It started with a row about the invitation. Marsaili and I don’t have any secrets, so, unsurprisingly, the first time I kept one, it swirled into a cyclone that I couldn’t control.
I hid the invitation, neatly decorated with both of our names, at the bottom of the recycling, hoping that I could wish it away, and for a few days, I forgot all about it. I lived in my usual bliss until Marsaili took out the recycling, and stormed back in a few minutes later with a face like thunder and that stupid slip of paper in her hand.
We fought. Insecurity, madness and shame spilling out into the once quiet living room. She thought I was ashamed of her. I thought I couldn’t face going back. She cried. I held her in my arms as the tempest tapered, and I cried too, quietly as she crumpled into my chest.
It was just a school reunion. What harm could come from a school reunion? Who wouldn’t want to return to the hallways and classrooms where the everlasting mental scars were scratched and clawed into my soul?
It was just a school reunion, but I hated school. I liked to learn, but nobody I was learning with liked me. I’d walk through the gates every day, clutching my books and brushing down my skirt in the hopes that I looked good enough to get through the day without bother, but a day like that never came.
On paper, I should have been popular. I had the means to be fashionable. I was beautiful. I did well in my studies. I was charismatic. This all sounds very vain, but it’s all true. I was, on paper, the coolest girl in school, but everybody hated me.. I had a big house, with a pool, and organised parties every summer, but nobody ever showed up, except Marsaili. She had been my only friend, and after the hellish experience we had both had, I was surprised that she wanted to go back.
I could never figure out what they saw that made them hate me so much, but now, going back as an adult, I had another aspect of me that would make me a target.
They didn’t really bother her, but they’d all hated me. It was like they knew what I was before I did. There were rumours, of course, there always will be when two girls are close like we were, and now, we would be returning to the scene of the crime, where we had the audacity to fall in love, and they’d all know that the rumours had been true after all.
None of them were my friends, but we were all friends on Facebook (everybody is), and I watched their lives from a distance, noticing how different they were to mine. All the girls had husbands. All the boys had wives. I was the kind of girl that couldn’t follow the rules, and that was the route of my panic, and Marsaili’s incorrect assumption that I was ashamed.
It wasn’t shame. I haven’t felt shame in the longest time. It was a reluctance to allow others to shame me. I didn’t want to give them ammunition, but she needed a show of pride, so I swallowed mine, and confirmed that I’d be attending.
As the day got closer, I became more anxious, and as the day finally came and I pulled into the car park with her by my side, I felt sick with nerves. She gripped my hand tightly, smiling over at me, but it made no difference. All my ghosts had gathered, ready to point and stare, but I had no choice to parade myself for their perusal, in the name of love.
She gripped my shaking hand tightly as I opened the door to the hall, and she squeezed it, with a sympathetic look as every eye in the room landed on us, the room filling with gasps and whispers.
I stood silently for a moment, looking down at my shoes as the stares from around the room burned into me. Marsaili pulled gently on my arm, ushering me into the room as the door closed behind us, and I slowly stepped forward, daring to look up, and being unsurprised by the awestruck, somewhat disgusted faces looking back at me.
It had been a mistake. A stupid, naive mistake to believe that these people were capable of accepting us. I went to back away but Marsaili held me in place.
“We haven’t done anything wrong.” She whispered, her lips softly grazing my cheek as the stares before us became glares.
“Well, would you look at that.” Came a voice from the crowd. Eilidh, Marsaili’s twin sister. They hadn’t spoken in years, and Eilidh had always blamed me. She had terrorised me at school, as if I had somehow caused the distance between them, rather than it being a result of her homophobia. “It actually showed up.” Marsaili sank back behind me, slowly realising what I had already known for years, we weren’t welcome in this backwards little town, and we never would be. “Get that bitch.”
In an instant, the crowd began to advance on us. So many familiar faces, contorted by rage, running at us, as I grabbed Marsaili’s hand and dragged her back towards the door. It was too late. In an instant, we were pulled apart, screams filling the air as they forced me to the floor, Marsaili disappearing in the stampede as kicks and punches rained down on me from above.
For a moment, it felt pointless to resist. There were so many of them, so much hate and anger, but as I lay there, laid into by the horde, I thought of the fear in Marsaili’s face, and I knew that I had to get away, so that I could get her somewhere safe.
I began fighting back, punching, kicking, biting and scratching until I’d managed to push back a few and was able to make a run for it. I bolted out of the door, calling out Marsaili’s name into the night as they pursued me.
Eilidh caught up to me almost immediately. She ran at me, her fingers curling around my hair and almost ripping it from the root as she forced me to the ground.
“You bitch!” She screamed, launching on top of me and hitting everything she could see. “You took my sister away from me.” The others circled around us, cheering as she scratched and bit me, almost feral. “I’ll fucking kill you.” I pushed back against her, my head banging back and forth against the concrete as I started to lose the ability to stay conscious. “You selfish, jealous bitch!” Her accusations faded as the world around me began to blur. I think, if I hadn’t seen Marsaili running silently past the crowd, I would have let Eilidh kill me, but knowing that there was still hope, some kind of chance that I could help Marsaili spurred me on, and I fought through the pain, punching back until her nose was bloody and the crowd pulled her away.
“You fucking animal!” She screeched as I took my chance and pushed past the crowd and made another break for it, hearing Eilidh order them to follow me.
I ran past the car park up to the classrooms, dashing past the computer labs and calling out to Marsaili again, terror setting in as I realised that our chances of escape were slim. I tried a few doors as I ran, but couldn’t find anywhere that was open, so I returned to an old haunt, my usual hiding place when I had last wandered the lonely halls of Egerton High.
I hid behind some trees for a few moments, watching them run past in pursuit of me, and then I lost them behind the English building. A large, shadowy building with winding staircases and very few windows. I didn’t enjoy being in the building, but I always felt safe hiding out behind it, and as I turned the corner, spotting the familiar emptiness of the area behind it, I finally found her.
“Anna…” She whispered through tears, slumped against the back of the building. I ran to her, kneeling beside her and clutching her in my arms. “Anna, what have you done?” I hushed her, kissing her forehead and wincing as I tasted blood.
“It’s okay.” I pulled her a little closer, feeling her shaking in my arms as I spoke. “We just need to get out of here.” She shook her head, pushing against me. She was afraid, just like she was when we were kids, and though I knew it wasn’t the time, I felt a slight urge to tell her that coming back had been a mistake. “I’ll get us out of here.” Nothing else mattered to me like she did. That was how it had always been, since the second that I saw her, and I wasn’t going to let them take her from me.
“I don’t want to die.” She mumbled, pulling away and trying to stand. She fell back into my arms, and for the first time, I could see the wound on her head, pouring with blood that snaked down her pretty face and fell against the scratches that ran down her neck. There must have been more of them, dotted all over the school, just waiting to take us out, and they’d attacked her before she found her way to safety. They disgusted me. They called me an animal, but I was the most human person there.
“Please don’t let me die.” I could hear the mob advancing, and began looking around for something to fight our way past with. Marsaili wasn’t strong enough to defend herself, so I had no choice but to get us past them myself.
“What did they do to you?” Marsaili was silent, pushing her fingers against my lips as the voices of the crowd grew closer. I reached down and grabbed a stray branch, knowing that it would be the only thing standing between them and us when they arrived. “I’ll protect you.” I whispered, not sure that I could, but determined that she would believe, until the very end that I could.
“She will be behind there.” It was Eilidh. She’d found me, and her mob poured down the alley way, behind the building and to our hiding spot. “You know, she was still going to come back to visit from uni, right?” She spat, fighting to get to the front of the crowd and glaring at me. I stood, as menacingly as I could in front of Marsaili, gripping the stick in my hand and hoping that I could keep her safe. “But you took her.” She snarled, pushing the others back and rounding on me.
“She was gay Eilidh!” I was exhausted, exasperated and frankly, sick and tired of having to apologise for falling in love. Eilidh shook her head, looking at me with pure disgust on her face.
“Yeah, and she’s also dead.” I laughed, shaking my head as the rest of the crowd were silent. I turned to Marsaili with a smile and she just stared, blankly, her eyes full of fear. “You’re laughing? Did you think it was funny?” A few of the crowd held her back, but he struggled against them, clearly dying to get her hand on me again, which was a little ironic.
“Dead to you maybe, but still very much alive, you homophobic bitch.” I waved the stick in Marsaili’s direction while Eilidh struggled against her friends as they held her back.
“Your Dad’s wealthy lawyers made it seem like it was her fault.” She sobbed, her tears full of fury. I looked around, bemused by her insane ramblings. “She was so much smaller than you, there’s no way it was self defence.” She fought back against the arms that held her and finally broke free. I ran back to Marsaili, standing in front of her to protect her from her sister as she lunged at me again. “You’re a murderer!”
My head smacked against the ground and she spat and screamed as she attacked me, her crowd screaming abuse as she pulled at my hair and punched at my face. It was so loud, so violent, blood pouring from both of her bodies as the world began to blur again, but behind the crowd, and her insane sister, I saw Marsaili, slumped against the wall, her head pouring with blood, scratches down her neck as she faded from life. All I could hear was those last words from Eilidh.
“You’re a murderer.” As my eyes went in and out of focus, I saw Marsaili, lifeless against the wall, the shadow of the trees moving slowly across her cold body as her lips were stained red by the blood. It was so familiar.
As the world got darker, I felt the blood from her body leaking down onto the concrete, spilling onto my fingertips and there was a memory, somewhere in the distance. Something I couldn’t bear to recall. Something so dark, so sad, something twisted up inside of the back of my mind.
I think this is the end, because all love stories have to end, but I know that they’re wrong about us. I have loved Marsaili since I was twelve years old, and I will never, ever stop, no matter what they say. We don’t have any secrets, We don’t keep anything from each other, and she will always be mine. It’s just me and my girl against the world.
It always has been, and it always will be.