I called Amanda at six fifty-five. I only did it after I had a mental struggle with myself. Back home I had felt like an outsider and Jacob had been the only one willing to lend out a hand. Whenever I drove up in my car, which Jacob liked to dub as more expensive than most of the houses that the student body lived in, I would get strange looks and then got ostracized by everyone. What convinced me though in this situation was that I was a different kind of outsider here; the kind that people might want to get to know.
"Hello?" Amanda answered on the third ring.
"Hi, it's Avery." My voice was slightly shaking, my nerves showing through my demeanor.
"Oh," there was a pause on the line before she said, "I didn't think you were going to call."
I breathed out heavily. "I'm sorry."
"Don't worry about it!" I could hear the smile in her voice, "I'll be right over!"
She hung up the phone before I could answer and within minutes my legs had guided me towards the gates that closed us off from the world.
She either walked fast or lived close since she arrived only five minutes later.
"Hi," she smiled and I got the security guard to open the gate for her. "So you ready for tonight?"
I could only stare as I followed her.
"All of the older kids from Pueblo are back from University and College so it'll be a lot of fun, a chance for you to make new friends!" She continued on without sensing my silence. Suddenly she stopped outside of my place. "Are you nervous?"
"A bit," I said the words without thinking, "I've never been to a bonfire before."
She smiled at me, "And that is where I come in. Wow," she looked up at the beach house. "I knew they were big, but wow!"
Amanda had picked my bonfire clothes: a long, flowing white beach skirt and a soft blue halter top. She chose a white pair of flip-flops and when I had gotten dressed she brushed my hair and placed a tiny false rose that she had pulled out of her purse, behind my right ear.
"There," she said sounding proud of her work. "You are set for the bonfire!"
I didn't look like myself. I hadn't worn anything like this in a long time. Not since last summer when Jacob and I had gone to fairs at night or for a late walk by the lake. I felt detached, missing my normal clothes that forced me to put back the emotions of my summers lost with Jacob. Amanda must have seen the look on my face since she then sat on my bed heavily instead of changing into her own clothes.
"I know that we don't know each other that much," she began, "but I think I know why you're such a different outsider."
I turned to her without saying anything.
"You've been through a lot haven't you?"
Instead of answering I looked down at my hands that I hadn't realized were holding onto a bracelet tightly.
"That's pretty," Amanda said, noticing. "You should wear it."
I did want to wear it, not because it was Jacob's present or because I needed the reminder of him when I faced the crowds of new people, but because Amanda asked me to. Because she was the only one who didn't say exactly what was wrong, but who had a feeling that I might be broken. She was the type of person who I had searched for back in Toronto. Someone who could see me as a stranger for her to learn more about, not to push away.
She smiled quickly and stood up as I put the bracelet on. "Now it's my turn." She announced as she pulled several pieces of clothes out of her bag.
I looked back at her and simply admired her for being able to shift so easily from a serious situation to something completely irrelevant. I told her this and she smiled warmly at me.
"You've got to live a little, be human. You can't let the past affect who you're going to be, life is too short for that."
For the second time that day I smiled, and something told me that it didn't make me look disfigured like it had before.