Epilogue:

I wish more than anything that our story had ended the way I wrote it. All I ever wanted for her was a happy ending. In reality, I lost Victoria to suicide nearly three years ago.

I began Atonement Was Taken with her and Brennan’s relationship as I consider that to be the beginning of the spiral into darkness that I was never able to retrieve her from.

It’s important to me that I state that he is not at fault here. Brennan knew nothing about her or her situation, and he acted just like any other 17 year old boy would. However, for a long time, I hated him for taking advantage of her. I hated his name. I literally refused to read a book in which one of the main characters shared the same first name as him. I hated him for not being better. I hated him for not being emotionally mature. And I hated him for the things he said to her when they broke up.* The fallout from that first relationship changed her so much, and it hurt to watch. It hurt how much he made her question herself. Victoria was absolutely perfect.

It took a long time for me to realize that my hatred towards him was actually hatred for myself in disguise. I hated myself for not handling it differently. I hated myself for not being honest about how I felt.

It took even longer than that for me to admit to myself that she would’ve dated him anyway. It wouldn’t have mattered if I’d done anything different. Brennan was what she wanted. Victoria was desperate to feel loved and wanted and to feel like her life had meaning, and she believed Brennan could provide those things for her. I don’t think it ever occurred to her that she needed to look within herself for them. I vaguely remember trying to tell her to love herself first, but I’m sure I didn’t say it with the necessary thoughtfulness and care required to prevent her from feeling overly pressured to improve.

About a year and a half after her relationship with Brennan ended, Victoria met a much older man who introduced her to cocaine and marijuana. She started skipping school to get high and drink with him. Horrified by her drug use, I cut her off when she needed me the most. I left her to fend for herself. She married that man, and by the time I’d swallowed my guilt and asked her if we could be friends again, it was too late. Victoria was almost unrecognizable. Nothing I said could make her laugh. She sounded hopeless and empty, like a shell of herself. To make matters worse, I was in a terrible situation myself, and she was heartbroken by that. Victoria had spent our time apart hoping that I had found my calling and was finally happy. I tried to spare her from the worst details, but our friendship didn’t work that way. No matter what, we always just kind of knew what the other wasn’t saying.

I invited her to visit me, but she said it would never be allowed. Her husband was violent and controlling, keeping track of ever mile she put on her car. Within a month of us speaking to each other again, he raped her, and Victoria took her own life the next day to avoid “disappointing” him any longer.

I’ll never forgive myself for the contributions I made to her suicide. I should have been a better friend. Victoria gave me so much unconditional love, and I couldn’t have been bothered to do the same for her back then.

I just wanted to give us a happy ending, but I know my story will never make up for what I did.

As far as the title, well, Atonement was one of her favorite movies. Unfortunately, I never really found out why. But maybe this was why. Maybe she hoped someone would rewrite her story for her after she was gone and give it a better ending. I hope I met her standards, but I’m smart enough to know that I probably didn’t, and I probably never will.

 

To Victoria:

I wasn’t done being your best friend. I’ll never be done. I miss you, and I love you, and I can see you. Also, please, it’s so hot outside right now. I hate it. Make it cooler. Also, also, my grandma did not name her next cat after you. I’m sure you’d be just as disappointed as I was. She didn’t even end up getting a new cat. Sigh.

Anyway, thank you for all of the silly memories. Thank you for my college degree. I wouldn’t have it if you weren’t there for me every time I was falling apart from stress. Thank you for putting up with me every finals week. Thank you for all the candy and music suggestions. Thank you so much for everything.

 

Shrooooooms and love and relationship cakes ???

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Small rant: If you’re breaking up with someone because y’all’s puzzle pieces don’t fit, BE FUCKING NICE. Do not write them an entire essay (no exaggeration) on how immature they are and how embarrassing it was to be out with them and how they were too clingy and childish and wanted a future with you. I’m so sorry someone thought you were good enough to spend the rest of their lives with? All you have to say is “you’ve got great swag, but your swag doesn’t match my swag, so let’s part ways now. Bye.” That is it. Nothing else. Don’t be a dick. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Victoria:

Thankfuly, summer has finally begun. I no longer have to stress about avoiding Brennan at school, nor anywhere else for that matter. With Lavender’s assistance, I focused on studying, and I earned as best of grades as I could have hoped. As per her instructions, I spent the past two weeks attending classes and taking my finals without paying any attention to what was going on around me. I kept my head down, and I focused on studying. Lavender met me in the parking lot every single day at lunch time so we could eat together and minimize my chances of running into Brennan in the cafeteria. She even picked me up after school the moment we were released everyday so that I wouldn’t accidentally see him while I was waiting for my parents in the school parking lot. Thanks to our teamwork, I only saw him once in all that time. I feel so lucky for that. Seeing Brennan’s face made me crave his arms and his voice so badly… It was truly brutal. I will never be able to get over my adoration for him. He was correct in waiting until after the play to break up with me. I cannot fathom the pain I would have been in had I been forced to work side-by-side with him and stage kiss him daily. It’s unbearable to consider.

When we weren’t together, Lavender and I texted each other about our plans for me moving in. A second bed will not fit in her bedroom, so she bought me as comfortable a cot as she could find. She also threw out all of my “trigger foods” so that I wouldn’t be surprised or feel bombarded by them. We’re going to go grovery shopping together tomorrow so that I will be able to purchase my “safe” foods. Lavender says it’s okay as long as I consume an appropriate number of calories each day.

It has been quite a shock to my system to go from spending so much time with Brennan and to have been building a relationship with him, to barely ever having any reason to say his name. I wish someone had prepared me for what breaking up feels like. Lavender told me that the vast majority of high school relationships end. Now I can’t help but wonder how many more relationships I will have to endure before one finally sticks.

She seems to be handling her break up remarkably well. I am still having multiple crying spells a day. Then agaian, it’s probably different when you’re the one who did the breaking up… I sigh and look over at her. We’re on our way to her apartment right now. All of my belongings are in the backseat and trunk. It surprised me how well everything fit into her car. I sort of thought I owned more stuff than just a few duffel bags and a medium-sized suitcase would hold.

“Do you want to change the music?” Lavender asks when she notices me observing her.

“No, actually. I like this a lot. Who is this?”

“Post Script by Typhoon. It’s kind of one of my favorites.” She replies, embarrassed.

“It’s really pretty,” I assure her. We haven’t spoken much today. Lavender’s brother did something awful to her last night, and I think the occurrence has left her a little speechless and out of sorts.

I must fall asleep at some point because I wake up to Lavender tapping my shoulder and whispering “we’re here.” I glance around in a sleepy daze as I follow her to her front door. She unlocks it and leaves it open so that we can brings my things in more easily.

The sun is bright and sweltering and merciless as we go in and out, carrying my belongings inside. By the time we make our final trip inside, we’re sweaty and starving.

“Is there anything specific you would like me to make for dinner?” Lavender asks, walking towards her kitchen. She pauses, and then she giggles. “Never mind. I don’t actually have any food here. I threw it all out for you… So, what would you like me to order? It’s a college town, so practically everywhere delivers.”

“Is Chinese cool with you?”

“Oh, yeah, definitely! Chinese is my favorite!” Lavender orders our food while I wander down the hallway to see her, I mean our, bedroom. I’m taken aback by how cute and Lavender-y it is. Every single one of the cards I have ever given Lavender is on display on her dresser. She has random drawings of swirls and flowers hanging everywhere, and there’s a strange water bottle with a face and some dead leaves glued to it that I’ll have to ask her about. Her closet door is covered in pictures of her with her sister or with me or the three of us, along with some pictures of museums and places she has visited on vacations. I think this is absolutely a bedroom I could enjoy living in.

“Hey, I’m going to shower now.” Lavender says, startling me. I hadn’t heard her come in.

While she’s showering, I begin putting my clothes away. Lavender cleared half of her closet and three of her dresser drawers for me. I don’t feel like showering tonight, so I change into a t-shirt and some athletic shorts to sleep in. I take my antidepressants, and I meditate until I hear the water turn off.

“Can we watch a movie tonight?” I ask when Lavender returns from the bathroom. Her hair is wet, and she’s wearing penguin print pajamas. She looks so adorable that I can’t help but smile.

“Of course! What would you like to watch?”

“Zoolander,” I grin. It’s the movie we have always suggested to each other when times are rough. It never fails to make us laugh. I think it’s the perfect movie for tonight.

Lavender grins back at me and bounces over to her desk to retrieve her laptop. Netflix is already open in one of her tabs, so all she has to do is pull up the movie for us to stream.

“So, what should I do with the computer? Do you want me to put it on top of the dresser so we can both see it, or do you think that will still be too far away?” Lavender asks.

“Oh…I don’t know.” I trail off, looking at the floor. I was hoping we would both hang out in her bed. I’m not ready to sleep in my cot by myself tonight. I’m overwhelmingly anxious and nervous over all the ways in which my life has changed. However, I don’t know how to phrase my feelings without coming across as weird. With or without Brennan, I must work on not being weird.

“You know what? Let’s just both be in my bed. I learned from my time with Oliver that it’s actually really nice to have someone next to you at night.” Lavender decides, setting the laptop down at the foot of her bed and crawling under the covers.

Relieved, I plop into the bed next to her, and she presses play. I carefully curl up against her side, and she wraps and arm around me. Lavender pulls herself up slightly in order to kiss the top of my head. I am not sure that I would describe my current emotional state as happy, but I am at ease. My heart and mind are quiet. And for the first time since Brennan broke up with me a few weeks ago, I am interested in what the future will bring me.

Lavender:

I can’t believe Victoria’s parents agreed to letting her “live with Alexandra.” I can’t believe they didn’t ask more questions. They’re usually so strict. Victoria wasn’t even allowed to be in the car with her sister driving before this. If it weren’t such a good thing that she won’t be living with her parents anymore, it would be sad how little they seem to care. It’s as if they just want to wash their hands of her now so that they don’t have to feel guilty.

Victoria living with me is all I have ever wanted since our friendship began. It’s something we have joked about regularly for years, and now it’s really happening, and I couldn’t be more excited. I love her so much. We are perfect roommates for each other. We’re both easy-going and quiet. We both prefer going to bed early. We both place a lot of importance on studying and doing well in school. We understand each other. We know each other really well. We love many of the same movies and music. Neither of us has any quirks that could be perceived as upsetting or problematic to the other. I can’t imagine a better match than Victoria.

I have doubts still though. I worry about her. She has shown astounding tenacity and bravery the past couple of weeks. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for her to be in such close proximity to Brennan. However, Victoria did try to die only a few weeks ago, and I am scared that she is still too close to that ledge. I’m scared that none of this will be enough to save her. I worry she won’t keep her promise about not missing any appointments with any of her therapists and taking her medication daily. I want so much to blindly trust her, but I feel it would be irresponsible to do so. Living together is going to require a lot of honesty on both of our parts.

I worry about her parents as well. There are still two more years before Victoria is eighteen, What if they change their minds? What if they find out that she isn’t really living with Alexandra? What happens then? There’s just a lot that could go wrong here. And yet, I’m still going to do it. I believe in us.

On an entirely separate note, Grace and I have had a really nice time together since I got home. We have gone to Starbucks everyday, and she made me listen to Paramore and Panic! At the Disco, along with some other teen angst bands. It was awful, to be honest, but I love her. I bought her a bunch of presents, and I finally got her to start reading The Golden Compass trilogy. Grace informed me this morning that she really enjoys the first book so far, which was wonderful news. I don’t know what I would do if my own sister didn’t like my favorite series. It’s going to be sort of weird now that Victoria will be living with me. Instead of me driving to Houston to see them, it will be Victoria and I driving to Houston to see Grace. Unless, of course, Victoria decides to stay at the apartment when I’m visiting home. That would be an understandable decision since my brother is disgusting, and I can’t guarantee that we won’t run into him.

Speaking of which, he’s been a lot more aggressive towards me the past couple of weeks. I wish I was allowed to say I never want to see him again. I wish I was allowed to set boundaries for myself. He groped my chest roughly when I walked past him in the kitchen the other day. He also has repeatedly asked me for a blowjob since I got home. Every time I screamed or yelled in response, he would laugh and say he was just kidding, or accuse me of being a bitch for being unable to take a joke. It makes me feel crazy. It makes me feel scared. I don’t want him near me. To make matters worse, our parents know. They have always known since the very first time he rubbed himself against me hen I was thirteen, but they have never, ever done anything to help me. They have just stood back and watched as their son sexually attacked his sister for six years now. It’s almost ridiculous to me when my parents accuse me of hating them. I don’t hate them. I don’t even hate my brother. I just nothing all of them.

Well, I don’t exactly feel nothing for them. I feel frustration. I feel exhaustion. I feel overwhelmed. I definitely don’t feel love towards them like I do for Victoria and Grace.

I hate coming home. I hate having to face these issues of mine. My time with Oliver proved to me that I’ll never be capable of a normal, healthy relationship after all that I’ve been through. I hate being touched so incredibly much.

Fuck, I need to get back to school. I need to get away from here. Coming home for more than a day is so bad for me emotionally. I always fall apart, and then I have to start from scratch with my mental health when I’m on my own again.

I’m going to pick up Victoria and help her pack some more. I need to get out of here immediately. It’s her last day of school, so she’s off at noon. I can spend the rest of the day with her. By the time I get home tonight, hopefully my brother will have gone to bed.

My thoughts are a jumbled and everything feels too bright and too loud during the drive to her school. Because of all that, I don’t listen to music like I normally would. When I arrive at her school, I park in the corner nearest to the back door so that she can race to my car without seeing Brennan. My thoughts are still racing, so I can’t bring myself to listen to music or play games on my cell phone while I wait for her. Instead, I just watch the back door to see when she comes out.

When Victoria appears, my brain decreases its screaming. Her school uniform is pretty boring, but the red ribbon in her dark hair is really pretty. Her makeup is on point today too. I unlock the car doors so she can get in.

“Hi! How are you?” Victoria asks as she climbs in.

“Pretty fine. I wish you hadn’t made it so hot outside today though. It’s kind of awful.”

“I’m sorry.” Victoria laughs. “I did really well on all of my finals, so my GPA won’t be as bad as I thought!”

“Ahhh! That’s so awesome! I’m so proud of you, nugget! As reward, you can put on whatever music you would like!” I reply, gesturing to the auxiliary port in my car.

“Ooh, how kind of you!” Victoria puts on Modest Mouse, and we listen in companionable silence until we get to her house.

We race each other inside and up the stairs to her bedroom. It’s a stupid decision considering all of my back troubles, but I feel like I need to run to shake off…. just all of the last, like, four months. Breathless, I take in Victoria’s now disheveled appearance and bright smile. Seeing her so happy provides me with the reassurance I needed today that we can do anything together.

I will make her life as beautiful as I possibly can.

Victoria:

“Lavender!” I exclaim, as she enters my room. I jump up to hug her tightly, and we sit down on my bed. “Before we watch a movie, can I ask you something?”

“Of course!” Lavender replies, looking interested.

“Okay, you know how you said you wished we were sisters yesterday?” Lavender nods, so I continue. “Well, this is probably insane, and it’s probably asking way too much of you, but what if I move in with you? I would homeschool for the rest of high school, and then I could go to your college after? I know t would be expensive, so I would get a job, and I don’t expect you to help me financially at all.” I let out the breath I was holding as I await her answer.

Lavender stands up abruptly, and my heart stops for a moment because I’m afraid she’s leaving. My question horrified her so much that she’s going home. She doesn’t walk towards my door though. Instead, she walks to the pile of stuffed animals in the corner of my bedroom and retrieves the red panda stuffed animal she bought me a couple of years ago and hugs it to her chest before turning to face me.

“I’m so happy you still have this guy,” she says, holding up the red panda. “Also, I would absolutely love you as a roommate. I am willing to help you in any way that I can, but how are you ever going to get your parents to agree? Are you considering emancipation because I’ve heard that that’s a much more difficult process than in the movies? How much school do you have left? Let’s figure this out!” Lavender finishes and hops back into my bed.

“Yay!” I hug her again, pulling us backward until we’re both lying down. “Not emancipation—I don’t think that would go well. My plan involves a lot of lying. I know you abhor lying, but I don’t know of any other way to get my parents to agree.”

“Hmm, okay, tell me what the plan is.” Lavender says after pondering for a moment.

“Everything works out pretty perfectly. It’s mid-May. Next week is the last week of school before finals, and it’s essentially pointless. I’m sure I can make up whatever I missed yesterday and today during that time. It’s also a relatively relaxed week, so I should have plenty of time to pack up all my things in addition to studying. My last day of school lines up with the day you have to return for summer school, so I’ll just go with you. We’ll tell my parents that I’m moving in with my sister. She already said she’d vouch for me whenever it comes up. She doesn’t want me living here anymore either. I’ll homeschool the last two years of high school and take dual credit courses at the junior college near you to help my GPA. I’ll get a job as well to cover my food and living expenses. I promise I’ll be a model roommate. I’ll get a therapist there too. I won’t fall behind on my recovery.” I end on a rather desperate note, but I really want Lavender to agree.

I can’t bear to live here any longer. My parents are wholly unhelpful to my psyche, and I just… don’t want to see Brennan’s face every single day at school for an entire year. I am embarassed of myself. I am embarassed of the type of girlfriend that I was. I’m unwilling to voice these feelings to Lavender presently. I do not wish to give her any further reasons to be concerned about my mental state.

Okay, I’m in. Let’s make it happen. Wait until tomorrow to ask your parents so they won’t be suspicious about me.”

I burst into tears of gratitude and hide under the covers. Lavender tries to pull them off of my face, but I don’t let her.

“Eh,” She sighs, “you can stay under there if you like, but since we’re roomies now, I need to know what color sheets you would like. Also, we do have to talk about what happened this week. I know it’s going to be hard, but it’s important…” Lavender trails off.

I sit up, letting the covers fall away. “I understand,” I say quietly. “I couldn’t imagine returning to the life where I wasn’t Brennan’s girlfriend. I… I love him so much. I’m still in love with him. We… we’re soulmates.” I’m openly crying at this point. Lavender takes me into her arms and pulls me on to her lap. This is the most physical contact I’ve ever had with her, and the shock of that realization halts my tears. I turn awkwardly to look at her questioningly.

“I’m not done being your friend. I’ll never be done being your friend. I can’t imagine going back to the life where I hadn’t met you yet. I love you so much. I know it’s selfish of me, but please don’t leave me alone in this world.” Lavender takes a deep breath. She’s crying too. I’ve never actually seen her cry before either. “Boys suck. They’re not worth giving up on yourself for. But I stand by what I said. If you’re meant to be, you will be. For now, I think you should just be Victoria. Find your peace, and then if Brennan is still what you want, have him over for a booty call or something.” She breaks into a smile at the end.

“Thank you.” I reply, leaning back into her. “I would like blue sheets.”

“Tres bien.”

After a few minutes of content silence, I tap Lavender’s should. “Um, please don’t be mad, but you can you read the text message thread between Brennan and I and tell me what I did wrong?”

“I really don’t think that would be a healthy activity, Victoria. I highly doubt you did anything wrong. It’s more likely that Brennan’s puzzle piece doesn’t fit with yours.”

“Please,” I plead with her. “I want to know so that I can change for him.”

“Can I delete his phone number when I’m done?” She asks, her voice hard.

“But you said… the booty call…”

“You can find him in a phone book or something.”

“Okay,” I acquiesce and hand her my phone.

Lavender starts off from the very beginning, and she scrolls slowly, face unreadable. I believe she’s doing everything she can to not let me see her face change. It feels like forever when she finally returns my phone to me.

“I don’t like the way he was talking to you.” She says simply.

“But what about what I said? What did I do wrong? What do I need to change?” I beg.

“Absolutely nothing. You were a very kind and understanding girlfriend, and anyone else would feel lucky to have you. Honestly, I think Brennan is the one who needs to grow up. Can we pick a movie now?”

I’m not satisfied with Lavenders synopsis, but I don’t want to push the issue any further. She has agreed to a lot for me today.

We end up deciding to watch Atonement, my favorite movie, since Lavender hasn’t seen it before.

When it ends, Lavender shocks me for the third time today by kissing my forehead. She’s much, much shorter than me, so it was only possible because we’re lying in my bed still. I don’t know how to respond, so I hide my face again.

“I don’t want to go home.” Lavender muses.

“I don’t want you to leave either. Another two weeks feels of this feels so long… And I’ll have to see Brennan…” My voice catches. I’m not ready to face him.

“It will be okay. I’m in town now. We can hang out during your lunch everyday if you like. And you can call me or text me or even FaceTime me anytime. Just hang on to moving in with me. Focus on it as hard as you can and before you know it, it will be summer, and we’ll be in my car with all your stuff on our way to my apartment.” Lavender gives me a reassuring smile. I don’t know what to say, so I merely nod.

“Please, don’t try again. There is hope for your future. You’re going to lead an amazing life. I’m sure of it. You shine too brightly for anything less.” She says, getting up to leave. We hug once more before my mother leads her out.

Lavender:

Everything feels unreal. This past semester feels like it was a bad dream. I nearly lost my best friend again. My last final of the semester was just a few days ago, but all of the late nights I spent studying and/or crying are already hazy memories. I made surprisingly good grades in classes I never thought I would be smart enough to take. I dated a boy for the first time ever. I broke up with a boy for the first time ever. There was a lot of gross kissing that I wish hadn’t happened. He saw me topless. Ugh, the thought of that kind of makes me sick. This boy, who said terrible things about my best friend that he’s never even met, saw my boobs. Maybe it’s weird that I feel this way, but my body is supposed to be sacred, and I hate how many people have seen it now without my permission.

Well, I guess he did have my permission at the time. Sort of. I felt pressured into it though. It didn’t feel like I wanted to do it. It didn’t feel comfortable, loving, or safe. Whatever. It doesn’t matter now. Oliver’s privileges have been revoked. I know that’s awful of me. Victoria would be disappointed in me if she knew how I felt. I’m disappointed in myself for not being the better person here, but god damn it, my first boyfriend was supposed to be a fun and interesting adventure. Instead, it was just never-ending frustration, pressure and confusion. I kind of want to pretend we never even dated.

I’m going to text Victoria and confirm our plans for the day. I have a bad feeling that her parents aren’t going to allow us to hang out. If they were good, non-abusive parents, then their reasoning would be very understandable. However, they are not, and they will only serve to make her life even more difficult if she’s forced to stay home with them all day.

I promised her we’d see each other today no matter what, so even if her parents say no, I will still drive to Victoria’s house or something. Worst case scenario, I’ll FaceTime her from her front yard. I have nothing holding me back from being insane today.

“What did your parents say about us hanging out today?” I send.

“They said no. They want to keep an eye on me, but they also don’t know what to do with me. My mother keeps crying about how I’m crazy and will never be able to get a drivers license now.”

“I figured. Well, what if I come to your house instead? I really want to hang out. I have missed you so much.” I reply.

Why is Victoria’s ability to get a license her mother’s primary concern right now? I know this stuff is hard, and people react in weird ways, and sometimes freak out over minor details as a form of escaping reality, but still, don’t call your daughter crazy. Validate her. Support her. Love her. Help her recover.

“They said that it is fine for you to come over, but they want us to keep my bedroom door open the whole time you’re here.” Victoria answers after a few minutes.

“Eh, I’ll take it. Tell them thank you! I can’t imagine why we’d need to close the door anyway. I’m going to get dressed, and then I’ll be on my way!”

I don’t know what to wear. All of my clothes feel tainted. I can’t wear my favorite purple shirt because that’s the one I wore the night I took my top off for the first time. I can’t wear my Pikachu shirt because I wore that the day I failed one of my calculus exams. I can’t wear my green dress because I was wearing it one of the nights that Victoria was having an eating disorder crisis. The DeathNote shirt is what I was wearing when I broke up with Oliver, and it’s what I wore to the hospital yesterday. My pretty, lace black peplum shirt is what I was wearing the time I stumbled and fell down the stairs in front of Oliver, and he got angry, and he said to never do that again, as if I have some sort of control over my clumsiness. Everything has a bad memory attached to it now. Everything will have to be thrown out. Fuck. Why am I like this?

I’m going closet diving, meaning I am now rummaging through my childhood closet, searching for something really old that still fits me reasonably well. If whatever I find has bad any memories attached to it, preferably they have faded enough to where I don’t remember or I don’t care anymore.

I finally uncover an Owl City t-shirt that still fits and feels safe. The only memories attached to it are nice ones of hanging out with friends and drinking coffee. I’m a little embarrassed at how much I used to love the band, but honestly, I have no regrets. Owl City was great. Their music fit my personality really well back then. I wish I was still that peaceful and bouncy.

Once I’m dressed, I head downstairs. My brother is still in bed, thankfully, so I don’t have to worry about that. I almost invite Grace, since I know she loves Victoria, and the three of us always have a great time together, but I stop myself. It’s probably not appropriate for her to be exposed to Victoria’s life.

Getting in my car, I realize I feel really nauseous. I’m suddenly scared for Victoria and for Oliver and for myself too. I can feel myself coming apart more and more. Is that normal? I’ve spent all these years telling myself that everything will be okay. That I just need to get through the next week or month or whatever, and then I’ll run away someday and just be happy in a forest by myself, but the reality is that I love and care for Grace and Victoria too much to just disappear on them. It doesn’t matter how many weeks I get through, I’ll never be able to run off and be free. I need to learn to find freedom and feel empowered where I am.

What if Oliver does something drastic in response to me breaking up with him? He had such a tough semester. Did I make the right decision?

Yes, it sucks, but I did. Subjecting the both of us to an unhappy romantic relationship would have been much worse in the long run. I think tonight I will offer to be his friend now that I’m less angry. I hope a friendship between him and I will be better.

As I pull up to Victoria’s house, I’m weirdly surprised. I don’t know what I was expecting her home to look like—sad, I guess, if a house can be sad. And for some reason I thought it would be gray. But from the outside, it doesn’t look that different from my parents’ house. It’s just a regular, pale green, two-story, single-family home. Nothing about it stands out from any of the other houses on her street.

I take a deep breath and check my makeup and hair in the mirror. I look tired. I can’t do anything about that right now though.

Her mother answers the door when I knock. “Oh, hello, Lavender! Victoria is in her room. You look very good and thin! Victoria should get some dieting tips from you!” She says, shocking me out of greeting her properly.

“Oh, uh, um, yeah, th…thank you. And uh, thank you for, um, letting me come over today.” I force out, stumbling over my words. No one should take dieting tips from me. I live on caffeine and cookies. I’ll probably die soon. I hate Victoria’s mother so much.

She guides me to Victoria’s bedroom, and then she goes back to their living room to watch television. Victoria gets up to greet me. She looks awful. Painfully thin, red-eyed, and tired. I can’t believe I didn’t notice yesterday how small she is. I want to cry, but I just hug her, and we sit down on her bed with her laptop open to Netflix.

Victoria:

“Victoria!” I hear a familiar voice shout from the hallway. I turn to see Lavender running towards me with her arms outstretched. She skids to a stop at my hospital bed, her expression changing from excitement to concern.

“Wait, um, is it going to hurt if I hug you…?” Lavender asks, looking awkwardly off to the side instead of at me, inspecting the floor, I suppose.

“No, I only hurt my wrist, so just avoid that, and all will be well!” I hold it up to show her my bandaged arm.

“Oh, okay, great.” She sighs, relieved, and we hug. I know Lavender is doing her best for me, but I can feel how tense her body is when we hug, and it hurts me to know I’m scaring her. I’m so selfish.

“So how long do you have to stay here?” Lavender asks after we let go of each other.

“I think I can go home tomorrow. I’ll have to come back to have the sutures removed. There was some discussion of in-patient treatment, but I don’t think I’ll be doing that. My therapist will probably increase the dosage on my antidepressants.”

“Okay, I hope that helps.”

“Did you get to say goodbye to Oliver before you left? Are things going any better with him?” I ask, wanting to change the subject.

“I broke up with him this morning. He’s a mean squeaker.”

“That’s an insult I’ve never heard before. What does that even mean?”

“It means he talks too much, and he was rude like 90% of the time. I’m going to get a sex slave now. Dating is stupid, and I hated it.” Lavender answers, frustration in her tone.

“Oh, yeah, same,” I laugh, “we can both get sex slaves after we take over the world.”

Lavender laughs too, but her eyes are glassy. She looks lost and wild. The guilt seeps back into my mind. I should have kept everything a secret. I shouldn’t have made her worry over me like this. I hope I didn’t have anything to do with her breakup with Oliver. I know things with him weren’t going very well, but I still don’t want to be the reason she gave up on him.

I need to stop screwing up people’s lives. I need to be stronger and better and independent.

“How long can I stay with you today?” She asks, bringing me back to reality.

“That’s a good question. I don’t know. I guess you’ll have to leave when visiting hours end.”

“Oh…” Lavender trails off as she thinks, “Well, can we hang out tomorrow? I’ve really missed you. I’m so sorry I couldn’t hang out more during the semester.”

“Yeah! I’ve missed you too! We can get Starbucks and strawberries and spinach and mushrooms and pick out our sex slaves! I’ll let you know as soon as they let me go home, and I’ll have my parents drop me off at the mall!” I’m excited about our plans. I don’t know that my parents will agree to any of this due to what I’ve just done to myself, but I hope they do. I want to see Lavender and have one of our crazy fun days like we used to. I think it would help me to be around her.

“Yay, I have something to look forward to now!” She bounces happily. Lavender’s little hops are adorable. I hardly ever see them these days. Before her back injury, she was always bouncing and happy. It changed her a lot to have chronic pain. It would probably change anyone though. Lavender chooses a chair by my bed and sits down. I realize I don’t want her to leave. I don’t want my parents to come back. I don’t want to go home with them. I want to go home with Lavender. She jokes about us living together someday all the time. Why can’t it be real?

I’m going to cry again, I think. Lavender will back in College Station for school on a couple of weeks, and I’ll be all alone again.

“I wish you were my sister.” Lavender says, almost as if she can read my mind.

“Yeah, same. I would love to be your sister.” I reply.

A nurse comes in to tell us that busting hours have ended.

“Wait, but, um, my lipid bilayers hurt. Can I stay? I think I need help!” Lavender blurts our, suddenly, and I look over at her in shock.

The nurse just stares at her blankly for a moment before responding very seriously. “No, I’m sorry, if you can feel your lipid bilayers, and they’re causing you pain, then you’ll need to see a specialist. You can’t stay in this room.”

“Okay, sorry.” Lavender says, quietly. She gives me one more hug before leaving. “See you tomorrow, no matter what.” She promises.

I’m lonely again now that she’s gone. I don’t understand why I crave companionship so much. Why can’t I handle being alone like everyone else? Why do I have to be so clingy and needy and desperate?

Thankfully, Lavender is already texting me. She’ll be driving soon, so I know it won’t be for long, but it helps.

“That nurse was rude. Everyone knows that the cure for painful lipid bilayers is friendship.” I laugh at her message.

“Yeah definitely. We’ll be sure and include that as part of our campaign when we run for co-queens of the world.”

“Yes! Oh my gosh, I can’t wait until we’re in charge of everything! Free coffee for everyone!”

My parents text me too, informing me that they will be back soon. I don’t want to see them right now. I sigh heavily, and I try not to cry.

I wonder how difficult it is to be emancipated. I’m halfway through high school. I could live with Lavender, if she’ll have me. I could homeschool for the rest of high school, and then I could go to the same college as Lavender. I will make sure my grades are good enough to get into her school. We would have such a good time together. She’s so kind. Everything would be perfect.

Lavender:

I heard my phone go off a couple of times last night, but it was charging on the other side of the room, so I didn’t get out of bed to check it. No one messages me in the middle of the night anymore, so it’s probably just spam. I don’t start to worry until I see that they’re both from Victoria.

“Are you awake?” At around midnight, and “Everything is going to be okay now. I love you.” At 2:30AM.

I immediately call her.

Oh my god.

Please let her be okay.

Oh my god.

Please no.

Please, I love her.

Please, she’s my sister in so many ways. I need her.

Please.

Please.

“Hello,” a groggy voice that definitely belongs to Victoria answers.

“Oh my god are you okay?!” I’m about to cry.

“Yeah, but I’m in the hospital. I wasn’t really trying to die. I just tried to cut too deeply. I had to wake my parents up and have them bring me. They were really freaked out by all the blood.”

“Okay, I’m really glad you’re okay. Please don’t die. I love you.” I’m still holding back tears. I don’t want to upset her.

“I love you too. I have to go now. My parents are back.”

“Bye,” I nearly whisper. I don’t believe her. I know it’s not fair to not believe her, but her text to me from last night sounded like a goodbye.

It’s fine. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that she changed her mind and that she’s alive. Now that I’m off the phone, the tears flow freely. I curl up into a ball on my floor and just cry. I am so afraid of losing Victoria. It feels inevitable sometimes, and I hate it. I won’t let it happen. I will save her. She’s going to live a long and beautiful life.

I’m in severe need of some kind of comfort, but I don’t want to tell my mom, and Grace is much too young for this stuff, which leaves… Oliver. It’s worth a try, I guess. He should still be in town, and I haven’t broken up with him yet.

“Hi, I’m sorry to bother you since you’re probably busy packing, but I’m really upset. Victoria tried to kill herself last night, and she didn’t succeed, but I’m still so scared. I don’t want to lose her. A hug or anything would be great.” I hit send, and then I return to crying. I know I should pull myself together and pack, but I just can’t right now.

Hours pass. I stop crying at some point. I just stare at my ceiling. My back hurts. I need medicine. But I don’t have the energy to get up and take any.

My phone goes off. I hope it’s Victoria, but it’s Oliver. Why did it take him four hours to answer?

“I fucking hate stuff like this. Let me guess, she didn’t try very hard and she was somewhere that it was easy to find her? I’m sorry but fucking selfish emo kids attempting suicide for attention piss me the fuck off.”

I don’t even know what to say. I wanted emotional support. Who the fuck reads a text like the one I sent and answers like this? What the fuck?

Has it ever occurred to him that maybe there’s a reason these kids are desperate for attention? Like parental neglect or abuse? Who cares how hard someone tries to die!? The point is that they’re trying to die! What the fuck?! Victoria needs help. Those “selfish emo” kids need help! Jesus fucking Christ.

“Wow okay sorry I bothered you. I’m breaking up with you. Good luck with your life.” I reply. I’m too upset to be civil with him.

“You’re just scared that your friend could have died. I’m sorry.”

I’m not going to answer him. I didn’t know people who thought things like that even existed in real life. I thought it was just stupid internet trolls accusing all the depressed people of faking for attention.

My anger and frustration towards Oliver gives me the energy I needed to get dressed. I throw on some jeans and a DeathNote T-shirt and head out the door.

Forget Oliver. I’m going to see Victoria.

Oliver calls me twice during my drive home, but I ignore him. Right now, I never want to see him again. I do have to call Victoria to find out what hospital she’s at though, so I do that.

I’m a little dismayed when I discover that I have no idea how to get to her hospital, much less the medical center, but that’s why Siri exists. Thank goodness for her.

I will probably regret my treatment of Oliver when this is all over, but right now, I just don’t care. It’s for the best anyway. I would rather be on my way to see Victoria. If he’d been a human being, and I’d gone to his place, I just would have spent the entire time worried about Victoria.

Once I’m in Houston, I stop at a drugstore and spend my last $10 to buy Victoria her favorite candy and a ceramic mushroom. I don’t really care that it means I’ll be hungry next week. Nothing feels like it matters all that much compared to her at this moment.

It feels like this drive is never going to end. My iPod has the audacity to play “If I Die Young,” by The Band Perry when it’s on shuffle, and I nearly break the auxiliary cord changing the song. I have never regretted downloading that song when it was free on iTunes more than I do right now.

When I finally arrive at the medical center, I’m pleasantly surprised to discover that it’s actually not that difficult to navigate if you listen to Siri. I pull into a parking garage, and walk inside the hospital to the front desk.

“Hi, I’m a visitor for Victoria Torres.”

“What is your name?”

“Lavender Taylor.” The woman calls Victoria’s room to confirm my visit, and then turns back to me.

“Okay, she’s in room 324 on the third floor, down the hallway to the left.”

“Okay, thank you,” I try to give her a confident smile, but I’m definitely going to get lost.

I take the elevator up, and I am immediately confused by all the signs. I don’t want to bother anyone, so I wander around, trying to look like I know what I’m doing, until I locate her room.

“Victoria!!!” I yell, running up to her hospital bed. I start crying, but I don’t care. I’m so happy to see her.