Yearbooks come out the day after prom. It's stupid, since it means there can't be any prom pictures in it, but that's the way it goes. I had to pay for it back in the fall. I couldn't afford it, but I went on the all-ramen diet for a month and borrowed some cash from Tyler. It just seemed like the thing to do, you know? One touch of normal. Course, I didn't know how much more un-normal life was going to get, but even then, I wanted it.
Holding it now, it seems even dumber than it did before. It's ugly fake leather, pebbly as an alligator's back, with the timber wolf splashed across the cover. Ha. Someone had a sense of humor when they gave us that mascot. After Ty found out he was a werewolf, he always grinned extra hard when he put on his football jersey. Being a wolf sucked, but it was his own unique way of sucking, and he was proud of it.
I open the glossy pages. I don't flip through, racing to see the pictures of me and my friends. I leaf through slowly, scrutinizing the pictures even of people I don't know—underclassmen, kids I saw sweating with the freshman football team or passed in the hall. I know all the faces even if I don't know the names.
There's the poor Fell kid I pulled out of the trash after he looked at Tyler the wrong way. There's that girl Vicki always hated. Said she was a faux-goth, with her leather and chains and thick eyeliner. I dunno, she looks nice to me. But then, Vicki hated a lot of people.
Sprinkled in between the neat, orderly rows of students in their best clothes smiling awkwardly for the camera are the candid shots. Studying in the library, laughing at lunch. Football games. Bonfires. The assassins water gun game (which I won freshman year). Friends with their arms around each other, smiling. All stuff I used to do.
I flip the page and there, sandwiched between the sophomore and junior class photos, is the In Memoriam page. The worst part? I don't even know all the names of the people on this page. Yeah, there's Mr. Saltzman with that goofy smile and a weird part to his hair. There's Dana, smiling with all her might as if taking this one yearbook photo was the most important thing in the world. Things were always like her, even the prank night when she died. There was that other guy who died that night too, but until I cheat and look at his name, I can't remember it. Tyler died that night too, though no one knows it but us. Guess I died, too. Lot of bodies for one night of "fun."
There are others on the page, vaguely familiar faces. Vicki got her In Memoriam last year, when she would have graduated. Jeremy was too late to make it. The others, I dunno how they died. Who killed them. Damon or Klaus, probably. A couple died because they got wasted on peach schnapps and took that curve too fast out on Route 4. But the others could be Stefan. They could even be Elena or Caroline, though that idea makes me want to slam the book shut and then set it on fire or something.
Doesn't matter who did it. They're dead and all that's left to remember them is a pile of rocks, a fake leather book and a few classmates who'll remember them right up until they don't, until they become what'shername and what'shisface, the girl who got mauled by wild animals and the kid who burned alive in his own house.
I guess the vampires will remember longer. But even they'll forget. What will the seventeen years Elena spent with Jeremy matter when she's two hundred or two thousand?
I miss her. I miss Vicki and Jeremy. I miss Tyler. I miss Bonnie and Caroline. Sure, Caroline and Bonnie have emotions and are here in Mystic Falls and aren't dead, but they aren't them either. Not really. When I watched them at prom, looking so hot and so happy, all I could imagine was their dresses spattered with the blood of all those witches they killed. Twelve. Twelve people.
Don't get me wrong—I'm glad Bonnie's alive. I wouldn't want her dead for anything. But twelve people. Twelve and twelve and twelve. Thirty-six. And now we all might die and no one seems to care. We go to these dances and we pretend that it matters who dances with who, but Silas is out there and he could be anyone and it seems like I'm the only person who's afraid anymore.
No. Not quite true. Rebekah's afraid. She's afraid of herself more than anything, afraid she'll be stuck as she is—not as a vampire, but as a person she can't stand—forever. But there was a little glimpse of something in her at prom. Not just goodness, though there was some of that. But Rebekah has something to lose—a chance at happiness. The rest of them, I'm not sure anymore. I'm not sure if they don't just survive out of habit right now.
Trust me, I get that feeling. After the car, after the bridge, after Elena, I wished more than anything it had been me who died. Not because I have a death wish, but because people would be okay without me. Elena, everyone loved her. My own mom hasn't even called me in seven months. I don't want her to, but she hasn't. If Damon had killed me out at the Young farm, that would've been...not okay, but all right, if that even makes sense. Everyone would have found a way to go on and it would have balanced the scales or something. Elena and I would have been even.
But she saved me again, so I tried to live. For her. And look where that got us. Now she's gone. Maybe she'll come back, but it'll probably be long after I'm dead.
So I can't live for her anymore. I can't live for Vicki or for Tyler. Caroline and Bonnie don't need me to live for them. Caroline's got Tyler to miss and Klaus to play with. Bonnie's got magic and revenge. Rebekah's got her own issues, so the only one left to live for is me.
I make it to the senior section of the year book. We're smiling. Even with all the shit that was going on when the school year started, we all managed smiles. Except Stefan—he missed picture day so there's just one of those creepy silhouettes. But the rest of us? We found ways to be happy because we had each other.
I save my picture for last. Big smile because Tyler's just off camera telling me my dick's hanging out of my fly and to tuck it back in. The photographer caught me mid-laugh. I'm wearing my letter jacket, just like I am now. My ticket out of here.
Somehow, I found the time (and the school found the money to pay my application fees) to apply to a couple colleges. In the end, this little private school in North Carolina offered me a full football ride. Their football team sucks, but their business school is awesome. I start football camp June 15.
June 15. If I'm alive, if the world is alive, I'll be cruising down I-85 in Rebekah's truck (still can't think of it as mine). I won't look back. Everyone here, they don't need me anymore. They've got forever ahead of them and magic to keep them safe. But me? All I can do if I stay here is die. But worse yet, I'll look at their faces and remember the people they once were, the times we were supposed to have. Or maybe, when I look at Rebekah, I'll see what might have been, if everything wasn't so screwed up.
I shove the yearbook under my arm, knowing I'll never open it again.
Thank you to my lovely and talented friend latbfan for a gracious beta. If you haven't read her stuff, you're missing out on some of the best the fandom has to offer. I hope you're all well.