Straightening my hair with a frown, I glare at my reflection in the mirror as if it's to blame. We all need someone to blame in our lives one way or another, because we never tend to shift the blame to ourselves. Even when we should rightfully be blamed. Don't get me wrong, I'm actually an optimist. But this town has to little happiness left anymore that even optimists struggle to keep it together.
Frustrated with how my hair was behaving, I let out a growl and slam the brush on the counter. I shouldn't care how my hair looks, since it's the last week of school. But I do anyway, just as something else to focus on than my ever so increasing thoughts. Just then, I hear a knock on the bathroom door.
"Sid, you'll miss the bus!" It's my younger brother, Josh. A smirk snakes its way onto my lips. I shove the hairbrush deep into my jeans pocket and unlock the door, immediately pouncing on the boy standing outside. He shrieks like a girl and starts flailing around like a fish caught in a net.
"Break it up, you two," Our older half brother, max, states coldly from his spot behind us. "You're blocking the whole hallway." When we do, trying to hold back giggles, he doesn't spare us a second glance and calmly passes by. Typical Max for you. I never could understand the reason for his behavior. Dad said that he probably blames us for his mom's death. Dad blames himself, too. I think they both need someone to put all the blame on. When really, nobody is to blame. Max despises everyone, anyway. Especially dad. Max blames dad more than anyone, as if he believes he could have done something. Something to stop Mary Anne's tragic death.
Little Josh giggles again and grasps my arm. He just turned 7 this spring, and needless to say, he is the most adorable and well behaved kid out there. I think even Max, yes, cold-hearted Max, has a soft spot for him. What's not to like?
I roughen up his tidy hair, pinch his cheeks and then watch him squirm away, shaking his head and muttering to himself. I let out a satisfied chuckle and make my way downstairs. Dad is in the kitchen like usual, and the smell of freshly made pancakes fills the air. Max has already left, and so I sit beside Josh and help him with his plate. Dad begins to turn around, a grin plastered on his face.
"Max- ah." The grin quickly falters, and for a moment, you could see the pain in his eyes as he slowly turned back to the pancakes again. I get up, kiss Josh on the head and grab my bag. No other words are exchanged. Not even goodbyes. On the bus, nobody sits beside me. Which is convenient, because I get the window seat all to myself. My mind drifts as I watch people and houses zoom by in a blur. And then suddenly, the bus driver steps on the brakes. Hard. The students exclaim as we are thrown forward. Another reason for this blasted thing to have seat belts. I feel naked without one.
The doors of the bus open, and the bus falls into a hush. Everyone holds their breath, curious as to see who caused the chaos. A police officer steps on, and by now many people have sunk low into their seats, hoping-no, praying- that the officer somehow miraculously wouldn't spot them.
"Anne? Anne Marley?" No one spoke. "Anne Marley? Are you here?" Quiet chatter rose up. Whispers here and there, the occasional gasp or snort as the teens gossiped. Anne was in my P.E class, just a quiet girl that followed the rules and always brought a note for her absences. I had never heard her speak once. Whisper, maybe; her voice never rose to above a whisper. She resembles a butterfly; timid and quiet, never making a sound, but beautiful nevertheless. Anne had golden hair that reached her waist and bright green eyes as wide as saucers. The first time I saw her, i was mesmerized.
I snapped back to reality by the sound of a deep voice:
"If anyone sees Anne Marley, or has any info about her, please let the police department know." And off the officer went, not uttering another word. Chatter began again, louder than before, as the students discussed excitedly what could have happened to Anne.
"Maybe she ran away."
"Did she commit....suicide?"
"I heard she was in a relationship with another girl."
I tune out their voices, already fed up, and glance back to the window as the bus begins to move again. I have the same question as everyone else: What had happened to Anne Marley? When the question merely echoes in my head, unanswered, I frown and begin counting the blue cars that passed by. I played this game with Josh all the time. It seemed to get my mind off things.
one. two. three. four. five.
Anne's voice echoes in my head. The quiet whispers have turned to screams. I gasp aloud and stop counting, trying to keep my mind from falling apart. Deep down, I probably know what had happened. Just like everyone else.