Hang On For Me


She sighed, opening the door. Gasps and murmurs echoed through the class. A Graydor had joined North California University. The only child of Roland Graydor, one of America’s most successful businessmen. She walked down the rows, observing people, taking in her surroundings as she sat down.

“Hey! I’m Annie Smith. Raven, right? I’m majoring in Arts. How do you like it here so far? Should I show you around?” A blonde gushed. 

Raven sighed. Same old, same old. People always tried to get on her good side. It was financial status that made people regard you. This was society’s warped way, and it irked Raven to her core.

She stared at Annie. Thin lips curved into a smile, cheekbones and almond eyes glowing. Wavy blond hair brushed her back bones, wispy strands adorned her forehead, partially covering it. Some blue-black spots littered her pale skin; Birthmarks, perhaps.

“So, could I?” Annie asked.

Raven folded her arms, “No need. Took a look before coming.”

*   *   *

From then on, Annie tried even harder. Raven was unfazed, though. Before classes, she’d be revising in a corner, with Annie trying to decipher what she was writing. Annie followed her everywhere. When Raven asked why, she’d say, “You’re different. I wanna get to know you, Ray.”


The stupidest nickname of all stupid nicknames. Raven ignored that too–she had bigger things to care about. 

During a lecture once, the professor asked everyone to solve an advanced problem on the board. When nobody answered, she chose the new studentRaven.

Raven looked at the board. She thought, wrote the answer, and returned to her seat. The professor raised an eyebrow at the neatly-written equation. It was a different, shorter method. “Excellent.” She complimented, before continuing the chapter.

Raven flipped a page from her textbook and saw Annie from her peripheral vision, beside her, slide a note towards her. It read, ‘Damn, how did you solve that problem so easily?!

“I studied.” Raven answered simply.

*   *   *

Raven entered her villa. “Is Father home?” she asked the butler, who nodded. She smiled and headed up to her room, closing the door.

For once you’re home, and you don’t talk to me or let me help. Am I a burden, Father?

She freshened up and got to work. Raven glanced at the stack of practice papers on her desk, and at the ‘Welcome-to-North-Cal-Uni!’ card Annie gave her.

She must be hanging out, binge-watching Netflix…lucky. 

No. Annie’s father wasn’t Roland Graydor. Her mother raised her since 13; her father left them. 


Raven had a father to impress. That’s why she was majoring in Business. 

Annie could drown in her couch. I don’t care. She’s just distracting me… using me!

 Raven got up and knocked on the door to her father’s room. Clad in a suit, hair neatly combed, glasses resting on the bridge of his nose, Roland Graydor opened the door.  “F-Father, I had a plan…for Graydor Corp.”

Graydor ran an online technology company, a platform where people bought appliances, devices and more. He let Raven in, perplexed. “H-Here…” Raven handed him a paper.

He scanned it. “…A new marketing strategy?” 

She nodded. Her father folded the paper and put it on his desk– where the waste papers were sorted. Raven was disgruntled.

“Focus on your studies for now, Raven.”

She reluctantly nodded, stumbling out of the room. She had worked on them for a year, but was rejected in a second.

  *   *   *

A week flew by. Annie and her were literally always together. Raven was studying for the next period. Suddenly, her ears perked up. “Raven’s suddenly so popular…” A girl whispered. “She’s rich, isn’t she?” Another answered. A chain of “brat”, “spoilt”, “arrogant” followed.

Raven shook her head and continued studying until a classmate approached her desk. “You come here, solve one problem, and start thinking you’re what, a queen?!” The classmate raged. 

Raven’s eyes rose to her, “No.” 

Sure. Y’all know the rumours, right? Graydor has never even acknowledged his own daughter!” She mocked, people chuckled.

Raven’s eyes glowered. This witch. 

“So it’s true? Damn, such a disappointment! If I were you, I would be running Graydor Corp!”

People snickered. Raven’s jaw clenched.

“You’re literally feeding off your father’s money.” People guffawed in laughter.

“Mind your own business, Maude!” A voice rang.

Footsteps reverberated across the room. Raven’s eyes met the back of a blonde, arms akimbo. Annie glared at Maude. Before she could retaliate, the professor entered. 

Raven sighed, this was common. Except…

Nobody bothered to help her. They’d join in. But, Annie hadn’t.

Raven’s eyes softened. Maybe she wasn’t using her? Raven tapped Annie’s shoulder. “Why do you want to befriend me so bad?”

Annie smiled, “I told you, you’re different. I wanna make more friends till I’m… happy.” Raven stared back at her textbook. Did she mean it? She smiled slightly.

 Annie then raised her hand to answer the professor’s question. That’s when Raven saw them again. The spots. They besmirched her skin like ink on paper. Once her hand was down, Raven whispered, “You being bullied?” Annie looked alarmed. Her eyes darted to her hands and she jerked her sleeves down. “J-Just…clumsy! Hey, can we hang out today?

Raven was confused. She recalled the incident with Maude. It was worth a shot. “Only in school.”

  *   *   *

They entered the cafeteria and bought some food. Annie kickstarted the conversation, “Do you know the song ‘Diana’ ? You give off those vibes.”

Raven was startled, “You like One Direction, too?”

“You too?!”

Raven nodded.

“Is that a smile?!”

The brunette recomposed herself, going back to impassive. “No.”

Annie grinned, evidently amused. “Hey, Ray?” Annie called.  “You know when you asked me if I was being bullied?”

“Are you?” Raven quirked an eyebrow. Annie shook her head, smiling sadly.

“No, but…i-it’s time I told you…I-…” She paused. “-have a dog!” Annie suddenly exclaimed.

“Your dog…bullied you?”

“Yes! No! I mean-”

“-Annie. Spill.”

“Alright, I have an illness!” She disclosed. “I-I was diagnosed with S-Severe Aplastic Anaemia at-at t-thirteen. Doctor said I had f-five to six years before…”

Raven’s jaw clenched until her teeth hurt. She didn’t care, she told herself. Raven got up. “Is this a joke?” 

Annie looked at Raven, puzzled. “W-What do you mean?”

“You let me befriend you, when you’re literally about to die?”

Annie shot up, “I-I don’t know why! You’re a different case, Raven!”

Raven’s eye twitched. “Tsk, w-whatever, I’ve got homework.” She dug her hands into her pockets and started walking.

“What’s wrong with you?!” 

Raven stopped.

“Why won’t you ever trust anybody? Why’re you so cold?! First you’re normal, then you’re all ‘you could die for all I care’…I mean, are we friends?! Do you even care?!” Annie coughed a little. Raven continued walking. Her unsteadiness went unnoticed by Annie.

Annie rasped. “So, you’re alright with me dying? Great -”

“-SHUT UP!” Raven’s body spun a hundred-and-eighty degrees. Her nails dug deep into her palms until veins protruded from her forearms and knuckles whitened. Raven’s eyes were clenched shut, looking away. “Annie,” she seethed, but was met with silence. She opened her bloodshot eyes.

Thin lips slightly open, she wore pale, tear-stained cheekbones and closed almond eyes. Wavy blond hair spread around her frame like a shield, wispy strands adorned her forehead, partially covering it. Prominent blue-black spots littered her skin. Definitely not birthmarks.

 Annie had fainted.

 *   *   *

Raven’s hands felt clammy as she paced around the hospital halls. Some of Annie’s other friends had come, while Annie’s mother was on the bench, worried sick.

The doctor came out, announcing that the patient was awake, but her condition was worsening. Raven raced into the ward. Her heart broke, seeing Annie. “H-How are you?”

Annie smiled weakly, “…Don’t worry so much…”

“…Don’t worry?” Raven bit her bottom lip, hard. She held back her tears. “H-How?!” She frantically gestured to the bed. “Why didn’t you tell me before?”

“W-We weren’t friends then… too late for a-anything now…I-I chose this.”


“W-We couldn’t find a donor for a bone-marrow transplant. Besides, I’ve lived to my fullest… no more regrets, befriended you, s-spent tons of time with Mama!” She coughed lightly.

“Careful!” Raven reprimanded. “ C-Can I ask you something?”

Annie nodded.

“Your Dad left because of your i-illness?”

Annie looked at her bruised hands, smiling sadly. “Yes.”

Raven’s gut wrenched. “D-Don’t go…f-first mom…” She knelt before Annie’s bed. 

“Let it out…” Annie’s calm voice spoke as she heaved up to see her friend.

Raven was broken. Her exterior shattered, revealing a sweet child, yearning for nothing but love. “Are t-the rumours t-true, Ray? About Mr G-Graydor…”  Annie whispered. 

“When I was thirteen, Mom died because of a s-stroke,” Raven began, “Dad became a workaholic to distract himself. Although he later became very successful…I-I never saw him. Unlike other kids. I always felt like a b-burden, and I’ve been trying to c-change that. I never h-had a normal teen-life.” 

Annie’s lips parted, soft eyes releasing tears. “…Y-You’ve changed Ray…I-I’m so sure he loves you…that’s why he worked… you should-” She coughed blood. 

Raven scrambled to her feet, stroking Annie’s back, “Annie, don’t talk!” 

Annie stubbornly turned to her mother. Mrs Smith was clutching her hand, mumbling about being a failure as a mother. “Mama… we talked about this. You had it rough after Papa…and I- I’m ready.”

“My sweet child…” Her mother wept. Annie gripped her hand.

She turned to Raven, “You opened up …promise…stay this way…” 

Raven wiped her eyes. “You give ‘Diana’ vibes, Annie.” Her true friend and fate was taking her, too.

Annie grinned. “Tell…everyone…thank you, I’ve had a good r-run…” She breathed, closing her eyes. Raven’s chest tightened.

No more words were exchanged. Both friends felt juxtaposing emotions. One, pieced together, the other, broken. Annie’s left hand remained tightly wrapped around Raven’s while her right, around her mother’s.

It loosened, a flatline beep echoed.

 *   *   *

Raven felt fragmented. Annie had befriended her for who she was, not for being rich. If only she was more open, they could’ve made more memories. Raven stayed with Mrs Smith to fill out some forms. Arrangements for the funeral had begun, but Raven was told to rest first, for school the next day.

 *   *   *

With swollen eyes, a heavy heart, a disoriented mind, Raven trudged into her house. Her father got up from the couch. “I heard from the school.”

Raven’s face tightened. Two choices. Mend her relationship with her father? Or make new friends and live life like a dead soul? Annie’s will said one thing, and her mind, another. 

Annie’s will obviously stood victorious.

“Am I a burden?” Raven muttered.

Graydor furrowed his brow, “What?”

“Why do I feel like a hindrance, a liability, and not someone to be loved, cared for, thought for, sought for?”

“Raven…you feel like a liability?”

“We never talk, eat together, hell you don’t even bother listening to my ideas! People always spend time with their families, laughing, celebrating, while the only family I have pretends that I’m just the next heir to Graydor Corp!”

Roland Graydor’s mouth opened, then closed, before he pulled his daughter in a comforting embrace. “Raven… I’m so, so sorry.” Raven felt a tear roll down her cheek.

“I never thought from your side. After your mother died, I lost myself in work, completely neglected your emotions, thinking all was fine. Why didn’t you say something?” He pulled away, removing his glasses. 

“You were always so busy, Dad.”

“And I’ll always consider your well-being first. I‘m sorry, Ravey.”

Ravey. What mom used to call me.

“I don’t know how close you and your friend were, but if anything, I’m here for you.”

“Thanks, Dad.” Raven hugged her father tightly, tears flowing out her eyes.

She felt herself slowly piecing together. She had her father. And she knew she had Annie, because that freak followed her everywhere. Almost as if Annie told Raven to get over her passing. She couldn’t let her life go to waste. She had to hang on, Annie would’ve said. Or more accurately: “Hang on for me.”

(2000 words)

Anushka Sachin Vartak (Class of 2026) writes to make her imagination into a reality. She greatly enjoys writing dramatic and sarcastic characters, with crazy plot twists. She thinks if she imagines something, it absolutely needs to take a physical form.