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how to save a life

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Dying doesn’t hurt.

That’s what Violet would tell the living world. Or at least that it’s not the dying part that hurts, not the crossing over from is to was, but everything else that comes before. She feels the bullet shattered into pieces of shrapnel in her heart, through her skin, but the moment that she actually ceases living doesn’t sting.

In fact, she might not even be aware of the fact that she is dead if not for the media, the camp of people outside her newfound, eternal home for days that turn into weeks after it happened. She sees her face on the news on the television in the library, a photograph of her ripped from her school year book that makes her look two younger than she is. Was.

She becomes a martyr, a monument, they even build a statue of two students outside the front entrance holding hands, etched with the names of the fourteen students that would never graduate. She ignores it as best she can, though the other students can’t seem to draw themselves away from it. After time, though, the living student body starts to care less. Floral wreaths are replaced by graffiti, the principal’s speeches at the start and end of every year grow shorter.

Even tragedies lose their shine, and Violet watches as the world starts to forget and parents start enrolling their children with greater comfort again. She wonders whether they all know, these freshman, or if she’s already become an urban legend like Bigfoot or fucking Area 51. For the most part, she busies herself in the library with books, each new catalogue a reminder that time is passing even though for her it feels like one awful, drawn out day. She looks through magazines and wonders what she’d look like in that new style of jean or with the color of lipstick on the face of the girl from that show she heard two sophomore gushing about by the water fountain.

Dying doesn’t hurt, no, she’d want the living world to know that. She’d want to comfort them with that. But she’d also want them to know that it aches like nothing she’s ever felt before to feel the years slip away and realize that she, and every one of those other thirteen, is slowly but surely being left behind.

 


 

The calendar on the wall of her favorite English classroom tells her that the year is 2016, and they're due for a new influx of students. This makes some of the dead excited, especially with the promise of a Halloween vacation from the halls approaching, but it mostly just makes Violet annoyed – annoyed that time is passing, annoyed that it feels like it isn't, annoyed that there's at least a dozen new trends about to sweep in that she'll have to learn to keep up with the inane gossip that never seems to evolve beyond "x is fucking y because z won't suck his cock."

She'd never lost her virginity, and maybe that's part of the annoyance. God, she'd never even kissed beyond an awkward chaste pressing of lips together without any tongue at one of the rare parties she'd attended, a dare. It's part of the ridiculously long list of things that she's never done and will probably never do, like go to college or have babies or travel to a country where they speak something other than American English. She might have been a dumb, ignorant teenage girl when she left the world, but she still had a bucket list like everyone else around her.

And now she has Westfield. Nothing but Westfield, except for that one blissful night once a year, nothing but sitting through cheer practice with a permanent roll of her eyes toward the ceiling, nothing but the pungent smell of cafeteria food that – apparently - most students opt out of my favor of fancy lunch bags prepared carefully by their parents at home. Parents. She can't remember the last time she saw her parents. The memorial, maybe? Her mom had been crying, she couldn't even bear to speak, her dad had wrapped his arms around her and promised her it would be okay. 

Maybe it was. Maybe they'd had another child to replace their dear dead daughter, maybe they'd moved somewhere that they didn't have to be reminded of what was and would never be. Maybe, somewhere, somehow, they were happy. She hope so, most days, when the bitterness of being dead isn't so loud, when the want of being alive isn't quite so strong. 

 


 

She doesn't show herself often. Others do it for kicks, to show off their wounds and send the newbies screaming, but she's more of an observer than anything. She sits in corners of classes and learns for the tenth time about Hamlet and the she-can't-even-count-th time about invisible numbers, which still do her dead fucking head in. Sometimes she wanders into the girls' bathroom room and listens to soft whispers about "who the hell is she?" and "she must be the new transfer from Newport!" while she thanks the gods she doesn't believe in that her wounds aren't so visible.

The irony that she could finally fit in if she wanted isn't lost on her, though she knows if she were to bare her chest to any of the boys in this school and show off the bloody scar they'd lose their fucking minds, or at the very least their lunch. Others have wounds on their heads, showing off parts of their brain they'd not even reached studying in biology class, one of the girls in her French study group is missing an eye. She knows she'd won the lottery in some ways, if there was any way to win this one. 

She still feels like a loser, though, maybe that's something that can't even be undone by death – which bothers her deeply, the idea that even as ghosts there's no even footing. There's a lot she'd change about death if she could, if there was someone she could write to – mostly the constant sense of dread and unwavering loneliness, a loneliness she's convinced will never pass until one day something changes. Something shifts. Suddenly there's purpose.

And he's looking up best places to shoot a person in the head on a computer in Westfield fucking High School library, the idiot. 

 


 

It could be a school project. For anatomy, or something, or some fucked up activity that they're doing in drama class. Violet's very dead heart tells her no, though, and she finds herself hovering over his shoulder for too long as he scans through the pages of Wikipedia and others, grateful that the school filter prevents any images showing up except a few basic sketches. Part of her is tempted to grab her shirt and pull it open, showing off the marks she'll never be rid of, tell him it doesn't all have to be the head, but instead she just watches.

Until he starts to leave, she grabs at his wrist. He looks up, shocked, and shakes her off. "Where the fuck did you come from?"

"I've been here the whole time," she says, and she smirks then, because hasn't she? It's been ten years at least, though, again, it might as well have been a day. Before she can stop herself, she holds out her hand like she's fifty years old instead of closer to fifteen. "Violet," she says. "I... I haven't seen you around. You're new?"

"Haven't seen you either. You must be new, too."

"Something like that."

He stares at her hand and doesn't touch it, reaching up to rub his temples instead. He's frustrated. He hasn't been sleeping. Maybe he's high, or maybe he's just insane. "I'm Tate. Langdon. I just... we just moved here."

"Welcome to Westfield," she says, and she doesn't know why she's drawn to him except maybe for his eyes or the way his hair sweeps over them or the fact that he's clearly hellbent on bringing back her own personal tragedy to the only home she has to live in. She can't stop herself before she asks, gesturing toward the computer and gently biting her lip: "What were you working on?" 

"I... my computer is a piece of shit," he says, like that explains it. As if what he was searching would be A-OK if he was doing it in the safety of his home. "I have a lot of homework. That – that fucking history teacher, he wants this paper done by Monday and I don't even... I don't..." he exhales, then, looks her up and down. He must think she's just another pretty girl, that she's going to make fun of him. "I don't know why I'm telling you."

"My infectious personality?" she quips, eyebrow quirking upward before she offers a soft smile. A comforting a smile. A you-are-not-alone-smile. The smile she wishes someone had given her murderer. "Is it the one on the Romanovs? I aced that, I could... I mean, I'm miles ahead on my homework. And Mr Kenworthy will never be able to tell I helped, I promise."

He looks her up and down, then, like he's waiting for the catch or for a group of people to come out of the corner and laugh at him. If they did, maybe that'd absolve him of what he wants to do in his head. She won't allow for it. "Yeah," he says, finally, and she can feel that shift again, that change, like something significant in the universe is happening and maybe it's not more misery at play. "Yeah, okay."