There was this girl that I liked. Well, it was more like we liked each other. We met each other in high school, sophomore year, closer to summer break. She had this abundant mop of curly, deep brown hair atop her head and dark skin. Her eyes were hazel. She had the most stunning smile. Her name was Rachel.
Uh, Rachel and I hung out. Like, a lot. We would go to the movies or lunch on the weekends and meet up at the library during the week to work on our summer assignments for stuff like APUSH or AP Lang. And we'd text like nobody's business. Haha, she was just always so attached to her phone. And she'd text back so fast, it was crazy. There were even times when my mom wouldn't let me have my phone, like, during dinner or when I'm doing homework because we'd text so much. We kept it all pretty slow, but it was nice. You know how, like, in those teenager movies or chick flicks like The Fault In Our Stars you've got that really cushy, lovable couple? That was us. Every single aspect of it.
We kissed for the first time on the Fourth of July. Yeah, fireworks in the background and everything. There's this baseball stadium in our county that has fireworks shows and such during the Fourth, but we didn't have the money to go inside and enjoy them face-to-face. There were a lot of lazy ass people camping outside of the stadium to catch glimpses of each pop. Alright, I guess I can't really talk bad about them when we did the same thing.
Kissing her felt like floating in calm ocean. It took me away from the people surrounding us and the noisy cracks inside of the stadium. It felt like nothing could leave that moment between us. I was so happy.
Christ, uh... this... this is where it gets a little tough... See, another thing you should know about Rachel was that she always wore sweaters and jeans. Yeah, I know, even in the summer heat. She'd just never show me her skin. And she had this thing about people touching her too much. I mean, I felt her. No one wanted too much contact. We all love our space. So I never pushed her too much until we really started going steady.
One more thing you should know, Rachel would never, and I mean never, let me over her house. All I knew of her place was that she lived, I guess, on the wrong side of the tracks, so her neighborhood was complete shit. But I didn't think it was ever just that, really. She always complained about how much of a cunt her dad was, so I just thought that he would be a huge jerk or something if I ever came over.
When I asked her about her place, she'd get pretty pissed at me, even if I begged her with my best puppy eyes if I could come over. After a while, I just stopped asking her about her house all together. I think she liked it better that way.
But anyway, back to our relationship. It was when school started back up that she began acting weird. And, ya know, Rachel's a weird person naturally. We both were. I assumed that she was just stressed because at the time we were juniors so shit like college and tests would be thrown in our faces. But it wasn't that. It wasn't.
On Labor Day, we spent the day at my house. We were fooling around a little bit, seeing how far we wanted to go. I was convinced that Rachel and I loved each other enough that we could hook up. I tried pulling her sweater up over her head. She was in such a daze that she let me. Then I saw them and I stopped in my tracks.
Parents, you know... th-they can really do some fucked up shit. Cunt was an understatement when she described her dad. The bruises were horrifying to look at. There were even damaged parts of her skin where it was like the belt-buckle was practically branded there. Rachel noticed that I was staring, screamed, and shoved me off the bed. Screamed at me for touching her. Screamed at me for staring.
Look, I was sixteen. I had no idea what to do. Don't blame me for letting her storm out. Don't blame me for, at first, blaming her for her anger. I know now that she had every right to be mad.
We didn't talk for over a week. She didn't go to school for two. When we came back, I cornered her at her locker and spilled out as many apologies as I could. For being a dick and saying the things I said. For making her uncomfortable. Then for how much of an evil ass her dad was.
Rachel smiled at me, shook her head, and told me it's okay. Staring at her face, I don't think I've seen anyone with such dark bags under their eyes. I knew she wasn't okay when she flinched away when I attempted to hug her.
To this day, I don't know everything that Rachel's dad was doing to her. She told me that he was stressed with work; he had one of those niche jobs that he could be replaced with the quickness by machines. And he was taking online school to get his Master's degree in whatever the fuck. But I know that, despite her excuses, none of the shit he did was right. Everything was so fucked up beyond imagination that I wanted to go and beat the shit out of him. I was going to. I never got the chance.
Before leaving her to go home after a long day of standardized testing, Rachel slipped me a torn piece of notebook paper. "That's my address. Come by sometime," she told me. She stood on her toes and kissed me on the cheek with a smile. I was confused. I didn't do anything but force a smile and wave as she crossed over to the left side of the tracks, not looking back.
The news report said that Rachel and her father, who was so drunk that he blood-alcohol lever was 25%, apparently got into an argument resulting in him, Anthony Colbert, to gun her down with an unregistered firearm before turning the gun on himself. The autopsy report displayed a bullet wound to her throat-- meaning she suffered for a while before drowning in her own blood, multiple abrasions to her skin and bones from possibly years of physical abuse, self-inflicted cuts across her hips and forearms, and dead sperm cells inside of... yeah. Her dad did all of that, and possibly more. Neither report was pretty. Neither report broke the news that an innocent girl who loved wearing sweaters and kissed like the ocean was taken away from me and I'll never get her back.
Christ... if I could go back and tell Rachel how sorry I was for not being able to protect her, I would. If I could just hug her and kiss her and never let her go, I would. Jesus, I just can't ever stop thinking about how wonderful she was. How kind she was. How completely miserable she was. I'd do anything to have her back. But that's never gonna happen.
So, uh, I guess that's why I'm here. To tell her story. To tell everyone that Rachel was someone to root for, you know? And what happened to her; what happens to kids everywhere-- you don't deserve it. No matter what it is. God, you don't deserve any of the shit that you go through. Rachel... Rachel was just like you. So selfless. Not wanting anyone to worry about her. And you guys are so strong for doing the things you do.
I understand if you're hurting. Just know that you're not alone. Don't let yourself be alone. Thanks.
© SelfTitled, 2017