TITLE: The Last Time You Died
GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy
It’s my first time back at school since Ben died and I don’t know what to expect. Will my friends understand and support me or will they turn their backs and trash me? Can I hold it together?
I step into the classroom and familiar sights and sounds crowd my senses—kids laughing and talking, our advisor, Mr. Davis, shuffling papers at his desk. A wave of panic creeps up my chest, lodges in my throat. I draw a deep breath to calm down and it gets worse—musty books, dry-erase markers, cheap floor wax—normal school smells, now linked forever to painful memories. It sucks, but I had to come or everyone would have said: Gemma’s lost it and won’t leave her house.
Nothing’s changed since last spring. The same movie posters hang on the slate-grey walls. The same scratched metal desks arranged in a semi-circle—Greek theater-style. The same anti-drug flyers and list of classroom rules posted on the bulletin board. Arrive on time. Respect yourself and others. Users are losers.
Kids zone out on their phones. Two boys chase each other around the desks, laughing and trading insults, while in the front row, two girls braid each other’s hair.
It looks the same, but it feels different. I turn my eyes away from the empty seat against the blackboard where Ben used to sit, cracking jokes, touching my hand when nobody was looking.
“Gemma, over here.”
Micaela and Caleb wave to me from their seats. I smile and wave back.