Title: Anna Molly the Anomaly
"Fate or something better I could care less, just stay with me a while." A girl discovers her seemingly perfect best friend is cutting her wrists as a way to escape.
Words: 4,280.
Inspired By: The song "Anna Molly" by Incubus, my friend, and my thoughts at two in the morning.

You can see the ocean from my bedroom window. That's probably because my bedroom is an attic on top of an already-two-story house, in a neighbourhood where more than half of the houses are only one story. In fact, my house is the only one for two blocks all round that has an attic. I picked having the attic bedroom and let my brothers have the ones on the second story because I find the view from my window inspiring. I like being able to sit on the window seat and stare out at the green-blue water, observing the way the tides move, looking out for rips, watching the people swim and the boats sail past, so small against the seemingly endless supply of changing colours that stretches beyond the horizon.

I used to sit and stare out of my window at the ocean, wondering if there was anyone out there that could make me happy. I had no reason to be sad. I had plenty of friends, caring parents, protective brothers…but it wasn't enough. I felt like no one understood me. There was something missing. Everyone around me was so fake, so plastic and perfect. And I wasn't. I acted like I was, but I wasn't. I longed to just scream and shout at them that it's alright to make mistakes every now and again, you can't be perfect all the time. I couldn't though. If I disturbed their perfect routine I would be outcast. And if I was outcast…Well, I didn't know how I'd cope. Not well, that was for sure. So instead I remained silent, acting and smiling and trying my hardest to be perfect and fit in. I did a pretty good job of it, too.

And then I met you.

The first time I saw you was the day we left for Year 9 camp. Valentine's day. You weren't dressed in brightly coloured clothes, your hair wasn't dyed and you weren't yelling to be heard over the noise our classmates were making. It was the fact that you were trying not to be noticed that made me notice you. No one else did. You was wearing black converse just like mine, but without the graffiti, black, baggy cargo pants and a tight, green wife-beater. A pair of sunglasses covered your eyes, so I couldn't tell if you had noticed me noticing you, or if you were just looking at something in my general direction. Your hair was pulled back into a low ponytail, apart from your fringe, which escaped and fell forward over your forehead and covered one of your eyes. What I could see of your skin was sun-tanned. With you there, the orange of the other girl's fake tans was blatantly obvious. You were dressed enough like the other girls for them not to notice and comment, and yet also differently enough so it was obvious that you didn't want to be, no, couldn't be classed as one of them. You were standing at just the right distance from a group of girls to make me wonder whether you were partly being included in their conversation, or if you were just standing there, alone.

You were always like that. Always so hard to place. You didn't fit in any of the groups, any of the cliques. You were so different. You were the first truly unique person I had ever met. But most of the things that made you unique were subtle. Some of them were blatantly obvious, but most were subtle. I found out more about you than anyone else, and still I could never fully understand you. I don't think anyone ever could fully understand you. Not even you. You were so completely new and different to everything else I knew, everything I had known.

To me, you were perfect. Unfortunately, I was bound to discover sooner or later that there's no such thing as a perfect person.

I noticed it a couple of weeks before you told me. There were lots of things, lots of really obvious things. Like the fact that you were suddenly always wearing long sleeves; how sometimes when I was on the phone to you I'd hear a sharp intake of breath; how you suddenly lost interest in most of the things we used to do together; and how you just stopped talking. Of course you had explanations for all of these. You wore long sleeves because you had a bad chill and didn't want it to get worse. The intakes of breath either didn't happen, or you'd just stubbed your toe. You'd lost interest in things because everyone changed as they grew, so of course their interests changed too. You stopped talking because you thought your beautiful voice was too nasally and you just didn't have anything worthwhile to say. I so desperately wanted to believe that you were okay that I didn't question your excuses. I just played dumb, for the sake of keeping myself happy as you got sadder and sadder. I needed to believe that you would talk to me if things went wrong, that you weren't stupid enough to hurt yourself. Because if you weren't strong enough to support yourself, how could you support me? And without your support, I had nothing.

But still there was that little voice in the back of my head that kept telling me to talk to you, ask if you were okay, grab your hands and push back those long sleeves that were the only barrier between me and the awful truth. I never could though. I was too scared. Too selfish.

And then came the day when we both had to stop pretending nothing was wrong. It was a Saturday, late afternoon. It was bright, so we both had our sunglasses on. We sat on the end of the pier, dangling our bare feet over the edge. We were sharing a bucket of hot chips dripping in tomato sauce. I remember you trying to squeeze the sauce out of the container into our bucket, but missing and squirting it all over the shoes of this guy standing behind you. He was so mad, and we were laughing so hard as you apologised over and over. Now all the chips were almost gone, and we could see a big pool of tomato sauce sitting in the bottom of the bucket.

"Look, a balloon!" you cried. I looked where you were pointing at a rapidly ascending yellow balloon above the water. "Wouldn't it be nice to do that?" you asked dreamily. "Just be let go and float off, free to go as far away as you like. To be able to drift and look down on everyone you know as you leave them behind. To escape."

"Yeah," I said, slightly put off by the tone you used, "except for the fact that when they get to a certain height the pressure becomes too much and they pop. And most don't even make it that far – they run into things and are popped that way instead."

"Well, maybe that's inevitable. Breaking free and escaping is the easy part. It's the pressure and the obstacles that get you. And no matter what happens, you end up dead anyway. Popped, I mean. The balloon ends up popped anyway." You drew your gaze away from the balloon to a young family sitting near us.

"We're thinking too much," I informed you. I was scared of where the conversation was going. "How about a game of truce?"

"We know everything about each other though," you sighed.

That statement seemed so insignificant, and yet when you said it I sighed with relief. We knew everything about each other. We told each other absolutely everything, secrets we wouldn't trust anyone else in the world with. You would have told me if you had done something… "Actually -" Wouldn't you? "- Kate, Can I tell you something?"

The word 'anything' weighed heavily on my tongue, but refused to be spoken. That would have been a lie. If you could tell me anything you would told me that you were sad, you would have said something before it got this bad…

"I – I, uh, well…" I don't know if you were doing it consciously or not, but as you stuttered and stumbled over your words, your left hand was tracing over your right sleeve in a horizontal pattern. I had been watching too closely.

"Oh, baby, what have you done?" I didn't mean to say it like that. So quietly, so heartbrokenly. I did though. And you heard me clearly. You heard every crack in my voice fill with dread as the sentence trailed off into silence.

You lifted your arm towards me and pulled back your sleeve, revealing a set of red cuts etched on the inside of your wrist. My breath caught in my throat, and my heart slowed. A disturbing urge to reach out and trace my fingers over the impurities on your light brown skin gripped me, but I restrained myself. I was too scared to feel the grooves, the rough edges that stood out so starkly.

One thought kept circling round and round my head – 'She didn't tell me'.

"It doesn't hurt." You spoke quietly, in a tone that made me think you were trying to convince yourself along with me. You pushed down your sleeve and shoved your hands in your pockets, looking out to sea. I could tell you felt extremely vulnerable after revealing such a personal thing, such a weakness. "At least, it hurts less than everything else."

I turned to stare at you. 'Everything else.' Was I included in that? Had I helped push you to the point where you thought this was the best way?

As if you had read my mind, which I thought you did sometimes, you said to me, "I know there are better ways of coping, but I also know that I'm not killing myself. I know what I'm doing, and this works for me."

"But I know you," I told you, shaking my head. "I know you, and I know that when you find a way to deal with things, you wear it out, fast. Soon this isn't going be enough. This is going to stop working for you, and you're going to cut deeper, and vertically."

You didn't look at me. "I won't let it get that bad."

"You don't know that."

"I won't, okay?! I couldn't. Like you said, you know me. You know I'd be too scared to do that." You pulled your legs up over the edge of the pier and hugged them to your chest, like you were trying to comfort and protect yourself.

I sighed. "You used to say that about cutting at all."

"This is different," you muttered.

"No, it's not!" I yelled, causing the people around us to stare. I didn't care though. And if you did, you didn't for long. "This is not different! How could you? How could you do this to me, to yourself? For God's sake, how could you not tell me?!"

"I was scared, okay? I was scared of what you'd say, what'd you think…" you glared at me through your sunglasses. "I was scared your opinion of me would change, and I'd lose you, the only thing I have to hold onto."

We fell silent, and the other people on the pier went back to minding their own business. The anger that had suddenly filled the space between us disappeared as swiftly as it had arrived, and I slumped as I realised what's done is done.

"I knew, you know. Before you told me," I informed you.

"You figured it out?" you asked.

I nodded silently.

"When? Why didn't you tell me?"

"I dunno, a few weeks ago. I was scared, too. I didn't want to believe that you'd do something like that to yourself," I paused. "That's what scares me the most. The fact that you felt like you couldn't talk to me. I thought we were best friends…"

"We are." You let your legs dangle over the edge again and turned to face me. "Just so you know, if it weren't for you I would have gone a lot further than what I have by now. You've saved me, Katie."

I hugged you tightly and rested my head against your shoulder as we stared out at the boats floating before us.

"Promise me you won't leave me?" I whispered.

"I promise," you whispered back.

"You've saved me." I like to believe that you meant it when you said it. It was the least I could do. After all, if I'd saved you, then we were equal. You had saved me, if not as obviously as I had saved you. We had turned each other's lives around, threw everything into complete disarray. And neither of us had never been happier than when we were together. But still, the higher you were, the further you had to fall...and the harder the impact.

For about a month or so after you told me you seemed to go back to normal. You were laughing again; not as much as you used to, but at least you were laughing. You started ranting again, talking to me about nothing and everything and all the stuff in between. I was so happy then, because you were happy. I even started to think that we could go back to how we used to be, that it had just been a phase, that you were over it now.

I shouldn't have.

Just over a month after you first revealed your cuts to me we decided to go for a walk. We wore flip-flops; not the best choice of footwear, considering we were actually planning on walking pretty far. It was cloudy, so, for once, you didn't wear your sunglasses. And you wore a wife-beater. I hadn't seen your bare arms for so long, I remember thinking that they were lighter than they used to be before.

We started walking, and quickly immersed ourselves in one of our random conversations; so immersed, in fact, that we walked five extra blocks past our destination before realising it. And sure enough, as soon as we realised how far from home we were, it started to rain. Pour, actually. We were drenched within seconds. Our hair was flat against our foreheads and necks and my jeans were sticking to my legs. We took off our shoes and started running, not to go anywhere, but just to run; to move; to feel the wet pavement slip beneath our bare feet and the rain from the clouds hanging over us hit our skin. You were ahead of me, and you weren't just running. You were jumping, twirling, leaping, spinning .

I could hear you yelling over the sound of the rain and our feet slapping the pavement. You might have been yelling to me, or you might have been voicing your thoughts to no one in particular. It doesn't really matter. "I love the rain!" you yelled, spinning round with your hands in the air. I couldn't see the purplish scars I knew were forever embedded on the inside of your wrists through the curtain of rain falling between us. "I love it! How it just washes away all of your troubles, leaves everything fresh and new. It's like a cleansing. A chance to start again. To wipe everything clean, forget the past and make amends. I love it!"

I smiled and ran up to you, nearly slipping on the pavement. "Do you mean it?"

"Mean what?" You gave me a quizzical smile as a drop of rain fell from the end of your nose.

"What you just said. All that stuff about starting again and-and making amends and stuff. Do you mean it?"

Your eyes, as you stared at me through the rain, looked determined. "Of course I mean it."

"So you're going to stop cutting?"

"Katiebabe, I promise."

You didn't mean it though. At least, not the way I thought you did.

The night before last, a few days after we ran in the rain, you rang my mobile at around 11:30PM. I had been in bed reading and quickly fell out of it to answer my phone before the ringing woke my brothers, as unlikely as that was. I was more concerned than happy to see your name on the caller ID, as we had an 'emergency only calls after ten' policy, which is why I answered the phone with, "Hey darling, everything alright?"

"Yeah, everything's good. Sorry if I woke you -"

"You didn't."

"- but I just wanted to tell you something." Once more the word 'anything' sat on my tongue, and yet I made no reply to your request. So you continued, "You're the best friend I've ever had, Kate; do you know that? I owe you so much, and I'm so sorry I can't repay you. You saw me when I was invisible, when I didn't want to be seen, and I am so grateful for that. You listened to me, even when I had nothing good to say. You helped me understand things I'd never got before; you gave me a whole new outlook on life. You understood me even when I couldn't understand myself."

I had tried to interrupt you several times during your speech, but only now succeeded. "Darling, what's wrong? Why are you talking like this?"

"I'm really, really sorry Katiebabe. I love you."

The line went dead. You'd hung up.

I rang your mobile, what you'd rang me from, four times and didn't get an answer. So I tried your home phone. No answer from that either. All I could do was try and continue reading where I'd left off, and when that failed, sleep. I couldn't though. Your face kept appearing on the back of my eyelids, smiling, laughing from behind your sunglasses, which prevented me from seeing what you really felt…and then your features contorted into a grimace as you sliced a blade across your wrist.

I must have fallen into an uneasy sleep, because next thing I knew Mum was telling me that you were in the hospital, and asking if I wanted to go and see you. Half asleep, I stumbled out of bed and put on whatever clothes I could find on my floor so I could visit you. My mind, still clouded with drowsiness, was making my body move with one single purpose; to see you. I had to see you.

When I did see you, I nearly burst into tears. You were lying in the hospital bed, propped up on pillows with your dark hair splayed around your head like a halo. Your name formed on my lips but my throat was too dry to make any noise. I ran across the room to your bed and took your icy cold hand in both of mine, completely oblivious to our parents leaving to "give us some privacy". You looked so small and fragile in your hospital gown, which seemed to swallow you up. Your bandaged wrists lay on top of the covers, and the only movement you were making was the rise and fall of your chest with each breath you took.

"Oh, no." I shook my head at your sleeping form. "Oh, no, baby, what have you done?" I brought your hand to my lips and kissed it. "Oh, darling…"

And then I felt you squeeze my hand weakly. I looked up to see you blinking at me with bloodshot eyes. You couldn't hide them behind sunglasses here. I watched your eyes as the unfamiliar room came into focus. They widened, hopeful, and then dimmed as your realised that, despite your best intentions, you were still here. Then they focused on me. I saw something close to relief flicker briefly across them as our eyes met, and then you were just staring at me.

"Don't cry."

"Don't cry." I hadn't even realised I was crying, but now that you'd pointed it out to me, I couldn't deny it. Tears were running down my cheeks and dripping onto your bandages, but I didn't care.

"What were you thinking?!" I hadn't meant to yell. It startled you; I could tell by the way you blinked, and how your hand, which I was still holding, twitched.

"I wasn't," you mumbled in reply, looking away.

I knew that the last thing you wanted then was to be yelled at, but I seemed unable to restrain my voice to non-hysterical proportions. "Is this your idea of making amends? Is this how you start again? You said you were going to stop, you promised me you were going to stop cutting!"

"I was," you spoke quietly and avoided eye contact.

I could tell I was hurting you by yelling at you, but I was so mad I couldn't stop. "When? After you'd committed fucking suicide? So you stop cutting, but you also stop doing everything else!"

"I'm sorry," you sobbed.

I could see tears running down your cheeks, but still I didn't let up. "I gave you a whole new outlook on life, did I? What was that new outlook? That life wasn't worth living?"

"No, Kate, that's not what I meant – I'm sorry -"

"You're sorry? If you're so fucking sorry, why'd you do it? How could you do it?"

"I thought it was best for everyone."

"No you didn't. No, you didn't. You thought it was easiest for you. How could you think that killing yourself was best for everyone? You said I'd saved you before – why not this time? Why couldn't you let me save you this time? Fucking hell, don't you get it?" I was hysterical, but I managed to lower my voice slightly as I leant down so my elbows were resting on your bed. I was still clasping your hand. "If you won't let me save you, you can't save me. If you die, I die."

I collapsed. I fell forward so my head was resting on your stomach and I broke down, shoulders heaving with each sob and sigh I made, and I could feel your hand running through my hair.

"I won't do it again," I could hear that you were crying. "I promise."

"Don't make me any promises," I whispered into your blankets. "All you do is break them."

They kept you in hospital overnight, "just in case". Just in case of what, I don't know. As I walked backwards out of your hospital room, waving goodbye, I thought that I wouldn't be able to sleep until you were out of there and with me. As it is, I fell asleep in the car on the way home and woke up nearly three hours later in my bed.

You were released today. I went and visited you. I was practising calm breathing as I walked down the hall to your bedroom. I had no idea what I was going to say. My calm breathing wasn't really helping me. I was so scared of seeing you. I'd never been scared of you before. A display of how scared I was is the fact that I knocked on your bedroom door before opening it. We'd given up knocking on each other's doors long ago. That was why you looked so surprised when you saw it was me.

"Hey," I greeted quietly, looking everywhere but at you.

"Hey, Katiebabe." Katiebabe. You were the only person in the world that could call me that without losing a limb. I begrudgingly let my family call me Katie, but to everyone else I was Kate. For some reason you calling me my nickname scared me even more. I think maybe it was because you were acting normal, like nothing had happened, and I was scared I couldn't act like that. I was scared I couldn't pretend that everything was alright, that you were alright. The casual way you spoke could easily have fooled anyone but me into believing that you were alright, but the way you looked revealed otherwise. You looked just like I felt; like you were completely made of tears, and were trying to hold some semblance of human form together before someone noticed you were actually just a puddle. I was scared, but I still tried.

"I've put some new cushions on the window seat," I began almost randomly, "Do you want to stay the night at my place?"

Now you sit beside me as we stare out my window, head on my shoulder, slashed wrists in full view. I stare down at the lines etched into your skin, each one revealing to me another way in which you are hurting.

"Do you think fate brought us together, a year ago?" you ask me.

I shrug the shoulder you're not leaning on. "Fate, maybe. Something else. Chance. A fluke. Or maybe something better. I don't know. I don't really care, either. Point is, we're together."

You smile. I love your smile. It lights up your whole face, especially your eyes. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. When I look into your eyes, those dark pools that draw you in, enrapture you, I see fire. I see a passion so often hidden behind dark lenses for reasons I don't think I'll ever quite understand. Despite their dark hue, your eyes are bright. They shine with light, even though times are so dark for you at the moment.

I brush your hair back from your face and murmur, "Just stay with me a while."

You just smile.