Gilbert had just walked out of the store, casually holding a pizza box in both hands that contained a few slices inside. But it wasn't two seconds that passed after he had opened the door to the store and walked outside that something heavy had fallen into his arms. He had been so surprised by the sudden occurrence that his balance had been lost and he had fallen backwards. He was confused on what had happened throughout the past couple of minutes until he looked up and saw you directly staring at him. And it wasn't until you had ran away after kicking him brutally in the stomach that he realized what had actually happened.
You had jumped from the roof of the five-story building in a horrifying attempt to kill yourself. You had jumped because you had endured so much pain throughout your three years of going to high school that you felt like you just couldn't have handled any more of it. You jumped because it seemed to you that there was no other solution to your problems other than to just simply end your life.
Throughout the entire time that Gilbert had bullied you, it never occurred to him just how much pain you were experiencing. He had never seen you cry, nor did you ever seem to express your inner pain and emotions whenever he was around to strike a blow at you. It hadn’t occurred to him just how miserable your life seemed to be.
Either way, you wanted to kill yourself. You almost did. And it was all his fault.
The little boy walked down the sidewalk with an excited smile plastered on his face. It was the weekend, and he was going to a playdate at his best friend’s house. He didn’t get to see her quite that often during the weekday when the both of them were at school, so he was happy to get to spend the whole day with her with no other kid around to get in their way.
When the boy finally reached the front of his friend’s house, he was able to spot her sitting on the front steps of her house, looking down at her feet with an expression on her face that he wasn't able to recognize. Either way, the sight of her made the smile on his face widen and his eyes sparkle with even more excitement than they contained just moments ago.
“I'm here!” he yelled happily before he ran across the girl’s front yard, slowing down and eventually pausing when he had reached the base of the steps.
Upon hearing his arrival, the girl lifted her gaze from her feet and looked up so that it was able to meet his. Instantly, the happy and delighted expression on the boy’s face drooped and was replaced with concern and confusion when he saw her face filled with sadness and streams of tears fall down from her eyes.
“Hey, what's wrong?” he asked as he walked up the steps and sat down next to her.
The girl dropped her gaze back down to her feet and sniffed, tears pouring out of her eyes more frequently. “M-My mommy...” she began in a trembling voice. “My mommy told me that...there was a teenage girl in California who did suicide...”
“Suicide?” the boy echoed, tilting his head to one side in confusion. “What's that?”
The girl lifted her head and turned it so that it was able to meet his gaze, and he felt his concern grow even more when he saw just how much sadness was pained across her face. “Suicide is when...somebody k-kills themselves. Mommy told me that...the girl was bullied a lot and many people made fun of her and hurt her. She didn’t want to be in pain anymore and she didn’t think there was any other way to stop people from bullying her so she ended her life.”
The boy, whose concerned expression had now changed into one of horror, stared wide-eyed at the girl with a slightly open mouth. “R-Really? How did she do it...?”
She was silent for a few moments before she let out a desolate sigh and looked down at the ground. “Mommy said that she jumped off the top of a really big bridge. After everyone found out that she died, they were all so upset, a-and her parents were...crying a lot because they didn’t know she was...b-being bullied...” The last words of the girl were trembling so much that the boy was barely able to make them out, and it wasn't long before she drew in a shaky breath and broke down into a sob, covering her face with her hands.
“Hey...don’t cry,” the boy said as he scooted over so that he was able to wrap his arms tightly around his best friend.
“B-But it’s so sad!” the girl wailed as she buried her face in his shirt. “The girl didn’t deserve to die! I bet she was a really nice, kind person who could've been able to make friends with those who were so mean to her! She didn’t deserve to die because of what other people did to her! It’s so terrible!”
“You can't change what already happened,” the boy said in an attempt to calm her down.
“I know, but...” She pulled away from him and looked up to meet his gaze, tears glistening in her eyes. “I already see some kids in our class making fun of others and teasing them, and the teachers don’t even do anything about it. I don’t want to be influenced by those mean kids, and I...don’t want you to be influenced by them either.”
“I won't,” the boy said, grasping her hand and giving it a squeeze. “I promise I won't bully anyone like that ever in my life.”
“Please,” the girl murmured. “I can't imagine you doing something like that, and I don’t want to, either...”
He nodded and gave her a reassuring smile. “I won't. And if you're ever bullied by anyone, as long as I'm here I promise I’ll protect you.”
“R-Really?” she asked, her voice coming out as a squeak as she looked at him wide-eyed.
“Really,” he repeated, reaching out to wipe the tears away from her eyes.
The girl let out a smile and extended her arms, pulling him into a hug. “Thank you, Gilbert...”
Gilbert let out a sigh as he stared out the window of his apartment, looking out into the city lights while feeling the calm night breeze blow through his hair. He knew it was past midnight, the rest of his family was asleep, and he should've been, too, but somehow he found that he was unable to even lie in his bed for a whole minute. Instead, he stood at the window with his elbows resting on the sill and his chin in his hands, gazing blankly out into the city. He was wide awake with the thoughts of your attempted suicide as well as the memory from his childhood that just came to him as he continued to stand there.
He remembered the promise that he had made to his best friend back when they were only seven years old. He had promised that he would never, ever bully someone in his entire life up to the point when they would've wanted to kill themselves. And now, after he thought back to how he had caught you after you had fallen from the top of the building, he realized with a pang that he had broken that promise. He broke the promise made to his only best friend.
Not only did Gilbert promise he would never bully someone in his life, but he also said he never would've done it so that somebody would've wanted to kill themselves. He had broken one promise for the past three years, and now he had broken another.
How would his best friend have reacted when she found out about all the bullying he had done to you? If she was still there, she probably would've stopped being friends with him immediately. The very thought of her finding out about all the pain and terror that he had caused you shamed him to his core.
Gilbert decided to turn his attention away from your bullying and over to his old friend. He remembered her—how he always used to spend time with her, how the two of them always had “playdates,” how they kept secrets that only they knew about and no one else did, how he always trusted her, how he always went to her whenever he was upset or was in a tough situation...
Too bad he didn’t remember her name.
Oh, if only he got the chance to see her now. She meant so much to him...when he found out that she was forced to move, he felt like his heart had been torn to pieces. He remembered crying for days afterward, saying over and over how he missed her. And thinking back to all the memories he shared with her made his heart ache as much as it did after she had left. She had been his only friend throughout most of his childhood, and he felt that his early life would have been a lot more lonely and depressing if it weren’t for her. But if she were to meet him again, what would he say to her? Sure, he would've been overjoyed that he finally got the chance to see her after being separated for so long, but how will they be able to interact knowing that he was keeping a big secret from her, and that was how often and how cruelly he had bullied you? The thought of her finding out that he had broken his promise made guilt fill his body.
Gilbert remembered how upset she was when she found out that a girl killed herself because of bullying. She probably would have been a thousand times more depressed if she found out that another girl had killed herself because she was bullied, only this time, it was caused by her childhood best friend.
He let out another sigh, his eyes heavy with sadness and regret. He had bullied you up to the point where it had gotten too far. His intention had never been for you to kill yourself because of all that he did. There was a reason why he bullied you so much ever since that fateful day when you walked up to him and offered to be his friend, but...he didn’t feel like thinking about that right now. It brought too much unwanted pain to his heart to remember. Instead, he decided that he would attempt to change his attitude towards you, to show you that watching you try to kill yourself had given him the signal that he needed to stop what he was doing. Though it was probably going to take a very, very long time for him to convince you that he no longer wanted to bully you, it was worth a try, right?
His mind already set for tomorrow, Gilbert climbed into bed and pulled the covers all the way over his head shortly before falling into a restless sleep.