chapter 1 || kai
Just know that whatever I’m about to say or whatever you’re going to hear, know that I love you and I’m sorry. If you’re reading this right now, it means I’m gone. Please don’t be mad at me.
I tried, Kai, I really did. But I couldn’t fight anymore. I was so tired of fighting. Between Mom’s death and Dad leaving, I couldn’t handle it anymore. I didn’t see a point anymore. And I’m forever thankful for you and your family taking me after everything and helping me. But it was still too much for me to handle.
Please don’t be mad at me, I didn’t want this to end like this, but the truth is, the happy, smiling, strong girl you knew wasn’t really very strong at all. I was weak, too weak to fight off my demons. I wish it could’ve ended differently. Maybe it’s possible in another universe.
Kai, we’ve had so many good memories and laughs, and I will always remember you as my little ocean I loved so much, and I hope you remember me too. I hope you remember the good days before everything went south.
You and Ryder were the best things in my life. You were the little spark of hope in my life, which burned for a long time, longer than I thought it would. My rocks. Please take care of each other; don’t let my absence drive you apart.
I’m sorry, Kai. I’m sorry I wasn’t strong enough. You and Ryder were the reason I lasted as long as I did, but I just couldn’t fight anymore. Sorry I wasn’t enough. I’m sorry I let you down. Just know that I’m at peace now, finally done fighting the war inside my head.
Take care of yourself, Kai. Be happy, live your life, live out your dreams. I love you, to Pluto and back, through the stars and beyond.
I clutch the letter in my hand, my feet dangling over either side of the branch I’m sitting on. I read her letter over and over, torturing myself, trying to find what I missed, where I went wrong.
Emma was my best friend for years, ever since one fateful day in 6th grade. I was sitting alone at recess, reading my favorite Harry Potter book, with thick-framed glasses and stupid bangs on my face. All the other kids, the “cool” kids you can say, never left me alone. Not a day would go by where I wouldn’t run away. I was a scared kid, and god how I hated that. But I didn’t do anything about it.
Then, Emma came along. She transferred to Washington Jr. High, and she was gorgeous, especially as a 6th grader. That’s what made it so much less believable when she stood up for me. Marching up to me and the bullies, she grabbed my book, at chucked it at them so hard, that they never bothered me again.
She was always the better of the two of us in practically everything. Sports, arts, school, music, you name it. Just an amazing person overall. Despite us being so different she never left my side. She would’ve been popular if it weren’t for me. She was always the happy one, always smiling and laughing; the ray of sunshine that brightened everyone’s day.
Guess that wasn’t as true as I thought.
Everything always worked out for her in end. So when she killed her self 6 months ago, no one could figure out why, especially not me.
“I’m sorry, Kai. I’m sorry I wasn’t strong enough. You and Ryder were the reason I lasted as long as I did, but I just couldn’t fight anymore. Sorry I wasn’t enough. I’m sorry I let you down.” I read that line over and over again.
How the fuck did I not know that she was struggling so much? How could I have been so blind? How could I have been such a shitty friend? To not even see my best friend struggle so much right in front of me?
I look over to where her house stands, the view perfect from my spot on the tree. Even in the black sky, I know exactly where it is. After all, we only spent almost all our time there, even after it became vacant.
“I miss you, Em,” I whisper into the wind, hoping that wherever she is that she heard me. The stars above me sparkle reminding me of Emma’s favorite theory. She believed that whenever someone died, they became a star in the sky, always looking over you. Her theory only became stronger when her mom died.
I glance at the bottle of Jack Daniels in my hand before taking a long swig. I just need to forget. Need to believe that this is all just a really shitty ass dream. That my best friend isn’t dead.
That I didn’t fail her.
I close my eyes shut, letting the nighttime sounds pass by me. “Kai? Is that you?” a voice calls, pulling me out of my peace.
“Uh huh,” I mumble, glancing down. It’s Ryder, like usual. Who else would come to our tree in the late of the night?
He and I are like siblings. We grew up on the same block and did everything together. Our parents were friends in college and are still friends, which automatically means that we’re also friends. Our parents never forced us to be friends, but when you spend every other night at the other’s house, you form a bond.
Much like Emma, Ryder never left my side. Not when he was a nerdy kid like me or when he became a full-blown soccer jock. That’s probably why they worked so well together. They were 2 parts of a whole.
Ryder climbs up, gesturing to me to move over a bit so he can sit too. We sit in silence, just looking for something that isn’t gonna come. Looking for Emma.
“You okay?” Ryder asks, eyeing the half empty bottle in my hand.
“Are you?” I shoot back, referring to the flask in his hand.
When Emma died, it took a toll on both of us, throwing ourselves in alcohol to cope. What else could we do? The 3 of us were known as the terrible triplets, always together and always up to something. When she died, it was like a part of us died with her.
“That’s fair,” Ryder says, taking a drink from the flask. I can smell the vodka from here. “I miss her.”
“Yeah, so do I. Join the fucking club,” I snark. It was harsh, I know, but whatever. I don’t give a fuck anymore. Tipsy me is known for being a full-blown bitch.
Ryder just sighs heavily, turning to face me. “Kai, I know you’re pissed and hurting but so am I, don’t take it out on me.”
He’s right. Golden Boy strikes again. Damn him for always being right. “I know, Ry.” I rest my head on his shoulder. Ryder has always been my rock, even before I met Emma. Once high school started, Emma and Ryder became closer, eventually dating for the past 2 years, but they never once left me out, never forgot about me. That’s why they’re my best friends.
Were. She was my best friend, but now she’s gone. Dead people aren’t in present tense anymore.
“I miss her so fucking much, Ry,” I say, a tear escaping from my eye. I swipe it away quickly. I promised myself at Emma’s funeral that I wouldn’t cry, at least not in front of other people. She wouldn’t want that.
Ryder wraps his free arm around me, pulling me in closer, his hands warm against my cold arms. “Me too, Kai. I loved her,” he whispers back. We let the wind whip around us in silence, the crickets chirping to fill the silence.
“Why didn’t I see it? I should’ve seen it coming. She was hurting and I didn’t even know,” Ryder says, his voice cracking and his words painfully relatable.
Every damn day, we try to figure out where we went wrong, and every damn day, neither of us could figure it out.
“I don’t know. I don’t fucking know. The only thing I know is that she’s gone and she’s never coming back.” And it’s my fault. I take a long drink of the Jack, willing myself to forget. It wasn’t always like this after Emma’s death. We tried “better” ways of coping, we did, but nothing seemed to work. Getting trashed was the only escape.
“Come on, let’s go for a walk. I can’t sit on this tree without Emma any longer,” Ryder says suddenly, before making his way down. I follow suit. This tree used to be our place. The place where we met up before heading to a party or if one of us was having a bad day, we’d all come here. This is where memories were made.
We walk down to the coast, less than a mile away from where we were. The contents of the bottle and the flask sloshing along each time we took a drink as we walked. Neither of us dared to speak, not wanting to break the bliss we had for once.
“We have a problem,” Ryder states once we sit down on the cool sand. “We can’t be drinking this much.”
“When you find something else that helps me get rid of the pain that isn’t drugs, let me know. Till then, fuck it.” I’m starting to become slightly drunk, but that’s when the forgetting starts to happen, the best part.
I know we have a problem, but the pain of Emma’s absence is stronger than the consequences of underage drinking.
“We can’t drink ourselves shitless every day, Kai. This isn’t what Emma would’ve wanted!”
“How the fuck do you know what Emma would want?” I shout. “Emma is dead. Dead people don’t get a say.”
I’m angry. I’m angry that Ryder thinks that he knows what Emma would want because he doesn’t. The only person who knows what she would want is herself, and she isn’t around to have a fucking opinion.
Ryder stays silent, looking out over the ocean. He wordlessly takes a swig from the flask before tossing it into the sand beside him and laying down. “She had this theory that when someone dies, they go to heaven to become a star who watches over their loved ones.”
I slightly chuckle, lying down next to me. “I thought about that earlier today.” I scoot in closer to Ryder, putting my head on his chest and snuggling in close, forgetting about a mini argument.
“I have to believe that that theory is true, you know. I have to believe that she’s still out there,” Ryder says, wrapping his arm around me and giving me a squeeze.
I turn my head back up to the sky, the stars shimmering against the black background of the sky. “Gone, but never forgotten,” I whisper, hoping that Emma, wherever the hell she is, is happy.