A light breeze blew around me as I sat in the grass, the blades pricking my skin. Closing my eyes, I slowly inhaled the chilly fall air. Surrounded by the sounds of the rustling leaves and the sway of the trees, I silently prayed. As I finished, another breeze blew past, this one with great strength. The cool breeze felt good on my face. Holding the flower I had brought close to my chest, I lied down, my gaze focused on the distant sky. It was a beautiful sunny day with not a cloud in sight, yet I kept my umbrella close. The rain will come, I thought. I knew, only because over the last four years on this very day, we’d always get the biggest rainfall of the year.That’s when it all began, four years ago, with a girl named Mary Margaret. Mary was a freshman at our high school and well, to say she was a little different would have been an understatement. She came from the side of town filled with the smallest, run-down houses that were so filthy just looking at them could give you bed bugs. Seeing her pass through the halls each day, it was clear Mary didn’t have much of a wardrobe. She would often come to school dressed in old, worn out tee shirts, two sizes too big. Every pair of pants she wore were always hiked above her belly button. And don’t even get me started on the socks. She wore these rainbow colored socks pulled up to her knees. They must have been her favorite because she wore them every day. As far as her physical appearance, Mary was exceptionally thin; it was as if she hadn’t eaten a meal in weeks. Her thick, frizzy red hair was, on most days, kept in a low ponytail. Her bright green glasses were huge and thick and always sliding off her nose. Her unclean, jagged teeth were stained yellow, although you rarely caught a glimpse of them. Mary never smiled. Mary never spoke. As an upperclassman in high school, it was sort of tradition to make freshman lives as miserable as possible. Needless to say, Mary was an easy target and it was my girls and I who gave her the worst of it. At first it was harmless, making little comments to her while walking the school halls. We’d tell her how much we loved her rainbow socks, and then burst into laughter. On days when she’d hike her pants up, we’d say we didn’t know it was supposed to rain and asked if she was ready for a flood. Looking back, I realize how childish and immature we were, and if I could take back every horrible thing I said to Mary, I would. In high school, all that seemed to matter was fitting in, and in order to fit in you had to be willing to do things you wouldn’t normally do. Things so mean, so out of character. Well, at sixteen, I desperately wanted to fit in and was willing to do whatever was necessary, even if that meant ruining a girl’s life. One day after our last class, my girls and I spotted Mary walking down a crowded hallway filled with students eager to leave. As the students rushed to their lockers to grab their belongings, Mary kept a slow pace, her head down. Tucked underneath her right arm were a load of books she was no doubt hauling to her locker. I stared at her for a moment when a smile came across my face. This is too easy, I thought. My friend Alexa must have read my mind because at that very second, she chimed in. “Go ahead Ashley, do it,” she urged me. Scanning the hallway for any nearby teachers, I quickly made my way towards Mary. With only a few steps behind her, I slowed to match her pace, catching a whiff of her horrid scent. I wondered when the last time she bathed was. As she approached her locker, I put my left arm out, and with one hard shove I hit the books she was carrying, knocking them to the floor. “Whoops,” I said. Hearing the laughter of my girls in the background helped me feel at ease with what I had done. Walking away, I remember looking back at Mary, picking up the books I had just knocked out of her hand, and for a moment, I felt bad. My remorse for Mary quickly vanished when Scott, a junior and one of the most popular guys in school came up to me for a high five. “Nice!” he said excitedly. I flashed him a smile and took a bow as I made my way to my locker. At home I sat in silence awaiting a phone call from the school. I thought for sure someone witnessed what I had done and ratted me out. Surprisingly, and much to my relief, that phone call never came. It wasn’t long until my friends and I began getting to school earlier so we could be there when Mary’s bus pulled up. Each day there we were, the four of us sitting on a nearby bench, waiting for Mary. Usually, she’d step off the bus and we’d laugh at either her horrible choice of outfit or the way she wore her hair. No one knew what we were laughing at, except Mary. She knew we were laughing at her. One time, as she walked past us toward the entrance of the school, I stuck my foot out, tripping her instantly. She went down hard. “Loser,” I snickered. My girls let out a big roar of laughter as she slowly got up and headed in. I noticed the fresh scrape on her elbow and cringed at the site of the blood running down her arm. She was a tough one, that Mary. All the hell we put her through, she never shed a single tear and never spoke a word. For some reason, instead of taking the bus home from school, Mary chose to walk. Upon figuring this out, my girls and I soon became familiar with her path. Once we spotted her, we’d slow the car down and yell the most hurtful things out the window. It was during these short drive bys where I found myself to be extra harsh to Mary. Perhaps it was because we were in a moving vehicle where I was mostly hidden in the back seat and knew she couldn’t see me, not all of me anyway. “Why are you so ugly?” I shouted once as we passed by. After a few days she tried taking different routes, but we always managed to find her. It wasn’t hard to miss that frizzy red hair and those rainbow colored socks. The hunt for Mary after school quickly became rather boring. The simplistic routine of finding her and yelling the same old things was no longer any fun; we needed something fresh, and after a few days of brainstorming, a plan was formed and a date was set. I can recall the day perfectly because it’s the day that changed my life forever. It was a chilly day in October as my girls and I waited on the bench for Mary’s bus. Watching the other students step off one by one we waited, hoping she’d be on it. We wouldn’t have cared if she’d miss any other day of school, but not that day, not that specific day in October. I carefully examined each student as they exited the bus until I finally spotted Mary. “There she is.” I whispered, not taking my eyes off of the red frizz ball that now sat upon her head. As always, she was the last one off. Excitement grew with each period and by the end of the day my girls and I were more than ready for our drive home. With the sound of the last bell signaling the day’s end, we booked it to the school parking lot and made our way to Alexa’s car. Upon opening the door to take my usual spot in the back, I spotted the large blue cooler. A cooler not filled with ice and a variety of carbonated drinks, but rather a variety of neon filled water balloons. My heart raced and I began to feel sick. It wasn’t too late to back out, I thought.“We’re gonna be so cool when people hear about this!” my friend Becca enthused. “The coolest girls in school!” Emily added. Together, we were known as the Fab Four, a semi-popular group of sophomore girls in our high school. Unfortunately, we were nowhere near the popularity status of the upperclassmen. Becca was right; following through with our plan would certainly get us noticed and could help us in stepping up the “cool” ladder. The uneasy feeling I had just minutes earlier was now gone and a wave of excitement swept over me. After all, how much harm could we do? It was just water. Securing ourselves in the car, we waited for Mary to head home. We wanted to be absolutely certain which route she’d take and not waste any time hunting her down. Switching cars was a genius idea, Mary wouldn’t see us coming. With our eyes glued to the front doors of the school, they soon followed the red ball of frizz to the end of the sidewalk. I watched as Mary hesitated and glanced around behind her, as if she was looking for something, or someone. Then it dawned on me, she was looking for us.“Got her.” Alexa snapped as she watched Mary take a left off the sidewalk. Being too close to the school would have been too risky, so we waited a good three minutes before heading out of the school lot and in her direction. It didn’t take long to catch up to Mary and as suspected, she never saw us coming. Alexa slowed down and pulled up next to Mary. This was it, I thought, rolling down my window. With all eyes on me I knew I had to step it up. It was my plan after all. Taking a deep breath, I stuck my head out the window, no longer hidden from Mary’s view. “You better get home Mary!” I yelled, “The forecast is callin’ for a buncha rain.” With a quick glance for any oncoming cars, my girls and I grabbed the balloons from the cooler and began throwing them out the windows. Mary didn’t scream nor did she run. She just stood there, like a statue, as the balloons broke on her body. “You could use a shower!” Alexa screamed from the driver’s seat. Finishing off the last of the balloons from the cooler, we laughed hysterically, high-fiving one another. I turned my focus to the girls, when out of the corner of my eye I caught some movement from the sidewalk. Switching my focus back out my window, I watched as Mary slowly turned to us, her face emotionless. For a few seconds our eyes locked with each other. I’ll never forget the look Mary gave me that frigid fall day. Those dark brown eyes and that cold stare. A moment forever burned in my brain. That heavy feeling of uneasiness came back ten times stronger and I felt like I was going to be sick. I wanted to get out of there, away from Mary. Just then, Mary surprised us all. As we were about to drive off, she finally spoke. My mouth dropped, my heart sank. Ever so softly, Mary uttered just three words, words that would come to haunt me for the rest of my life. “You’ll be sorry.” That night as I lay in bed, those words were all I heard. I tossed and turned, and tried everything to fall asleep. I felt horrible for what we did and regretted everything I had ever done to Mary. Sitting up in bed, I flicked on the lamp, grabbed a pen and some paper from the nightstand, and began to write. What exactly, I didn’t know. Crinkling the first two sheets which were full of nothing but gibberish, I tossed them to the floor and grabbed a clean sheet. Dear Mary, I wrote. For the next hour I poured my heart into that letter to Mary. Tears filled my eyes as I wrote, but I didn’t stop. Looking at my watch and realizing it was nearly one in the morning, I quickly wrote down the last of my thoughts. It was then when I heard a familiar sound against my bedroom window, rain. On my way to school the next day, the rain hadn’t stopped and was now coming down hard. Pulling up to the school I felt strange, that whole morning just didn’t feel right to me. Armed with our umbrellas, my girls and I took our regular spots on the bench and watched as the busses pulled up. While my girls chatted about the successful drive by that had happened the day before, I spoke not a word. Instead, I quietly made a pact with myself that I would be a better person, that I would no longer make fun of others to get cute boys to laugh and notice me. Reaching into my pocket I felt the folded up letter and for the first time that day, I felt a sense of peace. That day I had planned on apologizing to Mary, giving her my letter. I wanted to personally tell her how sorry I was for everything I had done, but it was too late. As we waited in the rain for Mary to get off the bus that day, she never did. Returning to my feet I feel the wind begin to pick up, again, and despite my hair blowing in my face, I sit motionless. It has been four years since that day I waited for Mary to step off that bus, four years since she took her own life. I wish I would’ve known more about who Mary was in the short time I knew her, but I didn’t. Instead, I poked fun of a girl I barely knew, a girl who was hurting inside. I didn’t know how sad Mary had been over the years or that she cried herself to sleep most nights. I didn’t know that her mother took her own life when Mary was just nine years old. I didn’t know that she lived with an alcoholic father, and I certainly didn’t know that she loved when it rained. What I did know was that she was different. I know that she had frizzy red hair and bright green glasses that made her stand out. I know that she didn’t deserve to be treated the way my girls and I treated her. I know that I blame nobody but myself and I know that what happened to Mary was because of my actions. It’s an interesting thing to think that a person can be so cruel towards another, not because they’re a bad person, but simply because they look or dress different. Reaching deep into my pocket, I pull out a folded piece of paper. It was the letter I had written to Mary four years ago, the letter she never saw. I open up the letter, now worn and wrinkled. Dear Mary, it read. I lay awake tonight unable to sleep, searching for the right words to say. But let’s be honest, there are no “right” words to say in this situation and a simple “I’m sorry” won’t do in my eyes. I could tell you how sorry I am a hundred times, but it won’t change anything. It won’t change the fact that my friends and I made your life hell every day, nor will it change the way you’ll forever see me. The things that I’ve done to you are unacceptable, and I deeply regret everything, especially yesterday with the water balloons. Please know that from now on when you come to school, my laugh will not be heard. No longer will I trip you in the hallway or shove books from your hand. Be assured that your walks after school will be peaceful and quiet, not once will we follow you home. Through this letter I’m not asking for you to forgive me just yet, or even at all. And if you want to tear it up and throw it away, in front of my face even, I understand. I just hope you at least read it. I truly am sorry Mary, and I look forward to seeing you step off the bus tomorrow so I can hand you this letter. Ashley. Wiping the tears from my eyes, I place the flower I brought down on Mary Margaret’s grave. Taking a deep breath, I smell the air around me. Smells like rain.
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