chapter 20 || ryder
I roll over in the stiff bed, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes.
I’m not sure if last night was real or a fever dream, but I do know that it was weird. Zack showed us the balls he had hidden and transformed into a totally different person and I swear I felt Kai’s eyes on me almost all night.
It’s only been a few days since Kai and I fought, but it feels like it’s been months.
Kai has always been the person I talk to the most; it’s always been like that. It’s been so long since I was apart from her that I don’t know what it’s like. She’s always just been there. Now she’s not and I don’t know where it went wrong.
The door opens with a bang, heavy footsteps walking towards me. A quick moment of hope passes through me, wondering if Kai finally had enough.
“Get your ass up Ryder,” Hayden’s irritating voice demands. My heart drops to my chest. I didn’t want this asshole.
“Shut the fuck up,” I mutter, throwing the covers over my head.
“What did you just say to me?”
I throw the covers off, clenching my jaw. “I said, shut. The fuck. Up.”
“What the hell is your problem, man? I’ve seen the glares you give me, I’m not blind.”
I’m this close to banging my head against the wall repeatedly until it cracks open. That would be 100 times better than having this conversation.
I get out of the bed, bundling up the covers and throwing them on the bed. I take a quick stride towards Hayden, my finger poking into his chest.
“What’s my problem with you? You’re asking me what my fucking problem is with you?” I push him back further, seeing the confusion in his eyes. “I don’t even know where I would start with that question. The simplest explanation I could possibly come up with is that it’s your fault that my best friend, you know, the one you’ve been dating for a whole 5 days, isn’t talking to me anymore.” I seethe. Hayden brings a hand to my bare chest and gives it a hard shove backward, putting space between the two of us.
“How the hell is it my fault?” he asks, dropping his hand.
A dry chuckle escapes my lips before I could stop it. “Because you had to go and kiss her in a fucking grief camp. In a grief camp! And I tried to show her the common sense side of things but she was brainwashed into thinking that you actually liked her that she didn’t listen.”
“Hey, I didn’t brainwash her and I do really like her. Don’t assume stuff about things you don’t know,” he says in a hard tone through his teeth.
“How the hell can you like someone so much that you can start dating them within days?”
Hayden stays silent, looking at the ground. I hold back a smirk. He knows I’m right.
“Look, I’m sorry if you really think that I’m the problem here and I hope you guys figure it out or whatever, but maybe Kai has point in not talking to you.” Hayden turns around and walks out the door, leaving me in the same position I was a week ago.
I lean against the wall, sinking down slowly. I run my hands through my hair, trying to answer the one question that’s been bugging me all week.
How do I fix this?
“Hey Callie,” I greet, taking a seat on the ground next to her. At the moment, Callie might be my only friend here. Kai is mad at me, Zach mostly keeps to himself and Hayden is well, Hayden. Callie is the only person here who actually wants to talk to me.
“Are you okay?” She asks, scanning my face with a worried look.
I sigh, exhausted from holding everything inside. “Not really. But I will be.”
“Ryder, I’m here to listen, alright?”
I take a quick look around, seeing that no one else is here yet. “It’s Kai. We fought and now she isn’t talking to me and I don’t know what to do. I’ve never not talked to her for so long before.”
She places a comforting hand on my shoulder, giving me a small smile. “The bond between the two of you just isn’t breakable. I’ve seen how close you guys are. This is just a rough patch that you just gotta suffer through. Like kidney stones.”
I let out a laugh at that. “Thanks, Callie. You are pretty amazing, you know that?”
“I know,” she says, brushing off imaginary dust from her shoulder.
We continue talking about some of our favorite sayings, waiting for everyone to pile in for another group therapy session.
As much as I hate sharing my feelings and everything with others, I do think it’s helping. It helps to know that everyone here is fucked up in their own way; that we’re all struggling.
Zach sits down next to me, while Hayden and Kai trail close behind. I look straight at Hayden, not letting my eyes off of him. He looks at me and then at Kai, whispering something in her ear. Her cheeks start to become red as she bits her bottom lip and shakes her head. I avert my gaze, knowing that if I keep staring at them I’m going to lose it.
“Sorry I’m late guys,” Jayden says, rushing into our circle and taking his spot. “How was everyone’s night?”
We look around at each other, unsure if we should tell him about our late night adventure. I catch Kai’s eye for a moment, wondering if she’s thinking about me like I am with her. I just want things to go back to normal.
“It was good,” Callie speaks, breaking the silence. The rest of us mumble our agreeance.
“Ok then.” He picks up his clipboard and gives it a once over. “Today, we’re going to do something slightly different. I want each of you to write a letter to the person you lost. Tell them how their death impacted you, what you felt, how you acted, pretty much whatever you want to say to them. It doesn’t have to be long. At the end, we’ll share some of it, if you’re comfortable sharing, and then we’ll start a small fire in campfire and burn it. Sounds good?” Jayden explains, taking out a stack of paper and a few pencils.
I take a piece of paper and a pencil, staring at the blank page in front of me. I’ve already been writing to Emma this exact thing and I know what I want to say to her. It’s almost the same thing every time.
In a way, your death was like my own death. Your funeral was my funeral. And when you died, I did things I regret.
I kissed random girls when I was blackout drunk. I got blackout drunk multiple times. I felt like I betrayed you over and over, but at the moment it was justified because you betrayed me first. But the guilt’s hitting now, Em.
You broke my heart. You promised me you wouldn’t break it. You promised. But what’d you go and do? You took your own life, Emma. You took it away. And you forgot the most important thing. It’s not just your life. It’s never just been your life. It was mine. It was Kai’s. It was our families and your classmates and your teachers because you were loved by everyone.
So screw you. Screw you for taking away a part of my life.
I put my pencil on the ground and reread the words I wrote, seeing the anger at the end. I feel like a piece of shit for telling my dead girlfriend to screw herself. If she was alive, I would never in a million years say something like that to her.
But it was her own damn fault. She completely disregarded how everyone else would feel. Over half the school wept for her. She was everyone’s friend, especially to those who needed one. She did it for Kai in middle school and she did it without hesitation. Because she cared. She really, truly, cared and that’s what separated her from the rest of the world.
So how in the world could she not care about those who she would hurt when she killed herself?
I glance around the circle, my eyes landing on Kai. I wonder what she wrote. I wonder if her feelings are the same as mine or if they’re different. We lost the same person, but we both had different experiences with Emma. Emma was her best friend and she was my soulmate. It’s two different types of love.
I wish I could talk to her. Tell her about this fire burning in the back of my throat. The anger and pain I tried to push down with vodka. I wish I could tell her that I need her, that I can’t lose her either.
I just want my best friend back.