When I got home, I headed straight to my room and locked my door. I knew my parents would be home soon and would probably try to barge in on me. Either that or they'd be so caught up in arguing they wouldn't try to start something with me. I hoped that was the case. I hoped they'd just spread misery among themselves and leave me alone with mine. As long as they were quiet and didn't bother me, let them rip each other to shreds. They deserved it.1

My brooding silence didn't last long. It ended when I heard our front door slam, and the shouting began.2

" How can you accuse me of not caring about her?" shrieked my mother. " I just tried to see her in the hospital, didn't I? It's not my fault they wouldn't let us!"3

" Well you sure seemed happy about it, Nadine! She's your daughter, why are you being so apathetic!" yelled my father.4

" I am NOT apathetic! I care about Hallie very much, I love her! I sacrificed my career to raise her and Jenna! Don't you dare say I don't love her!" my mother hollered.5

" Then why the hell didn't you know what she was doing?Why was she so unhappy? How could you not know what was going on with your own child?"6

" How could I know, Mark? She hid it! She seemed happy, she seemed happier than Jenna! It was JENNA I was worried about- she's such a loner, and she doesn't even date much. How was I supposed to know it was Hallie who had the problem?"7

" Well you should have!" shouted my father.8

I had had quite enough. They were selfish pigs, both of them. And it was ME my mother worried about? Nice. Real nice. Gritting my teeth, I turned on my radio, loud. It didn't drown out their voices, and they didn't get the hint and shut up either.9

" Why are you blaming me? It's just as much your fault, if not more! You barely even know Hallie. You're always away on " business trips" and " meetings" ," my mother said mockingly. " Why, your little girlfriends aren't much older than your daughter, and you spend twice as much time with them!"10

" Shut the hell up, Nadine!" my father yelled. " You're one to talk. Why didn't you try harder to get to speak to Hallie? If you'd pushed them they would have had to let us. You're just too damn selfish. You don't want to see what you drove your own daughter to do."11

" Shut up!" she screeched, beginning to cry. Great, more noise to ad to my growing headache. " I can't stand to see her like that! What is wrong with her that she'd do that? Is she crazy?"12

" I wouldn't blame her, having a mother like you," my father said cruelly.13

My parents continued to scream insults back and forth. Curling up in my bed, I put the pillow over my face, holding my ears. My blood pounded in my veins, making me feel violent. If anyone had come up then and spoken to me, I would have probably lunged at their throat and choked them.14

After a few minutes the phone rang. Once, twice, three times. I was not about to answer it; there was no telling what foul words would spew out of my mouth. Let my parents get it.15

After seven rings, one of my parents must have picked it up, because the shouting stopped and so did the ringing. Then I heard my father call me.16

" Jenna? Phone! It's Rebecca!"17

Great, just what I needed. Miss Perfect Rebecca with her perfect life and little boy " problems." I did NOT want to talk to her. I didn't want to tell her about Hallie, and i had nothing else to say. I certainly didn't want to listen to what she called problems.18

" Jenna!" Dad shouted. " Phone!"19

I still didn't reply. Maybe he'd get the hint and go away. But my dad is not waht you'd call the intuitive type. He marched upstairs and flung open my door.20

" There is a call for you," he said through clenched teeth. " Now ANSWER it."21

" I'm not here," I muttered angrily.22

" Jenna. Take the phone. I don't want anymore hassle, I am fed up!"23

Really? Well join the club. And guess what, Dad? If you don't want any hassle you should go ahead and die, because life is one big hassle.24

I snatched the receiver from his hand, growling.25

" Hellooo!" I said in a not very nice tone. I could just see Rebecca cringing at my tone.26

" Jenna?" she said, sounding confused. " It's Becca."27

" I know, Becca. I was sleeping. Or rather, trying to sleep. Certain people who shall remain nameless were kind of interfering with my efforts," I said dryly. Dad left the room, not wanting to hear what a bastard he is, I guess.28

" Sleeping? Jenna, it's 6:00. Man, is it really that boring over there?" Rebecca laughed. I wanted to scream out exactly how much excitement I had been exposed to in the last hour. But it wasn't any of her business. It was Hallie's, and I wasn't going to tell Rebecca anything she wouldn't want her to know. I knew what a gossip she was. If I lost my cool and told Becca how she had no idea what she was talking about, the whole school would know about Hallie by tomorrow. I didn't want Hallie to have the school whispering about her, avoiding her and acting strangely, like her own parents. If I told Becca, she wouldn't understand. She'd be just like my parents- helpless and speechless, inflicting more pain than comfort.29

" Not quite," I said dryly. She skipped ahead to her objective for calling- discussing herself.30

" Jenna, you'll never believe waht happened to me!" she said dramatically.31

" I bet I will," I said in a completely lifeless tone.32

" No, seriously. Matt asked me out! What should I do! I'm still going out with Nick, but I don't want to discourage Matt in case we break up!"33

" I don't know, Becca," I said. " I'm not the one you should ask. Ask Heather."34

" But I'm asking you, Jen. What do you think, really? Tell me the truth," she pleaded.35

" The truth? The truth is I am really not up to discussing this right now. The truth is you really couldn't have called at a worse time. The truth is that I just want to go to sleep. Seriously, call Heather," I told her.36

I could just picture Becca's face at that. Her mouth would fall open. What had happened to her sweet friend Jenna?37

" What is the matter with you? Are you mad at me?" she sputtered.38

" No, I'm not," I lied. Right now I was mad at everyone. " I'm just tired. I'll talk to you tomorrow." Boy was I looking forward to THAT discussion.39

" Ok," said Rebecca, sounding injured. " I WILL call Heather than. Bye."40

" Bye." I hung up, sighing in relief. I knew I should feel bad for taking my mood out on her, but I didn't. I was just glad that everything was quiet now. My mom was probably in her room crying, and my dad was probably out drinking. I really didn't care, as long as they left me alone.41

I got back under my blankets, but it was a long time before I could sleep.42

I dreamed about Hallie. She was in the bathtub, and I walked in on her again. As I stepped closer I saw the cuts all over her body, mutilating her flesh. She was bathing not in water, but in blood; the tub was full of Hallie's blood. Her eyes were closed, and she gripped the sides of the tub so hard her knuckles were white. Tears fell down her cheeks, but they were tears of blood; Hallie's eyes were bleeding.1

As I stood, horrified, I tried to move to her, but I was paralyzed. Before my eyes, Hallie began to change. She grew thinner and thinner, her skin stretching tightly across her bones, so that I could see their outlines clearly. As her skin stretched, so did her scars, opening larger and uglier the thinner she grew. Her skin became transparent. Then suddenly it was gone, all of her skin just vanished. All that was left of Hallie was her skeleton sitting rigidly in a tub full of blood.2

In my dream, I began to scream. I woke up screaming, sitting up in bed. When I realized where I was, I stopped, shaking. The image would not leave my mind. I felt something wet on my cheeks, and touching it, realized I was crying. 3

I looked at the clock, hoping it was morning and I could get up. I knew if I slept, I would dream of Hallie again. But it was only 1:30.4

Getting out of bed, I dug out my CD player, and got back in bed listening to it. I don't remember falling asleep, but I must have, for the next time I looked at the clock it was 6:30. I hadn't dreamed of Hallie; that was something to be glad about, I guess.5

I could hear Dad downstairs, getting ready for work. It was Thursday, I was supposed to go to school, but I really did NOT want to. Especially since I knew Rebecca was waiting for an apology.6

I decided to skip. No one would ever know. I'm usually such a boring nontroublemaker that no one would suspect I'm playing hookie.7

I'd just go downstairs and act like I'm getting ready for school. But instead I'd drive to the hospital and make them let me see Hallie. Yesterday I hadn't been up to it, but today I was. Now I was in control of myself, and I wanted to see her badly. Was she in pain? How many stitches did she get? Was she still upset? I wasn't going to let them give me no for an answer. I wanted to see her, and they were going to have to let me.8

Dressing, I went downstairs and brushed my teeth, pulling my hair into a ponytail. It felt weird to have the bathroom to myself, without Hallie fighting me for it. I never thought I'd actually miss Hallie locking me out of the bathroom, but I did.9

Dad was heading out the door when I entered the kitchen. Good, maybe I wouldn't have to talk to him.10

I sat at the table, pouring myself some cereal. Dad didn't speak to me. He looked tired, with shadows under his eyes. He had probably slept on the couch after he and Mom fought. The only thing he said before leaving was " Bye Jenna."11

After he left, I finished eating my cereal and got into my car. Good thing Mom wasn't up yet, I didn't want to look at her. I was still angry with my parents, though not boiling anymore.12

The whole drive to the hospital I felt ridiculously self concious. Like anyone passing me would know I wasn't going to school. Like anyone would CARE. There are lots of kids doing worse things no one cares about. I was disgusted with my goody-two-shoesness.13

When I reached the hospital, I parked in the visitors lot and walked inside to the waiting room. Hardly anyone was there so early.14

There was a different woman at the desk this time, a younger one. She looked up and smiled as I approached.15

" Yes? How can I help you?"16

" I want to visit my sister, Hallie Roswell, in room 316," I said. " Which way is that?"17

" Hold on, let me sign you in," she said. She typed something into the computer.18

" Hallie Roswell can't have visitors yet," she replied. I had been prepared for this, but it still annoyed me.19

" Are the doctors finsihed stitching her up?" i asked.20

" Yes," the woman said after a moment.21

" Then why aren't I allowed to see her? I'm not getting in their way. I'm sure she'll want to see me," I said reasonably. 22

The woman frowned.23

" I'ts a hospital rule. Patients in the psych ward are not allowed visitors for their first three days. Most of them don't want them, and we're protecting their wishes."24

" How do you know Hallie's wishes? Did you ask her? Did you say, Hallie, do you want any visitors? Ask her! She'll want to see me."25

The woman looked at me doubtfully. I wanted to scream in impatience. Were rules all that mattered here?26

" I'm not supposed to," she said heistantly.27

" Please. No one will know the difference, except Hallie and me, and we'll be thankful. Pretend she's been here three days. Why would another two make a difference? " I asked.28

" I'll call her on the intercom and ask her if she wants to see you," the woman said finally. " But if she says no, that's final."29

" She won't say no," I promised. I hoped she wouldn't anyway. Suddenly I doubted my own words. Hadn't Hallie been resisting my efforts all along? Hadn't she turned away when I'd reach out to her? How many times had she screamed at me when I'd tried to help her? I prayed she'd let me in to see her. I didn't know what i'd do if she told me to leave.30

" Hallie Roswell?" the woman called over the intercom. " You have a visitor. Jenna Roswell. Do you wish to see her?"31

There was a long pause. I held my breath. I was beginning to think I'd have to go home when Hallie replied in a tired, frail voice.32

" Yes."33

Switching the intercom off, the woman turned back to me.34

" Well... I guess you can then. Elevators are to your left."35

" Thank you."36

I found the elevator and rode to the third floor. Getting out, I was overwhelmed by the scent of cleaner. Yuck.37

I came to room 316, Hallie's room. Opening the door, I stepped inside, suddenly uncertain. What would I find inside?38

Hallie was lying in bed, propped up, a breakfast tray on the table beside her. It looked like she hadn't eaten a thing. Her eyes were red-rimmed and shadowed, as though she had not slept. She was wearing a hospital gown that showed too many of the slashes on her arms for my comfort. Several had stitches. I noticed with relief, however, that she was not attached to an IV. I have a phobia about those things.1

She looked up as I entered.2

" Hey," she said quietly. " Why aren't you in school?"3

Leave it to Hallie to zero in on that.4

" Because I'm here to see you," I said. Going over to her, I hugged her tightly. She was limp and placid in my arms, and she didn't hug back.5

" How are you, Hallie? Are you okay?" I asked, a lump in my throat.6

Hallie shrugged. " I guess so."7

" Do your stitches hurt?" I asked, releasing her.8

Hallie shook her head. 9

" But they hurt when they were stitching me."10

" They didn't want to let me in," I said, sitting on her bed, " I tried to come yesterday, but they wouldn't let me. I had to raise a fit to even have them page you."11

Hallie smiled slightly.12

" Yeah, they're very protective."13

Silence for a while. Then Hallie said, " I'm supposed to see a psychiatrist today. They're making me."14

" Do you want to?" I asked quietly.15

Hallie shrugged. " It doesn't matter. Everyone's going to know now anyway." Her voice shook. " I knew Mom and Dad would react like that."16

I put my arm around her.17

" I didn't. They're just jerks. Don't let them bother you. They were in shock and didn't know how to deal with it." 18

" I know," Hallie said softly. " I can't really blame them, you know. It is pretty disgusting."19

" Well I can blame them," I said heatedly. " You should have heard them fighting when we came home. It was revolting."20

" I revolted them," Hallie whispered. Tears stood in her eyes.21

" Hallie, don't. Don't do this to yourself," I whispered. I tightened my arms around her. Hallie remained rigid, refusing to let me give her comfort.22

" I DID," she insisted. " They didn't want to touch me. And if my own parents act like that, the kids at school will be worse. They'll talk about me and say how gross I am, how I'm such a faker, acting like I was happy. I AM a faker, Jenna, I know I am. But I had to be. I couldn't let anyone know, couldn't bear to see how they'd treat me afterward. I wanted to blend in, I wanted to seem happy. I didn't want to see them freak out and avoid me. Jenna, what if Mom and Dad never treat me normally again? What if they always look at me and see a freak?" Hallie whispered hoarsely. She looked close to tears. My heart wrenched.23

" They won't, Hallie. They'll get over themselves."24

Hallie refused to look at me. I felt strangely guilty. It was because of me they were being such jerks.25

" You're not mad at me for telling them, are you? I had to. I couldn't stand to see you doing that to yourself. I never dreamed they'd react like that," I told her.26

Hallie shook her head, blinking back tears.27

" No, I'm not. I was, but not now. How could I be? You've been nice to me, God knows why. You've tried to do what you thought was best for me. I don't understand why you'd keep being so sweet when I've been so awful to you." She began to cry as she spoke. " I've been horrible to you, because I was scared, Jenna. I'm still scared. I don't want you to be around me. I've messed up so many people's lives. Mine, yours, our parents'. I'm an awful person and I don't want my misery to become yours."28

I hugged her as she spoke. I was near tears myself. She had such a low opinion of herself. It was pitiful.29

" I don't want you to pretend your okay if you're not. I want you to trust me with your feelings. I want to know if you're in pain, Hallie. I want to help you with it," I said gently.30

Hallie shook her head. " I don't understand, Jenna. How can you even stand to touch me? Aren't you disgusted? Don't you think I'm weak, selfish? I AM selfish. I ruined your life, and our parents' too. It would have been better if I'd died." Her sobbing intensifed, and she couldn't speak. I couldn't get over waht she was saying to me. How could she think this shit? 31

" Don't you ever say that," I said fiercely. " Don't you dare, Hallie. You could never ruin my life by living. The ONLY way you could ruin my life is by killing yourself. If you ever killed yourself, I'd never get over it, Hallie. Do you hear me? NEVER. I love you to much to let you do that."32

" Why?" Hallie sobbed. The pain on her face was incredible. It contorted her usually pretty features into a mask of grief.33

" Why? Why do you love me? I don't understand. I never did anything to deserve it. You should hate me for all the pain I've caused you. Don't love me, Jenna. Don't ! I don't deserve it. All I'll ever bring you is grief!"34

Her words were lost in her sobbing. She slumped against me weakly, giving in to her pain.35

" You don't get a choice, Hal," I said tenderly, stroking her hair. " How can I not love you? You're my sister. Even if you weren't I'd still love you. You're Hallie Roswell. You're a great person, and I'm not going to stop loving you because you're not perfect. Remember that line in Heathers? " If you were happy every day, you'd be a game show host, not a person." It's true. You're a person, Hallie. You need to realize that."36

Hallie wrapped her arms around me and hugged me back for the first time since I'd arrived. She buried her face in my shoulder. Surprised, touched, I put my hand on her head.37

" Don't die, Hallie," I whispered. " I love you too much." I began to cry too, wiping my tears away quickly, but they kept coming. Eventually I gave up and just let them fall.38

" I love you too, " Hallie choked out.39

" Isn't that enough, then? Isn't it enough that I love you? If you love me, and you know I love you, why would you want to hurt me so much by dying? Why would you want to leave someone who loves you? I'm not mad at you, Hallie, or fussing at you. I just want to know. Why would you want to kill yourself and leave me when I love you?" I asked.40

" I'm sorry," Hallie sobbed. " I'm sorry. I'll try to remember that. But it's hard. You can't even imagine."41

" I know, Hallie. But that's why I'm here. So you can tell me about it and I can help you. And I CAN help you, even if all I do is listen and care."42

For the next half hour, I stayed with her, hugging her, talking to her. And crying. I did a lot of crying. I didn't ask her why she had wanted to die, or why she had started cutting herself. She'd tell me on her own. Besides, it didn't really matter. The only thing that mattered was it had happened, and it had continued, and no one had done anything about it until it was almost too late. I had failed Hallie, but I was not going to fail her now. I was going to be there for her.43

After a while, Hallie fell asleep, exhausted. Stepping away from her, I backed quietly out of the room and down the hallway. I would come back tomorrow, or maybe I could call her tonight. I knew one thing, I was going to have a long talk with my parents. They were going to act like they should from now on, like both Hallie and I needed them to. I would make them. I didn't care how I had to do it, somehow I would.44

As I reached my car and climbed inside, I felt a calming sense of peace for the first time in days. My sister isn't going to kill herself, somehow I know this. She knows I love her, even if she can't love herself.45

This time, I'm going to help her. I'm not going to ignore her silent screams for help she's been sending me for so long. This time I'm going to face her problems as well as my own instead of burying my head in the sand. Together we'll beat this. Together we'll be victorious. Just me and Hallie, together we'll fight and together we'll win. 46

I hope.47