The Three Faces of Death
That summer came in early, wet and stormy. I danced in a few puddles, and then cringed at the thought of someone seeing me out here, acting so childish. Seventeen wasn’t an age to veer from your course, otherwise, you could end up backtracked to Antarctica when it came to the popular crowd. I’d just stepped into their midst, and wasn’t about to be banished again. All my life, I’d watched them, hated them, and envied them.
A horn beeped twice before the car pulled over, Jesse inside.
I smiled just the way any cheerleader had been taught. Models had nothing on us. We were the it deal and everybody knew it.
He patted the seat beside him. “Get in.”
“Sure,” I said as butterflies somersaulted inside my stomach. Jesse Andrews was the hot everything at Fairlawn High. I’d worked my way up through the chain of command to shine in a tiny yellow skirt beside him.
He took the curves fast, the open road even faster. Soon we’d left the city lights behind us headed for anywhere. Jesse ran his hand up my thigh and I giggled my encouragement. Everything was falling into place. This was the best time of my life. His fingers explored further. He swerved over into the other lane. We skirted another curve. The Neon appeared in the headlights moments before Jesse hit the brakes. He had time to curse and dig down into my skin and then the crunch of metal silenced all.
Everyone said I was lucky I escaped the crash without a scratch. At the funeral, I could see it all in my classmates’ gazes: the blame. It took me a good year to drown the sorrow and the pain. I mean, how do you get over something like that? I couldn’t bear to shut my eyes at night because the image of Jesse was always there. Except, now, he wore a black cape and visited others in my nightmares. At the end of every one, he’d swing around and wink at me. As if we shared some great secret.
Jenny Bartlett was the last of the popular crowd to stick by me. Mostly, I suppose, because she was the one who took pity on me in the first place and invited me into the circle. She was smart, funny, talented, an all-around loved girl. But her efforts to save those beneath her loosened her crown. Others whispered. Said it wasn’t right. They somehow convinced themselves that we were dragging her down into a pit she couldn’t crawl out of. The rumors began to prey on her. Her boyfriend convinced me to talk to her about getting help when the depression deepened.
Five months later, she committed suicide.
I was left alone for good. The hallways cleared when I walked down them, others spit on my tracks after I was gone. Cyber-stalking took on a new meaning when it came to me. I was nicknamed, “Death.” I transferred schools twice but the identity followed as did the dreams. Jenny had joined Jesse as a reaper. Both motioned to me to follow them but I didn’t know how. Until my Mom left.
What little was left of my world came crashing down. I tried drugs, drank harder liquor, shoved myself into danger again and again. One night I went so high, I was able to grasp their hands. They held on tight and wouldn’t let me fall again. Now, I walk through darkness, side by side with my friends. We are the haunts in your night terrors, the last faces you see before you die. We are everything perfect, and everything to be feared.
We are death. Three faces united, statues in the cemetery, sprung to life.