The entire room seems empty without him, but at the same time I feel his presence here. The walls are filled with posters of his favorite singers, and his football trophies form a straight line like a marching band on the top of his dresser. I step further inside and stare at the pictures pinned to the big corkboard above his desk.
It’s filled with pictures of us.
And a bunch of our friends.
We’re always smiling in the pictures, but nobody knew Trey had a dark side. He didn’t know how to deal with stress and it ruled him at times.
I want to turn back time and talk to Trey again about the pills he was taking. I wish I would have said something to his parents… to anyone.
But I didn’t say a word.
As I graze my fingers over one of the pictures of me and Trey at the beach this past summer, a picture falls out from behind the corkboard and lands on his desk. I pick it up, and my entire body shudders.
It’s a picture of Trey and pink-haired Zara. She’s sitting in his lap, her arms wrapped around his neck as she smiles into the camera. Trey’s not looking into the camera. Instead, he’s looking up at her as if he’s totally in love with her. He used to look at me that way when we first started dating.
A chill runs down my spine when I turn the picture over and read the words on the back.
Forever and always
Little hearts are drawn below the words.
Trey used to say those words to me.
I collect a bunch of pictures of the two of us when another picture of Trey and Zara falls out. This time they’re kissing while lying in the snow. When I look behind the corkboard, five more pictures fall out. All the pictures are of Trey and Zara; one is a selfie of them in his bed. It’s clear that she’s naked under the blanket.
I’m dizzy now, my mind reeling.
I’m thinking of a ton of explanations and excuses, but the truth hits me hard in the gut.
Trey had been cheating on me for a long time.
I start hyperventilating, and I can’t catch my breath. Everything I believed is a lie. Everything I knew about Trey is fake—including our relationship. I can’t confront him because he’s gone. I want to yell at him and cry to him and demand answers.
But I’ll never get them.
I’m so confused and tired and sad. Life isn’t fair. I gave him so much, and he gave me lies and made me promise to keep his stupid secrets. I hate him for that.
Take a deep breath.
Shoving the rest of the pictures in my purse, I walk out of his room almost in a trance. How can I act like the loving, grieving girlfriend when our entire relationship had been a lie?
I overhear Mr. and Mrs. Matthews talking in the kitchen.
“They’ve got to be wrong,” Mrs. Matthews tells her husband in a low whisper. “My son wasn’t on amphetamines. He was smart and had so much to live for.”
“That’s what the initial toxicology report says. His heart gave out and he died of a heart attack. He had an overdose, Clara,” I can hear Trey’s father tell her. “He wasn’t dehydrated, and the school and Victor Salazar are not at fault. I’ve heard from the police. They’re ending their investigation after they receive the final report from the pathologist.”
Mrs. Matthews whimpers. “I don’t believe it,” she cries. “ I won’t believe that my son was on drugs. Ever.”
I step into the kitchen. Mr. and Mrs. Matthews suddenly become quiet. Mr. Matthews is all business as he herds us into the car and drives to the funeral home.
We arrive before everyone else. It’s hard to look at Trey’s mom. She’s wearing all black and can’t stop weeping. Just hearing her sobs makes my own tears flow down my cheeks.
Mr. Matthews is stoic. He’s greeting well-wishers with a thin-lipped, grim expression. There are no tears in his eyes, but I know it’s just a show. Trey and his dad were close. His dad was his biggest fan, attending every football game and proudly wearing a Fremont Rebel Parent shirt whenever I saw him at a school event. He bragged about Trey to everyone and anyone who would listen.
The line of people coming to pay their respects at the cemetery is longer than I’ve ever seen. It seems like the entire Fremont student body is here, along with most of the parents and Fremont teachers and staff.
I’m not shocked when I hear people talking about homecoming being canceled and the game against Fairfield being postponed. Trey’s death has had a ripple effect, and the entire town is reeling after losing one of its sons.
Someone taps me from behind. “Hey,” Ashtyn says in a comforting voice, leaning forward to whisper in my ear. “How are you holding up?”