Chapter 1: The Morning After

School was murder without her. You never really know how much you see a person or talk to them, or how much time is just spent thinking about them until they're not there anymore, and that time is taken up by something else. At this point it was grief or emptiness. She wasn't known by the entire school, not truly popular by any means, but she had a large enough group of friends and acquaintances. It was on the announcements the following Monday that a student had passed away, Scarlet Rose, and an extra moment of silence was held for her.

Robert was devastated. As torn up as he'd been before they met, she'd made all of it worth while. Now that she was gone, getting up that morning was not an easy thing to do. And facing school seemed nearly impossible. But, he went about his daily routine in a daze, not caring what happened, just as long as he could make it through the day. As far as he was concerned, today was a day to say goodbye to everyone, subconsciously planning to join her soon enough.

He made it through first block OK (alive at least), but as soon as he saw Marina when he walked into English, he almost died.

Her eyes were puffy and swollen from crying, and the tears had left mascara streaks down her pale freckled cheeks. She was sniffling in her seat in the corner of the room, in as much of a daze as he was. She was dressed in all black, of course, but she'd been dressing in black for days now, and she was finally starting to run out of stylish dark clothes. Her hair was up in a pony tail, with wispy red hairs flying out everywhere. You could tell that there were other things on her mind than her appearance today.

Robert went and sat down in the desk in front of her. She had been staring down at her desk, a notebook open in front of her, since he'd walked in. She jumped, startled, and looked up at him when he pushed a few of her hairs behind her ear. She sniffled and smiled and said a raspy "hi". He gave a half smile in return, holding back tears.

"What's that you're reading?" he asked when she returned to the notebook.

"Me and Scarlet's old spiral," she managed to sniffle, "we were so close to finishing it this year . . ." A tear escaped and dropped onto the page. He wiped the moistened trail it left off her cheek as she sniffled and closed her eyes. He dropped out of his desk and onto his knees beside her as she fell into his open arms, tears quickly dampening his shoulder.

They'd attracted some of the other students' attention, which, in turn, attracted the attention of their teacher, Mrs. Larson.

"Would you two like to step outside?" she asked gently, walking over and putting her hand on Marina's shoulder.

"Yes, ma'am." Robert said, scooping Marina up and leading her to the emptying hallway.
Marina was now sobbing blatantly into her best friend's shoulder. After a few minutes she began to calm down, and slowly took her head off his shoulder, keeping her eyes downcast. "I just . . . can't believe she's gone . . ." she said quietly, sitting with her back against the lockers, hugging her knees to her chest.

"Neither can I . . ." he managed, a tear now rolling down his face as he sat next to her.

Marina and Robert had become fast friends when they first met, but Scarlet had won his heart. The two girls had been best friends for years when he came along, and he had struggled to maintain his relationship with both girls, loving them both but in different ways. It had been difficult but he'd managed somehow with their help in keeping him under control. But there had always been a sense of something more bubbling beneath the surface of Marina and Robert, had Scarlet not been there. Though none of them would admit to that. Scarlet had always had a secret fear of them running away together and leaving her in the dust to deal with her nearly obsessive ex, Russell. But, that day never came, and now it would never have a chance to.

They'd been in the hall for about 15 minutes when he walked up.

"They're calling a bunch of us down to the counselor's office." Russell said, fidgeting with the yellow hall pass.

"When?" Robert asked without looking at him. The two had never really become close, both fighting for Scarlet's affections from the start.

"During lunch. Which means pretty much the whole group will be in there at once." He told them as they got up, preparing to return to class.

"What are they planning on doing? Telling us not to kill ourselves, just because we look like we might?" Marina asked, with a hint of a laugh in her voice at the absurdity of the thought.

"I dunno. But we might as well go. We wouldn't want to upset them and have them get our parents involved" Russell said with sarcastic dread.

An awkward silence followed between the boys as Marina went to the bathroom, attempting to make herself look presentable when they walked back into the classroom.

"Well, um, I guess we'll see you in the counselor's office then" Robert said after a painstakingly long 2 minutes when Marina returned.

"Yeah, I guess so . . ."Russell said, slowly turning and walking away.

"Bye" Marina said to the boys back as he disappeared down the hallway. He waved to them over his shoulder as he turned the corner to return to his classroom.

Robert sighed and turned toward the classroom door. "Shall we?" he asked, looking at Marina. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, slowly exhaling before looking up at him and nodding. He twisted the doorknob and they slipped back to their seats, joining the class in taking notes for an upcoming test.

*~*~*~*~*~*~* A/N: Interested yet? Hope so! Now that I've started, chapters will (hopefully) come quickly for a while. Please give me feedback. Thanx 4 reading! *~*`/*~*