Kate thinks a lot. No matter what she lets everyone see on the outside, she’s always trapped in her head, thinking about conversations that will never happen, things she said that she didn’t mean, but most recently she thinks about why she’s still here.
Why does she get to live when Chess and Farrah don’t.
She definitely deserved it more than either of them. It was Kate that was constantly combating whatever Riley said, it was Kate that mocked Riley’s leadership, it was always her, it was her, it was her…
Sure Riley stabbed her, but she got off easy. Why did Chess, who was kind to everyone and was always respectful to Riley, meet her demise. Why did Farrah, who was only fifteen, not get the chance to show her true self before her life was taken.
Addiction is curable. Personality is not. Why wouldn’t Riley take away Kate’s insufferable nature and leave the broken to be fixed?
Kate drives herself crazy asking herself why why why.
She thinks a lot about how Riley made her decision.
Chess’s addiction to painkillers and Farrah’s alcohol dependency weren’t why their team lost. Even if they were the best cheer team in the state, the Tigers Football Team would still lose. Bringing spirit isn’t the end all be all, but it was for Riley.
But is she’s being really honest, Kate gets it.
She doesn’t get murdering your friends, no she gets being pushed to your breaking point.
She gets the feeling of utter hopelessness cause by society’s expectations and a lack of success.
She gets feeling like the whole world is watching you trip and stumble as you try to make your way through life.
But understanding those feelings doesn’t make surviving any easier. Because she understands the pain but she still doesn’t understand why she should have to live in a world without Chess.
She makes sure the team doesn’t notice how she’s tearing herself apart.
On the outside she’s just mourning the loss of her best friend like anyone else would.
But on the inside she’s slowly falling to pieces. She doesn’t eat, it just makes her nauseous. She doesn’t sleep, it’s just dreams of Chess most nights. The other nights she wakes up in a cold sweat after seeing herself being stabbed through the heart.
So she keeps it inside. Until she’s in first period and the announcements come on. She barely pays attention until they get to the sports segment. The anchor reads, “And it’s official, graduate of Giles Corey High, Emma Layton, will be representing the US at the 2020 Olympics, so everyone wish her luck.”
It’s too much for Kate to hear. She looks at the empty chair where Chess used to sit next to her and suddenly runs out of the classroom.
She locks herself in a bathroom stall and tries to control her breathing. She breathes in and out like she was taught at grief counseling, trying to get her mind under control.
That should be Chess. That should be Chess. That should be Chess. Is all she’s capable of thinking when she hears someone enter the bathroom.
She quiets her sobbing as to not alert the new person to her presence and current state, but a voice calls out, “Kate? I know you’re in there it’s me.”
Annleigh. The girl must have followed after Kate from their shared math class.
“What do you need Annleigh? Can’t a girl piss in peace?” Kate surprises herself by her own ability to sound unbothered.
“That’s not gonna work on me Kate. Me more than anyone else knows what you’re going through.” Kate cant take it anymore. She bursts out of the stall.
“No Annleigh you don’t. We both lost people but out of any of us I’m the only one who deserves to be dead.” Kate says quickly with tears in her eyes. Annleigh is taken aback by the revelation, she never expected Kate to be forthright about her feelings.
“You know that’s not true Kate. You deserve to be alive.”
“No I really don’t. Chess and Farrah could have gone to rehab. Clark was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m the one who always annoyed the shit out of Riley. My personality is a part of me, addiction wasn’t a part of them! I’m the one who probably pushed her to this point,” she practically screams. Annleigh grabs Kate by the shoulders and looks the shorter girl in her eyes.
“Kate listen to me. Riley made her own decisions. You had nothing to do with what she did. I will not let you take responsibility for her actions.” Kate is shaking at this point.
“But I’ve never been enough.” Annleigh is confused by the change of pace. Kate continues, “I thought Chess would quit for me. I thought if nothing else, Chess will get clean for me. But I wasn’t enough.”
Annleigh sees Kate begin to sink to the floor and grabs the girl. They slowly sit down together, Annleigh holding Kate as she cries.
“Kate you are enough, I promise. People make bad choices on their own, it’s not your responsibility to be that for anyone,” Annleigh says in her most comforting voice possible.
“You know Chess wanted to go to rehab with Farrah. We talked about it sometimes. Chess didn’t want to go alone and she thought they could do it together.”
The thought brings a strange comfort to Annleigh. The possibility of what could have been makes her heart full.
“I know you don’t believe in God,” Annleigh begins, “But I know they are there for each other now. Afterlife or not, Chess and Farrah are with each other and they’re healing and watching over us,” she finishes with a certainty to her voice.
Kate stops crying and mutters, “Yeah… I like to think they’re up there getting ice cream together but still somehow bickering.”
Annleigh laughs, “They would. Farrah would order double chocolate brownie, it was her favorite.”
“Chess would get mint chocolate chip and Farrah would give her shit for it.”
“But obviously Farrah brought her metal spoons so they wouldn’t have to use the plastic ones and Chess teases her about her panda carrying case.”
“Chess pays for them, but Farrah won’t accept that so she sneaks a five into Chess’s pocket.”
The two girls, sitting on the bathroom floor, laugh together at the thought of their loved ones being happy in the afterlife.
After a few moments of silence Kate says, “Thanks for coming after me Annleigh.”
“I’m just glad you’re finally letting me help you. If you want, and you can take your time to decide, we could go to grief counseling together?”
Kate doesn’t respond and Annleigh thinks she already ruined the bond they were forming, but Kate quietly says, “I think I’d like that.”
Annleigh stands up and offers the smaller girl her hand, which Kate is still too stubborn to accept, but Annleigh is relieved that at least some things never change.
Kate splashes some water on her face, and Annleigh offers her some makeup to cover up the redness, but Kate is repulsed by the thought.
The girls walk back to math together, Kate for once with peace of mind, but before they enter she looks to Annleigh and says, “I think, eventually, we’re gonna be ok.”
“We will. And so will they,” Annleigh says looking up to the skies. Kate still doesn’t necessarily believe in a heaven and a hell, but she looks up too as the girls share a moment of serenity.
So the girls resume their day as normal with only one big difference.
They know that they have each other and it might take a while, but they’re going to heal together.
And that’s all Kate needs to begin the escape from her own mind.