It’s Just What Good Friends Do
We always thought Hannah was weird. With a character emblem on her jean jacket and pink ribbons in her shoes and hair on the first day of kindergarten, we knew she wasn’t one of us even then. She posed around the classroom and her mother took pictures—ours talked to each other. Hers kissed her all over the face and called her Sweet Pea—ours patted our heads and left. “Mom got me a whole new outfit, I picked it out,” she smiled and pirouetted. She was that kind of weird. She tried so hard not to fit in.
What’s your favorite song, Hannah?
“Peter Cottontail.” ...Baby.
Who’s your favorite actress, Hannah?
“My mom.” ...Freak.
Who’s your secret crush, Hannah?
“James Dean.” ...Is that a teacher!?
Her hand was always the first up to read aloud or do a job, her voice always the loudest when we pledged or sang. She brought in get-well cards when the teacher was sick and put her own message right in the middle before passing it.
“Can I sit with you?” “Can I play?”
She’d pout and even cry, like she didn’t remember the things she’d done. Like she didn’t spend all her time trying to show us up. We’d turn to the other side of the lunchroom or raise our jump rope chants a little louder. She had to get the hint—people just shouldn’t be like that.
For the third grade talent show, we chose popular songs, set up a real concert. Madonna, Whitney, TLC, then Hannah showed up at dress rehearsal with a stupid plan of her own. She’d already practiced performing some old dead song from a musical her mother was in once. Her mom showed her the “real” steps and she refused to drop out.
“Wanna come to my house, my mom’s throwing a real after-party, a whole ice cream bar.”
She wore purple tights and a top hat, sang some cheesy song about being famous. Her mother brought a video camera and yelled “Bravo” over and over again when she was finished. Hannah was beaming up there, waving to her mom like crazy. She only won because we’d worked together and she was the odd duck out. We were almost embarrassed for her.
“Attention, students. Please pause from your work. Melody Doxley, mother of fifth grader Hannah Doxley and former student Martin Doxley, has died this afternoon. We will observe a moment of silence.”
The two of them at the funeral home, they just sat there bug-eyed, staring at the mottled blue carpet. We filed past, choking on the smell of too many flowers and scared to be in a room with a dead lady. Broadway playbills tacked up all around and weirdoes, all different colors with strange clothes and hairdos. Out-of-towners, our mothers told us.
She must have been sick for a while, lupus or something. We had no idea—with all the talking Hannah did you’d think she’d have told us.
Hannah moved in with her grandmother that summer and didn’t come to middle school with us in the fall. Her name wasn’t where it should have been on any homeroom list, but we figured she’d just switched schools like weird kids sometimes do. But in March, she came back. The teacher explained that Hannah had been sick—she’d need help getting caught up.
Maybe she went bonkers.
Maybe she’s been “resting” where crazies do.
Her face was sallow and gaunt, and she hadn’t started to develop like we had. She was almost silent and walked really carefully, as if she might break. We left her to herself. All through that year, we didn’t ask her to do much, you know, as weak as she was. Even most of our birthday parties were active, roller-skating or swimming, and Hannah probably wouldn’t have been able to go. Our moms always gave us invitations for her, but we threw them out. It would’ve been awkward for her to have to turn us down.
By high school, Hannah looked a lot better. Her blond hair had grown thicker and her body had rounded. Rounded quite a bit, in fact, and we tried to sneak looks in the locker room. She’d totally changed, though, and wasn’t showing off anymore. She mostly stayed out of our way. She cashiered at O’Donnell’s garage, and we sometimes said “hi” to her when paid for our gas. Aside from that slow way of walking she still had, Hannah almost blended in, for a while.
She tried to hide it, but a person can only wear a winter coat for so many months and her poncho just didn’t cut it. None of the guys would admit it and we just couldn’t figure it out.
Who’s the daddy, Hannah?
Pay someone to knock you up, Hannah?
Fuckin’ your brother, Hannah?
Baby gonna have three eyes, Hannah?
He had dropped out of school the year before but still lived at home. They had always been close—too close we realized, after talking about it. We asked around a little, just to see if anyone knew anything, and before you know it the whole school was talking. We even followed her one day to see if she went anywhere but home.
The paper said Hannah’s car had dropped straight off Meyer’s Bridge. They could tell from the way the front was embedded in the creek’s bottom. Apparently, the melting snow had raised the water enough to drown her, even if she hadn’t hit her head. We just can’t understand. We go driving back there all the time—there are no curves.
She was probably drunk.
Did she do drugs?
Who knows with people like that.
We’ll definitely dedicate the yearbook to her. That’s just the right thing to do. Three years ago, two football players died of alcohol poisoning and their class made a whole collage. We can probably find a flattering photo of her, and we’ll cover the front page with memories.
(above text by Jessica Wedge, photo by Jenna Kageyama)
Flesh, blood, and feathers at Blue Print Review.