My dad used to tell me that if life throws something bad at you, you just have to live through it and then let it go. He said that you should take into account those bad things, but then, in a way, forget that they ever happened. Well, I hate to tell you, Dad, but sometimes, that’s not really how life works. He was a smart man, and still is, I think, but his vision is limited by his experiences. Most of the time there is no need for one to dwell on things that have no need for dwelling on. Perhaps you may not forget your mistakes, but put them in a part of your brain where they slowly fade into obscurity. Maybe you will begin anew, a new leaf turned over, your past put completely behind. However, there are some things that I cannot let go of, and never will be able to for the rest of my life.
Before, I was not a dweller. I was happy, positive and mostly guilt-free. I lingered on things from time to time, but other than that, I let my mistakes slide right off my back, like mud in a landslide. I acknowledged them, but did not let them get to me. Then, I did not know what a real error, what a true failure was. Well, then the storm came, the ball was dropped, a horrible event occurred. And, let’s say that’s when things changed. I could not even attempt to forgive myself, because how could I forgive myself when I made an absolutely unforgivable mistake? It was a mistake far beyond bad. A mistake that happened because I let it happen. A mistake that has distanced me from the people I love and care about. A mistake that has caused me to fall apart on the inside.
Now, I spend my life in seclusion, slowly wearing away as the days come and go. I used to say more, but now I barely say anything at all. I live in my room, only leaving to use the bathroom and prepare my own food. Sometimes, I don’t even eat at all, for nothing can truly fill the emptiness inside of me. My parents leave me alone, for they know I don’t want to hear “Lilia” being said by another human being ever again. It is too hard for them, and it reminds me too much of what happened to Elodie. Elodie, my best friend as long as I can remember. Elodie, who I have not seen in four years. Elodie, who I will probably never see again. And, it’s all because of me. The night she disappeared, nothing was ever the same again. The night she disappeared, I knew I had changed forever.
I am standing on a beach. It is unfamiliar, unlike any place that I have ever been. There is no explanation as to where I am and why, it just seems that I am here. Topaz blue water laps against the shoreline, deepening and darkening its imprint. Under my feet, the sand is warm, its golden grains seeming to emit heat. A flash of vibrant color catches my eye. Birds of every shade imaginable are encircling my head, eyeing me curiously as if trying to figure out what I am. One alights on my shoulder for a brief respite. Its plumage is a striking crimson, the color of a fresh strawberry. It takes off, leading its companions away into the air. And at the center of it all is the sun. Bright and blinding, yet warm and comforting all at once. This is true paradise and nothing less. A swift breeze skims my face, and I breathe. I take in everything, from the birds to the sharp and salty scent of the sea. There is no place I would rather be, for all is calm and undisturbed. But then, I hear something that sounds out of place.
“Lilia, wake up!”
There it is again.
“Lilia, come on!”
Where is it coming from?
“Lilia Madeleine Corvington!”
Okay, what’s happening?
My eyes open to my best friend, Elodie, vigorously poking my arm with a pencil.
“Ow, Elodie! What the — ” I begin, still drowsy.
“Shhhh!” she hisses in my ear.
And then through half-asleep eyes, I notice old Mrs. Sheridan pacing around the room in circles. I must have passed out because of having to endure her horrible class. Now, before any judgements are made, I have a perfectly good reason for falling asleep. I just hate hearing her drone about the Battle of Antietam or whatever other crap we’re learning about in her annoying monotone voice.
I sit back in my seat, attempting to blink the sleep away from my eyes. And, oh, I remember my glorious dream.
“I was dreaming about a beach,” I murmur. “It was surreal.”
“That sounds very nice,” Elodie mutters.
“I could feel every grain of sand beneath my feet,” I sigh.
“Good to hear!” she snickers in return.
“Birds were circling around my head, and, and… ” I breathe.
A wave of post-sleep fatigue hits me, and I slump back down in my seat. Running her fingers through her thick, wavy chestnut brown hair, Elodie holds her hands up at me, as if to say, “What the hell am I gonna do with you?”
“Is there something the matter, Miss Hartshorn?” Mrs. Sheridan asks, pushing down her chain glasses and looking down her long, upturned nose at Elodie, who freezes.
Please shut up, Sheridan, the world does not need you to speak.
“Everything is perfectly fine, Mrs. Sheridan,” Elodie replies, a slightly nervous smile plastered on her face.
The Old Battleaxe, or Axey, as I’ve taken to calling her, takes one more look at her, sniffs, and then slowly turns away, not saying a word more about the encounter. Oh, how I hate her.
Okay, so, there is more to the story about why I hate Axey so much. Yes, she is so freaking boring, which is very non-motivational, but that’s not all. When I first came to Edgar Allan Poe Middle School last year as a sixth grader, I was totally and completely clueless, not to mention terrified. I stumbled along to my classes five minutes late, barely sure which way I was going. Of course, I had Elodie and some other friends, both old and new, but they weren’t much help, as they were in the same position that I was. One day, I was running late to class yet again. I was speeding down the hallway as fast as I could, and right as I was getting somewhere I ran smack dab into Mrs. Sheridan. I started freaking out and apologized over and over again. A stack of papers she was carrying had gotten everywhere, so I picked every sheet up. And, what did she do? She wrinkled her nose at me and sniffed once sharply, then left without as much as a thank you. And, well, I’ve hated her ever since.
Axey clears her throat and pushes her glasses up her nose, signaling that she wants to continue with whatever she was saying before.
“So, class, as you have probably realized, we are nearing the end of our study of the American Civil War,” she says.
The whole class erupts in cheers. Even Elodie, who is a strict rule-follower, lets out a joyous whoop.
But, our moment of glory is cut short, for Axey whips out her death stare, making at least half the class shrink down in their seats. I swear, she could bend telephone poles and wilt ancient trees with that expression. I, frankly, am quite impressed by her ability to do this. But, the way she makes us all feel so small and insignificant when she does this sets me off.
Once she makes sure everyone is bowing at her feet, Axey continues. “All that we really have left to cover are the later battles and the surrender. As you should also remember, we studied… Gettysburg… blah blah blah… yada yada… blah de blah… blah… blah.”
I manage to tune her out with very little effort. Satisfied with my actions, I let my eyes relax into being closed and begin to drift off. I can already see the beach. I want to go back there — who cares about Axey? Oh, the wind…
“… final test.”
Excuse me, what?
My eyes snap open, and I suddenly feel awake.
I look to my right to try and make eye contact with Elodie, but her eyes are focused right on Axey, as are the eyes of everyone else.
“It is in about three weeks. Which means you will have roughly a week and a half to study, by average standards. However, everyone makes different choices, which means how much time you study will be on you.”
She’s not looking at me, but I can clearly sense the message she’s trying to send. Oh, Axey, don’t even attempt to make it subtle, you’ll just fail miserably. I know I don’t try hard, but that’s mostly your fault. You’ve probably forgotten how you treated me, but I never will for as long as I live. Your presence makes me sick.
And then, like an angel straight from heaven, I hear the most glorious sound that I have ever heard.
I am saved by the bell. Literally. Not to mention I have never been so excited for lunch in my life.
I run out the door before Axey can even make a noise. I dash to my locker, shove my books away, and grab my lunch. Once I’m done, I wait for Elodie to meet me. When she does, we start heading in the direction of the cafeteria.
“Did I really doze off in Axey’s class again?” I ask Elodie.
She arches a single perfect eyebrow at me. “What do you think?”
“I don’t know. I might still be delirious because someone interrupted my nap!” I say, arching my own, less perfect eyebrow.
Rolling her eyes, yet trying to conceal a slight smirk, Elodie replies, “It’s the second time it’s happened to you this week, and, hmmm, let’s see, the eighth time it’s happened in three months? It’s a miracle that Mrs. Sheridan hasn’t caught you even once.”
“I wouldn’t care if she caught me anyways,” I say, shrugging. “I’m bored to death all the time — I’m surprised that no one else falls asleep in class.”
“It’s History, Lilz. It’s important,” she responds.
“But it’s boring as hell, especially with Axey,” I groan, rolling my eyes. “You know that I don’t tolerate boredom of any kind.”
“We have that final test coming up, you know,” Elodie reminds me, “if you were even paying attention. And, high schools look at your grades. If you want to go to a good school, you need to get good grades all around.”
“High school’s far away, and don’t worry, I’ll get accepted someplace good, even with a B- in Axey’s class,” I say. “Plus, you know I can pull off an A- with barely any studying.”
“Why not just try? You try in all your other classes, and you get almost straight A’s,” she points out. “How hard can it be to work just as hard with Mrs. Sheridan? I know she was rude to you, but can’t you just be the bigger person?”
“I just don’t care, Dee,” I reply, putting my arm on her shoulders. “Jerks are jerks are jerks, and I won’t do anything for them whatsoever, no matter who they are.”
“Your logic is senseless,” she says, smiling.
We stride into the cafeteria, my arm still slung over Elodie’s shoulders. I slowly let go as we head over to our table, where our friends Maeve, Rina, and Fiona are already sitting. I am not at all surprised to hear somewhat cacophonous noises coming from that direction. Maeve and Rina are debating, like they always do when they get passionate. Poor Fiona is sitting there doing nothing, for what can she do when two fervent people collide? Plus, she’s the quietest out of the five of us, so she has to do more than Elodie or I would have to. Rina and Maeve have argued about a variety of things, from whether capers are good or not to whether cloning should be allowed. It’s really obvious that they like each other — they’re always trying to get on each other’s nerves or get the other person’s attention. And even when they eventually admit that they want to be more than friends, I highly doubt the debates will come to an end. That means that Elodie, Fiona, or I, or sometimes all three of us, will still play peacekeeper. And, I’ll tell you from experience that it’s a pretty hard role to be in.
We arrive at our table. Fiona notices us, and her face lights up in relief as if we are guardian angels.
“They’re out of control,” she says, taking her head in her hands.
Maeve and Rina don’t even notice our presence.
“Water is wet! End of story!” Rina shouts, slamming her palm on the table.
Several heads turn.
“Er, Rina, why don’t you tone it down a little,” Fiona says nervously.
Rina doesn’t seem to hear.
“Water isn’t wet! Wetness is what you feel or experience when you come into contact with water!” Maeve retorts.
“Like hell it is!” Rina snaps. “You feel it as wet, so that’s exactly what it is — wet!”
“No! You feel it as wet because when you touch it or it touches you, it affects your state of being in such a way that makes you feel wet!” Maeve says firmly.
“What kind of world are you living?” Rina demands.
“What kind of world am I living in?” Maeve shoots back. “What kind of world are you living in?”
“Um, excuse me, hello?” I say loudly, barely able to contain my laughter.
They both turn their heads in my direction.