Friends and family come in all forms. Family, they say, is something you can't choose, and I believe that. However, I believe that family runs deeper than blood, because people just won't leave sometimes, yet you appreciate and hate them for it. Like blood family, you know?
And friends come from weird places. They can come when you don't expect them. Sometimes, you don't even like them at first, but they somehow grow on you. You may not even mean to befriend them, but they keep finding you. They keep ending up back in your life. Maybe you've had a lot of classes together, or you both happen to end up at the mall at the same time every day but, for whatever reason, Fate just keeps having you bump into that person until you don't want to be away from them anymore. Trust me. I know the feeling better than anyone.
When I was eight, I had a pet hamster by the name of George. I wanted a monkey, but my parents compromised for a hamster. I wasn't exactly a creative child either, and hadn't read any books about a hamster, so I gave him the name George. This hamster was my best friend; no kidding. I wasn't exactly a "normal" little girl because I didn't like the things that "normal" little girls should. I liked to get dirty and do things besides braid hair and play with dolls. Prep school girls weren't exactly inclined to accept a little girl that came to school with mud on her skirt and dirt on her face. Prep school boys weren't much different because, even though you liked the games they did, you're still a girl. And when you're eight, girls have cooties.
Anyway, since human friends seemed to be out of the roster, I settled for a hamster. I loved George. I made sure he had the best treats, big fluffy piles of cedar to play in, and a freshly oiled running wheel. I spoiled him! So much so that I talked my dad into helping me set up tunnels for him to play in, which ran around my entire room and connected back to his cage.
But all good things must come to an end, I suppose, because George died just short of our two-year anniversary, bringing about my first meeting with the Reaper.
I came home after school and found George "sleeping" as a figure in dark robes stood above his cage. I was just shy of ten, and I didn't fully understand the concept of dying. I asked the robed figure why they were there. It turned around, and…to this day I still cannot describe her face. It shifts and changes; appearing as a normal woman's one moment and a rotting corpses the next. Never keeping one face too long. Her features are as controversial as the question of the after-life itself, so I suppose it's a fitting form for Death.
She stared at me for a long time. Today I question if that was because I could see her, or if she was offended because I didn't know her. But after what felt like an eternity, she finally told me that she had to take George away because he would not be waking up.
Ever heard of the "Five Stages of Grief"? Yeah? Well, I went through all of those in about two minutes flat. I denied, screamed, cried and cried and cried, trying to throw myself onto Death and beg her not to take George away because he was only sleeping and he was my only friend.
However, Death evaded my tackle, and I landed hard on the floor, barely turning around in time to see her disappear, and discover George's unresponsive little body.
My parents couldn't say or do anything to make me feel better.
I never got over George and hated Death for years. I grew depressed and my parents clung to me, worried for their only child's health. I clung back to them because, as the years came to past, I remained "the weird girl" that was bullied and friendless. My parents became everything. They were my support. My best friends. My first movie dates. My tutors. Everything.
So when I was fourteen and mom was diagnosed with, and died from, pancreatic cancer within a year, the depression deepened. Kids shouldn't lose their mothers at fourteen.
At the funeral, I saw Death for the second time. I had no idea why she was there because my mom wasn't breathing, so she had obviously already done her job! I was so angry and had so much to say, but I couldn't find my voice. She took my mom and then had the audacity to come to her funeral! I glared at her where she stood behind my mother's casket, doing everything I could to will her away! I even squeezed my eyes shut and told myself that Death wasn't real, repeating that to myself like a mantra, in the hopes that she'd disappear. When I next opened them, she was right in front of me telling me that she…was sorry. When I blinked, she was gone, leaving me with confusion to replace my anger.
About a month later, my dad signed us up for a group therapy class consisting of other shortened families having trouble processing grief. An "understanding community" he said.
I thought it was stupid. Obviously. I'm a depressed and moody fourteen-year-old girl at the time, and I just wanted to be left alone to think over my last encounter with Death. But here I was getting dragged into a kumbaya campfire "I love you, you love me" touchy-feely sort of situation that made me gag just thinking about it.
But I wasn't the only moody teenager there, as it turned out. And, surprisingly, this other teenager, Ella, ended up being…kind of cool. She became my first real friend, against all odds, because I really didn't like her to begin with. We always ended up disturbing the group with our arguments. Pointless arguing, which the councilor liked to say was our way of "processing the pain of our loss" or whatever. I hated her, but yet, couldn't avoid her. We were paired together at every meeting because of our age. Every. Single. One. Our parents never let us skip.
Though, gradually, I finally decided, or "realized," that I didn't hate her. I was just angry over my mother's passing, and never really accepted it, so I was taking pent up anger out on her, and blah, blah, blah, the therapist could give you a better explanation than me. Either way, just know that Ella and I became close after my epiphany. Slowly but surely, she became the sister I never had, and things were looking up for a while. She even transferred to my high school, and so that improved my educational life, and my overall sanity, beyond what I would've ever thought.
Things were looking better.
However, life had a funny way of never letting me be too happy for very long.
On the way home from the movies on the night of Ella's sixteenth birthday, my dad, Ella, and I were struck by a distracted driver, texting on their phone. It was a bad accident. I knew my dad was gone when I woke up on the scene and Death was sitting between us in the front seat of our demolished car. She turned to me, and caressed my face in her hand before I blacked out.
In the hospital, I escaped fairly unharmed, diagnosed with a mild concussion, fractured wrist, severe abrasions and a few other bumps and bruises. "Lucky" they told me, but Ella? Well, after twenty-seven minutes of continuous CPR, Ella was pronounced dead at 11:04PM.
She was covered with a white sheet when Death came, and she did not hesitate to grab and hold me when I turned to cry into her arms. She shushed me, stroked my hair, and I clung to her…unwilling to let go of the last thing I had left. The family who had always been there as everything was going to hell. Family didn't leave and she certainly hadn't. You don't choose family. Sometimes, family just is. I couldn't lose her. I couldn't be alone. I couldn't.
Death never even saw the surgical scissors until I was using them to slice open my own wrists.