"Who jumped? What are you talking about?" Colby stared at her, anxiously awaiting her response.
"You already know. I know you know."
Nevie's bottom lip quivered as she tried to speak. "You really don't know?" When he shook his head, she closed her eyes and tried to breathe normally.
"I was so sure you knew. Everyone knew. Everyone at school knew. How do you not know?" She wiped her face and laughed humorlessly.
"I was hoping you didn't know. But now, I kind of wish you just knew." She took a shuddering breath as she tried to find the words to explain it all. "That day at the cemetery, I was trying to visit my brother. Jonah."
"Yeah, my brother. He was a year and a day older than me. We weren't incredibly close, we fought almost all the time. Especially when we were little, we used to argue about everything." She smiled sadly before wiping a tear from her eye and continuing. "When he started high school things changed. He started getting really angry about everything and he stopped talking to me for a while. He'd spend weeks in his room, barely ever coming out, always blaring his music. Even back then my parents weren't home a lot. We had nannies growing up, so we were used to it. Nobody ever really noticed how distant he was. But I did. And it scared me a lot."
She frowned and then shook her head. "When I finally went to high school he practically ignored me. Freshmen year was so hard. But then last year, he started talking to me again. We hung out at school, at lunch and in study hall. He introduced me to his friends and things were fine. We all hung out after school and that was when I found out he was doing drugs. At first I thought I should tell someone, but then I caved and started smoking pot with him and his friends. I didn't do it all that often, just once in a while."
She paused to take a breath and wiped her eyes. "Four months ago, my parents had just left for what was supposed to be a two month-long trip. Jonah was really upset and decided we should enjoy the fact that they left, so he got one of his older friends to buy a bunch of beer, and we went to party. But he took some really strong drugs. I was pretty high, we all were, and he was taking some other drugs too. I don't know how often he did that, but then he sort of went crazy."
Her voice shook and she paused. "He went to the edge, talking about life, and how it seemed pointless, he was worthless, and then he came back and hugged me so tightly that I could hardly breathe. He told me that he loved me." She broke as the tears continued to fall. Colby wrapped his arms around her and she leaned into him. "He told me to always remember that he loved me. And then he sort of ran towards the edge. He stopped just in time, turned, waved and then jumped. The cops called it like a drug-induced suicide, or an influenced suicide, something like that."
Nevie took a few minutes to calm herself down. "I was so mad at him. I didn't go to his funeral because I was mad that he had done that to me. He left me. He knew I needed him and he left me. I didn't know what to do. I was all alone for two days before my parents could get home, and when they did my mom screamed at me for nearly an hour before she collapsed onto the couch and cried for the next week. My dad didn't talk to me and as soon as the funeral was over they left for another trip. I stopped talking to all my old friends, or well, Jonah's friends. I didn't have any of my own friends. I didn't want to have to think about it. But I did. All the time. I felt so guilty. Like if I hadn't been high, I could have stopped him, instead of just sitting there, watching him."
"You couldn't have stopped him." Colby spoke then and his voice was rough. Nevie turned and her mouth dropped a bit when she noticed the teary look in his eyes.
"You don't know that. If I hadn't been high, maybe I could have."
Before he could answer, she continued. "But that doesn't even matter. I didn't go to his funeral, Colby. He was my brother, and I didn't even go to his funeral. What kind of person does that make me? What kind of person does that and then tries to forget that she even had a brother? I put away all the pictures of us because it hurt so much, his room is closed off; I haven't even been there since before it happened. I'm afraid to go in there, afraid of what I'll see. I am a horrible person, Colby. That's why I didn't want you to know. Because now you know how awful I am and you won't want to stay here. I don't deserve a friend like you."
"A friend like me." Colby scoffed and she looked at him questioningly. He sighed and then turned to face the cliff. "The day we met, I was putting some flowers at my little sister's grave."
Nevie shifted slightly and then asked, "What happened?"
"I was ten years old. My friend was having a birthday party and my mom had made me leave a little early because it was a school day the next day and she wanted me to get my sleep. So I sneaked out of the house to go have fun with my friends at that party and there was a fire while I was gone. My mom got my sister out of the house and ran back in, to get me out, but I wasn't there. My sister followed my mom back in, to get a doll or something, I guess, maybe. My mom went out the back door and by the time she got out front, where she had left Julia, the front part of the house had collapsed. The firefighters were there, and they kept my mom from going back in. I got back just then, and found out what was happening, and that my baby sister was in that fire, because of me." He stopped, choking on his own words as he tried to keep the tears from falling. "Julia died because of me."
He took a moment, breathing in deeply and letting it out slowly. "I think my mom blamed me for a few months. She didn't talk, she didn't really do much of anything. That's when I started helping out at the animal shelter. It was so hard, being in our new house, that I spent as much time out of it as I could. One night, I came home and she practically tackled me with a hug when I walked in. I guess she realized I needed her. She's told me so many times that it wasn't my fault..." He stopped again, shaking his head. "It was my fault. I shouldn't have left. I'm not as good as you think I am, Nevie. I'm the one who doesn't deserve you as a friend."
He paused for a moment before turning so he was facing her. "You are not a bad person, Nevie. Just because you weren't strong enough at the time, to go to his funeral, that doesn't make you a bad person. You were a normal person, Nevie. You are a normal person. Just a normal person who's been put through a horrific experience. You're amazing, Nevie. To be the way you are, even after all that."
Nevie stared at him, almost unbelievably as he'd told his story. "Colby that wasn't your fault. You couldn't have known. You are as good as I think you are. I know you are. Hearing this doesn't change the way I see you. You're an incredible person. You can't let yourself think anything different."
Colby just shrugged and for a moment, silence filled the area.
"Colby, how are you and Alyss the way you are? You're always so happy."
He shrugged again. "It was the easiest way, I guess. Julia was always smiling when she was alive. She barely ever cried, she was so, so happy all the time. When the day passed marking a year since she died, I realized I had to try to live as happily as I could for her. She may have been little but I know she would have wanted me to be happy. She always tried to make me smile when I was sad, she wouldn't have wanted me to be in pain. Just like Jonah wouldn't want you to feel so guilty and sad."
"I hate seeing you sad."
The tiniest bit of a smile crept on to Colby's face, but for the first time Nevie noticed the sadness in his eyes.
"Everyone's sad at least once." He said, leaning back a bit and looking up at the sky. "It's just always been easier for me to put a smile on. I'm happy if I can make someone else happy."
"Well, you made me happy."
He turned and smiled more. "Yeah? That's good to know. I'm glad."
"Do you think I'll be able to visit Jonah or will it always be this hard?"
"You will. Someday, when the time is right, for you." He said it so simply, and she realized he was right. "It might not be tomorrow, or the day after, or even the day after, it might not even be weeks from now, but one day, you will be able to visit him. I'm not going to tell you that you should make yourself go, because that's not right. One day, you'll wake up and know that day is the day."
Nevie allowed his words to sink in and for a few minutes they just sat there, staring at each other. After a bit, Nevie leaned forward, grabbed his t-shirt, pulled him close and pressed her lips to his. The intensity of her kiss seemed to stun him for a second before he reached out, cupping her face in his hands, responding to the way her lips moved. The kiss was full of everything else they couldn't say; Nevie's fear of being the reason someone died, Colby's hidden sadness, the guilt they both felt, the broken pieces of their hearts that were slowly beginning to heal. It was all there.
Barely seconds into the kiss, Nevie pulled back. "It wasn't your fault, Colby." She whispered as she ended the kiss. "You didn't know it was going to happen."
He nodded and gave her a sad smile. "It wasn't your fault either, Nev. You couldn't have stopped him."
This time it was Nevie who nodded, before she leaned in again for another kiss. She knew things weren't going to be instantly better and that nothing was going to be the same again, but somehow it was beginning to feel okay. Colby knew now, and it hadn't changed the way he saw her.
Nevie pulled back again and for a moment just stared into his eyes. "Can we not tell Alyss about this?" Her words sunk in and she quickly added, "About Jonah I mean. I just don't know if I'm ready for her to know."
Colby nodded. "Yeah, of course. You can tell her when, if you're ready for that."
To all the Readers,
So yeah, this one was really hard to write. I'm so sorry if it sucks. I know it took a while to get it posted, but I just wanted it to be perfect. Please, please let me know what you think of it.
I hope this chapter revealed enough information. If you have any questions at all just ask them and I'll answer them in future chapters! Thanks so much for commenting and I hope I didn't make you wait too long.
Anne: Yeah, it's pretty hard for her.
Haha111: Yeah, I'm glad the flashback worked. I was a little worried, but I think they turned out pretty good. Haha thank you, yeah we are most definitely a bit crazy haha! I can't wait to hear what you think of what's coming next.
Carly J: Yepp, Colby had a little sister. Awwh, I cried a lot while writing this chapter. Thankfully, I've never had to go through the pain of losing a sibling, but even imagining it made me tear up enough to (hopefully) make the chapter realistic. How do you think I did?
Honey: Oh, good, I was a little afraid that the suicide would scare off some people, but it's something that's been on my mind and a while ago, I found out that one of my brothers was actually suicidal and had attempted it before. So it was partly the instigator of this story.
Painting My Heart - Chapter EightDelving into the past.
By Em Bishop