Posts Tagged ‘best friends’

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I didn’t expect for someone to be standing there as I climbed over my backyard fence. We had moved in a few months before but most of the houses in the new development were vacant. The Harris’ lived 3 doors down and I had met Judy. She and I were the same age and getting ready to start the 3rd grade. Pam lived up the street at the top of the hill. Pam, Judy and I were friends by default. I liked them well enough, but Pam could be bossy and Judy liked to have tea parties in her bedroom with her toy troll dolls and talk baby talk to them. I loathe baby talk, so my visits to her house lasted until she started to pull that shit.

Her dad was some type of an engineer and her mom was an anomaly; she worked full time as a nurse. This caused the housewives on our block to cluck and sneer with disapproval behind her back that she chose — or maybe she had to — work outside her home and not dedicate her entire heart and soul to her family. I don’t know why she worked, but I liked the fact that often times, Judy and I had her house to ourselves for an hour after getting home from school. We mostly spent it in front of the TV watching “Dark Shadows” and gorging on as many cookies as we thought we could get away with. We thought that her mom wouldn’t notice as if she couldn’t count. Once we heard her car pull into the garage, we quickly turned off the TV, no matter what was happening with Barnabas, and brush the cookie crumbs off the couch and our mouths. We’d grab a book — usually the latest Nancy Drew, and pretend to read when she came through the garage door and walked into the kitchen.

I first met Kathy a year after Judy’s family moved in and we were best friends even though she knocked out her front tooth in my garage when we were going round and round with our skates in a hula hoop.

“Hello. Who are you? My name is Kathy,” I heard as I hoisted myself up the fence and straddled the middle in preparation of jumping down. I was planning on playing in the yard without the prying eyes of my older brother who had been left to babysit me while my Mom ran to the store. Eric thought this made him the boss of me. It didn’t but rather than have another argument about it, I decided to go play in what I considered my own personal backyard next door.

Now someone else was here and I didn’t know why. I looked at her for a moment and suddenly felt as if I had done something wrong. I knew it wasn’t really my backyard, but until someone bought the house and moved in, I figured it was free for the taking. There wasn’t anything special about it; there was minimal landscaping for show, a cement patio without any shade and a lonely palm tree in the corner. It was that no one else used it and it was a space where I could pretend I owned. I envisioned 10 dogs running around in the yard while I sat under a fabulous patio umbrella, smoked cigarettes and read. I saw myself as having 2 cars in the garage, a refrigerator full of my favorite snacks and no stupid brothers running around, breaking my toys and spying on me. To me, that backyard was as close to heaven in my mind that I could imagine and it belonged to no one but me.

“I’m Sam. What are you doing here?” I asked as I jumped down. I almost landed on her. She stepped back but continued to smile. She was about my height but thinner. Her hair was so blond it was yellow. She had enormous blue eyes with pale lashes. Her nose was large and her skin was so white it was almost translucent.

She was wearing a starched white blouse that was tucked into her pants. Her socks had lace on them and she was wearing white saddle shoes that didn’t have a mark on them. Her hair had a ribbon in it which matched her shirt.

“Sam? Really? What kind of name is that..”

“It’s short for Samantha,” I said and sighed. It always irritates me when I had to explain.

“I live here now,” she said. She began blinking rapidly and her eyes darted for a moment. She smiled nervously and looked down at the dirt.

“What do you mean you live here now?” I asked. I quickly looked into the living room window. “I don’t see any furniture.”

Her smile got wider. “Oh, that’s because we haven’t actually moved in yet. The movers come on Saturday. We’re staying at a motel until then.”

“I see,” I said as I wiped my hands on my jeans. I wasn’t wearing any shoes and my feet were dirty. I tried to smooth my hair down but it was pointless. It was curly and stuck out everywhere. My Mom gave up trying to comb it so she cut it short and hoped it would somehow stay put.

“Do you live next door?” she asked.

“We moved here a long time ago. I know everyone in the neighborhood,” I said as if that would mean something.

“Kathy? Where are you?” I heard a man’s voice call out. Kathy turned and I saw a man approaching us.

“Hi Dad. This is Sam. She lives next door,” she said. He walked over and stuck his hand out. I shook it and hoped it was clean.

“Nice to meet you…did you say Sam?” he asked. He was tall and younger than my parents. His hair was cut short and his teeth were so straight that I wasn’t sure if they were real or not and tried not to stare.

“Yes, my name is Sam, short for Samantha.Thanks, nice to meet you too,” I said and pulled my hand away. I didn’t roll my eyes at him when I explained my name. He already looked tightly wound up.

“How did you get in the yard? I didn’t see you go through the gate,” he asked and looked directly at me.

This was the second time in 2 minutes that I felt as if I had done something wrong. “I climbed over the fence like I always do,” I said.

“Oh well, please be sure not to do that anymore. This is our house and you should come to the front door from now on.” He turned and looked down at Kathy and put his arm around her shoulders. He had spoken and I had been dismissed. “It’s time to go,” he said and turned her around. “It’s nice to have met you Sam,” he said as they walked away. Kathy turned around, smiled and waved.

I waved and walked through the gate. I left it open. I figured if he had such a bug up his ass about it, he could close it himself.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Photo by Chris Benson on Unsplash

It was such a beautiful Saturday morning so I jumped on my bike and pedaled as fast as I could to Kathy’s house. I had so many things to tell her about my new crush in Junior High that I couldn’t wait. We weren’t in the same classes anymore and had different schedules. Since she wasn’t allowed to use the phone during the week, the only time we had to talk was on the weekend. Sometimes we would catch each other in the cafeteria but she had new friends I didn’t like.

One of her new friends was a girl named Helen. They sat next to each other in English class and often did their homework together. The previous year, Kathy’s parents bought a bigger house 1/2 mile away. It was still in the same neighborhood, but in a new area of nicer and bigger homes. We used to play together every day after school until we were called in for dinner, but now I only saw her on the weekends and that was only if her parents let her out of the house.

They were strict, said grace before every meal. We didn’t pray in my house and often had food fights at the dinner table. My dad was the biggest instigator of said fights. He’d usually start them when you asked him to pass the bread. Instead of handing you the plate, he’d toss a piece of bread and off we would go. Our family time was always filled with laughter and jokes; Kathy’s family time consisted of being quiet, saying grace and not interrupting the adults when they spoke. You had to ask permission to speak, so I rarely ate with them. They made me nervous and I never knew how to behave.

I once tried to tell a joke and was met with stern looks. I made the mistake the first time I had dinner with her family of tossing a piece of bread at Kathy when she asked me to pass it. She laughed and them immediately turned red.

But I learned to live with it and told myself to be nice and calm as I pedaled over to Kathy’s house and patiently waited after ringing the doorbell.

Kathy’s mom opened the door. I had parked my bike exactly where they had told me. Everything in their house was always in the exact right place. It was spotless and I often felt that if I moved wrong, I would knock something over and they would banish me forever.

“Good morning Samantha,” she said and just stood there. She always did this. I always had to tell her I was there to see Kathy even though it was obvious. She refused to call me by the name I preferred. I always wanted her to and hoped she’d choke on it, but she was an adult and whatever they said or wanted was the way it was going to be.

“Hello Mrs. Monroe. How are you?” I asked and waited. This ritual was usually short.

“I’m well. Are you here to see Kathy?” she asked.

I wanted to tell her I wasn’t. I wanted to say that I was there to visit with her even though I knew she didn’t like me and never had.

“Yes I am,” I said and continued to stand there and wait.

She looked me up and down. I automatically reached up and flattened down my hair.

“She’s upstairs in her bedroom,” she said and opened the door wider. I walked through it and started to go up the stairs.

“Thank you Mrs. Monroe,” I said.

I heard her close the door. “Kathy has a lot to do tonight, so please be back here by 4:00,’ she said as she walked into the kitchen.

I rolled my eyes but made sure she couldn’t see it. “No problem,” I said as I sprinted up the stairs and into Kathy’s room.

She was sitting at her desk. She jumped up and hugged me. I closed the door and flopped down on her bed. I wanted to leave as soon as we could. I felt like I was in jail.

“Are you ready to go?” I asked.

She turned around and smiled. “Yep. Let me just grab my purse. You want to grab some food for our bike ride? We could ride up the trail and there’s a bunch of nice spots where we could stop. Angie lives somewhere near the lake. Maybe we could go over to her house…”

“No, I don’t like Angie. I know she’s your friend but I don’t think she likes me,” I said.

“Oh, that’s not true! She does like you,” Kathy said. Kathy only saw the goodness in people. She didn’t like it when I said something unkind or mean. She would always tell me something positive. It annoyed me at times but I had grown used to it. That was just the way she was.

Her door opened and her father was standing there. They never knocked. They just walked in. Kathy never did anything wrong and I wondered if they were like that when I wasn’t around.

He stood there and I saw he was holding a book in his hand. He had a serious look on his face. I looked down at the book. It was “Soul on Ice” and right then I knew I was in trouble.

“Where did you get this book Kathy?” he asked as he held the book in front of him. Kathy looked at it and then immediately looked at me. She blushed when she realized that she had just answered his question without saying anything. She looked back at him and then down at her lap.

“Well? I asked you a question young lady,” he said.

“I gave it to her,” I said. She couldn’t lie to her father and didn’t want to get me into trouble. It was easier for her if I just told the truth.

He looked at me and slowly shook his head. “Did you…read this book?” he asked.

I nodded my head. I felt my face getting red. I knew what parts he was talking about. I looked down at my shoes. At 13 years old, much of the book I did not understand but the sex scenes were vivid enough.

“Do your parents know you read this book?”

“I have no idea. It was given to me. I read it. I gave it to Kathy to read. It’s just a book and a popular one,” I said. I did not like anyone talking to me as if they were my parents.

“Well I may have to talk to them about. I’m sure they would not approve. I think you are both a bit too young for this type of…book. There are parts that are fine. I stapled the pages that you are not to read Kathy, but you can read the rest of it,” he said and handed her the book. She took it and nodded and placed it on her desk.

He turned and looked at me. “But the next time you want Kathy to read something you find so…interesting, please give it to me first,” he said and walked out. He left the door open. I got up and closed it.

I looked down at Kathy. She was still red and was wringing her hands slightly. “Sorry I got you in trouble,” I said and took the book. I started to take the staples out of it. Kathy reached over and took the book from me.

“You can’t do that! He said I couldn’t read those parts!”

“So what? It’s my book and he had no right to ruin it. If I want the staples out of my book, I’m taking them out!” I said. I snatched the book back and began to pull out the staples and sneered every time they tore a page.

“You can see the pages that had them and if you don’t want to read them, then don’t,” I said and handed her back the book.

She shook her head. “No, that’s OK. I’ll read something else,” she said and got up and picked up her purse.

I took the book with us. We found a place to eat. I read the parts he told her not to read. Technically, she didn’t read them. I just happened to be reading out loud while Kathy was sitting there.

I never saw her blush so much for so long. It was worth it. From then on, anything I wanted her to read, I kept in my locker at school.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Photo by Liana De Laurent De Laurent on Unsplash

I could hear her guitar as I came out of my last class for the day. Her last class for the day ended an hour before mine. She had taken up the guitar and would use that hour while she waited for me to practice. We took the same bus home and that gave us time to catch-up on the day. It was my most favorite time of day except my English class because Ted was in it. I had had a crush on him since 6th grade and 6 years later, he still didn’t know I existed.

I found her sitting on the stairs near the girl’s gym. She was in her own world as she sat and strummed her guitar. Her hair was almost to her waist. She was wearing a long dress and boots with a headband and flowers pinned into it. The sun was hitting her back and her hair looked like corn silk. I tried to flatten my hair down and forgot for a moment that it was also long. I wore it pulled back most of the time and I could feel the long ponytail hit my waist as I jogged towards her.

She was practicing “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd. It had been the number one song on the charts for a few weeks. I wasn’t sure if I liked them or not. No one would ever replace The Beatles for me. I walked up and stood in front of her and waited for her to stop.

She looked up and continued to strum her guitar. She was getting better and better. She taught herself much of what she played. She had taken lessons but she had a talent for it. I tried to learn but had no patience. I wanted to pick it up, play it perfectly and refused to practice.

“You ready? I want to have a smoke before the bus comes,” I said. She stood up and walked with me to the parking lot. That was where some of us went to in order to sneak a cigarette.

As we were walking, I heard someone crying. I looked around. “Did you hear that?” I asked Kathy and stopped. She listened and then we heard it again. We looked around and followed the sound. It was subtle but someone was sobbing.

We saw a girl standing behind the partition in front of the girl’s gym. I had never seen her before. She had her face pressed against it with her hands covering her face. Her body was shaking as she sobbed and tried to be quiet. We looked at each other and walked over to her. Kathy didn’t know who she was either.

“You OK?” I asked. She jumped back and a slight scream left her mouth. She quickly put her hands over her mouth and nodded her head. She was a mess. Her face was soaked from her tears and they had dripped onto her blouse. Her nose was running.

She was a large girl with hair worse than mine. Hers stood straight up as if she had stuck her finger in a light socket. Everything about her was wrong. She was wearing a pleated skirt that was plaid with a large sweater and knee high socks. She looked as if she had just been transported from the 50’s. I looked to see if there was a poodle on her skirt. She had the thickest glasses I had ever seen and when she looked back and forth at us, only one of her eyes moved. Her left eye stared straight ahead.

Kathy stepped forward and put her hand on her arm. “What’s your name?”

She wiped her nose on her sleeve and tried to breathe. “Dawn,” she said and attempted to smile. All you could see was a mouthful of braces and she was wearing a headgear.

“I’m Kathy and this is Sam. Why are you crying?”

Dawn looked around and then stared at her shoes. She shrugged her shoulders.

I already had a good idea of what happened. She was near the girl’s gym when the cheerleaders came out. I hated those girls even though we had all been friends since 3rd grade. Something happened to some of them during the summer between Junior High School and starting our sophomore year. They had grown-up suddenly and were pretty and thin and popular. Suddenly I wasn’t allowed to have lunch with them or talk to them. My greetings went unanswered or even laughed at as they flipped their hair and wiggled their butts as they walked away.

I didn’t want to hear what they had done. Those girls had turned into demon spawn. Dawn was a perfect target. I grabbed her hand and started walking. “Come with us and don’t worry about it,” I said as I headed towards the parking lot and began to pull my cigarettes out of my purse.

I found a spot to sit where I wouldn’t be seen and could hear if anyone was approaching. I had Dawn sit down between us and lit up. Her face was beginning to dry. She looked back and forth between us. Kathy picked-up her guitar and started strumming. I leaned back, inhaled deeply and watched the smoke rise in the air.

“What happened to your eye?” I asked Dawn.

She looked at me and I saw a horrible look as it passed over her face. I wasn’t trying to be mean or rude but it was like a huge elephant sitting in the middle of a living room and no one was saying anything.

“Some girls picked on me and bullied me for a long time where I used to live,” she said. Her hand went to her eye and she rubbed it. “We just moved here. My dad lost his job, so they haven’t had any money to get me a better eye.”

“A better eye? What does that mean?” I asked.

“This is a glass eye,” she said and pointed to it. “One day, those girls held me down and one of them stuck a needle into it. They laughed. They thought it was funny.”

Kathy had stopped playing her guitar when Dawn started talking. I looked at her. Tears were in her eyes and her hand went to her mouth. I looked at Dawn as she looked out into the parking lot.

There wasn’t anything left to say.

I watched the side of Dawn’s face as she gazed at the cars coming and going. Her jaw was tight and her bottom lip quivered. I put my hand over hers and squeezed it.

We were graduating in a couple of months. Kathy was going off the college. She wanted to be a teacher. I had no plans. I didn’t want to go to school for a while. I wanted to write and be someone. Even then I knew that High School would have a memory that would never die. I sat there and felt the story Dawn had told go into my bones. I knew that it would stay there forever. I would never forget it. I saw what they did to her in my mind and I knew that memory would affect me for the rest of my life.

I was an adult and I didn’t want to be one. I wanted to sit in parking lots and smoke cigarettes and not have to think about what some people did to other people.

I saw our bus pull up. “What bus do you take?” I asked Dawn.

“I don’t. My mom will pick me up in a few. I’m OK now. Thanks,” she said.

I held out my hand and helped her up.

“Kathy and I meet for lunch under the tree in the courtyard everyday at noon. Be there or be square,” I said.

Dawn smiled and blushed. I chuckled that I now had two friends that randomly looked like beets.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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“Would you like some more punch?” Mrs. Monroe asked me. She was smiling and her eyes were still judgmental. I concluded that she was born that way, had lived that way and would die that way. No matter how old I got, the lack of respect in her eyes when she looked at me would always make me feel inferior.

“No thanks. I’m good,” I said. She nodded her head and walked away. I took a deep breath and turned and watched Kathy continue to open her presents and chat with the other women. She was getting married in a few weeks. She had not forgotten to invite me to her shower even though we had not seen each other for 4 years. She graduated with her degree. I was proud of her for doing what she wanted. Being a teacher was met by approval from her parents and her entire family.

She was doing what she wanted and would soon be married.

“Are you seeing anyone?” I heard someone ask. I looked around and saw it was Debbie who had asked me the question. She was Kathy’s younger sister.

I felt my hackles go up. Once again I was about to be subjected to the third degree by women who I didn’t know but yet wanted to know all about my love life. I didn’t like Debbie and she didn’t like me. I remembered her as sneaky and quite often running to her parents to tell them something I had said.

“Yes, but no one you know,” I said. I decided it was easier to lie than explain why I wasn’t dating someone.

“Oh, please, tell us all about him!” she said and moved her chair closer. “Kathy said you weren’t seeing anyone. Is this someone new?”

I wanted to scratch her eyes out. She knew damn well I wasn’t seeing anyone but now was talking loud enough for everyone to hear. A few of Kathy’s relatives stopped talking and began to listen.

Debbie had a smug look on her face. I wondered for the millionth time if Kathy wasn’t adopted.

“What makes you think it’s a man?” I asked and batted my eyelashes.

Debbie looked confused for a moment and then she blushed. I could see the top of her head turn red where she had pulled back her hair. She put her hand to her mouth and gasped. A few of the women looked at each other.

Mrs. Monroe stood up quickly. “Would anyone like some cake?” she said and told everyone to go into the kitchen. She glared at me and told Debbie to come help her.

I chuckled as I watched everyone leave the living room. Once they were gone, I leaned back against my chair and looked at Kathy. She was blushing and shaking her head.

“What?” I asked and started to laugh.

“I can’t believe you said that! You would think that after all these years, I would get used to you, but I haven’t,” she said and laughed.

I knew our friendship was ending. She vowed that it wouldn’t, but she was getting married and moving away. I had met her fiancé Michael and I didn’t like him. He was rude and abrasive. Kathy never stood up to anyone in her life. I had not been around for the last 4 years to stick up for her and speak for her when she couldn’t. I never told her I didn’t like Michael. She wasn’t going to teach. After all she had worked for, Michael wanted her to stay home. He wanted a family right away.

“You’re going to miss me when I’m gone,” I said and held her hand in mine. She still looked 8 years old to me even with the shorter hair and breasts. I looked down at her hand and back at her.

“What are you talking about? You’re not going anywhere,” she said.

I wasn’t going anywhere but Kathy was. She didn’t understand how everything had changed over the last couple of years. We had grown up and gone our own way. She was on her way to start a new life and I was stuck in mine. I didn’t have much of a future but she did.

I no longer fit into her life.

“No, of course not. I’ll always be around,” I said. I stood up. “I have to go but I’ll see you at the wedding, OK?”

She hugged me and then stood back, held my hands and smiled. “Yep. I’ll see you at the wedding! I can hardly wait!”

She had a smile that lit up the room and I was the only one in her life that knew that.

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Best friends

Posted: January 8, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

1963

I didn’t expect for someone to be standing there as I climbed over my backyard fence. We had moved in a few months before but most of the houses in the new development were vacant. The Harris’ lived 3 doors down and I had met Jennifer. She and I were the same age and getting ready to start 3rd grade. Polly lived up the street at the top of the hill. Polly, Jennifer and I were friends by default. I liked them well enough, but Polly could be bossy and Jennifer liked to have tea parties in her bedroom with her toy troll dolls and talk baby talk to them.

“Hello. Who are you? My name is Rebecca,” I heard as I hoisted myself up the fence and straddled the middle in preparation of jumping down. I was planning on playing in the yard without the prying eyes of my older brother who had been left to babysit me while my Mom ran to the store. He thought this made him the boss of me. It didn’t but rather than have another argument about it, I decided to go play in what I considered my own personal backyard.

Now someone else was here and I didn’t know why. I looked at her for a moment and suddenly felt as if I had done something wrong.

“I’m Susan. What are you doing here?” I asked as I jumped down. I almost landed on her. She stepped back but continued to smile. She was about my height but thinner. Her hair was so blond it was yellow. She had enormous blue eyes with pale lashes. Her nose was large and her skin was so white it was almost translucent.

She was wearing a starched white blouse that was tucked into her pants. Her socks had lace on them and she was wearing white saddle shoes that didn’t have a mark on them. Her hair had a ribbon in it which matched her shirt

“I live here now,” she said. She began blinking rapidly and her eyes darted for a moment.

“What do you mean you live here now?” I asked. I quickly looked into the living room window. “I don’t see any furniture.”

Her smile got wider. “Oh, that’s because we haven’t actually moved in yet. The movers come on Saturday. We’re staying at a motel until then.”

“I see,” I said as I wiped my hands on my jeans. I wasn’t wearing any shoes and my feet were dirty. I tried to smooth my hair down but it was pointless. It was curly and stuck out everywhere. My Mom gave up trying to comb it so she cut it short and hoped it would somehow stay put.

“Do you live next door?” she asked.

“We moved in here a long time ago. I know everyone in the neighborhood,” I said as if that would mean something.

“Rebecca? Where are you?” I heard a man’s voice call out. Rebecca turned and I saw a man approach us.

“Hi Dad. This is Susan. She lives next door,” she said. He walked over the stuck his hand out. I shook it and hoped it was clean.

“Nice to meet you Susan,” he said. He was tall and younger than my parents. His hair was cut short and his teeth were so straight that I wasn’t sure if they were real or not and tried not to stare.

“Thanks, you too,” I said and pulled my hand away.

“How did you get in the yard? I didn’t see you go through the gate,” he asked and looked directly at me.

This was the second time in 2 minutes that I felt as if I had done something wrong. “I climbed over the fence like I always do,” I said.

“Oh well, please be sure not to do that anymore. This is our house and you should come to the front door from now on.” He turned and looked down at Rebecca and put his arm around her shoulder. He had spoken and I had been dismissed. “It’s time to go,” he said and turned her around. “It’s nice to have met you Susan,” he said as they walked away. Rebecca turned around, smiled and waved.

I waved and walked through the gate. I left it open. I figured if he had such a bug up his ass about it, he could close it himself.

                      1968

It was such a beautiful Saturday morning so I jumped on my bike and pedaled as fast as I could to Rebecca’s house. I had so many things to tell her about my new crush that I couldn’t wait. We weren’t in the same classes anymore and had different schedules. Since she wasn’t allowed to use the phone during the week, the only time we had to talk was on the weekend. Sometimes we would catch each other in the cafeteria but she had new friends I didn’t like.

Rebecca’s mom opened the door. I had parked my bike exactly where they had told me. Everything in their house was always in the exact right place. It was spotless and I often felt that if I moved wrong, I would knock something over and they would banish me forever.

“Good morning Susan,” she said and just stood there. She always did this. I always had to tell her I was there to see Rebecca even though it was obvious.

“Hello Mrs. Monroe. How are you?” I asked and waited. This ritual was usually short.

“I’m well. Are you here to see Rebecca?” she asked.

I wanted to tell her I wasn’t. I wanted to say I was there to visit with her even though I knew she didn’t like me and never had.

“Yes I am,” I said and continued to stand there and wait.

She looked me up and down. I automatically reached up and flattened down my hair.

“She’s upstairs in her bedroom,” she said and opened the door wider. I walked through it and started to go up the stairs.

“Thank you Mrs. Monroe,” I said.

I heard her close the door. “Rebecca has a lot to do tonight, so please be back here by 4:00,’ she said as she walked into the kitchen.

I rolled my eyes but made sure she couldn’t see them. “No problem,” I said as I sprinted up the stairs and into Rebecca’s room.

She was sitting at her desk. She jumped up and hugged me. I closed the door and flopped down on her bed. I wanted to leave as soon as we could. I felt like I was in jail.

“Are you ready to go?” I asked.

She turned around and smiled. “Yep. Let me just grab my purse. You want to grab some food for our bike ride? We could ride up the trail and there’s a bunch of nice spots where we could stop. Angie lives somewhere near the lake. Maybe we could go over to her house…”

“No, I don’t like Angie. I know she’s your friend but I don’t think she likes me,” I said.

“Oh, that’s not true! She does like you,” Rebecca said. Rebecca only saw the goodness in people. She didn’t like it when I said something unkind or mean. She would always tell me something positive. It annoyed me at times but I had grown used to it. That was just the way she was.

Her door opened and her father was standing there. They never knocked. They just walked in. Rebecca never did anything wrong and I wondered if they were like that when I wasn’t around.

He stood there and I saw he was holding a book in his hand. He had a serious look on his face. I looked down at the book. It was “Soul on Ice” and right then I knew I was in trouble.

“Where did you get this book Rebecca?” he asked as he held the book in front of him. Rebecca looked at it and then immediately looked at me. She blushed when she realized that she had just answered his question without saying anything. She looked back at him and then down at her lap.

“Well? I asked you a question young lady,” he said.

“I gave it to her,” I said. She couldn’t lie to her father and didn’t want to get me into trouble. It was easier for her if I just told the truth.

He looked at me and slowly shook his head. “Did you…read this book?” he asked.

I nodded my head. I felt my face getting red. I knew what parts he was talking about. I looked down at my shoes. At 13 years old, much of the book I did not understand but the sex scenes were vivid enough.

“Do your parents know you read this book?”

“I have no idea. It was given to me. I read it. I gave it to Rebecca to read. It’s just a book and a popular one,” I said. I did not like anyone talking to me as if they were my parents.

“Well I may have to talk to them about. I’m sure they would not approve. I think you are both a bit too young for this type of…book. There are parts that are fine. I stapled the pages that you are not to read Rebecca, but you can read the rest of it,” he said and handed her the book. She took it and nodded and placed it on her desk.

He turned and looked at me. “But the next time you want Rebecca to read something you find so…interesting, please give it to me first,” he said and walked out. He left the door open. I got up and closed it.

I looked down at Rebecca. She was still red and was wringing her hands slightly. “Sorry I got you in trouble,” I said and took the book. I started to take the staples out of it. Rebecca reached over and took the book from me.

“You can’t do that! He said I couldn’t read those parts!”

“So what? It’s my book and he had no right to ruin it. If I want the staples out of my book, I’m taking them out!” I said. I snatched the book back and began to pull out the staples and sneered every time they tore a page.

“You can see the pages that had them and if you don’t want to read them, then don’t,” I said and handed her back the book.

She shook her head. “No, that’s OK. I’ll read something else,” she said and got up and picked up her purse.

I took the book with us. We found a place to eat. I read the parts he told her not to read. Technically, she didn’t read them. I just happened to be reading out loud while Rebecca was sitting there.

I never saw her blush so much for so long. It was worth it. From then on, anything I wanted her to read, I kept in my locker at school.

                     1973

I could hear her guitar as I came out of my last class for the day. Her last class for the day ended an hour before mine. She had taken up the guitar and would use that hour while she waited for me to practice. We took the same bus home and that gave us time to catch-up on the day. It was my most favorite time of day except my English class because Ted was in it. I had a crush on him since 6th grade and 6 years later, he still didn’t know I existed.

I found her sitting on the stairs near the girl’s gym. She was in her own world as she sat and strummed her guitar. Her hair was almost to her waist. She was wearing a long dress and boots with a headband and flowers pinned into it. The sun was hitting her back and her hair looked like corn silk. I tried to flatten my hair down and forgot for a moment that it was also long. I wore it pulled back most of the time and I could feel the long pony tail hit my waist as I jogged towards her.

She was practicing “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd. It had been the number one song on the charts for a few weeks.  I wasn’t sure if I liked them or not. No one would ever replace The Beatles for me. I walked up and stood in front of her and waited for her to stop.

She looked up and continued to strum her guitar. She was getting better and better. She taught herself much of what she played. She had taken lessons but she had a talent for it. I tried to learn but had no patience. I wanted to pick it up, play it perfectly and refused to practice.

“You ready? I want to have a smoke before the bus comes,” I said. She stood up and walked with me to the parking lot. That was where some of us went to in order to sneak a cigarette.

As we were walking, I heard someone crying. I looked around. “Did you hear that?” I asked Rebecca and stopped. She listened and then we heard it again. We looked around and followed the sound. It was subtle but someone was sobbing.

We saw a girl standing behind the partition in front of the girl’s gym. I had never seen her before. She had her face pressed against it with her hands covering her face. Her body was shaking as she sobbed and tried to be quiet. We looked at each other and walked over to her. Rebecca didn’t know who she was either.

“You OK?” I asked. She jumped back and a slight scream left her mouth. She quickly put her hands over her mouth and nodded her head. She was a mess. Her face was soaked from her tears and they had dripped onto her blouse. Her nose was running.

She was a large girl with hair worse than mine. Hers stood straight up as if she had stuck her finger in a light socket. Everything about her was wrong. She was wearing a pleated skirt that was plaid with a large sweater and knee high socks. She looked as if she had just been transported from the 50’s. I looked to see if there was a poodle on her skirt. She had the thickest glasses I had ever seen and when she looked back and forth at us, only one of her eyes moved. Her left eye stared straight ahead.

Rebecca stepped forward and put her hand on her arm. “What’s your name?”

She wiped her nose on her sleeve and tried to breathe. “Dawn,” she said and attempted to smile. All you could see was a mouthful of braces and she was wearing a head-gear.

“I’m Rebecca and this is Susan. Why are you crying?”

Dawn looked around and then stared at her shoes. She shrugged her shoulders.

I already had a good idea of what happened. She was near the girl’s gym when the cheerleaders came out. I hated those girls even though we had all been friends since 3rd grade. Something happened to some of them during the summer between Junior High School and starting our sophomore year. They had grown-up suddenly and were pretty and thin and popular. Suddenly I wasn’t allowed to have lunch with them or talk to them. My greetings went unanswered or even laughed at as they flipped their hair and wiggled their butts as they walked away.

I didn’t want to hear what they had done. Those girls had turned into demon spawn. Dawn was a perfect target. I grabbed her hand and started walking. “Come with us and don’t worry about it,” I said as I headed towards the parking lot and began to pull my cigarettes out of my purse.

I found a spot to sit where I wouldn’t be seen and could hear if anyone was approaching. I had Dawn sit down between us and lit up. Her face was beginning to dry. She looked back and forth between us. Rebecca picked-up her guitar and started strumming. I leaned back, inhaled deeply and watched the smoke rise in the air.

“What happened to your eye?” I asked Dawn.

She looked at me and I saw a horrible memory pass over her face. I wasn’t trying to be mean or rude but it was like a huge elephant sitting in the middle of a living room and no one was saying anything.

“Some girls picked on me and bullied me for a long time where I used to live,” she said. Her hand went to her eye and she rubbed it. “We just moved here. My dad lost his job, so they haven’t had any money to get me a better eye.”

“A better eye? What does that mean?” I asked.

“This is a glass eye,” she said and pointed to it. “One day, those girls held me down and one of them stuck a needle into it. They laughed. They thought it was funny.”

Rebecca had stopped playing her guitar when Dawn started talking. I looked at her. Tears were in her eyes and her hand went to her mouth. I looked at Dawn as she looked out into the parking lot.

There wasn’t anything left for to say.

I watched the side of Dawn’s face as she gazed at the cars coming and going. Her jaw was tight and her bottom lip quivered. I put my hand over hers and squeezed it.

We were graduating in a couple of months. Rebecca was going off the college. She wanted to be a teacher. I had no plans. I didn’t want to go to school for a while. I wanted to write and be someone. Even then I knew that High School would have a memory that would never die. I sat there and felt the story Dawn had told go into my bones. I knew that it would stay there forever. I would never forget it. I saw what they did to her in my mind and I knew that memory would affect me for the rest of my life.

I was an adult and I didn’t want to be one. I wanted to sit in parking lots and smoke cigarettes and not have to think about what some people did to other people.

I saw our bus pull up. “What bus do you take?” I asked Dawn.

“I don’t. My mom will pick me up in a few. I’m OK now. Thanks,” she said.

I held out my hand and helped her up.

“Rebecca and I meet for lunch under the tree in the courtyard everyday at noon. Be there or be square,” I said.

Dawn smiled and blushed. I chuckled that I now had two friends that randomly looked like beets.

  1977

“Would you like some more punch?” Mrs. Monroe asked me. She was smiling and her eyes were still judgmental. I concluded that she was born that way, had lived that way and would die that way. No matter how old I got, the lack of respect in her eyes when she looked at me would always make me feel inferior.

“No thanks. I’m good,” I said. She nodded her head and walked away. I took a deep breath and turned and watched Rebecca continue to open her presents and chat with the other women. She was getting married in a few weeks. She had not forgotten to invite me to her shower even though we had not seen each other for a few years. She had graduated with her degree. I was proud of her for doing what she wanted. Being a teacher was met with approval from her parents and her entire family.

She was doing what she wanted and would soon be married.

“Are you seeing anyone?” I heard someone ask. I looked around and saw it was Debbie who had asked me the question. She was Rebecca’s younger sister.

I felt my hackles go up. Once again I was about to be subjected to the third degree by women who I didn’t know but yet wanted to know all about my love life. I didn’t like Debbie and she didn’t like me. I remembered her as sneaky and quite often running to her parents to tell them something I had said.

“Yes, but no one you know,” I said. I decided it was easier to lie than explain why I wasn’t married.

“Oh, please, tell us all about him!” she said and moved her chair closer. “Rebecca said you weren’t seeing anyone. Is this someone new?”

I wanted to scratch her eyes out. She knew damn well I wasn’t seeing anyone but now was talking loud enough for everyone to hear. A few of Rebecca’s relatives stopped talking and began to listen.

Debbie had a smug look on her face. I wondered for the millionth time if Rebecca wasn’t adopted.

“What makes you think it’s a man?” I asked and batted my eyelashes.

Debbie looked confused for a moment and then she blushed. I could see the top of her head turn red where she had pulled back her hair. She put her hand to her mouth and gasped. A few of the women looked at each other.

Mrs. Monroe stood up quickly. “Would anyone like some cake?” she said and told everyone to go into the kitchen. She glared at me and told Debbie to come help her.

I chuckled as I watched everyone leave the living room. Once they were gone, I leaned back against my chair and looked at Rebecca. She was blushing and shaking her head.

“What?” I asked and started to laugh.

“I can’t believe you said that! You would think that after all these years, I would get used to you, but I haven’t,” she said and laughed.

I knew our friendship was ending. She vowed that it wouldn’t, but she was getting married and moving away. I had met her fiancé Michael and I didn’t like him. He was rude and abrasive. Rebecca never stood up to anyone in her life. I had not been around for the last 4 years to stick up for her and speak for her when she couldn’t. I never told her I didn’t like Michael. She wasn’t going to teach. After all she had worked for, Michael wanted her to stay home. He wanted a family right away.

“You’re going to miss me when I’m gone,” I said and held her hand in mine. She still looked 8 years old to me even with the shorter hair and breasts. I looked down at her hand and back at her.

“What are you talking about? You’re not going anywhere,” she said.

I wasn’t going anywhere but Rebecca was. She didn’t understand how everything had changed over the last couple of years. We had grown up and gone our own way. She was on her way to start a new life and I was stuck in mine. I didn’t have much of a future but she did.

I no longer fit into her life.

“No, of course not. I’ll always be around,” I said. I stood up. “I have to go but I’ll see you at the wedding, OK?”

She hugged me and then stood back, held my hands and smiled. “Yep. I’ll see you at the wedding! I can hardly wait!”

She had a smile that lit up the room and I was the only one in her life that knew that.

Actually, the one I was in was quite nice but they don’t have door handles.

Who knew, right? I mean, as soon as I was put in the back of it and while the officer was walking around the car to get into the driver’s seat, I immediately reached for the handle to let myself out.

There wasn’t one.

I was screwed and started to cry again. He got behind the wheel, started the engine and pulled away as if a hysterical teenager in his back seat was completely normal. It probably was.

My friend Katie had already been put in the back seat with me and sat there, quietly, with her head down and stared at her feet. I looked over at her door, hoping I could jump across her and make an exit, even if he was driving.  I had a plan and stopped crying as I leaned over to find it. There wasn’t one. I sat back, wiped my face and tried to breathe  as we drove out of the parking lot of the department store and headed towards our homes.

The cop was taking us home. To talk to our parents and tell them what we had done.

I wanted to die after killing Katie for getting me into this position.

She had shoplifted and we both got caught.

I saw her do it and I didn’t care. It was a $2.00 necklace that she quietly scooped up from the counter and put in her pocket. We had the money to buy it, but she wanted to steal it and I thought that was a great idea.

We were both 15 and were probably hitting a rebellious phase or something. It just seemed like a wild and fun thing to do, so I egged her on. Neither one of us had ever caused our parents any trouble. She was a good Christian girl, I was the Heathen child from “the people who don’t go to church” and her family had been trying to save my soul for 10 years. I secretly wished they would leave me alone, but that’s another story.

What could go wrong, right? Just take the necklace and walk out of the store. Easy.

After she put it in her pocket, we casually walked outside and that’s when all hell broke loose.

Suddenly we had 2 men busting through the department store doors, yelling at us to stop. Katie froze and I took off.  She didn’t know what was going on but I did. She often had that “deer in the headlights” look when anything happened suddenly. Not me. Once I understood we were going to be arrested, I started running.

I didn’t get far before one of them grabbed me and swung me around to look at him. I’ll never forget the look on his face. He was pissed off because he had to run. He was probably 100 pounds overweight and I had made a huge mistake in running. His face was flushed and there was sweat on his forehead and he was angry. So angry.

I thought for a moment of breaking away, but it was pointless. The other guy was marching Katie through the door. I could feel the tears starting. I hung my head down and let him march me through the doors.

I really must have pissed him off because suddenly he’s shouting “Everyone stand back. I have a shoplifter here. Move aside.” He said this all the way through the store and down the stairs.

I had never felt such humiliation towards myself and such intense hatred towards another human being. He had a smile on his face the whole time and the more upset I got, the bigger his smile became.

We were marched down 2 flights of stairs and plunked down on 2 steel chairs and told to sit still and not say anything. By then Katie was crying and I was starting to cry harder.

We were in an office in the basement with desks, chairs and phones with lots of people walking around. I could see the TV monitors that covered the entire store and one was directly on the location where Katie had stolen the necklace.

I sneered at her and refused to take any responsibility for what SHE had done.

We sat there for what seemed like hours but was probably only 10 minutes. Someone came and led Katie into a room and I was lead into another one. By then I couldn’t stop crying and I couldn’t look at anyone.

The man who came into the office I was in stood in the doorway for a few seconds and sneered at me. I started to say something and he silenced me by holding up his hand and shaking his head.

He sat down, took my purse and dumped the contents out on his desk. He said he wanted to see if I had stolen anything. No matter how many times I said I hadn’t, he continued to pick up each item in my purse, look at it and set it aside.

I almost died when he did that with my tampons. As God as my witness, that was the worst moment of my life.

When he was done and  was convinced that I didn’t have any stolen items on me, he put all the contents back in my purse and handed it to me.

For the next half hour, I sat and listened to him yell at me and tell me what a horrible person I was. He ranted and raved and his arms never stopped moving while he yelled. He told me I was going to go to jail and that was the moment I lost it.

It was and is the only time in my life that I became hysterical. Now I know what that feels like and I can tell you, that when it starts, you can’t stop it. I was terrified. I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t stop sobbing. He sat back and waited.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I stopped. I couldn’t cry anymore. I looked up and he was leaning back in his chair, staring at me and a very slight smile came across his face.

“OK, well maybe there’s something we can do. Tell you what, you promised to never step foot in this store again, I’ll let you off with a warning.”

I jumped up, agreed and promised him my first-born if I ever got within a mile of the store. I thanked him, stood up, grabbed my purse and started to walk out the door.

“Hold on a minute. We’re not done yet.”

I froze and thought I was going to start crying again. All I wanted in the whole world, was to leave that office.

“Have a seat.” I walked back and sat down and looked at him.

“I am making a permanent record on you. It will be on file. But since you are under 18, I am going to have an officer drive you home and talk to your parents and tell them what you did. I am not going to arrest you, but if I EVER see your face in this store again, I will. Do you understand me?”

I nodded, somehow.

I needed to die. Right then and there, death needed to come walking through that door and take me away. Talk to my parents? Be driven home in a cop car? No, death needed to happen right now because if it didn’t, my parents were going to kill me. Either way, I would not live to see tomorrow and my parents had a huge yard and could easily hide my body for a long time.

We were escorted out of the store by an officer and placed in the back. Even though I knew I couldn’t get away, at least I tried and didn’t sit there like Katie, but when I looked at her, my heart broke.

She had been my best friend for 10 years and her parents insisted that their children, house, yard, clothes, job, grades and everything else be perfect. Perfect. There was no room for error.

Now Katie had done something that, in their eyes, would be unforgivable and I would be blamed once again for being a bad influence on her.

They were right. I was always wanting to have fun and break rules and now I had gone too far and my friend would probably never be allowed to talk to me and would end up grounded until she was 25. Maybe 35, if they had their way.

The officer went to Katie’s house first and walked her up to the front door and rang the bell. I laid down on the backseat. I couldn’t watch and I didn’t want her parents to see me. I was afraid it would make them angrier. I peaked as they grabbed her from the officer, thanked him and slammed the door. I watched as he walked towards the car.

It was my turn now.

He asked me where I lived and I told him. Apathy had set in and I knew it was hopeless.

As he pulled up to the front of my car and unfastened his seat belt, I saw the boy of my dreams walking up the street. I gasped and may have let out a small scream. Steven was going to see me being pulled out of a cop car and the boy I had loved madly for the last 2 years would tell everyone in school and I would never live it down.

I dove for the floor of the back seat and pleaded with the officer to wait a moment.

“Why? No matter how long we wait, I’m walking you up to the front door.”

“You see that boy walking up the street?”

“Yes.”

I took a deep breath. This was so humiliating. “I don’t want him to see me do this. Please, can you just wait until he’s gone?”

“Yes. Stay down there and I’ll let you know when he’s gone.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. “Thank you” was all I could muster.

A few minutes passed and I’m not sure I breathed.

“OK, he’s gone. The coast is clear,” he said and I actually chuckled for a moment.

He let me out of the car and then put his arm around my shoulders and looked at me. I looked up and he had the kindest face. I had not looked at him before.

“Susan, have you learned your lesson? Have you?” he asked as he smiled.

I nodded. “It was stupid, I know and…”

“Shush. Listen to me for a second. We all do things that have consequences. Your stupid prank could have turned out a lot worse. You got lucky.”

I hugged him. I don’t know why, but I did. In an afternoon of complete insanity, here was a moment of kindness and compassion. He hugged me back. “You ready?”

“Yes,” I said and we walked up to my front door. He rang the doorbell and I waited. My Mom answered the door and saw me standing there with a cop. She was confused as I had never caused any trouble before.

“Ma’am I’m Officer Jones and I was wondering if I could come in for a few minutes?”

My Mom let us in and was glaring at me but was also confused. Officer Jones explained what had happened and told my Mom that I was sorry and realized that it had been a stupid stunt. My Mom never said a word and just listened. He thanked her and turned around to leave. After he opened the door, he looked at me and smiled. “You’re going to be OK,” closed the door and drove off.

My Mom asked what had happened and I told her. My Dad came in and listened. I was so distraught that I think that I had been through enough punishment for one day. All they said was to never do it again and that was that as it was apparent I had learned my lesson.

Katie didn’t fare so well. She was grounded for a month and wasn’t allowed to talk to me. That meant nothing to me, so I would find her  in school and have lunch with her. For one month we made sure her parents never saw us together and we never called each other. After a month, her Mom had the audacity to call me and tell me “It’s OK if you come over now and see Kaitlin” as if she was doing me a favor. I told her I would be over if and when I felt like it. I heard her gasp and she probably shook her head and prayed for me that night.

Like I care.

Ever since that day, even over 40 years later, whenever my Mom and I drive by that department store, she smacks me on the arm and tells me if I go in there, I will get arrested. Sometimes she will pull into the parking lot and we will go into the store and look around.

In the background, I always hear her laughing and then telling me what a great kid I turned out to be and how proud she is of me.

“Let’s see if they kick us both out,” she says and this always gets me to laugh.

I love my Mom.