Nervous eyes connect from across the cafeteria table. Neither Mik or Denali had spoken about Rosé’s absence but their glance says everything on their minds: three consecutive days is enough for an intervention.
School had become less and less important to Rosé over the last few years and it wasn’t uncommon for her to go through periods of missing a few days, though she normally responded to their texts. This time she hadn’t been.
Denali had been happy to give her space on the first day, sometimes people needed a day for themselves. Though Mik hadn’t been quite so patient, sending her a text saying they hoped she was alright. She hadn’t replied.
On the second day they had found Rosé’s younger sisters in the school hallways and asked them if she was okay. They both said she was but their answers were too quick and undescriptive before they wandered off to class. The next text they sent still went without a reply.
Now on the third day and halfway through lunch with no new messages from her, they knew they had to do something more.
The angel of death is ruthless
Rosé’s mother had passed away when she was 13, just when she was at the pivotal stage of growing older. Her father could only do so much to help her adapt to womanhood until he threw himself into his work and distanced himself from the house. Leaving Rosé to care for her two younger sisters more than an any older sibling should.
And I'm always thinking summertime with the bikes out
Pushing our luck, getting wiped out
The transition of Rosé losing what was left of her childhood hurt Mik and Denali more than they can explain. Memories of speeding around the neighbourhood on their bikes as children during the summertime don’t feel so sweet anymore. Every time they looked back on those, remembering Rosé’s bright smile only reminded them that they don’t see it so often anymore. They missed laughing together as they pushed their luck on tricks they weren’t ready for: scraping their elbows after getting wiped out doing wheelies down hill or jumping from curbs. But it didn’t matter because the grazes would all heal, unlike the scars on Rosé’s heart that took her bright smile away.
Days with nothing but laughing loud
She used to laugh all the time and her sense of humour was unrivalled. Now the silly faces and stupid stories have been replaced with sarcasm and witty comebacks. Though she still has her effect with Denali and Mik clutching their sides as they laugh, she doesn’t joke around so often anymore. Then again that’s the same for all of them really. So, it could be a sign of them maturing and getting older – that’s what Mik and Denali tell themselves anyway.
“You got any plans after school?” Denali stops next to Mik’s locker as she picks out her books for her next class.
“Nah” Mik shakes her head. “You don’t have skating?”
Denali shakes her head as she leans her back against the locker doors, folding her arms. “We should go see her.”
“I thought you wanted to give her space?”
“I did, but you know three days is too long.”
“Then I thought you’d just want to send her another text.”
“She’s not replying, Mik” Denali chews at her lip and avoids Mik’s gaze. That’s how Mik can tell how worried she is. “I think we need to do this face-to-face.”
Mik nods. “Did you drive?”
“We’ll take my car” Mik settles.
Denali nods and then adds although she doesn’t need to, “she’d do the same for us.”
Underneath my coat, won't you tap my shoulder, hold my hand
Nights with nothing but dark in there
You could be my armour then
They both knew that Rosé would do the same thing for them. Countless times they’d listened to her peptalk them so effortlessly it was like another language that she was born speaking. She was always a shoulder they could cry on even when her days weren’t so great either. They’d wanted to do the same for her for a long time but she’d shut them out.
They’d first noticed her start to do it nearly a year after her mother’s death. Just simple things that she would reject their help on, like she would be awarded a certificate at the end of her life for doing everything on her own. And from there it had only gotten worse. She became a vault, every emotion she locked away behind a stoic front. Leaving Mik and Denali imagining an empty darkness inside because they can’t break through to her.
All their attempts to break down her walls failed because she became an expert in changing topics with humour long enough to distract them. Then they figured they wouldn’t push her to talk if she didn’t want to because nothing would come of forcing her to talk about painful feelings apart from a broken friendship.
Though she still protected them even when they felt like they were failing her as friends. Never not there to defend them from hurtful comments or self-doubt. Like she was a suit of armour taking all the hits for them. But like the heaviness of wearing metal, the guilt weighed on them because they couldn’t figure out how to help her when she would give them nothing.
Though they had to try.
The car ride over to Rosé’s was silent apart from the radio but neither Mik or Denali paid attention to it. While Mik focused on the road, Denali stared out the window remembering all the memories they’d shared as kids: the park with a swing set they would always fight over who would get the first turn on, the big tree they had sheltered under when the rain got too heavy one day in spring, and past the shop they would buy ice cream from on hot summer days.
Island smiles and cardigans
The nights that we've been drinking in
Then there are more resent memories like the walkway down to the beach they just drove past. Reminding Denali of the three of them huddled too close around a bonfire, still shivering in the blankets and extra jackets they had found in Mik’s car until Rosé had pulled out the bottle of whiskey that she had stolen from the liquor cabinet.
That had only been a few weeks back but it felt like a long time ago.
After the engine cuts off, they are left in silence, still looking through the windscreen and unmoving. Minutes go by, maybe just seconds, as they gather their thoughts. Mik is the first to move, the jangling of keys spurring Denali into action so they both exit the car without a word.
They walk side by side along the short path to the front door and after climbing the small set of steps, Denali raises a hand to knock against the door. Her force was hesitant and she wonders if her knocks were too quiet to be heard and need to be repeated, though as she raises her hand again, she hears muffled footsteps from inside.
The door unlatches and opens to reveal Rosé standing in the entranceway. Her hair matted in knots and her clothes crumpled like she hasn’t gotten changed in days. Denali doesn’t expect it to hurt her that Rosé doesn’t smile at them after days of not speaking to them or how her voice sounds so defeated with a simple, “hey.”
For a moment she stops short and she’s glad Mik is the next one to speak.
“Hey” Mik reflects with a shuffle of her feet. Wanting to move forward and hug her but for now she won’t. “We’ve missed you.”
For half a second, Rosé’s lips twitch into an almost smile, one that seems guilt-ridden. Though she offers no explanation or excuse and they know she isn’t going to talk. It’s easier for her to say nothing than break.
“I think you know why we’re here” Denali speaks instead and Rosé looks back into the house like she’s weighing up her options of escape.
We're here to help you kill all of this hurt that you've been harbouring
“We know you’re hurting, Rosé” Mik draws her attention back. “We just want to help you.”
At Mik’s words, Rosé’s breath faintly catches and she holds it, her jaw setting tightly.
“We’ve known for a while, Rosie” Denali tells her. “You don’t have to hide it from us.”
Confessions should be better planned
Alone, that night, I'm surely damned
Run away, I'll understand
“Admittedly, I don’t think either of us know what to say to you” Mik confesses. “We probably should have planned something but we needed to see you because we’re worried about you.”
Rosé steps back a little from the doorway and her jaw shifts so she can bite on her lip. Her eyes looking anywhere except at the two of her friends in front of her.
“You’re not alone, Rosé. So don’t feel like you have to be” Denali adds. “But we understand if you don’t want to talk because we know it’s hard for you.” As she continues, she notices Rosé starting to shake in effort of holding back her emotions, “but I think you might need to.”
As Denali’s words hang in empty air, Rosé nods smally before she begins to nod more definitely.
“Oh, come here baby” Denali beckons her forward with a gesture of her fingers. Her arm wrapping behind Rosé’s waist when she gets close enough to reach.
“Let’s take you somewhere else” Mik suggests, reaching out to place a hand against Rosé’s cheek to make sure she hears her before leading the way to the car.
Rosé had been quiet on the short drive over to the beach where they had the bonfire. Though they all had. No doubt everyone gathering their thoughts on what to say and the best approach to say them.
Denali had given Rosé the front seat while she sat in the middle of the back so she could see both Mik and her as they drove along. Leaning forward in her seat with one hand on the centre console just so she could be closer to them. Watching as Mik would occasionally place comforting hand on Rosé’s leg before she would have to put it back on the steering wheel to turn a corner.
When the car had stopped, Denali had jumped out first and opened Rosé’s door to help her out. Mik coming around to Rosé’s other side after she locked the doors. Then they’d set off slowly down to the beach, the sound of waves getting louder as they went.
By the time they sat on the log of driftwood looking out to the ocean, Rosé’s throat stung and her chest was sore from holding tears back.
She pulls in a shaky breath as Denali spreads a palm out between her shoulder blades and Mik’s thumb runs patterns with her hand spread out on her leg. Then slowly tears start to fall with the touch of her friends prying her armour apart.
“It’s okay, Rosie. You can let it out” Denali encourages softly. Still feeling Rosé’s taut muscles beneath her palm and seeing her jaw shut tight to keep from sobbing.
Mik says nothing but squeezes Rosé’s leg lightly to remind her that they are both there.
With a sob Rosé turns into Denali’s shoulder and she shields her with her arms. Mik wrapping her arms around her from behind and laying the side of her face against Rosé’s back.
Gradually their twist of limbs shift: thumbs tracing patterns on skin, elbows moving when shoulders get strained, and Mik turning her head when her neck gets stiff. Then they slowly pull apart.
“I’m sorry” Rosé sniffles as she pulls her sleeve up onto her hand to dry her eyes.
“Don’t you dare apologise for that” Denali tells her. “Don’t ever.”
Rosé nods and sniffles again before lowering her hand back to her lap.
“Are you ready to tell us what’s going on?” Mik asks gently.
Rosé nods again, taking a deep breath before she says, “I’m just low… Nothing is really wrong but I just don’t have the motivation to do anything.”
Denali hums as her thumb traces lines into Rosé’s hip.
“I go through these periods of being fine and then for no reason I’ll feel low – which I guess everyone does” Rosé adds with a tight smile. “About every few weeks or so I’ll get sad for a couple of days and then be fine the next. It’s just that this one’s hit me harder than usual.”
“Why didn’t you come to us?” Mik asks.
“Because I’m fine – or I will be fine. I always am.”
“But you’re not” Mik interjects.
“Have you ever thought that maybe you go through these low periods because you don’t talk about anything? Because you bottle everything up” Denali adds.
“That’s not” – Rosé starts before Mik cuts her off.
“Tell us Rosé” she speaks firmly, “that when you’re alone and you’re low and you want to cry, that you don’t hold your tears back?”
There is a long silence where nothing can be heard apart from the crashing waves and the birds in the sky.
“You can’t can you?” Mik presses.
Rosé shakes her head.
“Why do you do this to yourself, Rosie?” Denali sighs quietly.
“Fuck” Rosé curses shakily as she leans forward, hanging her head in her hands.
Mik and Denali trade a quick concerned glance before turning both their attentions back to Rosé. Each crossing an arm behind her to lay a hand on her opposite shoulder. Tense seconds go by as Rosé breathes unsteadily but doesn’t form any words or raise her head.
“Come on, baby. You’re doing so well” Denali prompts, knowing that Rosé is close to a hard confession that she needs to voice.
“Whatever it is, we’re not going to judge you for it” Mik adds as a promise.
At their words Rosé sniffs heavily and raises her head, sitting straighter again. Though her body seems to shake more.
“I guess since…” Rosé’s voice fades out immediately and they wait for her to take a couple of deep breaths before trying again. “Since mum died… it’s like I want to do things on my own to prove that I can: like I can function without her” Rosé swallows convulsively to hold back a sob. “That I don’t need her… so it doesn’t matter so much that she’s gone.”
“Oh, Rosie” Denali feels the prick of tears behind her eyes but she holds them back for the sake of staying strong for her friend. Then she suddenly understands how Rosé must live like this for the sake of her sisters. So, she lets her own tears fall, reaching forward to wrap her arms around Rosé, for her own comfort as well.
Pulling in her own shaky breath, Mik scoots closer to join their embrace, burying her face in Rosé’s hair. “You don’t have to be strong for us, Rosé” she says eventually. “Or even strong for her. You know that she’s proud of you no matter what.”
Rosé nods as she pulls away, remembering some of the last words her mother spoke to her.
“Do you have your phone on you?” Denali asks after both her and Rosé have dried their eyes.
Rosé looks confused at the question but nods anyway and pulls it out of her pocket.
“Unlock it” Denali begins to instruct and Rosé follows each request after she says them. “Go into contacts… find my name and click on it… hit the call button.”
As Denali’s phone rings from her pocket, she pulls it out and disconnects the call and the chime stops. “Good. You know how to call me” she smiles at Rosé before pointing to the clock on Rosé’s screen. “You see that?”
Rosé nods, watching as the time ticks over another minute.
“I want you to ignore it. You call me any time you want.”
“The same goes for me, gorge” Mik adds.
Rosé huffs out a little laugh at the sentiment before she pockets her phone.
“We’re not going to understand everything that you’re going through or you will go through, Rosé” Denali says. “But we’re damn gonna try.”
What's important is this evening I will not forget
Purple, blue, orange, red
“I’m not going to forget this” Rosé breaks the silence that had fallen over them.
“What do you mean?” Denali asks.
“I won’t forget it” Rosé repeats simply.
Knowing that she is going to say more, Mik and Denali both turn to her as she looks away to the setting sun. Watching the sky fade to purple from colours of red.
These colours of feeling
Give me love, I'll put my heart in it
“Sometimes I just feel like I don’t deserve any of this” Rosé doesn’t look at either of them. “That it’s just not worth trying to fix me.”
“Of course, you deserve this” Denali tells her earnestly, placing a hand on her leg.
“We know it’s not going to be a one-time fix all situation but there is no part of you that will scare us away” Mik says.
“You help us all the time” Denali points out. “It’s only fair that you feel like you can come to us so we can help you.”
“We love you, Rosé” Mik adds. “We just need to know that you’re okay.”
And I think about it all the time
Lights went out, you were fine
You kinda struggle not to shine
There is still part of each of them that worries that Rosé will lock everything in again and shut them back out. That part of them will always worry. They can only hope that when she’s alone with her thoughts in the dark, that she won’t hold her tears back anymore. Though there is a sense of peace in knowing that they got Rosé to open up to them because if they managed it once, they can do it again.
After all they have had each other forever: since they were kids, until now, and hopefully for a long time after. For a while they stay sitting together on the beach, huddling close to stay warm as the final rays of sun fade away. And with their company and the stars coming out, Rosé’s smile shines through the night.