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Hidden Truths
Alexandra, Age 13, Red Deer, AB

Name: Norah Ann McAdams
Age: Fifteen

Everything Iíve ever wanted. Everything Iíve ever needed; my life and passion, my best friend: Emily Tang.

In the time weíve known each other nothing critical has escaped my lips. The cage. She knows almost nothing about me, and for that reason, and that reason alone, I know almost nothing of her. And yet she is more important then air to me.

Lately, Iíve realized that I canít lose her like Iíve lost others. I canít be careless anymore, sheís important.

One day I will crack the past of Emily, but, for now Iím happy not knowing. Already we have memories that Iíll cherish for the rest of my life. And Iíll smile each time I look back upon them.

For the past while Iíve spilled my past to any passer-by, Iím slowly learning not to do that. But as time wears on, I know Emily will learn about me. If not directly from me then from the large quantities of people who know already each detail.

Mystery: intriguing as it is, needs to be savored. To build up the suspense for the perfect ending.

Since I watched my first Disney movie filming has captivated me. Iíve taken every filming class available at my school, read every book ever written on filming and filmed almost every second of my life. As well as saved up every penny to buy countless video cameras, digital cameras and editing programs for my computer.

My bedroom is covered in pictures- walls, bed, floor- I love photography.

Pictures of Emily and I fill binders stacked on top of my desk. They arenít all great, but it wasnít me behind the camera in over half of the shots.

I have a natural talent for making things look beautiful.

Of course, Em doesnít need it. Sheís about as gorgeous as you can get without having horrendously dangerous surgeries.

She has gorgeous natural black hair; sheís very pale and has dramatically red lips. Sheís almost six feet tall and she weighs one hundred and fifteen pounds. Her eyes are- on most days- a steely gray that can pierce your heart or melt it.

I, on the other hand, have banana blonde hair, large blue eyes, am five foot, six inches tall- five foot, ten with heels- and I weigh one oh two.

The irony of the situation is, that it was Emily who approached me. It was in a photography class near the end of the semester. I was, of course, scared. When someone as beautiful as Emily comes toward you, you have no choice but you gulp loudly for air and sweat through your shirt. Luckily it was hot- very hot- in the room and we were all working very hard on our projects. Symbolic collages due at the end of term, so I could just pass the sweat off for effort being put into my project, and I caught my breath almost instantly after she got right in front of me.

She said, ĎHi.í

I said, ĎHey, howís it going?í

She sat down beside me and the friendship was instant.

Her boyfriend, Charles- whom I must say is very good looking but a tad ignorant- never could get it into his skull that Emily was a friend before a lover.

Even though I came after him in time, I came before him when I needed her. And I almost always needed her when he wanted her.

Every once and a while, when we were exceptionally bored, Emily and I would sit in one of our bed rooms with piles of junk food around us, music blaring, and we would play truth or dare. Emily almost always picked truth. I always picked dare.

I was going to run from my past as long as I could, even if I had to gulp as loudly for air as I did on the day we met.

I would run until I fell and needed someone to catch me, this was not going to catch me in a game of truth or dare.

          ***

Name: Emily Katherine Tang
Age: 15

It was a strange day, the day I met Norah. The photography room was abnormally hot and sticky, the pictures exceptionally fragile. The due date for our project was looming overhead, coming ever nearer. Norah was sitting directly across the room from me, looking relaxed and anxious at the same time. I couldnít help thinking of how gorgeous she was. There wasnít much of a breeze flowing through the room, but her feathery hair caught one all the same and was fluttering ever so gently across her face. She seemed to be in a trace with her photographs- totally in the zone, and totally in control. Unlike I, who was frantically trying to piece an amazing piece of artwork together in my head with nowhere to start. Norah slowly came out of her trance, looking as though confused to where she was. I got out of my seat and started towards her.

Norah continued working as I got closer, and as I did I realized that her work was not as effortless as it had seemed from afar. She had sweated through her shirt and was panting slightly. ĎHi,í I said.

ĎHey, howís it going?í Was her reply.

I sat down in the empty chair beside her and we used that lesson to become best friends.

Charles, my boyfriend, hasnít really taken to Norah yet. But Iím sure he will soon. He hasnít really a choice. Sometimes he gets angry at us because Iíve broken quite a few dates with him to go over to Norahís or to have her over at my place. To speak the truth, my relationship with Charles canít last. We werenít made to be together. And, I think heís starting to realize it too.

Strange as it is, Norah and I sometimes play games such as Truth or Dare. We record each game with Norahís video camera.

When we play Nora always picks dare. I always pick truth, I want her to ask me the question, and I want her to know.

Sheís my best friend, she deserves to know.

As for that project; Norah received top marks. I got a just barely passing grade: sixty-four.

In my defense, most of my time was taken with getting to know Norah.

          ***

Name: Norah Ann McAdams
Age: 15

Now, Emily is different from me for lots of reasons. One of them being that she would rather be out having fun after something bad happened to her. I would rather sit at home, alone in the dark with my movies and pictures.

We do have some things in common. For example, neither of us cry.

We are artists, but I donít cry, nor have I ever seen or heard Emily cry.

Crying is a waste of purified energy, I do not believe in it.

          ***

Name: Emily Katherine Tang
Age: 15

When I get stressed out, the only thing I want to do is eat. But since I cannot eat all the time, I go out dancing. I bring Norah and Charles with me.

On one particular evening- the due date, in fact, of our end of term project in editing class, I was exceptionally stressed because my project; a documentary on Norah and myself, was not nearly as well put together as Norahís about her younger sister, Nicky- I took, no pulled Norah with me to a club. She was just as stressed as I, but she knew she would get a good enough mark to pass the term. But thatís not what she wanted. Norah wanted the best marks, and would settle for nothing less.

On this night, the club was unusually empty. As we walked through the door I felt my heart beat slow a little. As per usual, the music pulsed, the lights flashed rhythmically around the room, and the dates whoíd been ditched for someone more exotic lined the walls. But the aura wasnít the same. The mood seemed cheesy and fake.

The people dancing were robotic and stiff, the snoring, old bouncer was the most lively thing in the room.

Norah clutched my hand protectively and each beat of the music seemed fainter, further away. The dancers were moving in a jerky freeze-frame and my legs felt weak.

When I woke up I was in Norahís bed. Charles was there, holding my hand, and warm afternoon sunlight shone through Norahís skylight.

My face was shaded by the apple tree in the yard.

I wondered what happened to me.

I wondered if Norah would be able to tell me.

I wondered where Norahís mother was, and if she knew I was there. That Charles was there. That Charles and I were there and the door was closed.

I wondered who had closed the door.

Charles? Norah? Mrs. McAdams? Nicky?

Then I saw her. Sitting in the chair; scowling at Charles.

ĎShe doesnít know Iím awake,í I remember thinking, Ďshe never scowls at him when Iím around. What happened last night?í

As it turns out Ö I fainted at the club, then, I slept all night. I fainted because of stress and lack of food.

I eat.

Now Norah thinks I donít eat. I so eat.

Iím not overly obsessed with my weight. But I do care about my appearance, Iím a girl- itís what we do.

          ***

Name: Norah Ann McAdams
Age: 15

Slowly, Iím learning about Emily. Her past, her present, and her hopes for the future. Basically, Iím learning everything- plus more- that a regular friendship is based upon. Itís getting harder and harder to not tell her about everything. I must restrain though, I know I can.

So Ö I think I forgot to mention the small detail I learned about Emily soon after I met her. She doesnít eat.

Well, she eatsÖ But she doesnít eat enough to actually keep her alive and functioning. And since Em means more to me than air, this is of some concern to me. I think sheís getting better though. I hope she is.

I canít help but to think back on the day when she first approached me in that fateful photography class that seems so very long ago; when I looked at Emily for the first conscious time, I noticed how skinny she was. And how great it looked on her.

I had no idea that she was literally dying over that perfectly flat stomach. I feel horrid and more then slightly resentful over that single automatic thought. Even though Emily didnít know I had thought it; and she never, ever would.

Sometimes I wish society didnít have so much control over girls my age. I wish it almost every second, in fact. If there wasnít so much pressure maybe Emily could look like a giant, frolicking pumpkin. And maybe she would be okay with it.

She wouldnít look like a stick and still want more. Or is it less?

Anyway, we have a healthy body image course coming this term (our high school has so many strange courses; or has society finally broken down the education enough to make learning about healthy images core?) So, Iím sort of hoping Emily will take something from it. And get better so we can go to the movies and get extra large popcorn and eat all of it.

So that we can binge on chocolate ice cream when she and Charles finally break up instead of going dancing till dawn (who does that anyway? Who dances when theyíre sad?).

I guess Emily dances when sheís sad. But could that just be a part of her illness? Iíve read about it. I know sometimes people who donít like how they look will eat too little and exercise too much.

I am convinced that I can help Emily by myself. We didnít tell her parents, theyíre too uptight. But my mom knows.

I have the feeling that sheís known the whole time.

          ***

Name: Emily Katherine Tang
Age: 15

I will get better. I will get better. I will get better. I will get better. I will get better. I will get better. I must get better.

I will get better for Norah.

          ***

Name: Norah Ann McAdams
Age: 15

This is the one place, the one person who Iíve been hiding my past from. Iím running, panting for breath, cramp in your side but not giving up kind of running. Iím running and running and Iíll never run out of steam, but I know I have to let the past catch me here.

          *

They say the darkness comes before the dawn. Now is the darkness, I pray that the dawn is on its way. Emily isnít better; sheís worse. Actually, sheís in the hospital. Dying.

And I feel guilty, because sheís been in there for two days and Iím out here, having fun and living an almost normal life without her. Thereís nothing I can do to help her now.

I took my little sister Nicky out for supper and a movie. I had so much fun with her, lately sheís stopped talking to my mom because sheís twelve and thatís what twelve-year-olds do. I feel like she really opens up to me when weíre together.

She told me about this boy in her class, Braydon.

She told me about her best friendís new hair cut.

She told me secrets that I know she doesnít trust anyone else with.

And I didnít tell her about Emily.

          ***

Name: Emily Katherine Tang
Age: 15

So, I didnít get better. I couldnít.

Iím lying in a hospital bed. Pacing around a semi-private room.

Trying to focus on the work sent from my school.

Trying to eat most of the food on the plates piled high in front of me.

Trying not to think about how Norah hasnít come to see me. I can tell she is ashamed of me. What Iíve done to myself and what Iíve done to our image.

          *

She called me today, Norah I mean, and she said she would come visit on the weekend. She took her sister out for dinner. According to Norah, Nicky trusts her a lot.

Norah is a very trustable person.

I have a roommate, she got here today. Her name is Carly, sheís here for the exact same reason that I am. Iím guessing that she weighs about sixty or seventy pounds. Her bones show through her skin, her eyes are sunken and her face is a delicate shade of gray.

Iím glad Norah cares about me enough to tell my parents before I got as bad as her.

Other than her appearance, Carly is a really nice person. A bit of a perfectionist though.

She snapped at me for sitting on her bed Ö Something about knocking around the chi?

Oh well, more motivation for me to get better, I guess.

          *

Norah came, just like she said she would. To speak the truth, it was sort of awkward.

She loves me, I know she does. But maybe Iím making things too hard for her. The whole time she looked like she wanted to say something, but she never did.

I could tell she didnít like Carly either; she kept glancing at her and then grimacing. Carly could see her making the face.

When I first met Carly I couldnít look at her, I kept picturing my head on that body; myself that sick. We talked about it though; she said she gets that reaction a lot. Especially here.

          ***

Name: Norah Ann McAdams
Age: 15

Emily has a dreadful roommate. Sheís so skinny, her skin is gray and her bones stick out from everywhere! It must be so depressing to share a room with someone that disturbed.

Charles was there the day I went. They broke up. I walked in to see the middle and the end of the whole thing, during which Carly was, of course, sitting on her bed watching with the most enthusiasm those sullen, dead eyes could possibly possess.

Ď-And Iíve had enough of you ditching me to go to Norahís. Blessed, innocent little Norah. Like you canít tell as well as I can what sheís been trying to do!í

ĎSheís standing right behind you.í

Charles turned around to face me then, his hansom face flushed with anger, Ďyou get what you want isnít that right Princess?í Turning back to Emily he screamed, ĎITíS OVER!í And stormed out of the room.

Emily collapsed onto my shoulder, sobbing. ĎI loved him Norah. I swear I did. I do.í Carly still sat perched on her bed, obviously delighted with Emilyís little breakdown. I wanted to take her away from Carly, to hold her in my arms and wipe away her tears. She didnít deserve this, and I had caused it. I calmed her down, stroked her face, I told her that she still had me, that I wasnít going anywhere and that I would love her forever. I will you know.

She fell asleep on the bed and Carly was down the hall watching TV with all the other hideously sick and skinny people in the ward. I went to the nurseís station and pleaded with them to let me take Emily home with me.

ĎIíll make her eat; she can do it without this place!í I screamed at them when they refused.

I went back to Emilyís room and hugged her close. Each one of her pointy bones that stuck out slightly from under her perfectly porcelain skin was a blessing to me.

             *

A few days later Emily told me that Carly got sent home because she wouldnít listen to the medical staff and she refused to eat and sheíd told them all that if she was going to die she wanted to do it at home. Emily showed me the note Carly gave her when she was packing up her things:

I didnít know you for long, but Iím sure if weíd had more time we would have grown into close friends. Youíre completely gorgeous the way you are- so donít lose anymore weight or youíll end up like me. Also, you are extremely lucky to have a friend like Norah. You donít know it because you fell asleep when she was here the day you and Charles broke up but she stayed with you late into the night. She hugged you and whispered again and again how much she loves you. Itís clear that sheís worried about you. So try and get better for her. If not for yourself.

Please forget about me soon. I know I wonít be able to forget about you or Norah
though.

          ***

Name: Emily Katherine Tang
Age: 15

They told me that Carly died this morning. I want to get out of here so badly.

I convinced Norah to sneak her camera in here so she could take pictures of all of the sick kids watching the food network, some looking positively revolted. She told me that she got some really good shots out of it.

My doctor said if I gain five more pounds I can go home. But I donít want to go home; I want to go with Norah. My father hasnít been able to bring himself into the hospital to see me and my mom comes everyday, only for a few minutes each time to talk to the doctors. She came once to see me, but it was only to tell me how disappointed she was of me, how she hadnít the idea that I was so impressionable. Mrs. McAdams comes to see me every night now, with Norah, around suppertime to Ďícoaxíí me into eating it. I donít think I need coaxing anymore, but I donít want to tell them that because I like their company. Nicky came once too, she told me that sheís glad that Iím getting better. And that sheís always thought I was pretty. It meant a lot to me, and itís not like their just being nice to me because Iím stuck in this depressing room with no one else to talk to (or is it?) theyíve been nice to me the whole time Iíve known them.

          ***

Name: Norah Ann McAdams
Age: 15

Sheís coming home today. Iím going to tell her everything.

          ***

Name: Emily Katherine Tang
Age: 15

Wow. I never would have thought that the reason that the McAdams moved here was because Norah was raped.

They moved her to get away from him; he doesnít know that they are here.

She told me when I was at her house last night, right before we went to sleep. Itís strange how people are more willing to say things in the dark then they would normally. She told me how scared she was while it was happening and how scared she was after, during the trial, when she thought he would kill her for telling.

He told her he would kill her and Nicky and Mrs. McAdams.

He didnít get the chance and theyíre going to keep it that way.

Everything looks different now. I know Norahís life wasnít ever perfect, even if it seems now like it is.

I know I can never be perfect in my own eyes, maybe there is no perfect, no possible way I could even if there is.

Now that my anorexia is pretty much gone Norah and I went to Dairy Queen and bought enough ice cream to last a normal family a month and we ate it all in one night. We watched movies and talked about everything, good and bad. I probably gained five pounds right there but I donít know because I donít weigh myself anymore. And I donít even care if I did or not.

          ***

Name: Norah Ann McAdams
Age: 15

Emily reacted the best out of anyone Iíve ever told.

When I was younger I always wanted a twin sister so that she could read my mind and she could comfort me when I was sad without me ever saying a word. Em is the twin I never had. After I told her she didnít say anything, she sensed that it was hard for me to tell her. We sat on my bed for a moment after, and then she reached to me and hugged me, like I hugged her that night at the hospital.

I let myself cry on her shoulder and she rubbed my back, her thin fingers stroked my hair. Nicky walked past my bed room and peered curiously in for a split second. She nodded at me and continued down the hall to her own room.

Emily released me and stared into my eyes, I stared back into hers; Iíve never loved anyone as much as I did that moment. Once again, Emily Katherine Tang has proven herself more important to me then air.

             *

After gaining the five pounds she needed to gain to leave the hospital, Emily stopped weighing herself, she stopped caring. And she would eat with me, eat more then me even. Something clicked in her there.

After reading Carlyís good-bye letter I highly suspect it was her words to change my best friend.

Despite my immediate hatred of her she respected me and what Emily and I mean to each other.

          ***

Name: Emily Katherine Tang
Age: 15

One night I awoke at my house, in my room with all my things around me. I was crying; my face swollen and my pillow damp.

Since Iíd come home my mom forced food into me, my dad avoided me and my older sister Kayt was talking to me like I was an unstable little kid. Nothing was the same even though I was better.

I left my house that night knowing that I would never return.

I made my way to Norahís knowing that it was the middle of the night. I knew she wouldnít care.

My bag was light. All I had with me was my camera and my laptop. I had my school books and some photos. The trek across town would be easy.

          ***

Name: Norah Ann McAdams
Age: 15

One night Emily showed up unexpectedly, she had her school bag slung over one shoulder, her laptop over the other and she was carrying her video camera in her hands. The solemn expression on her face and the early hour told me something drastic had happened.

I added that to the fact that Iíd barley seen Nicky in the past week; sheís mostly been locked in her bed room watching T.V. and sleeping in her bed.  I knocked on her door when Emily got here, to let her know, but Nicky Ėof course- was still sleeping. Her room looked like it had survived a hurricane, a strong one. Papers littered the floor and her clothes were off their hangers. All her drawers were open at least part way and her computer beeped an irritating alarm. Her pillow cases, sheets, and blankets were twisted around her. Emily and I backed out of her room, closing the door behind us.

We sat down on my bed and I waited for Emily to spill. We sat for a long time, I watched as her eyes got wetter and wetter, getting closer and closer to tears.

ďNothing is the same anymore Norah,Ē her whisper was so quiet that I almost missed it.

ďI know EmÖĒ I didnít know what else to say I wasnít even sure what she was talking about.

ďI canít control anything. Canít do it properly.Ē Even more cryptic.

ďDonít cry.Ē Emily sniffled. I let her rest her head on my shoulder, I felt her tears fall onto my lap; hard and fast at first but softer and slower after a while. She shuddered and sat up, ďNorah, I canít go home again.Ē

Some how I already knew.

ďYou can stay here, Iím sure.Ē And I was, my mom loved Emily.

             *

Emily relapsed. I caught her throwing up one night after supper. And Iíd been noticing her eat less and less every day. My fears were confirmed. I swept into the bathroom and cleaned her up before my mom or Nicky found out.

Even though she was sick I didnít want her to go back to the hospital where she didnít fit in. I wanted her to stay with me, where we completed each other perfectly. She looked ashamed. Wouldnít look at me.

I didnít know what to say to her, I didnít realize that I was crying until the salty drops were landing in my mouth. I let them fall, then. No holding back. Not this time.

She stood away from me, staring at the floor. Tears were falling onto the carpet. So much for never crying.

I was mad. Worried. Scared. Sad. Anything but happy. A sob escaped me. It was loud enough, rare enough to bring Emilyís eyes up to mine. She sat down beside me and our hands found each other. I needed her as always, and she needed me more then ever.

ďIíll help you.Ē

             *

Emily disappeared that night. She left me a note:

Iím sorry Norah. I had to leave. It hurts too much.

I love you.

And she was gone.

My mom got the police involved, I couldnít do anything. I stayed in bed, waiting by the window. Hoping she would come home. I never slept. No time for eating. Showering was not top priority. The binders full of pictures of us were on the foot of my bed. Her note stored in the cover of the most recent one. I hadnít stopped crying since she left. Itíd been one week.

Two.

Three.

They didnít find her.

And I was losing hope that they ever would.

          ***

Name: Emily Katherine Tang
Age: 15

I was fifteen and on the run. It felt better this way. And worse at the same time.

The pressure was gone, but so was the only thing Iíd ever really needed. Norah.

I should have brought her with me. But I never thought to.

I hope sheís okay.

She is, I know. By now sheíll have recovered. Probably even found someone new.

          ***

Name: Norah Emily McAdams
Age: 16

Itís been a year since Emily left. The police have kept up their search, followed every lead. Today the contacted us, said they found a body that could be her. Weíre going to the morgue tomorrow afternoon to confirm. Part of me is hoping that it is her. Because then this will all be over and sheíll be at rest. Though I never will be, no matter what. The other part of me is hoping it isnít, because if it is, then my worst fears have become reality; my best friend, dead.

             *

It was worse than I ever could have imagined. Mangled, dirty, dead. Emily.

My best friend left me, but now Iíve truly lost her.

             *

Her family was all at the funeral, of course. Nicky, my mom, and I were sitting in the front, across the church from them. Everyone cried; though none of us have talked to Em in almost a whole year. Teachers, family and friends talked about Emily: pleasure to teach- such potential, caring to the younger ones- though troubled, smart- pretty- popular. I didnít make a speech. My memories of my friend would remain mine alone.

The day she first ditched Charles for me, because my grades were slipping and I felt so out of control. And she held me and calmed me down.

The day we spent at the beach together, laughing at guys who came up to us and hit on us, the pictures of us standing proudly beside our sand castle, new tans making us glow.

The classes spent laughing at our film direction counselor, Mister Bartlyís wild hair and squeaky voice.

We could do no wrong.

The day we buried Emily it rained- not the heavy kind of rain that made you run for cover- but the kind of rain that was warm and soft. The kind of rain that made you want to curl up in bed with a book or sit down and watch a tear-jerker. The kind of rain perfect for crying in, because no one could see your tears.

I watched my tears land on the soil by the hole made for Emilyís coffin. Watched them sink into the earth.

Emilyís sister Kayt was staring, stony faced, at something over the tops of everyoneís heads. Something I shall never see.

Nicky sobbed openly, so different from me. I hid my tears, tried to stop them from falling.

Emily left me; she didnít want me to hurt. Yet she broke my heart and walked over it several times, with cleats on her feet.

They lowered her down into the ground, the crowd started to disperse offering hugs to one another on their way to their automobiles. Eventually I stood alone. Then I let my muscles relax and I sat alone. I cried alone, more openly now.

I was totally alone.

Alone with my best friend, whoíd come into my life willingly, and left it just the same.

Alone, alone, alone. So terribly alone.

The note was in my pocket, her words etched into my memory forever. I took it out and laid it on the new grave that shouldnít have ever been dug. Slowly the rain washed away the ink, washed away her goodbye.

Goodbye.

I walked home from the graveyard. The sun peaked cautiously through the clouds; asking for permission to come out. No. But someone said yes because the rain slowed. Then stopped. The sun shone brightly into my eyes and it dried my tears and my clothes. Memories of Em and me in the sun flashed through my head. No. I donít want these anymore, Emily is dead. Dead. Still they came, and with the memories came more tears. Only this time there was no rain to hide them. To hide me.

***

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