“Mom,” Gabrielle said while we sat at the incomplete dinner table. “Where’s dad?”
I had noticed it over the summer, but had never commented on it. Our dad had slowly drifted away from the family, much like Kelly had drifted away from me. His work hours slowly dragged through the day and into the night, exceeding his previous workaholic behavior. I'm not saying that dad was never around, he was just around less now.
"He's at the office." Mom said nonchalantly.
"Again?" I heard Gabrielle continue the topic without entering it myself.
"Yes." Mom responded.
"But it's chicken 'n' fries night! It's his favorite!"
"He has a busy schedule Gabrielle," mom smiled up at my brother, lines of sadness that I had never seen before were faint around her smile. "Please eat Honey, and don't worry so much."
"Mom," I said, breaking my silence. "How long has it been since he's had dinner with us?"
Somehow I knew my question was harsher than any that Gabrielle had asked and I quickly looked down with annoyance at my selfish question.
"A while." Was all mom said before we continued eating in silence.
My cell-phone sat on my lap heavily.
I had convinced myself that I would call Kelly and confront her, but I had a sickening feeling that this was a lot worse than I had imagined. I picked up my phone and began slowly travelling down the list of names and though I did not have a lot of people on my list, reaching her name felt like it had taken a lot longer than usual.
I heard my brother playing the Rockband game that my parents had bought for him for his birthday this last summer in the room beside mine, and I oddly took comfort in the sound. Knowing that I was not in utter silence helped calm my nerves somehow; just the fact that life was still going on around me, even if mine was breaking apart.
I put the ringing phone up to my ear and held my breath, my heart almost resembling the sound of the empty ringing. Finally, after four rings Kelly picked up, her familiar thin voice breaking the silence beside my ear.
"Hey, it's me." I said, forcing myself to sound calm.
"Hi. What's up?"
"You never came back," I whispered, feeling my demeanor break.
"I'm sorry?" She wasn't apologizing, I noted, but asking me to repeat myself. I cleared my throat and began repairing the cracks in my emotions.
"Can you come over?"
"Now?" She asked, her voice slightly annoyed.
"Yes," I said, "now."
A silence that was our friendship crackled over the line before she said, "Okay."
Kelly walked through the unlocked front door and made her way upstairs to my bedroom. This had been an old habit of ours: leaving our lives open so that we could easily reach each other. Today I had wished that I had locked that door, making her remember that importance of what we used to be.
Hearing her soft knock on my bedroom door I said a quiet, "Come in," and she entered, freezing several feet away from where I sat on my bed. The windows on two of the walls were open, letting in a trickle of cool, night wind and the purple lace curtains danced freely to an unheard tune. I had my desk lamp on instead of the main lighting, so that the pictures from our memories that I had hung on the walls were in shadows casted by our silhouettes.
"Hi," I said. "I'm glad you came."
"Me too," Kelly said quietly, "we do need to talk."
"Okay," I stood up and headed for my bedroom door. "I'll get you something to drink."
We had created a sort of ritual that when one of us was over at the other's house we would drink a can of Root Beer. When we were younger we had found this drink and thought that we were drinking "children beer", which made us feel infinitely cool. Of course, now we didn't think this way of the drink, but the habit of drinking it every time we hung out had stuck.
"No," Kelly's voice stopped me. "I don't want any."
"Why are you doing this?" I asked without turning around to face her.
"You know why."
"No, I don't."
I heard a sigh escaping from her. "Because I can't be like this anymore. We aren't twelve anymore Laurie."
I swallowed hard.
"You may be fine with this lifestyle, but I'm not and everyday it just gets more annoying."
"I thought we were fine the way we were."
"No," she said, "we never really have been."
I could feel something hot and wet trickling down my cheeks.
"I've always been with you because you were my best friend, but things changed this summer, I changed." Her voice was becoming something that I had never heard before; so assured and determined. "I found that, if I tried, I could be something that you and I had never tried before. I could be free and be with the cute boys and the popular girls. But this life comes with its drawbacks."
"Me, right?" I challenged.
"Yeah," she said, "you can try all you want in the future Laurie, but you aren't made for the life that I want. In order to succeed in this path that I am choosing I need to cleanse myself."
"So, you're forgetting us for some stupid need for attention?" I said, wishing that this were a bad dream. "We might not be popular Kelly, but I thought that we had a friendship that no popular guy or girl could ever have."
"I don't want this." She said.
I finally turned around and she flinched when she saw my face. "What was so bad about this? We've always been ridiculed by them, been ignored by them, been hated by them--why do you suddenly think that they will accept you?"
"They all ready have," she said, "they had never accepted me before because of you. In the bathrooms, in the cafeteria; even in class I always heard the whispers of how it was so sad that someone like me was always around someone like you."
Her words slapped me and I nearly lost my balance. I grabbed for my desk chair which was beside my bedroom door and sat in it, the world was spinning in front of me. "What happened this summer?"
"A lot of things."
"No, they are my secrets to keep."
"We're best friends," I pleaded, my voice low. "Keep them with me."
"No, we are no longer best friends. I am sick of carrying around the embarrassing weight of it."
Her words stung, but I continued. "What about our memories together, did they not mean anything to you?"
"Memories," she said, "are so simple. They are like words written in pencil on a piece of paper, so easily erasable when they aren't what you want to keep."
I put my hands on my knees and lowered my head while I softly cried and felt the burn of her words.
"I have to go," Kelly said and I could hear her footsteps reaching my bedroom door.
"I'll wait for you." I said, willingly showing her my faith.
She said nothing and walked out of my room. Soon after, the sound of drums in my brother's room died down and the emptiness of the night began to swallow me.