A/N: Here it is. The last chapter. I hope you enjoy it.
This is a major shout out to BRADYTHEJUST for being with this story since the beginning! Thank you!
I walked into the cafeteria, the unnecessarily heavy backpack hanging off one shoulder. My laptop bag hung from the crook of my other arm. The place was half crowded, half empty, and the noise level was tolerable. I avoided looking at the few people who stared at me, and then turned to whisper to their friends. I walked towards the same booth I'd sat in almost every morning for two years. Part of me felt relieved at rejoining my normal routine, and part of me despised the mundaneness of it.
As I neared the area, the already present Gi, Elzy, and Ryder saw me, and then immediately looked away. The movement struck me in the heart, and I almost stopped in the middle of a step. I didn't stop though, because they might be in one booth, but there was another free one right next to it. I tossed my stuff down and pulled out my phone. It was eight-thirty. I only had ten minutes to suffer before the bell, then I could go to class. I pulled my earbuds out too, hoping to better ignore those next to me.
I wasn't sitting for a minute before Avery suddenly showed up and pulled me by the arm out of the back of the cafeteria. I was barely able to grab my things.
"What the hell, Avery," I snapped, but my heart wasn't in it. I yanked my arm from his grip.
"What are you doing back so soon," he snapped back. I stood up straight and glared.
"The doctors said I could go home," I said. He scoffed.
"And how did you manage to manipulate them into saying that?" he spat. I almost growled.
"If they can't treat it with drugs or surgery, they don't know how to fix it. Just say what needs to be said and your check-out papers couldn't be in your hands fast enough," I muttered darkly.
"If you were honest, they would be able to help," he insisted. I shook my head, and I could feel my shoulders rising and tensing.
"They couldn't help a damn thing." He threw his hands up and curled them into his hair.
"'Rora, yes they can! Doctors-" I cut him off.
"Can't bring Franklin back from the dead," I shouted. A few people a couple yards away stopped and stared. I had to steady myself, and speak precisely. "He's dead, and they can't do a damn thing about it. Shut up Avery. They upped my meds, and they made my therapy weekly. That's all I need for three months, and then I'm off to college. I don't need any fucking friends, I just need to get through my classes. The seventy-two hour psych eval is over and done with, and I know better now not to break down and scream my head off in a classroom. Everything is done. I'm done." I glared at him for a second, and then went back inside. He didn't come after me, and I didn't expect him to. But I wanted him to.
There's a lot of cruel irony in the world. The girl in the horror movie opens the basement door and gets her head cut off. The kid with Asperger's hears kind words but doesn't listen to the tone beneath them, and ends up getting his feelings hurt. The guy with severe anxiety and depression you spent years worrying about and helping doesn't commit suicide. No, worse than that, in a span of fifteen seconds he gets T-boned by some intoxicated fucker and gets his ribs sent straight through his lungs and heart.
And then you, the girl who had things figured out and was the sanest of anybody in the room, hears the news. You keep a straight face for hour after hour, and then you get to your math class and his best friend isn't in the room because he's at home mourning. You see his empty seat, not the dead kid's in the period before, no you see that his best friend isn't here and you scream your fucking head off, a banshee telling the world what it already knows, Franklin Becker is dead. Tears run down your face, and your mother agrees to a psychological evaluation at the hospital. It's the same hospital that not twenty-four hours prior that they announced his death.
You spend the first day not talking to anyone, mostly because they're all pissing you off, partly because if you opened your mouth they would have to sedate you. You hear about someone trying to visit you from the nurses. Aiden? Alec? Axel? You want to correct them, his name is Avery, but you don't, because it doesn't matter. You eat just enough to avoid being force fed through a tube. So what if you become dehydrated and malnourished?
The second day they send in a stiff with a PhD in psychiatry, and she asks you what the problem is even though you are damn sure know that they already told her. You say the words, "He's dead. Shut up and fuck off," and she does. You immediately regret it, because you know she's recommending that you stay after the three days are up. You sit in silence while you figure out what needs to be said so you can leave. When the bitch comes back in you apologize, and tell her that it's not her fault what happened, the only person who's at fault is the driver. She smiles and nods. A supposed high IQ and mature emotional intelligence will get you what you want.
On the third day you keep saying what they want you to say. You play them like the tools they are and even crack a smile, tears welling in your eyes. A miracle, they say, that someone so young can understand the world and universe like you can. (Fuck the world, and fuck the universe.) The true miracle was being able to make myself cry like that. I could have been an actress.
At the end of the third day they send you home and you get in bed and watch Netflix. The only thing that keeps you company is your dog, who, even though you're mad at everything and everyone, manages to get straight to your heart, and you love that fucking dog. (Franklin loved your dog.)
The funeral is Sunday. You go, you barely cry, you give a speech because according to everyone and their mother, you knew him best. (You didn't know him well enough to know that he was getting into his car and driving to his shitty end, but you don't say that in front of mourning parents.)
You show up to school on Monday. Your friends see you and ignore you, and his best friend Avery has the fucking nerve to say you need to go back to the fucking nuthouse. (It was Thanksgiving all over again.)
School was hard. I had to sit in my stupid psychology class, where everyone almost definitely knew what happened. I sat next to an empty seat, an empty seat that should have had someone in it. I pointedly faced the left, because I couldn't even look at his empty desk. Mrs. Sands didn't say a thing, but her eyes understood. She was the only one who didn't look at me like I was about to go off again. It was a shame that the peak of my day was just thirty minutes in.
I sat in my other classes and did nothing. I caught myself up on everything that happened in English, Statistics, History, and it's not like I did much in Newspaper since I had finished all of my articles for the issue. The kids in there didn't talk to me either. I wasn't sure if they were just giving me space, or if they genuinely weren't interested in interacting with me at all. Either way, I didn't say a word for that hour and a half.
I opened up and read through my emails for the first time in several days. There were a few offers from people that needed a content writer for their websites. I emailed them back, asking them what they needed done and by when. As of recently, I had found that I had a lot of meaningless time on my hands, and I didn't think it was safe to spend it just sitting there by myself. I didn't want to go back to the hospital.
I sat through English, and read the scenes of the Shakespearean play that was once again better than the play from the year before. Of course, anything was better than reading Romeo & Juliet. Mrs. Decker didn't call on me to read any lines, and that was probably on purpose. Everything anybody did around me that day was very deliberate, and very cautious. When the bell rang and announced the end of the day, I had never zipped out of a classroom as fast as I did then.
I didn't know what to do when I got in my car. Five days after the accident and I was back in the same place, at the same time of day. There were students walking to their cars and smiling because they could finally go home, and relax. I was frozen in my seat, because I felt like if I moved, my phone would light up again, and I would have to answer that call again. My phone beeped suddenly, and I jumped ridiculously, completely startled.
I started to cry. I started to sob. I almost screamed, but I choked it back the best I could. I put my face in my hands and my hair fell around my face, hiding it. There's an idea in psychology called Context Effect, where when you're placed in the same environment as you were in when you learned something, or thought something, you are quicker to remember it. In this case, the same emotions I felt that Wednesday afternoon came back to me in their full intensity.
I bawled like I had never grieved before. I mourned the loss of my friend the day before, and here I was, coming back to school and taking part in my education again. Nothing changed except for who I saw and interacted with on a regular basis. Practically nothing changed, except for my time.
Almost every Sunday I saw him and helped him. I tutored him every Friday morning in math, and we worked together on English. He would text me after school some days and we would have stupid conversations about TV shows and superhero movies. There was no one else in my life who I spent more time talking about superhero TV and movies to. There was no one else who put the effort and care into understanding and learning about them like he did. Like we did.
I knew that when he would randomly bring that stuff up he was avoiding his scarier emotions. I was more than happy to oblige. I spent more time thinking and worrying about his mental health than I ever did about mine. I cared more about making sure he stayed on his medications than I was about making sure I took that one pill every morning. I went over to his house after school sometimes when he felt to blah to bother getting out of his bed. We watched stupid cartoons on Netflix. We didn't talk unless he wanted to. He said that I said the same things and asked the same questions his therapist did. I was proud of myself, but mostly I was just relieved that I was so similar to someone who was certified to help.
I spent all of this time, energy, and thought on him. He was gone, and I had nothing left. What was there for me? For the longest time, the biggest and most terrifying thought of him doing something bad to himself because of his stupid anxiety and depression was in the back of my mind, always lurking. He had improved! He had gotten so much better since the Thanksgiving incident, and rarely missed school anymore. What cruel fucking fate just let him get hit by a damn car? How dare the universe disregard and throw away such progress, and such potential? The doctors and nurses at the psych ward in the hospital were wrong; I didn't understand the universe, I just knew I couldn't control it.
I went home that day without a word to my dad, who was already home. I threw my backpack on a chair and stripped off my clothes in the living room, taking them and tossing them into the hamper in the laundry room. I walked straight to my room, slammed the door behind me, and startled my dog in the process. She jumped up from her place on my bed, and whined at me. Why I please love on her so that I would feel better? I rubbed her ear, but slowly then suddenly dropped into my bed, surrounding myself in my sheets, that just weren't warm enough. I was lying in my underwear, and Sissy came to rest and curl up next to hip. I started petting her, and she eventually fell asleep. I watched as her little side rose up and went back down with every unconscious breath.
It must have been close to five before something changed. Sissy suddenly woke up and looked over her shoulder at the door. There was a knock, and I went up to get it, expecting it to be my mom or dad, asking me how my first day back went. It wasn't. It was Avery, solemn and silent.
He didn't say anything, he just stepped forward and hugged me, and I melted into him. Tears spontaneously came to my eyes and threatened to fall down my face. I inhaled a shuttering breath. He pulled back and wiped the wetness in my eyes away. He kissed both my cheeks, and looked into my eyes. My vision was blurry.
"They're going to make a story out of him," I cried bitterly. Avery looked slightly confused, as if he could only guess about what I was talking about. I rubbed at my eyes harshly.
"What do you mean?" he whispered. I shook my head angrily.
"People are going to learn about his past, and they're going to say that it wasn't an accident. They're going to go against logic, against facts, to build a story that he intentionally let himself get hit by that damn truck, or van, or whatever the fuck it was. People will tell me to learn from this and fucking use it to write some essay! They'll tell you to do the same!
"There was no damn point to how he died! It was a stupid, shitty, freak accident," I ended in a mutter. He was taken aback.
"What brought this on?" he asked. I shook my head again.
"My teacher brought in a stack of the town's newspaper for the journalism class. I was done with my work so I decided to pick one up and- fuck, Avery," I cried. "They used the phrase 'cruel twist of fate.' They used a damn cliche! They turned this awful thing into a stupid cliche, and I'm so pissed!" I screeched. There was silence for the next several minutes.
"Friends are friends, but you're the best one there is. He couldn't have asked for a better one," he whispered. I broke into sobs, and he wrapped his arms around me again. He walks me to my bed, and he lays me down. He climbed in after me, and brought the sheets and duvet over us. He pulled me tight against his chest, and as I cried and hid my face, he hummed "You're Always A Woman" to me.
For the first time since the Thanksgiving incident, all we did was lie together and go to sleep.
"Thank you," I cried, before I let my unconscious take me. He snuggled in closer. He kissed my neck.
"It's what friends do."
A/N: That was really fucking sad, I don't know how I didn't cry while writing it. I've cried while writing before, but nope. And these characters are based on people I know! It's insane man.
Anyway, did you like the ending?