In memory ...
Time ceased to exist after that day. Things stopped making sense. I hated life, hated God. Hated everyone. I wasn't sure what we had done to deserve the year we've all had. All of us losing Riley and Royce. What was the point of it all?
What was the point of taking two boys away from their family, friends, girlfriends, their parents?
I didn't know what loss felt like before that. Every movement felt like it hurt. Every time the phone rang and it wasn't him, I died a little more inside. When I walked through the halls and looked at everyone's face, I couldn't hold it together.
At night, I was unable to sleep as memories bounced behind my eyes. In the morning, I couldn't breathe when I realized it wasn't a dream.
Both boys were cremated, so instead of different services, we had just one memorial service. It was all a blur. I wasn't going to go, at first. I didn't want to. I had no idea how to say goodbye. I'd never done it before. But I went. We all did. It was like the entire school packed themselves in the small room of the funeral parlor.
I'll always remember that day. It was a Friday—the day before prom. The Kings had done it that way intentionally, as to not interfere with anyone's plans the next day. They knew how important it was to all of them.
I sobbed at the thought.
I sobbed as his family spoke.
I sobbed as some of the kids from the choir sang "I Will Remember You" by Sarah McLachlan.
I sobbed as pictures were shown through a slide show. I cried for Edward when pictures of the past few years were shown with him and his best friend. I cried when they showed those of Royce and Rosalie. Me and Riley. Them together. Separate. With their families. Friends. Pets. I cried and cried.
Whenever I tried to stop, wails and sobs bubbled out of me. Cries of pain. It hurt. It hurt so bad. It felt like the hurt would never go away. When his parents offered me to say a few words, I declined. How could I? I never said the few words to him that would have mattered the most when he was alive. Saying anything now—I didn't deserve it.
When their father spoke, there wasn't a dry eye in the room. He talked about what it was like when he first held them and about things he'd wished for them since day one. To find love. Success. Regrets he had-that he worked so damn much and missed precious moments with his sons. He shared stories of the boys growing up, acting like twins when they were younger then growing apart but finding each other again this year, knowing their time would be dwindling as Riley prepared to go off to college.
"He thought about staying." Mr. King paused, bringing a fist to his mouth. I could tell he was trying to hold it together. "A few weeks ago, he talked to me and his mom about how we'd feel if he waited a year. Go to a local school, earn some credits then transfer. He'd met a girl—fallen in love. He wanted to wait for Bella, so they could go to school together. Then one day he came home ecstatic that she said they'd be okay. He knew then that she loved him, that they'd be okay. Thank you." He looked at me. "Thank you for letting my son ..." he paused again and searched out Rosalie, "sons experience love before he ... before they ..."
I couldn't take it anymore and ran out of the funeral parlor, vaguely aware of someone following me. When the air hit me, I dropped to my knees. It was too much. All of it.
I whirled around to face Jessica, nervous as to what she might say. But it was clear she didn't have any malice in her at that moment. She looked just at broken as I felt. "I'm sorry."
"It hurts." I wailed, dropping my head to my hand. "Make it stop. Make it stop hurting."
She couldn't. She was going through it, too. "I wish I could."
Together we cried. We held each other. And for Riley, whatever issues we had, we let it go.
I lifted my head from the pages of a textbook and looked up at Mom then back down. "Hi."
My voice wasn't welcoming, it wasn't pleasant. I was tired. And I didn't want to fight with her. Didn't want to hear her words—lies—of encouragement. Would it be okay? Yeah, someday I imagined it would be, but that wasn't what I wanted or needed to hear at the moment. I wanted to be left alone. I wanted to try and focus on the assignment I was working on that I never got to do since the week before when my world shattered. A few days had passed and I missed school, but now that the memorial was over and prom had come and gone, everyone expected me to go on as usual. And that meant going back to school the next day. For that moment I just wanted to forget everything else.
"I'm studying," I said, my voice flat.
"Uh, Rosa's downstairs. Do you want to see her?"
"Rose. That's ... she's going by that now. Royce ... he ... that's what he called her. That's what she's called now."
I looked over at the clock. It wasn't late, barely after eight o'clock, but it was already dark out. Mistaking my confusion for something else, my mom jumped in, telling me it was okay to go downstairs, like I'd been seeking permission. It was the first time in a long time I didn't have the heart to crush her.
Silently, I made my way outside and found Rose sitting on the front steps of my house. She looked ... different. Tired but pretty. Her hair was done up in a ponytail and her curly blonde hair trailed down her back. She wasn't wearing sweats—like I'd been—and had on a denim skirt and t-shirt. "Did you go out?"
She titled her head in my direction and shook it. "No." Then she paused, taking a long breath. "I know it's gross, but I'm pretty sure today's the first time I've taken a shower in days."
Waving a hand at myself, I snorted at my stained t-shirt and basketball shorts that belonged to Riley. "Yeah, well you one upped me there."
"I needed to get out of the house. Breathe fresh air. Look human. Just ... do something instead of lying still in bed, ya know?"
I nodded, but shrugged at the same time. I wasn't really there yet. I wanted the crying and hurting to stop, but in the week and a half since they died, I hadn't really done anything in an effort to stop it.
"You know what I was thinking on the way over here?" I looked over at Rose, giving her my attention. "Do you think ... I don't know ... that we're all being punished somehow?"
She shrugged. "They say everything happens for a reason, right? What if we're being punished? What if that's the reason? Somewhere between freshman year and now it feels like we've slipped into some alternate universe. Think about what we've been through. It almost feels like a curse."
I knew what she meant, in a sense. But ... "What would we be cursed for?"
"I don't even know." She let out a soft laugh. It was the first laugh I'd heard from her in over a week. "It's a little easier to grasp than the fact life just sucks like this. I still can't believe he's gone. That they're both gone."
We sat silently for a second, the stillness of the air reminiscent to how we felt.
"Have you talked to the Kings at all?"
"Yeah." I nodded. I'd spoken to Mrs. King briefly the day before. Some of Riley's classmates had made a collage to give to her as well as his signed yearbook and she asked if I could get it from them for her. I'd barely recognized her voice, her words came out jumbled and confused. It was hard to talk to her, think about her. We weren't that close when ... before, but I knew I wouldn't lose touch with her. For as long as she wanted me around, I would stay. "Have you?"
"I don't know what to say to them. All I can think of are the same things that make me mad when people say them to me."
I snorted, understanding her pain.
'Everything happens for a reason'.
'He's in a better place'.
'He's gone but never far'.
Everyone meant well, but it was still annoying at times.
"According to my mom, we should feel lucky."
"Yup." I rolled my eyes and leaned back further against the stairs. "I think she meant it as a comfort thing. But this morning she told me I should feel lucky I wasn't in the car and she was happy it wasn't me." Rose's face looked horrified. "Exactly. I know what she was trying to say. But all I heard was that she was happy my boyfriend's ..." I couldn't even say the word. The reality hadn't fully caught up to me either. I mean, I knew Riley was gone. I knew he wasn't coming back. I got that. But there was a part of me that felt ... confused? Lost. Knowing it to be true and saying the words out loud were two different beasts. I wasn't ready for the second.
"My mom's just kinda letting me be. I don't think she knows what to say."
"Does anyone?" I sure didn't.
"Are you going to school tomorrow?"
I let out a long breath. "Yeah, I have to. You?"
"I went today."
"How was it?"
"Not the same." Her head bowed. "I never realized the little things, you know? How much time Royce and I spent together. How much my day just revolved around him. How'd you even put up with us?"
I frowned, an 'awwh' slipping from my lips. "You were in love." I shrug. "It was more bearable once I was too."
Her head snapped up to look at me. "Were."
"I just realized you said were."
Fuck. "Rose, I'm sorry, I didn't mean ..."
"No. No, it's okay. I was. I was in love with Royce."
"And you still are."
"I wish I wasn't."
This confused me. "Why?"
"'Cause it's useless energy now. I wish when people died they took all that with them. All the energy they had, all the emotions that belonged to them—I wish it died too. But it doesn't. They just leave—they die and everyone who loved them is stuck with it, not knowing what to do, where to place it, how to go on without them. God, Bella." Her voice turned into a rasp. I could hear the wetness of tears in her throat. "This just sucks."
I brought my hands to my eyes, trying to push the tears back in.
"You know what I can't wait for?" She continued talking, asking me questions, not holding it against me that I couldn't reciprocate. "The day where I don't feel like this. When I could think of him—them and not cry." Then she paused again and looked over at me. "About what your mom said?"
"Did you go out that night?"
"I did but I left early. Edward took me."
It was then I realized something. "You guys weren't there. At the party, you and Royce weren't there." In all the madness, all the hoopla, it never dawned on me. All we'd known was they'd gotten into an accident. Their alcohol levels were above the legal limit. Drugs had been in their system. Stuff like that.
"Royce and I had got in a fight." Her lips started quivering as she looked straight ahead. "I told him I didn't want to go to another stupid party. We were at my house and he called his brother to come get him. I guess they were just down the street from the party when they swerved. Whatever happened."
The look in her eyes when I forced her to look at me almost shattered me. There wasn't just remorse, there was guilt. Everything in me fought to tell her it wasn't her fault. And that if I wanted to, I could have found ways to feel guilty too. If Edward hadn't brought me home, he would have been there to pick up Royce. But I didn't say any of it. I knew the comfort wouldn't help her.
I don't know how long we sat there until we saw someone walking toward the front porch. It was like a feeling of deja vu from memories that seemed like it belonged to someone else. Lifetimes ago. I got up and walked to him slowly, not finding the strength to run to him, though I wanted to. He closed the distance quickly, wrapping me in a hug. I felt his throat convulsing against the skin of my shoulder.
"He's really gone, Bella."
We held on to each other for what felt like hours before my mom eventually came outside and told us all to come in. She made them call their parents, saying that at a time like this, it was only fair for them to keep them in the know about all their movements.
Rose spent the night and the next morning, Edward picked us up and we all drove to school together. The three of us didn't speak on the way. Didn't listen to music. The wind was loud enough, it spoke words we couldn't say.
I kept my head down and to myself for most of the day. I just wanted to focus on exams and not people trying to find out how I was. For the most part though, everyone gave me my space. I got a few notes from people letting me know if I needed a friend to talk to they were there. I offered them a smile in thanks. I should have known not everyone was going to be supportive, or at the very least, leave me alone.
I looked up from my locker and offered Edward a small smile. "Hi."
"Going to lunch?" I shrugged. I didn't have a choice. "How're you doing?"
"I don't know." I sighed and leaned against my locker. "It's just so weird, you know? Surreal almost. Like ..."
"Like you're walking around but not really. Like you're watching a movie of your life but not living it? Like at any second you expect him to come walking down the hall?"
"Exactly." A tear fell down my face. "You know what I realized?"
"I'm only seventeen. Riley is the first person I know who's died. And ... I—we all—have so many people to lose. Dozens of goodbyes to say. I don't know if ... how I'll survive it."
I hadn't thought about it before. Losing anyone. But I knew the time would come where I would lose my parents. Maybe more friends. Rosalie. Edward. Everything seemed so trivial. Petty. "I'm sorry," I whimpered, trying to stifle my sob. "We spent so much time fighting, arguing. I just ..."
"I know." He caged me in a hug. "I'm sorry too. It's gonna hurt for a really long time. In fact, it might never stop hurting. But one day, I promise when you think about him you'll laugh. Smile. You won't always cry. When my dad died, a part of me died with him. I miss him every day but sometimes when I think about him, I laugh now too."
Our moment, the moment we both so desperately needed, was ruined by none other than Charlotte.
"Edward, I need to talk to you. Alone."
"Are you kidding me right now?" I looked at her. "My ... are you serious?"
"I am so sorry at what you're going through," she said, a sneering tone to her voice. "Really, I couldn't imagine losing my boyfriend. I couldn't imagine if that was Edward. But that doesn't mean you need to be all up on my boyfriend."
I don't know what it was, the way she was looking at me, the tone of her voice or all the rage I'd been feeling manifesting itself all at once, but a snarling scream ripped through me, and I lunged. Kicking, punching, screaming, grabbing for her hair. I was going for blood. I don't know who stopped me—what stopped me.
I dropped to the ground sobbing, gasping for breath. I was vaguely aware of being watched, spoken to. Soft words being spoken to me. I knew it was Edward but I couldn't say anything. Couldn't apologize. I cried. I wept. And that's all I'd wanted, I realized. I didn't want to hear words of encouragement. I wanted to break down. I wanted to fall apart, and in the middle of the hallway with everyone watching me, Edward let me. Telling me to let it out, that he wasn't going anywhere. Holding my hand, holding me. Not trying to make me laugh, but just being there. And I sobbed until I couldn't. Until I couldn't breathe. Until my throat was so sore I feared I'd never be able to speak again. Until I felt I might drown in my own tears. For hours, days, weeks it went on. And he was there for it all.
And one day, without realizing it, I just stopped.
Charlotte's had this coming for some time, huh!? Smh
We'll probably be jumping a few months next chap because I see no need to drag ya'll through Bella's grieving process, you feel me!? :-)
Thanks for reading!
Until Next Time