She’s smiling, isn’t she? She’s grinning infectiously, just like always, as she walks through the hallway.
But when nobody seems to be looking, she drops the mask. Only for a second, she thinks. Just a tiny slip-up, she allows herself.
The shoulders droop and the smile melts off and the eyes… the eyes stop twinkling, stop showing the epitome of happiness.
Suddenly they’re empty, so empty that the mirror can barely see the suffering inside of them. But it’s there, of course it’s there. For the briefest of moments, she doesn’t have to be the perfect girl anymore. She doesn’t have to be stunning or brave or popular.
She doesn’t have to be anything.
She likes that feeling more than she realizes.
A tremor, still imperceptible, passes through her body, and she almost stumbles, but she doesn’t. No, the character she’s made for herself is flawless, not clumsy.
But inside, she’s tripping. She’s falling hard, and she’s falling fast, she’s falling, but it doesn’t scare her because she’s always wanted to be able to fall. She’s screaming without noise, and she’s sobbing without tears, and she’s hurting, hurting without showing a hint of pain.
She needs to go somewhere, it’s all too much.
Painting on a dazzling resemblance of a smile, one that she’s created, one she knows they never suspect, the one she can always count on, she turns around and walks into the janitor’s closet.
The people around her smirk in admiration. The person she is to them goes in there to do cool things. Sneak her phone out, smoke, have make-out sessions.
In those moments she’s glad that they trust it’s the truth.
She locks the door from the inside.
And she snaps.
She sweeps everything to the floor and claws at herself with her stupid, perfectly shaped manicured nails. She breathes heavily and shakes violently and shatters, rocking back and forth in the dim corner.
After a few minutes, she emerges, clothes in spotless order, makeup redone and fabulous.
Because she’s fine. Totally fine.
She’s not fine. He knows she isn’t. He can see it, clear as day.
Of course everyone looks at her, it’s impossible not to when she seems as immaculate as she is. They look, they all look but none of them watch.
None of them observe her like he does. They all love her for being so faultless, but he loves her for how she’s been able to fool them.
He sees. He sees the moments where the voices in her head become too loud; he sees the unnoticeable quivers when she needs desperately to let go. He sees the real reason she slips into those janitor closets.
He knows her pain. Because he was there too.
What they saw broke both of them, but somehow she became cooler than ever while he’s become a social pariah.
He envies her and worries about her at the same time.
He’s tried to talk to her. Approach her when she’s alone just to ask her if she’s holding up okay. But he knows she isn’t. Even the words she tells him when no one else is there aren’t her. Not the real her.
She’s suffocating, drowning in the layers of fake that she’s dived perfectly into. He can tell that she wants to pierce the surface again, but that air is now foreign to her.
He can’t fathom how she keeps swimming.
He wants to be there for her, but it’s impossible when she doesn’t let anyone know her. After all, she’s the queen bee, one that doesn’t show anyone that she knows what it’s like to be an ant. It’s even harder when everyone trusts her hoax.
The lines blur so frequently now, a combination of him getting less and less close to her and her getting better and better at deceiving him.
More often than not, he believes it.
That she’s fine.
All it takes was a push. For everything to go wrong. Except the window doesn’t shatter, the window doesn’t crack; the window stays there, glass crystal clear. And nobody doubts if the window’s even there anymore.
She doesn’t want people to see. To see that she’s glass. To see that she’s broken. It used to be because she didn’t want them to find out her secret. Now, it’s because, well, what else would she do?
She starts walking home from the library. She takes a sharp turn to the beach. One might assume she wants to watch the sunset, think about things, have some alone time. Those people might now know how she does things. Then again, no one really does. None of them knew like Ellie knew.
She sits on the sand, closing her eyes and remembering. That first evening of delirious euphoria and giggling kisses and initials written in wood with Ellie’s pocket knife. The one that she has with her right now.
“Ellie. Do you remember? Do you remember how you told me that in the face of tragedy, we must always find a solution before grieving? Always make a plan. Well, I’ve been doing that. And I feel like I’ve been doing that so much that I haven’t grieved. Would you be proud?”
“I hate you. I hate you so much. You loved me Ellie, you told me you would be with me, you told me we wouldn’t let anything separate us. And you were right. It wasn’t something. It was someone. It was you. You gave up on me. You gave up on us.”
She wants to feel tears streaming down her face as she lashes out. But instead, she smiles widely again, saying it composedly. She doesn’t lash out.
“I haven’t been able to show how much it hurts. Well, I guess you didn’t show me either. I made a plan. After you killed yourself on this beach while I screamed at you to stop. I took your body, dissolved it, made sure that no one found it. I had already made my plan, Ellie. I told them that you had drowned yourself. That I couldn’t save you. At least half of that is true. Now I’m going to finish it where it started. And no one will ever know. That’s how the best plans work. No one knows.”
She thinks about him for a second. How he’ll know. But she can’t bother with that right now.
She places her bag carefully in the bush. The authorities will conclude that she threw it in there in a hurry, hoping no one would find it. She walks into the water until it’s up to her waist. Then she slashes up her body. Her face, arms, legs, until it’s a dizzy, indistinguishable mess, and if the police ever try to look, her body will look like Ellie’s. It’ll make sense. Of course it would.
Then she swims, making sure that the blood washes away. Still smiling, her movements still pristine, still in trained rhythm. It still has to be impeccable.
“Are you proud of me?”
Her parents file a missing person report the next day. The following one, the police find her backpack by the ocean’s edge, but nothing else They all assume she cracked, because of a poor grade, or an argument or that she just left for no reason. But he knows. And he despises and admires what she’s done, the web she’s crafted, how beautifully horrifyingly she’s done it.
She’s killed herself, gotten rid of her own evidence, and made everyone believe that she’s a runaway.
People look at him differently now. After all, he’s the one that kept telling them that she wasn’t okay.
He brushes off the condolences.