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“Well yeah! Y’know, she’s a new girl, so I felt kinda bad for her.”

“Yeah… but… she’s so weird, so quiet…”

“Snrk– yeah, well you should see her when she’s with her boyfriend…”

The voices started trailing off. Two girls in their tidy school uniforms, closely huddled and passing the sidewalk; right by my bench. Another anecdote of someone else’s life passing like a train. Pretty common when you meander around campus. Alongside that, when you’re a quiet type, you hear a lot about other people’s lives. Sometimes more than you wish!

“… Jess, right? Hasn’t she… out of school… a week?…”

Jess? I know that name– I do, but where?… English class, that’s right. Always sitting in the corner of the room, especially by the heater on cold days. Long wavy brown hair, deep forest eyes– at least I believe, I’ve only met with them a few times. I snapped back and realized the girls were heading to the park, getting smaller and smaller with each step. Strange. I wonder what’s going on… she seemed quiet and shy like me, only really talking to her few friends and partner. I hope she’s alright.

That was the first sign.

More and more as days progressed, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I never really pay special attention to students, but I couldn’t help feeling… icy in the chest. I grasped onto every detail; I had nothing better to do, really.

Her boyfriend was pretty popular. Junior, 17, tall, rugged. Never seemed to smile much. I only saw him in the halls and in period 4 gym class. He was… very competitive. Very physically strong– he was infamous for accidentally pummeling students with rainbow foam balls (including me– I’ve got a bruise to prove it).

He’s still around, despite Jess’s absence. He’d probably know what happened to her, but that? That’d be too embarrassing to ask. Plus, he’s not very… approachable. She was always weird around him. Not weird in a way I realized much.

Second sign. Big red flag.

I began asking others where they might’ve last heard from her. Nearly every response either began or concluded with “Oh! I’m not really sure.” Nobody knew. Even her closest “friends” assumed she was sick, or one another vacation with her family.

I guess a lot of my boredom got snuffed out by this weird need to know what happened to her. I don’t know if it was borderline creepy, and I felt guilty the whole time. But I listened to my gut, y’know?

Because a week turned into three weeks. Her boyfriend stopped coming to school, too. I assume the school must’ve at least tried to communicate with their families, but whatever information they got, if any, was dead silent to the rest of us. That’s why I took on my own initiative to collect information on my own, like my own detective. But it didn’t get my very far. I just wish…. I could’ve done more to save her.

The camera clicked off.

“Thanks, kid, that’s all we need. You’re all set for the day. Mary will lead you out when we finish some paperwork, okay? You did good. I know it’s hard, just take it easy.”

“Of course.”