Ever since that day, nothing had been the same. I saw nothing the same, felt things dully, every sound muffled beyond my ears. As if I were underwater. I still saw you, not really though. I dreamed of you and I stared for hours at our old texts, but there was no bringing you back. I could still feel the smoke choking my lungs, making me fall to my knees as I wept. Oh, how I'd wept. But there was nothing I could do... You always knew I hated that feeling of helplessness, that loss of control. Always knew I couldn’t stand it- but that day there was nothing you could do either.
Ever since that day, nothing had been the same. Our old friends barely understood until they saw the news. I wasn’t able to speak to them, wasn’t able to speak at all. Those first few days in the hospital were the worst of my life. They were the first days I hadn’t been with you. I’d told myself I would feel better, and so did our friends. They signed me up for support groups, meetings with therapists, but it was all a blur. Everything was. We’d lived life so fast before, and I hadn’t cared. But now I couldn’t do anything but care. I waited and I waited, sat at home doing nothing but watching pointless nothingness on TV and thinking about you. I hardly ate, and when I did it was only because of you. Because I knew you would want me to stay, to keep living, to keep life as it was. Well, I’m sorry. I failed you. I still wake up in the middle of the night, screaming, unable to see anything but those fires, those burning branches falling from the sky like bullets, destroying everything. I was a mess. Not just on the outside, with my scarred body and burned face, but inside too. I never left my house, didn’t want to leave my house.
Ever since that day, nothing had been the same. I see you in the doorway and practically fall out of my chair. But my vision clears, and it’s not you. It’s her. Your sister. I can see everything I saw in you in her, except for that light, that glimmer of joy that you carried around. The fire hadn’t only hurt me, I realize. She walks into my dimly lit house, dust and mold practically lining the walls. She stares at me, waiting for me to make my move. I avert my gaze from her eyes to her hand, where she is clutching a book. The book. The book that ruined everything. I clench my fist, my nails digging into my skin as I stare at the book.
Ever since that day, nothing had been the same. She takes a deep breath through her nose and walks forward, tip-toeing over the litter covering the floor. In her other hand, she holds your phone. Not your main phone- the other phone. She sits down on my couch and opens the book, staring at the hollowed-out compartment in the middle, her hands shaking. I watch as a tear falls down her face, smearing some of her makeup. You never wore make-up. I always loved that about you, that you never really cared how you looked. But you were still so beautiful.
Ever since that day, nothing had been the same. I feel my breath shake as I remember how much I’d hated you back then. I hated you for getting involved with them… You’d always said it was nothing more than a small business partnership, then gave a secretive smile, laughed, and changed the subject. I’d never asked more, I was too blinded. You invited me on that camping trip, and I’d assumed it was nothing more than that. I never would’ve thought it was a getaway… They’d followed us, trapped us, without ever showing their faces. And you had told me the truth, babbling like a madwoman. I’d just looked into your eyes and acted like everything would be fine. How stupid could I be?
Ever since that day, nothing had been the same. Your sister looks at me, opening her mouth. I can tell it’s hard for her, speaking to me. “She didn’t just keep… it… in here.” she pauses. “She also wrote in it. Wrote about you.” She passes the book to me, still open. I can see tear stains scattered across the page as I read. Some parts are written in a frenzied, stressed handwriting, while others are neat and well-written. It calms me down, you’d said, begging for my forgiveness in those last moments.
Ever since that day, nothing had been the same. I remember when I watched you die, while I’d held you, sobbing. You begged me, screamed at me, to let you die. To save myself and run, calling yourself worthless. I squeeze my eyes shut as tears collect in my eyes. Because I had run. I’d left you there, and when the cops arrived I was barely able to hold myself together. I’d wanted to run back, to help you, even though I knew it was too late, that you were gone. And the police would never find your body. Even now I regret not doing something, not staying with you.
Ever since that day, nothing had been the same. I open my eyes and I see your sister sadly staring at me, but this time there’s a glimmer of hope in her eyes. I drop the book to the ground, unable to hold it for any longer. “Today’s the anniversary of… when she… left…” she says. “They’re holding a memorial… She would’ve wanted you to go.” I look at her. There’s no way they would be holding a memorial if they knew the truth, knew that you were the reason there was druggy kids at our old highschool, why there still are.
Ever since that day, nothing had been the same. I take a deep breath and say, “I’ll go.” I see your sister become a little happier as she gets off my couch, bending over to grab the book as she goes. “Wait-” I stop her, nodding at the book. She hesitates, then sets it down on a desk.
Ever since that day, nothing had been the same. A half-hour after she left, I force myself out of my chair and pick up the book, staring at the hollow space in the center… I walk to the kitchen and turn on the stove. Minutes later, the house is in flames, the book inside. I get in my car, barely able to breath, zooming away as I watch my neighbors freak out, calling the fire station.
Ever since that day, nothing had been the same. Nothing had been the same because of me. When I’d first given you that sample, when I’d ruined both of our lives. It’d just been a small escape for me, a temporary relief. But then you’d asked how I got it, pried deeper and deeper, wanting to get your own. I hadn’t even tried to stop you, thinking you’d just do what I did with it. Then you became secretive, hiding away your life. But I hadn’t seen it. And now I hate myself for it, for all the mistakes I made. And now that I had this closure, now that I’d finally erased my last memory of you, it was time to start a new life. A new one, far from you or any mention of you. Far from all the terror.
Ever since that day, nothing had been the same. I see a billboard bearing the words “Forgive and Forget”. I smile grimly, remembering how often you used to say that. I hadn’t been able to do either, and I knew that now I never would. I have scars, scars that will never heal. Scars of a past life.
Ever since that day, nothing had been the same.