Disclaimer: I do not own Sunnydale, Buffy and related characters. I did, however, create Linda, Maggie, Yvonne, and Sharon.
There are three of us sitting at the table in the restaurant. Two chairs are empty. One of us is not even sitting in a chair. Her wheelchair is pulled up close to the table, her back facing the wall as she warily watches the comings and goings of the other patrons, every now and again jumping from strange noises.
Sunnydale. That is such a pretty, perky name for a town. We all grew up there. Theresa, Sharon, Maggie, Yvonne, and me, Linda. Cordelia Chase, social queen of Sunnydale from kindergarten up, called us the Freaky Five, slightly above the social scale of the Three Musketeers, Willow and Xander and Jesse. But the Freaky Five are now the Freaky Three and there are only two Musketeers left. Living on the Hellmouth does that to you.
"Excuse me," a waitress comes up to me, "Will your other friends be joining you? We are busy tonight and table three could use the chairs - "
"NO!" Maggie shouts, defensively moving her chair to block the waitress. I do not blame her, but my scars are fewer, outside and in, and so I tell her,
"We always save them seats, every year for our reunion. They died in high school - "
The waitress nods a little, my words sinking in. "My apologies."
Maggie, Yvonne, and I turn to consider the first empty chair. Yvonne has set up a photograph there of Theresa. We pause for a moment, and remember her.
I always knew Sunnydale was not the Mayberry it was made out to be. When I was little, my cousin from across the state talked about playing Kick the Can in her neighborhood after dark. My friends and I never played outside after the sunset.
Theresa and I lived next door to each other. She dared me once to cross the lawn in the middle of the night to sneak in and visit her. When my mother caught me, I never saw her so angry. It wasn't until after.well, I understood by my junior year.
Weirdness was our creed in good ole Sunny D. I remember in sophomore year, the year we all began to have someone to identify the weirdness with. The new girl, Buffy Summers.
The Three Musketeers hung with her at first. She seemed nice, but I was attempting to reach the rarified circles of Cordelia Chase at the time, and once Buffy was declared an Untouchable, I sort of dropped any and all overtures. It wasn't long before Jesse was listed as a missing person. We have a lot of those in Sunnydale. Willow and Xander and Buffy became really close after that, hiding in the library with the new librarian, Mr. Giles. There were stories that if anything odd happened, they were the go- to guys.
And our sophomore year was treated with the oddest Sunnydale had to offer. The principal was eaten by "wild dogs", the bio teacher was decapitated, and cheerleaders were struck blind and dumb (not that the last was a great loss). Our year of funness culminated in a massacre right in the student lounge, complete with blood dripping on the walls.
I can't believe I didn't question it then; didn't wonder just a little. But life's easier when you declare stuff like that "totally whacked" and rumors otherwise were "from crazies". So that summer the Freaky Five waved our banner high and did our teenage best to hide our heads in the sand. And when sunset came, we stayed inside.
By junior year, everyone knew about Buffy Summers. Or thought they did. By then Cordelia herself had given me a personal putdown, (therefore rendering me a social Untouchable), and so with Theresa's encouragement, I got to know Buffy a little.
Not that anyone really KNEW her.
My friends hung with her friends, in a more-than-passing-acquaintances-less- than-bosom-buddies way.
Her boyfriend, Angel, seemed a little old for her, but any girl with half a brain could see what she saw in him. He was definitely hot, with a whole older guy vibe going for him, but he seemed to be good.
We trusted him.
I remember, at the Bronze.
"Buff, we're gonna head home, hope you guys keep the party going!"
"All five of you?"
"Yeah, our parents flip about the curfew, I swear it's a conspiracy."
"How are you getting home? You live, like, across town."
"Shortcuts do wonders. The walk sucks, but it's better then ride mooching."
Pause. Moment of visual conference between Buffy and Angel.
"Y'mind if my boyfriend walks you home? Otherwise we'll spend like the entire time wigging on your behalf."
"You'll trust him with us?"
We trusted him.
The last time I saw Theresa alive was at the Bronze. We were just partying, having a good time. Some goofing off was the order of the day, having just taken the nastiest math test our teacher could concoct.
"Linda, I'm beat. I need to go home, do some serious couch lounging."
"Sure, no problem. See ya tomorrow?"
"Definitely. Night, guys."
Her body was found the next day. The grief and confusion - what had happened? How could she just die like that, from some sort of attack?! I remember going to the funeral home, crying almost constantly, leaning on Sharon's shoulder as she leaned on mine. She was dead, gone.
And something was not right in the world. It was no longer "totally whacked" and just stories "from crazies". The weirdness was happening to us.
Two days after she died, the funeral was supposed to be held. There was a problem, though. The casket was empty.
My friend had not only died, but someone had taken her body? Was this the same sicko who had killed her?
I did learn the truth eventually. Theresa had been attacked by a vampire (not just any vampire, Buffy's boyfriend, Angel) and been turned into one herself. After it all came out, Xander told me he had to stake her, to kill her a second time. She was trying to kill Buffy.
Exactly why Angel had suddenly become evil, I never really understood. Something with happiness, curses, souls, and gypsies.
But none of this came out until after Maggie. Because she was next.
I sit in my wheelchair, legs hanging uselessly (I'm sorry honey, you'll never walk again). The conversation has switched from memories of Theresa to more enjoyable topics. They won't bring up the second casualty, the one that happened so soon after Theresa. As long as I sit here, they will not mourn for me.
A little girl at the table near us stares at me. I turn to look at her and she shrinks away. I guess she saw my scars. I am particularly fond of the faint one on my cheek, the barely visible lines making out a child's rendition of a butterfly. My parents offered to remove that one, but oddly enough it doesn't bother me. That one wasn't from HIM, the betrayer, the monster.
Three days after Theresa...disappeared...I had yet to learn the truth. And like her, that was my undoing.
I was walking home from the library. I had gone there in an effort to do something, anything, to take my mind of the fact Theresa was dead. And the body was missing.
It was dark, but a nice night. It was the last time I walked when the sun did not shine without fear.
"Hey, you're Buffy's friend, aren't you? Could you give her a message for me?"
"Y'know, Angel, I'm not her best bud, but if there's something you want me to tell her, go ahead."
"That's exactly the kind of answer I was looking for."
Then something happened. His face CHANGED.
"Well, you see, the last message I sent to her, I don't think it packed the right punch. Theresa, well, she seems to have not given it the right bite... or maybe too much bite... I'd rather use Willow this time, I admit, but you'll do."
I stared the demon in the face, feeling the fear rush through me, paralyzing, as this monster drew closer.
"You'll do very nicely."
I woke up in a dark room, a crazy eyed brunette standing over me.
"Ooooh, Daddy brought someone home to play with!"
"Yeah, Dru, I figured that after a few of our games, she'll be able to give the Slayer the right kind of message. Nothing works better than the broken body of a friend, right?"
"Playing games with the Slayer like you did with me?"
I was barely conscious for most of their "games". The pain - to recall what happened is fragmented, bits and pieces strung together, like scenes from a horror movie.
They fed from me. Later on, I learned that's what it was. My neck, my wrists ... nothing was left unbitten. Then the knives came out.
Angel (what happened? who is this creature?) started with cuts all over, intricate designs. Then he said he was bored, and gave the knife to Crazy Eyes.
"I'll paint you face like they do at the fair! Little girls should have flowers and butterflies on their cheeks and sing to the fairies."
I cried and I sobbed, but that just made them laugh. THEY LAUGHED.
HE bent down, having moved on to playing with matches, and whispered, "Don't worry, I'm not going to kill you. I want you to tell Buffy that Angel sends his love. Repeat after me, Angel sends his love."
I whimper, my tongue bleeding and lips swollen, grabbing onto this chance to survive.
"Angel sends his love."
But the agony continues. And then it stops. Crazy Eyes is hungry and drags HIM away to eat, saying "I like this toy, can we get another?"
What happened later echoes through my mind, even now. With them gone, I somehow find the strength to stand - survival instincts and adrenaline saying Now's you're chance, you can escape.
A blond man in a wheelchair sits near the door. He had joined in for some parts, I think, but then he says to himself, "Angelus would be awfully upset if the girl escapes." He pushes it open.
I stagger my way to freedom, only to crash into my tormentors halfway down the street.
"It's not nice to run before the race has started," Crazy Eyes speaks, "Angelus, make her stop racing! She's being very bad and should sit on the sidelines, like cheaters should."
HE grabs me. Something snaps. And then it is dark.
I awoke in a hospital, raving over and over "Angel sends his love."
Or so I'm told. It was about two months before I really remember anything. Apparently, after I blacked out the last time, HE and Crazy Eyes had to leave me there, since sun rise was hitting the street by then. I had been missing for thirty six hours.
I didn't leave the hospital completely until after senior year. All the authorities proclaimed my ravings the result of intensive trauma. It's really hard to be counseled about vampire attacks when your therapist doesn't believe in vampires.
After I learned the complete truth, from Linda and Yvonne and Sharon, who got it from Willow, I almost lost what little grip I had left.
HE was AMUSING HIMSELF with my torture as a means to GET BACK at his GIRLFRIEND, Buffy. I was a passing moment in a scheme for revenge.
I felt better after Willow said HE got sent to hell. Of course, that nice feeling ended when HE returned, with a shiny soul giving HIM special FORGIVENESS from Buffy, whose job it was to deal with creatures like HIM, to PROTECT INNOCENTS from MONSTERS like HIM.
I live on my own, in an apartment for assisted living, seeing as how I'm paralyzed from the waist down - the final present from HIM. My rooms are filled with crosses, with big windows to let the sunlight in. The number of new people invited into my home is non existent. I carry a water gun filled with holy water. I exist in a state of perpetual fear, because of HIM.
The evening winds down. We managed to cover a great deal this night. Every time we do this, this memorial, it is like some sort of therapy. What we survived, it is not something that you can talk to outsiders about. You only have those who were there, who already know. We remembered Theresa, danced around the topic of Maggie, but have yet to speak of Sharon. She was the last to fall, the one who almost survived the hellhole we come from.
Sharon was my best friend. I mean, all five of us were close, but I was closest to Sharon, just as Theresa and Linda were best friends. She lived across the street from me, and our moms had gone to college together, been roomies.
Sharon was the one by my side for swimming lessons (she sank like a rock); for bike riding (helmets optional); and my first date (and more importantly, first break-up). After Maggie and learning the truth about Sunnydale (vampires exist? care to mention that before my friends died?), Sharon was the first one I told.
When Graduation Day came, she was the one who convinced us to stay and fight. In retrospect, part of me wishes that she had not done such a good job.
Graduation Day. Most people view graduation as your typical ceremony -- emotional, oh-I-will-miss-you-we-are-the-future moments coupled with long moments of excruciatingly boring speeches. I think the only thing we got right was the excruciatingly boring speech (EVIL mayor -- he was gonna bore us, then kill us? How twisted is that?)
When we found out what was in store for us, Linda almost convinced us to bail on graduation.
"Running is an option. We have lost and lost, and I do NOT want you or me to be next! I don't want to die!"
"Then run! I am going to stay, and I am going to fight. You're right, we have lost friends. So has everyone else in this damn school. I for one am going to actually do something about it. All my life in this town I have been running from the hell it spawns, we all have. I am not going to run anymore. It's vampires that took our friends, and I sure as hell plan on taking some back!"
"Vengeance sounds cool, really, it does, Sharon. But, in this battle, some of us are gonna die. There is no way we can do this and live. You know that, right?"
"Then we watch each others backs."
All three of us swore up and down to watch out for one another. And within each promise made were the echoes of "This is for you, Theresa. This is for you, Maggie."
It was weird, sitting there for the Mayor's speech. I mean, normally, Sharon and I would be exchanging glances, making goofy faces and possibly passing notes, standard avoid-the-boredom tactics.
Instead, Sharon spent most of it looking down, gripping her stake and cross tightly, her lips silently moving in some sort of mantra. A promise? A prayer?
It was nerve wracking, sitting there and acting like everything was perfectly normal while waiting for the signal to attack to come from Buffy. Underneath my own graduation gown was a bow and quiver full of soon to be flaming arrows (thank you, Cordelia Chase).
The wait seemed to go on forever. And then the chaos began. Solar eclipse, demon mayor snake, and vampires out to join the party.
Shoot the Mayor. Shoot the vamps. Do not shoot the students. Those were my orders. Pretty basic. Had to be, given that this army.
I had won a couple archery contests -- one of the reasons I was on bows and not stakes. Take out the vamps. Focus, shoot, reload. Focus, shoot, reload. As each second passed, it became harder and harder to keep track of Sharon and Linda.
Soon it became obvious that even our collective attacks were not hurting the Mayor. The order to retreat was given.
I stayed out of the crowd, the better to pick my shots, make them count. By then, there were bodies on the ground, just as Linda had predicted. Larry. Snyder. My ex-boyfriend Jimmy. The girl who sat next to me in home room. And others too mangled to identify.
Focus, shoot, reload. Focus, shoot, re --
Wait a minute. Look who is open for a clear shot. Angel(us). Killer of Theresa, torturer of Maggie. The one vampire we really wanted vengeance on. At that thought everything seemed to fade away.
It crossed my mind, that if my arrow hit him, no one would know if it was intentional or not. Just another casualty of the battle. And maybe Theresa (figuratively) and Maggie (literally) would rest in peace. Just focus, and shoot --
His eyes met mine. He knew who I was, or at least, who my friends were. Who knows? Sometimes, when I think on that moment, I feel that if I had let that arrow fly, he would have let it strike true.
For how long our eyes met, I don't know. An hour? A second? An eternity? How tempting it was. A mere slip of the fingers and he would be gone. Dust. So easy. My fingers loosened their grip on the arrow ever so slightly.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sharon try to pull a vampire off of Linda. I turned in order to get a clear shot.
As the scene came fully into view, I saw the vampire strike Sharon, back handing her across the face. Her body fell to the ground, her head at a wrong angle. He turned to advance on Linda. My arrow dusted him.
The arrow that had been aimed at Angel moments before. Funny how life works, huh?
If I had spent more time keeping my promise and watching over Sharon and Linda, would Sharon have lived? I could not have been focused on Angel for more than a few seconds. Logically, the odds of it so seriously affecting the outcome are low. But part of me always will wonder, did I fail her?
Not long after that, I was forced to retreat. We were going to blow up the school, after all. Standing away at a safe distance, I saw Sunnydale High, my home away from home for four years, get blown to bits, Mayor pieces raining back down.
Our graduation had sixteen dead, not counting the principal and the Mayor. Sixteen students who had survived vampires, hellhounds, witches, and demons died that day. They almost made it. Sharon almost made it.
She almost made it.
The restaurant is closing. Yvonne leans over the table to pick up the photos of Theresa and Sharon. Maggie pushes away from the table, refusing any aid from me.
One more reunion down. It has only been three years since we graduated from Sunnydale. Three years of coping with the grief. These reunions help. It helps to remember with friends, friends who know what the real world is made up of.
I have moved on from Sunnydale. Got myself some nice, new friends. Of course, they don't understand why I refuse to invite the pizza guy in. Or why my diploma is a few fragments of burned paper. Or even why I don't watch any and all vampire movies, especially the ones which glorify them. That particular freak out got me quite the reputation. But the truth is, only someone who knows where I come from can really understand this.
Yvonne and Maggie have their share of similar incidents. Even those who I barely shared a word with in high school, like that Jonathan kid, would be able to relate to this better than my new friends.
They can never understand the grief and the pain. Which is why every year, regular as clockwork, we meet. The three of us. The final Freaky Three. What is left of our innocence, our childhood, and our carefree days. All we have of that is memories. For our friends and for ourselves, every year we meet. And mourn.
Requiescant In Pace (may they rest in peace)
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