By Niki Harvey
“Lies and secrets, they are like cancer in the soul. They eat away what’s good, and leave only destruction behind.” – Cassandra Clare
I’m running. It’s hot, and I’m running. All I can hear are the sirens and the yelling at the dock. I run, and I run, and I run until I make it to the rotting wood of the old dock. Everybody’s yelling, but I can’t make out what they’re saying. I’m too confused. I’m too worried. I’m too scared.
I slowly walk up the stairs, being careful of where I step. I could fall any minute. Just like Maddison did. At least that’s what I thought.
When I make it up to the crowd of people, I spot someone I know. Elliott. He’s at the very edge of the dock, staring down into the deep, ice-cold waters. I run up to him.
“Elliott?” I call. But when he turns around, all I can see is red. Deep, dark red. He’s covered in blood. Maddie’s blood.
My breathing becomes heavy and I back away. Elliott starts to walk toward me, and then he runs. He runs at me and no one is stopping him. He’s running at me covered in my best friend’s blood.
When he reaches me, I’m at the edge of the dock, so close to the freezing waters below. I feel a hard push to my chest and I scream.
I bolt upright in bed. I’m covered in a cold sweat. I’ve been having that dream ever since Elliott was arrested for the murder of Maddison Mendoza. My best friend. My boyfriend. My boyfriend killed my best friend.
You know, it’s usually the boyfriend who kills their girlfriend. But not in this case. I never really trusted Eli anyway. He was one of the jocks at West-view High. A player, if you will. He was on the school football team, he hung out with the jocks, but he was the sweetest thing to me.
Come to think of it, Eli was the sweetest thing to Maddison, too. I still don’t know why he killed her, and I don’t think I ever will. I refuse to go and see him at the detention center. I don’t think I would be able to do it.
I look at my clock, and it’s 5:40 AM. Almost time to wake up anyway. And I still have time to take a shower.
I walk out of the shower and brush my white, blonde hair. I need to make sure I look good today. Because I’m standing in front of the whole school with my friends. Because today is the anniversary of Maddison’s death.
I put on as much makeup as possible and tug my dark purple dress on. It was Maddie’s favorite color. Mrs. Mendoza wanted us all to wear something that reminded us of Maddie. Not only was this dress Maddie’s favorite color, but this dress reminded me of how mysterious she was.
We knew everything about Maddison, yet so little at the same time. I feel like there’s still so much more she could’ve told us. She kept things from us that best friends are supposed to share. And maybe the things she kept from us were for our own good, but were they for hers?
Maybe what she was keeping from us was the reason why Elliott killed her. Maybe what she was keeping from us is the reason she was alone on that dock with him that night. But I’ll never know
“Evie!” My mom called from downstairs. “Your friend is here!” I walked out of my room and down the smooth, wooden stairs. I ambled into the kitchen and grabbed a protein bar from the counter. I kissed my mom goodbye and walked out of the door, spotting Miguel’s bright red Convertible in the driveway instantly.
I climbed into the passenger seat and waved at my mom, who was looking at me through the window. Ever since Maddison’s murder, she’s been making sure I get out of the house safe every morning. She won’t let me take the family minivan. She’ll only let my friends, and my friends only, pick me up for school. And if for some reason they can’t, well, she’ll just take me herself. It’s usually Miguel who picks me up. We’re the closest in our friend group, which is surprising because I didn’t really like Miguel that much when I first met him. We kind of bonded after Maddison’s death, I guess.
“Hey, E,” Miguel says, flashing me that beautiful smile of his.
“Hi. Are you ready for the assembly today?”
“To be honest, not really.”
“Yeah, me neither.” I look down to see that Miguel is wearing a nice t-shirt with the band name Queen on it. He had black skinny jeans on as well. Miguel and Maddie were always big fans of 80s music. But their favorite band was Queen.
The school is about five minutes away from my house, so we’re there in no time. I climb out of the passenger seat and recognize the car we’re parked next to. It’s Joey’s.
I can see Joey sitting on his phone in the window, so I decide to knock on it. He practically jumps out of his seat when he hears the knock. When he realizes it was just someone knocking on his window, he looks up from his phone and turns his head, now looking at Miguel and me. When he looks at us, I see a flash of recognition in his eyes. He smiles and opens the door.
Joey’s wearing his Six Flags hoodie that Maddie got him on their first date. It’s all worn out now, but I remember when it was brand new.
Joey walked into the room with a smile on his face. Elliott and I were sitting on the couch, watching youtube. And Miguel, Bree, Safia, and Ben were stuffing their faces in the kitchen.
“What happened to you?” Eli asked with a sly grin on his face. Joey’s cheeks turned red and that’s when I noticed he was wearing something completely different. He had a brand new Six Flags hoodie on, and then I realized Maddison must’ve gotten it for him. My face lit up in amusement when I finally figured out what was going on.
“Someone’s about to get a girlfriend,” I teased. He looked at me and rolled his eyes. I laughed and remembered something. “Where’s Maddison?”
“She’s in the car. I guess she dropped her earring somewhere in there when we were driving. She wanted to find it.” Joey shrugs. I get up to go help her look, but Elliott pulls me back down. I turn to him with a confused look on my face.
“She’ll find it. She’s good at finding things. Let’s finish this video.” I shrug and finish the rest of the video with Eli. I then get up to help Maddie find her earring once more, and this time no one stops me.
I walk out into the cold October air and walk down the steps to Joey’s blue Corvette. I find Maddie crouched in front of the passenger side with her flashlight on. I walk over to her and tap her on the shoulder. She spins around with a scared look on her face.
“Hey, Mads. everything okay?” I ask, confused as to why she would be scared of me touching her shoulder. Then again, maybe she didn’t know it was me. After all, it is pretty dark out. We’re also standing next to some creepy-ass woods.
“Yeah. Just looking for my earring. Wanna help?” I nod and crouch down next to her. We’re searching for her earring when I accidentally bump into her side. She winces and holds her shoulder. I look at her, concerned that someone might have done something to her.
“What happened to your shoulder? Why’d you wince like that?”
“I fell after getting off of one of the rides,” She says, tears welling in her eyes like she’s trying to forget something she doesn’t want to remember. I knew she was lying, but I wasn’t going to push her any further. The topic obviously made her upset.
I walk up to Joey and hug him. He wraps me in his arms and Miguel just stands there awkwardly, not knowing what to do. Joey opens one of his arms, and I do the same. Miguel walks over to us and joins the embrace.
I feel another body behind me, wrapping its arms around my torso. I turn my head to see Safia. She’s wearing a white sundress with red roses on it. Maddie and Safia used to go to florists and pick out the prettiest roses, tulips, or daisies and would give them to us randomly. Just for being there for them.
I close my eyes and let my friends embrace me. The silence is soon broken by a pair of heels clicking on the ground and another set of footsteps with it.
“You guys really gonna leave us out?” I hear a boy’s voice ask. I instantly recognize it as Benson O’Conner. I assume that Brianna is the one in the heels, but I’m not sure. Benson is a player, just like Elliott was. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was another hot brunette on the cheerleading squad.
I laugh and open my other arm. Ben and Bree squeeze into the little space that’s left for them, and now we’re all together. Sort of.
We’re considered the “popular” group in school, but that’s only because of Maddison. Everything we have is because of Maddison.
We break apart and walk in a horizontal line to the double doors of West-view High. Once we enter the building, every pair of eyes land on us. We strut through the hallways like it’s any other normal day, but we all know it’s not.
It just so happens that our lockers are in the same vicinity. Safia, Miguel, and I are all in a row, and on the opposite wall are Benson, Joey, and Bree.
Once we gather all our things, we head to the auditorium. The principal wanted us there early so she could say her condolences. Like her sympathetic looks in the hallways weren’t enough. And every chance she gets, she tells us she’s sorry for our loss. I just want to forget that night, but it’s hard when you walk into a building and people look at you and whisper about you. But I never let them know that it gets to me. Never. I learned that a long time ago.
We walk through the blue doors of the auditorium and saunter towards the front of the room.
“Ah, good! You’re all here! I’m so sorry for your loss. Why don’t you go stand on the stage. People will be here any minute.” We do as principal Rivers says, even though we would rather be sitting in first period, listening to boring lectures.
The bell rings and people slowly pile into the auditorium and take seats. Some freshmen point at us, whispering to their friends, while others just stare.
Principal Rivers walks onto the stage and tells us to stand next to Mr. and Mrs. Mendoza. We do as she says and I end up stuck next to Mrs. Mendoza.
I look at her and realize just how much Maddie looked like her. They share the same deep, chocolate brown eyes that would shine in the light, and the soft, wavy golden-brown hair and freckles.
I turn my attention back to the auditorium filled with students and look at all of the familiar faces and unfamiliar ones. I can point out and name every single crush that Maddison had. I can point out and name all of the people she hated and all of the people she wanted to be.
I look at the corner of the auditorium and see Jaxon Torres. He catches my eye and I look away. Maddie had the biggest crush on him, even when she was dating Joey. Jaxon was her first kiss, her first love, and her first…you know.
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