“Hello Emily Grayy, my name is Officer Gomerez.” The man in front of me says while looking down, he opens a folder filled with papers, licking his fingers as he flips to a page and clicks his pen. “I’m going to ask a few questions, alright.”
I nod nervously. I’ve never been interviewed by an officer before or even been inside a police station.
“Ms. Grayy, you were fifteen when you ran away, correct?”
“Yes and we were gone for, um, about one year and three months.”
“And by ‘we’, you mean you, Birdie Lane, Lilly Hill, and Birdie Barker?”
“Y-yes.” My breathing tightens and I shiver. Hearing her name immediately takes me back to that night- that nightmare of a night.
“What were the-“
“Excuse me, miss?” He says, his black eyes darting to meet mine. I close my eyes and take a deep breathe.
“No more questions.” I say after abling to calm down my trembling. “If you want to know what happened, I’ll tell you, no questions needed.” I look down and shift uncomfortably in my seat. I know this wasn’t the way interviews where done, but I’d given up on the rules a long time ago. “I will only tell you this story once. There’ll be no interruptions and no further questions, are we clear?”
“Go ahead,” He looks confused but also looks like he doesn’t care how I tell him what he needs to know. I’m terrified, but I know I need to tell this story, our story.
“This is an explanation of how my life turned out to be the way it did. I am no longer a child, although, I may look the part. I lack the innocence of a child. I’d wonder where it all went, but what’s the point of fooling myself. I know why I can never be the same again due to things I’d much rather forget. Somewhere, in a different life, I’d like to think that my life, our lives, ended up differently. I never imagined my life turning out the way it did- my own little clothing shop, married to the love of my life, with a few kids was the picture I’d always painted for myself. That’s not what happened and it can never happen- not anymore.
There are four girls including myself in this story and to truly understand the context you must know a few things about them. First off, there’s beautiful Rosie whose long blonde and sparkling blue eyes always caught the attention of all the boys. To bad her life didn’t match her pretty self. Instead, her life was ugly, filled with misery and sorrows.
Rosie’s dad, Mr. Barker, was a drunk, and in a way, you couldn’t blame him. His best friend betrayed him, stole $400,000, and not long after, his only sibling got into a deadly car accident. Then there’s Mrs. Barker, an artist with her own luxurious studio. She’s an addict like her husband except she’s hooked on heroin and seems to relapse every year meaning she’ll go to rehab every so often. For a month she leaves Rosie and Asher alone with there incompetent dad who can’t single handedly take care of them. Thus, Rosie would spent almost that whole month at my house, and Asher with his own friends. Although Asher is a year younger than myself, he scares me. He once told Rosie that I was the ugliest, most annoying friend she had. I strongly disliked him, but I can’t say that to Rosie.
I worry all the time about Rosie due to her struggle with depression and her coping methods of getting intoxicated and skipping class. She might have been one of the smartest people I knew, but she gets straight C’s because of her all her “absences”. She could have easily gotten a 4.0 if she applied herself. On top of all that, Rosie was gay, but couldn’t come out to her parents because they were extremely religious and homophobic. Her parents would have put her conversion therapy in a blink of an eye if they even thought for a second she was gay.
Next, there was Birdie. She had parents who are complete opposites of Rosie’s. Her parents are super strict. For example, Birdie was a junior with a bedtime of 8:30! She also has to text her parents her exact location every time she left the house, even though they already had a tracking device on her phone that also tracked her speed when she drove. One time I was hanging out with her, and Birdie’s phone died resulting from her parents screaming at her through the phone,and once it was recharged, for being irresponsible and letting her phone die, her parents grounded her. The rest of the night, she was in a terrible mood. Birdie had also told me that her parents had seriously considered installing cameras in her car and bedroom. Birdie never found out if they went through with this or not.
Other than those few things, she didn’t tell us much about her parents. Whenever we asked, she would tear up and say that it’s too painful to talk about. Maybe one day she’ll tell us of the horrors she’d been through. Another time, she got grounded for two weeks for eating a granola bar in her room. I would never be sober if I had to put up with her parents. It’s insane how her family operates.
Birdie’s never does anything wrong- she’s super organized, has an amazing sense of style, has never done gotten an A-, and her Instagram feed is beautiful. She’s perfect, it seems, but her life is not the dream it appears to be. It is all an illusion. Thus, when you get to know Birdie her brick wall of perfection deteriorates.
Birdie tells me how often she cries in words, but also physically. Every time I see her, I can tell she’d been crying moments before due to her puffy, red green eyes. You may think she’s a crybaby, but she’s far from it. Yes, she may cry a lot, more than she should, but she never lets anyone see her. Her tears are a cry for help not a cry for attention.
Finally, there’s Lilly. Lilly confuses me most even though she’s been my friend the longest. Sometimes, she is full of so much emotion: crying, laughing, and yelling. Yet, other times I feel as if I’m talking to a rock. A lot of the time, she’s emotionally unavailable, which hurts me no matter how much I wish it didn’t. I feel so much and she feels so little. I try to talk to her about what’s happening in my life but she can’t relate to my emotions and just doesn’t appear to care. Maybe that’s why we’re best friends- opposites do attract.
Lilly was adopted from China during the time there was a one child rule, and was abandoned like many girls during that time. So was her sister, Megan. Although Megan is a senior, Lilly is more mature than her. Not to at Megan isn’t mature, it’s just that Lilly is more mature than most. Maybe Lilly’s the way she is, cold, due to her parents lack of emotions. For one, I’ve never seen Mr. and Mrs. Hill even hold hand or touch one another meaning Lilly doesn’t see an emotional relationship at home. I wouldn’t say Lilly’s a sociopath, but she does have sopthiopacic tendencies. She doesn’t seem to care about my problems. Or maybe she just can’t relate to them.
Now I guess it’s time to talk about myself. My mom abandoned me when I was a baby, so my dad raised me himself until I was ten. He then married my step-mom and together had my half brother, Zane. I have a good relationship with my parents even though they are constantly gone due to work. I’m always looking after Zane so much so I’m realizing him more than my parents. I put Zane to bed, get him ready in the mornings, walk him to school, take off school when he’s sick, make sure he doesn’t fail the first grade, and make all his meals. You may wonder what my parents even do, and I’ll tell you it’s not much. They pay for groceries and put roof over our heads. I try to be grateful that I am in a happy home, but I can’t get over how no one wants me: my birth mom abandoned me, my father barely can look at me because I remind him of her, and neither of my parents are ever around. I’m sorry, to complain. I know life could be much worse and I’m sorry for talking so much about myself. I don’t like to seem conceited. Maybe, I hate to talk about myself because no one has ever told me they want to listen. I guess that’s why I keep everything inside. Maybe that’s why I can’t develop deep relationships with others. Maybe everything wouldn’t have happened if someone would listen.
All four of are very different from the other, except we all share one thing: modern dance. That’s the only way all four of us would’ve ever met one another. Dance takes up most of our lives and all that time we spend together due to it made us all best friends. I remember how happy we used to all be. Even with all of our troubles, there was a simpler time; a time we were all happy. However, all good things do come to an end. And the day everything changed forever is forever ingrained in my mind.
It was a Sunday morning like any other. Sunday was the only day we got dance off. Home alone like most days, having just finished getting dressed, when I heard aggressive knocking at my door. I crept toward the peephole with a tight grip on my phone. Who could this be? I wasn’t expecting anyone, and the violent knocking scared me so badly I was shaking. To my surprise, the person standing on the other side was Rosie.
“Rosie?” I said opening the door. “Is everything ok?” I could see the fear in her eyes, and whole body was shaking.
“I didn’t know where else to go. I-I…” tears started to fill her eyes. The terror sucked the breath from her mouth.
“Come on in, Rosie. You’re safe now. Everything is going to be ok.” I remained calm even though my terrified mind wanted to join in her full on panic. I kept asking myself, what happened to Rosie? I’d never anyone act this way in my life. I warped my arms around her trembling body, and I brought her into my living room and sat her down. “Rosie, what’s going on?”
“My dad came home and he was drunk, and he…” Rosie’s shaking seized. The color drained from her face and she sat there paralyzed. “H-he destroyed every room in the house,” she said in almost a whisper, “He kept throwing and breaking everything. I tried to stop him and he…” Rosie looked down, unable to look me in the eyes, “He grabbed my arm and threw me to the ground. He wiped all the pots and pans off the counter onto me.” She rubbed her arms and I could see the bruises left from her father. “I called my mom and I told her about what he did. She just told me to clean up the house and forget it ever happened. They’re just bruises she said. I can’t believe she said that? She didn’t even acknowledge what occurred. I just don’t understand. Why wouldn’t she comfort me, Emily? Why did she chose him over me?” Rosie started sobbing uncontrollably. “I can’t go back there. I wouldn’t go back there, ever.” I stood there not sure what I should say. Knowing nothing I say will make her feel better.
“I’m so sorry. You can stay here as long as you need.”
“No, I’m running away, we’re running away, come on I want you to come with me, Em.” She grabbed my hand and started pulling me toward the door.
“No, Rosie,” I said pulling my hand away from her’s, “we aren’t running away.”
“Yes I am with or without you.” She looked into my eyes yearning for me to change my eyes, but I broke our stare and looked down. “Em, I want you to come with me. You don’t understand! I can’t walk back through those doors again!” She yelled, starting to cry again.
“Come on, you aren’t thinking rationally.” I said gripping her arms.
“Come back inside with me. Let’s say here we don’t need to run away.”
“No, I am going and you can either come with me or not. I don’t care.” She stood up and tried to walk past me, but I shoved my tall limber body in front of her.
“Sit back down. You’re not going anywhere.”
“You can’t tell me what to do!”
“You’re not thinking rationally. Sit back down, and we’ll fix this!”
“Maybe I don’t want to fix this. Get out of my way Emily, or I swear I’ ll-”
“You’ll what? Huh? What are you gonna do Rosie? What?” She looked down, her sparkling blue eyes swollen with tears, and the whites of her eyes bloodshot red from all the crying she’d done before.
“Move out of the way, I’m being serious if we stay I’ll tell your parents about the partying and the drugs, about how you’re not as innocent as you appear to be. No more daddy’s little angel. No more getting away from anything.” Anger boiled inside me, more hatred than I’d ever felt in my life. I reluctantly stepped aside, holding every fiber inside of me from beating her up. I aggressively, stared into her eyes, her blue eyes quivered with fear as my brown eyes roared with fire. She better not leave.
“Don’t go, Rosie.” Rosie without saying a word, turned her back to me, and made her way towards the door. I only realized what had happened after I heard her car drive off. My body felt ten times heavier and my legs collapsed. I first screamed and then cried so hard I could barely catch a breath. I the quickly realized I needed to find Rosie before she got into too much trouble. I raced to my phone and immediately called Birdie and Lilly.
“Hello? Emily, can you hear us?” I stared blankly into the Group FaceTime call breathing heavily. I could still feel tears running down my face.
“Emily? What’s happening? Are you ok?” Lilly said sounding panicked.
“Who’s gone?” Asked Birdie.
“Rosie.”I responded, “We need to find her. We need to—” I once again break down into tears.
“We’re on our way. Don’t worry, Emily we’ll be there right away!”
Soon enough, they both made it to my house and both immediately hugged me. I explain everything that happened and we all quickly hop into Birdie’s car to search for Rosie.
“Where should we look first?” I ask.
“I don’t think she would’ve skipped town first. She’s smarter than than. She’s either getting supplies or getting wasted.” Birdie said passive aggressively.
“From the way she was acting at my house, she’s definitely getting wasted.”
“She’s probably in the woods by the bridge,” Lilly said.
“That’s where she always goes, do you really think she’d go to her regular spot?” I respond.
“It’s worth a shot,” said Birdie. We ended up driving around the woods for awhile before we found Rosie’s car.
“Oh thank goddess! I was so worried we’d lost her,” I said. I think that was the most relieved I’d ever been in my life. Birdie parked her car and we all ran into the woods continuously calling Rosie’s name. When we finally found her, she was totally baked- her eyes bloodshot red and the smell of marijuana burned my nostrils.
“Rosie,” Birdie calls shyly. I could tell she was creeped out. She kept glancing around as if someone was watching us.
“Woah! Did you feel that earthquake?” Rosie said pulling me close to her her breath stuck so bad it caused me to cough.
“There was no earthquake, stupid!” Lilly yelled, “Come on we’re leaving.” Lilly put Rosie’s arm around her shoulder and proceeded to walk her out covering her nose with her sleeve.
“Where are we going? Wait!” Rosie pushed herself off Lilly and stumbled to the ground.
“Holy crap, Rosie! You almost fell of the cliff into the water!” Birdie screamed.
“Hey, who are these guys?” Three boys emerged from the woods- one tall and skinny with a little facial hair, the other slightly shorter but super muscular, and the last was also tall with ugly red hair that hadn’t been washed in a while. However, they reeked of alcohol, not of weed.
“Hey, guys,” Rosie said standing up to greet them.
“Who are these guys? Oh my gosh Rosie! We’re leaving common say bye to your creepy friends,” Lilly said storming off, tugging Rosie by her arm.
“What’d you just call us?” Said the skinny one throwing his body in front of Lilly’s.
“Move you perv!” Lilly screamed pushing the guy.
“Looks like someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Where’s your smile, princess?” He said grabbing Lilly’s wrist.
“Let her go!” I said lunging to Lilly’s aid, but I was stopped by the red head behind me who seized the back of my sweatshirt. I tried to tug away from him, but he flipped me around and pulled into him. He then proceeded to take a long sniff.
“Mmmm. This one smells like peaches.” I continued to struggle as he looked down at me, and smiled. His pointy nose, freckles, and devilish smile piercing my body.
“Ahhhh!” I screamed, “Birdie do something!” I looked over at Birdie and she was in the clutches of the third guy. Meanwhile, Rosie stood in the center of us just seeming to notice the fight taking place.
“Shh. Hey, everyone. Settle down,” she said in a relaxed tone still seeming to not understand what was happening. While Rosie said this I was able to slip under the redheads arms. He once again tried to grab ahold of me, so I kicked him backwards, as hard as I could. Then I heard him scream and then a splash. We all ceased fighting and ran to the cliffs edge.
“Oh crap, he’s gone! You killed him! Come on, Ed, we gotta get outta here before the cops come.” The two guys ran out of the woods and speeded off in their car.
“I-l killed him,” I said. My vision blurred and my head felt light as a feather. This can’t be real. I didn’t just kill a boy! It’s all just a bad dream, I told myself.
“Come on! We have to leave now! Oh my gosh come on!” Lilly screamed. We all ran as fast as we could into Birdies car and sped off. I, unable to comprehend what had just occurred did nothing but stare blindly out the backseat window.
“Someone call 911,” Birdie said shaking, barely able to steer the car. Then everything became a blur. My ears started ringing and I was in and out of consciousness the rest of the car ride. We ended up in running away to Benson, Arizona, a two day drive from Washington, where we started.
The car ride felt like an eternity. We were on it for almost two days including the two transfers. I was so ready to get off the bus, and when we did, we immediately booked a room at the cheapest hotel in the area. I knew our lives had changed forever. There was no turning back now.
We stayed in that hotel for three months before we moved out and into an apartment. A lot happened in those three months. Lily got a job at the restaurant next door. Rosie also works, well sort of. She does some sketchy jobs with some sketchy people, but they do pay a lot. She was gone the most and I missed her. I’d wished she’d come home more. Her absence deeply saddened me and Rosie became closed off to us. Birdie, well, she hasn’t been doing too well lately. She spends almost the entire day in bed. Some days are better than others, but the lack of structure and schedule has caused her to become severely depressed. I spend most of my time taking care of her and the apartment. I do all the chores and Birdie helps when she’s up to it. Sometimes I do some jobs with Rosie, but I’m mostly in the apartment with Birdie.
After two months, Birdie got much better and even got a job. She worked at the grocery store which helped us get a ton of discounts. And life for me was great too. With help from Lily, I was able to hold a job waiting tables at the same restaurant as her. All was well for four more months, until things took a turn for the worse.
I will never forget that day. Everytime I close my eyes, this day plays vividly in my mind. Lily and I had just got off our shift and we were walking home. Everyday we’d walk to the shop Birdie worked at and wait for her to lock up. Then we’d all walk home together. It was usually dark by the time we walked home, but that night it was so dark we needed flashlights.
“So, Birdie, how was George today?” I said giggling. Birdie worked with a guy named George and had a huge crush on him. Lily and I would constantly tease her about it.
“Shut up,” she said blushing, “But if you really must know, he’s doing amazing. He started using this new cologne and smells like—-”
“Ew, that’s too much detail,” Lily interupts. Bridie and I burst into laughter. “What? I don’t want to hear about your massive crush in detail. Love is gross.”
“Says you. Don’t you have a crush on Seth? I see how red your face gets when you talk to him.” Seth is one of the chiefs in the restaurant. We continued to tease Lily about her crush until we arrived at the appaerment.
“Rosie! We’re home,” I call, “Rosie? I swear she said she was staying home today.”
“Yeah I remember her saying that too,” Birdie repsonded. Lily opened the door to the restroom and shrieks. I race over. My heart was beating faster than it ever had in my life. I try to scream but I can’t. I can’t breathe. My body becomes so weak I collapse next to her, next to Rosie. Her wrists were slit and she lied there unconscious. Her pale white skin stained red, and her eyes still open staring at me.
“NOO!!” I shriek. Lily races to the phone. I grab Rosie’s body and hold her. “NO! ROSIE NO!” Rosie’s blood covered my body like a blanket. “It’s going to be ok, Rosie, I’m here now. Help is on the way. You’re going to be ok.” I cried and cried and cried. I cried so hard I couldn’t breath or see. This couldn’t have been happening.
“Emily, come here.” Birdie kneels next to me. “Let her go. She’s gone, Emily, She’s gone.” Birdie tore me off her.
“NOOO!” I screamed, “She can be gone she can’t be.” Birdie pulled me into her, and we bawl. Lily walks back in, wrapped her arms around Birdie, and we sat there crying. Rosie’s dead body laid beside us of us covered in blood and tears.
“When the police came for Rosie they figured out you were the missing children of Seattle, correct”
“I said to you at the beginning officer, I am not a child anymore.”
“But after they arrived for Rosie, they apprehended you, correct.”
“Well then I guess that’s all. Thank you for your time Ms. Grayy.”
“And thanks for yours, but one more thing, Officer. I’d just like to say, I loved Rosie. I miss her so much. Come back to me. I will never meet anyone like her. I will never laugh as hard, sing as loud, have us much fun as I did with her. She forever changed my life. She taught me how to be confident in my own skin. She did so much for me and I can never repay her. I wish I could’ve had the same effect on her. I wish I could’ve saved her.”
“It wasn’t your fault. She chose to do what she did, Emily.”
“Yet, I will never forgive myself for what happened. Goodbye Officer Gomerez.”
*This were the last words of Emily Grayy. After telling police about the nine months she and Birdie Johnson, Lilly Hill, and Rosie Braker were missing; she killed herself the same exact way Rosie Braker did unable to cope with what had happened. And soon Bridie and Lilly followed the same path.