A scream tore across the sky as if a freight train were hurtling toward me. I stood in the middle of the field and tried to run for the house, but the wind was too strong and sucked me back. A funnel cloud was forming. This could not be happening. We didn’t have tornadoes in Western New York. Lightning flashed all around me and there was debris of all kinds swirling within the funnel cloud. It was reaching closer to the ground with every second. Houses cracked and trees snapped at terrifying angles. I needed to get inside. The house was so close, but my legs could not handle the wind. I just needed to get to the basement and then I would be safe. My vision started to get fuzzy and sound became muffled, as if my ears had popped. The tornado was on the ground now. I was going to die… I bolted upright in my bed. My hair was plastered to my neck and face in a sheen of cold sweat, and my sheets and pajamas were soaked. My lungs burned and my body felt like it had been running marathons in my sleep. I looked around, relishing the calm, quiet dark of my room. “It was just a dream.” I knew I would never be able to get back to sleep anytime soon. I reached over and retrieved my laptop from the armchair beside my bed. I tapped at the space bar a couple times to bring it out of sleep mode. The screen lit up, and once I entered my password, I was brought to my abandoned Tumblr page. For the last few months, I’d been toying with the idea of starting my own blog to chronicle my ups and downs. After realizing how many other people were experiencing the same depression and anxiety that I did, it made me think that maybe this was a safe space to vent and still stay anonymous. I had been getting worse in the past weeks. Perhaps I was just too stressed out with trying to survive Junior year. I was drowning in research papers, exams, and drama club rehearsals, which were both exhausting and the most fun I’ve had all year at the same time. Feeling like I had nothing to lose, I trigged the ‘New Post’ button. I decided to call my blog ‘Thoughts of a Lonely Girl.’ It seemed fitting to me. I wasn’t truly alone. I had a normal family and good friends, but no one understood what was really happening inside my head. I took a deep breath and began to type. ‘So…hi. I’ve been feeling like my depression is getting worse lately. I want to do something to get all these annoying thoughts out of my head, so I’ve decided to start this blog. I realize that this is not a situation unique to just me, and that a lot of you may be going through similar things, or worse things. Hell, I’ll probably end up giving up and forgetting about this after a week or two anyway. But, until then, I guess I’ll give it shot. ‘I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety earlier this fall. I guess I kind of knew it was coming, because I’d felt off for a long time, but it still sucks. The last few days, though, I’ve barely been able to get out of bed. Everything feels heavy. I can’t tell my friends, because I’m afraid of disappointing them or making them worry about me too much. My parents know, of course, but I have the same problem as with my friends. I don’t like it when people worry about me. I don’t like it when I feel like I’m a problem someone else needs to fix. But I need to do something, or else I’m scared something bad could happen. ‘I guess the things I say on this blog will be the things I’ve wanted to say all my life – or at least for the last six months – but have not been able to say out loud. I suppose if any of you reading this – are any of you reading this? – are feeling like me, then I guess you can vent to me. My ask box will be open to you. Xx Sincerely, Me xX I hit ‘Post’ and closed my laptop hard before I could regret it. Now that the light from my screen was gone, the dark of my room felt overwhelming. I put my laptop back where I had found it in my chair, and got up to open the window. It was still March, and the air was chilly, but I could feel a hint of spring, too. It made me think of new flowers in my mom’s garden; of going to baseball games with my friends; of Easter and chocolate and prom. I laid back against my pillows and stared up at the dark ceiling. I smelled the hint of a camp fire floating in through the open window, and it enveloped me as my eyes started to grow heavier again. I knew now that my tornado dreams were triggers. Every time I felt at my worst, they came. I yawned. I was tired. I was always tired. I rolled over and dug my phone out from under my pillow. I scrolled through the notifications and emails, seeing a couple messages from Brynne and Charity, but none from Gabriel. Of course, he was the one I was still desperate to talk to. He had always known how to make me feel better. I wasn’t sure why I still hoped anymore, though. He hadn’t returned any of my texts since Christmas. I didn’t understand it at all. It had been hard, of course, when he’d started classes at one of the local community colleges, but we were making it work. He was still one of my best friends – and to me, so much more than that, though I never told him. I met Gabriel when I was 12. I had been attending a sleepover party at a friend’s house, and he lived next door. I had only been in 6th grade, but Gabriel had been 14, a big, scary 8th grader. It had been dark outside, and we were gathered on our friend’s trampoline with a couple other girls who’d been at her party. It had been dark outside, and I remember being able to hear the eerie sound of bat wings flapping as they flew back and forth over our heads between the trees around the yard. Gabriel had decided, apparently, that he was going to tell a story. “Do you want to hear a secret?” he’d whispered. I remember nodding eagerly, being awed by the fact that an “older kid” wanted to tell me and my friends some special, secret story. “Okay,” he’d said. “But you have to promise never to tell anyone.” My friends and I had nodded again. I remember the wicked smile that had crossed his face. “Well,” he’d started. “One time I had been over here hanging out. It was a night kind of like this one: dark, chilly, bats flying around. We were sitting here talking and started hearing these strange noises coming from somewhere around us. We looked around, but didn’t seen anything, and were too scared to leave the trampoline. Then, can you guess what happened?” I remember shaking my head violently. Gabriel had paused, and then with a roar, lunged forward, toward us, yelling “Someone stabbed a knife through the trampoline!” My friends and I had screamed, scrambling off. I remember how he’d doubled over, laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes. “That wasn’t funny!” I’d yelled. I remember he struggled to stifle his laugh and had tried to put a serious, apologetic look on his face. “I’m sorry,” he’d said. “I didn’t mean to scare you too much, but come on, wasn’t it a little funny?” I hadn’t replied, struggling to hide the growing smile on my face. Even back then, it was impossible to be angry at him. Three years passed between that night and the next time we met. I had been a freshman in high school at that time, and we had band together, as well as drama club. We started talking to each other, and I’d been surprised when he’d recognized me from the night so long ago in our friend’s backyard. “You’re Ryann, right?” he’d asked. The last time I’d met him, it had been dark outside, but then, I could actually get a good look at him for the first time. Gabriel had short-cropped, jet-black hair and his skin was the color of caramel. He’d only been a few inches taller than me, but he’d filled out a little from being the scrawny, gangly kid he’d been that night three years before. His eyes had been the most telling feature about him, being almost black, and filled with mischief. It was pretty common in our school district to intermingle with kids from different grade levels, since it was small, but Gabriel had taken me under his wing and over time we got to be really close. By the time I was a sophomore, he had become a regular part of my life. We walked home from school together every day, and also saw each other during and after school in band, chorus, jazz band, and drama club. I’d felt like I could talk to him about anything, and he was always able to make me laugh even if I’d been having the worst day. Gabriel graduated last summer, and though he hadn’t moved away, he still started classes at one of the surrounding community colleges while I was left behind to finish my last two years of high school. At first, everything stayed normal. We texted and talked over the summer and went for walks. When the school year started, though, these instances became more sporadic, and he started drifting away from me. I knew that it would be hard having him start college. He had a whole different life now, but I thought we’d be able to stay friends, at least, if not anything else. As close as we’d gotten over the past couple of years, I had never summoned up enough courage to act on how I felt. I supposed that he just got busy, meeting new people and doing things that college kids had extra freedom to do. I convinced myself that it wasn’t intentional, that he would realize he missed me eventually. Now, I couldn’t even remember when we’d last spoken. It was like we’d never even met. I just wish I knew how someone who I thought was so close to me could have forgotten about me so easily.