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Simply told, a story of the death of a friend

Caitlin

by Samantha Epps, 13
Robbie and Kate Lyn were like my mom and dad. They were always like that to me, though. I’ve known them for about 4 years, but I’ve never really known them. That is until Caitlin died.

When Caitlin died, the world I knew disappeared. And a new world opened up.

Let me tell you about Caitlin. She was the best person I’d ever known. She had long golden hair and bright blue eyes. When I say her hair was golden I mean it. Not just blonde, but gold. And her eyes were as light as the sky, so full of love and care for everything. Everyone who met her liked her. I loved to come over to her house to spend time doing a puzzle, or taking a walk in the park, or just watching a movie with her, Robbie, and Kate Lyn.

Now let me tell you about Robbie and Kate Lyn. That’s Mr. Robbie and Mrs. Kate Lyn to me. But if I could, I would treat them just like my friends and not adults. They’re Caitlin’s parents. Robbie is big and strong, with a blonde hair and a hint of Caitlin’s gold. Even though I would never admit this to anyone, I say this now: Robbie has a great body. Plus he’s the nicest person I’ve ever met, even nicer than Caitlin. Kate Lyn has got Caitlin’s eyes, her name, and her attitude. She’s always willing to have fun and is real motherly at the same time. Sometimes I picture her in a hippie costume saying, “Where is the love?”

Now that I’ve told you about Caitlin’s family, let me tell you about mine. I never felt any real attachment to my mom, dad or brother. They put bread on the table and listened to me talk about my day at school, but otherwise they were nothing like Robbie and Kate. My brother, Noah, and I didn’t really talk much except maybe a little about school sometimes. My mom and dad were pretty much the same mould. Then there’s me: Samantha. I was pretty much like my family until I met Caitlin and saw how much more her family meant to her. And saw how much fun they had together.

One day my family told me that they we were taking a trip to Mexico. Well okay, I thought. Sounds like a good time, I suppose. But the exact same day Caitlin came running up to me in school, smiling like crazy.

“Sam, oh Sammy Sam-eroo!! Guess where you’re going in two weeks?” she asked holding up two fingers in my face, and still smiling.
“Where?” I asked.
“You’re (she pointed at me) coming with me (she pointed at herself) CAMPING!”
“Camping?” I asked, puzzled, “Why are we going camping?”
“Because it’s only the most fun thing to do on the whole planet!” she screamed, slightly disappointed on my lack of enthusiasm.
“Well, okay. Sounds like a good time, I suppose,” I said. “Wait a second. In two weeks? Caitlin, my parents told me yesterday that they’re taking me and Noah to Mexico in two weeks.”

Caitlin was angry and wouldn’t rest until I could go camping with her. But in the end we simply asked my parents and they said it would be fine if I went with Caitlin and they had a three-travellers discount pack for the airfare anyway. I was so excited about the trip I could hardly contain my eagerness.

However, the trip was the start of a terrible experience.

Robbie was inside the tent. Kate was sitting near the fire. I was by the river trying to carve a stick like Robbie had showed me. Caitlin was about ten feet away from me, gathering stones from the river. And everything happened in a blur of colours and blood.

Caitlin was reaching in to the river trying to grab a stone. She lost her balance. She fell in. The violent rapids carried her. Faster and Faster. She was being pulled under. I screamed. Kate screamed. We chased after her. Robbie dashed out of the tent. His eyes were unlike I had ever seen them. Blood. The rapids slowed. Blood. The red and white colours of the ambulance. The blurred lights. I covered my face. Looked at Caitlin one last time. Screaming. Crying. Blurred through tears, lights, colours, blood.

It would have taken a great effort to get me to talk about that night. We all cried the whole way home. The kind camp director offered to drive us. She must have been glad when we were out of the car because it was so sad. Nobody spoke to each other; we were so overcome by grief. But when we finally reached home, and had no more tears to cry, we did speak.

“Samantha, honey, I am so sorry,” was what Kate said to me. “Stay here until your parents are back.”

And that’s why I ran. I took one look into Kate’s sad blue eyes, and Robbie gold tinted hair and ran out the door in a rush of tears. I ran and ran and ran until I was a good mile away from Caitlin’s house. I wanted to die. I wanted to just disappear and get away from this moment when I felt so horribly awful. I was out of breath. I walked to a bridge overlooking a river a stared into it. I couldn’t help it. I cried my heart out.

But then I thought about Robbie and Kate Lyn and about running away from them. Somehow I felt that I was intruding. I shouldn’t be a part of Caitlin’s family, sharing their sorrow and grief. Ever since I met Caitlin’s parents, I had wished I could have a family like that. So was it fair that I got to be with them and Caitlin didn’t?

“Geez, God,” I thought, “I was happy just knowing Robbie and Kate. I didn’t mind sharing them. You didn’t have to kill her!”

Tears trickled down my cheek. Just then I heard a car pull up behind me. The door opened and closed. Someone was walking up to me. What if it was a killer? A mass murderer? A rapist? I didn’t care. I wanted to die. Please. Please end my pain, I thought.

I heard Robbie’s voice behind me.
“I don’t think you want to sleep on a bridge,” he said. “It’s supposed to get kind of cold tonight.”
I didn’t turn around. Kate had invited me to stay with them. And it was getting chilly out. But then the thought of Caitlin flooded my heart again. Robbie shouldn’t be looking for me when his daughter had just died. Caitlin deserved to be here. This wasn’t about me. Why had I run away?

But Robbie had been inside the tent. At least I’d been near the river, when Robbie was inside the tent. He had been running but hadn’t tried to catch her when she... no, don’t think about that, I told myself. But I couldn’t help it.

Robbie walked up and looked into the water, standing next to me. He just stood there for a few seconds, staring into the flowing water.

Caitlin was gone. She was gone. Anger surged through me.
“It’s all your fault! You should have been watching her! You’re her father! You should have told her not to lean over the edge! What the hell were you thinking?! It’s your fault she gone! God damn it!” I yelled.

I stood there facing him, my face wet and shaking. I didn’t know what I was saying, just that I was so angry I wanted to hurt Robbie… kill him for just standing there, staring into the water, so calm, not doing anything. I buried my head into my hands, and leaned over the bridge sobbing. Wishing that Caitlin would just come back.

Then I heard a sound from next to me. Robbie was crying too.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “I know it was my f-fault. It was all my fault, I’m so sorry.” He continued to cry.

Shocked, I tried to wipe my eyes as best as I could. What had I done? I had ruined it again. It wasn’t Robbie fault. Why had I said that? I was just so angry.
“Robbie, please, please… I’m sorry… please. I don’t know why I said that. I’m so stupid. Please forgive me.” Tears streamed down my cheeks again. Robbie tried to wipe his tears away, and I could tell he was avoiding my eyes. It was weird for me to see an adult cry like this. My parents had never cried in front of me. And certainly not my father. I felt so horrible again.

Robbie wiped his eyes with his sleeve and took a deep breath. “I’m really sorry about Caitlin. I wish I could make her come back. I wish…” He bit his bottom lip to keep from crying again, “I wish I could just die... but please… I know you feel as bad as Kate and I do about this, so just please stay with us. We want you to. Please don’t run. You’re almost like a daughter to us.”

This time it was my turn to hide my tears. I looked anywhere but at Robbie. He thought I was like his daughter. I knew I didn’t deserve this.

We drove back home to find Kate Lyn on the phone.
“I ordered pizza,” she said quietly. “I’m starving. Is that okay?” Her eyes were red. I could tell Robbie and me weren’t the only ones that had been crying.

I didn’t feel like eating anything, more like throwing up, but I didn’t tell her that. I just nodded.
“Is everything alright?” she asked us. I nodded again and Robbie said, “Yeah, everything’s fine,” trying to sound convincing. But Kate didn’t look persuaded.

When the pizza came I tried to take a bite, but couldn’t.
“You didn’t eat anything since this morning, honey,” Kate said.
“I’m sorry,” I responded, “I just don’t really feel good.” Which was the truth. My stomach was doing flip-flops and I was starting to get a bad headache. I walked to the bathroom and vomited. Kate walked in, rubbing my back, and holding back my hair. She spoke softly, and picked me up, but my head was spinning. I was only faintly aware of Kate putting me on the couch with a blanket and pillow and kissing my forehead. I heard her talking to Robbie before I drifted off.

I awoke with a start. I was sitting straight up on the couch, sweating like mad and breathing hard. Robbie and Kate were kneeling next to me, looking extremely concerned.
“Samantha, are you okay?” they asked me. I was becoming hotter and hotter by the moment. I kicked the covers off of me and sat on the edge of the couch, bent over, head in my hands.
“Samantha,” Robbie said, “What’s wrong? What hurts?” He grabbed my hand away from my face and squeezed it. “Holy God, You’re burning up,” he said, reaching over to feel my forehead. His cold hand felt good. But I was going to faint if I didn’t step outside and get some air. I shakily walked over to the front door, opened it and sat outside on the steps. I heard Robbie tell Kate to call the doctor. Then I remembered the events of yesterday.

Don’t think about that, I told myself. Robbie opened the door.
“C’mon, it’s freezing out here,” he said, motioning for me to come inside. The cold felt good, but I did what he said and went to sit on the couch again.

“I heard you scream in your sleep from my bed, so Kate and I went to see if you were okay,” Robbie explained. “You were tossing like crazy and sweating and yelling. We didn’t know what to do. But then you just sat straight up, sweating.”
I had been having a terrible nightmare, but I couldn’t remember what it was about. I felt stupid.
“Don’t call the doctor, please. I’m fine. I just had a nightmare, that’s all, I’m okay now.”
“You’re not fine. Look at you, you’re still sweating and shaking.” Before I had the chance to protest, Kate walked in. She handed Robbie a thermometer, who stuffed it under my tongue before I could push it away. All three of us sat there in silence for a few minutes, which was fine with me because I was feeling guilty again. Everything felt like a crazy dream, now. Kate and Robbie’s daughter had just died and yet they were worried about me.

Okay, okay calm down, I told my self. Let’s go over the facts. My parents are in Mexico. Caitlin died just over a day ago. Then Kate and Robbie asked me to stay at their house. I was scared so I ran. Then Robbie came and he was crying. I threw up and fell asleep and then…
“Samantha?”
I jumped.
“Oh sorry,” I mumbled, taking the thermometer out of my mouth. I03.7 degrees. I handed it to Robbie who handed it to Kate. They looked at each other.
“You’ve got a high fever, Sam,” Robbie said.
I just stared at them for a few seconds. Then I said abruptly, “I want to go home.” My voice was shaking. “I can’t stay here, I’m sorry; I just want to go home.” All I knew what that I didn’t want to be there anymore. It was too hard. I felt so guilty that Robbie and Kate were willing to take care of me, and their daughter, my best friend, was dead. I knew it was a stupid feeling but it still made me feel awful.

I stared at the ground and silent tears ran down my face. No one said or did anything for a few seconds, and then Kate got up and sat next to me. She put her arm around my shoulders and tried to pull me next to her but I pulled away. I wasn’t going to give in. I wasn’t going to make that mistake again.

“Samantha, you have no where to go, though. Your parents are in Mexico and they won’t be back for another few says,” Kate said sadly.
“Then I’ll stay at home alone,” I said, sniffing. “I don’t want to stay here because... well… I just… I don’t think I should be here.”
Robbie and Kate just looked at me. I knew I wasn’t making sense. I took a deep breath. “Caitlin is gone and- and you guys shouldn’t be feeling sorry for me because, well because I should be feeling sorry for you. I mean it was your daughter and she was the best person I ever knew! But… but she didn’t… she didn’t deserve this and I don’t deserve to stay with you,” I finished. I looked over at Kate and Robbie, feeling ashamed. Kate started to cry now and Robbie was trying very hard not to blink.

I kept staring at the ground, wishing that I had gone to Mexico with my parents, wishing none of this ever happened. I wanted to die. Finally Kate stopped crying and took my hand.
“Samantha, honey, I didn’t mean to make you stay here. I guess I shouldn’t have. It’s just… when something happens like a death… to be alone and to just try not to think about it is the worst feeling. Even worse than how you’re feeling right now. I know how it is. I didn’t want you to go home, all alone, to have this experience haunting you for the rest of your life. That’s why I asked you to stay here.”
I didn’t know what to say. I still felt terrible, but not that terrible. Maybe I should stay. But I couldn’t think about Caitlin anymore. It was just too hard.
“Please,” Kate said. “We can talk about it when you’re ready. It doesn’t have to be right now! But it will make you feel better when you do decide to talk about it. And plus… you still have a fever and well, if Caitlin were here… she would want you to stay. I know she would.”

I heard Robbie make a sound and saw him get up and walk to the kitchen, wiping his face.
“See?” Kate said smiling weakly, “Robbie has to talk about things.” She reached over and hugged me. And I cried onto her shoulder feeling the warmth of her body travelling into me.

I remember waking up sweating and shaking again, but not as bad as the last time. This time when I woke up it was daylight out and Robbie was kneeling down next to me, asking me what happened.
“Nothing, I’m fine,” I replied. “What time is it?”
“3pm. Maybe bad nightmares often come with fevers,” he said frowning, “as this is the third time you were yelling and moving in your sleep. It was scary; I didn’t know whether to wake you up. Kate just went to get you medicine.”
I could tell there was something else he was going to say, but stopped himself. Finally he quickly said, “Oh and by the way your parents called.”
“My parents? What did they say?”
“Well actually they said they were having a great time and just wanted to check up on you.”
“Oh,” I said. I still had the feeling like he wasn’t telling me everything. After a few minutes Robbie continued, “Then Kate told them about what happened and they wanted to come home right away, but they said the soonest they can get here is in three day, so Kate just told them to stay and enjoy themselves because they’re scheduled to come home in 4 days anyway,” he said in one breath.
“Oh,” I said again, “okay.”
I didn’t feel like sleeping anymore (and was kind of afraid of waking up shaky and screaming), so I took a shower and went to get some clean clothes from my house. Kate brought me this disgusting orange medicine and she forced me to eat something.

But I won’t describe every detail.

In the end, there was a funeral. I went, of course, and so did my parents. But after that I went to see Robbie and Kate everyday. The truth was, I had never really recovered from Caitlin’s death. But in a way it was like giving up something, but getting something too. Though I had lost my best friend, it was like I was gaining new parents, new people to love and care for me. I never forgot about my real parents because no one could ever replace them. But I also never forgot to visit Robbie and Kate because, like Kate Lyn had once told me: Caitlin would want me too.

And I knew she was right.

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