Posts Tagged ‘friendship’

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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.

I read the words on my monitor and all I could think of was that it wasn’t real. I must have nodded off on the couch this Sunday afternoon and was dreaming. I just needed to wake-up and the horror would be gone and the memory would only be that of a nightmare.

I blinked several times and knew that I was awake. Of course I knew that, but when betrayal hits, you can’t fathom it. It doesn’t make sense. You have no warning. Being a native of California, I was quite familiar with earthquakes. One moment everything is as it should be; the next moment, everything was moving. It always takes a few seconds to figure out why you are suddenly dizzy and why a book jumped off the shelf.

But the words were real. I had written them. I had sent them privately to a friend whom I had known for years and years. I had been troubled for a long time. She was my confidant and was one of the few people who I could let my guard down with, talk things out and know all would be better once I did.

The email was written to repair a transgression I had committed months before. This was not uncommon for me to admit when I was wrong and had erred. I had not harmed her but I needed help and advice, so I told her all about it.

Everything I had done, felt and thought was in that email. I had revealed my sins in great detail and was seeking forgiveness and comfort.

Instead she copied and posted my email on her blog.

For 7 billion people to read and comment.

The trolls arrived in full force. I was ridiculed, trashed, mocked and dragged through the mud from people who didn’t even know me. People flocked to it and then began to email me.

I was judged for being human who had made a mistake and was trying to rectify it. I had committed a reprehensible and unforgivable sin – I had been honest.

She had also given them my email and then sent another one to everyone I knew. It was 3 pages long and she trashed me once again. Hundreds of my friends received it.

My friend had done this to me and to this day, I do not know why.

And then an amazing thing happened before I could even think about what was going on.

My friends circled the wagons around me. They did it quietly and quickly.

Not one of them mentioned it to me or brought it up. Not one word was written or spoken, but random text messages came with smiles, goofy faces and funny jokes.

Wherever I went, I was given random hugs and kisses on my forehead with no words spoken.

Just a deep understanding and acceptance of who I am and who I am NOT.

Out of the madness, grace and beauty arrived in the form of smiles and laughter. I had the wonderful and exhilarating freedom of the entire planet knowing my deepest and darkest secrets and I didn’t care.

I realized I didn’t care what people knew about me or what they thought.

The betrayal had set me free and to this day, I’m glad it happened because I was lucky enough to find out who my friends are and who has my back.

And I refused to stop trusting people because that is who I am. The only one that can hurt me is me. No one else has that power over me.

Those that bash, mock and betray others are in their own prison that they made for themselves.

Let them stay there and should you walk by them once in a while, throw them a piece of raw meat. It’s fun to watch them scamper for it and stomp over each other to get it.

And as you walk away, smile and be grateful that you know who you are and who your friends are.

And never stop being you. Don’t let it change you in a negative way, for that is the true loss you shall suffer. Not the betrayal but the giving up of yourself because of it. You are the only one that can give away your integrity. No one can take it from you.

No. Hold your head up high and say “Yep, I did that and that and that. So what?”

Because what people accuse you of tells you what they have been up to.

You need not look further.

It’s on them and let them have it with a great big smile on your face.

“No they’re not,” Josh said and laughed.

“Yes they are,” I said. “In fact, you’re dating one right now. She’s a Day Walker, so she is harder to spot. Plus she doesn’t sparkle in the sun.”

“Sparkle? What the hell are you talking about now?” he asked and dipped another buffalo wing in the bowl of sauce.

“Never mind about the sparkling. Bit of an inside joke,” I said.

Josh chewed on his food and thought for a moment. I waited. He had asked me for my advice. I at first refused. It’s usually a waste of time and energy to give anyone advice. They never listen.

But I made an exception for him. He has been a good friend for years and sincerely wanted my 2 cents. I had time to spare and since he was buying me lunch, I relented.

“You do know, don’t you, what a vampire is, right?” I asked.

“Yes of course I do but they aren’t real. That’s just fiction.”

“Are you sure? How do you know?” I asked. I was starting to have fun. “Just because you’ve never seen something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Like Big Foot.”

“Oh, you believe in Big Foot now? What the hell have you been smoking?”

I leaned forward and tucked my legs underneath me. “Marlboro Lights. What I mean is, I don’t know if Big Foot exists but it’s fine with me either way. But I do know vampires exist. I’ve seen them, I’ve met them and I’ve even dated one or two of them before. They are the people who suck the life out of you and still want more. They are dead inside but still walk around. Some vote and procreate and drive. Makes life more difficult than it needs to be.”

“But why are you saying that about Karen? We’ve been dating for months and it’s been good…for the most part,” he said and took a huge bite out of his hamburger.

“Well, let’s see here. What was it she said to you the other day about the flowers you brought her?”

He cringed for half a second, but I saw it.

“She said she was tired of getting roses from me, but..”

“But what?” I asked.

“But I should have known that.”

“Oh, so now you’re supposed to be a mind reader? How about the time she asked you to be honest and when you were, she threw a tantrum, hung-up on you and wouldn’t talk to you for three days?”

“That was my fault because…” he said and stopped.

I dipped a buffalo wing in the sauce and waited.

“Then there was the time you took her to her favorite restaurant and she complained about the service the whole time. And let’s not forget when she said she didn’t like you talking to me. Remember that time? Huh?”

He nodded his head and looked down at his lap.

“In fact, I bet she will get very upset today when she finds out you and I had lunch.”

“No she won’t,” he said.

“Oh really? Why not?”

He looked out the window and then at me. “Because I’m not going to tell her.”

I stopped eating and looked at him. He was serious.

“Right there is your first clue that something isn’t right. Josh, you’re one of the most honest people I know! The fact that she doesn’t like your friends is the second clue. The other red flags are her slight and subtle criticisms about what you wear, where you work, what kind of car you drive…”

He raised up his hand.

“I just want her to be happy,” he said.

I threw the buffalo wing at him. It hit him on the chest and left a stain. He would now have to do some laundry that weekend.

He picked it up from his lap and tossed it on the table. He glared at me as he wiped his shirt with a napkin.

“Her happiness is not your problem. It’s her problem. That’s why she’s a vampire and you are a willing donor. She looks to others to make her happy. She feeds on them and is never happy. You ever known a vampire to sit back after a feeding and say they have had enough and light up a cigar and smile?”

A slight grin crossed over his face. “No, I can’t say that I have. I get your point.”

He thought he did, but he didn’t. He was on the wrong side of the equation. He was trying to make someone happy which is impossible to do. Plus vampires are only happy when they’ve sucked you dry and you die a slow and painful death. Watching all the good emotions leave and the negative ones show up is what they feed on.

And they never stop.

“Well, do what you want but I have to warn you of something,” I said.

“Oh, and what’s that?”

“If she ever pulls that pouting routine around me again, I will put a stake through her heart.”

“I believe you,” he said.

He made sure she and I never saw each other again.

He was at least smart on that point.

She called me last week. I saw the unfamiliar number ring on my cell phone and almost didn’t answer it. I don’t like to do that, but I suddenly recognized the area code was the same as her previous call to me. Don’t ask me why I can remember that from a few months ago and yet can’t often remember why I just got up and walked into another room.

If you don’t know who I am talking about, go read this post and then come back here.

As soon as I answered it, I heard her familiar voice.

“I love what you wrote about me,” was all she said.

My heart suddenly stopped and for a moment I felt as if I had just been caught with my hand in the cookie jar by my Mom. I knew I would never write something that would betray someone or hurt them, but having the subject of your writing tell you that is, at best, an odd sensation.

“You did? Really? You read my blog?” I asked and held my breath.

“Yes and I love it. I knew you were talking about me and I wanted to thank you for the story.”

I felt a huge smile cross my face. It was a lazy Sunday afternoon and I was camped out on my couch, getting caught-up on last season of “House” on Netflix. Drinking iced tea and trying not to think about Monday morning. I am very good at putting things out of my mind.

“I’m so glad you liked it and I almost didn’t write it. I didn’t want to say anything…”

“You have given my life meaning with your writing,” was all she said.

I did not expect this comment. “I have?” was all I could think to ask.

“You have. I’ve been following your blog since the beginning. I remember some of the people you’ve written about and thank you for showing people we are human too.”

I couldn’t help it; I started crying. Right then and there, I was sniffling and wiping my eyes, thankful I wasn’t wearing any make-up. Make-up on a Sunday just seems sinful to me.

“Why are you crying? Did I say something wrong?” she asked.

I shook my head, as if she could see that. “No! No, you didn’t say anything wrong at all. Your words have touched me more than I can say…”

“Susan, what’s wrong? Why are you sad today?” she asked. She was right. I had been sad for a few days but hadn’t said a word to anyone. Suddenly, she was the person I needed to talk to. This beautiful and messed up soul who comes into my life once in a while, touches down and then flies away until the next time.

I took a deep breath and decided to talk. Just talk. “I have, or had, a friend but I’m not sure if we’re friends anymore,” I said and the words just jumbled out of my mouth. No thought to them, no attempt to make sense or to try to even understand what I was saying.

“We were really good friends for a long time. Talked everyday and shared so much. Now the last few weeks, he no longer has time for me. I’ve tried to say hello a few times, I’ve sent a few text messages but I never get a response anymore. If I contact him, I have a 50/50 shot he’ll reply. I don’t know what I said or did, but I’ve had to accept the fact that I am no longer important and I guess it just hurts so much.”

There. I said it. I opened my soul a bit. “So, I am going to respect his unspoken wishes, even though I don’t understand, and try not to be hurt and bitter, and leave him alone. I don’t stay where I am not wanted, but right now, I am hurt and there’s not much I can do about it,” I said. I actually felt better having finally faced the fact that I was very hurt and I was grieving and didn’t know why I had lost such a dear friend.

“He’s an idiot,” was all she said. This made me laugh with the way she said it and the absolute certainty she had. Once I started laughing, she did too. I ended up talking to her for a long time and all she did was listen.

Suddenly the teacher became the student. She spoke to me quietly and in the only way she could, got me to see that I had done nothing wrong and that it was natural to grieve and I would until I was done with it.

I passed onto her the well wishes I had received from my readers and this made her giggle. I told her I was proud of her – she was steadily employed, drug free and fighting her demons every day and today she was winning. Tomorrow was too far away to worry about.

She had to run, but before she hung-up she said “I love you Susan and I love that I can call you anytime, and you’re always there. If this so-called ‘friend’ of yours doesn’t know your true beauty and strength and value, then it’s OK. I know you love unconditionally and always will. I do too and that’s why I can see it in others. We are rare, crazy and we hurt all the time, don’t we?”

“Yes,” was all I could manage to say and she was gone.

She will be back and I will be here and we shall carry on our conversation. After she hung-up, I felt the sadness leave and knew that there was a person out there who cared about me and had replaced the one that no longer did.

Nothing like trading up, eh?

She had it coming for a very long time. And no, I feel no remorse about it. In fact, every time I think about it, I smile.

Her name was…Janet. Yeah, we’ll use that name. It’s a good name and nondescript.

I’ve learned that by the time something results in violence, there is a whole, long history there.  I mean, most things that turn out like this didn’t happen suddenly. It started long before the actual incident and there is all sides to the story. This is especially true for people like myself who are not violent and don’t deal with things in that nature.

That night had been the culmination of close to 10 years of her verbal and mental abuse. It’s interesting how people talk about abusive relationships between romantic couples, but not so much about the kind that can occur between friends. Women friends, to be specific. It happened to me and I didn’t even know it was going on.

I was in my mid-20’s when I first met Janet, via my good friend Pam. I remember when I first met Janet, I wasn’t sure at first that she was a woman until I heard her name. She was taller than me, older by about 10 years, and had this very direct manner about her. I liked her because she was a friend of a good friend.

We began hanging out together over the next few years and formed a close friendship. One of my first clues that something wasn’t right about her was my husband could not stand her and would have nothing to do with her. He was always cordial towards her, but always had to be some place else when she was around. He loved my friend Pam and they got along great, but when Janet was around, he would leave.

It was becoming obvious over time and I finally asked him about it. He had never said anything to me and just left us alone.

“I don’t trust her and she’s nothing more than a blow hard. I’m sorry, I know she’s your friend, but I just don’t want to be around her and I don’t want her coming over.”

I tried to convince him that she was fine and that was my second clue. Why was I trying to “sell” him on her? He was a likable person when he felt like it, but not everyone liked him. (That’s another clue – if you’re dating someone and your friends don’t like him, run away quickly. Remind me to blog about that sometime.)

My husband was the most amazing  judge of character of anyone I had ever seen. He was NEVER wrong. It was a gift and I should have paid attention to what he was saying, but I didn’t. I learned to never to do that again. It wasn’t they way she acted that he hated. It was HER. The person that he couldn’t stand.

Anyway, I made sure that the two of them didn’t interact and that seemed to keep everyone happy.

Over the years, Janet began to drink heavily. This was gradual and was unnoticed by me. I did not see her that often as she lived out-of-town with Pam. They were roommates since both were divorced and raising their children together. I would go up for a weekend every few months and spend time with them. That’s when I started to see how badly Janet had deteriorated.

I had some training to do one Saturday way up North, which was close to their house. The next day was Easter and the plan was for me to stay over Saturday night, spend Easter with them and the kids, and then drive back home Sunday night. It was a great plan.

I had not seen the two of them in over a year between work and family schedules and I only talked to Pam which was fine with me. Janet was someone I would never have been with friends with on my own. She was too abrupt, rude and crass for my taste. But because of my friendship with Pam and her friendship with Janet, I accepted her as a friend.

When I arrived at their house that night, I was shocked at what I saw. The house was a disaster, the 3 kids were running around and they had a look of scared animals about them. I didn’t know what I was seeing, but I didn’t like it. Pam looked horrible, as if she hadn’t slept in a week and sitting in her recliner (or throne, if you knew Janet) was the Queen Bee herself – Janet.

She glared at me when I came in and actually snarled. I nodded my head in her direction and she looked away. I didn’t know why she was being so rude, but I didn’t care. I was worried about Pam.

I said hello to the kids and hugged them. All three try to sit on my lap, so I opted for the floor and talked with each of them. They were happy to see me and I started to calm down when I saw their smiles.

Janet refused to talk to me, so I played with the kids for a bit while Pam was in the kitchen. She was fixing me a late dinner. I got away from the children and went into the kitchen. Pam was at the sink. I walked up behind her, placed my hands on her shoulder and turned her around to look at me.

“OK, you want to tell me what the hell is going on? In all the years I have known you, I’ve never seen your house look like this, I’ve never seen you this tired and I don’t even want to know what’s up with Janet. Talk to me, please.”

Pam’s eyes teared up and she looked down at the floor. “I don’t know what to do anymore. Janet is drunk all the time, I don’t have the money to move because she has refused to work and I’m worried about the kids. I can’t leave here without them and I can’t stay. I just don’t know what to do.”

Pam had one child and Janet had two. Pam had been raising them for years, so the idea of just walking away from the was not an option. This I understood because I would not have done that either.

I hugged her and told her it would be OK, that we would figure something out and she calmed down.

I grabbed some food from the frig and made her sit down and stop waiting on me. The kids came running into the kitchen and it became obvious everyone was avoiding Janet.

I walked back into the living room and she snarled at me again. I sat down and looked at her. She was drunk and she was not a nice drunk. She was one of the nastiest drunks I had ever seen and I now understood what a horrible position everyone in the household was in. I was angry but I stayed calm. I took the drink out of her hand and put it on the table. It was time to get her sober and try to give the kids a decent Easter.

She looked at me and said nothing. I was tired of her abuse of my friend and the children. It was one thing to put up with her barbs and snide remarks to me over the years but it was a whole other thing to pick on my friend and upset children.

She didn’t drink the rest of the night and was quiet. Anytime she would start to say something, I would look at her and she would shut-up. We spent the evening playing with the kids and when it was time to put them to bed, they were cheerful and excited about the Easter Bunny coming that night.

Once they were asleep, I began to help Pam with the Easter baskets and the hiding of the eggs. Janet remained on her throne and out of my way. There was an unspoken understanding between her and I that I would not tolerate any of her bad behavior or drinking.

It was late before I made it to bed in the guest room. Just as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard a large bang outside my bedroom door and I heard Pam scream. Before I even knew what I was doing, I was out of bed and flung open the door.

Janet had thrown Pam against the wall and was yelling at her to give her the keys to the car. I found out later that right after I had gone to bed, Janet started drinking heavily and wanted to go for a drive. Pam had grabbed the keys away from her and that’s when Janet went after her.

It didn’t take me even a second to yell at Janet and tell her to leave Pam alone. This really pissed her off and before I knew it, she turned around and came after me. She picked me up and slammed me against the wall. My head and back hit the wall hard and I slid down. She turned around and went after Pam again. I shook my head (you actually do that, just like in the movies) and I pulled myself up and yelled at her again.

I have never in my life been in a fight. Not even with my brothers. I have never been struck, hit or slapped and I have never hit another person. I have never had the desire to physically hurt someone. I have a peaceful nature, but that all left me when I saw my friend being hurt. All I knew was that it was not going to continue, no matter what I had to do. I would never stand by while a bully is at work.

She turned around again and lunged towards me. I reacted by putting my hands up and then suddenly all the boxing lessons my brother had given me came into play. I made a fist and extended my arm and made contact with her nose. I wasn’t aiming at all. I just happen to have the right angle with her height and she ran into my fist as much as I hit her with it.

It’s hard to describe the noise it made and even more difficult to explain the immense pain that was in my hand and shot up my arm to my neck. Janet screamed, put her hands up to her nose and I watched as the blood came pouring out.

It was surreal. Pam was standing in the background, stunned. Everything had happened so fast, within seconds and now time stood still.

I felt great. I felt wonderful and I didn’t care if I broke her nose or not. For one moment, it was quiet.

Janet screamed and ran out of the house. I grabbed Pam. She was fine but in shock.

All I could think about were the children. That was my only thought. I didn’t care about the stupid adults anymore. I wanted the kids to be OK and prayed they hadn’t heard anything.

I sat Pam down and ran upstairs to check on them. They were all sleeping. I felt such relief. I ran back down the stairs and told Pam we were all leaving.

She didn’t understand. I told her again we were all leaving and going to my house for the night. I told her to start packing a few things, grab the Easter baskets and when my car was packed, put the kids in my car.

Pam nodded. She was in shock, so I tried to be as patient at I could, but I knew more trouble was brewing. Janet had run outside, tripped on a garden gnome and was lying in the driveway. She was crying and threatening to call the cops on me. I wanted out of there as fast as I could but I couldn’t leave the children or my friend.

Janet got up and walked up towards the front door. It was partially glass and I saw her nose was still bleeding a little bit, but she wasn’t dead. She put her hand on the knob, looked up and saw me. I stared at her, shook my head and raised my fist to indicate I would hit her again. I wasn’t kidding.

She screamed and ran off into the garden, still threatening to call the cops. Well, she would have to get into the house to do that, and I figured we would be long gone before she was sober enough. Plus she didn’t know what kind of car I had and if she did call, it would be obvious she was drunk.

We finally got the car packed. We had three kids to squeeze into it. Somehow we were able to move them without waking them. I grabbed my things and put Pam in the passenger seat. Janet stayed away and I could hear her in the background, talking to herself, randomly screaming but too afraid to come near the house.

As we drove off, I told her we were leaving and she could go back into the house. I peeled out of there as fast as I could.

I drove for 3 hours and held Pam’s hand. I told her to sleep and not to worry. We got to my house at 3:00 in the morning. I went inside and fixed up my bed for the kids. Pam and I carried them in and tucked them into my bed. Pam slept in the spare room and I slept on the couch. My hand was killing me but it wasn’t swollen. I put ice on it, took some aspirin and dozed for a bit.

The next morning, I got up early and went to the store. I got toothpaste and toothbrushes and a bunch of food for everyone. I came back and hid Easter eggs and baskets and made a pot of coffee. I waited for everyone to wake-up.

We ended up having a great Easter. I unplugged the phone because I didn’t want Janet to call, even though I knew she wouldn’t. They stayed with me for a few days and soon everyone was looking like themselves again.

I spent a lot of time listening to Pam about what had been going on for so long that I didn’t know anything about. It was a bad situation that occurred over a long period of time. It was gradual and insidious and had come to a head that weekend.

Pam eventually moved out and cut Janet out of her life. She and I kept in contact with Janet’s two kids as much as we could. Their father was not around – don’t get me started on him – so we did what we could.

Everything turned out just fine. I saw the two kids last summer. They are grown with families of their own. That evening was never mentioned and as far as I knew, they knew nothing about it.

I was wrong.

When I saw them last July, I hugged them. Both of them said they would always love me for what I had done.

I actually didn’t know what they were talking about. It was long forgotten for me.

“We remember the night you took us out of there. We remember the Easter you gave us and we remember you always being there for us, even if it was in the background. We’ve always known you were there for us.”

To say I cried is an understatement. Those words have never left me and they never will

Never think that children don’t know or don’t understand. They do. They always do.

It took quite a bit of bribing to make me go back there. I mean, a lot. I had only been to Wal-Mart a few times, years ago, and had freaked out so much that I vowed never to go back. Whatever few dollars I was going to save was not worth my sanity.

I don’t like crowds. In fact, I detest them. I am usually a fairly nice and pleasant person, but something happens to me when someone gets in my way. I don’t like having to walk around people or wait while they block aisles or generally just seem to wander around like a zombie, clueless and completely unaware of their surroundings. I will play bumper cars with my shopping cart if someone leaves theirs in the middle of the aisle and blocks it. I do consider it fair game. I also consider any act of stupidity to be fair game for me.

When I think of Wal-Mart or Costco or any gigantic store, I feel my heels dig in and my hackles go up. I know it’s going to be a battle field and that all I have to do is get in and get out and not hurt anyone.

So when my friend called me one day, I knew something was up right away. I could sense it in her voice, so me being me, just cut right to the chase. “What do you want? Go ahead, just blurt it out.”

She sighed. “I have a HUGE favor to ask of you and if there was anyone else I could ask, I would. But there isn’t anyone.”

I knew that whatever she asked, I would do.

“Sure. What is it?”

Long pause. “If you do this favor for me, I will take you to Chevy’s for as many margaritas and tacos that you want. I’ll drive, so you don’t have to worry.  We’ll go first. How does that sound?”

“It sounds great, except…where are we going exactly?” I did not like where this was going, but I kept my mouth shut.

“It won’t take long, I promise. We’ll be in and out of there in no time, especially since you’ll be there and can help me. I want to go this Saturday.”

“Oh no! No! Don’t say it, please…”

“Wal-Mart. Really, it won’t be bad….”

“Are you kidding me? What in God’s name do you need at Wal-Mart THREE DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS?”

Yes, she was asking me to go with her to Wal-Mart three days before Christmas. I thought maybe I had suddenly died and taken the express route to hell or maybe this was some kind of joke.

I love Jennifer. She has been my best friend for almost 20 years. She has survived some of the most horrendous situations and now she had met the man of her dreams, they were getting married soon and she was the happiest person I knew. She was always happy and almost never asked me for anything, ever.

I knew I would go and I silently cursed the day I met her. “I hate you,” was all I could say.

She laughed. “I know, but I love you and you’ll do it because deep, down inside, you love me.”

She was right. Of course I would go but I was going to make her pay.

We set it up for that Saturday. She came by, picked me up and I snapped and snarled all the way to Chevy’s. No matter what I said, she would smile and agree. This made it very hard for me to maintain my hostility, but I tried.

We get to Chevy’s and I immediately order two margaritas, on the rocks with lots of salt. I started on the chips and kept going until the tacos arrived. I knew what was coming and I was dreading it. After the second margarita, I was feeling relaxed and a bit goofy (which is how I get when I drink) and was prepared to face the battle field.

She needed to get a couple of very specific things for her fiance and being a single Mom with two kids, money was always tight. I knew that and I silently smacked myself for not keeping that in mind when she called.

We drove over to Wal-Mart and the parking lot was packed. I took a deep breath and kept telling myself to relax and to have a positive attitude and since I had a few drinks under my belt, it seemed like it would be easy enough.

As soon as we walked in, I knew I was in trouble. The first thing I noticed was the smell of the popcorn which was being cooked in rancid fat. I felt the tacos in my stomach move around. I took a deep breath and followed her. She knew what she wanted and I trailed behind. The store was packed and we could barely move.

As I followed her, I was bumped by countless people who never once apologized or even acknowledge my existence. One woman stepped on my foot and when I cried out, she didn’t even turn around. She kept walking and I glared at her and started to follow her, but instead Jennifer grabbed me by the arm and turned me away. I tried to get out of her grasp on my arm, but she dug her hand deeper into my elbow and kept dragging me away from my intended target.

Somehow we made it to the electronics department and I froze. This is not my area of expertise. The entire subject of high-tech puts me to sleep and makes me grumpy. I’ve lived in Silicon Valley all my life and I still don’t know what anyone is talking about. I am constantly corrected at work when I say “the screen” and am told it’s called a monitor. I do not care. I just want someone to make it work. I do not know the difference between anything to do with software or hardware or anything in-between and I don’t want to know. But there I was, stuck in hell,  because I wanted to help my friend. She wanted to get a very particular game for him and Wal-Mart had the best prices, so there we were.

She dashed around and I followed her as best as I could, but I was constantly getting shoved, bumped into, stepped on and not once did anyone excuse themselves. I did the first fifteen times and then stopped. It didn’t seem to matter and I figured “When in Rome…”

After a half hour, Jennifer found what she was looking for, but it was behind a locked clear plastic screen, so now we had to get one of the blue people. The blue people who had suddenly disappeared, never to be seen again. By now the effects of the margaritas had worn off and a headache had started. I leaned against the sacred plastic door and closed my eyes. I decided I would stand guard, as this would give me something to do and perhaps add some small degree of value to my presence while Jennifer went looking for one of the elusive Blue person.

While I leaned against the plastic, I put my hands behind me and attempted to get as flat against it as I could, but I was still bumped into and shoved. It looked as if there were over a million people in this store and there was some target on me that only they could see that screamed for all of them to come into this isle at this exact time and shove me further into the plastic.

Finally Jennifer came around the corner with a blue person. I moved out of the way, the sacred door was opened and the item was gotten. I jumped up and down and raised my fist in the air and shouted “Yes!” as loud as I could. This gave Jennifer a fit of the giggles and startled the blue person, who already looked scared. “It’s OK, don’t mind her,” she said as we walked away. I actually started to skip down the aisle and Jennifer joined me. We tripped a few times over the discarded merchandise, but we didn’t care. Even tripping and falling (I fell once but caught myself before landing face first in a bag of popcorn someone had dropped) seemed like heaven.

We get in line to purchase the sacred item and there is only one person in front of us. I cheer again and start laughing. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and soon, we will be free. I start hugging Jennifer and she hugs me back. I can almost see the finish line and I have become giddy with the sheer joy that soon my life will return to normal and I will be set free from this dungeon.

But that was not going to be the case. Apparently the customer was questioning each and every item that the clerk was ringing up. She had an overflowing cart and every time an item was entered, she had to look at the screen and then look at the tag and then ask the clerk if he was sure and no matter what he said, she argued. Each item was discussed for at least one minute before it was established that it was being correctly wrung up and no one was ripping her off.

I quickly estimated that based on the items in her cart, multiplied by one minute each, we would be there for a month. Just as I was about to tell Jennifer this, someone came up and stood behind us.

I know this because I smelled him before his nasal grunting began. It was a putrid smell and when I turned around to see what had died,  I saw that the smell was coming from his constant burping. These were loud burps and once in a while, he would sound like he was about to spit what he had just violently snorted into his throat from his running nose.

I stifled a scream and turned and glared at Jennifer. She was holding her nose with her fingers and looking down at her shoes, avoiding my glare which I knew she felt.

Then the man behind me moved in closer and actually started to lean against me. I jumped forward and turned around and stared at him. “Hey! Do you mind?” I shouted. He didn’t flinch and slowly raised his sleeve to his nose and wiped it. He just stood there, staring off into space and completely unaware I had said anything to him.

Jennifer finally looked at me and mouthed the words “I’m sorry” and I smiled. It was OK, I told myself. We were almost done and all we needed was the rocket scientist ahead of us to finish. I raised my hand to my nose and covered it. Whatever was wrong with the man behind us was severe and gross and we just had to wait it out.

When he leaned against me the second time, I turned around and shoved him back as hard as I could. No way I was going to let some pervert get off on touching me, no matter where we were. He stumbled back and fell into the woman behind him and she shoved him. Soon he was coming back towards me, so I stepped aside and let him fall. He got up, looked around, wiped his nose again and just stood there, staring off into the distance.

Finally it was our turn. The clerk was as nice as could be and I thanked him for it. No one had said a word about me accosting a customer, as if it was an everyday occurrence. Jennifer grabbed the bag when we were done and we RAN out of the store, through the front door (we slowed down so the person waiving at us wouldn’t tackle us) and then skipped to her car.

We jumped in and drove out of the parking lot as fast as we could without killing anyone. Once we were a safe distance away, Jennifer pulled over and parked the car. She turned around, leaned over and hugged me as hard as she could. She was teary eyed and kept thanking me for going with her.

I realized that it had been an adventure and I had helped my friend. “Thanks Susie Q for behaving yourself for YOU and not getting us arrested for shoving that guy. You did good.”

Yeah, that’s what friends are for and I didn’t get us arrested. I did good.