Ben told Lilly he loved her the very night she killed herself. From the timeline I've managed to piece together, he confessed his undying affection for her two hours before she went through with it, which makes me think: she had two hours to mull over his confession and she decided it wasn't enough for her to live, or maybe that was the fact that pushed her over the edge. Some days I think it's a little bit of both. It was just one more fact, one more thing to deal with, and when stacked on top of everything else, it made the tower fall.
Lilly was my best friend. So was Ben. But suicide changes everything. On days like today, where I sit underneath the oak tree that Lilly always loved, as the sun isn't really shining because of the clouds but where I can feel its warmth, I wonder if Lilly's not up wherever she is, watching me, shaking her head with that oh-lord smile on her face, getting a kick out of what my life's turned into.
Sometimes, I even think I see her in the clouds, and I smile up at her, hoping that things are better for her.
Sometimes I believe they are.
"Ellie, hey," Lilly said, tapping on my bedroom window. Slowly, I opened my eyes, focusing on the green numbers of my clock. Four-ten in the morning. Earlier than she'd been back in the past, later than she had promised me today. I pushed myself up with my headboard, slowly turning the crank on my window.
"Welcome back," I muttered, flopping back against the pillows as she crawled in my window. Her hair was really mussed up, her makeup smeared, lipstick especially gone from her lips. She settled into my bed smelling of smoke and boy and sweat. "You should get into your pajamas. I don't want my mom to come in here and find you like that."
"Oh, El," she sighed, smiling and looking my way. "I had the most amazing night tonight. Dev and I? We're meant to be. We have to be. The sex was just so amazing. Wait, no, it wasn't sex. We made love." She sat straight up, eyes wide, beaming from ear to ear. "We made love! Ellie! Oh, Ellie! I'm so happy!" she exclaimed, pulling me into a hug. I held my breath, but hugged her back. I was tired, it was really late, and I was tired of doing this.
"Lilly. Get your pjs on, hide those clothes, and then we'll talk about it, okay?" I told her, gently pushing her off the bed as I moved to close the window. Instead of moving to get ready, like I had hoped, she sat down beside my bed, smiling, laughing, and crying at all the same time. "Lilly! You need to be quiet!"
"Okay, okay, fine," she said, moving to get her pajamas. After changing, she put her clothes under my bed, and crawled back in with me. She grabbed a pillow, and pulled it close to her. "That was so amazing."
I knew that I was supposed to play the good friend. I knew this role by heart. Right now, I was supposed to move closer to her, so we could be very quite. I was supposed to be excited, to want to know some of the details; I was supposed to giggle and shush her when she got too detailed. I was supposed to ask her if she thought it could ever be that special for me. All of these supposed-tos in my life. Tonight, though, I was tired. I didn't want to pretend my way through my lines.
"Well I'm tired. I'm going to get some sleep. It'd be a good idea for you to get some, too," I told her before rolling over and trying to fall asleep.
Not even five minutes later, she had pulled her phone out, and was texting Dev.
I closed my eyes, shutting out the light glow from her phone screen.
Had I brought tonight, at least, upon myself? Lilly had come up to me a week ago, telling me that she needed some sort of cover so that she and Dev could spend time together. She told me he was getting frustrated with not being able to see her, and that she felt a break-up coming on, and she wanted to avoid that. I told her I could probably set something up, that she could probably stay at my place.
I guess I thought maybe it would bring us closer somehow.
She came over to my house, looking like the Lilly I grew up with – cute sweatpants, her volleyball sweatshirt from a year back, and Converse shoes. She didn't have much make-up on, and honestly, she looked so beautiful.
We did the usual eat dinner with my parents, go to my room and have some "girl talk" (which was basically her talking about how amazing Dev is, how much she loves him, how she can't wait until they can get married), and then as soon as my mom was in bed? It was modest clothing off, eyeliner on. She put on a frayed mini-skirt, some low-cut tank, mussed her hair up a bit, and added some heels just for good measure.
Not even three hours ago, she had me thinking that maybe there was a chance to have things be the old way. And then she was hopping out of my window, promising me she'd text me if she was going to be out past three.
I had let her go, because by then, I felt there was no way to stop her.
Ben glares at me as I walk into science class. It's been a month, and yet, I'm still not used to his alternating glares/meltdowns. I sit down at a table on the opposite side of the room. The students look at us funnily – we used to sit by each other every day. By now, everyone knows some variation of the story, but I've long since stopped answering ridiculous questions, so people keep their mouths shut.
"Um, you're kinda in my spot," a deep voice says, startling me. I've been easily startled and exceptionally jumpy since Lilly killed herself. It's just part of the aftermath.
"Okay," I say, sliding over to the chair to my left. "There's your spot."
He sits down in the chair I was sitting in, and looks at me carefully. "I didn't mean to make you mad."
Now I take the time to actually see who's been talking to me, and it's none other than Wes, the guy I've been crushing on for over a year steadily; the guy I've liked on and off for the last four.
"You didn't. I'm just tired," I tell him, astonished that he's talking to me. For the last seven months, I'd tried and tried and tried to get him to talk to me, but it hadn't worked. All I needed to do was sit in his spot. That was actually pretty simple, now that I think about it.
"You look tired," he tells me, looking like he wants to reach up and brush my bangs out of my face. In the last month, I'd kinda stopped caring about how I looked. That is, I still looked acceptable, but I didn't go out of my way to do my hair or make-up or anything. My bangs, especially though, needed a trim.
I wait for him to make a move. I've longed for his touch for the longest time now, and maybe more than that, I want someone to talk to. Wes had been a part of Lilly and me in the past. Maybe he could tell me something about back then, something that could make me move on with what's going on right now.
He doesn't do anything, instead offering up a half-smile and turning his attention to where our English teacher is writing on the white board.
I make it all through English, thinking about him and me and our past and all the what-ifs. By the time I make it to lunch, my brain is frazzled.
"Hello? Earth to Ellie! Do you want my cookie or not?" Kelli asks, waving a cooking in front of my face.
"Of course," I tell her, grabbing the cookie and biting into it. Peanut butter and chocolate chip, my absolute favorite.
"So, guess what I heard?" Harper, a new addition to our group – a girl who got kicked out from her little circle with the girls a bit more popular than us – asks. None of us say anything: she's been stepping on all of our nerves lately. "Dev? You know, Lilly's ex, Dev? Yeah, I guess he slept with Madi Sanders."
"Everyone knows that," I grumble, annoyed that she brought up Lilly.
"No, like, he slept with her a week ago. They're together again now. Or that's what Jaime says."
"Yeah, and we can totally believe everything your ex best friend who kicked you out of her group said. Shut your mouth before some nasty cock finds its way in there. You never knew a thing about Lilly, or even Dev for that matter. Just leave them be," I say, standing up and walking away from the table. I've been doing that a lot, lately, leaving my table in the middle of lunch. I'd go sit in the commons, where the loners sit. I've even learned the rules of hanging out with them.
Finding my usual spot, I nod my head at two of the kids who sit in spots somewhat near me. We've never spoken, but it's as if sitting out there, not-quite with them, it's as if we all know that something serious is going on, and that not talking about it is all that we want.
I rest my head against the brick wall, pulling my legs into myself and resting my chin on my knees.
I am like a beach, I decide as I sit there, just breathing. The pain of Lilly's death is like the ocean tides, coming and going and coming and going. For hours, I can not think about her. And then in the middle of science class? I'll break down bawling.
And Lilly, Lilly turned the ocean tides from drama to pain. When she was here, she was like a buoy in the water, and then the tides were drama. Riding out the drama, some days floating a bit closer to me, other days a bit farther, but always a set distance that neither of us could breach.
On the night she killed herself, the cord holding her to her anchor broke. She floated close to me, resting on my shore for just a quick moment before being taken away from me, before being taken into the vast ocean, where I would never find her again.
Lilly got to float away, because she was just a buoy. But I'm a beach, and there will never be any floating away for me. I'm stuck here, being trampled on as people come to the ocean's edge to wonder where the buoy floated away to.
As more kids file into the commons, I let myself break down and cry.
As soon as I get home, I snuggle into my bed. I find it so weird that two months ago, Lilly had snuggled down right next to me, talking about how much she loved Dev. I hadn't wanted to talk to her that night. Looking back, I want to kick myself for not listening, not hearing more of her voice, not adding another memory of hers to my mind.
I look over at my nightstand, and there I see it. The eyeliner I never remembered to give back to her. Black and sparkly, she had tried to convince me time and time again to wear some. I had never wanted to. I roll over on my side, pick it up, and twirl it between my fingers.
This was Lilly's.
Some days I just don't understand. My brain just can't comprehend that I will never talk to her again. I will never see her again. I will never get another phone call from her, bawling her eyes out.
Never again will I hug her. She will never cry into my shoulder again. I will never be able to ask her about serious boy questions. We will not go to college together.
Lilly is dead.
How does my brain handle this so differently every time I think about it? Sometimes, I just understand it in the way that I just understand one plus one is two. And other days, I just don't get it at all, like how one god could have created all of this.
My cell phone vibrates next to me. I look at the caller-id; it's Ezra, one of Lilly's other friends. Her friends have been calling me a lot lately, after Dev gave them my number. They all want to know if I want to come over and get high with them, promising me that it'll make me forget and it'll feel so much better. Kids I wouldn't usually talk to are inviting me over to get high, something I've never really desired to do, all because of our one common thing, Lilly.
Ezra's cute, though. So I answer my phone.
"Hey," I say, resting my chin against my headboard and peering out my window at the very familiar street light.
"Hey," he says, his voice so raspy through the phone line. "Wanna go to the mall?"
I hadn't expected that. "What do you mean?"
Ezra sighs. "I'm tired of all this shit, you know? Like, I get high, and for a few hours, I'm okay. I'm above it all. And then I crash down and I remember getting high with Lills, and it's just so much worse. I want out. I wanna go to a movie, eat Burger King, and maybe talk about this shit."
"I don't have a ride."
"Don't worry, I'm almost at your house."
When Ezra pulls up in his car, I'vealready written my mom a note telling her where I'll be, but lying about who I'll be with. She'd never approve of me hanging out with Ezra, especially after Lilly's suicide.
"I hope you don't mind my music," he says as I hop in the passenger seat. Some loud music that sounds mostly instrumental is playing. It's not really my taste, but it's not too bad.
"Don't worry about it," I tell him as we pull out of my driveway and head to the mall. "Music's helped me get through all of this."
"I know what you're saying. So, I was thinking about getting dinner and a movie. Not like a date or anything. But I want some food and I want to see a movie and I want to do those things in that order," he tells me, smirking.
I laugh. "That sounds good. What movie are you thinking about?"
"I don't even know what's out. But I figure it's like this: slasher, romantic comedy, drama, comedy, and didn't a thriller just come out or something?"
"Um, yeah, I think so. But I don't want to see a romantic comedy or a comedy, that's for sure."
"I don't either. That leaves us with slasher, drama, and the thriller."
"Thriller, maybe? Slashers are just so… Bloody. And I really don't need any more drama in my life, that's for sure. But it's up to you. I'll watch just about anything."
"Thriller. I've always had a soft spot for them. Can't ever seem to find many girls who want to go with me to see it, if you know what I mean."
I do know what he means, it's just never happened to me. "Well, then I can be your thriller movie partner. I'm addicted to them."
"Really? That's cool," he tells me, grinning. I smile back at him, and he cranks the music up a bit more. We spend the rest of the ride not talking, but that's okay. I don't really have much to say to him anyway. It's just nice to be with someone who understands, and someone who doesn't have much to say, either.
The movie was amazing. When Ezra dropped me off, we both promised each other that we'd go again sometime. He was going to text me later tonight.
For the first time in a long time, I walk into my house smiling.
It feels so good, but at the same time, I feel a little guilty. Am I starting to let my life go on without Lilly?
Is that even possible?
I start to cry again.