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Me W/o Us By: Kristina Chen

Dedicated to the person who has shown me true happiness

‘It seems there’s always somethin’ in the way, but when we started I made it clear it might be this way’ The lyrics softly played in her ear, her pink and black earbuds somewhat hidden by her dark, wavy, and short hair. ‘People moldin’ stories, and it’s always outta hand, they love to fuel the fire till we burn at both ends’ Her blue and black sneakers made soft scuffling noises as she climbed the metal stairs leading to her destination.

‘Baby have faith in me, when I can’t be next to you’ Her breath came out in long white puffs in the cold winter air. She zipped her violet jacket up more in an effort to keep herself warm. ‘I can’t heal the pain, when hearsay can change the truth’ The sun glinted off her black and yellow striped glasses as she reached the top of the stairway. When her foot reached the final step, she started to softly hum to the song that was playing on her phone. ‘So don’t you believe in a single thing, unless it’s from me when I say, there’s no me without us’ Stepping out into the open, she admired the sunset in the far distance. A myriad of reds and oranges danced in the east that collided with the deep tones of blues and violets in the west. She loved coming out onto the top of the clock tower to admire the horizon, it faced toward the ocean so she had a wonderful view of the sun seemingly disappearing into the depths of the Atlantic. ‘They’ll try to drag my name through the dirt, but if you don’t mind a little mud then no one gets hurt’ She walk toward the edge of the clocktower, carefully seating herself on the ledge. The scene reminded her so much of a certain video game she loved, her legs dangled over the ledge like a certain trio always did. ‘But you, you fuel the fire, your love, it fuels the flames, but if we show our ears are burnin’ then we burn at both ends’ She wished this moment could last forever, but it wasn’t the same without a certain someone by her side. November 17 11:38PM William: What you doing up this late? November 17 11:39PM Aster: Eh, can’t sleep, what about you? November 17 11:39PM William: Playing pokemon November 17 11:40PM Aster: Lit what island you on now November 17 11:42PM William: Second island November 17 11:42PM Aster: Busying shiny hunting? November 17 11:43PM William: Yea November 17 11:44PM William: Anyways, you should prob go to sleep November 17 11:44PM Aster: Nah, I got dis November 17 11:45PM William: Um you gotta wake up earlier than me November 17 11:45PM Aster: Shhh :3c November 17 11:46PM William: Aster go to sleep plz November 17 11:46PM Aster: Oh fineee November 17 11:47PM Aster: You better not stay up too late yourself Will November 17 11:49PM William: You’re one to talk Aster November 17 11:50PM Aster: Shut it XD November 17 11:53PM William: Let’s go to sleep at midnight, k? November 17 11:53PM Aster: Alrighty ^^ Hazel eyes sleepily looked back onto the messages that were sent, her tiredness contrasting her playful tone while talking to Will. Aster was up all night yesterday talking to him in a call, lasting until 2AM. It wasn’t the brightest idea but they lived fairly far away from each other so they enjoyed every moment they spent together. Although she woke up incredibly groggy and had to tame the mess of her wavy hair, she toughed it out and made herself look presentable and managed to only fall asleep once in class yesterday. Aster managed to pry her eyes open when she felt her phone buzz at another message.

November 18 12:02AM William: It’s time for us to sleep bae November 18 12:02AM Aster: Okay ^^ Night love youuu <3 November 18 12:03AM William: Night love you too <3 She smiled quietly to herself, hugging her red fox stuffed animal close to her. Will stole her heart and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She closed her eyes and quickly drifted into her sleep, her mind filled with thoughts of her future together with him. Loud music blared from Aster’s phone, alerting her that it’s 6:30 in the morning and she needs to get her lazy butt out of bed. Forcing her eyes open, she shut off the alarm on her phone and dragged herself into the bathroom next door, but not before grabbing a change of clothes. Aster changed into a Panic! At The Disco shirt and a pair of black sweatpants and quickly got to work on her hair that always seems to go into every direction after she sleeps. After untangling the mess that always appears in the back of her hair, Aster brushed her teeth and washed her face with cold water to help keep her awake. Walking back into her room, she stuffed her binder and various notebooks into her bag and put on her jacket. Making sure her phone was charged, she plugged in her earbuds and headed downstairs. Aster walked past the living room and saw her mom passed out on the couch with the TV still on. “Ugh seriously” was the only thought Aster could muster at seeing her mom passed out from watching Netflix after coming home at ungodly hours. Again. It’s amazing how she runs a hair salon when all she does is drink with her friends after work. “Only one more year girl, you can do this,” Aster mumbled quietly to herself. Entering the kitchen, she popped a chocolate Pop-Tart into the toaster and waited for it to be done before heading out. November 18th 7:06AM Aster: Mornin’ bae November 18th 7:06AM Aster: you’re so lucky that you get to wake up later in the morning T_T November 18th 7:07AM Aster: ‘bout to head to school so cya laterz November 18th 7:07AM Aster: And don’t forget to eat breakfast!!! I’m watching you Sending off the last of her texts, she grabbed her Pop-Tart and headed out the door. Opening up Spotify, Aster put on BTS’s new album, Wings, and hummed along to the words, despite not knowing Korean. Nibbling on her breakfast, she made her way to her school down the street; although living near a high school was a blessing and a curse. Aster could easily walk to and from school but there were always loud noises and traffic got heavy around there so she often found herself waiting 5 to 10 minutes to cross the street. “Hey Aster,” she turned around to see her best friend Viktor smiling at her, mid wave. “Sup Viktor, you ready for another day in the soul crushing system that they call school?” “Sure am,” he chuckled quietly, his blonde hair falling into his face, the silver streaks barely noticeable. “I can’t wait till this school year ends, we’ll be free from the clutches of public education.” “Only to be thrown into the hands of universities and have student debt dragging us down,” Aster replied jokingly with her Pop-Tart still in her mouth. “Psh, you’ll be living the dream with your boyfriend once this school year ends, making sweet hot lo-” “Oh my god, Viktor I will murder you,” a blush spreading across her face while she shot daggers at Viktor’s smug face.

“Oh you know it’s true, don’t deny it.” “Quiet you, I get this enough from Will, I don’t need it from you.” “Yeah, yeah,” he said back playfully. They were already at the school’s entrance by the time their conversation ended. Both of them said their good-byes and agreed to meet up at lunch. Aster hurriedly made her way to the other side of the school where her first class was. “What’s up Viktor” Aster asked as she set herself into the seat next to the blonde in the courtyard. “Boring classes as usual, what about you?” “Same old, same old.” “One would think our senior year would be, I don’t know, more exciting?” “This isn’t High School Musical, princess.” “Princess?” Viktor looked appalled at the nickname, Aster raised an eyebrow at him while eating her sandwich, “I’m not some helpless damsel waiting for a prince” “Not like any prince would want you,” Aster shot back, a smirk hidden by her lunch. “Wow, I thought we were friends Aster,” Viktor faked a hurt expression, a hand clutching at his heart. “And that’s why you let me make jabs at your love life.” “You have a point.” Viktor gave her a small smile, and they ate in silence for a bit so they don’t waste their short lunch break on just talking. They were the only ones who were out today, it was slightly chilly but it didn’t scare the duo away. The clouds were also starting to get heavier, the threat of rain ever close. Aster felt her phone buzz in her pocket, quickly bringing it out and unlocking it. November 18th 12:18PM William: Morning bae November 18th 12:18PM William: and don’t worry, I’m eating rn November 18th 12:19PM Aster: yay ^^ November 18th 12:19PM Aster: and it’s a little too late to say morning XD November 18th 12:21PM William: lol so how was your morning so far? November 18th 12:21PM Aster: Boring classes per usual November 18th 12:22PM William: Ah, well try not to sleep in your classes too much x3 November 18th 12:23PM Aster: I’ll try :P “Awww, you look so happy when you text Will,” Viktor was watching Aster text him, smiling as he saw her eyes light up whenever a message come through. He was happy that someone was able to make her that happy even though they were not in person. “Oh hush,” a small blush formed on her face at his words. “Make me,” said Viktor playfully. He knew he was playing with fire, Will was quite wary of him being that he was pretty close to Aster and is able to be there for her in person. Viktor knew where he stood though, he was merely Aster’s friend and nothing more, after all he did prefer guys more than girls. “Too lazy.” “Psh, of course you’d say that,” Aster chuckled at that, her laziness infamous among her friends. Viktor’s own eyes lighted up when he saw that a certain someone messaged him. “Eren messaged you didn’t he.” “Psh, no” Viktor couldn’t lie if his life depended on it.

“Of course, that’s why you totally don’t smile every time you see him and totally don’t have a crush on him,” A small smile worked its way onto Aster’s face, “You know, you should just, like, tell Eren how you feel. You two are pretty close and I totally think he likes you too.” “But what if he doesn’t? I don’t want to ruin our friendship just because I told him that I liked him.” Viktor started sulking at the thought losing Eren. “Well, why don’t you tell him that? Just say that no matter what happens you still want to be friends, and if it does work out, that’s even better.” “But what if we do start drifting apart?” Viktor mumbled into his hands, “I don’t want to lose him, even if my love is not returned.” Aster placed firm hands on Viktor’s shoulders, “Doubting yourself won’t change anything. If you go up to Eren and tell him how you honestly feel about him, I know you two won’t break apart even if you two don’t start dating. I highly doubt that will happen though, I always catch Eren looking at you when you’re not paying attention.” “Really?” Viktor looked hopeful at that last part, “and, uh, you’re right. Nothing will change if I never choose.” “That’s my boy Viktor!” Aster said cheerily. Just then the bell rang, signalling the end of lunch break. Viktor and I quickly scarfed down the last of our lunches and packed up our stuff. They walked back inside and split ways to their afternoon classes, exchanging bye’s to each other. Another uneventful day, as usual. Her last few classes were study hall, chemistry, and gym. She ended up sleeping through study hall and chemistry because she didn’t have any work to do and her chemistry teacher was absent. Despite that, Aster could hardly stay awake in gym. Thankfully it was nearly the end of the school day so it was only a couple minutes before she could head home. November 18th 2:28PM Aster: sorry for not texting you all that much D: November 18th 2:29PM Aster: been tired all day and been loaded with work ;;~;; November 18th 2:29PM William: Awww poor bae November 18th 2:29PM WIlliam: It’s okay The bell rang, signalling the end of the day, just in time. Aster set her backpack on her shoulder and made her way out of the classroom. Carefully weaving her way out of the mess in the hallways, she opened her phone once she stepped out into the cold. November 18th 2:33PM Aster: omw home rn so woot November 18th 2:34PM William: yay ^.^ Zipping up her jacket, Aster walked down the street toward her house with heavy steps. Thankfully her house wasn’t that far from the school. She just wanted to collapse on her bed right then and there. In hindsight she should’ve went to sleep earlier but she could never stop herself from talking to Will long into the night. Often she wished that they lived closer to each other, the drive from Connecticut to Ontario was a long one. Aster quickened her pace when she saw her house coming into view on the left. Her house was a small 2 story building with 3 bedrooms, although only 2 were in use. Unlocking the front door, she took off her shoes and went up to her room. Tossing her bag by her door, she jumped eagerly into her bed, snuggling into the blankets. Fishing around for her charger between her blankets, she plugged in her phone. November 18th 2:42PM Aster: Heyy~ Im home

November 18th 2:43PM William: Hai Seeing that he responded, Aster tapped the video call button on messenger, hearing the familiar ring. It only took a few seconds for him to answer, the screen turning black with the words “connecting video” in the center. “Hey!” She said cheerfully upon seeing the familiar mess of brown locks and brown eyes framed by black glasses. “Hello,” Will adjusted his headphones and placed his phone against his computer monitor so he didn’t have to hold it up, “so how was your day?” “It was good, albeit tiring but it’s a Friday so woo,” She chirped back cheerfully. Wrapping herself even more into her blankets, a small yawn escaped her mouth. “Look who’s tired haha,” he smirked at me while laughing after hearing my yawn. “Don’t laugh at me,” Aster said in embarrassment, hiding half her face with her blankets. “Never.” “Oh my god. You’re killing me.” “You’re fine,” dragging the “e” of the word “fine” playfully, a smile forming on his face. “Lies,” Aster chuckled quietly, seeing Will so happy always brightened her day. They lapsed into silence, which happens quite often, but they didn’t really mind most of the times. After a few mins, Will spoke up. “So you wanna play some Terraria?” “You bet! It’s really fun playing you,” she moved herself over to the desk near her bed. Setting her phone to the side for a bit, she opened the top of her laptop, typing her long password fast after months of doing it. Positioning her phone to lean on the right side of her screen, she got to work quick and opened up Terraria. “You know, I’m really happy that you’re here with me.” “What makes you say that all of a sudden?” “I just wanted to remind you that you make me extremely happy and that I love you Will,” Aster smiled brightly, at him. “Oh my god,” Will looked away sheepishly, trying to hide his blush, “I love you too Aster.” Aster couldn’t stop smiling, she loved seeing Will get so shy. Will gave her a small smile back, loving how happy she got from being with him. The evening passed by in a whir. Aster and Will shared many laughs while playing Terraria. Seeing an enemy called the “angry tumbler” made them crack up and getting chased by wasp like creatures had them running for their virtual lives. They built up their house, Will adding more rooms for the NPCs while Aster went out to explore the map and find more loot. “I’ll be right back,” Will suddenly said, quickly muting his mic. Aster replied a quick ok as she watched him remove his headphones and move out of the camera’s view. Aster moved her character to a safe spot and boxed herself in a part of the cave so enemies wouldn’t get to her. Aster started to worry, it wasn’t strange for him to do that at times but this time it seemed urgent. The silence seemed to last forever but in reality it was only 6 minutes. Aster’s eyes shot up when she saw Will moving into the camera’s view, wondering what was up. Will had his coat on and he was definitely not in a good mood from how he looked. But before she could ask a thing, he ended the call.

“What the heck just happened? Why’d he end the call?” Aster asked herself, “Something must be up, seriously, what is going on.” She couldn’t stop from panicking when she saw that he exited Terraria, kicking her out of the world as well. Grabbing her phone, she fired off messages at him. November 18th 9:33PM Aster: ...what’s up??? November 18th 9:33PM Aster: Did something happen?? Everything ok? ;-; Aster felt sick to the stomach, her anxiety not helping at all. Will didn’t respond for about 10 minutes. He didn’t even look at her messages. What could have happened to him? Time moved agonizingly slow until she felt her phone buzz, unlocking her phone lightning fast. November 18th 9:45PM William: ….my mother and i got into a fight November 18th 9:45PM Aster: what happened?? Are you ok??? whatd she say? ;-; November 18th 9:47PM William: … not ok at all November 18th 9:48PM William: and I left the house…. November 18th 9:48PM Aster: You left the house?? What were you guys fighting about??? November 18th 9:52PM Aster: ….Will? Aster couldn’t stop her hands from shaking. She didn’t understand what was happening. Why did he and his mom fight? And why’d he leave the house? Is he going to be okay? When he didn’t respond for another 10 minutes, her heart sank. She couldn’t stop herself from thinking the worst. Aster practically threw herself at her phone when she felt it buzz. November 18th 10:03PM William: I’m sorry Aster… November 18th 10:03PM William: I really don’t want to break our promise….but it’s all too much… November 18th 10:04PM William: Im sorry….I’ll always love you….. “No...this can’t be happening,” Aster couldn’t help the tears rolling down her face as she struggled to send a text back. November 18th 10:05PM Aster: No…..please....don’t leave me…..please I don’t know what happened but please talk to me please… November 18th 10:05PM Aster: Anything….I beg you… She couldn’t stop the sobs, her throat closed up and she could barely see past the tears in her eyes.That didn’t stop her from sending a panicked text to the one person who she knew could help. November 18th 10:07PM Aster: ….Jake I really need your help. It’s about William… November 18th 10:07PM Aster: …...he left his house after a fight with his mom and he’s going to kill himself…..gdi i feel so helpless November 18th 10:08PM Aster: please…..find him Jake please….. November 18th 10:10PM Jake: What??? You can’t be serious…… November 18th 10:10PM Jake: Ill find him...god i hope im not too late…. Aster’s bangs were matted with her tears, she didn’t bother trying to wipe them away because only more would come. She tried calling Will, but the call just kept on ringing over and over again. Twice she called him and twice he didn’t answer. November 18th 10:24PM Jake: ….I found him November 18th 10:24PM Jake: He’s got a gash on his arm and he’s nearly frozen to death

Aster just stared at her phone screen unable to process what was happening. He cut himself again and was out there in the cold with nothing more than a light jacket. He could have died and she couldn’t do anything. She couldn’t stop the stream of tears from flowing down her face. She felt so hollow, she felt so useless, and she just wanted it all to just stop. In a haze, she dialed up Viktor, she just needed someone to tell her it was all going to be okay. “Aster? What’s up?” Aster didn’t respond for a bit, trying to find the right words to say. “...It’s Will, Viktor. He...He almost died tonight.” “What?! What happened? Is he okay? Are you okay?” Viktor fired off so many questions but she didn’t know how to answer. She was just so incredibly tired. “I don’t know anymore Viktor. I just want it all to stop. Why can’t we just be happy for once.” “Aster don’t do anything rash, I’m coming over.” Viktor promptly ended the call and got ready to walk to her house. Aster on the other hand stared idly at her phone, Jake’s messages still on the screen. She didn’t want to move, her face felt weird from the dried tears and her hair was matted with gross snot and tears. She felt herself drifting off into sleep against her wishes. Aster was awoken by the sound of her door opening and she tiredly opened her eyes to see a haggard Viktor standing in her door way. “Are you kidding me” Aster collapsed on her bed and pressed a pillow into her chest. “Viktor you’re lying aren’t you, this can’t be happening right now.” “Look, Aster, it’s not all that bad-” “It’s not that bad? Viktor, I loved him for Christ’s sake.” Tears started streaming down her face and her words came out in choked sobs. “He was one of the few who gave a damn, one of the few who actually thought I had potential in this dead end town, one of the ones who I could tell anything and everything and not be judged for what I did.” Aster’s voice rose with each word she said, escalating into nearly a scream. “Aster would you calm down!” Viktor stopped his pacing and snapped at her, staring at her with his own tears in his eyes. “I loved him too you know, not as much as you, but I loved him like a brother. You don’t think I’m confused and depressed and just so goddamn tired of this?” “Easier said than done” Choking back sobs, she ruefully smiles at her best friend with tears still running down her face. “I guess none of that matters now that he’s dead.” “Just stop, we’re getting nowhere with this. You loved him with every inch of your heart, I get that, but sitting around and just sobbing about him will get you nowhere.” He walks up to Aster and grabs her by her shoulders and gives her a gentle shake. “Think about it for one second, isn’t it odd that his family nor the police could find a suicide note? Surely he would have left something to explain it to you at least, he loved you with every fiber of his being Aster, everyone who knew you two could see that. It may have been a long distance relationship, but that doesn’t mean your love for each other meant nothing.” “Well, what the hell do you want me to do? He doesn’t exactly live in our town, he doesn’t even live in our country.” Aster looked pleadingly at Viktor with bloodshot eyes, trying to look for an answer in his eyes.

Author Bio Kristina Chen is a teenager who enjoys watching anime and listening to various American artists and Kpop. She lives in Edison, New Jersey with her family.

Me W/o Us  

by Kristina Chen

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