Up until my sixteenth birthday, I had been Kate Beaumont, the most popular girl at school, a cheerleader, someone happy and content with their life. December 12th, 2006, my sixteenth birthday, was the day my seeming perfect life fell apart. It was the day I caused my family’s death. I remember the last conversation I had with my family before they died in vivid detail, no matter how hard I tried to forget. It was an argument over the phone; they had gone on a vacation to the countryside to get some peace and quiet without me because I didn’t want to spend my birthday in some rural place huddling over a campfire to keep from freezing to death. I wanted to spend it in my warm, luxurious home in Beverly Hills with my friends. I was going to hold a party at my house to celebrate my birthday, when my friends ruined the plans by saying that they couldn’t come if my parents weren’t there. Their parents agreed they could come if only my parents were supervising; my parents were illustriously known for being strict and prim.
“Just to look at you and your friends dance and watch movies? Honey, we know it’s your birthday, but we can’t just come home now! ” The exasperation in her voice was palpable. I knew I was being unreasonable, but it was my sixteenth birthday, the most important birthday in anyone’s life!
“But mom,” I persisted, “I can’t spend my birthday alone! Besides, aren’t you guys bored over at that horrible rural–”
“Katherine Beaumont,” boomed my dad, Lucas Beaumont over the phone. I winced at the sudden exclamation. My mom had passed the phone to dad, knowing that she would give in if she kept talking to me and gave it to someone she knew was not susceptible to my pleas. “We are not coming home today and that is final.” said Lucas.
“But–” I began.
“You could have came with us but you wanted to stay home, and that was your own decision.” He said, cutting off all of my outraged protests. “The reason why you’re home alone now is because you were too stubborn.”
The conversation had continued on for minutes, arguing about what the best choice was — obviously coming home — ,and them trying to compromise a deal, but my mind was already made up. A weary and defeated sigh came through the phone, “Fine Kate, you win. We’ll be on the next flight home.”
I shook my head to come out of my reverie; I was standing idly in the middle of the hallway in Saint Valentine private school; a very prestigious school in the heart of California, one that my parents had painstakingly worked their connections to get me into. It was the day before winter break and students rushing to their lockers gave me dirty looks that I would have once hated, but now I hardly even noticed them. I continued walking without me really even knowing where I was going, just moving for the sake of doing something.
I looked around my dismal surroundings; I had walked into the second stall of the girl’s bathroom. The bell signaling the end of the day rang out shrilly throughout the school. I ignored it and remain sitting huddled on the toilet seat with my long legs tucked against my chest.
I had lost all of my friends after the accident because I wasn’t the same person I was before. I had let go of all of my interest in cheerleading, and I got tired and irritated every time someone praised me because I knew I didn’t deserve it; if only they knew what I did to my parents and my sister.
I pulled the sharp, wicked-looking blade I had taken in the morning from the new home I was staying at, from my jacket pocket. My mom’s sister, Anne, had taken me in after the accident. She treated me so well, that when I heard the sounds of her crying as silently as she could in her room at night, thinking that I could not hear her, excruciatingly more painful. The knife’s shiny surface glinted coaxingly in the dim washroom. I flipped the knife absentmindedly over and over again.
Slowly with shaky hands, I raised the knife to my neck, repeating softly in my head the words: I’ll be able to see them again soon. Just as the knife’s blade started to cut into the delicate skin of my neck, a soft, feminine, voice whispered, “Hello? Is there anyone in there?” Startled, I let go of the iron tight grip that I didn’t know I had on the knife, and it clattered noisily to the floor outside of the stall.
“Hello?” The voice asked more urgently again. “Please open the door.” I quickly wiped my sweaty palms on the hem of my shirt and opened the door cautiously and saw a tall, brown-haired girl in a crouched position, looking as if she was about to crawl under the stall door. She stared up at me in surprise and immediately straightened herself out. “Oh!” exclaimed the girl. “I – I thought y-y-you weren’t going to come out.” She blushed a deep scarlet red. I peered at her face, something about it looked familiar.
I smiled for the first time in a long while at her nervousness, but it disappeared as quickly as it came. She smiled back incandescently. “I’m Melissa Lane, but you can call me Lissa. I go to school here with you.” That’s why she looked familiar; she was the quiet girl who had been in the same classes with me since kindergarten. She was always bullied by my old best friend, Anna Clair. My smile came back again.
“I’m Katherine Beaumont, but call me Kate.” Melissa’s – Lissa’s – face had brightened at that.
“So,” said Lissa. “What were you doing in there with this?” Her facial expression was staring at the knife and me quizzically.
It was my turn to blush deeply and I stammered out in a sliver of a voice, “N-nothing, nothing important anyways. W-well, I-I had been cutting some tests that I had gotten bad on in there.” I groaned inwardly at my feeble lying skills. Lissa looked off into a distance and nodded absentmindedly, as if reminded of a memory. Her brilliant green eyes had a twinge of sadness in it while her mouth was twisted in a tiny, rueful smile.
After a moment, Lissa said in a voice that was quiet as mine moments before. “I heard about your parents and I used to do this too when mine died, but I realized that it doesn’t help. Nothing does if you can’t learn to live with, forgive and love yourself.” She looked pointedly at me in the eyes. “It wasn’t your fault. Wallowing in despair is useless and is just wasting the life what your parents gave you.”
I stood there shocked at what Lissa had said, because those words were exactly what I had secretly always want, need, someone to say. I felt tears prickling at the back of my eyes and I fought to keep them back. She seemed to notice because she smiled ruefully at me. “They wouldn’t want you to join them. They would want you to be happy and to move on. You’re not alone, you have your aunt who loves you and–” She extended her left hand to me. “me too if you want. Come with me. The rain’s stopped and the sun’s shining beautifully outside.” She smiled sheepishly at me.
I stared warily at her outstretched hand and then at her smiling face; her green eyes were bright even in the dim lighting and it was filled such hope and encouragement that I could not look away. I slowly raised my own hand and put it in hers. She grinned, white teeth flashing, and it was impossible not to grin back. We started to walk down the hall to leave the school and into the bright sunlight streaming down, which caused the leaves that were wet from today’s earlier rainstorm to glitter and shine. Students were rushing home, shouting goodbyes at each other, while some walked in groups. I looked over at Lissa and she let go of my hand. “Let’s go to your house.” She said. “Race you there!” She started tearing down the schoolyard, laughing like crazy and kicking up rocks as she ran. I looked around self-consciously at the spectators, and then started laughing and running after her.
Winter Break came, and instead of spending it alone and sad like I thought I would, Melissa came over and stayed for a sleepover the entire time. She, like me, did not have any parents and was ecstatic when I asked her. But the happiest ones of all wasn’t me or Melissa, it was my aunt Leah. She had been worried about me and nearly died of joy when I brought Melissa home.
On Christmas eve, my aunt baked cookies while Lissa and I were in charge of decorated the live fir tree that my aunt had bought.
“That’s terrible! Do you know what decorate nicely means? Exclaimed Lissa.
“Of course! What do you think I’m doing?” I asked.
“Stimulating how the tree would look like after an earthquake!” Said Lissa.
I glared at her and she glared back defiantly. We stayed like that until Lissa couldn’t hold it anymore and burst out laughing, and I join her. We took down the disaster I did to the tree and Lissa restarted. I wasn’t going to be any help so I sat on the floor, eating candy and singing loudly along with the Christmas carols playing on the radio to annoying Lissa.
“Ugh” Said Lissa. “It’s bad enough that you’re not helping, and now you’re trying to make me deaf.”
I glared at her again and then started to throw the candies at her, but she was too good at dodging and my aim wasn’t that great. When I ran out of candies, both of us were tired and the tree was still not decorated.
Lissa gave me a fake stern look, and stood up from where she had fallen when trying to dodge the last candy, dusting herself off. “Go check on your aunt and see if she’s done with the cookies.”
I stuck my tongue out at her and started to walk out when the next song come on to the radio, “When Christmas comes to town.” I stopped halfway across the room and froze, overcome by the familiar tune. My parents had played this song every Christmas and made me watch Polar Express with them.
Lissa must have noticed my change in attitude because she was all of a sudden beside me. “Are you alright?”Asked Lissa, her words tinged with worry and fear. I blink a few times to refocus and turned to face her. Her eyes were full of concern and curiosity.
“Yeah, that song just reminded me of my parents.” I replied with a sigh. “It just feels as if I’m all alone.
She smiled sadly and pulled me into a tight hug. “You’re not. I’m here as your replacement family, and I’m going to do the job of annoying you for the rest of your life, wonderfully.”
I grinned into her shoulder. “Promise?”