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Anna-Belle
by C.R.M. Nilsson

I met Anna-Belle Nilsson when we both were thirteen. Most people our age switches school between the two years for some reason here in Sweden. But I had only just arrived to the country and my Swedish was heavily accented by Japanese. I could barely communicate with my rude classmates; but not because my language was lacking fluency. No, they just didnít want to communicate with a foreigner like me.

She was just as alone as me, but by choice and not forced into solitude like I had been. In the society I had just left there was a saying: the nail that sticks up get hammered down. Well, she was the nail in the proverb, but she refused to be hammered down.

Her hair was raven-black and shaggy with a fringe that almost covered her sad eyes. The startling paleness of her blue eyes was brought out by dark coal and her lips were painted red. She was dressed all in black with chains and spiked bracelets as her accessories.

Normally she would never have been the type of girl I would associate with. But loneliness brought us together.

Her name was Anna-Belle Nilsson, as previously stated. All those lís! It drove me batty. But she was very patient and told me it was okay if I called her Anna-Beru. She was a very patient person in general when I used the wrong verb tense and got confused with the language, though I must argue that Swedish is easier than the Spanish she forced me to take! It was like when I screwed up, she didnít even notice. She just corrected me without missing a beat and went back to the book of the week.

She was warm and clever; too clever for our classmates to stand. They treated her very badly, but she wouldnít care. Sticks and stones, was all she said. Sticks and stones.

Metaphorically speaking she took my hand and never let go. She guided me through the confusion and chaos that was this new school. The way people were acting would probably startle any person coming into it without knowledge of school. It was noisy and you had to shout to make yourself heard. She didnít bat an eye at it, used to it. It took some time getting use to calling my teachers by their given names and without any suffixes. But I got used to it with her help and that warm smile that could only be met by a smile.

The years passed and I didnít care about that we both had become nails which were sticking up. We talked about our plans for the next step in our education: I wanted to study languages at a local school, she wanted to enter the art program at another. But there was something far-off in her eyes when she spoke of this.

What people often forget, or rather maybe donít know, that people that dress like she did, are not necessarily stupid or lack manners. She was a warm, intelligent human being who cared about everything that lived. She would rather suffer the irritation of a fly than kill it and get the blessed silence.

And thatís how she should be remembered: as a warm-hearted, friendly and very caring person. Not as a misfit or as somebody so much more intelligent than your average person. She should be remembered as a girl whose entire face lit up the moment a stray cat started brushing against her legs and letting her pet it.

We were graduating from this school and were relieved that it was almost over. We were chatting about the latest plot development in the manga Fullmetal Alchemist, when she suddenly excused herself to the bathroom. She stopped and turned towards me.

ĎUhm, Kido?í she said hesitatingly and I made a noise to show that I was listening. ĎUh, never mind.í

Had I known what would happen, I wouldnít have let her go. I would have demanded her to tell me what it was. As it was I sat there by the table in the hallway and waited for her. When a quarter of an hour had passed and she hadnít come back, I got worried. I thought that maybe a bully had locked her in again (it had happen once before).

I walked to the bathroom that she probably had chosen and knocked on the door. If it was somebody else, I would just excuse myself and look somewhere else. I didnít get an answer, but knocked on the door.

ĎAnna-Beru?í I called out (it had become my nickname for her). ĎAre you there?í

There was only silence meeting my voice, so I pushed down the handle. The silence made me hold my breath. The door swung open, which made me think at first that the room was empty. Than I saw the hand.

ĎAnna-Belle?!í I cried out in a high-pitched tone of voice I didnít recognize as my own.

The silence that met me made my ability to breathe leave me.

What passed was a blur of lights and noises for me when police and medical personal arrived to our school. I was sat down at the very same table and asked questions I couldnít comprehend. Dully I found out that she had taken pills for car-motion-sickness to keep down the sleeping pills.

I was sent home when I couldnít answer the policeís questions. I wouldnít leave my bed, convinced that it wasnít true, she wasnít gone. And when I realized that it was true, I wondered if I could have seen it and saved her. Could I have saved her?

Only a few days later, her mom came to see me with her face aged ten years and twisted in grief. She told me that I shouldnít blame myself. As it turns out, Anna-Belle recently found out that her parents had shielded her from the truth: she was dying. She had been for years and she sunk into depression when she found out that she wasnít likely to live much longer.

So I couldnít save her from the start: she was dying when I met her. But I loved her so it hurts my soul. She was the kindest, gentlest soul Iíve ever met and maybe she didnít get to save human lives, but she saved animals regularly. She helped me and many others.

She was a fine human being; the finest Iíve ever known. And Iíll miss her because, as I said, I loved her so it hurts my soul.

And sheíll have to forgive me for over and over again in my head trying to save her.

But she was doomed from the start.

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Copyright C.R.M. Nilsson 2010

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