I brush the pink lines that cover the inside of my arms.
The monster snickers. “Third time’s the charm.”
I taught it that saying. Will I be missed? Not at school, that’s for sure. Some of the kids don’t even know my name, so they made up new ones: freak, stoner, loser.
“Don’t forget homo.” The monster’s good at jogging my memory. I clench my hands into fists so hard the knuckles crack.
Gavin kissed me first, begging me to keep it—us—a secret. It’s hard to deny someone their wish when their warm fingers stroke the soft skin behind your ear and their thick-lashed eyes speak of houses we’ll have to ourselves all weekend.
“Fool. Did you really think he loved you? He’s a filthy liar like everyone else. That place should be named Hell School.” The fucking monster has always been able to read my mind.
I believed Gavin’s words. Maybe I still do, but why did he start that rumor about me sucking off Roy in the first place?
“Because your lover boy’s a coward.”
He was probably scared. Just like me. “What if it wasn’t him who actually spread those lies?” The thought had crossed my mind before, but the monster was quick to crush it.
“Who else if not him?” It snarls and scoots closer.
The erratic sound of an ambulance siren interrupts the distant but steady hum of the traffic noise. The monster yawns. “So, are you doing it or what? Need a little ... push?” Sharp talons slice the air.
There’s no use in second-guessing now. I wasted enough time already. Why stretch out the inevitable?
I take a deep breath. It will be my last after all, so I should make it count. A combination of gurgles, grunts and hiccups tumbles out of the monster’s stinking yap.
“You done laughing?”
My phone buzzes once.
Silence. Sharp and palpable.
“What’s that?” the monster bellows.
I risk a peek at the cracked screen—never bothered to have it fixed.
Where r u? Don’t do anything stupid. I’m srry. Let’s talk. Pls.
Shit. Gavin worries about me. I shouldn’t have texted him.
“No more stalling!”
“I’m not.” Am I?
Maybe talking to Gavin will make things better. Maybe he changed his mind. Maybe it was all a big misunderstanding and his feelings for me are real.
“Do it already!” The monster’s voice screeches like the brakes on my old mountain bike.
I cover my ears, nearly losing my balance. “I need time to think!”
It stands. “You worthless piece of shit.”
Each word is ripping my old wounds open, inch by inch.
“You’re a waste of air. Nobody cares if you live or die.”
“That’s not true,” I whisper, throat tight, eyes stinging. My body has become as cold and immovable as the stone it’s planted on.
The monster groans. “I’m not letting you off the hook that easily.” It retreats into the walls, hissing. “See you soon, my friend.”
I don’t dare to exhale, let alone stir. The world below seems much closer than before. More real. Sounds are louder, the air colder, as if a giant pillow has been lifted. Carefully, I twist my back, my arms gripping the ledge above my head. Getting back inside is proving to be harder than expected. With clenched teeth, I put one foot next to the other, little steps, to reach the window I crawled out of.
My hands tremble. The wind is tearing at my hair like a rough lover. I’ll call Mom once I’m back down. Might text Gavin too. Tell him I’m okay.
The monster darts out of the wall, a black cloud of smoke. “Boo!”
My foot slips.
I flail about to regain my balance, to get a hold of the stony lifeline in front of me. The tips of my fingers merely graze the limestone, gravity pulling me backward.
Down, down, down, face toward the night sky. My mind becomes a slide-projector of could’ve beens and I’m sorrys. Above me, the stars pulsate, almost whitewashing the laughter from the monster.
I close my eyes and focus on Gavin’s lopsided smile. I wonder if he’ll ever think of me, with my favorite T-shirt and my mismatched socks. Will the school hold a moment of silence? How many flowers will be left in front of my locker?
I wish I could be there. I wish I knew.