It was axiomatic that no one could speak with a drought for a mouth, as our minds were too busy thinking about her. With my frigid chin touching my chest, my salty tears creating a puddle by my boots, and my folded hands mimicking an igloo, I could barely breathe, let alone talk. I was just hoping someone would wake me from this nightmare, that someone being her. She would always wake me gently when we had sleepovers, I should have appreciated her more. I would do anything to hear her laugh one more time, or to see her dance wildly as she sings with her mellifluous voice.

The empty tree branches shivered from the bitter wind and I remembered how she always made analogies between families and trees. If her family was a tree, it would be just like these ones- covered in guilty snow for not showing up. They knew it was their fault, for their constant betrayals and arguments with one another. I repeatedly told myself it was their fault, that they drove her to do this to herself. But deep down, I knew it was mine.

If only I’d listened to her more carefully, with the subtle hints she gave. Like when she wrote me a letter out of the blue, thanking me for being her light through dark times. Or when she mailed me some of her most treasured belongings, such as her great-grandma’s necklace. But I should have especially known when she said the words “good-bye” during our last conversation on the phone. She never told me those words because she believed it should only be used when a journey comes to an end, and our friendship road had no stop signs. It was my fault, all of it.

I finally raised my head upward to see her coffin before it was buried. I looked around and saw some of our classmates and teachers and neighborhood friends, but none of her relatives. My watery eyes blurred my vision and I could hardly see that all eyes were on me. I was the closest person to her, so naturally everyone was waiting for me to speak first. I wasn’t sure if I could even mutter something because I knew I didn’t deserve to be the one in our duo to still be breathing. But I had to try, so I took a small step forward and leaned over the sickening brown coffin that held her body. I closed my eyes and whispered underneath my breath,

“You don’t deserve this my forever friend. I don’t know how I’ll manage life without you, but I’ll have to try, otherwise you won’t rest. And you deserve to rest in peace more than anyone I know. I couldn’t ask for a better friendship than the one I shared with you,” I choked but continued to speak with my quavering voice.

“I’ll never stop missing you or thinking I should have done more. But I hope you know how much I love you. Rest in peace Grace, rest in peace.” 

I cried myself to sleep that night.

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