I didn't know it was possible to cry so hard you threw up.
I didn't know why the girls looked so upset in Psychology today. Nobody bothered to tell me about Aaliyah's death. Usually, I know everything - I watch people - but this escaped me for a whole day.
I heard some people talking after my last class about it, how it happened, all that stuff. Suddenly I felt as though I'd been punched in the stomach. I headed for the bathroom, and fast. Fortunately, hardly anyone used the bathroom I'd run into, so I felt comfortable there.
I was leaning against the wall trying to catch my breath in between sobs when the door opened and I was face to face with Isobel. I froze mid sob, then just turned my face away and tried to cry more quietly. Unfortunately, she didn't ignore me like I'd hoped.
"What's the matter, Rhea?"
I turned my head. I wasn't sure I could speak, but her question shocked words out of me. "Aaliyah's dead."
I choked on the words. A fresh wave of tears crashed down my cheeks.
"I'm sorry, I didn't know you knew her..." Isobel looked puzzled, but I barely noticed.
"Most people don't. It was a long time ago." The words just started pouring out of me. I hadn't spoken to anyone in a personal way in a long time, and especially not about this.
I took a deep breath. "When we were small we were next-door neighbours in a poor part of another city. She helped me through so much... she knew all about the stuff that was happening at home and was there for me every single day. We were thick as thieves and most people probably thought we were joined at the hip... But she started going to a school for the gifted - you know she was really smart, right - and we started talking less and less. Then when we were twelve she moved here and then we stopped talking and hanging out completely.
"A year or two later my family moved here too, but the Parkers had risen in the world and Aaliyah had a completely new set of friends. She acted different too... but underneath she was still always the same girl who played football with me and the boys on our street and made forts of pillows. But I'd changed too. I was really angry back then, and I felt like she'd abandoned me. I didn't feel like I could approach her in her new swarm of friends and I didn't think she'd want me around. But she was always kind to me anyways, not awful like her friends were.
"She was the only person I could turn to when I was young, and she was always there. And I guess I never really properly paid her back for the friendship she gave me back then. And now I never will be able to."
The amount I'd said surprised me. I never told people I didn't know that kind of thing. Plus, I didn't think most people knew that the Parkers were once poor. Tom probably didn't want that spread around.
Isobel was looking at me in a very funny way. I could tell that she was calculating something about what she'd just heard. She was looking at me like she'd never properly seen me before, and I guess she hadn't. Things were getting awkward fast so I decided to change the subject with the first thing that came to mind.
"So you like Elijah, huh?" She looked shocked. It was the wrong thing to say. She'd probably think I was stalking her or something... Perfect.
"What? Who told you?! Nobody knows about that!" Isobel sounded angry, panicky even.
"Calm down, calm down. I just... I'm good at reading people, and since I don't have very many friends I tend to know about the people around me."
She looked at me again, as if she was thinking about something she'd never thought of before.
And then she surprised me.
"Would you like to hang out with me and Chrissy and Elijah tomorrow night after school?"
I just stared at her, openmouthed. "Uhhhh... sure. Where?"
"Mine, I guess. Meet me here after school tomorrow. And Rhea, friendship is never something you have to pay back."