The morning after Alexis died I made the crazy decision over breakfast (which I did not eat) to go to school. I guess it was because it was freaky watching my Mom cry, and I knew if I stayed home I'd have to endure that for most of the day.
"Take your brother with you," my Mom said and I glanced across the table at my brother who was crying just as much as my Mother. I didn't feel anything, I just felt numb.
I grabbed my brother by the hand and pulled him out the door with me. Much to my surprise I saw Mitchi waiting outside my house, with little Eitan holding his hand.
"What are you guys doing?" I asked.
"Walking you all to school," said Mitchi whose face still had tear stains. He gave me a long hug as Sean and Eitan ran ahead, pretending to be Transformers.
"Why is Eitan going to school?" I asked, and Mitchi looked at me concerned.
"I went over there this morning and it isn't a good scene, Essy was screaming, Michael looked like a zombie, and Eitan wanted to go so I took him," said Mitchi.
"Look at him he's only seven, he's too young to know what's happening, but look out for him today," said Mitchi and I nodded.
"You just kidnapped the kid?" I said slightly giggling.
"I doubt they'll notice he's gone, and besides I don't think Alex would want him around all of that sadness," said Mitchi, and then started to weep. I put my arm around him and didn't let go of him the entire walk. He left us at the gate to our school, and I took Sean in one hand, Eitan in the other, and the three of us walked in together.
"Are you okay?" I asked Eitan and he nodded silently.
"You know where my class is right?" I asked.
"Yes," both boys said.
"If you need me go there okay?" I said and let go of the boys as they ran off to greet their friends. At this point no one knew what had happened yet. My school friends greeted me, and ran around, oblivious that Alexis had died. Most of them hadn't even known she was sick.
The bell rang and I sauntered up to my classroom. My teacher Mr. Sapsford knew what happened, as did all the staff, and my Mom told me a grief counsellor was going to come and speak to me today.
Mr. Sapsford looked over at me with such sadness and devastation, and came over to my desk.
"I am very very sorry for your loss," he whispered to me.
"Thank you," I said. A lot of people had been saying that to me in the past 12 hours and I always responded with "thank you". I didn't know what else to say.
The last bell rang and the students stood up for O Canada.
"No boys and girls please go to the door and line up," said Mr. Sapsford.
"We are going into the auditorium for an assembly," he said and I grimly stood up. Great.
We silently walked towards the auditorium as we were walking there various staff members came over to me and put their arms around me or gave me a hug. The other students in my class kept looking at me but I kept quiet. I didn't want to be the one to tell them, it was a small school and everyone knew Alex.
When we got into the auditorium Mrs. Dennison, my favourite teacher ever waved me over. She had taught me in the fourth grade, and was now Alexis' teacher. More than that though her and I had become quite close, she knew I had a special love of reading and had really fostered that in me. She had a huge house with a gigantic library and she would let me come over anytime I wanted to after school to read. Sometimes her and I would bake cookies together or go on her sail boat.
"Are you okay sweetheart?" Mrs. Dennison asked me and I was completely honest with her and shook my head.
"I don't feel anything," I said.
"That's normal, come sit with me," she said and I sat down beside her and let her put her arm around me. By now my classmates were curious. Why was I in the teachers section? Why were all of the teachers crying? They soon had their answer, as the principal went up on stage.
"Hello boys and girls. We have met here today to talk about something that is very difficult for me to say to you, and is very tragic," she sighed and blew into a kleenex. Our principal was crying. Not a peep was coming from the students now.
"Yesterday evening at around 7:30 pm, we lost one of our students Alexis," she said trying to hold it together and I could feel a bunch of eyes on me.
"She lost her life to an aneurysm, which is a bleeding in the brain. It is a very rare occurrence for this to happen to a child, and this is the first child in Monterey history we have had to say goodbye too. There will be counsellors around the school all day, and if any of you want to talk just let your teacher know."
"Is there anyone here who wants to share their favourite memory with Alexis?" Asked the principal, and I could feel almost the entire school looking at me.
One of my good friends, Paige, rescued me by being the first one to raise her hand.
"Alex was an amazing friend, she was actually just over at my house last week and we made perfume together...I just can't believe this happened," Paige said sobbing.
On and on the tributes went, and everyone was still looking at me. I slowly raised my hand and Mrs. Dennison gave me a reassuring squeeze on my shoulder.
"Um Alex is...was...my best friend...and um it's hard to just find one thing to talk about...but there was one time when a new kid had moved just a few houses down from her. She sort of dragged me over because we all know how bossy she is," I said and a bunch of the kids who knew her laughed in between sobs.
"Anyway, she asked the Mom if she had any children, and she did, just one daughter who was nine like Alex, but she had special needs, so she told us 'Jenny doesn't know how to play', and Alex didn't care, she just said 'that's okay I do,' and spent the whole day playing with Jenny and treating her like a normal kid. I could see the Mom crying as we left and she kept thanking Alex," I finished and the whole school looked at me and clapped.
"Thank you Chelsea, and I would like to say to you how sorry I am," said the principal, and I sat down and looked at my feet.
The assembly took us all the way into recess, which I really did not feel like participating in.
"Come with me," said Mrs. Dennison, and she took me downstairs towards the teachers entrance and into her car.
"Where are we going?" I asked.
"Do you want junk food?"
"Yes!" I said, thinking how perfect it would be to just sit and eat chocolate. Which is exactly what I did, thanks to Mrs. Dennison who bought me four chocolate bars.
I didn't go back to my class after recess, I was dreading the looks and the questions, so instead they put me in the staff room, and the grief counsellor my Mom hired finally arrived.
"Hello Chelsea my name is Laura," she said introducing herself. It was the start of what would be a two year routine.
"Chelsea in your own words can you tell me what happened yesterday?" she asked, and I had a hard time making eye contact with her.
"My best friend died...well she's brain dead, but she's probably actually dead now, they might have pulled the plug on the respirator," I said. Laura nodded.
"This must be very hard to you. Can you tell me exactly what 'dead' means?" she asked, and that was a hard one.
"All I know is that it means I won't see her again," I choked.
The emotional session went on for an hour, and then I was free to go back to class, or stay in the staff room which was what I chose to do, until my Mom came to pick me up at around 2:00 because school just "wasn't working out" today according to the principal.
My Mom dragged me and my brother into a taxi where Mitchi was already waiting. She then explained how we had to go to some boutique to try on clothes for "the funeral".
"Where's the funeral going to be?" I asked.
"In Montreal on Friday morning so we're leaving tomorrow," said my Mom and I sighed.
"Are you coming?" I asked Mitchi and he nodded silently.
"No one even knew her in Montreal," I argued and my Mom said she knew that but then Alexis could be buried next to her Zeyda. She would have liked that.
I gazed out the window and watched the world go zooming by. A world going on without Alex. It was too weird to understand.