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There are things they avoid telling you when you’re seventeen. There are so many small, insignificant things that you cannot even begin to process. I was myself. I was Winona Goldstein. My best friend was Amaya Cassian. Well, until the fallout. 

People shift. Like tectonic plates underneath the earth, people shift. Our parting message was a gigantic tsunami, one she left me drowning in. I rose to the surface gasping for air. I was given new beginnings without Amaya. It was up to me if I wanted them or not. Of course, it felt selfish to live a life without my best friend. There was no way around that feeling, however. I learned rather quickly that a pit sat in my stomach no matter what decision I made. 

I stood still. Painfully still, as if my feet were screwed to the floorboards, holding me in front of the altar. I did not want this. 

There are things they avoid telling you when you’re seventeen. There are so many pictures, so many pieces to the puzzle. Amaya was a quiet soul. She was an artist. She was a lover. Oliver sat patiently in front of me, his eyes hollow and emotionless. Amaya never told me much about Oliver. I sent her letters every month, each one detailing Alexander and I.

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 My best friend had lived a separate life since meeting me. 

Alexander sat next to my mother. The front row was full of wooden chairs, each one beautifully detailed. The occasion, however, was grisly. Churches were a bad omen. I remember when my father died. We sat in the rain, taunted by crosses. If God were real, why wouldn’t he choose to save us? Why would he let us die? There are things they avoid telling you when you’re seventeen, when you’re ten, and when you’re four. Some secrets shouldn’t fall from your lips, words that are far too deadly and laced with poison to be spoken out loud. 

I would rather write my thoughts in a journal, anyway.

A piece of paper sat along the altar. I looked down at it, my handwriting forcefully neat. Amaya had nice handwriting. Her signature was heavenly. Now, her hands lay limp along her side, icy and pale. Lifeless. She lay lifeless in the dark oak casket behind me, lined with memorabilia and forget-me-nots, her favorite flower. I cleared my throat. “There are things they avoid informing you of at seventeen, such as friendships which end and that it is selfish to be naïve. Amaya was my sister, whether she allowed herself to believe that or not. She was a stubborn, beautiful, hilarious girl. Her hair always laid neatly along her shoulders. I was jealous of her, but not in the way I wanted myself to be. Amaya Cassian was the sunlight, constantly giving warmth and an overwhelming glow to my overcast days.”


I paused, flipping the paper over. Something was lodged in my throat. As I went to speak, it felt as if someone had placed their hands around my neck, strangling me as harshly as they could. My eyes wouldn’t focus. If I looked down, I’d make direct eyesight with Oliver, who was anxiously biting at his nails. He glanced at me briefly, never acknowledging my existence.

I felt guilty.

There are things they avoid telling you at seventeen. There are things you wish to avoid yourself, such as funerals. But, as you grow older, it becomes harder and harder to outrun death. Amaya Cassian couldn’t, and now I suffered in front of the altar, bolting towards the nearest exit. My lonely speech sat still, obedient, and quiet. Alexander followed after me, curious and worried. His eyes were unlike Oliver’s. No, he was full of emotion. He sadly smiled, approaching me gently. I fell to the ground, my black dress covering my legs. 

I couldn’t breathe. 

Tears found their way down my face, tracing the bottom of my chin. I sobbed mercilessly. Hours, it felt like. The grass was damp, caressing my bare skin. I felt Alexander’s hand on my shoulder. He, at first, didn’t let a word slip from his lips, but as I calmed down, he pulled me in closer. His arms were something new, something comforting. 

“I’m sorry,” he managed to let out. I leaned my head against his chest, saltwater staining his gray suit. It was the only one he had. 

“You can’t apologize for this,” I mumbled, out of breath. Mascara had stained the skin under my eyes, eyes that were once amazingly sage. Now, it looked as if someone drew all the color from my face. 

I felt like throwing up. 

My entire abdomen cramped. “I can’t finish my speech. I can’t go back inside.”

“It’s okay,” Alexander replied. 

I was angry. “What about this is okay? My best friend is dead. Oliver can barely face me, Xander! He’s—he’s acting as if I stuck the knife through her heart.” 

Alexander Whitlock was the boy who knew. He knew everything I avoided. He dove into my deepest waters, seemingly unafraid of drowning in me. When he turned seventeen, he knew more than I did at fifteen. I was envious of that in a way, but Alexander was different from Amaya. He managed to share his life with me. 

“You’re right. It’s not okay.” Alexander ran his hand through his hair, dark and magnified by the deep Ireland sky. “It’s not okay that Amaya died. It’s not okay that you ran out of there. Nothing about this is okay, but Winona, you need to know that this is not your fault.”

There are things they avoid telling you no matter how old you are, like how your body feels weightless after crying, how your legs collapse under you and your entire body makes contact with the cold and unpleasant ground. There are things I don’t know. There are things I won’t allow myself to feel. Alexander manages to pull me back up and I let myself breathe. He stares at me, not exactly towering over me but not at my height level. He plants a kiss on the top of my head, pushing my hair behind my ear.

“Winona?” He had more to say. 

I hum lightly, sniffling, “Hm?”

He clears his throat. “I think Amaya was always severely proud of you. Sometimes people don’t know how to show their sympathy or their love. You two grew apart, sure. I don’t think the fade between you two meant she hated you.”

I didn’t blink, my mouth dry.

“What I’m trying to say is that she cared,” Alexander stopped.

There are lots of things we will never know. As I grow older and seventeen falls behind me, I slowly uncover bits and pieces. Maybe it’s true. Maybe, just maybe, Amaya loved me more than she showed. She couldn’t show me now, of course, but no matter how long I’d have to live without her, at least I had her presence. 

There are things they will never tell me at seventeen. 

I think I can live with that.

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