As the memory of that day three weeks ago flashed through my mind, I stood still, staring at the words on the note in my hands. Already my vision was blurring, so I could not see their individual shapes, but Amberlea's message was already engraved into my mind.

" Aislynn,

I know you're mad at me, and I can't blame you. I know I've done a lot of stupid shit in my life. I know I hurt you… I always hurt everybody who cares about me. I don't want to, but it's like I can't help it. I can't make it easy for people, I can't just let them like me. I want them to like me, but I don't know. I sound so fucking stupid. I know you don't know what I mean. I don't know what the hell I mean.

I just wanted to tell you that I'm sorry. All day I've been thinking, and it's finally dawned on me what I've become, how much I hurt everyone. I don't want to be like this, but I know I can't change. I can't be like you. I can't make myself be a "good" girl again, or even a "normal" girl. I can't be happy… I can't even pretend. And as long as I'm around, I can't let anyone else be happy either.

I've realized now that I have to go away… no one can be happy with me around. I want to do this- my life is such shit, I don't care, I just don't care anymore. I know you'll be happy. Even my mom, she won't have to worry about me anymore.

I guess I'm really trying to say goodbye. I know you tried to be a good friend to me- and I was a bitch who didn't deserve it. I know you, you're probably going to feel guilty and try to talk me out of this- that's the way you are, you're a good person, unlike me. But you don't have to, Aislynn. That's not why I wrote this. I just wanted to let you know I'm sorry- and that I'm doing this for everyone, but mostly you.

Bye.

Amberlea."

The note ended there…

I could feel myself beginning to shake, my eyes wide, but unfocused… I had forgotten this. I had forgotten completely about this day… but now, now I remembered when it was too late… now I saw what I had done- and what I had not done…

I had been too preoccupied with my own anger and spite to listen or even look at someone who had been reaching out to me, making one desperate attempt to get my help. I had not even glanced at her note, let alone read it… I had forgotten Amberlea, deliberately, and in doing so, I had failed her…

The note was vague, but I knew what it meant. Amberlea had left after I had not responded… she had left, upset and hopeless, after I had snubbed her, after I had ignored her final plea for someone to hear her…

And underneath Amberlea's ambiguous phrasing were the strong hints of her despair, her depression and self-loathing… what if by talking about her "leaving" she meant leaving earth, leaving life? What if she had killed herself? What if she had made one last attempt to get someone to help her, stop her, and when I didn't respond, she had committed suicide? What if I could have prevented a death? What if I had helped contribute to her death?

Why would she do that? I thought hopelessly, the tight knots of dread in my stomach spreading so the tension filled my muscles, choked me. Why would she want to kill herself? Why did she go so wrong in the first place- was her life so bad?

And the truth was, I realized slowly, that I did not know. I had known Amberlea for three years, called her my best friend at times- but she had volunteered little about her past or what went on with her life beyond her own misdeeds. I never knew what she really thought or felt or experienced deep down… she could have been abused or emotionally scarred, maybe she needed attention Miranda could not give and sought it out in her own confused way… certainly she hated herself. And certainly I had not known her, not what a person should know about a friend, at any rate. I had only known what she chose to tell me, and what I myself perceived of her.

You don't know that she killed herself, I tried to tell myself somewhat weakly. You know they haven't found her body yet- if she's dead, then where did she hide herself, where did she got to do it? Maybe she really did just run away. Maybe- maybe she's off with some guy, shacking up, laughing her ass off about how worried Miranda must be. Maybe she didn't even mean what she wrote. You know how dramatic she was, maybe she was just venting. Maybe-

But my attempts at reassuring myself, justifying myself, fell apart as I remembered the glimpse of her face I had caught when I had turned to grab the note from her. At the time, I had registered only her surprise, only what I wanted to see. But now I remembered the glint in her eyes in that split second, showing so much more… her determined bravado… her loneliness, her empty despair… her self-hatred and condemnation… but most of all, her fear. Whatever Amberlea had been thinking or planning to do, she had been terrified….

I remembered the look in her eyes, and I know what she has done, even though there is not way to prove it, no way to see for myself that it is true. I know that I am at fault more so even then Amberlea herself, for what I did not do. I know that I could have stopped her, and I did not. But most of all, I know that I will always be haunted by the look in Amberlea's eyes the last time I ever saw her. I will never forget… and I will never be able to forgive myself.

The End