“Well, we’re lost,” I exclaim as my best friend and I circle the same tree for the third time in twenty minutes.
“We are not lost,” he replies while his magnetic eyes scan the surrounding area. “Just… mildly confused.” Usually, I would laugh at his attempt at humor, but night is approaching quickly; I’ve heard about the horrors that take place in the woods at night.
“Now is not the time for humor. We need to get home. There are bears, wolves, and murderers….” Gooseflesh appears on my skin while my shoulders shudder.
“Hey,” he interrupts, calmly placing his warm hands on my shoulders, steadying me (little does he know that makes me even more nervous). His eyes meet mine, filled with humor, and my train of thought derails. “We’re going to be fine, Ok? I’ll get us out of here.” His hands leave my shoulders, and there is a coldness now like my body knows his hands are supposed to wrap around me… I clear my throat and turn around to pretend I am looking for a way out; really, I just need to collect myself. “Maybe we can find the road,” he says hopefully.
“What if we try over there,” I point towards the left, where the trees seem to break slightly, and a road almost seems visible. Maybe it’s just my imagination. Or perhaps a part of me wants to stay lost in the woods so we can have this time together. I look over and see him smiling at me with his goofy grin that makes girls fall to their knees.
“I knew I was friends with you for a reason,” he says, ruffling my hair and walking in the direction I pointed. And just like that, reality sets in, and I remember my place: his best friend. Nothing more. There is a heavy compression on my chest at the realization, but I do with it as I do with all my emotions: pretend it doesn’t exist.
“Wait up,” I say, following him like a lost puppy. How pathetic. Just tell him, my inner monologue shouts in protest. What if he likes you back? He might! I push down the hopeful thought and collect myself once again. I jog and fall into stride with him as we search for the exit. Tell him. You may never get another chance. “Hey,” I say loudly and unintentionally. He stops walking and turns around to face me, and my courage disappears.
“Yes?” His eyes twinkle with curiosity as I fidget with the bracelet around my wrist.
“Um… well… I’ve wanted to tell you this for a long time, and I don’t know when I’ll get another chance or the courage or if you’ll hate me or….” My knee bounces up and down rapidly in rhythm with my irregular heart and I look anywhere but him, finding interest in the pattern of roots on the forest floor.
“I get it. Just tell me.” He crosses his arms over his chest, and I take a deep breath.
“Ok… Um, Well, I like you.” The relief of finally removing that weight from my shoulders engulfs me but shatters when I look up and see a knife held to his throat. Terror fills my senses, but before I can scream, a hand claps over my mouth, silencing me. In one quick moment, the knife slides across the neck of my best friend—the love of my life—spilling blood onto the forest floor of dead leaves. Tears well up in my eyes, and a scream erupts, but it is muted by the hand covering my mouth. I use all my strength to pull away and run towards him as he falls to the ground, but strong arms restrain me.
“Stop struggling,” the deep, rough voice says as he readjusts his hold on me. His strong terrifying hands press harder into my skin as I thrash around, desperate for any leeway. I am fully sobbing now as his beautiful, striking eyes lose their life for good. I’ll never laugh at another joke or blush like an idiot when he compliments me; I won’t help him with his homework ever again—my best friend, my guiding light, my love, gone in an instant. A dark cloth covers my nose, and the smell of chemicals is the last thing I sense before everything fades to black.