Young Adult Fiction posted February 18, 2022

This work has reached the exceptional level
A story about a bullied high school boy.

You're Not Here!

by Shirley McLain

Sing A Song Of.... Contest Winner 

My heart is broken because you’re not here. A gentle rain falls softly, so to hide my tear-filled eyes.

My name is Shirley, and there’s a story you need to hear. This story starts on the first day of kindergarten. Looking back over the years, I couldn’t have dreamed of how my world could be turned so utterly black because you’re not here.

I met Ronnie on my first day of kindergarten. We were the two redheads in the class. We had the freckles to compliment our redheaded status. We even had matching diastemas. For those who do not know that particular medical term, it’s a space between the teeth. If the good Lord had seen fit, he could have fit another complete tooth in that space. That would have saved us years of teasing,

We became friends easily with the bond we shared. Especially when we found out, we only lived a block apart. As we grew and went through grade school, the teasing and verbal brutality we received from the other kids, and sometimes adult comments, pulled us together like glue and paper. You didn’t see either of us without the other.

Kids continued to torment us at school. The sixth, seventh and eighth grades were the worst. How we survived, I don’t know. We didn’t have any friends other than each other. Both the girls and boys picked on Ronnie.

They called us four-eyes because we wore glasses. I couldn’t count high enough to count the times we were called ugly. Anything to put us down. I would go to the teachers and tell them what happened, and they would say, “I’m sure they were just teasing you.” We couldn’t make anyone believe us about how bad it was.

We felt worthless, especially Ronnie. He would sit with his head hanging down, looking at his book. He didn’t talk except in the hall to me or after we left school. He would tell me how much the words the other kids said hurt him. I would always try to build him up and make him laugh. That was my defense mechanism to make him and everyone laugh. It relieved the tension we both felt.

I cried a lot, but I didn’t let anyone see me, including my family. At the time, I couldn’t explain how bad I felt. I know Ronnie felt the same way. Neither of us had any self-confidence. We didn’t volunteer for anything, because we didn’t want the attention of the other kids. We isolated ourselves as much as possible.

We would try to find somewhere out of the way to eat lunch, because the boys would take our food. They either ate it in front of us or started tossing it from one to another. They made sure the teachers were occupied elsewhere, so they never got caught. If they were seen, they would say how sorry they were, and they were kidding around. It never seemed to end. It was like our classmates were predators. Once they got a whiff of fear from either of us, they were out for blood, for lack of a better word.

 Things got better for me when I turned sixteen. I don’t understand why, because I was the same person I’d always been, except I had a few “pimples.”

Ronnie wasn’t as lucky, for some reason. Over the summer, he grew three inches taller and had a body like the scarecrow from the Wizard of OZ, except with red hair and freckles and a bad case of acne.

Our first day of school, our junior year of high school, was miserable for Ronnie. Since all our classes were together, I stuck close to him. I witnessed all he put up with except what happened in the boys’ bathroom. He never would say what they did to him, but from some strange things he said, I knew someone hurt him badly. I could do nothing to help him. When I was with him, I heard all the insults and whispers around him.

He wasn’t acting like himself as we walked home. I kept asking what was wrong. I could see tears in his eyes, but he didn’t tell me. He didn’t even want my help with his homework, and that should have alerted me something big had happened.

He walked me to my house, as always. Then I got a surprise, he hugged me and kissed me on the cheek.
“You are a good friend, Shirley. I couldn’t ask anyone better to be my best friend.”

“What is going on? You’ve never said that before?” I said in response to his action.

His neck began changing to a lovely shade of red as he said, “I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate you being my friend.”

“I can’t remember when we weren’t friends. We have stuck together through thick and thin. Don’t let those jerks at school bother you. I’m always going to be with you, I promise.”

“I know you will be, Shirley. I’ll always be with you and love you no matter what happens in this life. I’ve made a decision, and I’m not going to let those guys at school bother me anymore.”

“Great, I’m glad to hear it. Ronnie, it’s not what anyone says or does that matters. It’s what you do that counts,” I said.

“I figured that out today. I have to get home; I have a lot to do. Take care of yourself.”

“What did you say?”

Ronnie called back over his shoulder, “I said take care of yourself.”

I went into the house, totally baffled by his behavior. I couldn’t keep my mind fixed on anything I tried to do. My mind kept jumping back to my conversation with Ronnie.

I managed to make it until my shower and bedtime. When I got done with my shower, I went to the kitchen to get me something to drink. Mom stood by the kitchen sink with tears streaming down her face.

“Mom, what’s wrong? Is daddy all right?" I asked.

“Sit down, Shirley. I have something to tell you.”

I was scared by both my mother’s looks and words, “OK, mom; I’m sitting. What is going on?”

“I got a call from Margaret.”

“So, she calls you at least twice a day.”

“Let me finish what I’m trying to say, Shirley. Margaret called while you were taking your shower. Something has happened." 

“Oh no, it’s Ronnie’s dad. I thought he didn’t look good the last time I was at his house.”

“No, Shirley, just listen, please. Something happened to Ronnie.”

“Oh, what did he do this time, try to cut his finger off with his new band saw?” I chuckled out loud, because I knew how clumsy he was.

“Shirley, Ronnie is dead. They found him in the attic. I’m so sorry, Honey.”

“That’s not funny, Mom. Not at all. Why would you tell me something like that?”

“His dad found him about an hour ago. They heard a bang like something hitting the floor. They thought the cat was after a mouse or something. They didn’t worry about Ronnie because he would be in for dinner. He never missed meal time. He didn't show up as they thought.”

I sat there, not able to speak. I could hear her words, but I couldn’t respond. Mom went on talking, reaching out to pat my hand. She finally picked it up and held it.

“When Ronnie hadn’t returned by eight, his parents began to get worried. They were contemplating calling the police, but decided to wait another hour, since teenage boys tend to lose track of time.

While they waited, his dad went to look in his room one last time for a possible clue they might have missed earlier. When he found nothing, he went into the attic to see what damage the cat did. The first thing he noticed was an overturned chair, then his eyes moved upward. His father got to him and began CPR. John yelled for Margaret to call 911 for help. Ronnie was already past help at that point, but his dad kept trying to do chest compressions and breathing for him.

When the paramedics arrived, they continued to provide resuscitation. They knew he was gone. By state law, the first responders had to continue CPR until a doctor saw him. When they got to the hospital ER, he was pronounced dead. The official cause of death was suffocation due to hanging.

He left two notes, one for his parents and one for me. My letter continued to break my heart.
Dear Shirley,
I know how disappointed you are in me, and I’m sorry. I didn’t want to cause you or my parents any pain, but I can’t go on anymore.

At least when this is done, I won’t be tormented by my mind or other people anymore. I meant what I said this afternoon. I am so grateful for you, and I will always love you.

I couldn’t believe what I read.  Nothing seemed real. How could he be gone forever?  I lost my dearest friend, brother, confidant, my defender, my world that evening.

My world is empty because you’re not here. My life will be forever autumn.


Sing A Song Of....
Contest Winner



Forever Autumn by Justin Hayward (Moody Blues)
1556 Words
Character: A bullied high school boy.

Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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