Entries By Jensen Sod
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Scars. Raw and red contrasting with my pale wrist. My arms are like zebras. Zebras cut open and left. My legs and stomach are healing. They are almost done. One wrong move and they will burst, and out will flow blood and lies and my every thought. I used to be a normal girl. I could still be an ordinary girl. But I have these scars.
I used to be a normal girl. I used to have normal parents and a normal house and normal homework and a normal school and normal friends. I used to used to used to. I’m now used to used to.
I used to have a normal best friend. A normal best friend who was alive.
I am not a normal girl. I have parents and a family and teachers and a school and friends who all treat me differently now because I’m “handling everything so well” and I’m “learning to cope in difficult situations”.
Herbie wouldn’t act like this. He would make me laugh and we would make sundaes at my house and watch Superman II. But Herbie is gone.
First day of school, sixth grade. Herbie waved at me when I walked in the doors and told me my hair was pretty. I was nervous about starting middle school. I had stressed the entire week before it started. His comment made me smile. It turned out we both had G&T English first period, so we went together. I had no idea how to navigate the school, but he had two older siblings who had gone there, so he showed me the way. We ended up having math, science, and gym together, too. I decided he was my best friend five minutes after meeting him.
Now it’s four and a half years later. Herbie is dead.
It was not an accident. It was no one’s fault but his. And mine.
That day, in English, we didn’t get to sit by each other. Our teacher arranged us in alphabetical order, and we ended up on opposite sides of the room from each other. The same happened in gym the next period. In fourth period we sat with each other in math and at lunch and he told me to get a frozen peanut butter sandwich instead of the hot lunch because his brother got food poisoning from the hot lunch once (or so he said). Our last period was science and our teacher said we would have the same seats all year and that all partners would be boy/girl. Luckily, by some force of God, Herbie and I were paired together. We decided at the end of the day that it was simply fate and that we were destined to be friends. We lived pretty close to each other, actually. He lived in the rich neighborhood on the other side of the main road and I lived in an old house on one of the huge lots next to the woods.
Herbie was not a strong writer, but he was amazing with numbers. I was exactly the opposite. We needed each other. We were a team.
Our science teacher hated us. Or he at least hated Herbie, and I was therefore hated by association. Herbie was a smart alack. He always interrupted our teacher or talked too loud, but he was never dumb. Mr. Morris called him a squirrel because he liked to get off task. Herbie hated being called a squirrel. At first I tried to make him feel better by telling him that squirrels were very intelligent and clever but I quickly gave up.
Our English teacher, Mrs. Reynolds, loved us. She said I was one of the best writers in the class, and even though Herbie didn’t know the difference between a conjunction and an article, Mrs. R. thought he had “good character.”
Herbie was very loud, very smart, very athletic, very tall, very friendly, and very popular. I was not. He was friends with all the cool kids, the athletes and rebels and beautiful people. I was not. I had a few friends other than him, all from church or in G&T. My best friend other than him was Emalyn Lucas.
She is in G&T and goes to my church. Our parents have been friends since they went to Aldrich.
Herbie was the only person other than my parents who didn’t call me June. Herbie always called me Juniper, no matter what. He never told me why.
I was the only person who ever called him Herbie. Everyone else called him Bert or Ryan.
I saw him through the gate. He was right next to the pool. If he moved so much as an inch, he would fall into the freezing water. It was the middle of December, two weeks before Christmas, a month before the incident. I stood in the middle of the sidewalk, hidden behind the trees. I stared at him for a while. I don’t know if it was a minute, or an hour, or what. I just stared at him. I didn’t move. He didn’t move. He just sat there by the pool, staring at the trees on the other side of the gate, occasionally squinting up at the sky. Eventually I got tired of staring. I started slowly walking across the field towards the playground next to the neighborhood pool. His back was turned so he couldn’t see me. As I approached the gate, I tried to think of a plan, or even figure out what I was doing. Screw it. I said. You haven’t talked to him in months. Just say anything. So I reached up and grabbed the top of the iron fence. I wedged my sneakers into the narrow spaces between posts and hoisted myself up and over the fence into the enclosure. His red hair flew across his forehead when he whipped his head around at the sound of my shoes slapping the concrete. I waved at him nervously and ducked my head. He stared at me, not moving, not making a sound. The silence was deafening. But when he spoke, I immediately wished for silence again.
“What do you want.” That’s all he said. Not even a question. His voice was like ice, his eyes daggers, piercing into mine. I cleared my throat and started to shuffle towards him. “Um, I think we should talk,” I said lamely. He spun around so his body was facing me and crossed his arms. “Yes?” I just stood in front of him, knees buckling, wringing my hands, and trying to think of what to say first.
I walked closer and sat down with my legs crossed in front of him. He crossed his arms and raised his eyebrows. “Herbie-“ I started, but he cut me off. “My name is not Herbie. My name is Herbert. That’s what you will call me, Juni.” I winced when he used the name I hate. “Herbie- Herbert. I’m really sorry for everything I did. I ruined your homecoming, your birthday, and your relationship with your girlfriend, our friendship… I ruined everything. I’m so sorry.” I started crying then. Herbie just looked at me, arms still crossed. His face was blank. “You’re sorry?” No emotion. “That’s all? Just sorry? Why should I care if you’re sorry? I want to know why you did all that, Junip- June. I need an explanation. I’ve needed an explanation for months. And now, suddenly, you’re spying on me and apologizing and crying? Tell me why, June.” I wiped my eyes on the back of my hand and looked away from him and at the trees behind the fence. “Herbert… I don’t know why I did everything that I did. I guess I’m just jealous of Tara or something,” I replied quietly, still not looking at him. “Jealous of Tara? Why? What does she have that you don’t?” He asked, leaning forward and uncrossing his arms. I sniffled and looked straight into his eyes.
I walked up to the front door and rang the doorbell. The chimes hanging from the eaves clinked against each other softly. The porch was huge, just like the house. I leaned against the cool brick column and waited until I heard the clicking of heels on the grand wooden staircase. I straightened up and took the few steps to the big ornate door. Herbie’s thin, big-haired mother answered the door.
“Juniper, hello! It’s been so long since we’ve seen you around. I was beginning to wonder what had happened to you! I’ll go get Herbert, okay, hon? You just wait here.” Mrs. Ryan held up her long manicured finger and turned to walk into the kitchen. I heard her yell “Herbert!” up the back staircase. I couldn’t hear is response, but I did hear her heels click against the wood of the staircase. “Herbert, someone’s here to see you! It’s Juniper! Come on down!” she called as she walked up the stairs. Then, I heard arguing. I couldn’t make out the exact words they were saying, but I knew Herbie was saying he didn’t want to come down and his mother was telling him to “be polite”.
Finally, Mrs. Ryan came back to the door, Herbie following behind with an annoyed expression on his face.
“I’ll leave you two alone. Would you like some snacks? I’ll get some snacks,” she said, hurrying into the kitchen. Herbie gestured for me to go outside, and I did. He closed the door and sat down in one of the chairs in front of the garden. I sat across from him, suddenly forgetting everything I wanted to say. “Well?” he asked, raising his eyebrows. “I… Um…” I began, glad to hear the door opening and to see Mrs. Ryan emerge from the house holding a tray of chocolate chip cookies and two glasses of milk. She set the treats down on the table between Herbie and me, and then walked hastily back inside. Herbie picked up a cookie and bit into it. Melted chocolate landed on his chin and I stared at it, trying desperately to find the words I had so meticulously rehearsed on the walk there. “Herbie, I really am sorry, and I know that you don’t want to hear that, but it’s true. I don’t know why I did everything that I did. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I’ve been really trying to figure out why, but I just can’t. I was stupid and don’t expect you to forgive me. I don’t deserve forgiveness. I just want you to know that I’m sorry, and I will keep trying to figure out why I ruined everything for us. Just promise me one thing. Promise you’ll stop hating me so much. I’m not saying you have to forgive me, or like me, or be my friend again, because I know that will never happen and you don’t want it to. But I really can’t take this anymore. So, please, please, don’t hate me.”Posted By Jensen Sod On 04.08.2012 @ 9:00 pm