10 Days I Wish Had Lasted Longer (2017 Winner)

By Destini (Kentucky)

Ten.
It was nearly 10:00 P.M. when I spotted her sitting in the corner of the grocery store, her hands in her lap, her head turned down, eyes closed, as she sat alone and listened to music that was deafening. Maybe she didn’t want to hear anything else. I had never seen her before, and as I walked away, I wondered if I ever would again.

Nine and a half.
She moved into my English class and sat only two desks behind me. Our teacher paired the two of us up for a group project. I gave her my number just in case.

Nine.
She never texted me that night. Maybe I shouldn’t have expected her to.
Eight and a half.
I walked behind her in the hallway and tried to catch up to her. I could tell she sensed me. Her paced quickened, but I kept following anyway. She stopped when we got to the parking lot. She told me to go away but I didn’t move an inch. I wasn’t one to give up easily, especially on a beautiful, sad girl.

Eight.
I called her five times later that day. She finally answered on the sixth. I asked if we could meet so we could work on our project. She was hesitant but finally agreed.

Seven and a half.
We sat under an oak tree with notebooks in hand. She talked some but mostly remained quiet. It was then that I realized how much she enjoyed silence. I asked her about life but her responses were short and she seemed uninterested in speaking much of herself. When she turned to the side, her eyes glistened in the sun—I couldn’t look away.

Seven.
That night, she haunted my mind and all I could hear was her voice, the few words she had spoken to me repeating in my head. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Six and a half.
She smiled for the first time. We spent out Saturday at the local bowling alley, although we worked on our project more than anything. She started to tell me about herself a few times, but she always stopped mid-sentence.

Six.
I never asked why.
Five and a half.
We went back to the oak tree and finished the project. We sat in silence for the rest of the time, aside from the small talk every so often and even a few laughs. I thought she was beginning to open up, but there was no way to be sure. I didn’t know of the conflicts in her life, but I hoped they were getting better.

Five.
Every place I went with her became my favorite place to be.

Four and a half.
She came back to school the next day with bruises running down her arms. There was one on her collarbone that she kept trying to hide behind her baggy, black sweatshirt. I asked her what had happened, where the bruises had come from. She shrugged and forced the slightest smile.

Four.
She told me it didn’t matter.

Three and a half.
I accidentally touched her and she jumped. I saw fear in her golden-brown eyes and I wondered of the things that made her this way.

Three.
I dropped her off at her house after school. Her father had been waiting outside. I saw him grab her arm and pull her inside. I tried not to think much of it.

Two and a half.
She didn’t come to school. I left her a voicemail during lunch and checked my phone later on in the day. Nothing.

Two.
I didn’t sleep much. I didn’t sleep at all.

One and a half.
I decided to go to her house to make sure she was okay. No one came to the door, so I drove to the only other place I could think of. I found an envelope with my name on it sitting underneath the oak tree. All I remember is being unable to breathe.

One.
“Michael—I’m sure you have figured it out by now. I have always been unhappy. For 17 years, I have lived day by day with nothing to look forward to except the pain from the cuts and bruises my father has given me, the broken glass to clean up from shattered alcohol bottles and a photo of my mother that has stared back at me day after day and told me to escape as soon as I could. Then there was you. You made my last days special. I have been planning this for a while, and I’m sorry it had to happen right after meeting you. The truth is, I think I could have loved you, but this life was not for me to live. Maybe I will see you again someday. I hope you understand why I am doing this and I hope you can find forgiveness. I am so sorry. Please never forget about me.”
I never will.

Zero.

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