What Follows

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3.4: Helium Balloons

~sometimes you expect a lot from someone because you’d do that much for them~


“She slit her wrists-” Joshua says it more like a statement rather than a question.

Selena nods with pursed lips. “I am so so sorry-”

Joshua stares at her, looking as pale as a white crayon on white paper. He then slowly looks down with wide eyes. ”No, no-” He looks up and momentarily frowns before smiling at her. “It’s-it’s rather poetic-”

My lips part at his red nose and flushed cheeks. He doesn’t look okay. He doesn’t feel okay. And that unnerves me because I thought Joshua’s knowing would be the easiest of all. The one that lacks the feelings that would make me feel sorry for my action.

Selena looks at him pitifully as he stares at the ground and frowns. I straighten up, and Selena looks up alertly when he starts gagging. I watch him curl both his hands into fists and press one to his stomach and the other to his chest. I feel myself deflate, but I don’t think that’s the case, because if so, I should’ve stopped ‘floating/gliding’ and hit the ground. My feet should’ve found some support.

I guess, after all, I don’t float around. I’m not filled with air or the helium that makes balloons float. Because simply I’m not a balloon. I am something damned and cursed. I don’t bring merriness to people’s lives. I make people cry and barf.

Definitely not a balloon. And Joshua’s knowing is definitely the hardest because it invoked in me so many emotions. And I hate it.

Selena reaches out for him and together they round a corner and presumably enter a bathroom. I’m however incapable of following him this time, so I stand frozen in my place as I hear Joshua continue dry heaving and gagging.

I don’t want to see him like that. I can’t see him like that, and I hate that his emotions still matter to me. I hate that not seeing his arrogant, cocky self makes me worry about him. And it’s crazy because why am I worrying when all he’s been today was human? Why am I worried now? Wasn’t that the Joshua I fell for? The soft, vulnerable one?

Joshua yells and groans and I get really confused because I thought I bore him and that he despises me.

Slowly, I walk by the wall to the bathroom whose door is (unfortunately) wide open. Joshua’s on the floor next to the toilet seat, and Selena is planted next to him with a concerned look on her face. They are whispering to each other, and I decide that I’m way too curious to just watch from the sidelines. I need to hear what he thinks about me. About my action. I need to know if he blames himself.

I enter the bathroom with a gulp. It’s all too scary. Too heart wrenching despite all the pain he has put me through.

“I wanted to tell her some things-” He whispers to his older sister who’s holding his hands and looking in his eyes to comfort him. The back of his head with his messy hair and his sister’s facial expressions is all I can see.

“It’s not your fault-”

Oh, but it is.

“You don’t understand-” He tells her, and I clench my fists, waiting for some sort of answer. Some confession that he was a dick.

“Josh-”

He takes a deep, shaky breath and shakes his head. “I-I- She hates me-” He sobs out, dropping his head. But all I can think of as I hold my breath is how the Earth isn’t flat, and how the Sun doesn’t move, and how I don’t hate him despite it all.

“Don’t be ridiculous-” Selena says, and I nod absently.

“She- I broke her heart-” He chokes out. “I heard her heartbreak-” He pants out, running a shaky hand through his hair mob. “I can’t forgive myself-” He shakes his head, and I start sniffing. “I can’t- you don’t understand-”

“Understand what?” Selena breathes out and Joshua slowly looks up at her. He says nothing and I inhale, shutting my eyes.

“I thought you didn’t care about her-” Selena continues slowly, and my nonexistent heart drops. “I mean that’s what you said-”

Joshua lowers his head and stays silent for a moment. “That’s what I said-” He whispers brokenly, and I frown confused. Is he denying or approving it? Not being able to see his facial expressions makes it even harder for me to understand, and honestly? I don’t have the guts to see them.

“I say go for a walk-” Selena suggests hesitantly. “Have a warm drink and come back. It’ll clear your head-”

Joshua stays silent. Selena sighs.

“Look, Josh, it has been one hella of a day. And your emotions are all over the place-” She continues to say. “Papa definitely made things worse-”

“No-” He counters calmly. “Roseline made things worse. We both know she isn’t the fundamental problem-”

Selena looks away and nods before looking back at Joshua. “Her funeral’s tomorrow-”

Joshua looks to his right where I stand, and I have to hold my breath- sorry, I mean my nonexistent breath. He then looks away and shakes his head. “I’m not going-”

My shoulders drop, and Selena tsks.

“Josh she’s just your ex-girlfriend, not your enemy-”

“Which is exactly why I won’t go-” He interrupts, and I sniff even more. He’s back to his good ol’ self. Keeping up his reputation of the bad boy who doesn’t give a fuck. Or simply, maybe I don’t understand him and his contradicting actions.

Selena’s about to interject again but Joshua swiftly gets on his feet. He sways a bit before standing still and looking down at her.

“I won’t go-” His voice is strong and certain. It has lost its edge, and it has lost me.

He then turns around, and I see his empty face expression and wonder what’s on his mind besides his desperate, confusing hatred for me. He leaves the bathroom, and I follow him out of despair and heartbreak, like a forgotten puppy. I let myself follow him even though I know that his absence in my funeral is rock bottom.

Because I thought death brings all the people together no matter their disputes. Really, I thought my death would be an exception.

I follow him into the room where I watch him stand with his hands in his hair as I sniff, and sniff, and sniff. Joshua breathes through his nose before he staggers toward his desk and picks up the paper he was drawing on.

He stares at the artistic drawing of a rose before his lips frown, and he slaps it back on the desk. He then grabs a pencil with a grunt and starts scribbling on the drawing that might’ve taken him an hour or so to make.

I stand behind him and cringe at the sound of scribbling as I dare myself to sniff just one more time. I sniff and get mad at myself.

After ten minutes or so of scribbling and groaning, Joshua turns to me with the paper in his hands. He lifts it high so it covers his face, and then very slowly he rips it apart. His rose. He rips it out of existence. Almost ironic.

The last thing I see is two pieces of paper floating in the air and Joshua’s teary eyes before I’m ripped away from here too.


When all I can feel and touch is darkness, I hug myself and take a deep, shaky breath. I am not okay. In fact, nothing’s been okay. Not my damned living and not my cursed death. It’s like peace always has a way to run away from me. It’s like I’m too unworthy of it.

Because even here, where I’m six feet under, in this suicides community or whatever, I’m not free from all the demons that chased me. I’m not free from the shackles of anxiety and I’m not free of thinking about all the stuff I wanted gone. I’m not free of mental agony which was the only out I was looking forward to.

Instead, I am given the chance to look into people’s lives. People whom I’m connected to. I can see what each of them is going through, knowing that I can do nothing about it now that I’m dead.

Mom and Dad seem to reconnect with all their disputes forgotten when they saw my dead body. It’s like they’ve finally realized their need for each other throughout the pain of my loss. It took them me to fucking see that.

Jacob, the cocky angel, cried for me, and Aiden, the saint, got mad. That never happens. I’ve broken the natural order of stuff. Not forgetting Jacob’s bitterness against Mom and Dad, and Aiden’s subtle, but positive support for it.

Mason and Sierra are having the time of their lives, sticking their tongues in each other’s throats and are slowly forgetting about me. And since I’m going to stick around for this whole month, I’ll get to know exactly if Sierra cares or not. Sierra who hasn’t given my death attention- something that killed me inside despite all the good memories I tried reminding myself of.

And then I get to know that there was someone actually capable of giving me all the love I yearned for. Capable of saving me from this brutal ending. Someone who actually cared, who wrote about me in his journal and saved me in his big heart. William, ‘The Asthmatic Kid’, as Joshua’s squad would put it. He loved me, apparently, even though I was the ‘jerk’s girlfriend’.

And then I get to know that my favourite artist has a mask he painted on all the while since we broke up. The mask he gets popular for in school. The mask of a strong, unbreakable kid. I get to know that he’s the son of an abusive alcoholic and that he won’t be there at my funeral for one final goodbye. And it’s either because he hates me or he can’t stand being there for it.

I get to discover different sides of people I love. Different, caring sides that could’ve saved me, and I blame it all on them. I blame them for all the smiles they’ve hidden; smiles that could’ve made my day slightly better. I hate them for all the conversations they thought unimportant or time-wasting; conversations that could’ve made me feel important, more worthy. I hate them because they all ran away from me when I needed them the most.

And it kinda makes you sad, you know? Knowing that your salvation was a smile or a small talk. Realizing that you are so fucking small in people’s eyes. So small to even stand a chance to have that.

It makes me sad, and it makes me thankful I took away my life.

I’m sniffing to myself, crying for my doomed fate. An eternity of watching people I love yet who never cared enough bloom and move on. Forget about me.

“You are capable of crying after all-”

I lift my head and with parted lips, I stare at a smiling Tobias. His coppery hair is all over the place and his hazel eyes are wide and anticipating. And I’m not sure whether I’m relieved or irritated or both.

"You-” I gasp out. “I didn’t call you-”

“I know, but I did-” He smirks. “I’ve actually called you, quite softly and gently and politely, by ‘Lady’ almost fifty times while I’m standing right here-” He points down. “I figured that you either just don’t respond to acts of kindness or you were just too mentally preoccupied to hear. I went with the former-”

I blink at him and exhale. “I’ve been alone for quite a while-”

Tobias steps closer to me and lifts an eyebrow. “It be like this, you know-” He shrugs a shoulder. “Time in different ‘dimensions’ feels like an eternity of loneliness and dealing with problems. It sucks-”

“Very much!” I rant out, feeling my nonexistent heart explode. “It feels like everything, everything isn’t the way I thought it to be-” The words gush out of my mouth. “I don’t know the people I thought I knew! I don’t understand them. I-I just jump from one dimension or whatever to another-” I wave my hands around. “I don’t get time to process one problem before diving right into another-” I sniff. “And my emotions are just- are just-”

“All over the place?”

"All over the fucking place-” I lock Tobias’ eyes. “I-I don’t get me. I think people are betraying me. And I think Joshua still loves me, but what I saw was different-” I shake my head. “And most importantly, I think I hate my existence-” My shoulders drop. “I hate everything about it. This-this suffocating darkness-” I wave my hand around. “I hate this forced acquaintance-” I point between us. “I hate this feeling. The feeling like I’m hanging in between. Like I’m not totally existing, and I’m not completely gone-” I clutch my head. “It’s driving me nuts, Tobias-”

I look up to find Tobias looking absolutely stunned with a wide smile on his face. I frown irritatedly and cross my arms across my chest. His stare lingers.

“Seriously? That’s your reaction?” I pant out.

Tobias immediately straightens up and shakes his head. “Oh, ha, forgive me. It’s just that-” He smiles again. “You used my name. For the first time-”

“I wha-?” I then stop and raise my eyebrows. “Really? Wow. How can you possibly miss that?”

“It sounds different when you say it-” He continues, locking my eyes.

“Whatever-” I look away. “You can leave now. I’ve had it all out-”

“Okay, okay, hold up-” Tobias says, his smile dropping. “I’m sorry-”

“You should be-” I roll my eyes. “Now what?”

“Let’s just talk-” He says with a smile, shoving his hands in his pockets.

“What about?” I say.

“About what you said-” He says. “I mean this ‘forced’ acquaintance should come with its benefits too, you know-”

“I’m in no mood for chit-chat, okay? I just told you how terrible I feel. It wasn’t a free ticket for ‘hey, let’s converse and build bridges’. No-” I remark.

“I think you really need to talk-”

I lift my eyebrows, knowing that he isn’t entirely wrong. “I don’t want to talk about what I said, okay?” I sigh. “I don’t want to feel more depressed-”

“Then let’s not-” He smiles again. “Let’s talk about different things-”

“I think you’re missing the fact that we’re dead. The thing closest to exciting that I got to see was my ex-boyfriend using a broomstick and my best friends fucki-” I process what I said and gasp, looking down.

Tobias’ lips are a perfect ‘o’.

“You’ve watched live porn!”

“That’s not-”

“Back in my times, there were mainly magazines. We weren’t rich enough for TVs-” He says animatedly, and I smirk.

“Out of everything that happened to you, that’s the thing you get to tell me-” I smile despite myself and shake my head incredulously.

“Well, it’s quite surprising. And it would’ve been fascinating to watch because I died a virgin-” He chuckles to himself. “A seventeen-year-old virgin.”

“No way!” My eyes widen and I chuckle. “I mean I could tell you were a loser but not a virgin-”

“Well, that’s what you think-” His smile weakens, and he shrugs. “It’s okay, it never bothered me much-”

“Seriously? I mean, if you attended my school, you’d be bullied by lots-” I tell him honestly.

“I attended an all-boys boarding school-” He smiles sheepishly. “We were mostly virgins.”

“Oh-”

“Yeah-” He shrugs. “They were great times-” He smiles. “I loved my friends. And teachers-”

“Ha, it’s like we’re opposites-”

“So-” He lifts his brow. “When was your first time?”

I shake my head. “You seriously have no filter-”

“Look who’s talking-” He smiles. “Besides, filters are for the living. I shall tell no one. Dead Losers Honor-”

"What?” I frown and smile at the same time. “What’s that?”

“My word-” He says and picks up his eyes to stare. “Look, this is literally the Dead Losers Society-”

“Dead Losers Society-” I smile. “I like that-”

“You shouldn’t-” Tobias counters.

“I don’t, obviously-”

“So? When was it?” He asks again curiously, and I shake my head.

“Well, you happen to be right-” I shrug. “If I were alive I wouldn’t go around saying this, but we’re dead so fuck that, yeah?”

“Aha-”

“This year. In the beginning, before I broke up with Joshua-” I say. “In his father’s van-”

“Wow-” He says.

“Not wow-” I chuckle lightly. “Because his dad caught us-”

“That’s unfortunate-”

“Yeah, I know-” I smile to myself. “It was funny, but it was okay because he was drunk. He opened the van, saw us, then closed it with thumbs up-”

“That’s insane-”

“It is. But he’s a terrible person-”

“I mean if he lets his van be a hookup place, then yeah-” He smirks. “He’s horrible.”

“He’s abusive-”

“Oh-”

“Yeah, I just knew that-” I shrug, looking down. “He abuses Joshua-”

“Judas, huh?”

I shake my head. “Yeah, yeah-”

“You still...like him?”

“No-” I shake my head and wave my hand. “No-”

“Alright, easy-” Tobias tilts his head with a small smile. “You’re getting all defensive-”

“I-uh-” I shake my head and opt for the most famous answer. “It’s complicated-”

“I figured-” He sighs. “So...which ‘dimension’ hurt you most? Mine was my best friend’s-”

My lips part and I lift my eyebrows. ”Same!"

“No way-” Tobias exclaims.

“She didn’t even cry!” I complain to him. “And she continued fucking my other best friend-”

“Oh-”

“It hurt, but I hope I’m just making assumptions-” I tell him, and he nods slowly.

“I hope you’re not making excuses-” He says slowly. “Like I did-”

I stare at his wide, honest eyes, and feel somehow assured. And safe.

“What happened?” I ask, clearing my head.

“I left a goodbye letter to him-” He says. “It has my apologies for everyone and all the... explanations-” He blinks. “Todd just ripped the letter. Made everyone think they were worthless of an explanation. I watched him die with the truth. Turned out he envied people’s love to me-”

“Oh, that sucks-” I say. “But I mean, I didn’t even write a letter-”

“It’s different, you know-” He says slowly. “I didn’t kill myself because people hated me. I killed myself for...for different reasons-” He averts his gaze, fidgets with his fingers. “I-I loved my life-” He blinks. “I loved everyone. I left them a letter to explain my weakness-”

“What?” I ask curiously. “What is your weakness?”

Tobias smiles wistfully. “Well, to know that, we have to upgrade from ‘forced’ acquaintance to ‘enjoyable’ acquaintance.”

I smirk, shaking my head. “You’re right-”

“Yeah, at least, this secret is gonna keep you motivated to start being nice-” He says.

“I told you how I lost my virginity-”

“That’s not being nice-”

I scoff. “That’s the highest degree of possible niceness and decency-”

“Alright, I believe you, but let’s leave that for later-”

“Alright, whatever-” I say, slightly disappointed, but I, of course, won’t push it.

A long pause.

“So, should I go now?” He asks with an evil smirk.

“You do know that you’re not addictive, right?” I ask rhetorically. “You do know I won’t sob for you to stay?”

“It’s only a matter of time. You hate being alone. We all do. Let your ego down this one time. You need me-” He says and I can’t help smiling.

“Well, it’s your lucky day today because I am feeling very dead and lonely-” I tell him with a small smile. “You may stay-”

“It’s an honour, your majesty-”

“Shut up-”

“I’ll be accompanying you wherever you go-”

My eyes widen. “You wish-”

“I’m annoying and you know it. If you keep rejecting me, I’ll just stick to your side 24/7 until, out of extreme exasperation, you’d let me go with you. Now, question is-” He leans in. “-do you want to reach that level?” He asks me with a raised brow and an effortless smile.

“No-” I reply dully.

“Good. I’ll be by your side wherever-” He smiles. “I won’t tell anyone. Dead Losers Honor.”

“You have no one to tell...loser-”

“My point!” He exclaims, and I sigh with a small smile. “Nothing to fear-”

“Alright, whatever, you’re in-” I shrug. “Next stop is my funeral for sure-”

“Exciting-”

“According to Dead Losers Society? Yeah-”

And just like that Tobias’ eyes twinkled, and my non-existent heart paused.

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