Chapter Thirty-seven

It’s been one week since Haylee died. I was invited to her funeral, along with Chris, Jackie, and Kyle. I had to accept, even though ever since that day I’ve been trying to run from the truth. It was catching up, and I actually starting to think about what happened. It was then that I had realized that it was all my fault. I should've been on that side of the road. I should’ve been the one hit by the car, not her. I could’ve done something. This was my fault. I should be dead right now, and Haylee would still be alive. She could find someone else to love, someone that actually deserves her. Anger boiled beneath my skin. I wasn’t sure if I was more angry at myself or the one who hit her. Even if they did catch him, even if he was sent to jail for the rest of his life, none of it would matter. None of it would bring Haylee back.

Just then, I heard a knock on my bedroom door. “What?” I said, my voice unwelcoming.

“It’s Chris. I need to talk to you.” Said the muffled voice behind the door.

“Come in.” I mumbled, wiping the tears from my cheeks. Chris came in and sat next to me on my bed.

“Dan.” I looked at him as he continued. “Look at yourself.” He gestured towards my full-length mirror on the wall. Slowly, I got up and walked over to it. I hardly recognized myself. My eyes were crusted, red, and puffy, and my cheeks were stained with tears. My hair was wilder than it has ever been before, and it looked like I had been dragged through a bramble thicket backwards.

I sighed. “Your point?” I rasped.

“Dan. Life must go on. We all miss her. You can’t stay sheltered in your room hiding from the truth all your life. That’s not what Haylee would want.”

“Then what would Haylee want?” I said, turning to him.

Chris hesitated. “What did she say to you last?”

I thought, recalling our conversation we had before she died. “She told me to find someone else that’ll make me happy…” I continued before he could answer. “But I can’t just replace her!”

“You could never replace her, even if you tried. But you do have to find another someone special. You can’t die without finding a girl and marrying her.”

I lost my temper. “I was going to marry her!” I pulled the engagment ring out of its box. “I was going to propose to her that day. I can’t go through loving someone all over again.”

"Dan, you have to-"

"I don't have to do anything, Chris! You don't know what I've been through! Not everybody is numb to emotions like you. The love of my life is dead, don't you get it? I won't ever be able to love somebody again with thinking of her!" I shoved past Chris and ran blindly out of my house. I reached the sidewalk, not slowing down. Glancing behind me, I saw that he wasn't following, and ran into the woods, heading for the clearing. I stumbled upon it, still out of breath, tears staining my face. Gasping, my eyes widening. The Japanese cherry blossom tree wasn't the same. It was cut down, the petals scattered all over the forest floor. They were already beginning to wilt. I walked over to the stump, still not fully seeing what was right in front of me. This was our special place, and no one else knew about it. Or so we thought.

Now all of that was gone. I would never climb the tree again. Never sit on that one branch. Now all I had was a stump. A rotting stump for our memories. I sank to my knees in front of it, wailing.

I heard a voice behind me. "I'm so sorry, Dan." I turned around. It was Riley. Riley, who had betrayed my love, who had tricked her all those years.

"You did this?" I said, my voice thick with grief.

“I had to-”

“No, you didn’t have to do anything. How could you do this? What more could you take away from me?” I felt my rage boiling inside. I stood up, turning around to look at her.

“Look, I never meant for Haylee to die. It was Sophie. She found out where you two were going.”

“And how did she find out?”

Riley glanced at the ground. “I’m so sorry. I miss her, too. But listen. She’s out to get her notebook. The memories journal. You have to get to it before she does.”

My eyes widened. Shoving past her, I ran to Haylee’s house, opening her front door and running into her room. I found her journal right where she had left it, on her desk. But as soon as I entered her room, I was swamped with memories. The smell, the look, the organization, the feel. It was all Haylee. Sitting on her desk was a picture of us, but a different one than I had. It showed me kissing her cheek, and her beaming her beautiful smile. I picked up the picture and sat on her bed. This was an older picture, taken outside on a snowy winter day. I thought of how we went sledriding that day, and how we made a jump in the snow. I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of us riding down on the same sled together, and hitting the jump. We had gone flying, and ended up tumbling together in the snow. Pulling myself from the memory, I brought myself back to the present.

The cold, hard present.

Before I could think about it anymore, I grabbed the journal and ran out of her house and back to the clearing. I found Riley there, sobbing over the tree stump. She glanced at me as I appeared, her eyes red and puffy.

My heart turned hard. “Get out.” She looked surprised. “Never come back. This was our place, and nobody else knew about it. And now, she’s dead. I hope you’re happy.”

“Dan, I just-”

“Leave! You don’t belong here.”

She sighed, getting up from her knees. “She wouldn’t want to see us like this. You know that just as well as I do.”

I narrowed my eyes, not knowing what to say as she left. There, I sat down on the stump, looking at the cover.

I opened her journal to the first page. It was about Tyler Emick, and how much she loved him. I skimmed over it, not wanting to feel her pain all over again. My eyes stopped on page six.

Tonight I will be going to my first party. Will continue later to see how it went!

I nearly stopped breathing. Continuing, I read the next line down.

Back from the party! I didn’t stay long, but I did meet someone. He seemed to take a small amount of interest in me, but I don’t know why. I found out that his name is Dan, and he has a friend named Chris.

Tears began to fall as I read on.

They are both from England, and both have accents. Riley and I thought that both of them were cute, as well. I thought that Dan was cuter, for he was tall, had black, sticky-uppy hair, and had marvelous blue-gray eyes. He said that he came here for a job, and was looking at singing.

I laughed through my tears at the word sticky-uppy. She was a fantastic writer.

Chris had more of a build, for his career of a drummer caused him to grow muscular. He had light green eyes, with light brown hair. Cute, but not nearly as attractive as Dan. I went outside, betting Riley that they would follow us out. Just as I had thought, they followed us, or more likely, me. Riley ditched me, and soon after, Chris ditched Dan as well.

I could barely read the page as my vision blurred from my tears.

It was just the two of us, and Dan came closer. I could see in his eyes and tone that he wanted to kiss me, but I wasn’t quite ready for that. I just met the guy! Instead, I invited him over tomorrow to my house. Probably not the best idea, but we’ll see how it goes!

I continued reading, getting to see her side of all that we did together. She wrote about everything: our first kiss, me leaving, my betrayal, Sophie, the road trip, the Grand Canyon, Jackie and Kyle, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and everything that had happened during the past years. On the last page, I completely lost it.

Dan just came over! We are heading to the clearing. He seems jumpy, yet excited. We’ve been talking about our future together lately. I wonder if it has anything to do with that! Will continue later to see what he has to say.

Then, nothing. Her writing stops. Her death plays over in my mind, unable to stop it. I put my elbows on my knees and rest my forehead in my hands. I watched the tears drop down from my eyes to the ground. How could I ever find someone to replace you? I thought, looking up from my hands. I take her notebook and walk home, drying the tears from my eyes.

I then lock myself in my room, not coming out until her funeral a few days later.

The End

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