0 comments

Sad Teens & Young Adult

March 10th. 2015

As the sun sets in the distance, the mourners start to disperse. One by one, they turn and walk away, giving Roxanne a gentle pat on the shoulder, or a sympathetic nod as they pass her on the way out. Eventually, she’s the only one left, stony-faced, still staring at the fresh mound of earth beneath which her best friend now rests. Pretty white and pink roses are strewn on the grave, and as the trees sway in the cool, gentle breeze, the weight of the reality finally hits her: Janet is gone. Her best friend of 30 years is gone. She’s never coming back. Ever.  

Roxanne heaves a sigh of relief.

----------------------------------------------------------------

January 25th. 2000

“No, no, no! Janet! Wake up!” Roxanne’s shrill voice rent the otherwise still air, her screams echoing off the walls of the empty building. Tears streamed down her bony cheeks as regret flooded her entire being. Her trembling body was bent over the motionless girl lying flat on her back, limp, blonde hair plastered across her face. Janet William’s pale face looked lifeless, although the gentle rise and fall of her ribs indicated otherwise. At first glance, she didn’t seem hurt. But her legs. Her pudgy legs were bent at odd angles, almost as if they’d been pulled violently apart.

Roxanne couldn’t breathe. How could she have been so careless? How could she, Roxanne Jones, a state swimmer, have let her guard down for a minute? She shouldn’t have gone along with this stupid idea. Everyone knew that the disused swimming pool was cursed. How could she have allowed Janet to get to the top of the diving platform? 30 metres above the ground, built over 20 years ago and hadn’t been maintained in the last 5 years. The platform wasn’t sturdy. Definitely not sturdy enough to support a 150-pound teen with no experience whatsoever in diving.

Perhaps if she’d fallen into the water beneath, Janet would’ve been fine. Maybe a few scratches, or a bumped head even, but still fine. But she’d hit the cold cement with such a sickening thud. Perhaps if Roxanne had been able to grab onto her friend’s flailing arms as she teetered on the edge of the platform, Janet would have been all right. Perhaps if Roxanne hadn’t also climbed onto the platform, Janet wouldn’t have lost her balance in the first place.      

They didn’t know it then, but that one moment of stupidity (or was it misfortune?) had altered the course of their lives forever.

----------------------------------------------------------------

September 20th. 2002

“You’re going to resign?? Again??” Janet screeched at the top of her lungs. “But you promised to stick to this job! No other job will pay as well as this, and we need the money, remember??”

“You need the money, you mean,” Roxanne muttered bitterly under her breath, inaudible to anyone but her. This was not the life she had envisioned for herself. She had once harboured great aspirations, aspirations that seemed certain at that time. Winning the state swimming championship just over 3 years ago had caught the attention of the top sports schools in the country, and she was sought after by world-class coaches who’d promised to send her to the Olympics. She was so close to her dreams; so close.

“Roxanne? Are you listening? We need the money. We’re supposed to go for that Taylor Swift concert in Singapore next month. Aren’t you excited for that? And our Europe tour later this year? Isn’t that on your bucket list?

Roxanne forced herself to look at Janet. Her best friend. The girl with whom she grew up at the orphanage. The girl who’d been by her side since they were toddlers. The girl who’d been confined to a wheelchair since that horrible incident 2 years ago. Janet looked hurt, tears starting to pool in her eyes. It took very little to set her off these days. Janet’s once-bubbly personality had been crippled along with her legs. Initially distraught after the doctor’s declaration that she’d never walk again, she’d now come to terms with it. But Roxanne became everything since then. Even as children, they were inseparable, but now, it was as if Roxanne was her lifeline. All of Roxanne’s ambitions had to be abandoned; all of her desires were put on the back burner. Janet’s needs, and wants, took precedence over all else. Whatever Janet wanted, she got. Through Roxanne. Janet was living through Roxanne.  

Despite her frustration, Roxanne thawed. Although she wanted to scream at the unfairness of it, her expression softened. Once again, she was consumed by the familiar guilt. It was after all, partially her fault that Janet was now in this state.

“You’re right. I’m sorry. I won’t quit the job. We’re definitely making the concert and the tour. Two items off our bucket list,” Roxanne heard herself say, kneeling so she could hold Janet’s hand.

This was how all of their disagreements were resolved – with Roxanne conceding.

 ---------------------------------------------------------------

 June 10th. 2005

“You want me to what??” Roxanne bellowed.

“Trust me; it’ll all be worth it -” Janet’s sentence was cut short by Roxanne’s outburst.

“You want me to be a surrogate?? Carry your child? Are you insane?? You do know that I’m engaged right? Marc and I plan to start a family one day when we’re ready. That’s probably years away. Who’s going to raise this child of yours then? Or are we all going to live together for the rest of our lives? How much more are you going to ask of me, Janet? Haven’t I given up enough for you??”

Roxanne knew instantly that she’d gone too far. The expression on Janet’s face said it all. Her features were contorted in agony, and tears cascaded down her cheeks like a burst dam.

“I-I can’t b-believe you just said that!” Janet’s voice broke as she yelled. “Given up enough for me?? If you hadn’t dared me to jump off that wretched platform that day, I’d still have a life! If you’d stopped me from climbing up those steps, I wouldn’t now be a paraplegic! If you’d grabbed me when I reached out for you, I’d probably be a wife and a mother today!”

Roxanne felt like she’d been slapped. She always wondered if Janet truly blamed her for the mishap. Now she finally got her answer. And it stung. In that moment, words failed her.

Janet wasn’t done.

“Since you’re the reason my life has gone down the drain, don’t you think this is the least you can do for me?? You know how much I love children, right? It’s probably one of my dearest dreams, which I can no longer achieve, no thanks to you! So you think 9 months of carrying a child is worse than 5 bloody years in a wheelchair? 5 years and a lifetime to go! You owe me this!”

Roxanne sank into the couch, covering her ears, refusing to listen.

----------------------------------------------------------------

August 2nd. 2008

The smell in the doctor’s office was oddly comforting. Roxanne winced when the cold gel was applied to her growing belly, but she was eager to see the ultrasound image of the life within her womb. Janet looked ecstatic of course, seated in her wheelchair by the foot of the bed, squeezing Roxanne’s foot reassuringly.

“Did you feel any movements today, Ms. Jones?” the doctor’s concerned voice boomed after a few minutes.

The smile on Roxanne’s face faltered.

“I t-think so,” she stammered, looking at Janet for confirmation.

“Is something wrong??” Janet’s voice was laced with panic.

“I’m afraid I can’t detect a heartbeat, Ms. William. I’m very sorry.”

And just like that, their second surrogacy attempt came to naught too. Both Janet and Roxanne grieved, but in different ways. While Roxanne withdrew into her own cocoon, Janet was more vocal. Her heartbreak was too painful to contain. She bawled her eyes out daily, inconsolable, irrational. For Roxanne, the pain was beyond words. Granted, she’d been a reluctant participant initially, but with each attempt, the idea had grown on her. She’d broken off her engagement with Marc, choosing to put Janet first, as usual. She’d devoted all her time and energy to this. She was so invested. She felt like a failure; she’d failed Janet once again.

----------------------------------------------------------------

March 10th. 2015

Roxanne heaves a sigh of relief. A part of her aches at the thought of spending the years ahead without her best friend, but another part feels as though she’s been liberated. But the guilt is something she’ll carry with her forever. Janet managed to live her life to some extent through Roxanne, but many of her dreams remain unfulfilled.

The past few years have been rough. Janet’s health took a turn for the worse after a bout of pneumonia about a year ago. Recurrent infections and hospital admissions became more frequent until last night, when Janet finally gave up.

“Goodbye Janet. I hope you’re in a better place now,” Roxanne whispers as she takes a step back and finally leaves the cemetery.

July 25, 2023 10:03

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

0 comments

RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.