Emma wasn’t like other girls

Emma wasn’t like other girls. She wore black lipstick nearly all the time and never dared to let a splash of pink touch her wardrobe. When her parents suggested that she try out for the cheerleading team, she picked up roller skating instead. She cared more about My Hero Academia than Friends or The Bachelor or whatever the other girls were watching. And when prom would finally come in the spring, Emma would wear Converse, not high heels. Because Emma wasn’t like other girls.

But Emma didn’t wear Converse to prom, or high heels, or any shoes for that matter. Because, unlike other girls, Emma didn’t make it to prom at all. Because outside the roller rink, on one chill night in March, just four weeks before prom, Emma was murdered.

The Coward ambushed her right beside her rusted 2004 Honda Civic. He wasted no time, demanding horrible things, then making terrible threats, and finally showing her the force he had to back up his threats.

But Emma wasn’t like other girls. So when she saw the revolver pointing out of the man’s sleeve, she didn’t cry, she didn’t scream, she didn’t even take off her headphones.

Instead, she simply smiled and said, “do it, you fucking pussy, I’ll see you in—”

And like any coward would, he did it.

Like all girls, Emma was loved and was missed. Yet because Emma wasn’t like other girls, there was a less than deserving fuss over her passing. People, as they generally do, assumed unfair things. She hadn’t seen the Coward before that tragic night, but many pointed out the odd crowd she’d always kept. A few even noted how inappropriate it was to be at the skating rink that late with a precalculus exam the following morning. When her story finally did make the local news, the editors felt it would be best to omit any picture of her. They figured that her yearbook photo, with her choker and black lipstick, would not garner much sympathy.

Prom came and went, and there was no girl wearing Converse there. With each passing year, her story was embellished more and more yet told less and less. Until eventually, some time long after graduation, her classmates moved on—like all people must.

Until one day, one county over, another girl—like all girls in that she wasn’t like other girls in her own special way—was murdered. Maybe the authorities wasted less time, or maybe they just showed her picture on the news. Whatever the reason, they successfully apprehended the suspect. And soon enough, they determined that their suspect was also the Coward who murdered Emma.

Were they right? Perhaps. Perhaps it was Emma’s killer that spent the rest of his life in a Polk County prison, trying in vain again and again for parole. Or perhaps he still walked free. Free at least from any concrete cell, but not free from the thing that racked his guts and made him drink all that liquor. We neither know nor care, because, this life or not, every coward must one day face what he or she has done. And the Coward was like all other cowards.

The two met on an infinite, extradimensional hill of soft grass. Or, if you prefer, on an exceptionally fluffy cloud floating in an endless sky. You’d know it if you saw it. She looked him up and down. He was smaller now, and he felt even smaller without his gun. He looked back and instantaneously recognized her. He felt afraid.

He had no reason to be. Looking at him now, Emma could penetrate deep into the Coward’s heart, deeper than a bullet ever could. She could scrutinize his memories bit by bit and tear him apart atom by atom. Somehow, she could resolve even the most microscopic points of his character. (Maybe it was all those periods of math class spent tracing manga, but I suspect it was something more.) Through all of this, Emma was able to find that unfathomably small, almost indistinguishable part of the Coward that wasn’t cowardly.

Emma wasn’t like other girls. But Emma wasn’t like other girls in one especially important way. Let’s be honest, when it comes to this particular thing, Emma wasn’t like you, or me, or most people who have ever lived. For Emma had a special kind of grace, even more impressive than the kind she had on her quads at the rink.

And when the time came for Emma to continue up that hill of soft grass or float on to highest fluffy cloud, she invited that small, uncowardly part of him to come with her.