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VICTOR

I hate myself for missing Trey’s funeral.

I couldn’t deal with the crowds of people who’d pay their respects to a guy who was our hometown hero. He was on track to be valedictorian, to go to some Ivy League school, and make something of himself. The people of Fremont would always be able to remind themselves that greatness comes from Fremont.

Well, now Trey is gone.

The only thing I’ll remind Fremont of is a loser kid who was responsible for their hometown hero’s death.

That’s the legacy I’ve left there.

I’ve tried to avoid going to the cemetery because seeing Trey’s grave means that all this is real. When I lie on Isa’s couch, I can tell myself that the outside world doesn’t exist. When I’m sleeping, I can escape reality and be oblivious to the fact that my life crumbled beneath my feet.

But when my eyes are open, nightmares come crashing down on me.

I can’t delay the reality of Trey’s death any longer. Ignoring the fact that my best friend is six feet under is another clue that I’m subhuman, not worthy of living on the same air that Trey should be living on right now.

I miss him so fucking much.

After I shower and change into clean clothes, I leave Isa’s and drive to the cemetery. I’m shaking the entire time, my insides feeling like jelly. I don’t want to face the reality of my friend dying. The fact that I did it to him is just… I can’t do this.

But I have to.

For Trey.

I might not have any dignity left, but I have respect for my best friend. Visiting his grave is the least I can do.

It’s not hard to find Trey’s gravesite. A ton of flowers surrounds the mound of dirt still marking the place where they lowered his casket. When I catch sight of a small wooden temporary marker with the name TREY AARON MATTHEWS, my eyes start to water.

I walk up to the grave, and a wave of emotions comes over me. Shit. There’s a damn lump in my throat that won’t go away, no matter how many times I swallow. This is fucking hard. Reality fucking sucks. I hate this.

I bow my head.

What do I say? Do I just start talking to him?

“Hey, man,” I mumble as I swipe a tear away.

Trey is here, I can feel his presence. Hell, knowing him, he probably made a deal with God to watch over his body so nothing bad happened to it.

“I’m so s-s-sorry.” I choke out the words.

But my apology isn’t accepted. It can’t be, because he’s gone. I’ll have to live with this debilitating guilt for the rest of my life, because he’s never gonna absolve me of my sins.

“I’m lost. What do you want me to do, Trey? We were supposed to stay friends forever.”

Why is forever so short?

“Here, I brought you this,” I say, holding out a pretty yellow rose. “I jacked it off one of Isa’s rosebushes in back of the body shop. I swear she won’t miss it. She’s too busy shaking off Bernie’s advances.”

I stand here, staring at the mound of dirt and imagining the casket with my best friend peacefully lying inside it.

“You know I need your help,” I say. “I don’t deserve to be here. I wish I could switch places with you, Trey. For real.”

If I killed myself, this misery I feel would be over.

I let down Trey, and I let down my team. They’ve lost every game since Trey died. I’m a coward, because I should be able to stand there while they tell me I’m a piece of shit and ruined their chances at a state championship.

It’s my fault.

And it’s eating away at me.

All I had was football and my teammates. When my old man said I was worthless, my teammates were right there to tell me I was valuable. When Cassidy posted shit about me online, my teammates laughed about it instead of confirming her accusations that I was a jerk.

Now I don’t have my teammates. I don’t have my best friend. My sisters don’t have me to protect them anymore. I lost everything that was important to me.

And to top it all off, the girl I care most about in life, the girl I can never call mine, hates me.

A sliver of sun shines down on the mound of dirt. It’s a weird shape, like a lightning bolt.

That’s the only sign I get from Trey.

What does it mean? I don’t know. If the roles were reversed, Trey would have all the answers. He always had the answers.

I, on the other hand, don’t have any.

Chapter Thirty-four

MONIKA

“Have you been talking to the social workers at school?” Mom asks me when I walk downstairs in the morning.

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