Carbon

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Chapter 33

I was lost in this haze when a police officer summoned me from my first period class. I loathed Literature IV due to the sadistic teacher and his bullying of one’s intelligence. I was reserved from this punishment due to my lack of participation in class but full involvement in the homework. However, once the police officer stepped into the room and announced, “I need to speak to a Miss Sebold,” I became discredited.

My teacher nodded in my direction and whooped like a police siren. “Take a little bit too much after Poe, Miss Sebold?”

My patience thinned as I pulled away from my desk, alone and aching. No one understood why I was not celebrating my father’s release; Ned did not even understand. After the physical and mental blows, I wanted him locked up until the day his bones turned to dust. My sweatpants and t-shirt probably unsettled many of my peers as they knew my sister dressed eloquently like a gentlewoman anticipating a great holiday and repast. Here we were, dressing for a funeral of freedom and a baptism of a man’s life. Five days passed, and I had yet to hear from him. Esther avoided me like an obedient child, never mentioning the fact that I lived in our vacant childhood home without power with thankfully water, and she lived comfortably in our parents’ new home miles away from the outcast. The Sebolds were always singular individuals entrapped in each other’s lives because of a blood bond, but I think I severed the cord when I disobeyed my mother blatantly in front of Esther, who loved our mother more than one could imagine. Eyes followed my back as I left the room, and my hand slid across the empty desk that used to belong to Heath.

Everyone seemed to avoid Heath’s designated seat in all of his classes as if car accident deaths were contagious. Peers seemed to seep from the walls and ceiling like cockroaches to add melodrama to his whole existence. “He was my best friend. I can’t believe he died.”

“I threw up when I heard he died.”

“He was such a lovely person.”

I remembered the school paper was so perturbed that I would not give them a quote for the paper or even the yearbook. How was I supposed to say something about Heath from that night? It wasn’t my responsibility to illuminate his wonderful and fluorescent nature. I didn’t want to soil who he was in the slightest bit with my detestable words because he exceeded any compliment I could have given him.

The door clicked behind us as the police officer quietly led it to a close. His mustache stemmed from a 70’s porno, and his lip’s caterpillar accentuated the laugh lines creased into his face. He turned to the hallway and began to walk down the corridor silently.

Apprehensive, I hesitated to follow him or even talk to him, but if I did talk, he would not be able to use any of my statements as he failed to read me my rights. I pondered scenarios in which my father or mother persuaded the officer that I was in need of punishment for an imaginary crime. My conscience scouted out an exit and considered making an escape in the opposite direction, but the officer assuaged my thoughts.

“Devin, right? Look, you don’t have to worry. I’m not going to arrest you or interrogate you.”

My blue eyes turned to him, and I mentioned, “You’re obviously here for something.” I sounded curter than I wanted.

His neck rolled as he swung his arms, I suppose preparing for the next statement. “Well, you know your father was released recently from prison.”

I narrowed my eyes and flared my nostrils.

“Jude Sebold was walking by the school the other day, and, unfortunately, your dog attacked him,” he informed me whilst vacantly staring into my eyes.

My teeth clenched, holding back a barrage of words and insults for my father. My brow furrowed as I quickly shook my head like a child denying stealing the last cookie from the plate. My heart felt as though it would explode as my chest tightened upon the realization of this critical situation. I regretted allowing Holden to follow me to school and patiently wait outside until the day ended. I regretted training him too much and being too aggressive towards my father.

If he hadn’t smacked me, Holden wouldn’t have bit him the first time.

“Ma’am, your dog has documented two bites, and this state has a two-bite rule for dogs before euthanasia. You have to commit the—”

“He’s my service dog. He wears that orange vest in the parking lot while I’m in school. I did everything I was supposed to do for him. Holden saved my life.” I tried to remain calm as a sudden pressure weighed down my capacity for breaths.

“Ma’am, you and I both know he is not a registered service dog. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t check out his history.”

My heart dropped as I scurried to find another retort to parry off his declarations. Heath was my service dog but not in the literal sense. Taken aback, I tried to create the best defense I could for him because I knew Holden protected me with all of his might. “Jude shouldn’t have been near the school anyway! He’s not allowed. He shouldn’t be near us.”

The man retorted, “Miss Sebold, he was not convicted as a sex offender. He has the freedom to go wherever he pleases without being bitten as long as he doesn’t violate parole. Either you take your dog to the vet, or animal control will take him. I’m sorry for this whole situation, but he bit—”

“No, he didn’t! Holden is a service dog! He can’t! I need him! I love him!”

“Ma’am, you don’t understand. The consequences of this—”

“He’s the only thing I have left of him—of everything! Don’t you understand?! No one gets it!”

And the cop fell silent. His tawny eyes absorbed my reddened, desperate face pitifully, probably expecting me to strike him or continue to blurt a stream of obscenities. Maybe he wanted me to act upon these compulsions.

He finally handed me a citation and pulled his chin to his chest. “By this date.”

I snatched it from him and immediately told him, against my best judgment, “To go screw yourself.” He patiently nodded, accepting this usual reaction he must receive from many individuals. I spun on the balls of my feet and ran as hard as I could toward the exit absentmindedly. A blur of locker doors and numbers rushed past me as my hands rushed from my hip back to my cheek. The only thing that slowed me was the double-doors at the end of the corridor. In retrospect, I am surprised the police officer did not pull me back into class and prevent me from skipping class.

And then maybe he understood what was going on in a girl’s mind who has lost everything.

Cars with the stupid parking pass stickers morphed into this stretch of red, silver, black, white, and the occasional blue. Then trees, and then a bridge, and then more trees. I ran as far as my body would let me until my ankle twisted into a divot created by the crawdads below the wheat field. My face scratched into pellets of rock amidst a dusty brush around the roots of the wheat. My elbows reddened as mulch embedded into my skin.

I pulled myself up to my knees and just sat back on my heels, staring into nothing, letting tears pour down my face as the one thing that was left of Heath would be gone soon, too. The furry creature that I poured four years into would be gone, and that moment was the time I realized my heart still loved after Heath died. And then God would laughingly take away my little Holden Caulfield.

A soft panting caught my attention suddenly. I perked and glanced to my side. A white mountain of a dog cheerfully smiled at me, trying to console me. His massive paw began to scratch at my thigh like he did when he knew I was upset or he wanted a hug. I solemnly smiled and sniffled, “Hi, baby.”

He cooed and leaned into me, pushing me to my hip. He laid his head on the curve of my waist and blankly stared into the abyssal wheat field, and my hand fell upon his soft crown and drug back lazily. I absorbed every tiny strand of hair and every glint in his eyes. “Are you going to be a catcher in the rye, baby boy? Make sure Heath isn’t bad?”

Holden’s rusty eyes peeled away from the field and stared at me. He sat up and licked my cheek. He fell back to his resting place and closed his eyes, sighing sleepily. I ruffled his cheek fur as he groaned at my annoyance. “Oh, you like it, you dummy.” His white tail thumped against the ground happily as his eyes opened.

And in that moment, I remembered the first time I saw Holden, and I remembered how Heath gave him to me without an occasion or a holiday. I gripped Holden’s ears and pulled him to my lips, kissing his snout and his head, engulfing him in a tight embrace. His fur absorbed my tears and sobs as he patiently sat, probably unknowing of the knowledge I had of our future together.

My eyes stared straight ahead, pretending I couldn’t hear her desperate cries into Holden’s fur. I longed to embrace her and console her, but I was not the one she needed. She needed Heath so badly. Devin’s fingers laced into Holden’s fur as the hundred pound monster comically sat on top of her lap, blocking any use of my shotgun mirror or window. Her face remained buried into his coat as her back shook from choking back roars of sobs.

Normally, I would speed at least by five miles on the county roads, but I slowed to ten miles below the limit, hoping I would never arrive at the vet’s office Devin usually went to for checkups for Holden. Unfortunately, I took a right and drove down the long drive to the vet’s office. I gently parked my car near the entrance because I knew Holden would be extremely heavy once he… became dead weight. I turned my gaze to Devin, and her bloodshot blue eyes stared straight at the door of the vet’s office. “You okay?”

She didn’t answer the questioned but said, “Holden and I are going to race one more time.” She opened the door, and the giddy dog bounced off of her lap and happily pranced around upon the mention of “race.” The petite girl slid off the seat sluggishly and onto the asphalt. She shuffled around the back of my car and then cracked a smile at her white companion. “You ready to lose, Holden? Huh? You ready? I’m gonna beat you. Better watch out!”

I sat in the car and just watched in my rear-view mirror as Devin endured Holden’s last beautiful moments with her. Devin launched into a full sprint toward the edge of the drive, and Holden burst into a fierce gallop that was reminiscent of a greyhound’s loping gait. Devin’s legs swayed quickly, flicking back and forth like pendulums. They reached the end of the drive and turned back to me.

And then, abruptly, she quit.

I pulled myself out of the car and screamed, “Devin! Devin!” My heart raced as every fear poured into my mind. She was hurt, she was sick, she hadn’t been eating, she’d been drinking too much, she’d been drinking not enough.

She slowed her fierce pace and just stared at the asphalt. Her hands clenched into taut fists by her sides, and I imagined she was probably crying as Holden immediately whipped around and scurried to her side. Her shoulders shook as the massive furry cloud of white threw his tail from side to side. He pranced around in a tight circle and headed Devin in the thigh, dipping his snout.

In this moment, I decided to remain aloof because I could not emphasize with her. Yes, we lost our best friend, but how can I emphasize with a girl whose whole world was destroyed in a matter of days? I didn’t come home to an immaculately vacant home. I was not in the car when it flipped and killed my best friend. I did not have to watch as one of my most loved beings die before my eyes just like Heath.

Devin tapped her shoulders twice and cupped her hands beside her hips. Holden obediently put his front paws on her shaking shoulders and his back feet into her hands. The two looked absurd as Holden happily panted on her face as she somberly smiled into his breath and his fluffy white tail brushed against the gravel as she sauntered towards the vet’s office, wavering to a side whenever the Great Pyrenees readjusted in her embrace.

I strolled to the glass door with a hokey sign stating hours of operation swinging from the sudden movement. Devin walked into the place, whispering and talking to Holden in between him licking her face and rubbing his nose against hers. I was invisible to them as Devin held together her explosion of emotions with what little strength she had. My heart ached as I observed the two of them playing with each other in the waiting room while a middle-aged woman with a prissy Chihuahua nestled next to her on the bench scolded the two of them for Holden’s lack of a leash. Out of breath from blowing on his face, Devin sat across from the woman on another bench, and I settled next to her.

I could not predict how Devin would be able to handle it as Holden seemed to do charming things left and right, forcing her to fall for him even more.

Holden sat down to her left and twisted his neck to face her, ripping a whine that tore through the room.

“What?” she moaned, mocking his deep whine.

He glanced back to the Chihuahua and then back to the girl.

She resignedly sighed, “Only if you’re good.”

As if Holden understood the vague command, he nodded his head and carefully walked to the woman and her dog. He put his black nose on the edge of the bench, and the dog twisted her head in curiosity. He timidly tapped her chest with his black nose and sat back on his haunches. The tiny dog wagged her tail and ran from her nest to the edge of the bench. She place a paw on his nose and jumped backwards in the seat. They continued this silly dance for a few minutes before the woman finally reprimanded the behavior. Holden just sat then and stared at the other dog longingly.

“I don’t think I can do this,” Devin whispered under her breath.

I turned to her to see a familiar image. For the past few days, her eyes changed to a rusty red amidst her clear, blue eyes as if her eyes produced blood instead of tears. The veins that sat upon the whites of her eyes burst into complex webs. Her skin sunk under her eyes with a bluish tint resonating on the surface. Her tawny skin no longer appeared alive but pale and bloodless. Her eyes nailed to Holden, I could tell she was too preoccupied with losing him than maintaining her own mental and physical health.

“It’ll be okay.”

“Sebold?” A man came out wearing green scrubs that accentuated a major beer gut protruding from his middle. His dusty hair framed the wrinkles around his eyes with short sideburns. His hand shot out toward Devin, and she weakly took it. He glanced to me and then gave me his hand. “I’m Dr. Roy, and you?”

“Um,” I mumbled, “Ned, Devin’s friend.” He seemed to be a little more cheerful than needed as he already knew the news as both the police officer and Devin called about an appointment. The officer fully believed they would have to steal Holden from her, and I cannot lie that I was surprised when she willingly took him. I inquired her about the decision before we left her house as she grabbed Holden’s favorite blanket to be wrapped in upon his final ride home.

“Why? This is killing you.”

She muttered, “He is not going to die in a cold, unfamiliar room without me. He needs to know I love him; he would’ve done it for me.”

“We’ll go to the back if you don’t mind getting Mr. Holden for me.” He turned to the receptionist and cracked a joke as Devin’s head dipped further down as she had to succumb to the recognition that Holden’s time had finally come.

Devin patted her thighs twice, and Holden sprinted across the lobby and threw himself onto her, rocking the bench onto its back legs, startling me. “Not like that, you idiot!” she squealed. Holden then poured kisses over her face as she stood up, holding him again as if he was a toddler. She shuffled to the back of the vet’s office, and I silently sauntered behind her. Brown eyes followed me as Holden managed to knock over every piece of precariously placed objects in the office with his massive tail.

A stainless steel table was pushed against the wall far away from all the other equipment and away from most of the little rooms for normal appointments in hopes of deafening the cries, I suppose. Devin’s hand shot to Holden’s head and held him against her shoulder. She swiveled on her heels and stared hopelessly at me. She whimpered through clenched teeth, “He doesn’t deserve this, Ned. He’s just a baby!”

I opened my mouth because I swore I had something to say, but my mind depleted me of any consoling comments or really any sympathetic or empathetic thought. I didn’t know what to do.

“Welp, put him on the table, okay, Devin?” Dr. Roy floated from the doorway leading to an unknown location with a tray with alcohol, a syringe, a tourniquet, and other equipment cradled carefully in his hands.

Devin’s eyes snapped to him and just stared at him desperately, silently praying for any way out of leaving behind someone who had survived so many awful things with her. He was the only one I think who truly understood Devin and knew how to console her.

Holden’s eyes locked with mine as Devin asked many questions about the procedure like about the pain and how he would be able to tolerate it. I never fully appreciated whoever said, “Eyes are the window to the soul,” until this unfathomable dog. It was almost as if he passed the torch he received from Heath and then gave it to me. He understood my fears with him leaving Devin, and I nodded my head. His serious expression dissipated again, burying his face into Devin’s neck.

“He doesn’t like needles. Could we give him something before the needle?”

“Ma’am, all of the procedure pain is very minimal. He will not feel a thing.” I noticed how the doctor danced around phrasing something as, “he will be fine.” He finally could compute the gravity of this situation and the severity of Devin’s and Holden’s bond.

Devin turned to face her cloud of fur and love. A smile forced into her face, she quietly said, “I love you so much, baby boy. Okay? Heath’ll tell you all about Heaven, okay? You loved him, and he will make sure to take care of you, baby boy.” She choked back a sob. “You are such a good boy, Holden, a good boy.” She could not hold back her whimpers and cries any longer, and she gently placed him on the table. Her hands wrapped around his ears and massaged them as the vet readied his equipment.

Devin’s skin prickled as she heard the liquid hit the tray and the vet rush up beside her. He wrapped the tourniquet around Holden’s front leg and began shaving a small strip. Holden stared at the razor patiently, evaluating it and the situation. Devin just stared at Holden’s face as if she was trying to memorize every little aspect, every perfection and imperfection, every curve and every line.

I crossed my arms and leaned against the wall. The shine on Devin’s cheeks returned as tears began cascading down them again. Holden sat up and began licking the tears away. Devin choked back a sob as she signaled for Holden to lie down. He obeyed and whined. Devin sunk down and wrapped her right arm around his neck as Dr. Roy prepared the final touches. She massaged Holden’s cheek with her thumb.

My heart sank as I saw the needle sink into the creature’s skin. I immediately left the room, too heartbroken to see this illuminative, endearing dog pass away. The only way I knew the deed had been done was when Devin let go a desperate wail that was heard by myself and a family in the waiting room. I turned back to my legs and buried my face in my hands, incredulous this was happening to the girl I so desperately loved.

I had to choke back a scream as I felt my heart break for her.

I sat on the wooden chair designated for time-out as my meager fourteen years on the earth did not impress anyone. I tucked my knees into my chest, embarrassed to be in time-out for something I honestly didn’t mean to happen and for being this old and forced into this position. I murmured nothings into my thighs as I tried to control my emotions and not burst into tears. My missing black crew sock was immediately recognizable as soon as I walked into the church. I leaned forward to glance around the corner of the wall as my parents began to argue after they shepherded me back home.

“Arianna, what do you think happened to her sock?”

“Jude, she probably just lost it.”

“No, you know she’s probably having sex.”

“Why would you even think that?”

He slipped my skirt down to my ankles along with my underwear.

“Did you not see that mark on her neck?”

He pressed his lips into my neck and sucked like a vacuum, breaking blood vessels. His hands slithered up the front of my shirt and cupped my breasts limply, kind of timidly. I turned to him and whispered, “You don’t have to do this.”

“I don’t want to be like this anymore.”

“Is that why there are so many hotel bills on your credit card?”

“Exactly, the Johnsons told me the other day they saw her and the Frey’s boy coming out of a hotel room while the Johnsons were honeymooning. What else could they be doing in those hotel rooms?”

I buried my face into my legs as I continued to feel heat rush to my face.

“You’ve ever done this before? I mean, with anyone other than me?” I whispered as I pulled on my skirt and shirt quickly, realizing we were going to be late to my dad’s ministry if we didn’t hurry.

The boy turned to me and quietly shook his head. “No, never.”

“I’m sorry.”

I clenched my toes as I sadly stared at the floor. I remembered how the boy was too young to ever have the displeasure of having to go through what I’ve been through. He shouldn’t have witnessed this at all. We should never have had to deal with this indecency.

“Hey,” he murmured.

I turned to him timidly.

He cuffed my face into his hands, and he folded his lips over mine. His lips were so soft and embracing, something I was not used to. He slowly pulled away, and he gave me a solemn smile. “Devin, you’re not a bad person.”

I shook my head. “Yes, I think I am.”

I pulled back a tendril of hair behind my ear as my parents paraded into the room. They stared down their straight noses at me with hostility seeping from their pores. I couldn’t bring myself to even glance at them as I recalled the kindness of Heath Frey.

He smiled, and I reminded, “We have to leave right now.”

“Oh, yeah.”

We scurried out of the room, and I turned from locking the motel door, bumping into Heath. He quickly threw out his arm, tucking me behind him protectively. I whispered, “What’s up?”

He hissed, “Shut up.”

The husky voice of Mrs. Johnson cut through the air harshly, “Heath Frey? Is that you?”

Mr. Johnson then hissed, “And Esther Sebold.”

The wife corrected, “No, this one is the other one—I think Devin.”

My heart beat angrily against my ribcage as I realized the intensity and the gravity of the situation. People would know Heath and I were having sex. No normal teenagers would be accused of not doing so while using a motel. It didn’t matter if it was forced or not.

I clenched my hands into fists as I turned my gaze up to my parents—blue and ember eyes. Both had wrinkles carved distinctly into their mouths fiercely with deep grimaces. I turned my gaze back to the floor and entwined my fingers together.

Jude growled, “What were you doing with Heath Frey?”

It took immense strength not to immediately proclaim that Jude knew exactly what was going on behind closed doors. All I could do was imagine Esther having to face our father and mother in this interrogation, and I channeled her calm attitude to survive. I could never confess to my mother what my father forced me to do behind smoke and mirrors.

I nonchalantly shrugged.

“What are you two doing here?”

Heath hissed, “None of your damn business.” He pressed me lightly into the wall, forcing me to hide from the two adults, protecting me from their chiding gazes.

“Whoa, your mother would have a fit if she heard your language.”

“Good.”

“Where is your sock?” my mother asked.

I shrugged.

“Answer your mother,” Jude hounded.

I turned to glance up at him, incredulous that he was able to maintain the role of a concerned father for such a long time. My mother was blind to his acts of indecency, and I fought back the urge to break our pact and confess. I whispered after ripping my gaze away from them, “At the hotel.”

“What were you and the Frey boy doing there?”

A tear slid down my cheek as I finally had to admit to my mother I was soiled. I was disgusting and repulsive. I whispered, “Fucking.”

My mother, astounded, murmured, “What?”

I finally faced my father and roared, “Happy? Happy? I’m a whore!”

His hand whipped into my face, and I turned back to him, glaring at him with my icy blue eyes. I bared my teeth like a rabid animal and threatened to destroy him with my fangs. In that moment, I would have loved to destroy him. I would have loved to just say a phrase and destroy his image for the rest of his life.

But I couldn’t.

My eyes fell away from my father as the tears fell over the lip of my lids and trailed down my cheeks. I bit my lip as a torrent of emotions threatened to attack my sanity. I clenched my eyes shut and buried my face back into my knees.

My mother scoffed, “You should be ashamed of yourself. What are other families going to think of you? What are they going to think of our family? You’ve soiled more than just your reputation—you’re hurting the church with your vile promiscuity.”

I nodded my head.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do anymore. I can take this anymore—I can’t chance anything anymore.”

“It’s okay.” Heath fixed his collar in the reflection of the stained glass. He wiped away a little drool he missed this morning when primping for church.

“I’ll kill myself. Then it’ll all be over.”

He whipped around and hissed, “Don’t even joke about that.”

Our eyes locked, and I admitted, “I’m not.”

My eyes turned to the humongous beast beside my father, and I narrowed my eyes. Holden pulled himself to his feet and lumbered over to my little stool as my parents turned their backs to me, hissing punishments I could endure. The gentle animal rested his chin on my bare foot and slowly whipped his tail back and forth, staring at me with his marble-like eyes.

I gave him a humble smile, wiping the tears away from my cheeks.

I had to stay alive for him. I had to make sure he was protected and treated as any angel should. I leaned over and buried my face into his alabaster coat, and then the tears began to pour yet again because I knew he and Heath were the only reasons I was willing to stay alive.

“He is going to know the Johnsons saw us. He’s going to kill me.”

Heath slowly nodded and pivoted on his heels to face the door for a moment, checking for any spies I supposed. He turned back to me and snatched my hand. Something cool and metallic descended into my palm, and he forced my hand to close. “It’s okay. If anything happens, just go to my house.”

I nodded my head sadly and turned my gaze to the floor, and then I noticed my missing sock. I shook my head away from the worries and turned back to Heath. I finally admitted, “You never deserved this.”

He gave me a shy smile. “Neither did you.”

I collapsed into him in the middle of the wedding chapel—the only place we could have some privacy as everyone congregated in the other chapel. I buried my face into his chest and wrapped my arms around him. “I love you,” I whispered.

“I love you, too.”

And then I stared at him with fright.

It was the first time someone told me I didn’t deserve it. I heard a bombardment of crazy ideas that it was my fault. All of the bad things coming upon me was due to my sin, but I couldn’t really think of any sin that needed the punishment destined for me.

I would have been shocked to learn that more was to come.

“Devin, let me help you.”

Devin dove the shovel into the ground and dropped the mud to the side. A light dusting of rain began to fall, but a canopy from her neighbor’s trees kept us pretty dry. The hole was already about four feet wide; she just had to dig the depth. Part of me questioned if she was making Holden’s grave so wide so she would have more time to just not lose him forever. His body, wrapped in his navy blanket he carried around proudly as a puppy, sat at the base of the tree amongst the roots to prevent the rain from tarnishing his corpse.

“I’m fine doing it myself,” she snapped as she shoveled another mound out of the bottom of the grave languidly. Her shoulder muscles shook slightly from under her t-shirt as well as her quadriceps beneath her athletic shorts. A body unaccustomed to the brutality that is digging. Blood dripped down the wooden stick, callouses rubbed off her palms and flesh exposed under flaps of broken blisters. As she wiped her forehead with the back of her hand, reddened, bloodied holes unveiled themselves and grew upon her naked palms.

“Dev, it is okay.”

“No.” She continued digging the depth when I gently grabbed the top of the shovel’s handle. She forcefully pulled the limb away and glared at me with rebellious eyes. I tried to grab the handle again when she went back to digging, but she pulled away again.

“Dev, please let me help you. Your hands are destroyed right now.”

She dug quicker and shook her head vehemently, repeating “No.”

My hand reached out shakily and touched the tip of the shovel.

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no.”

“Devin, please.”

The shovel quit moving, and she remained statuesque for what seemed like an eternity. She never faced me or glanced at the navy blanketed bundle. The shovel leaned far to the right and fell against the edge of the hole. Blood streaked down the hilt, and her blood’s aroma suffocated the air. She fell to her knees and began to dig with her bare hands as they slipped off the shovel. “This is for him… it’s all I can give him, Ned. It’s all I can do for him.”

In a weird way, I felt disappointed because I couldn’t help her with this or anything. I couldn’t console her or know her the way Heath did. I was disappointed I wasn’t Heath; I wasn’t her Heath she needed.

And then I realized this was the final nail in Heath’s coffin; this was his final piece in her life. This really was for him, and this had very little to do with Holden in my eyes. She was burying the period of life she simultaneously despised and coveted. Everything she knew was gone, and everyone she trusted had abandoned her except for me. Yet, she didn’t see it that way. The reality of this world was vacant and blanketed in a depressed black that tainted her future as well as her dreams.

At the beginning of our Chemistry class, our teacher asked us the generic ice breakers: future occupation, future university, future plans. I had the generic answers, hoping to appease everyone and hide the fact that I had not a clue what I was doing, but Devin simply said, “I don’t know,” and sat down.

“Is that all? You don’t have an inkling as to what you want to do with your life?”

Devin glanced at her feet and then shrugged. “I don’t know.”

Upon this funeral, I knew the shell of what I could’ve been for Devin needed more substance and structure to withstand her. The shell of what I could’ve been was null and void—broken and withered.


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