I thought about it for a moment, but for the life of me, I couldn’t think of a single thing my little brother liked. I couldn’t remember what made him smile, or laugh, or what made him happy in general. I shook my head, disappointed in myself and said what I was thinking, not really talking to Captain, but still loud enough so that he could hear me, “Sometimes I wonder what he felt when he jumped off that building. What was he thinking in the seconds it took him to reach the end of that drop? Did he regret it? Or was he glad that it was finally over?”
Captain patted me on the shoulder in an attempt to comfort me. “Are you okay, Rocky?”
I nodded and forced my full lips into a smile. “Yeah, it’s just something I have to live without knowing. After all, what am I going to do, jump off a seventy-foot cliff or something to find out?”
Captain’s dark eyebrows rose. “Actually yes, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
I raised my own eyebrow at him. “What are you talking about?”
“I have an idea.” He got up, grabbed his laptop off his desk, and then plopped back on the bed. His fingers flew across the keyboard as he searched for whatever his idea was.
Like all of his “ideas” in the past, I knew it would be a while before he’d tell it to me. Captain liked to map out his projects, iron out the details, account for all possible factors, and make the plan impeccable, before he shared it with anyone. His well thought-out, though crazy ideas were the main reason he was nicknamed Captain in the first place. He was the unofficial leader of our circle of friends.
Thirty minutes later, Captain shoved his laptop in my face and pointed to the screen. “How about we go here? If we leave on Wednesday at 2:00 PM, we can be there by 7:00 AM the next day.”
He pointed to a cliff diving site that had heights ranging up to eighty feet. I looked up at him and held the gaze of his sea green eyes, trying to see if he was serious. When it was clear that he was, I said, “You’re crazy, there is no way in hell we’re doing that.”
I wasn’t sure how he talked me into it, but when Wednesday came, I found myself packing my bag with a swimsuit, sunscreen, a few towels, and a change of clothes. These were things you’d pack if you were going to the beach or the pool, which were two places I wouldn’t have minded going to for a good swim, but instead, that swim was going to come at the bottom of a cliff dive. I still couldn’t believe it.
Despite how insane his plan was, Captain was able to enlist Shane and Lilla, the other two friends that made up our circle. They were not only okay with it, they were excited. The plan was that the four of us would drive in overnight shifts. The trip was sixteen hours, so each of us would take four hours behind the wheel. Since we were taking my blue SUV, the gang met up in front of my house.
Downstairs in the driveway, everyone was packing things into the back of my car. Before we all got in to head out, I looked back at the house, where my parents were watching us. My father held my mother as he leaned on the front door, his arms around her waist. Looking at them now, it was hard to believe that they had divorced once. I ran over to quickly give them hugs.
“Be safe and call often,” my dad said, pulling me into his arms. “Make sure at least one person stays awake with whoever is driving, and don’t be afraid to pull over if everyone needs to get some rest.” He gave me a kiss atop my head.
I nodded into his chest. “Okay, Dad.” He released me, and I went to hug my mother.
“Please, be careful, Raquel,” she said, her voice trembling. I could tell the idea of me doing anything remotely similar to the way Henry died distressed her, but she held her tongue. She gave me a good squeeze before letting me go. “Rosettes are always careful.” She went into her jeans pocket and produced a small wad of cash. She counted it and gave it to me.
“I have the credit card, Mom,” I protested, trying to give the money back.
She pushed my hand away and said, “It’s good to have cash on you as well.” She leaned over and kissed my cheek. “Have fun, but don’t go crazy.”
I nodded. “I won’t.” In the two years since Henry had passed, my mother had become a much more understanding woman.
I got into the backseat with Lilla. Captain took the first driving shift, and Shane sat up front with him.
“Rocky!” Lilla exclaimed as I got in. She pressed her small frame against mine in a hug and kissed my cheek. “This is going to be so fun.”
Shane looked to the back, wiggled his eyebrows and said, “I second that. Especially because I get to see you girls in bathing suits.”
Lilla rolled her blue eyes. “Oh shut up, Shane.”
“Okay, boys and girls,” Captain said from the front seat, ironically so, since at twenty years of age he was one year younger than all of us. “Buckle up, the boat is leaving the port!”
Shane, Lilla, and I put our hands up to our foreheads in a salute and said together, as if it had been rehearsed, “Aye, aye, Captain!” and then we erupted in laughter. I loved my friends.
Growing up, my life was pretty decent. There was my mother, my father, my little brother, Henry, and me. Henry and I were four years apart, but growing up we were close. My mother, Fay Rosette, was the only child of my rich grandparents who had a wildly successful stuffed animal brand with the unfortunate name, Rosettes’ Cutie Pets. With the millions she received as an inheritance on their passing, and the fact that the Cutie Pets were still popular, my mother felt like she didn’t need to work a day in her life. Instead, she threw herself into matters of the household, meddling in the lives of Henry and me. Since we were kids, she always wanted us to have something to focus on, so she put us in various activities until we latched onto something that we wanted to perfect. Our perfection would make the name Rosette look better. I fell in love with swimming, but Henry had a hard time deciding what he wanted to do. As a result, my mother was the hardest on him.
Oddly enough, this was the same woman who married my father, a go-with-the-flow kind of guy who had a creative side. My father, Charles Matthews, was an inventor. When he got a spark for an idea, he wouldn’t stop until it became reality. And every time he’d make a new one, he’d say, “this one’s going to be big.” Unfortunately, about seventy percent of my father’s inventions never took off. The other thirty percent had some success, but they were only popular for a brief period of time. Still, his spirit was never broken. Unlike my mother, my father never pushed us into things we didn’t want to do. Instead, he encouraged us to follow our dreams, and to never give up on trying to fulfill them. He stressed that if a hobby was no longer fun then there was no longer any point in doing it. He was a breath of fresh air to me and especially to Henry.
Henry and I got along well. I taught him to swim, and although his technique wasn’t anywhere near good, he could definitely stop himself from drowning. We stopped hanging out together around the time Henry enrolled in middle school. When that happened, Henry met his own group of friends, three boys around his age who he hung out with from his class. His every day would consist of him coming home from school, dropping his bag in his room, and then heading right back outside.
One day on my walk home from high school, I saw Henry and his group of friends goofing off around in the park a few blocks away from our house. I was going to wave and walk by until I saw the biggest boy of the group push Henry into the park gate. Henry’s thin figure bounced off the gate, and he fell to the ground. The boys around him laughed. I ran over, switching on big sister mode.
“Hey!” I yelled. “Why did you do that? Leave him alone!”
“Raquel, it’s okay,” Henry got off the ground quickly and brushed off his blue jeans. “We’re just kidding around.”
“You need your big sister to save you? Lame,” mocked the boy who pushed Henry down. “You said you could fight, but I guess what you meant was you could get your sister to fight for you.” All the boys laughed again.
“Ha ha,” Henry said sarcastically, “you won’t be saying that when I put your big butt on the pavement.” Henry charged at the big kid, but the kid just pushed him again.
I stepped in once more. “I said to leave him alone!” I looked at Henry. “This is stupid, stop.”
The big kid gave me a dirty look and then helped Henry up. “We’re leaving; your sister is a buzzkill. Later, little hitter.”
As the boys walked off, Henry grilled me, his brown eyes glaring at me though his dark shaggy hair. “You suck, Rocky.” He walked ahead of me in the direction of the house. I followed close behind him.
When we reached home, Henry busted through the front door and stomped his way upstairs in true tantrum fashion.
My mother was in the living room, watching one of her shows. She had seen the whole thing with Henry and turned to me in question. “What was that about?”
I shrugged as if I didn’t know, but replied, “I guess he’s mad that I made him stop fighting.” I regretted telling her almost immediately.
“Fighting?” my mother repeated, lips upturned in disgust. “Oh no, Rosettes don’t fight. Who were these boys?”
“I don’t know their names.”
My mother stood from the couch. “I’ll go talk to him.”
“Henry said they were just playing around though, Mom, no big deal,” I said, trying to defuse the situation.
“Playing or not, fighting is not tolerated in this family.” She brushed past me, heading up the stairs to confront Henry.
After forcing Henry to come clean, my mother found out the boys’ names and, with the influence of the Rosette name, got all three of Henry’s friends suspended within the week. Unfortunately, this also ended Henry’s friendships with those boys, and he was no longer the happy kid who was always hanging out after school. Over time, Henry began coming home with bruises, sometimes even cuts, and I suspected that he was getting bullied, but every time I tried to talk to him about it, he would deny it or make an excuse. Although he tried not to let on, I think that my mother’s meddling led to big problems for him. He became a homebody, and the once outgoing kid turned into someone more reserved and quiet. This change in behavior lasted until the day he left us.
Four hours into the drive, we had already stopped four times for the bathroom, twice for snacks and once for gas. On the gas stop, I switched places with Captain and took over driving, and Lilla came to the front with me. Shane and Captain had an intense game of rock, paper, scissors going on in the back, and Lilla was feeding me Cheez Doodle puffs while also acting as DJ.
“If I win this game,” I heard Shane say in the back, “then you have to shave off that failure of a beard you got going on there.” He was referring to the light facial hair on Captain’s chin.
“Okay, but if I win, you have to cut your hair,” Captain retorted.
I glanced in the rearview mirror as Shane gasped and shielded his hair with his hands. “No deal, I refuse to even talk about cutting the fro. The ladies love the fro.”
Lilla scoffed in her seat next to me. “Your hair is barely two inches; you can hardly call that a fro.” She brought a Cheez Doodle to my lips, and I opened my mouth to take it.
“It’s growing!” Shane said, defensively.
“It’s been ‘growing’ for three years, give it up already.”
Shane kicked the back of Lilla’s seat, causing her to spill some of the Cheez Doodles on her white shirt. She growled angrily, picked up a few chips and threw them behind her.
“Stop being so immature,” Captain reprimanded. “I hope you guys are prepared to help Rocky clean the car after this trip.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at their shenanigans.
Six hours into the ride, it was already rounding 8:30 at night and we were running out of snacks again. I was starting to get hungry for something more than Cheez Doodles and sour straws. After conversing with the gang about cravings, I took the next exit that had a Wendy’s fast food restaurant and, after parking, we all got out of the car and filed through Wendy’s front door.
When we sat down to eat, Lilla sat on the side with me and the guys sat across from us.
“Thanks for paying, Rocky,” Shane said, already unwrapping one of his three burgers.
“Yeah, thanks, Rocky.” Lilla tied her curly blonde hair in a ponytail before she began to eat.
Captain smiled at me and gave me a nod, a silent thank you.
“Anything for my stupid friends,” I said, jokingly.
We ate in silence for a minute or two before Shane said, excitedly, “I meant to tell you, I bought the Wallet Beeper!”
I looked up at him, raising a brown brow. “The ridiculous Wallet Beeper my father made?”
“Yeah.” He smiled and pulled his keys out of his shorts’ pocket. He rifled through the keys before presenting a little device that looked like a slightly smaller version of a car remote. “It really comes in handy if I can’t find my wallet. The GPS feature allows me to use my phone to see its location, and the beep feature allows me to hear where it is. The product is genius; tell your dad I said that.”
I nodded, studying the small device in Shane’s hand. I remembered the time my father was coming up with the idea. It was around the same time my parents had gotten a divorce.
It started with some bad grades. At eighteen, the transition from high school to college was tough for me. I moved away from home and had to learn to live on my own. Classes were more of a challenge and I didn’t have any of my friends to talk to there. I was in a bit of a depression during my first semester, and it affected my grades severely. I went from being a straight A student in high school, to getting all C’s in college. When I took those grades home for winter break, all hell broke loose in my house.
“So Raquel, what are your grades like this semester?” Mom asked, looking at me with a smile on her face, obviously expecting to hear something good. We were all sitting down at the dining table for dinner.
I looked down into my plate of spaghetti and thought about how to answer.
“Knowing Rocky, it’s all A’s I bet,” my father said, flashing me a smile.
I shook my head. “I didn’t do all that well.”
My father nudged me with his elbow. “B’s are good, too.”
My mother scoffed. “Our Raquel doesn’t get B’s.”
“C’s,” I mumbled.
“What, sweetheart?” Dad asked, wanting me to speak up.
“I got C’s,” I spoke louder, “in all of my classes.” I peeked up from my plate to watch my family’s reaction. Henry sunk into his chair, hiding under his shaggy hair and feeling what I can only assume was proximity shame. If anyone knew what was coming next, it was my little brother.
My mother’s eyebrows lowered, her nose wrinkled, and her lips tightened in her signature look of disappointment. “Rosettes don’t get C’s, Raquel.”
My father’s hand came to rest on my back as he addressed my mother. “Oh don’t be so harsh, it was her first semester. She’s adjusting.”
“She’s just not trying hard enough.”
“It’s not fair to her for you to say that.” He glanced at me as he said, “I’m sure Rocky tried her best.”
“If C’s are her best, then perhaps community college would’ve been a better fit for her.”
I pushed my food around my plate as I felt tears sting my eyes. I blinked, trying to hold them back. Needless to say, I wasn’t used to falling short of my mother’s expectations.
In a rarity, my father’s face contorted into his version of the disappointed look, but instead of it being directed at me, it was directed at my mom. “Fay, we’ll discuss this later.”
Later came after dinner when Henry and I were in our rooms. I was sitting on my bed, soaking the yellow floral comforter with tears as I tried to listen to the conversation happening outside my door. The argument began about me and how my grades were such a disappointment, but it developed from there on to other topics. By the time they were having an all-out screaming match, the topic was money and my father’s lack of it. It was a common argument between my parents, one that often came up whenever my father’s inventions weren’t selling. It was a sensitive topic for him and my mother knew it.
“Once you start making your own money, that’s when you can tell me what I should do with mine!” I heard her yell.
“You’re always rubbing that in my face!” my father yelled back. “If your parents hadn’t left you with a fortune, you wouldn’t even know how to make money. You’ve never worked a day in your life, Fay! At least if we went bankrupt tomorrow, I’d have my job to fall back on.”
“Job?” my mother said mockingly. “You can hardly call sitting around making junk all day a job! Who, in their right mind, is going to buy a wallet beeper? No one! You’re a joke Charles.” Ironically enough, the Wallet Beeper was my father’s biggest success.
With his pride in tatters, my father left that night and moved in with his brother who lived four hours away from us. He expressed to my brother and me that he wanted to take us with him, but he had to get himself in a place where he could care for us all. The affect his leaving had on Henry was huge. After the thing where Mom got his friends suspended in middle school, Henry had a hard time making friends, and I was certain he was being bullied, but he remained quiet about that. At fourteen, Henry’s best friend was Dad. Dad was the only person who could get Henry to leave his room when he didn’t want to. Sometimes I’d see them working on invention ideas together, and Henry would look like he was genuinely having fun.
But when Dad left, Henry rarely came out of his room, he rarely ate, and he’d even miss school from time to time, claiming that he wasn’t feeling well. My mother even noticed his odd behavior, and for a woman so obsessed with fake appearances, it was usually hard for her to notice the reality right in front of her. But with Henry, she did.
It was right after the new year rolled in, and Dad had been gone for about a month. I was sitting in the living room watching television when I heard my mother call Henry into the kitchen. Curious, I grabbed the TV remote and turned the volume down.
“I noticed you’ve been behaving strangely. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Henry replied, no feeling in his voice.
“I know you miss your father, but frankly speaking, Henry, you’ve been acting a bit…” she trailed off, searching for the right word, “crazy.”
I flinched when she said that word, shaking my head in disbelief.
“Rosettes aren’t crazy, Henry. You understand?” she said. It almost sounded like she was scolding him.
“Do you need someone to talk to? A therapist maybe?”
“No, I’m okay.”
My mother sighed, relieved. “Okay. I love you, Henry. Now, give me a hug.”
I tried to talk to Henry as he went back to his room, but he just ignored me and kept walking. I should’ve tried harder.
At the nine hour mark of the drive, Shane was driving, and Captain was his passenger, but he was already asleep. In the backseat, I was sitting upright, but Lilla was lying down on her back, bare feet propped up on the window, and her head nestled into my lap. Since she had the 3:00 AM shift of driving (which was really the 4:00 AM shift at this point), she wanted to get some shut-eye so she’d have enough energy to get through her four hours.
“Hey I got dibs on that lap pillow next,” Shane said, looking at us through the mirror.
Lilla clicked her tongue and replied, “Why don’t you ever stop talking? No one is using Rocky’s lap as a pillow except for me, so shut up.”
“I am convinced you like me, Lilla. No girl goes out of their way to insult a guy so much if they don’t like him.”
“Seriously, shut up, Shane. Nobody likes you. Definitely not me.”
I rolled my eyes at them but couldn’t help letting a laugh out.
A few moments later, I could feel my phone vibrate in my pocket. I pulled it out thinking that it was my dad doing his hourly checkup thing, but the name read “Mom.”
I answered, “Hello?”
“Hey Raquel,” my mom said on the other side, “I’m just checking up on you in place of your father. How are things going?”
“Everything is okay right now. Shane is driving.”
“I hope he’s not speeding.”
I chuckled. “No, he’s not.”
There was a pause on her side of the phone. “I was in Henry’s room earlier, and I found his old Mickey Mouse shirt from when he was six. Do you remember the time when your father and I took you and Henry to Disneyland, and Henry begged for that shirt?”
I smiled at the memory. “Yes, I remember I was jealous when he got it so Dad bought me one, too. We wore the shirts together whenever we had the chance.”
We shared a laugh over the phone.
Mom’s laughter settled into a sigh. “My little boy was so happy that day; I thought he’d be like that forever.” Her voice trembled as she spoke. “Raquel, I hope you aren’t doing this cliff jumping thing to punish yourself in any way. I know that part of you feels responsible for Henry’s decision, but if anyone should feel guilty, it’s me. I was so hard on him, and I didn’t take his unhappiness seriously. I thought he’d snap out of it with time. I wish I’d done more, said more, been there for him, but I was blind, I couldn’t see my little boy hurting.” Mom sniffled, and I could tell she was crying. “I didn’t pay attention to the warning signs.”
I swallowed hard, fighting back any tears that tried to fall. Still, one escaped and hit Lilla in the forehead. She looked up at me curiously and, upon seeing my face, grabbed my hand and interlaced our fingers in comfort.
My mother took a deep sigh, collecting herself. “Anyway, Raquel, I’ll tell your father that you’re okay, and I’ll save you a couple of burgers tomorrow. I love you, please be safe.”
I replied to my mother in a voice I hoped didn’t sound too shaky, “Thanks, Mom. I love you, too.”
Just three days before Henry’s death, I stumbled upon his journal. It was summer time, I was home from college, and I was lifeguarding at the local pool with Captain. I had run out of sunscreen, but I remembered that Mom had bought Henry some just a week or so before. He wasn’t home during the day because, after missing too many days of school, summer school was mandatory for him. I let myself into his room.
Henry’s room was cleaner than I expected it to be. His bed was a made out of wooden baseball bats and was pushed up against the wall. He used to complain about it because he hated baseball, but after years of having it, I guess it grew on him. On one side of his bed, there was a chair that seemed to have acted as a hamper because all of his dirty clothes were stacked on top of it. On the other side of his bed was his dresser. It was only partially covered by comics and video game cases. I spotted the sunscreen on the dresser as well, and went over to get it. When I picked it up, I noticed that the sunscreen was on top of something, a leather-bound black book. I recognized the book as something my father bought for him the last time he visited. He told Henry to write his feelings down whenever he felt it was necessary. The book looked untouched; the spine was still intact. Still, I was curious and flipped it open to the first page. In Henry’s handwriting, it read:
I want to die.
There was no date, no way to tell how old or recent the entry was, and no other entries to go with it. I shut the book, took the sunscreen and left. From previous experience, I knew telling my mother would be a mistake. I would’ve confided in my father, but he was also off the table as this was around the time his Wallet Beeper was gaining fame, and it kept him busy. Thinking about it now, if I would’ve called him, Dad would’ve been more than willing to deviate from his busy schedule. Henry was more important to him than his job.
Instead, I planned to talk to Henry myself. It seemed, however, that our schedules never matched. With him going to school, and me working, we barely had time to say one word to each other. I kept saying “tomorrow I’ll talk to him.” I didn’t know that there weren’t many tomorrows left for Henry. I am able to admit now that there was also a part of me that was afraid to have such a heavy conversation. Those four little words had such weight; I wasn’t sure I could carry them.
Lilla was the last to drive, and with the guys sleeping in the back, and her focusing on the road, the car was uncharacteristically quiet. Silence was dangerous though. It gave my mind the time to wander, time to think about the last three years without Henry. To think about how on this day three years ago, he decided life was no longer worth it. I could feel the tears already trying to rush to the surface.
“Hey, Rocky,” Lilla said, tapping my leg. She pointed out the window. “Check out that sunrise.”
I looked out of the window to see the sun peeking over the horizon, making the sky a palette of purple, orange, and blue. The amber light seeped into the car and hit my eyes, blinding me momentarily. A new sun, a new day, an old feeling. It was strange how life could go on, finding a way to work around a person’s absence. The sun still rose, the earth still turned.
“Beautiful, right?” Lilla asked, a content smile on her face.
I put a hand up to shield my eyes from the light. “It’s unbelievable.”
After a stop for the bathroom and for coffee, we arrived at the cliff site. We got there later than we were supposed to, at a quarter to 9. I unbuckled my seat belt and looked out of the passenger side window, up at the tall rock figure. The cliff looked bigger than I expected it to. From where I sat, the peak of the cliff seemed to graze the clouds. The tan, brown, and black color of its rocks wove together to create elaborate patterns, and the jagged points of rocks jutted out from it like spears. It was much more daunting in person, and suddenly I was feeling like I couldn’t go through with the jump.
Lilla reached into the back and tapped the boys awake. “We’re here guys.”
Captain stirred awake, but Shane mumbled, “Five more minutes.”
Lilla hit him in the head. “Get your lazy ass up.”
He flinched awake. “Respect the fro, Lilla, damn.”
We got our bags out of the trunk and took turns changing into our swimsuits in the car. I went with a simple one piece; one that I knew wouldn’t suddenly come off while I was jumping. Lilla obviously wasn’t thinking like that. She had chosen a purple two piece that looked as if a good gust of wind could blow it off. Captain had his famous Captain America trunks on, and Shane wore plaid black and grey trunks and a fitted T-shirt. We put on sunscreen, helping each other if needed, and then decided who should go up the cliff first, and who should stay. In Captain’s plan, there was a buddy system. Two people would go up to cliff dive, and two people would stay down by the water just in case the cliff divers got into trouble. It was decided that Shane and Lilla would go first.
Their hike took roughly fifteen minutes. When they reached the top, Lilla waved her arms at me and shouted something I couldn’t make out.
I smiled at her, but seeing her up so high caused me anxiety. I wasn’t the one standing on the cliff yet, but my heart was already beating out of my chest.
I replied in a low voice, “I don’t think I can do this.”
Captain sensed my nerves and put a hand on my shoulder. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to. If this is too much for you, then you can just watch. I’ll stay with you.”
When Lilla took her jump, my breath caught in my throat. She came flying down with a shrill cry and hit the blue-green water in a big splash. I swam to her in a hurry, convinced that nothing good could happen from a fall that high. Before I even reached her, Lilla burst to the surface, a wide smile on her face.
“Lilla, are you okay? You’re not hurt, right?” I asked, a bit out of breath.
“Do I look hurt?” She wiped the water from her face. “I want to do it again!”
“Hey!” Shane yelled from the top, grabbing the attention of Captain, Lilla and me. “Did you forget about me or something? I’m coming down get out of the way!”
The three of us moved and watched as Shane took his jump. As I watched him take his fall, I thought back to the same day two years before.
The day started off like any other. I woke up early morning, had breakfast with Mom, said “later” to Henry as he left the house for school, and then went about getting ready for work. I had no way of knowing that would be the last time I’d see Henry.
The knock came while my mother was cooking dinner. From the living room where I sat surfing the web, I could hear my mother humming in a bubbly way among the clang of pots and pans. When the knock came at the door, my mother took a break from her cooking and went to answer it. I didn’t pay much attention to what she was saying, but then I heard a loud thud and jumped out of my seat.
“Mom!” I shouted, partly from being startled and partly from being worried. “What was that?” I rushed to the door and saw that she had collapsed onto the floor. Outside, standing on the porch, was a police officer. He held a look of pity in his eyes as he looked at my mother.
My mother was crumbled in a pile at his feet, the bubbliness of just a few moments ago, gone. The color was drained from her cheeks, her eyes were overflowing with tears, and her hand was over her mouth in a gesture of disbelief.
Whatever happened, it was bad. My heart started pounding, even before I knew what the problem was. “Mom, what is it?” I asked frantically.
“Th-tha—oh god,” she tried to talk, but couldn’t get the words out. “Henry…”
“Henry?” I asked, grasping onto to the only thing I understood. “What about Henry? Is he hurt?”
“He’s… He’s dead.” As soon as she said it, sobs rocked her body.
The police officer hung his head low. “Ms. Rosette, I’m sorry for your loss.”
In the week following, I could not bring myself to cry, but all Mom did was cry. She blamed herself. She would spend day and night in Henry’s room, going through his things, folding his clothes, and straightening his dressers, as if he had only gone on a trip somewhere. It was inevitable that one day she would find the same journal that I did and read the same words that I had.
I remember standing at the frame of Henry’s door and watching my mother soak his journal in tears. My feet felt rooted to the spot; I couldn’t bring myself to go in. I wasn’t sure what I could say in that situation. What would she say if she knew that I had seen that journal before? If she knew that I possibly had the power to save Henry? Would she stop blaming herself and start blaming me? I knew I did.
My father dropped everything and came to be with us. That day, as I stood there, still as stone, I felt him brush past me, and watched as he went to my mother’s side, embracing her tightly. She showed him the journal, and he, too, began to cry. As I walked away from the scene, I could hear their sobs follow me. I could never forget that sound.
“Rocky, you have to try that,” Lilla said, gesturing to the cliff.
“It really is very fun, totally worth it,” Shane agreed.
“But you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to,” Captain added.
I looked up the cliff; it was no less intimidating than before, but I felt just a bit of courage from hearing Shane and Lilla’s testimonies. “Do you think it would be okay to just go see what it’s like from the top?” I asked.
Captain nodded. “Of course.”
As I stood at the top of the cliff, I felt the wind blow through my brown hair, and the sun caressing my face to warmth. I looked up at the sky and noticed how blue it was. It reminded me of Henry’s blue sweater, a sweater made by my mom when she decided to try her hand at knitting. It was terrible, one sleeve was longer than the other, the collar was crooked and the whole thing barely reached his waist, but Henry loved it anyway. The memory of him in that sweater made me giggle.
Captain noticed and asked, “What’s so funny about being on a cliff?”
I looked at him, a slight smile on my face. “Remember Henry’s blue sweater?”
Captain immediately rolled his eyes playfully. “Oh god, the infamous blue sweater? He wore that stupid thing everywhere until he was ten. I was so glad when he finally grew out of it.”
We shared a laugh together.
“Remember how you asked me what Henry liked a few days ago?” I asked.
“I think I have an answer, he really liked that blue sweater,” I joked, chuckling again.
Captain smiled at me. “I think Henry would’ve liked being up here.”
“Yeah, I think so, too.” I sighed and looked down at my hands.
Seeing the way I’d hung my head, Captain said, “I know you blame yourself sometimes, Rocky, but it wasn’t your fault.”
In that moment, I felt like it would be okay to tell him. I wanted someone to hear it. “Captain, I’ve never told anyone this,” I started, flexing my fingers, “but three days before Henry’s… passing, I found his journal. Inside he had written ‘I want to die,’ and I didn’t tell anyone.” I peeked up at him.
His features softened as the news sunk in. “Do you think you could’ve changed things had you said something?”
I nodded. “If I knew then what I know now, I would’ve taken his words more seriously, and maybe he’d be alive.”
Captain gave me a hug. “But you didn’t know, Rocky. No one but Henry knew, and he made the decision. It wasn’t your fault.”
I blinked back tears. “Thank you, Nico.”
He let me go, wiped away one of my fallen tears and said, “Don’t think about Henry’s bad days, think about his good days, the good memories he left you with. That’s what should be remembered on this day.”
I nodded, wiped my own tears and replied, “I think I want to jump now.”
Silently, Captain took my hand and walked me over the edge. I looked below at the rippling water, my destination, and took in a shaky breath. I could see Lilla encouraging me from below, her hands waving, and Shane smiling beside her.
“I’ll be right behind you,” Captain assured me, giving my hand a squeeze. I nodded, and he let me go, backing away.
As I stood there looking down the drop, I thought about what Captain said, and what my mom had told me over the phone. It wasn’t my fault. I knew that I’d never feel guilt-free when it came to Henry, but I also knew that no one blamed me as much as I blamed myself. If I let that blame go, then I could possibly start celebrating Henry’s life, rather than constantly holding onto his death. After taking one last look at Captain and his reassuring smile, I took a deep breath, one with more conviction than the last one, and with all the strength in my legs, I jumped.