When they finally let me back into the hospital ward, I was taken aback at how weak Jade looked. Nothing like the strong-willed girl I knew her to be. Gently I stroked her face, the skin cold and clammy. Her eyes fluttered open, locking onto mine, and she reached up to touch my face. "Ethan- what happened?"
"Shhh." I laid a finger on her lips, silencing the words. "Listen to me. I'm going to tell you a story."
She nodded, eyes wide and scared.
"Three years ago, I met a girl named Laura Mallory. She was amazing- kind, beautiful, smart, caring, clever. Kind of like you." I smiled at her.
"She was a year younger than me, but she was in advanced classes, so we saw each other a lot. We became friends.
"And then one day- well, we realized we were more than friends. So, so much more. She understood me. I mean, really understood me. Most people write me off as a bit of a freak, but Laura really took the time to get to know me, to see past the exterior to what's underneath. We were- we were so happy together." A sob rose in my throat, stealing my breath, and a tear escaped and fell onto Jade's hand. "What happened to her?" she whispered.
I took a deep breath, biting my lip to keep from trembling. "One day I got a phone call from a man named Detective Alder. He told me that- that there'd been an accident." I was losing it. I clenched my hands into fists.
"I drove to the hospital as fast as I could. They let me in to see her. She was- it was horrible. She was covered in blood, and her leg had been crushed. She'd been hit by a drunk driver.
"I sat by her side all night, watching the monitor. Then, at 2:42 am, the line went flat." I squeezed my eyes shut tight and ran a hand over my face. My voice trembled as I continued. "Laura Mallory died that night, and so did I. I still can't believe she's gone. And being with any other girl- it feels wrong somehow, like I'm being unfaithful to her." I looked into Jade's eyes, seeing the pain and fright. "I've never told anyone this story before, Jade. Do you understand?"
She nodded, her face white. Then, in a shaky voice, she gasped, "Ethan- did you poison me?"
I reeled backward in shock. "Poison you?! Of course not! Listen to me, Jade. I've been through so much, and I will never, ever, do anything to hurt anyone as much as I've hurt."
How wrong I was.