"He's dead." the announcement rung clearly through the small room. It wasn't really a surprise. We knew this would happen. The only thing we were hinging on was her reaction. Instinctively all heads turned towards the back of the room where she was sitting. She was still sitting in that withdrawn position on that chair. I tried reading her expression, just trying to pick up the slightest hint of change, but it was the same set-in-stone look she had when I was talking to her moments ago. But there definitely was a shift in her aura. Aware of all the blatant stares she was receiving, she stood up and walked across the room to the door which was still open after the messenger had left. I could see in her eyes that she was contemplating which would be more dramatic: to leave silently or if she should announce her exit. Being in the exhausted state she was, she left silently; the only noise that she made was the slow 'click' as the door shut behind her.
The winter passed relatively quickly. Dry, cold mornings lead into dry, cold afternoons and concluded with dry, cold nights. I liked it like that. Sometimes I would go sit outside and stand in the cold air wearing only a simple singlet and simple shorts. The feel of the cold, wet grass beneath my feet was the most humbling feeling I'd experienced in a while. After a while, this going outside at night became a ritual of mine. I'd sit out on the wooden fence and stare into the blackness before my eyes as the stars watched goose bumps rise on my skin.
Sometimes I'd see her. I knew the pain that he caused her when he was alive. She was always in a rush, her brows knotted furiously as if though she was concentrating on disappearing. I had no time to stop and talk to her. I didn't want to annoy her anyway. But I think she was quite relieved that day when his passing was announced. Sometimes when I see her, she's listening in on conversations about him. People in the town liked to gossip and talk dirt behind people's backs. She was so hurt by him; I'd thought she enjoyed their hate towards him. But the look on her face when his name was mentioned...
"Drugs & alcohol - never a safe mix!" they'd say. We all nodded. We knew this all too well.
She'd been cheated on. Treated like dirt. And she never deserved it. She was a good kid.
And then this happened.
I don't ever recall her doing anything bad; she just got caught up in the wrong crowd is all. And she got hurt big time. I thought that I would try and console her one day. I went over to her house on my bicycle. She lives in that cute little house on the corner. The one with the walls painted yellow. I went up to the door, my consolation in hand. It was my consolation, but she could borrow it for a while. They have an antique red wooden door at the front. It looks antique because the paint's all blistered from the sun and is starting to peel off. She peered out from behind the door and her eyes rested on what I was letting her borrow. Her eyes widened as her mouth formed an 'O' shape. I set it down by her feet and it scampered off into the house. She looked at me and gave me a weak, watery smile. I told her she could keep him for the night. I knew she liked my little puppy. She used to come over to my house and we'd all keep each other company. She needed him. She needed to know that she was loved, even by the most innocent animal. She thanked me, but I told her it was fine. She tried inviting me inside, but I was already riding off on my bike.
The next night, I was outside as my ritual prescribed me to be. Unfortunately, the nights were getting warmer and the air was no longer crisp. I saw her coming my way, all rugged up, my puppy tagging along by her feet. She looked at me in a quizzical manner. She wondered how on earth I could be dressed the way I was. I shrugged and let the thin strap fall off my shoulder. I looked down at the milky pale corner jutting out of my vision, reflecting the moonlight. She reached out and fixed it for me. I smiled tentatively at her, still unsure at how she was feeling. She sighed and watched as my puppy sat down obediently near my feet. She looked back up at the moon and stars. I knew she was looking for him. Like a familiar beacon.
I got off the fence and opened the gate for the dog to get in and he bounded away. I looked back at her.
A voice from inside the house called me. It beckoned for me to go back inside the house. I grimaced at her, explaining I had to go back inside.
"You probably should. Reality is calling. We have to move on."
I started to go back inside and then turned back. She was gone.
That girl was gone; she'd moved on.
After that night I was never to see that girl again. After that night I never sat on that fence, I never basked in the moonlight like that again. I wasn't afraid to see that girl. I know she'd gone and she'd gone for good. She was no longer thinking of the boy who'd done her wrong and managed to perish in the process. I gave away that red bike. It was getting old and the bell sounded tacky. The basket in the front had even started to break. I had to get rid of it all: anything that would remind me of her. Because I don't ever want to feel like I did when I knew her.
Like I was a different person that required a whole new persona to cover up my grief.