Intro:

My skin prickled, it felt like someone was watching me. I looked up and I saw two men standing across the street from me as I walked to work at my art gallery. They looked vaguely familiar, like I should know who they were. They made me….remember

The Painting

"Alex, what are we doing here?" I asked as we squirmed through the grate.

"Gosh, Iss, relax okay." Relax? Relax? We're crawling around the air ducts of our school at midnight and she tells me to relax?

"We're not supposed to be here!"

"Yeah. So?" She turned a corner and opened another grate.

"So! So why are we here?" We dropped down into what seemed to be an office.

"I have a birthday present, something I want you to show you. Okay, close your eyes."

"Fine." I had only had them closed about fifteen seconds when.

"Okay, Open!"

I opened my eyes and saw the most beautiful painting in the world. It was a picture of the sky at night. Only, if you looked closely, the stars were music notes, the notes to my favorite song. One of the songs she had written.

"Did you paint this?"

"Yup!"

"And you couldn't wait eight more hours to show it to me at school?" We were in Mr. Telory's office, at midnight. I mean really?

"Nope!"

I rolled my eyes. Alex had no concept of what a rule was at all.

"I love it . Thank you. But now what?"

"I don't know. Let's go for a walk."

"Alex, it's midnight and this is San Antonio, bad idea."

"Oh come on Iss. It's no big deal, we got here didn't we?"

Also no concept of danger.

"All right, but let's not go too far."

"K!" and she just walked out the front door.

"Wait a second!"

"What?"

"If we could just walk right through the door why did we crawl around through the air vents?"

"For fun." She grinned.

"Alex!" She was so melodramatic

"So we're walking around till when?"

"Six! You'll officially be sixteen by then."

"All right." (laughing)

We were walking along and talking about anything and everything. I mean that's what best friends do right? We mostly talked about writing. Especially her songs, I loved them.

"..Alex…."

"Yeah?"

"I think I hear someone following us."

"You're paranoid Iss, come on."

"No really. Just keep walking and listen."

"….I hear it too."

"Let's just….head towards your house." I said shaking.

"Okay." We were only about five blocks away from her there when I saw shadows run out.

(scream) "Alex!"

"Iss run!" We ran but they already had us surrounded. We were in a four way intersection with no where to go. So we stood, back to back. I saw Alex's eyes flash. I knew that look, she was mad.

"What do you want?" They just laughed. There were twelve of them, way too many for us to even have a chance in a fight. They weren't coming any closer to us though.

"Why are you standing there staring creeps?" …..Answer me."

"Alex! Stop you're making them angry." They were angry, now they came a little closer. I recognized the insignia on their shirts now. They were one of the most well known gangs in the city. They weren't usually in our neighbor hood so this was weird. And we were two pretty little sixteen year old girls wandering around alone. Great.

One in particular stepped forward, watching us.

"Get out of our way Jerk." Alex stepped forward, eyes flashing with defiance and anger, then fear as he raised a gun.

"Alex please, just stop." I pleaded

"No Iss. If I stop they'll either just shoot us anyways, or more likely keep us in some shack until they're sick of us." She spat back. "When I start singing 'Never Stay Down' run towards my house." She pointed out our 'secret alley'. They hadn't blocked it because no one but us knew it existed.

"No! I won't leave you!"

"I'll be right behind you. I promise." We locked eyes….and I knew she was lying. But what choice did I have?

"Okay."

"Hey idiot you need a gun for two sixteen year old girls? Wuss." He pointed his gun at her head. She sucked in a breath but it didn't stop her or really even phase her.

"But I have to get up" She whispered to me. She charged towards him and I started sprinting. "To show the world you must never stay down even when you are hurt. Protect your friends that is my plea." I heard gunshots behind me, then silence. I knew without looking back that they had got her. She had stopped singing.

"Because that's what I do. And you don't want to be me." I whispered as I ran towards the door, tears running down my face, wanting so badly to turn around and go back to help her. But I knew that was stupid. They had got her, but she had done what she wanted. She had saved me. I was bawling as I entered her house. Her parents had already run downstairs because of the gunshots.

All they had to do was take one look at me, and they knew something had happened to Alex.

When the cops pulled up five minuets later, they found not one, but two bodies in the street. Alex had sacrificed herself to save my life, and had taken him with her so he wouldn't come after me.

Four years later I still miss Alex as if it had happened yesterday. I recognize them now, the two men across the street. They were two of those boys. Two of the people who stood there and laughed as my best friend got shot. Two of the four that got away. The other seven either got caught or were killed in drive bys. I thought about saying something to them or doing something, but they weren't worth it anymore. So I walked into my gallery.

I've published her writings. And her songs are now sung on the radio. All except one. The painting that hangs above my desk, the painting that has the words to the song she wrote. The song that saved my life.