundred percent. The smiling portrait on it really did make life much more fun.
I lay in my bed, shut my eyes tight, and begin to indulge in the past, memories of a time when I could smile.
“I’m back… Rose.”’ I dreamt, I remembered.