"I regret to inform you that Emma Herald is dead."
All I could do was stare. It was the county policy to have a school wide assembly whenever there was a student tragedy. I had been to one or two of these assemblies before, but none of them ever meant anything to me. The other people were just random students in the hallway. But this, this was different. Emma was my best friend, my only friend. We were basically sisters. But now, now she was gone in the blink of an eye.
"Now, there is a lesson to be learned from this," boomed our principal, Mrs. West. "Emma Herald seemed to be your average teenage girl. However, there was more to this student than met the eye. Emma was subjected to bullying. Some of you might be shocked, but some of you know that she was being picked on. For those of you who knew, you should be ashamed of yourselves. You should have done something to help her, spoken up to the bully, told an adult about the issue. As for you who are responsible for bullying her, you should know this. This is no laughing matter. You have pushed a fellow classmate to suicide. There is nothing we can do to change what has happened. You just need to know that you have ended a girl's life all too soon. This is something you will have to live with for the rest of your life."
The final bell rang for the end of the school day. I usually rode the bus at the end of the day, but I chose to walk instead. It was a bright, sunny day; the sun was mocking my pain. I sulked the mile to my destination.
"Riley, what are you doing here?" Mrs. Herald greeted me.
"Hi, Mrs. Herald. Can I come in?"
Mrs. Herald glared at me for a few seconds. She let out a huge sigh. "Come in."
I walked over to the Herald's living room and plopped down on their red sofa. This was my second home, my second family. Mr. and Mrs. Herald were always ready for me to come over, except on the day of their daughter's death.
Mrs. Herald sat down beside of me. "So, you heard about Emma."
"She never told me," I stated.
Mrs. Herald stared at me again. "She never told you what?"
This time, it was my turn to sigh. "She never told me she was being picked on."
We just sat there in awkward silence, neither one of us knowing what to say next. After a few minutes, Mr. Herald walked into the room.
"Riley," Mr. Herald said through gritted teeth. "Why are you here?"
I got up from the couch and headed towards the door. "I just wanted to talk. I'd probably better go home now anyway. My mom-"
"Wait!" Mrs. Herald interrupted, sounding completely and utterly desperate.
"Yes, Mrs. Herald?" I said, turning to face her.
"We… we didn't know." Mrs. Herald answered.
"What do you mean, 'We didn't know'?" I asked.
"We didn't know she had been bullied either."
I was completely shocked. "She didn't tell you?"
Mrs. Herald stared down at the floor. "We called the school earlier today, telling them that she had committed suicide. They asked us if she had been overwhelmed about the harassing. We didn't know what they meant. It was then that they told us that she was a victim of bullying. She never told anyone who was picking on her, and she never bothered to stand up for herself."
"Why had they not personally called you guys before?" I was crying and screaming at the same time. "Why didn't they bother to tell you before she committed suicide?"
Mr. Herald walked over to my side and wrapped an arm around my shoulder. "We asked them the same thing." he stated, trying his best to calm me down. "They thought that Emma had told us before."
I wiped a few tears away from my cheek. "Why would they assume such a thing?"
"Because," Mrs. Herald answered. "Emma told them she had."
I made eye contact with Mrs. Herald. "You mean… you mean she lied about telling you guys? You could have helped her!"
"I know," Mr. Herald said. "I guess she didn't think we would care."
I looked up at Mr. Herald, and I could see the sadness in his eyes. I didn't know what to say, how to say sorry for bringing it up in the first place.
Mr. Herald could tell that I felt bad. "It's alright. No harm done. Now, you should be getting home. I'll drive you."
Neither one of us made a sound the entire drive. We choose to remain silent. The same sort of silence that ended Emma Herald's life all too soon.
Bullying is a serious matter that many people face every day. If you know that someone is being bullied, tell an adult immediately. Don't assume that someone else will do it for you. As for those you who are bullied, know that you are not alone. People out there are willing to help.
Save a life. Stop bullying.