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Heather

Heather Headway and I had been best friends since the 1st grade. It was as if we were sisters. We had grown up together, and before the first grade, I had been a nobody, shoveling sand and putting it into the bucket in the sandbox, all alone. But then in 1st grade, I had met Heather on the play stucture. We had accidentaly put our hands on the same handle on the rock wall. We had looked at each other, and it just went on smoothly from there.

During the whole of elementary school, Heather and I had been inseperable. We went everywhere together, and never did any after-school classes without the other at her side. But then, middle school came, and I was still a nobody, even with Heather at my side, who was moderately popular.

During the summer following 5th grade, Heather came over almost every day to coach me on being a girly-girl. She taught me what boys look for in a girl, and how to win their hearts. She also taught me what the coolest 6th graders always wore, and what make-up looked good with what. Eventually I had risen up from nobody to somebody, and I looked great. The week before 6th grade started, I shined up my musty black hair and curled it. I put on my best outfit that Heather and I had picked out together, a gray shirt with a pink heart on it and tight jeans. I began 6th grade in style.

I wizzed through 6th grade easily, since I had always been a very bright kid. Heather, however, was only considerably bright, but still got passing grades in all her classes. I had already had two boyfriends by the end of the year.

It was all the same in the 7th and 8th grades. Heather and I got plenty of boyfriends. On the third day of the year, I had already gotten a really steady boyfriend named Chad. We had lots of dates, and had a lot of fun together. But as you know, middle and high school relationships rarely last, so we broke up after a big fight we had over the phone during the last week of winter break.

Then something terrible happened.

One day, a month before we graduated from 8th grade, Heather came to my locker.

"Oh, hey," I said, smiling.

"Linsey, I've gotta talk to you." Instead of her usual cheery voice, I heard a concerned, depressed voice. Something must be wrong.

I frowned. "What is it?"

Heather was silent for a moment, as if she didn't know how to say what she wanted to say. Finally she said, weakly at first but then bravely, "I'm moving."

The words coursed through me. My blood ran cold. She's what? No. Not Heather Headway, Linsey Charmichael's best friend for life. After all I had lost in my lifetime, my dad when I was two from a fire at his friend's house during a party, my baby sister who had been born dead, I couldn't believe that fate was taking away my best friend, too. It just...it just wasn't fair!

I felt like crying. I was about to run to the girl's room to cry my heart out, but I knew that that would make Heather feel terrible. So I tried to face it as bravely as I could.

"Linsey? You ok?" she asked as she watched me choke on my tears a few times, trying to hold them back.

The sad truth was, I wasn't ok. Not in the least. I would only be ok if ok meant being stressed and depressed beyond all reason. THEN I would be perfectly ok.

"Yes," I answered, hoping that I sounded braver than I felt. That was the biggest lie I had ever told.

After a minute, I asked, "When are you moving?" I had stopped choking on tears, but there was a sharp pain in my stomach. This must be what stress causes.

"My parents have already baught the house, but we're going to start moving in the week after school ends. We're still trying to sell our other house."

I couldn't believe that that was the only name she had for her old house. This "other house" was where I had spent probably a quarter of my whole life, and it held too many memories to count.

As my 8th grade year drew to a close, and graduation was all finished, I went to Heather's "other house" for probably the very last time. As I knocked on the door, the pain in my stomach started again.

Heather opened the door, because she had been expecting me. "Come in," she said.

I walked in and saw boxes everywhere, some closed with duck tape, some open with old knick-knacks and toys and books and everything else, and some open and empty. I asked if I could go look upstairs, and Heather, while putting her very first soccer trophy that she had won in second grade into a box, said sure. I climbed up the stairs and went into Heather's room. All I saw was a bare room with a stripped bed in the corner. This room that was now bare had once held so many memories that seemed to be gone now, seemed to have been stripped from the room like the sheets from the bed.

I went back downstairs and saw Heather and her mother and father closing all of the boxes with duck tape.

"Would you like to stay for dinner, Linsey, dear?" Heather's mother asked.

"No thanks," I said, trying to sound as polite as possible. With that, without saying goodbye, I left.

The day before Heather was to leave, she called. "I just wanted to say goodbye," she said. So we talked for a little while, and then she said that she would call me over the summer a lot, and then said goodbye and hung up. I hung up too, the pain in my stomach piercing me like a knife.

It was a week later, and Heather had just finished unpacking everything into the new house. Their new house was still two-story, but it also had some kind of tower room above the house which, with much argueing and persuading, became Heather's room. Heather mailed me her new address and phone number, and so I came to visit a few times over the summer. However, it was my first summer without her completely since the 1st grade, and it just wans't the same. I watched TV all day. I sat in bed reading all night. I began to gain weight. I became lazy. You can tell that Heather was a good influence on me, always keeping me active, getting me to come swimming with her in my small pool.

Even though I just seemed to be lazy, I was more than that. I was still healing from heartbreak. Heather and her small family had broken my heart, you see. With Heather away, I felt like just half of a person. I could only be complete with Heather there.

Over the rest of the summer, Heather didn't call me at all. About a week before high school was to start, she finally called to apologize. She said that she hadn't been able to call me because she had gone to a soccer camp, and she was starting her new school that Monday coming up. But then, a day before she was to start school and a week before I was, it happened.

That day the pain in my stomach was so intence that I passed out comepletely. Luckily my mom was home and she picked me up, and with much difficulty since I was a bit chubby now, laid me down on the couch. She quickly called the hospital, and an ambulance arrived momentarily. Some people from the ambulence came and helped my mother pick me up and carry my to the ambulence. And then, blackout.

When I woke up I was in a white hospital bed, and "The Learning Channel" was playing on a small old-fashioned TV hanging from the wall facing the bed. The pain in my stomach was still there. A doctor came in.

"Ah, you're awake. That's good. Since you're awake I suppose I must tell you what happened." I wanted to hear this more than anything.

"You were lying on the couch when we came, in the ambulance we checked your body over from the inside and found that your stomach was literally tied in a knot. This is usually caused by stress, but also very fatal."

I shuddered at the word "fatal". Did this mean I wouldn't live?

After that the doctor took my mom out into the hall and they whispered for a while. When my mother came back in to be alone with me without the doctor, her face was deathly white and she looked on the verge of bursting into tears.

"The doctor did say it was very fatal," she started. Then she choked on a few tears, and then said, "and he said in short that you shouldn't live to see your first day of high school.

The words hit me like a wave of pain. I stayed in the hospital a few more days, and the doctors and nurses did as much as they could. But then one night on the day before my last day of summer, I closed my eyes to go to sleep. And they never opened again.

When I woke up, I was floating near the ceiling in the church that I go to, The First Church of God. Below me I could see a coffin surrounded with candles. At the head of the church, the preacher was talking with a sad tone in his voice. I could hear his voice, but I couldn't tell what he was saying. Then I looked out at the pews, and saw a sea of people, some weeping, most just looking sad. I saw my mother in the front row, weeping quietly. Next to her sat Heather's mother and father, and her mother was quietly comforting my mother. Next to Heather's mother and father was Heather, sitting straight and tall, silent as the grave.

And then I realized that the grave had been my fate.

I had died.

Later, I followed the handymen that were carrying my coffin to the graveyard across the way. The whole crowd was following. People had brought all kinds of flowers and the laid them on the coffin. Most put expensive bouquets on my coffin. But Heather. No. She put a single rose, just single, tiny rose.

But that was the greatest gift of all.
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