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The Last Goodbye




                My name is Jill. I’m 12 and in the 6th grade. I have brown hair and black eyes. I consider myself an average girl with average tastes. I want to tell you about my best friend. Our first meeting was most amusing.

                I first met him last year. I was rushing to my next class. I hadn’t zipped my backpack all the way, and my books all came spilling out all over. He was the only one who helped me out. Everyone else just kept walking or laughed.

                I thanked him for his help when we were done. “So what’s your name, hero?” I had asked kindly.

                “I don’t know about hero, but my name is Jack.” He looked perplexedly at me as I started cracking up, laughing hard. “What’s so funny about that?”

                I thought that the only way it could be funnier is if his name was Romeo. Hmmm…I take that back. It wouldn’t have been funny at all then, because my name isn’t Juliet. “Hi, Jack. I’m Jill.”

                He fixed me with an annoyed look, like I was messing with him. “What’s wrong with you? It was your job to bring the pails today! How are we supposed to get water now?”

                We both shared a nice laugh at that.  He had a good sense of humor. He always knew how to make me laugh whenever I was down. I was very comfortable in his presence. There was never anything more than friendship between us. No romance, no kissing. Not even any flirting. We got along like a brother and sister. And fought like them, too. Hee hee. Not really. We mostly did our best to annoy each other rather than actually fighting.

                One of our favorite methods of doing that was playing to see who could get in the last word. Whenever we’d separate one of us would say goodbye, than the other would say it back, and so on and so forth until we either got bored, or we really had to go. We mostly did it over the phone, because it was the easiest way to win. Just say it and hang up. We sometimes did phone tag in that fashion, but while I learned my lesson about picking up the phone again, Jack never seemed to. We never played through texts. Try explaining to your parents that you racked up a one thousand dollar cell phone bill saying nothing but back and forth goodbyes and let’s see how fine your bottom would feel the next day.

                It was strange. Even though there was never anything romantic between us…he just felt like a boyfriend. One of the reasons was that Jack, no matter how many games we played, NEVER ever won any of them. I always managed to get in the last word, so I knew that he was letting me win. I never said anything to him about it. I thought it was cute.  I’d also say that he was quite handsome. Even if I didn’t care about him in that way, when you spend so much time around someone it’s hard not to start taking in all the little things about them.

                Another reason was that he never seemed to hang out with anybody else besides me. We weren’t in the same classes, but we’d often pass each other through the day. We did share lunch together, though. And I never saw him hang out with any guy friends or sit with any other girls during this time.

                Since we lived pretty close to the school and each other we would just walk home together. We would always go to my house first, of course, because what kind of man would let a young lady walk home by herself? We’d do our homework, have a snack, and just hang out for a while until it was time for him to go home for dinner.  I admired him for all his help. I had been an average student at school, but Jack understood most of the subjects better than I did. The way he explained things made more sense usually than what was in our textbooks, and I saw my grades start going up a bit.

                Sometimes I would visit over his house, but not as often, and, ever the gentleman, he would walk me back home afterword. I felt the luckiest girl in the world to have a true friend. It didn’t matter that he was a boy. He understood me a lot better than anyone else did. And the fact that he never tried pushing our relationship from friendship to a romance ensured I never had to have my guard up. By unspoken consent we never involved each other in pure girl or pure boy activities. I never invited him to put on make-up, and he never asked me to watch wrestling. Our relationship worked just fine as it was.

                I’d like to say I loved him, but…I mean, how does a girl go about saying she loves a boy without someone thinking it has to be romantic? I guess I should say I adored him…or idolized him. I guess the closest I can explain it is the way a young boy would look up to a superhero.

                One Thursday after school we were walking home together like usual, just talking about stupid stuff, and I had that feeling again: that feeling of just being so grateful to have a priceless friend. Things at my house have been tight the past few years with the bad economy, and my parents have been struggling. My father was let go because of layoffs at his previous job. He had gotten some decent part-time jobs since then but he was always looking for a way to move up to a good full time job again. Because I knew the troubles they were having I never told them about the loneliness I had been feeling at home. I didn’t have any real friends at the time. I was the quiet, shy type, and I had trouble talking to people. But ever since Jack came into my life I’d had a good friend to play with, and the sun finally showed itself again in my heart. My parents enjoyed our relationship, as it allowed them to focus all their energy on finding steady jobs with better pay, and the fact that my grades were going up and I had a true friend made them feel better about how much work they were doing.

                Suddenly I found myself back in reality as Jack was waving his hand up and down by my face. “Hellooooo? Anybody home in there?”

                Though I had told Jack just about everything of my personal life I kept silent about my feelings about him, mainly because I couldn’t find strong enough words to describe it. I wanted to give him more than a thank you, but I also didn’t want to embarrass him.

                “Sorry. I was spacing out a bit.” I gave him a smile. “What were you saying?”

                When we arrived at my house he apologized, saying he had to get home to help his dad with some yard work, so he couldn’t stay today. “Oh, okay.” I said, feeling down now. “See you tomorrow.”

                “Yeah. Goodbye.”

                As he started walking away I called out, “Goodbye.” He raised his arm and shook his hand in a “see ya” kind of way, and let it go. “How boring!” I cried out after him. “You didn’t even try this time.”

                I sighed and went back in the house. My mom was sitting at the kitchen table, filling out applications as usual. I talked with her for a few minutes about school and then made myself a small snack of milk and Oreos. Before I even started the phone rang. My mother looked at me expectantly since she was busy, so I put down the cookie in my hand and picked up the phone. “Hello?”

                “Goodbye!” Said a familiar voice, then there was a click on the other end.

                “OH!” I stomped my foot in annoyance, slamming the phone on the receiver. He’d done that sort of thing before after leaving for the day, so usually I check the caller ID before picking up.

                I picked the phone back up and dialed his house. It rang three times before he picked up and said, “Hello?”

                “GOODBYE!” I said smugly, and hung up.

                I laughed to myself, feeling better now, waiting to see if he would call back. But I didn’t think he would. He never did.  

                I noticed my mom staring at me. “What is it, Mom?”

                My mom shook her head and laughed. “Geez, it’s been over six months now. Don’t you two ever get tired of playing that game?”

                “Not really...”

                The next day was normal. Waking up, going to school, doing work, lunch. But after school, though I had lunch with Jack that day, I didn’t see him anywhere around. Him not being there made me feel lonesome. I didn’t like the break in the usual pattern. It gave me a bad feeling in my tummy. 

                I waited ten minutes in case he had been delayed, and then resigned myself to walking home alone. I’m only about ten blocks from the school so it usually only takes about twenty minutes. It’s a simple walk, but I do have to go through two main roads. It’s usually not that busy. Unfortunately there are no traffic lights around, unless I wanted to add another ten blocks to the walk.

                When I came upon the first main road I saw someone across the street standing by a tree, almost out of sight. He came out from behind it and I saw that it was Jack. He was looking at me arrogantly, and I couldn’t figure out why. He cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled out “GOODBYE!” He stuck out his tongue at me, turned around and patted his butt, and then went running.

                HE WAS DEAD! I wanted to run after him, but with the traffic I was stuck there for another few minutes. I spent those minutes fuming and planning a nasty revenge.

                When I was finally able to cross I was furious. By this time Jack was probably already home. Though in all our silly little games he had let me win, I was surprised that he would go to such lengths to get his first victory. That cheap way of getting ahead, and the fact that he wasn’t walking with me, made me feel lonely and upset. “Stupid boy!” I said loudly to myself. I sighed. “One more block to go, just to wait another five minutes to cross another intersection.”

                My feeling of unhappiness and loneliness were getting to me. I could feel the desire to cry right there on the side of the road. My head was down, and I wasn’t paying attention, so I walked right into the back of someone and almost fell down.

                “Sorry!” I said quickly, blushing and unable to look up.

                “It’s okay.” Said a jovial voice. I tensed and looked up quickly to see the smiling face of Jack. “I’m not much of a runner. Too tiring. Besides, my walk felt pretty boring without someone to share it with.”

                I couldn’t help letting a few tears fall down. I knew he could have easily have left me behind with how long it took me to cross, but he had deliberately slowed down and waited for me. All my anger had disappeared. I just felt so much relief to have him there with me as usual. The world had gone right again.

                Jack looked at me worriedly. “Are you alright? Why are you crying, Sis?”

                I let out a choked laugh. Our little pet names for each other: “Sis” and “Bro”. Terms we only used when we knew it was time to be serious with each other.

                Once more I wanted to do it, to hug him tight and tell him how much he meant to me, but as usual I couldn’t. The words just wouldn’t come. Though we were the same age, he never seemed that way to me. He felt just like a protective older brother to me. Always teasing me, but letting me win. Making jokes about me, but always there to listen when I’d had a bad day. And today, when I needed it the most, right when I felt like sobbing, he was there for me as usual.

                “You jerk!” I cried out, pushing him hard and making him stumble back a few steps. “You dirty rotten cheater! What makes you think you can play that way! Huh?” I had meant to sound joking, and expected the game would begin again, but I guess I must have sounded pretty upset because his face became really sad.

                He walked up to me, putting his arms around me and holding me close to him, one of only three times he had done so. The other two times had been after some particularly bad days where it just seemed like everything possible had gone wrong. “’I’m sorry, Sis. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I thought you would find it funny. I didn’t think the game meant that much to you.” Tears were coming down my eyes again, because I knew I had upset him for no reason.

                “I…I don’t care about the game.” I said, sniffling. I held him back. “I…I…” Finally, I worked up the courage to say some of what had been on my mind for so long. “I was just missing you a lot. You’re my best friend. It doesn’t feel right when you’re not there.”

                His body tensed, and he got unnaturally quiet. After a long silence he said, “You should know that no matter how far ahead of you I get, I’ll always slow down enough to let you catch up…because I love you, Sis.”

                I couldn’t hold it in this time. I started sobbing right there in his arms. I didn’t care who was around, who would see us, what people would say; I just bawled like a baby in the arms of my protector. I buried my head in his chest and he kept silent, just letting me stay in the safety of his arms until I calmed down.

                When I finally got my emotions under control I came out from my shield and wiped my eyes. “Thank you.” I told him. “Thank you so much for everything. I love you too, Bro.”

                Jack looked at me contently, and put his hand out. I took it immediately, feeling my chest full to bursting with love.

                We had only walked a short way when I pulled him to a stop. “I have to tell you something, but I’m scared of what will happen if I do.”

                “You know you can tell me anything. I’m here for you.”

                I looked into his eyes, those eyes full of joy and compassion, like a parent looking at their newborn child, and I felt butterflies in my tummy. “I…I care a lot about you. And…you know, you made my life a lot better after I met you. I used to just spend all my time in my room after school, feeling so alone and miserable. My parents didn’t have a lot of time to spend with me. It wasn’t their fault. It’s not like they wanted my dad to lose his good job. And…” I turned away. My face started going red. “I just want to say that…that…you’re the best friend that anybody could ever have. You’ve done everything you can to help me, and I really appreciate it. It means a lot to me having somebody great like you around. I…I started crying before because I just felt so scared walking home by myself. Not because I felt scared of getting hurt or abducted or run over or anything like that. I was scared because you weren’t there, like you always have been. It just got me thinking of what my life was like before I met you.”

                Jack put his other hand on my face and wiped away the tears dripping down. “You’re very welcome for everything. I couldn’t ask for a better friend either. But why did it scare you so much to tell me that?”

                “I…I was scared that it would change things between us, or make you uncomfortable, or make you not want to be around me anymore.”

                “Nothing could do that. You’re a great person, Sis. And…see?” He put his open hands out in a welcoming manner and said, “I’m still here. Nothing’s changed, except for me feeling happier now that you are.“ That put a big grin on my face.

                 “Come on, now. We have to get you to your house before your mom starts to worry.”

                I sniffed one last time and just hugged him again. “Thank you so much!” I said before letting go.

                “Goodbye.” He said teasingly, leisurely jogging away from me.

                He was going so slow I could have caught up walking fast. I narrowed my eyes, over my sadness now and in a playful mood. I started running to him, and then he sped up too. “Goodbye.” I called out.

                “Good-good-goody bye.” He said in a sing-songy way.

                We chased each other around just saying our goodbyes. I was starting to get tired and panting slightly so I charged after him one final time. He turned his head to me, still running, and stuck out his tongue, saying, “Goodbye.”

                “Goodbye!” Fixated on our game now he wasn’t looking at what was ahead of him. As he kept going I suddenly noticed the hedges at the house on the left and after that the cars going by in the road. “Jack, stop!”

                “Come and make me!”

                “I’m not joking! Stop!” I had stopped dead, begging.

                At the look on my face he tried to stop, his momentum still carrying him forward. He stopped two steps off the sidewalk just as I heard the beeping of a horn.

                My heart stopped as I heard an impact and Jack’s body went flying through the air. He landed a few seconds later, his body spinning through several rotations before stopping.

                I felt totally immobile, disbelieving of what I had just seen. My eyes were wide, my legs shaking. I wanted to collapse. Finally, I felt myself moving automatically.

                A small crowd of people were already gathering. The driver of the car who had hit him was on their hands and knees crying, saying, “I didn’t see him. I couldn’t see him coming. I couldn’t stop in time.” Someone else was on the phone, calling for an ambulance. Several other people were trying to figure out the damage and make Jack comfortable.

                I pushed my way through the crowd, and got on my knees in front of Jack. His eyes were open halfway but unfocused and dead looking.

                I grabbed his hand. “Jack! Jack!” Tears were streaming down my cheeks. “Please don’t die! You…you can’t die! Wake up! Please!”

                One of the people there told me not to get my hopes up. She clearly took no joy in saying that. I looked at her hands, holding a jacket under Jack’s head. I could see blood staining the ground.

                I was about to break down and lose it entirely but then I felt a weak squeeze. I looked back to Jack’s face. So quietly I almost couldn’t hear he said, “Don’t…cry…Sis.” His eyes were still glossy and bleary, but he was conscious.

                His eyes were closing as his head turned. I held his hand tightly. “No! No! Please! You can’t die! If you die…if you die…” I felt like something was squeezing my heart. “I…I…” My heart felt like it was shattering. “I’ll be all alone again! I can’t stand it!”

                “Sis…” This was even quieter than his first sentence. I put my head right by his mouth to hear what he had to say. “…Hello.”

                I pulled away from him disconcertedly, not understanding what he was trying to tell me. That was the last word I got out of him. The ambulance pulled up shortly, and I pleaded with them to let me come, too. I sat in the back of that truck, feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders as they worked.

                When we got to the emergency room Jack was taken away, and I found myself alone, alone like I hadn’t been in a long time. It felt overwhelming. I didn’t have a cell phone so I asked the receptionist to use the phone so I could call my parents. I needed someone with me to help me while I waited.

                The phone rang four times. I was starting to get worried when I suddenly heard the greeting on the other side.

                “Mom, its Jill.” I don’t know why my voice was so steady, when my body felt like it was going to explode.

                “Jill! I’m so glad you called. All our hard work paid off! Your father just got an offer for a huge banking firm and he starts tomorrow. This is going to throw all our money troubles away. Me and your father are so happy right now we’re having a little party. There hasn’t been much to celebrate recently.

                “So where are you? You’re usually here by now. The party’s not complete without you. Are you coming home soon?”

                My body twitched. I felt a tear come down. I put my hand over my heart. My voice wouldn’t work. How could I tell them? How could I tell them I was at a hospital because my best friend had been struck by a car and I felt thoroughly destroyed inside? How could I tell them, and ruin the first real joy they’d had in years?

                “Jill?” Said my mother from the other end. “Are you still there? Hello...Jill?”

                “I…I’m sorry, Mom. I’m…I’m really happy f-f-for you.”   

                “Jill, are you okay?” Now she sounded worried. “You sound upset. You fighting with your friend?”

                “N-no.” I couldn’t hold it back anymore. I knew I was about to break down. My breathing was speeding up, the world seemed so topsy-turvy, the room felt like it was starting to spin, and I had a split-second to decide what I was going to do.

                 I slammed the phone back on the receiver. I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t tell her.

                I went and sat back in my seat, crying hard and just hugging myself. Two women waiting for their child to be admitted tried to talk to me and comfort me, but I paid them no mind.

                I don’t know how long I sat there, all by my lonesome, and just cried my head off. I jolted when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I was about to tell the person to shove off when I looked up into the face of my parents.

                My dad pulled me onto his lap, and my mother sat down next to me. “H-how…” I started, but I just started crying again.

                My mom said, “You sounded quite sad at the end of our call. After you hung up I went to call back and as it redialed I recognized the number from the hospital. We called up and asked if either you or Jack had been in some kind of accident, and when she said yes we knew that you’d be here.”

                “Why didn’t you tell us?” Asked my dad.

                I had been crying quite hard but, although I felt too old for it, being on my dad’s lap with his arms around me made me feel a little better. “Because you finally got a good job and were happy. I didn’t want to ruin your celebration. Ow!”

                My cheek was stinging from the slight slap my dad gave me. Tears were coming down his eyes too. “I don’t want to ever hear you use that kind of excuse again, you understand me? We’re your parents, not your friends. This is the sort of thing that we need to be told. Did you think we’d still be happy about having that party when you told us later on that you decided to spend this time all alone and miserable instead of asking us for help?”

                I sniffed. “I’m sorry, Daddy!” I inhaled sharply. “I’m so sorry!”

                He closed his eyes and held me tightly. “It’s okay, sweetheart. I know you had good intentions, but there is always time to party another day. This is happening right now. And…we’re sorry.”

                “For what?” I asked.

                My mom responded, “Because we know we haven’t been good parents to you lately. We need money to live on, but it should never come at the expense of you. We shouldn’t have pushed you to the background and expected you to bear everything on your own, especially because we know that you’ve had trouble making friends.”

                My dad continued, “It became especially clear by what you just said to us. We’ve become so useless for you to rely on that you couldn’t even tell us you were hurting when you needed us the most. But that’s all going to change. We’re going to be there for you, and be the parents we should have been these past few years.”

                I felt my daddy all around me, and he gave me a kiss on my forehead. I kinda felt like a little kid again, just glad to have some support with me. I closed my eyes, and just held onto him. “I love you, Daddy.”

                “I love you too, Jill.”

                We sat there, together as a family, as the seconds turned to minutes, the minutes turned to hours, and, maybe, the hours turning into days in the endless wait.

                Something suddenly came to me. “Did you call Jack’s parents?”

                My mom sighed. “Yes, we did.”

                “And they’re not coming?” I said with a trace of anger.

                “No one was home when we called. We left a message.”


                More time passed, and a harried looking couple ran in, looking frantically around.

                I raised my hand and shook it, and Jack’s parents ran over. I was still sitting in my dad’s lap. I wasn’t going to leave it willingly. I had missed having the attention of my parents.

                “Jill, what happened?” Asked Jack’s mom.

                “We were running around chasing each other, and he was looking back at me instead of where he was going, and ran into the edge of the street as a car went to make a turn.”

                Jack’s dad put his head in his hands. His parents held each other and he hesitated as if he couldn’t bear to ask the question, but, “Is it bad?”

                “I think so.” It’s funny how I didn’t feel that scared anymore. There was just something about having my parents there for me that made it seem not so frightening, and made me believe a little more that things would be fine. “I know his head was bleeding, but I don’t know how bad it really is.”

                “I see…” The two sat down in the chairs next to us, but then his dad stood back up to talk to the nurse at the reception desk, to make them aware that the parents were there, and to see if they could get a status update.

                The five of us sat there together, just wondering what was coming next. Ten minutes later a doctor came over and asked which people were the parents. Jack’s mom and dad replied that it was them. Looking at them he said in a somber voice, “I’m very sorry, but your son didn’t make it. He’s dead.”

                DEAD! DEAD DEAD DEAD DEAD DEAD DEAD DEAD! It felt like the word was echoing in my heart. I thought it would be enough that my parents were by my side. I thought it was impossible he would die, because he would stay alive to be there for me.

                Me and Jack’s parents all broke down bawling at the news. My parents, not knowing Jack as well as we did, were more restrained. Their sadness was mainly because of my sadness.

                After a time I jumped up and said, “I want to see him!”

                His parents stood up and agreed.  With the help of one of the workers we were directed to Jack’s room.

                I felt strangely detached as I saw Jack’s body. His head was wrapped up. His eyes were closed. There was a blanket over him covering everything except his head. I walked over to him. My father at first put his hand on my shoulder to stop me, but changed his mind. I moved the blanket and uncovered one of his hands. I took his hand in both of mine. I expected it to feel cold, but there was still some warmth in it, like he knew I would come and had saved it for me.

                I started sobbing again, holding my head against our hands. I half expected him to come back to life just for one last comforting gesture, but he was unresponsive. He wasn’t there anymore. Not the person I remembered.

                The next day was horrible. I was bedridden. I couldn’t muster any energy at all. Not to go to school, not to eat, not to go to the bathroom, not even to cry. I just spent hour after hour on my side with the blanket over me.

                I couldn’t find any reason to go on. My best friend was gone. Dead! And it felt like he had taken my heart with him into the grave. Sure, my parents had promised to be better, but who knew if it was really true? What if it was all going to be exactly the way it was before? Back to lonely walks home. Back to being sad and alone in my room every day.

                My mom was the only other one home. She let me be most of the day. In the afternoon she came in with a tray of food. “I brought you some lunch, Honey.”

                “I don’t want it.” I said blankly. “I’m not hungry.”

                She walked over by my side of the bed. “Now, Sweetheart, I know you’re not feeling good, but you need to eat or-”

                “I said I don’t want it!” I interrupted, my temper flaring as I slapped the tray out of her hands. It made a mess all over the floor.

                My mother didn’t react, just rubbed my head a little, and walked away. She came back a minute later with a dustpan and cleaned up. She came over and kissed my forehead. “I love you, Jill.” She said quietly, and then turned to exit.

                As she started walking away I shot up. I didn’t want her to leave. I didn’t want to be alone now. “Wait!” She stopped and turned towards me. “I’m…I’m sorry. I’m sorry! Please…please…” Tears came down my eyes as I cried out in a broken voice, “Please stay with me.” I begged. “I need you!”

                She came back over and sat down next to me on the bed. Acting childish again I sat on her lap, facing her, and we just hugged each other for a while. “I know how much he meant to you.” Said my mom. “I know you feel like there’s a black hole inside your heart right now, but I’m here for you my sweet child.”

                I closed my eyes, feeling so grateful she wasn’t mad. “Why?” I cried out, my voice cracking as I sobbed. “Why did it have to be him? Why did he die?”

                My mom gently rubbed my back as she said softly, “I don’t know, Honey. I can’t answer that. But I’m not going anywhere. You need me now, so here is where I’ll stay.”

                “T-thank you.” I cried out, feeling just a tiny bit better.

                 My dad came back from his first day of work at six. Truthfully, he had wanted to stay home with me, but he couldn’t afford to call out on his very first day. I just cried and talked and asked for their assistance, and they gave it. It took some of the pain away having them there for me. Maybe things really did change. Maybe they really were different now. If that was the case than I could depend on them, and not have to work on everything by myself.

                The next few days were a blur. I barely remember anything of the wake or the funeral. A lot of my fellow students were there. Most of them offered me lots of sympathy. They knew how close we were. They asked if I needed anything, if I would like to come to their houses sometime, but at the time I couldn’t respond to them.

                Before I knew it a month had gone by since the incident. I was still aching a lot deep inside. I was prone to crying fits at school. Every day I walked home from school, alone, I felt like the world was so big, and me so small. The only thing that kept me going was what Jack would wish for me if he could speak to me from where he was. My parents were helpful at home, and quite a few people had taken to engaging me at school, attempting to coax me out of my despair, but it just wasn’t the same. I missed him so bad it hurt.

                I had put it off for quite a while, but I decided to go visit his grave. I asked Jack’s parents for directions. They offered to take me there, as they felt like going that day, but I asked them not to. I needed to go alone.

                As I stared at the gravestone…it just made it feel so real to me. His absence at times made it seem like he was just very sick, or on vacation, or, possibly even worse, avoiding me. Here, staring at the name engraved on the stone, it made the fact undeniable.

                I fell to my knees, holding myself as I sobbed onto the grass. “Why?” I gasped out. “Why? You stupid jerk! Why didn’t you just take a win to the grave? You should have won our last game.” Over the course of replaying the events of that day over and over, especially his cryptic last word, I finally understood why he had said it. He didn’t want to say our magic word. If he did then died afterword he would finally have had a victory, but he had always wanted to give it to me. But, even more than that, I’m certain that he just couldn’t stand the thought of saying goodbye to me. Saying “Hello” was his way of telling me that he would survive and come back to me. But that didn’t happen. It hadn’t been enough.

                 I’d only been there less than five minutes, but I stood up. I had to leave. My heart felt like it was being torn open again. As I walked away I said with finality, “Goodbye!”

                It took quite a while before I was able to break Jack’s hold on my heart, and really allow myself to let other people in. I relied a lot on my parents during that time. Though I felt it was useless I asked several of the people at school if I could visit at their houses. I didn’t feel shy about it anymore. It wasn’t like they could make me feel any worse. Compared to what I was suffering inside, asking a question like that paled in comparison.

                Six months had passed since the death of my hero. I can’t deny that a part of me felt angry with him for leaving me. There was also sadness, despair, heartache, misery. I couldn’t even think of him in any positive way without quickly getting overwhelmed. Focusing on other people was the only thing that helped. It had been slow, but I found that the things I used to be so afraid of weren’t nearly as scary anymore. It took some time, but the girls I asked to hang out with were all friends, and usually hung out in a group.  They were very patient with me, gently enticing me out of my depression. Most of them had lost someone they cared about too. They encouraged me to cry if I needed to. They also tried to get me to talk about him, I guess because they thought it would help, but I wasn’t ready for that yet. Memories of Jack simply made me sad because I knew there could never be any new memories with him. Our time together had been so short.

                With the help of my parents and my new friends I felt like my heart wasn’t sitting quite so heavy on my spirit anymore. I’d smiled a few times since then, had some fun, but I hadn’t laughed yet.

                One day when I came home from school I found Jack’s parents sitting on the couch. “What are you doing here?” I asked politely.

                “Jill, there’s something we’d like to give you.” Said Jack’s dad.

                “What is it?” I asked.

                “Well, we don’t have the heart to remove Jack’s room entirely, but we were finally ready to go through his room and throw out garbage, find clothes to donate, and so on and so on. And we found something that we think would interest you.” He went in a bag and pulled out what looked like a school composition notebook. I walked over and took it. It had my name on it.

                “That was in a drawer in his room. At first we thought you might have left it at the house one day, or he borrowed it, so we wanted to return it to you if you needed it. I dropped it while I was going to put in in a bag, and it opened up to a page with a photo that was clipped out of a magazine. I won’t say what was on it, that’s for you to see yourself, but I’ll tell you that what was on the photo was the same as what he had in his pocket the day he died. And what he wrote was quite interesting.”

                I wasn’t sure what this all was about. A photo of what? What had he written? “Um…is that it?”

                “No. In this bag is something else we think he’d want you to have.

                “Thank you very much for spending your time with our son. He very much enjoyed your company, and loved having you as a friend. He’d had a little trouble making friends as well. But after some time with you he seemed a lot more confident and outgoing.”

                I didn’t know what to say besides, “Thank you.” I realized that they had to have had a harder time with Jack’s death than I did, so I felt pretty awkward.

                Thanking me again, they bid me farewell. They got in their car and left, and I took the bag and the book to my room and lay down on my stomach on my bed.

                I wondered why I felt so nervous. My heart felt like it was racing. It couldn’t just be a schoolbook. As I browsed through the book I found out why it had my name on it: It was all about me.

                It was a journal describing our time together. The first few pages had pages taped to other pages, as though he had torn them out of another notebook. After that though, it looked normal. As I flipped through random pages certain sentences seemed to jump out at me and stay in my mind long after I closed my eyes to process what I was reading.

                “Jill is sad today. She cried on my shoulder because some girls did their best to make a mess of her brand new dress.”

                “Jill came over again today. I don’t know why, but she seems much more relaxed around me than with anyone else. I haven’t seen her playing with anyone else, so it seems like I’m her only friend. If that’s the case then I’ll make damn sure I’m the best friend she could ever have.”

                “Hung out with Jill again. She sure is pretty, but she’s much more like a sister to me than a girlfriend. I’m an only child, so maybe that’s why I feel so happy having a sister, even if it is only for a few hours a day.”

                “Jill had a bad day. At school she dropped her favorite book in a mud puddle. She started crying as she held the muddy mess. I had been saving money for a new video game, but I spent it to buy her a new copy just to put a smile back on her face. The joy in her eyes  and the huge smile on her face as she hugged it close to her was worth more than all the video games in the world.”

                “Walked Jill home again. It makes me feel so mature. Heh heh. It seems like I’m the only person there for her. Whenever I have to leave she gets such a sad look on her face I just want to hug her.”

                “For a while now we’ve been playing this silly game of who can get the last word in. At first I played seriously, feeling like a guy and wanting to win. But…after a few more games I was much happier just letting her have the win. I feel like she has enough problems in her life, and hoped it would make her feel special if there was one thing she was always good at.”

                I had to stop reading for quite a while after reading that last one. It confirmed something I had known for a while, but his reason for doing it was what really touched my heart. I enjoyed having his words and feelings with me, even if his body was not.

                “Jill told me today that she doesn’t get much attention from her parents because they’re pretty poor and trying to make a better life for her. I asked her one time if she ever played with anyone else, and her eyes got that sad look I hate, and she told me she doesn’t have any other friends. I wanted to cheer her up, so I tickled her. It was hilarious. She was squealing and trying to get away and laughing her head off. When I put that smile back on her face, I felt like I was a good person.”

                “I’ve come to really enjoy the routine with my “sister.” I guess we’re more than just friends now. We’re related. It really seems to make Jill happy when I call her that, so I usually do it when it seems like she’s upset, because it always seems to do the trick. I just think she needs someone to talk to and listen to her. I don’t mind. I like what I do for her.”

                “I was sick today. My stomach felt like it was going to explode. My head was on fire. I slept most of the school day away. Even though I still felt terrible when I woke up I decided to go to the school to walk her home because I didn’t want her to feel lonely on the way there.”

                I had to stop again. I pushed the book away and just cried a little. I remembered that day. Jack looked like he was ready to pass out, but he was there, just as I started to feel the loneliness of the upcoming walk. And it did make me happy that he had pushed himself so hard for me.

                I flipped ahead to the last entry, where I saw the photo his parent’s had talked about. It looked like a bracelet.

                I grabbed the bag and put my hands in, and pulled out a small jewelry box. I opened it up. Not surprisingly it was the same thing as in the photo. I took it out, and put it on. It was a set of hearts side by side, each connected to the next by the sides, and made a circle. Attached to it was another tiny heart that could take a wallet sized photo.

                That’s when I noticed the words on this particular page.

                “I know that it’s just a scam, but still I’ll believe in its power. After you put on this bracelet you have to put in a picture of someone you care for. “

                I stopped reading and looked at the tiniest heart. I opened the little slot and I saw my own face staring back at me. It wasn’t weird or anything. We’d exchanged pictures before.

                “They say this heart bracelet can grant one wish for the person in the photo. It’s so pointless but…but what if it does work?”

                A wish…

                “After putting in the photo you have to close the heart and just rub your fingers all around it in circles like five hundred times while thinking of your wish and the persons face and keep it on you for a week. Then the person you made a wish for will have that wish granted.

                “If the wish were for me alone I wouldn’t have even bought it. But if by chance there really is some magic in this little piece of jewelry, than I know what I want to wish for for her.

                “I wish she would make some more friends than just me, so she can have other people to play with on the days I can’t be there. I wish her parents would get the dream job they’ve been looking for and pay more attention to her, so that way I don’t ever have to see that heartbroken look on her face when I have to go home, like I’m leaving behind a poor defenseless puppy. I wish…that she’d always be happy.

                “It’s all so ridiculous. So why did I even buy it? Well, I guess I’m still enough of a kid to want to believe a little in miracles, and if there’s any girl I know of who deserves a miracle, it’s Jill. So, luck gods and miracle gods, could you please have a little look at my sister? She needs some help badly.”

                That was the end of it. I looked at the date at the top: April 21st. Jack…died on the 28th. And…and that was the day that my dad got his new job, and my parents…said they were going to be there for me again. And…now I have lots of other friends. So…so….I’m not lonely anymore like I used to be. His wish…my wish…it came true! I cried, but with a smile on my face this time.

                As I lay down and just thought of the amazing things that had happened since the day of Jack’s accident I couldn’t help but wonder…I lifted up my arm and looked at the bracelet made of hearts. If he hadn’t gotten hit that day then we would have had a little party to celebrate my dad’s new job.

                Knowing that his wish for me came true…what would he have done with the bracelet? I couldn’t see him wearing it around because it looked too girly. Would he have just thrown it out once its magic was used up? Would he have kept it in a drawer at home, just in case? Or…

                Ba-bmp. Ba-bmp.

                Or…maybe he would have given it to me? Would he have told me about the wish, or would he have just given it to me and told me he had been thinking of me?

                Ba-bmp! Ba-bmp!

                I pictured that idea in my head, feeling something strange in my tummy.

                He comes up to me holding the bracelet and says, “Here, Jill. I got you a present. It’s a special gift for you.” I take it gratefully as he snaps it onto my wrist. I had been looking down, but when he’s done we both look up at each other at the same time, and our eyes meet. I see his magnificent smile, just like the day I told him how much I cared for him.

                “Thank you, Jack. That’s so sweet of you.”

                BA-BMP BA-BMP BA-BMP BA-BMP!

                “Well, I have something else just as sweet that’s just for you.” He comes closer and closer as I stand there frozen. His lips pucker up as he’s just a few inches away. I automatically push my lips out and I close the remaining distance. Our lips are a hairs breadth apart and-

                I shot up, breathing hard. I shook my head hard, getting rid of the last of my daydream. “What’s wrong with me? I’m sick. That’s my brother.” A voice in the back of my head said bluntly, “No he isn’t. You just liked to call each other that. There’s nothing wrong with it.”

                Before this I had never ever thought of Jack in any kind of romantic way, and I think it was the same for him about me. I let out a heavy breath, looking once more at the hearts with uncertainty. “Well…we, um…really weren’t siblings, but…but…maybe in a few years…when the two of us started to want a boyfriend and girlfriend…”

                My heart started racing again. Once more I saw Jack in my mind, for some reason looking more attractive to me than he had ever been before. His lips were coming for me all over again. With that strange twinge in my tummy back I decided to just close my eyes, sit back, and let my fantasy play out.

                When it got to the part it had stopped before I opened my eyes and sat back up. I couldn’t do it. Jack was gone now, so what was the point of thinking about what could never be? Even if we would have someday grown to love each other in a more intimate way, part of me just couldn’t get over the guilt of trying to change the relationship we had had when he died.  One of his last words to me had been to call me “Sis.” I couldn’t throw that away. Not for anything in the whole world.

                I made a new fantasy for his gift giving, one that fit with the Jack I knew and remembered. This time, as our eyes met after he put the bracelet on my wrist, we both smile at each other as I thank him again and give him a big hug. He tells me I deserve it because I’m a great person. And for the rest of the afternoon I glow. Nothing can take the grin off my face as we play together.  

                That was probably how things would have actually gone.

                I had to take one more trip to the graveyard. I brought the notebook with me and stared at the stone with a new reverence. I walked over and sat down with my legs crossed in front of it. “You…Jack…you just couldn’t leave me alone, could you? Even now, even when your body isn’t here anymore, you still have to look out for me like a big brother, by splitting your love for me into big pieces and giving it to other people so they’d love me and make me feel loved as much as you did. Your wish for me came true. My parents have been a lot happier and have more time for me. And I’ve made several friends who I like to play with. If you kept a notebook all about me than maybe you had been feeling lonely too before you met me, so that’s why you were just as happy looking after me as I was being looked after.”

                I just sat there, my heart at ease, my eyes closed, knowing he was near. He was all around me. Even without having him here next to me, I know I was helping keep him alive in spirit. He lived on in my heart.

                I got to my feet and started to say something, and then thought for a moment. No…that game was old. I looked to see if there was anybody around. I was alone. I looked up into the sky and saw the most beautiful blue and white. I sucked in my breath and yelled out, “HEL-LOOO-OOO!” All went quiet for me.

                “I know you. I know you won’t say hello back, even if I can’t hear you, because you’d want me to know for sure I won our new version of the last word. So I’ll end it there.”

                I raised my arm and looked at the heart bracelet on my wrist. The last precious memento of the greatest person I had ever known. I vowed to keep it safe forever. Suddenly something curious came to me. In his notebook Jack had said the wish would only come true if the person kept it on them for seven whole days. So, unless he didn’t shower for all that time, that meant that for him to bathe he had to have worn it.

                I pictured him, a boy, just showering while wearing this bracelet around his wrist, probably with a completely deadpan expression and a deep blush that he was being so unmanly, and laughed to myself, the first time I had laughed since he had died. And once one came another one did. I laughed harder and harder, doubling over, just letting out all the stress that had still been there since his death. That mental image was too hilarious for me to feel sad. I laughed until I couldn’t breathe. I stopped to catch my breath, and then was caught up in another fit of giggles. After repeating this pattern a few times I flopped back and lay down on the grass, panting and just looking up into the sky. “There. You jerk. You got me to laugh again. Are you happy now?” I beamed, hoping he was looking down at me and smiling too, knowing that he didn’t have to worry about me anymore.

                Pulling myself back into a sitting position I opened Jack’s notebook and began reading again from the beginning. As I read each entry I tried to remember how each of those days went. Even if what he wrote was about something bad that happened to me it didn’t matter. It was still a happy memory, since I had had Jack to help me through it. Even his very last day wasn’t all bad. That prank he pulled on me. Looking back now it was pretty funny. I got to tell him some of my feelings I had, and he had held onto me when I started crying. Even after he had been struck by that car he wasn’t worried about himself. The last thing he had done for me was squeeze my hand and tell me not to cry. He told me hello instead of goodbye so that I wouldn’t be as worried he would leave me.

                When he died I thought I had lost a part of my heart. I was so scared of what would happen. I wondered if my parents were telling the truth when they promised to be there for me again. Then I found out about Jack’s wish. With just one bracelet he gave me back everything I needed; Both my parents and, as I looked at the heart that had my picture, the piece of my heart I thought I lost. I had felt like giving up for a while after his death, but not anymore. Especially not now. Not when I knew Jack was looking out for me.

                After maybe an hour, just remembering all the fun times we had shared together, I finally stood up again.

                In my mind I could almost see Jack standing in front of me, almost feel his arm on my shoulder, see his bright face encouraging me. I could hear his voice in my mind telling me as he wore a silly grin and his fist out, “Go get ‘em, Sis!” I still have a lot of living to do. I still have a lifetime to make the best memories ever with my guardian angel by my side watching it all.

                I kissed the top of the headstone. “Thank you, Jack…for everything.” And with a grin on my face and a giggle in my heart I said to my friend for the last time…, ”Goodbye.”

  • Brohoof 1
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