Dead (Jeff Atkins, 13 reasons)
There had been whispers about it. Jeff wasn’t a drinker to begin with. He was always the designated driver and even when he wasn’t he never had more than two or three beers. That particular night you’d been absolutely bombarded with math and science homework. He’d begged you to come to the party with him. You’d thought about it, but declined in the end. He kissed your cheek and told you he wanted to go to breakfast in the morning and that he’d be there to pick you up at 9:30. You wouldn’t be going to breakfast. In fact the next time you saw your boyfriend it was under very different circumstances. It was six hours later in the middle of the night. He was in a body bag. He was dead. Over what they called a drunk driving accident. Jeff was deemed drunk by most everyone at the scene. Everyone except you and his mother. Of course your opinion on how it happened didn’t matter as much as the fact that he was dead, whether he’d been drunk or not. You’d gone spiraling out of control. So much so that your mother forced you to take the rest of the semester off of school, joining independent studies. It didn’t do any good. You just felt more lonely. Jeff’s presence lacked even more and there was rarely a distraction. You didn’t feel any better about him being gone by the time you had finished your time in independent studies. You felt the same as when you’d first entered independent studies, so you had no problem when it came time for you to come back to school. Still a zombie, of course, and it didn’t help that your friend Hannah Baker had committed suicide during your absence from school. You knew you looked bad. You knew you had dark circles under your eyes. You knew you’d broken out from not eating right or regularly. You knew your hair was in the bun because you hadn’t bothered to shower, turning to perfume and deodorant instead. You opened your locker, shoving your books into it, you were back at it. Everyone was in their usual spots, nothing had really changed since you’d left. Except that Jessica and Justin were no longer together. Zach had gotten dumped by your best friend after the tapes were released. He’d known too much, she said, to keep it all a secret from the people who deserved to know. He’d borderline stalked her for a while. She’d threatened to move across the country with her aunt and uncle if he didn’t leave her alone. So he did. Nothing changed with Bryce. At least not yet. The fact that he was a rapist had gotten out. You’d heard things about Bryce and girls and parties, but not about Jessica and Hannah. You hid your face in your locker as you looked at your phone. You got a text every morning from Jeff’s mother. They varied in what they said. Today’s said “hello beautiful, your mom said I could pick you up after school and we could go to the mall. We also want you to stay for dinner.” You had your license but you hadn’t wanted to drive and your parents hadn’t trusted you to drive since Jeff’s accident. You were scared of cars now. You were also scared of alcohol.
“You’re back.” You hear from behind you. You turn to see Justin Foley. There’s concern in his eyes, like he knows that there’s a great chance you don’t want to be talking to him. And that you won’t forgive him. Forgive him for staying quiet when anything but that would have been a better option. He’d stayed quiet knowing his friend had raped not only Hannah baker, who would of course go on to kill herself, but his own girlfriend.
“Yeah.” You responded, not looking up from your phone as you texted Mrs. Atkins back.
“You look good.” He smiled at you. You locked your phone and slammed your locker closed, startling Justin.
“I’ve learned to accept pity but I’ll never accept being lied to, Foley.” You looked him dead in the eyes before moving to walk away.
“Seriously, Y/N! Given the circumstances you look really good. I don’t know how many people could survive what you’ve gone through.” By the end of his message he’s just white noise and you continued to walk.
“I’m not so sure I did.” You mumbled, leaving the jock in the dust. You knew he’d been having his own struggles. Hell, he’d been having his own problems since the day he’d been born to his waste of space mother. But that boy had let himself become a bystander for rape on account of somehow owing it to his rapist friend. There was no use telling him what you thought, he knew he was in the wrong and he’d heard it a lot. Marcus smiled at you as you continued down the hall. You found yourself walking towards him.
“Hey Y/N how are y-” you cut his formalities off.
“Is Y/FN at school yet?” Marcus was quite obviously caught off guard. His words fumbled together a bit.
“Uh, well, yeah. She tends to not go through the halls a lot anymore. She avoids us a lot.” Marcus explained. He didn’t give much eye contact.
“I knew that much, thanks.” Again, you were stopped before you could walk away.
“Will you guys ever talk to me again?” Zach’s familiar voice took over.
“This is your first attempt to talk to me as far as I’m concerned.” You crossed your arms. He looked as though he was in an extreme amount of pain.
“I’ve called and texted you for months.” Zach looked at the ground.
“One text of the many was you asking about me. The rest was you trying to get to Y/FN because she blocked you on everything. Your motives were not the most selfless, Zach Dempsey. Reassess yourself and your self righteous nature.” You spun on your heels and walked out of the room. You see your best friend talking to a girl named Skye, one of the only people either of you could stand the be around in the school anymore.
“Saw you talking the some henchmen.” Skye said, staring at her fingernails, which were painted black.
“Strictly to see where you were.” Skye smiled a little. Y/FN turned and hugged you.
“I’m glad you’re back, normal is what you need right now.” She said. Once you pulled away from your best friend, you saw someone coming. Clay Jenson. Lanky, kinda dorky Clay Jenson. The Clay Jenson that brought you free candy and free movie ticket vouchers after Jeff died. But this was also, and most certainly not least, the Clay Jenson featured on the tapes. The Clay Jenson that knew girls got raped, that knew a lot about the night Jeff died. Including that it wasn’t Jeff’s fault at all. In fact, he knew he wasn’t drunk and that it was Sheri that was drunk and had caused Jeff’s death. There was a handful of people that knew it wasn’t Jeff’s fault. The people that were featured on the tapes. Clay was featured on the tapes and so was Justin and so was Marcus and so was Zach. They saw you yanked out of school for being mentally unstable and not being able to understand how Jeff did this and why he was drunk at all. There were answers, and no one gave them to you until the tapes were handed to the police. You knew when the public knew. Nothing hurt more than that. And that’s why you hated those boys. And Courtney and Jessica and Alex and Tyler and every other god forsaken person who earned themselves a tape by being an insensitive asshole.
“Hey Y/N.” You looked over at Clay, his hands were stuffed in his pockets as he stared at you nervously. You looked at him, blinked twice, and looked away.
“You look good.” Silence.
“I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” You can feel Clay looking at you, but you won’t look at him. There’s a short pause.
“Y/N I know I should have said something to you as soon as I knew but it was a lot more complicated than it se-” you found yourself waving your hands in the air begging him to stop speaking.
“You’re going to listen for a moment.” Clay nodded, finally able to make eye contact with you.
“Jeff and I were going to apply to all the same colleges, did he ever tell you that?” Clay nodded his head. You and Jeff had already planned on marriage. Everyone knew it.
“Did you know we were going to share an apartment right away instead of dorms?” Clay gulped, looking at the other two girls nervously.
“He talked about you constantly, Y/N.” You rolled your eyes at his words.
“People have been talking about me constantly. It’s my turn to speak.” Clay shut his mouth quickly.
“Wanna know something I’m sure you weren’t aware of?” Clay’s eyes filled with more fear by the second.
“Did you know that the day after I saw Jeff dragged away in a body bag is the day I miscarried our baby?” Clay knew he wouldn’t speak but his mouth fell open from the shock and not knowing what else to do.
“So yeah, maybe you can forgive yourself for not always being there for Hannah. And maybe Jessica will forgive Justin someday and maybe, just maybe Y/FN will give Zach another chance. But guess who doesn’t have the tools or the people to move on? Me. My boyfriend is dead and my baby is dead. And my future relies on me being a zombie through life, hopefully getting decent enough grades to shuffle through the rest of my life because there will never be someone who makes me feel and love the way Jeff did. And I’ll never be able to have a baby made up of more love. Everything will be me settling because the best of what life has to offer is quite literally dead.” The bell rings but no one moves, and everyone just looks at you as hot tears stream down your face.
“Y/FN, go tell Zach how much you still love him and how much you’re willing to fight for each other. And Skye, tell Clay how you’ve been in love with him since the sixth grade and how you’d be really pumped to go out with him. Because life’s short and sometimes even shorter than expected. No time is put on this earth to be wasted. Love each other.” You let out a shaky breath before turning and heading to English class. Jeff would be proud. In that moment you knew maybe you would be fine.