chapter 2 || ryder
If you’re reading this, it must mean that you know by now. And for that, I’m sorry. Please don’t be mad at me. Despite everything, I love you, Ry, and I always will.
I tried to fight, Ry, I promise I did. And you were such a big help. You did make me happy, you and Kai both, but the demons won, they were stronger, I couldn’t do it. I was weak.
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 in another universe.
Ryder, you are an amazing guy, and any girl would be lucky to have you. We’ve made so many memories, the 2 of us and Kai, some of the best days of my life. Never forget those.
You deserve the world and so much more, and I’m sorry I couldn’t do that for you. You’ll find someone who can give you everything, I know you will.
You and Kai 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. Please take care of each other, don’t let my absence drive you apart.
I’m sorry, Ry. I’m sorry I wasn’t strong enough, sorry I couldn’t fight anymore. You and Kai were the reason I lasted as long as I did, you guys were my rocks. I’m sorry that wasn’t enough. I let you down, and for that I am sorry. Just know that I’m at peace now, finally done fighting the war inside my head every day.
Take care of yourself, Ryder. Live your life, be happy, go travel the world like you always wanted to. I love you, Ryder Jensen. Always and forever.
I play with the small chain around my neck, the one Emma gave me a week before she left. It’s a thin, silver chain, and attached to the end is a small plate, the words “I’ll love you always” etched into it.
I replay the last conversation I had with her, the night before she swallowed a bottle of random pills. She had been off, not quite herself, but I brushed it off, thinking it was just another of her normal mood swings. Some days, she was a pot of rainbows, while others were dark and dreary; neither one of them staying for more than a couple days at a time.
I didn’t think anything of it either times. Maybe if I did things would be different.
When Kai first introduced us to each other 2 years ago, I thought she was amazing right from the get-go. She was gorgeous. Her beach-blond hair framing her small face and accentuating her blue-grey eyes. The same eyes that shone with happiness, even during her dark days. Her eyes were the first thing I noticed about her, and will always be my favorite thing in the world. And it hurts, knowing that I will never see them again.
Sitting on the rooftop right outside my window, I look out over the rest of the houses, the stars illuminating brightly. I take a drink from my flask filled with vodka, letting the liquid burn on the way down.
I want to stop drinking myself shitless. I know it’s not a good thing, and I sure as hell know that this isn’t what Emma wanted. But I just can’t stop. Something needs to numb the pain, and this does a pretty good job.
“I can’t sit here anymore,” I mumble to myself, hopping off the roof to the closest tree and making my way down to the sidewalk. I walk aimlessly down the streets, my feet leading me to Emma’s old house.
Her words, ”I’m sorry I wasn’t enough,” hurt me deep down. I was her boyfriend, for fuck’s sake. I should’ve reminded her more, how exactly she was enough, how much I loved her. I should’ve been there, I should’ve noticed that she was hurting. I was too wrapped up in soccer and my grades that I didn’t even notice my girlfriend of 2 years, my best friend, fall apart in front of me.
My free hand itches, wanting - no needing - to punch something.
I tear my eyes away from her house, forcing myself to keep walking, and walking, and walking, distracting myself and the urge to punch, until I reached our tree. The place where the 3 of us 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 some of our best memories were made.
I spot a figure upon the branch, which has to be Kai. No one else knows the right branches to climb so they would end up sitting on a branch and not on the concrete. “Kai? Is that you?” I call out, making sure that the alcohol isn’t affecting my vision, at least not yet.
“Uh huh,” Kai mumbles tipsily, glancing down. Kai and I grew up close, like siblings. Our parents were friends in college and moved to live near each other, which automatically meant that we’d be together for so long that we eventually become friends.
She’s been my rock, long before Emma came into my life. I knew that they were friends in middle school, Kai constantly told me the story of how Emma “saved” her from the bullies because I wasn’t there. I didn’t have the same lunch period as her and we only had one class together. Somehow, it took until freshman year for Emma, Kai, and I to be in the same lunch and classes together.
As we grew older, I became more invested in soccer, while Kai stuck with her books. Granted, she did ditch the ugly glasses and hideous bangs early 7th grade, and late 8th-grade year dressed and acted more badass, but she’ll always be the little nerd I grew to love.
I climb up the tree, gesturing to her to move over a bit so I can sit on the branch too. We sit in silence, just looking for someone who isn’t going to come. Looking for Emma. That’s all we’re ever looking for anymore.
“You okay?” I ask finally, eyeing the half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels in her hand.
“Are you?” she shoots back right away, referring to the flask which was in my hand. Guess I really don’t have a right to judge here.
When Emma died, we both took a wrong turn, throwing ourselves in alcohol to cope with our loss. What else could we do? No one prepared us for this type of pain. And drugs were out of the question. We swore off drugs when we saw the kids from school get addicted and completely ruin their lives.
“That’s fair,” I respond, taking a drink from the flask. I stare at the row of houses in front for a moment before I close my eyes tight. “I miss her,” I state as if it wasn’t already known to everyone.
I miss her laugh, her smile, her dirty humor.
I miss her presence.
“Yeah, so do I. Join the fucking club,” Kai snarks harshly. She’s tipsy, and tipsy Kai has never been quite nice.
I sigh heavily, turning to face her. “Kai, I know you’re pissed and hurting but so am I, don’t take it out on me.” I lost my girlfriend and my best friend all in one. I lost my other half. I lost a big part of me.
“I know, Ry.” She rests her head on my shoulder, hearing the guilt in her voice. “I miss her so fucking much, Ry.” A tear escapes from her eye, swiping it away quickly, hoping that I didn’t notice. Emma was always better at comforting others. She had this glow about her, nothing ever dulling her happiness.
Guess that was all just a cover.
I wrap my free arm around her shoulder, pulling her in closer like I did when we were kids, her skin cold against my hands. “Me too, Kai. I loved her,” I whisper back. “Why didn’t I see it? I should’ve seen it coming. She was hurting and I didn’t even know,” I say, my voice cracking as I voice my fears out loud.
“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.
Kai takes a long drink from the bottle. Knowing her, she’s willing herself to forget, just like I’m trying. 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 this hell of our own creation.
All this god damn tree is doing is bringing back memories. I need to get away before the anxieties come creeping up on me. “Come on, let’s go for a walk. I can’t sit on this tree without Emma any longer.” I make my way down, Kai following suit mere seconds later.
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. The memories that are too painful now.
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 were walking, but other than that, nothing breaks the silence between the two of us.
“We have a problem,” I say after we’ve sat down on the cool sand. “We can’t be drinking this much.” I want to stop; I don’t want to keep doing this. But I don’t know another solution. And I can’t live with the constant ache in my heart.
“When you find something else that helps me get rid of the pain that isn’t drugs, let me know. Till then, fuck it,” Kai deadpans. She’s almost drunk and if you thought that tipsy Kai was a bitch, then drunk Kai is a motherfucking monster when she’s mad. There’s no point in arguing with her when she’s drunk.
“We can’t drink ourselves shitless every day, Kai. This isn’t what Emma would’ve wanted!” I yell, hoping that she gets the hint. We’ve been through hell and back together, but we’ve never been through this. We were supposed to lean on each other, but instead, we’re both falling the exact same way.
“How the fuck do you know what Emma would want?” Kai shouts at me. “Emma is dead. Dead people don’t get a say.”
I stay silent, looking out over the ocean, knowing there is no point in fighting her when she’s like this. I take one last swig from the flask before tossing it into the sand beside me and laying down flat on the sand, looking at the stars.
“She had this theory that when someone dies, they go to heaven to become a star who watches over their loved ones.” She had these crazy theories about everything, the star theory being one of her favorites. She took great comfort in believing that everyone who’s died is still watching over their loved ones.
Now it’s my turn to take comfort in it.
Kai chuckles, lying down next to me. “I thought about that earlier today.” She scoots in closer to me, resting her head on my chest, snuggling in close. I wrap my arm around her, squeezing her tightly.
Her presence is reassuring, reminding me that no matter how messed up we are in the moment, we still have each other. For now, that’s enough.
“I have to believe that that theory is true, you know. I have to believe that she’s still out there,” I say, trying to convince myself along with her.
She turns her head back up to the shimmering stars and black sky. “Gone, but never forgotten,” Kai whispers ever so softly that I almost didn’t hear.
I love you, Emma Baker. Always and Forever.