Strength

"Sticks and stones may break her bones, but words could make her starve herself to death."

It was a quiet funeral. The kind of funeral that people go to, cry, and give complimentary eulogies to someone they didn't really know. Polite and unassuming, it was an event that touched me in a way I couldn't describe. I felt sad; but not in a grieving way even though it was a funeral. I wanted to scream, but I knew I had to stay silent. It was a tension of opposites. I was angry for the people at the funeral. I was sad for the person of the funeral. But mostly, I was miserable about the whole debacle concerning her.

Do you know who I am talking about? I'm sure you do; we had a memorial service for her after all. I saw a lot of people from school at her funeral, though I don't know if they really cared. But I suppose, like me, they didn't know how else to compensate her death.

She was broken from the inside and out. Her skin held a pale, sickly color that was pulled tightly over her bones. Her smile stretched her thin lips and crinkled her eyes at the corners, yet she was still beautiful. She just didn't believe it.

&&&

"You're going to lose your appetite, you know." I chided her as we stood outside the school building. She had dragged me outside, telling me to keep her company before we headed into the cafeteria for the annual PTA dinner our school hosted.

A lazy smile spread over her face. "I know. That's the point."

I watched as the end of the cigarette was lit and made its way slowly up to the filter as she inhaled deeper. She tapped twice to spill the ashes and exhaled. It fascinated me, the way she would pucker up her lips, close her eyes, and inhale. She was so calm and quiet and content, but it made me wonder if she knew she was dying on the inside.

My hand itched. "Can I take a puff?"

&&&

A few days after her funeral, the rumors kept buzzing. Some said that she was bulimic, and puked while she was driving, which sent her car into the ditch. Others claimed that she was anorexic, blacking out at the wheel and swerving her car to her death. Still more people gossiped that her car was never sent into the ditch; the police were only using that as a cover-up for her murder-slash-suicide.

I wondered what made people think they knew what they were talking about. I wondered why they thought they had the right to act like they knew what happened moments before her death. I wondered why it was her that died, instead of them.

Don't you hate when that happens? You used to always tell me that people simply liked to talk, and rarely about anything respectful. People gossiped, and people would always gossip.

You were so right.

&&&

"Ugh, do you see that girl? She is so skinny it's disgusting." A pretty brunette, clutching her expensive Louis Vuitton handbag, shot us a dirty look as she passed.

"I know! She is so obviously anorexic. You can't not be anorexic and be that skinny." The brunette's friend nodded in agreement, flipping her bleach-blonde hair and glaring at us conspicuously.

I bristled noticeably, and the girl in question smiled mildly.

"Don't worry about it. People never change."

Sighing, my shoulders hunched in defeat. She was right, of course. I felt helpless when she faced situations like that. I always believed she was a strong person. Perhaps, that was where I was wrong.

&&&

A month, and I am still thinking about her. Now, it is not her death that really bothers me. It is the fact that though I knew, in the back of my mind, that she was anorexic – that I never did anything to help her. She trusted me not to tell her parents, and she knew that I would undoubtedly defend her from any remarks by classmates. After all, I truly thought what she was doing was justified. She believed in being beautiful, and that was her way of becoming beautiful.

I should have listened more carefully. She was trying to brace herself against the teasing, and the verbal abuse, and the pictures the magazines printed. She was trying to stand against the worst there was. I thought she had locked her knees, and stood up straight, and simply had the strength to go on.

Oh, I wished I was as strong as her.

&&&

It's a terrible thing to watch a friend suffer. But was there ever one time, it felt the most terrible to know they were suffering and you couldn't do anything to help? I suppose you've already felt that many times in your lifetime, though. What did you do? The guilt eats away at your insides and some days I wish I could take all her pain and make it my own. But I don't know how to do it, as she is already gone.

There are so many regrets I have, now that she is gone. I sound like a broken record as I write this to you, but these thoughts I struggle with – they're maddening. After all, the bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone…

"And when she dreams

She sees herself in her Sunday dress"

Disclaimer: I do not own Daphne Loves Derby's song, "Sundays." Also, the last sentence was a quote by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The events depicted in this story are fictitious. Any similarity to any person living or dead is merely coincidental.