Jace sat up, confused about his whereabouts at first. “What the hell are you talking about? Danny, I didn’t do anything—”
“We gotta go,” Daniel said, grabbing my arm to drag me out of the shed. “If he dies, Jace… If he dies, that’s on you! That’s on you!”
If he dies?
I started crying again.
Because I knew he was already dead.
#56. Let Him Go.
Last night I overheard Mr. Daniels fighting with his brother about some drugs. I borrowed some of the guy’s pills. Please let him know I left cash.
I wanted to wake you, but you looked happy next to him. He looked happier. Don’t let that happiness leave. If there’s anyone who deserves it, it’s you.
Can you burn the cardboard box for me? I no longer need the reminder.
Please tell Hailey I’m still here.
Stars exploded and I was born. Please call me Tony.
~ Ryan Turner
The newspaper headline was an echo of his father’s.
Ryan Turner, son of Rebecca Turner, dies in a horrific car accident on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Pine Street.
History sometimes repeated.
Tonight, souls cried both on earth and in heaven.
It doesn’t matter what you feel.
Just know the feelings are real.
~ Romeo’s Quest
The funeral was like all the others. Sad, painful, and wrapped in despair. Rebecca was in the corner speaking with the priest, and Henry stood greeting and thanking the guests who showed up. Which was a lot of guests—most of our senior class came.
I looked over and saw Avery standing with Hailey, tears rolling down his face. Hailey hugged him and didn’t dare tell him that everything was going to be okay.
“Hello, everyone. I am Father Evans. If we could all head inside, I believe we are ready to get started with the service.”
My hands smoothed over the black dress I’d worn to Gabby’s funeral, and I prided myself on my ability of not having cried thus far during the day. There were so many tears that had fallen in the hospital room, in the car, and in the house. So I promised myself to do my best to be the strong one in the church. When others broke down, I would stand strong for them.
The service went on, and many tears were shed from others. I sat in between Hailey and Rebecca in the front pew. Rebecca hadn’t said much since the accident, but I sat there squeezing her knee, which was rapidly tapping against the ground. I tried my best to read her emotions. She had to feel guilty for pushing Ryan away. For having isolated him in such a manner. She had to have wished it had been her in the car and not her baby boy. She had to be dead inside.
Blame wouldn’t do anyone any good though.
It came time for people to give short speeches about Ryan and the short life he’d lived on this planet, and many stepped up, some cracking jokes, others cracking tears. I turned to Hailey, who’d told me earlier that she’d planned on saying a few words, but her gaze fell to the floor.
“I can’t… I can’t.” She wiped away a tear and stood, walking out of the church.
I didn’t know if I should follow her or aid Rebecca, whose shivers were growing more and more in-depth. Her breaths started picking up, and I felt as if a panic attack were about to overtake her.
Edging myself closer to her, I whispered into her ear, “He loved you. He still loves you. It’s okay to cry.”
The tears rolled down her cheeks and she nodded, her heavy breaths growing softer until she began to breathe like the sea at rest.
I turned to see Jake sitting in one of the pews, his eyes watering over. I frowned toward him. He gave me a simple nod before he walked out to check on Hailey.
Father Evans called for one last speaker, and when I looked up to see Daniel walking forward, my breath caught in my throat. When he reached the podium, he looked directly toward me. His eyes were deep wells of compassionate gloom. He reached into his suit pocket and pulled out a piece of paper, unfolding it before him.
“I wasn’t sure that I would be able to stand up here today. Um, I’ve known Ryan only for a semester, but if you knew Ryan, a day was all you needed to fall in love with the guy. He was a jokester but always such a wise, intelligent kid. It was when he wrote his first paper in my English 12 AP class that I realized how deep and complex the mind of Ryan Turner traveled. We had an assignment at the beginning of the year…” Daniel paused, clearing his throat, fighting back the tears. He shifted his body around a bit to try to fight the emotions, but he was losing the battle. “Sorry,” he muttered, turning away from the microphone and running his hands over his face.
When he returned, I could see the redness in his eyes that ran deep into his very being. “We had an assignment at the beginning of the year… I asked the students where they saw themselves in five years. Who they wanted to be. And I held on to Ryan’s paper and would like to read it to you.” His shoulders rolled back and he stood tall, holding the paper in his hands. “‘What do I want to be when I grow up? Mr. D, that seems to be a very heavy question for someone my age. Life is hard and adults are always telling us ‘kids’ that it just gets worse as time passes. I’ve been trying my best to understand what keeps people going, what keeps them reaching for something greater in this world. Belief? Hope? Passion?
“‘I’m g*y, Mr. D. I’ve never said those words to a teacher, but the way you walked into class on the first day with so many nerves made me realize that I can trust you. You’re just as afraid of some secret as I am. So I thought I would share my secret with you. But my sexuality shouldn’t define me, right? There’s so much more to me. I like thunderstorms. I love baseball. I think rock music is the best music. I have blue eyes. I hate peas. My blood bleeds red and my heart cries sometimes, just like yours, I suppose.