chapter 7 || kai
I’m fucking pissed.
My mom wants to send me away to some stupid grief camp for teens, where I’ll - and I quote - “learn how to cope better” and “deal with Emma’s death in a healthy way”.
I don’t want to go. I don’t want to learn the correct ways of suffering. I don’t want a damn shrink probing around in my brain. I don’t want to have to deal with Emma’s death.
I’m sitting on our tree, feet dangling over the edge, bottle in hand. It reminds me so much of what I did when Emma first died. In fact, that’s all I did at nights. Ran away to the tree with a half-empty bottle in hand, drinking till I was numb.
Rinse and repeat.
Another figure scales the tree, taking a seat right next to me. I turn around to face the person, ready to push them off; unless of course, it’s Ryder.
And it is. If he’s here then it really only means one thing: his mom told him that she’s sending us away.
“How you doing with all of it?” he asks, finally, stealing my bottle and taking a drink.
I shoot him a glare. How does he think I’m doing? “Okay, yeah. Dumb question,” he realizes with a grimace on his face.
“What’s so wrong with how we’re coping, huh?” I ask, already knowing the answer golden boy’s gonna give me. Hell, even I know what’s so wrong with it.
“We’re killing ourselves. Not like Em did, obviously, but according to my mom, we’re killing ourselves. Slowly.” I’m tempted to say good, but I don’t, knowing he would overreact.
We sit in silence, passing the bottle between us and our feet swinging back and forth. Looking up at the stars, I wonder what Emma would think of all this. I highly doubt that she’d approve of us drinking this much, but then again, what would she care? She left us. She doesn’t get a say anymore.
“Kai, I love you. You know that right?” I nod my head in agreement. I know he loves me, and I love him. As friends. “I promised Alex that she wouldn’t lose me. And I don’t intend to break that promise. But I also can’t sit back and watch you deteriorate in front of me. So please, for me, keep an open mind about this.”
I don’t say anything; letting his words wash over me. He loves Alex just as much as I love Recce. We both just want to protect them from all the bad. I know I would do the same for Ryder. If he was suffering and I could do something, there is no chance in hell that I wouldn’t try my damn best to help him.
He might be hurting too, but he’s still trying to be my rock. And it’s about time I get my head out of my ass and do the same for him.
“Okay. Fine. I’ll keep an open mind,” I give in. What’s the worst that could happen right?
He shoots me a grateful smile. “Thank you. I know you don’t wanna, and neither do I, but maybe it’s time to face the truth. Emma’s dead and she isn’t coming back. We have to move on.”
I sigh. I’m sick of hearing the same thing over and over again. “Ry, I don’t want to. I don’t want to accept the fact that my best friend is dead. That she left me here, all alone, to face this awful world together.” It’s something I’ve never admitted out loud, but the thought of not having my best friend beside me, like planned, terrifies me. Who am I supposed to go to when I need girl help? Or when I need to rant to about a stupid boy?
“You think I want to?” he scoffs. “I loved her, Kai. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. And I know we were young, but I really did believe I would end up with her forever. And you’re not alone. You still have me. And we have each other.”
He’s right, again of course. I’m such a shitty friend. He’s hurting and I’m being an inconsiderate asshole who has got her head way too far up her ass that she can’t see anything.
“I’m sorry,” I say, hanging my head.
His head whips around quickly, using his fingers to lift up my chin to see my face. “Whatever for?” he asks, unbelievably. I study his own face in the moonlight and street lights. Even though it’s barely lit outside, I can still see so many emotions flashing through his eyes.
“I’m so wrapped up in my pain that I’ve been a completely shitty friend. I forgot that you lost Em too, not just me. I’m sorry I’ve been such a self-absorbed asshole.”
“Kai,” he pulls me in close, wrapping his strong arms around my pathetic self. “It’s okay. We both lost someone. But we gotta live, you know? If not for ourselves, then for Em. She’d want that, I think.”
“Yeah, she probably would,” I agree. And for the first time, I believe it. I believe that that’s what Emma would want, even though she’s dead and dead people don’t get a voice. She always wanted the best for the people she loved when she was alive.
“For Emma,” Ryder says, holding out his palm up in front of me.
“For Emma,” I reply, putting my hand on top of his and interlacing them together, squeezing tight.
“Kai, dear, remember to pack a photo of Emma with you. The camp requested that you guys bring a photo and something that reminds you of her,” my mom reminds me for the umpteenth time.
The camp officially starts on our last day of school, and after everything that happened, our parents thought that it would be best if we left as soon as possible, which just happens to be today. As I’m packing for this dumb camp that I promised Ryder I’d keep an open mind for, I’m already starting to regret my decision.
I don’t want to talk to someone about my problems. I’m perfectly fine with keeping them to myself and dealing with it on my own. Much like Ryder, I hate how therapists try to wiggle their way into my mind.
Listening to what my mom said, I hunt for a picture of Emma. I look through my messy desk drawers, the one filled with years of junk shoved in there. I find old gum wrappers, my homecoming ticket from freshmen year when I went with one of Ryder’s soccer friends- who in the end ditched me to go grind on some other girl’s ass- but no picture.
And then I spot the polaroid tucked into the back corner of the drawer. I pull it out gently, not wanting to damage it.
The picture has the 3 of us in it; Ryder, Emma, and me, shortly after the two started going out. I think it was the summer between freshmen and sophomore year, just a few days before school started up again. We went to this carnival an hour away, just the three of us. Ryder, being the oldest of us and getting his license less than a week before drove us down.
We had such a good time there. All we did was ride rides and eat a shit ton of funnel cake and cotton candy. We stayed up too late, just having fun. No drugs or drinks needed. We got high off of each other’s company.
Little did we know then that that would be the last time we’d ever truly have fun like that; without a care in the world.
I tuck the photo in the small front pocket of my backpack, heading over to my dresser to find something that reminded me of her when I see the old forgotten bracelet tossed off to the side on the ground.
I bend down to pick it up, knowing exactly what it is. It’s the bracelet Emma gave to us the summer before it happened.
It’s a thin leather cord, with 5 metal beads in the middle, one for each year we’ve been friends so far.
This little, stupid, bracelet brings up so many memories, but the most dominant one is when she gave it to me.
“Kai, I got something for you!” Emma says, suddenly remembering while we were in the process of squeezing the life out of each other. It’s only been a couple of weeks since she left for her aunt’s house.
“Em,” I sigh, ready to protest. She always brings me something or other, making me look like a shitty friend in comparison. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still grateful for the little things like this, but still.
“Oh, shush. You’re gonna love this, I swear,” she says, digging around in her purse for a few moments before finally pulling out a small little bag. “Here.” She hands me the bag with a giddy look on her face.
I carefully pull it out, gasping at the wonderful sight. “This is beautiful,” I marvel at the bracelet. “Thank you, Emma. I love it.”
“I knew you would!” She walks over to my right, holding out her hand. “Here, I’ll tie it on for you.” I drop it in her palm and extend my wrist toward her.
When she finishes putting it on, I toy with the metal balls, vowing to never take it off.
Guess I didn’t honor that vow now, huh?
After the paramedics left my house and I was alone, I sat curled up in the corner. I was furious at Emma. How dare she go like that? In the moment of being wrapped up in all the anger, I ripped it off and chucked it as far as it would go, and after that, I guess I forgot about it.
I tie it around my wrist, a slight shiver running down my back when the cool metal balls make contact with my skin.
Breathe, I remind myself. It’s only a couple of weeks. And you’ll have Ry with you.
And with that, I head down, ready to face the demons.