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When I was in 9th grade I had two friends. Of course I had more friends than that, but these were my best friends. Usually people can depend on their best friends, and they can tell them anything without being judged or laughed at. That wasn't really the case for me. I hadn't known them for too long, only since 8th grade.
I met Marisa first. She was really shy on the first days of school. I knew she would be a good friend the moment I met her, and she was (for the most part). We had our ups and downs, but doesn't every relationship have them? We spent almost every living moment together, with funny inside jokes, problems we would rant about to each other, the whole package. We even chose each other as partners for a week long camping field trip. That's when I met Meagan. In our cabin room, we ended up in a teacher room. We didn't know this until the field trip was halfway over, but we were the only group that didn't have an adult in our room to keep watch over us. We also didn't have to sleep on bunk beds. Some day in the middle of the week while Marisa was showering in our mediocre bathroom, Meagan showed up. She mainly showed up to meet Yukta and Vishnavi, who were also in our cabin room, but we ended up "bumping" into each other. I actually tackled her, being the rude little eleven year old I was in sixth grade, and we got into a stomach kicking, hair pulling wrestle fight. She ultimately beat me, but I wouldn't give up my dignity as we called each other rude names and mocking phrases. She beat me at that too. That's Meagan for you. I didn't see her for another two weeks, until after the field trip was long over. Marisa, Meagan, and I instantly became friends, and it was so unnatural, kind of like we had been friends for our whole lives. Through my whole friendship with Meagan, I quickly learned that she was very sensitive, and when something happened that she thought was bad, or inconsiderate, she would get really angry, almost to the point of chucking rocks at our heads. I guess I was sensitive too. I wouldn't get mad over the silly things Meagan would though. I just got upset when she blamed me, treating me like an outcast and a horrible sinner when I made a simple mistake. This particular story revolves around one event in 9th grade, but was ultimately triggered by bad event of out past, like ones that involved the traits that I previously mentioned. We were sitting in the cafeteria, the usual table. Marisa was picking at her food, reading some Stephen King book (per the norm) and Meagan was begging Varsha for some simosa. Polina and I were laughing at some stupid jokes, when I saw something at the corner of my eye. "Ugh! Its John again!" I nudged Marisa, mumbling irritably in her ear. "He keeps looking at me. Why wont he just leave me alone?" Marisa looked up from her book. "You know, he actually isn't that bad. You guys used to be cool. The only reason he doesn't approach you is because he is to shy to come up to you while we are with you all the time. What happened?" Marisa barely looked at me while she said this, peeking over to get a good look at John Fortner, the kid who was madly in love with me. And yeah, I gotta admit, I liked him too over the summer. I just wasn't sure anymore. "Its just that he's changed." I told her, daring to take a look at him myself. My eyes quickly darted back to my own food, barely touched in front of me. "He used to be so nice and funny. Well I mean he still is but... maybe a little too nice. He tries way to hard to get my attention nowadays. Especially with his lame jokes." Just then, Meagan returned with her lunch, two milks on her tray. Along with some simosa. I guess Varsha had given in before Meagan ran off to the "No ID-Card" line for lunch right after begging. Meagan can be pretty annoying sometimes. "And one for you." She said, handing a milk to me before sitting down with the foam lunch tray. I saw that she'd already finished her milk. "Thanks." I told her, handing in to Marisa (I couldn't open those milk cartons if my life depended on it), gaining an irritated moan from her. "I see you've already finished your milk Meagan." I observed, grabbing the now opened milk carton from Marisa's hands. "Yeah!" She said giggling, flicking it at me. "Hey!" I yelled with a grin on my face, throwing it back at her. A couple drops of the leftover milk landed on her shirt. "Dude..." Meagan said, looking at me like I was the dumbest person in the world. She was super mad, and everyone knew it. I looked over at Marisa, and she even knew what was going on, no longer looking at her book. She half glanced at me and scooted to the other edge of the table. I looked back at Meagan, and she still had that mean look on her face. "Okay, seriously!" I said, my voice raising a little. "I didn't even do anything, and you're getting worked up over nothing!" I looked over at Marisa, still looking at me like I killed someone. "You guys aren't acting like very good friends right now!" Meagan got up and left the cafeteria, and Marisa soon followed, like a puppy obeying her master. I watched them leave, feeling small waves of anger and sadness wash over me. Why did they always have to be this way? I felt like I was the only one who ever forgave anyone, the only one who didn't freak out over little mistakes. Maybe I should? The next day was Friday, the day we had chess club during lunch. Before third period, I asked Marisa what she was doing for lunch today. I wasn't really mad at Marisa anymore, it was just Meagan that was getting on my nerves. "Um..." she hesitated, her face debating with itself. I begged her to tell me, and she finally gave in. "Meagan thinks that I'm still mad at you for yelling at me the other day, but I'm not. I mean, I was, but I got over it. She wants me to go to chess club with her, and she didn't want me to tell you. She's been acting strange lately." I looked over at her, disbelief obviously showing in my face. Meagan was mean, but she wasn't one to cause drama. I convinced her to come to chess club with me, and we set up a board and started reflecting each other's moves, sliding pawns and bishops in an ill-mannered game. We both weren't in the mood to play this game. Finally, Meagan showed up. It only took one look at me to make Marisa stand up and scurry over before she came over and threw the board in my face. I waited awkwardly as they had their conversation, glancing at them periodically and wondering if this was a good idea. Finally, she came back, and we played our stupid game until it was time to clean up. "Meagan asked me what you were doing here." said Marisa as soon as we were away from the crowd. "I told her you were just playing chess, and that I only played with you because she didn't show up fast enough. She said 'I thought you didn't like her anymore!' Her words, not mine. She keeps telling me to ignore you all next week so John can approach you. And she also keeps saying that you're a bad friend, and quoting your little 'outburst'." I had gotten used to the idea of John again. Really, he wasn't that bad. I had been really mean to him these last months, and he had been trying so hard. I'm just such a jerk, I couldn't do anything but ignore him. "That's kinda rude to ignore me and talk behind my back like that." I told her, fighting back tears. Maybe I was sensitive, but it actually hurt to get trash talked behind my back. I would know. "Yeah, I know. I'm sorry." She told me.
Fourth period came so fast, and I was moping around like a sad puppy. I sat in me usual seat by one of my friends, Tatiana. Tatiana was very happy and joyous, not afraid to let her personality shine. She was also very good at making people around her feel happy, and bring out their personalities as well. I would often find myself literally jumping up and down with her before the bell rang, just like the kids were were. Tatiana usually had panic attacks when she was stressed, nervous, scared, or upset, and a lot of people made fun of her. She didn't have the best looks, and she was prone to seizures. That didn't matter to the people she was friends with, but it often caused conflicts with people, making her upset and having to go home for the rest of the day before she hyperventilated. Tatiana quickly noticed the grim expression on my face, the one I was trying to hide in my copy of A Christmas Carol. "What's wrong Giselle?" She asked me quickly, rocking back and forth in her chair, a quizzical expression on her face. "Oh its nothing.." My voice cracked, to my despair, and soon I found myself with tears in my eyes. "My friends are just talking behind my back." I told her quickly, with a faint smile. Tatiana was always so nice to me. "Oh.." she said, and a saddened expression followed. "Well is there anything I can do to help?" "No.." I responded, the tears clearing by force. I shouldn't be crying about this. "No.. thank you though." I continued reading my book, and she turned around, ever so quiet.
The day passed so quickly, and yet it seemed to drone on forever at the same time. I absentmindedly passed crazy routes to my classes, avoiding John's stare without really thinking about it. Soon it was sixth period, my favorite and yet my least favorite time of the day. French was my favorite subject, but my stomach always churned of having to sit there, avoiding eye contact with John. Why did my only class with him have to be my favorite? I remembered my decision to stop ignoring him, and I started shooting nervous glances at him at random intervals during the class, just like I used to. I laughed, I studied, and I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. I remember when we did our telephone conversations. He went up there with his partner and did the funniest voice, it made the whole class laugh. I saw him look behind him, obviously checking to make sure he had done his job right. He had. He had made me laugh. "Je regrette, mais je ne peux pas. Je dois etudier avec mon ami." Quick glance.
"Ma mere a la masion avec mon pere." The slightest giggle as eyes locked. "You forgot the verb Giselle." The teacher eyed me suspiciously. "You need to pay more attention." I quickly corrected myself. "Ma mere est a la masion avec mon pere."
Sunday was the day everything unexpectedly went downhill.
I was watching some television show with my mom, and she got up to go make dinner. I was switching through the channels when I saw a flash of Meagan's face on the screen, just for an instant. I flipped back to that channel. Channel 9 News.
14 year old girl missing. No current suspect. Possible runaway.
This was a shock to me, because I hadn't heard from Meagan or Marisa in a couple of days, and I knew neither of them had a valid reason for running away. I ran and grabbed my phone and called Meagan Moffat. I called once, no answer. I called twice, no answer. My third time, someone answered the phone, but I could hear it break and the call ended unexpectedly. I called Marisa too, and there was an answer so fast I actually jumped a little bit. "Oh good!" I cried, relief washing over me. "Good, where are you? And did you hear abou-" "Shush!" I was cut off by Marisa. I could hear her voice trembling. "Marisa..? Where are you?" She gave me an address so quickly and so softly I only had a small idea of what was happening. I wondered if I should call the police, but I didn't actually know if there was something was wrong, so I packed up some things (I'm not gonna lie, I took some weapons) and I got on the bus to the nearest station in the area she gave me. I knew something was awfully wrong when I saw the street name. It didn't actually look like a street name, it was just a homemade sign with white spray paint that read (roughly) the address I was given. There wasn't even a house. It was just an open field. I was so scared, and it was probably a stupid prank, so I decided to go home. I was just about to turn around when I saw him. "Oh hi." he said, looking down at me. "I kinda.. um. I kinda followed you." John Fortner looked at me with the strangest look I have ever seen him make. "So uh.. where is it we're going again?" I couldn't even speak. This was just making me shake more. I tried to tell him about Meagan but words wouldn't come out. "How did you know where I was in the first place?" I asked him, scared out of my wits. "That's actually creepier than I usually give you credit for." He laughed and looked at me. He knew about Meagan, and he knew about me coming here, so I didn't fully trust him when he said that he watched me walk on the bus. "So are we going onto this street? Or are we just gonna sit here like little kids waiting for someone to tell us what to do?" He was eager to help I guess. A little too eager. "You know what?" I told him. "I think I'm just going to go alo-" I quickly stopped my sentence and grabbed his arm, pulling him closer. A scream echoed in the air, not heard by anyone but John and I. We walked forward, feet trudging, looking around with every step we took, ever so cautiously. We soon spotted them. Two girls up ahead in the tall, dead grass. One of them was Marisa. The other one.. I couldn't quite make out her terrifying features. I cringed when I saw her, bloody and bruised, with a glass shard in hand. What was going on? "Hey.." I called out quietly, voice cracking in terror as John held my hand. "Hey!" I yelled out, clearing my throat. This got their attention, and I soon, to my dismay, found out who the bloody girl with the glass shard was.
I gasped. It was Tatiana.
I was crying by now, and I soon saw that Marisa was too. John looked at her, looked at me, and then he looked at Tatiana. I could feel his hands trembling, and I look at his face. Anger. Everything happened so fast, and my little brain couldn't comprehend what was going on. I might have passed out if it weren't for Marisa running to me, slamming into me as we fell onto the muddy, cold ground, hidden by the grass. I wondered what else was hidden in this dry, dead forest. I looked up towards John, and he wasn't there. I heard screams of anger and yells of horrible insults. Moans of pain echoed through my brain. I didn't know who they were coming from, and frankly, I didn't care. I heard Marisa's cries for me to get up, but I couldn't. Nothing even happened to me. I was that terrified. The sun was setting, illuminating the tall grass like a field of flowers before they all disappeared. The darkness fell over us and the wind blew, making me shiver even more. Marisa pulled me up, and I walked without knowing. My eyes squinted in the dark, protecting my eyes from flying dust. That's when I saw it. Only one thing came to my mind when I saw him. A quote from A Christmas Carol. Jacob Marley was as dead as a doornail. I couldn't. There was John's body, mutilated on the muddy ground. Dead. I turned my head towards Marisa, but not without seeing her. Meagan Moffat lie on the ground next to John, face pale and muddy. The strangest thing though is that she looked perfect as ever, blond hair glowing and her eyes brown as chocolate. They were open, unblinking. Meagan was dead too. But for what? I looked at Marisa and she looked at me, and Tatiana stood there, perfectly still, waiting for us to see her. We did. She looked at us, and I swear I have never seen such innocence from a perfect girl like her. She was looking at me with a happy expression, like she had done something so great for her good friend Giselle. "You said she was talking behind her back. I know you said that I couldn't do anything, but I knew you were lying. You don't have to be afraid to ask for help. We've all been there you know. So I confronted her. Your friend here just got in the way." She looked at John and so did I, and Tatiana's innocence was gone. I looked at them for a long time, and that's all I remember. I probably fainted because I wasn't breathing. Marisa dragged me out to the sidewalk and tried to get a signal on her phone, and a car drove by and saw us bruised and cold, and an ambulance came, firetrucks and police cars too. She was in worse shape than I was, and I'm surprised I was the one who fainted. I'm still not sure if I'm sane. They never found Meagan, but they did find Tatiana and John. Tatiana was dead too, but I didn't know how. She was right next to John, lying dead like Meagan. It's like she replaced her. I remember John's parents talking on the news about how they lost their daughter to an incident like this a couple years back when she was 15. Tatiana got a burial, but I still have my doubts. I see her at night, and the only thing that assures me is Marisa, telling me the story over and over again. Maybe it was a bad thing because it was confirming reality, but at least I'm still sane.
Meagan always said that I'd break first. I wonder what she meant by that.
I wonder what else is hidden in that tall forest.