Hollow (Perfect Little Pieces) - By Ava Conway

I was drowning.

No, not the kind with water. I wasn’t that lucky. At least with water, I’d feel the cool liquid filling my lungs. I’d sense death squeeze the last bit of life-giving air from my chest. The kind of drowning I felt wasn’t quite so physical. At least, not yet.

I was so damn tired. Tired of faking happiness, when all I wanted to do was cry. Tired of making plans for the future, when there was nothing left to live for. For a while, I had fooled them all. As the only child of the famous animal rights lobbyists Marion and Clark White, I had perfect grades, perfect friends, and a perfect life. I was all set to graduate magna cum laude from a prestigious Ivy League College in May. I had a great boyfriend and numerous friends I could count on in a pinch. Just the week before, I had been accepted at a top-rated veterinary school to pursue my dream of working with animals.

Only, I didn’t have any of that. Not anymore.

It was all my fault. No one had blamed me for what had happened that night, of course. It was an accident, they had said. A horrible, vile accident. My boyfriend’s parents were supportive, as were my family, teachers, and friends. They all applauded the fact that I had survived, when my closest friend and boyfriend didn’t.

How terrible, they had said. Put school on hold until you heal, they had said. Don’t worry, you can pick up where you left off. Everything will be okay.

But it wasn’t okay. It would never be okay again.

I was forced to quit college and dedicate my time to physical therapy. During that long spring and summer, I had gone to numerous doctors, both physical and mental. My parents had doted on me and friends sent flowers. All of them said I was lucky to survive such a terrible car crash, but they were wrong. While my physical body had healed, I was still broken inside. Every day that passed resulted in a few more pieces of my soul slipping away.

By the time the autumn leaves had begun to fall, my parents had started to worry, so I plastered on the happy smile and went through the mindless routine of everyday life. After a month or two, the doctors pronounced me ‘healed’. My friends moved on with their lives, finding jobs, marrying or going to grad school. My parents fell back into the routine where I was treated more like a trophy they had won, not a daughter who was hurting inside. As winter passed into spring, things had come full circle and a sense of normalcy enveloped their lives. Everybody cared about the bright future I had to look forward to when I started school again in the fall. Nobody cared about me.

I turned away from my parents’ backyard pool and picked up the picture I had left on the patio table. It was from a happier time, taken when Kyle and I were at the homecoming football game over a year ago. The camera had captured the moment perfectly. Sunlight reflected off Kyle’s thick, blond hair as I tousled it with my fingers. He was laughing, his blue eyes sparkling. I looked so dark and plain next to his brightness. My mousey locks and muddy eyes could never compare to his angelic face. Through the camera lens, I could see his lust for life, his happiness. In one moment of stupidity, I had snuffed that light out. It would never shine again.

I ran my finger over his hair one last time as tears filled my eyes. “Oh Kyle. I’m so sorry.” Sorry everything got so messed up at that fraternity party. Sure, we had our differences, but every couple had problems. Just because we fought didn’t mean I wanted you dead.…

Although if I was brutally honest with myself, I’d have admitted that a small part of me was relieved. All of the fighting was finally over—

No, it wasn’t relief I felt, it couldn’t be. What kind of person felt relieved over a loved one’s death? Murderers and serial killers felt relief. Not college students with straight A’s and bright futures. Not me.

But I did feel relief. Relief that our on-again, off-again relationship had finally run its course. Kyle wouldn’t find me this time. He wouldn’t suck me back into his reckless lifestyle with those beautiful blue eyes and full lips.

I was such a terrible person. I should’ve been the one