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My name is Kristen and I am 14 years old.

I have kept to myself because of what happened to my best friend, Layla – and her iPod. I haven’t told anyone and I only have a few minutes before my time on the laptop runs out. This is my story:

I couldn’t live without music. It was like my drug. But I wasn’t allowed a mobile phone, an iPod, an MP3 or even a regular portable CD player so I couldn’t listen to any of my favourite songs on the go. My annoyingly strict parents were very paranoid about my safety. They always thought if I was outside with my headphones in I would be distracted and get run over or something. No matter how hard I tried to persuade them, I had to make due with a regular CD player and my laptop. Even though I ripped every album I owned on to the computer, I treated my CDs like my own children. Once they came out of the player, they were back in the case. I got very upset if any of them got scratched. I wasn’t allowed on the computer after nine ‘o’ clock so to relieve my addiction, I stuck my headphones in to the machine and played song after song to my heart’s content. Until my CD player broke I was at a lost when it came to going to sleep. I was nearly grounded when my mum caught me on my computer in the middle of the night with my headphones in and the chances of either of my parents getting me a new CD player were out the window.

So whenever I was at home, doing my homework, cleaning my room or whatever; I played as much music as I could every waking hour. But when I was with my best friend Layla, it stopped to no end.

Layla was a kooky and geeky kind of girl who was obsessed with music as much as I was. We had known each other since our first day of school and had the same favourite bands and songs. We even shared a YouTube account with dozens of playlists from Britney Spears to 5 Seconds of Summer. The only time we sung along at the top of our voices was in our rooms. Layla didn’t have an iPod, MP3 or even a CD player.

It wasn’t because she wasn’t allowed one. Her mum had died when she was seven so her dad, Errol, had to work longer hours to support them both. He couldn’t even afford to buy a regular CD player for her. Our friendship grew stronger when I bought her one and a couple of her favourite albums for her tenth birthday.

After that, we were inseparable.

It was the first week of the summer holidays and both my parents were at work. I had the house to myself until Layla came banging on the front door screaming my name. “You’ll never guess what I’ve got!!” She squealed.

She dug into her pocket and pulled out a silver iPod touch. I gaped at it with my mouth hanging open. “Where’d you get it?” I asked her. Layla grinned. “I got it at a second-hand game shop for thirty quid! I’ve already downloaded all of my music on it. Listen!”

She tapped her thumb against the screen and Ain’t it fun by Paramore started playing. Layla clapped her hands in delight. “So cool!!”

I was so envious but she always shared it with me. It was brilliant being outside whilst singing along to Rhianna or Katy Perry. It was only a standard 2007 iPod touch. The silver surface was horribly scratched and dinted. We couldn’t logon to our YouTube account or download many apps but we didn’t complain. All we wanted it for was to play music where ever we went. We never used it for anything else.

Three weeks had passed and the summer holidays were coming to an end. We sat in my back garden playing So What by P!NK at full volume. I sang along idly but Layla wasn’t as enthusiastic as she normally was, in fact she was very quiet. She didn’t look like herself either; she was pale and her eyes were bloodshot as though she hadn’t slept. “You okay?” I asked. She looked at me and half smiled. “Yeah. I’m just tired.” She didn’t even sound like herself. Her voice was hoarse and her tone made her seem… depressed.

“Your voice is kind of raspy…Maybe you should cut down on the singing!” I laughed with a grin. I expected her to do the same but she glared at me, snatched up the iPod and stormed off leaving me to stare after her.

“Layla? Layla! I was only joking. Layla!” But she left me alone. I didn’t know what to think. I had never seen her act like that before. We always insulted each other for a laugh but what I said wasn’t even remotely rude.

I went back inside the house. Maybe she was just tired? Knowing Layla she probably had been up most nights with her headphones in. Once the autumn term started, she’d probably get more sleep and be back to her old self.

The next day I got ready to go to Layla’s house to apologies for whatever I had done. I even had a packet of M&Ms as a peace offering since I always won her over with sweets. As I was putting my shoes on, my mum came into the room. I noticed tear stains on her cheeks. “Kristen, I’m afraid something terrible has happened…”

I blinked at her. “What?” “It’s Layla…”

My insides disappeared instantly.

“Errol called…she…she killed herself, sweetheart.”

I just stood there gaping at her and feeling every breath of air leave my lungs. Mum held me to keep me from collapsing but I fell against her, bursting into tears. It took me a while to ask, “W-w-what happened to her?” “Her dad found her hanging from the attic door this morning.” I cried again. “It’s my fault…” Mum held me closer. “No. No, Kristen. She left a note. Errol wants to see you.”

I couldn’t control my tears when mum walked me over to Layla’s house. Her dad was waiting for us at the front door. His eyes were blood shot and his face was still dirty with tear stains. I was preparing for him to scream at me but instead he hugged me comfortingly before showing us inside to the living room where he served us some mugs of tea. Errol sat down opposite us and looked at me for a moment and I was sure he was going to lay the blame on me right there. I was so thankful mum was beside me. “Kristen, did you notice any…changes in Layla?” He asked surprisingly delicately. I told him about how she stormed out of my garden. He nodded and said she had been acting like that around him for the past couple of weeks and had woken up screaming in the middle of the night, crying. I was nearly sick when he told us how he found her hanging from a belt jammed in the attic door - blindfolded.

“Mum said she left a note.”

Errol nodded again and handed me a torn page of notebook paper. I could hardly read it from the fresh tears brimming in my eyes.

I can’t take this anymore! If I told anyone what was wrong, they’d think I was mental! I’m sorry but I just want it to end! Dad, you can do what you like with my room and stuff but I want Kristen to have my iPod.

I love you, dad. XXXXXXXX

If my best friend of ten years hadn’t died I would have been doing cartwheels. But then I remembered; “But I’m not allowed an iPod.”

Mum placed an arm around me. “If it’s what Layla wanted then you can have it.”

The funeral was torture. Mum and dad helped pay for the wreaths shaped to spell out Layla’s name and even had some made like music notes. My head throbbed from the crying I did when her coffin was lowered into the grave. When we went back to her house afterwards, Errol asked me if there was anything else I would like to keep but I shook my head. She knew how much I wanted an iPod. That was all I needed.

After we went home, I spent the entire last week of the holidays grieving for Layla. I never let the iPod out of my sight. I never even considered calling it my iPod. It was, and always will be, Layla’s iPod.

Every night if crying to sleep didn’t work, I had my headphones in to help drift me off into oblivion. The new school term had started. I would have been in year nine but I was too upset about thinking how Layla wouldn’t be there with me. I was given more time to grieve but I was already extremely depressed.

I couldn’t eat, sleep, go out or even leave my room. I spent my time lying on my bed in my pyjamas listening to the songs that reflected my mood like; My Immortal by Evanescence, Without you by Mariah Carey and (the most fitting) All by myself by Celine Dion. I had already missed the first month of school so Mum and Dad had dragged me off to see a grief councillor but every session I ended up in tears and was soon prescribed powerful anti-depressants but all they did was make me sleepy. When I was back in my room with iPod in hand, I decided to browse it and see if Layla had left any notes or pictures. I pressed the photo icon but the gallery only had one picture. I opened it anyway and I desperately wished I hadn’t.

It was a picture of a young woman with auburn hair- just like mine. She was against a black background with her arms spread out. I couldn’t see much of her face; she was blindfolded - just like Layla! Her mouth was wide as though she was screaming. I deleted it and burst into tears.

Was this some kind of cruel joke? Was Layla insane as well as eccentric or did Errol upload it because he real thought it was me who drove her to suicide? When Mum found me bawling my eyes out again, she gave me my pills and tucked me into bed.

I didn’t tell her about the picture.

I woke up screaming in the middle of the night. I had a nightmare.

Not just a spooky, creepy bad dream that make you breathe out in relief when you wake up; a very vivid, heart pounding nightmare that imprinted into your memory. I was surrounded in darkness, like a room with no window or even a crack to let in any beam of light.

The woman in the photo appeared in front of me- exactly as she did in the picture but she was screaming, for real. A horrible, skin crawling scream so shrill it made no difference covering my ears. It almost brought me to my knees as I clenched my eyes shut and yelled for her to stop. And she did.

When I opened my eyes a chill of terror went through me. She lay flat on the ground. Her head cracked open like an egg. Pieces of her skull were scattered around the ground like confetti as a pool of blood encircled her.

I couldn’t move. I couldn’t blink or breathe.

All I could do was stare.

I couldn’t take anymore.

I screamed.

I woke with Dad shaking me by the shoulder. Mum stood next to him looking both worried and perplexed.

My throat was sore and my voice was raspy when I asked what had happened.

“You were screaming.” Dad said. “We thought you were being attacked.” I started crying again. I wanted to tell them about my nightmare and the picture on Layla’s iPod but my sobs choked my words.

Mum was shaking her head. “Those anti-depressants have been nothing but trouble! I’m taking you off them Kristen.”

So here I am now a week later and off the pills but the nightmare still occurs. It becomes more and more vivid every night. Mum and Dad still think it’s the effect of the anti-depressants. I want to tell them about the picture on Layla’s iPod but I deleted it and I’m afraid they might think I’ve lost my mind.

I can’t take it anymore.

I just want it to end…

My time on the computer is almost up. I need to look for Mum’s sleeping mask and destroy Layla’s iPod. Mum, Dad, I love you both. If you’re reading this, I will have already thrown myself off the closest footbridge.

Do not – repeat- NOT try to fix the iPod! Do not look in the photo gallery! Do not try to find the picture of the blindfolded woman or you’ll end up like me!

You have been warned.

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