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Home  >  Peer Work
By Brooke Dexter
Genre: Non-fiction Level: Elementary 4-6
Category: UAA/ADN Creative Writing Contest

Friday, my friend Kaija and I walk back to the classroom to get some things we had forgotten. About to turn down the hallway, I see my mother, walking in the opposite direction, towards the staff bathroom, holding her nose, her face red, and crying. I break away from my friend and run after her. I knock on the bathroom door, “Mom, Mom what’s wrong? Mom let me in!” She opens the door and lets me in, still kind of crying. “Mom, did you hurt your nose?”

“No, she says, I was just trying to keep myself from crying,” she says.

“But why were you crying?” Now I am worried.

“Do you remember Katrina Bryant?” she asks me, looking at the floor.

“Yes kind of,” I reply. It’s the truth. Her head droops.

She comes close to me and says in a sort of whispery manner, “She killed herself last night.”

I close my eyes, I just let it sink in, but it won’t.




We’re home now. It was a half day at school. My mom says that West is devastated, that my older sister Rita called her when she found out, sobbing. I didn’t cry, is that wrong?




            Two of my friends came home from school with me. We decide to make lemon bars, Rita’s favorite. I am more worried about my other older sister Angie. She was in the same 3rd and 4th grade class as Katrina, and they went to the same middle school and high school, until yesterday....


            The lemon squares pretty much end up as lemon soup but I know my sisters appreciate the thought. As I lie in bed that night I think a lot. It still doesn’t seem real, like a dream. I always wondered what it would be like if someone you knew died. This wasn’t what I was expecting. There are a million things going around in my head. It is almost too much to handle, but somehow I fall asleep easily.



We have all of our yearbooks out, folded onto the pages with Katrina on them. Every once and awhile, when I pass them, I have these surges of emotion like, “Whoa, she’s actually gone. She was alive and now she isn’t. I, (or anyone else) will never see her again. Imagine if I were closer to her.”




The whole weekend long I think about it. It still doesn’t seem real. Still, like a dream, I want to wake up, but I can’t. Saturday my mother ponders murder, but not for long. I think about it too. Now I feel like I am in the movie.

For a split second I imagine myself, solving the case and becoming a hero, but it doesn’t last long. In all the adventure stories I read, I usually wish that was me. I think, I could do all that, I wish something exciting would happen. But now, facing this, a chance for the smallest of small adventures, I don’t have the heart. All right, you win heroes and heroines of my favorite books, I could never do that.




Monday. Today Linda (my teacher) talks with us about Katrina. She says, you are never alone and there is no situation you can’t get through, there is always a way out. This talk makes me sad and confused. Why would Katrina take her own life, why did she? She always seemed like the happiest person.

I don’t remember much about her. A flash of her face smiling a grin so wide her eyes squinch. Sitting right beside my sister in band concerts, playing her clarinet. But mostly, the most strong memory, surrounded by friends, in their graduation dresses, getting ready for their speeches, giggling and fixing her hair and makeup in the mirror in the girl’s bathroom. All I remember about her is happiness. She was always smiling when I saw her.

This makes me even more sad, and a little upset. These things shouldn’t happen, so why do they? It’s quite frustrating. I’ve never thought about death this way. Whenever I hear about a suicide, I think oh, that’s sad. But it never really affected me. But now, when it has happened to someone I knew, I can’t stop thinking about it.




Flashes of emotion happen regularly now, every time I see her picture, or think about her. Sometimes there is this one strong feeling that I want to hold on to long enough to understand it, but this never happens, it always leaves my thoughts. It seems like a physical thing that I am trying to catch. I rarely see it, but I desperately want it. I try to fake the waves of sadness, and make the feeling come, but it never works. I want to put the feeling into words but I can’t, it always goes.




The week goes by fairly normally. There aren’t many people left in the school who knew her. I didn’t really. I kind of wish I had, so I could understand what other people are going through. But also I’m glad I didn’t, so I don’t have to be heartbroken now that she’s gone. But to me, that seems really selfish. So, in total, I don’t know what I want or feel really, I am still trying to figure that out.




Friday. They are having a memorial service for her at our school in the evening. Everyone will be there. I will be too. My friend Emily and I get there about the same time because we just came from our volleyball game. We change out of our jerseys and into normal attire, and start down the hall. We sign yearbooks and papers giving our messages about Katrina. As I do this I become really sad, the feeling is here. I think it would stay but it doesn’t.




I have a good time that night. Emily and I mostly play in the gym. That kind of makes me mad at myself. “This is not a time for play, you should be mourning!” It doesn’t make sense but I wish I were sadder. I feel like I am being disrespectful by having fun. Soon the war with myself is disrupted, because they are setting the lanterns! Everyone stands outside in the cold setting off floating lanterns like the ones in ‘Tangled’. They are magnificent. I expect more people to be sad, but mostly all I see is smiling faces, knowing that she is safe up there looking down on us.

Watching the lanterns rise up until they are just dots by the moon is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I know I will remember this night forever. Emily and I release one each and one together. Up until now I kind of felt like I didn’t belong, but now I know that just being here shows that I care, and that’s what everyone needs right now, so I feel better.

Emily and I stand back and watch. Some are heart shaped and red, and others are rectangular and white, and they are all so beautiful. I see some of Katrina’s closest friends setting off ones with signatures and messages on them. They really loved her, and now she’s gone. I bet she really regrets it, I bet she really does. I would. I cry for the first time now, for so many different reasons I can’t even recite them.




Saturday. Today was the funeral, but I didn’t go. I wish I would’ve, but even after last night I still feel like I don’t belong. My mom and Angie went, they said it was a beautiful service. I really wish I would’ve gone, but I didn’t, and I can’t change that.




I know this doesn’t happen for everyone who dies, but I wish it would. It did for Katrina because she was a great girl, everyone loved her, and misses her. So we did something beautiful for her, and this is the story of it--well my version. I wish my story were better, but this is all I have to offer. But from now on I know I will never look at any death the same way again. Now I know, behind every tragedy there is a story.

Note: This story uses the real names of the people involved. The family of Katrina Bryant gave permission for the story to be entered in the contest and published.

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