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1. Beverly

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It wasn't every day that you heard about the most popular guy in school attempting to end his life. It was actually the last thing I expected to hear this morning.

All summer I dreamed about this day. Working three jobs, you kind of can't help but dream. Lifeguarding was where I decided I should probably try out for cheerleading. Working concessions at Heinz Field was where I came up with the idea of trying out for the musical. Being at 21 Daisies Café reminded me that I couldn't sing or dance, but in reality all I wanted was to make my last year of high school memorable. Now, with the halls caving in from all the talk of suicide, I wished nothing more than to forget this day. The voices of the other students echoed through the halls. Although different they were all the same.

"Why are we even talking about him?"

"It's not like he actually died."

"Who would have known Everest would do this?"

"He probably tried to kill himself because he realized how much of a demon Cara was. If I was dating the devil's spawn, I would try to kill myself too."

***

As I walked on the freshly polished floors of the halls and digested the poisonous conversations I passed by, I subconsciously found myself heading toward the nurse's office. Everest Finley was the king of Shady Hills Academy, so it wasn't that surprising that rumors swirled around him. Once, I heard that he had an affair with the Mandarin teacher; later I realized our school didn't even teach the language. For a brief moment I allowed myself to believe that this was one of those ridiculous stories.

But on the way to the nurse, I noticed that even the teachers were huddled outside their classrooms, glancing around every so often as they whispered in heated conversations. Taking sips from their ceramic coffee mugs and nodding their heads, they engaged in their own whisper-fests. With each step grew this feeling—this terrible, dreadful monster of a feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I never made it to the nurse.

The school called an emergency assembly, and although there was no mention of the subject, we all knew what it was about. Mr. Sticks, our principal, who usually wore a permanent scowl on his stern face, shared a look of remorse as he broke the news. He was a large man, but on that stage he seemed really small. He ran a hand through his thinning gray hair and read off a paper he held with shaking hands.

"We take seriously the importance of a positive school climate and the safety and well being of our students and staff. Mental health professionals are available to anyone who is in need. It is important to talk to someone if you feel like giving up." He spoke solemnly.

The rest of the speech was a blur. My head spun as the auditorium buzzed.

I was stunned by how callous everyone was being—it seemed like no one even cared. These people had practically worshipped the ground Everest walked on for the past three years. Even from a distance, Everest seemed to be one of those people you couldn't help but like. One time, when the school band didn't raise enough money for their trip to Disney World, he paid the difference.

The best part was that he tried to make it anonymous. He was the quiet jock, and when he would talk, he sounded so polite, so well educated. He was ridiculously amazing on the football field, and was incredibly humble and modest about it. No, it couldn't be Everest. He was perfect.

Being the only black girl at a predominately white school made me stick out like a sore thumb. I didn't really fit in anywhere, so I was always kind of thrown off to the side. Everest, though, was undeniably admired by everyone. Shockingly, it seemed as though I was the only person who felt any sympathy. Just because his body wasn't dead didn't mean his soul wasn't barely living.

Sophomore year in biology, I remembered him picking up my book once. It was something that I'll never forget. He didn't even look at me as he handed it back. As I scrambled to gather my belongings, it had fallen, and as he was walking down the aisle to leave class, he bent down, picked it up, and laid it on my desk. It was such a simple thing for him to do, but I appreciated it anyway.

That was just about the only interaction I'd had with Everest Finley. After that day, though, I watched him. That sounds incredibly creepy, but I did.

I noticed how he tugged on his lush sandy-brown hair when he was thinking. I noticed how he was always polite and respectful, even when his friends were being stuck-up and rude. I noticed how his eyes weren't exactly blue or green, like the two colors were fighting for dominance, the azure in the lead most of the time. If one thing was for sure, Everest Finley had some breath- taking eyes. I couldn't help but see how he laughed a lot, and had one of those smiles that was perfect—rehearsed, even. Like there was something deeper, something different, behind it.

I wondered what made him want to die. Everest had the world at his feet, so why did he want to leave it?

***

Everest had been the topic all day today. By the time lunch rolled around, it was like hearing every conversation all at once. Each table had their own set of thoughts to share. Although different, they were all the same:

"Everest is so selfish."

"Seriously, he really failed his suicide attempt."

"His story is now on the news. Do you know how bad this

makes our school look?"

"Imagine if he comes back. That would be so awkward."

"I don't care if he's crazy, I'll still blow him."

Cara, his girlfriend, sat at the usual table with the popular

kids. A handful of cheerleaders and in-betweeners were at her side as she cried. Nash Spies, Everest's best friend, wrapped his arm around Cara in an attempt to calm her down. Martha, her best friend, stroked her hair.

"How could he do this to me? I can't handle this kind of stress."

The cafeteria was loud, but I was able to make out the words that passed through Cara's lips. Nash's face held no kind of emotion as he rubbed her back in a soothing manner.

I entered the line and quickly paid for a bottle of water. I was desperate to get away from all the chatter from the assembly. This year, one of the things I promised myself was that I would start eating in the cafeteria, but there was no way I could do that today. No words could explain how happy I was that I didn't have to stand in the line anymore. Every conversation was about the boy who tried to kill himself.

Walking past the popular table again, Cara was now laughing. Clutching my water tight, I made my way to my spot. The place where I could be alone and eat—the library. It wasn't like anyone noticed that I didn't eat lunch in the cafeteria. If someone needed a book, they'd use the new library in the west wing of the school. When it was built, it seemed as though everyone had forgotten the library in the east wing. It provided me with a space where I could be a true hermit. Sitting at one of the old oak tables, I pulled out my journal and started to draw. My pencil glided along the paper, a great sense of sorrow in the motion.

Alone. But that was how I was used to being anyway.

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