Contest #79 winner 🏆

144 comments

Feb 05, 2021

Contemporary Friendship Sad

Trigger warning: mention of suicide 

 

The first time Cassie met Lin, the latter girl was wearing a fitted pink jumpsuit, layered with a baby blue bomber jacket that was patterned all over with obnoxiously adorable illustrations of pugs and rainbows. In Lin's long black hair were citrus orange streaks that glowed stupendously whenever she and her high pigtails moved ever so slightly.

Cassie hated her.

Partially because she felt that she, being Marcus's new girlfriend, simply had to; but mostly because she knew that anyone looking at the two of them would like Lin better, and she wouldn't be able to blame them. So she would hate her instead in a silent act of protest against this inevitable fate.

Cassie knew that it wasn't fair, but Lin just occupied too many slots in Marcus's life. Childhood friend. First Love. Ex. And current best friend.

And not only that, Lin was also his neighbor; her bedroom window aligning with his in the cul-de-sac that selfishly cornered them in a little world of their own.

She was his bandmate too, her on the trombone and him on the clarinet. Their band coach jumped on any chance to duet them; and after attending just one rehearsal, Cassie could see why.

Her and Marcus partook in Model UN together on Thursdays; while Cassie, a nihilist without a real real grasp on Nihilism, was still going around gabbing about how all humans were inherently rotten and all one can do was just hope that total extinction would come sooner rather than later.

To top it all off, Lin and Marcus's parents were also very close friends, something about meeting at an archeology seminar in Greece before realizing that they had been neighbors back in Maine for eight years now.

This meant joined camping trips where the starry sky could make lovers out of anyone, frequent dinners where Lin and Marcus could no doubt bond over the lame jokes their parents made after just one glass of wine, and it meant extended funeral invitations where it would be more than appropriate for either one of them to reach out for the other's hand.

The biggest insult was that Lin didn't have to beg for any of these slots that she occupied in Marcus's life; whereas Cassie had to strategically bump into him in the school hallways seven times before he would finally say, "Hey, isn't your name Clarissa? I think we have History together."

And she would retort, "How can we have history together if you don't even know my name?" She would then chuckle; in a manner both self-conscious and flirty, a balance which she knew she struck well. And then she would smile, showing off her asymmetrical dimples; and she would extend her hand and say, "I'm Cassie, and you are?"

He would ask her out fourteen days later, and on their third date he would admit that he had spent nine of these days strategizing with Lin about the perfect method of asking Cassie out; only to settle on simply biking to her house with an extra helmet and inviting her for a waffles brunch at Eve's Diner.

They would date for two years before she would have to attend his funeral.

Before she would find herself wondering why her arm was around Lin's shoulder, why Lin's head was on hers, why they seemed to fit like puzzle pieces that way, and why it somehow made perfect sense that Lin had chosen Cassie's arms over her parents' restlessly inviting ones.

They spent senior year intertwined.

Lin, who had previously been fairly loved and popular became aloof after receiving that call at 2 in the afternoon that informed her that Marcus had passed away in an apparent suicide, and that he had left no note behind; but instead of withdrawing into herself, Lin withdrew into Cassie.

Lin would wait for the other girl outside of her classes after having memorized her schedule with no discernable effort. She would show up to school wearing some of Cassie's band shirts because she had spent the previous night curled up on Cassie's bed, who had graciously offered to sleep on the floor but still elevated her hand to be within Lin's reach. And the few lunches Lin did eat, she ate with Cassie, outside of the cafeteria, on that one abandoned bench that the graduating class of stoners used to reign over.

Everyone who cared enough to observe the two -after that customary two-week period of gossip and fixation on Marcus's death and those it affected had passed- would be completely perplexed by the nature of this sudden bond between Cassie and Lin.

Mostly because the two girls rarely talked to each other, despite spending so much time together, despite Cassie acting like her sole purpose on earth was to protect Lin at all costs, and despite Lin seeming to have molded herself so seamlessly into Cassie.

They didn't seem like friends and they definitely weren't lovers, if anything, they gave off the aura of two estranged siblings coming together at Thanksgiving just for everyone else's sake.

Lin chose to go to a university near home, she told everyone that it was because her father and mother didn't want to part with their only child just yet, but when Cassie prodded her about it, Lin said it was because she wasn't ready to leave Marcus behind yet. And after that, they again fell into their padded silence.

Cassie chose to take a gap year and work with her dad at his motorbike repair shop; and despite being in the prime location Lin wanted to be in -the very town in which Marcus breathed, walked, and bled- Cassie found ways of completely blotting out his memory from the various scenes around her.

She wouldn't think of him awkwardly reaching for her hand and her wiping hers off of the ketchup that stained it, before giving it to him to hold in Eve's Diner, instead she would urge herself to think only about that time she watched a nervous kid vomit her strawberry smoothie on the town mayor's shoes inside the retro-themed diner.

She wouldn't think about him kissing her for the first time at the drive-in theater and how that initial contact, tentative and sweet, had reaffirmed what she already knew, that she was already madly and irrevocably in love with him; instead, whenever Cassie would walk by that plot, she would opt to think about the jerk who had asked her out to watch Night of the Living Dead there in the 9th grade after stealing his cousin's car, just to try and feel her up on the cracked leather seats, four minutes into the movie.

She would remember kneeing him in the balls and she would, at least, feel a little jolt of pleasure at that.

Moreover, Cassie refused to think of Marcus in her room; with his head on top of her ribcage and his falling tears failing to puncture her skin but still leaving an imprint there, both over her heart and deep inside it.

She wouldn't think of him talking about the black beast cornering him inside his own head, how he felt the beast was conspiring to push him out of himself entirely. She wouldn't think of her heart beating ferociously in these moments as if it belonged to a much larger animal, as if it could pretend that it did, as she wrapped all her limbs around him just to pin him down to the love he still had on the ground.

Cassie didn't think of him in her room, it was imperative that she didn't. She didn't think of him in her room but her pillow sheets did, even after several, violent washes; her sheets remembered him well; almost as if to spite her.

Cassie slept on the floor while her sheets fumed clouds of vanilla-scented fabric softener and musk.

It was 2 am when Lin called Cassie asking her if she could drive up to her college dorm. Cassie was in the throes of the first deep sleep she had gotten in months, but without a second's beat she said, "Yes, of course, I'll be there."

She found Lin sitting cross-legged in the parking lot in front of her dorm. Lin was covered from head to toe in layers of monochromatic gray, but at least her hair was again in those high pigtails, lopsided and un-streaked, but Cassie still took it as a good sign.

Lin lifted her hand in a small salute, and Cassie mirrored her. They didn't embrace and they didn't have to. They both thawed upon simply seeing each other.

They drove in silence. Lin had given Cassie the location to what she called "the best spot in this crowded purgatory" and when they got there, Cassie understood why.

They stopped at a quiet hill that overlooked the town's landscape, now comfortably darkened by the late night, with just a few lights that still flickered on here and there.

They laid on top of the front hood of the car, still blanketed by silence. Lin's sandals rhythmically tapped Cassie's Vans as she shook her feet back and forth like an anxious pendulum.

A long time trickled by before Lin finally interrupted it. "Thank you." She said.

"Don't mention it." Cassie replied.

"You don't even know what I'm thanking you for!" Lin said in the highest, most animated pitch Cassie had heard her use in years.

Under different circumstances, Cassie might've smiled. "I think I might know why."

"Still," Lin began, dropping down an octave or two. "I think I want to say it."

Cassie closed her eyes and waited.

"Being around you has been like being around him, in a way. And I really needed that, because all the time that I had counted on having with him was cut off." Lin's voice shook but she pushed through. "I could never tell you this back then, because I worried that you might misunderstand, but I thought I would spend the rest of my life with him."

I would have misunderstood, Cassie thought, I misunderstood so much back then.

Instead, she said, "I know." Her own voice was shaking now.

"You know…he didn't once tell me what he was going through. And since he passed all I've been asking myself is 'why?' and believe me I came up with a lot of reasons why. Like, maybe I was too bubbly. Too smiley. Too preoccupied. Too...too fucking bright, all the damn time; and for what? Why was I-"

"Lin," Cassie grasped Lin's wrist, and the other girl broke down, almost instantaneously. "It's not your fault. It's not on you, what happened. It's not on anyone, despite how awful it is, there's unfortunately no one to blame for it."

Their fingers intertwined with no conscious effort, and they curled up again into the silence that has become so safe and familiar to them.

"You know, I was always a little bit jealous of you, Cass." Lin said, moments later, through quieter sobs.

Cassie noted that she wasn't as bothered as she thought she might be with Lin's use of Marcus's nickname for her. Even though it reminded her of Marcus saying it a thousand times, in a thousand of different tones, across a thousand memories that now all filtered across her mind's eye like an unsolicited View-Master.

She realized that she felt safer remembering Marcus with Lin than with the sheets in her room. And that realization propelled her into another, and then another.

She became aware of the fact that ever since the funeral, she hadn't once talked about Marcus with anyone else besides Lin. And she realized that while she had blocked out all possible reminders of him, she couldn't seem to block out the largest, living reminder. She couldn't block Lin out of her life.

And with the abruptness of an ocean wave, Cassie became hyper-cognizant of the fact that she could no longer envision her life without Lin in it. And she didn't want to either.

"I was a lot bit jealous of you, Lin" She said.

Lin laughed. And following suit, a hearty laughter bubbled out of Cassie, surprising them both, and triggering even more laughter. By the time the sound of their laughter had abated, giving way the sounds of crickets chirping in the distance again, both girls were in tears; and their intertwined arms were now interlocked at the elbows too.

Lin rested her head on Cassie's shoulder, and it all clicked neatly into place, like the last two puzzle pieces in a difficult set; and like it did a year and a half ago on the saddest day of both of their lives.

Cassie gazed at the dead stars blazing on overhead, she felt her heartbeat synchronizing with Lin's, and she wondered if Marcus could have somehow known that when he would leave them he would be leaving them safe in each other’s company.

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144 comments

Reha Ali
07:52 Feb 13, 2021

Very overwhelmed right now. I'm so happy to have discovered this utter dream of a community here! Thank you everyone for taking the time out of your day to read my story, and thank you for feedback as well! If I thought there was any chance of me winning (or of anyone reading my story for that matter) I definitely would have spent more time editing and proofreading it haha! But, oh well, I'll just consider it a lesson for next time :)

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Splinter Magus
02:18 Feb 14, 2021

I think it doesn't matter how many times we revise it, there's always something we catch in a reread that we can't change anymore and will bother us forever. lol. I guess that's a curse that comes with the profession. At Reedsy we have one week to come up with the idea, write the story, edit, and revise it. I personally find it a very tight schedule. Either way, you did a great job!

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Reha Ali
02:57 Feb 15, 2021

Yeah, I guess you're right. It's really a bit frusturating lol. Yeah I also find it a very tight schedule, but that's also why it's such a great challenge I guess! And thank you! <3

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Writer Maniac
15:58 Feb 12, 2021

Aww! That left me in tears! That was such a heartbreakingly raw and painful story to read, and every line was so vivid, I could see it all play out. Their bonding after Marcus' passing doesn't seem forced, it almost seems like it was meant to happen. Every line was deeply personal, and I found myself feeling so much for these characters. Absolutely marvellous job! Congrats on the well-deserved win!

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Reha Ali
07:41 Feb 13, 2021

Aw thank you so much for taking the time to write out such a thoughtful comment! I'm really happy that my characters moved you so, and I really appreciate your insight! x

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Writer Maniac
07:48 Feb 13, 2021

No problem at all!

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Scout Tahoe
15:56 Feb 12, 2021

Oh wow, this was so beautiful. It's odd how things work out that way--how life twists you in a new direction. Congrats on the win! So deserved.

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Reha Ali
07:54 Feb 13, 2021

Thank you so much! That is exactly the message that I tried to convey through this story, and I'm so happy to know that that message carried through! x

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Scout Tahoe
14:19 Feb 13, 2021

And you did a fantastic job.

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Frances ☂︎
15:03 Feb 24, 2021

Terribly late, and I'm regretting not making time for this. This could be made of abc blocks, old and tipsy. It's excruciating but beautiful because of it, silent but agonizingly unsettled internally. The ending is a timid little bow, loosely done and it couldn't have been done better. Definitely a deserved win.

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Reha Ali
09:15 Feb 28, 2021

Such a beautifully worded comment ❤️ Thank you! x

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Reha Ali
09:15 Feb 28, 2021

Such a beautifully worded comment ❤️ Thank you! x

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Reha Ali
09:15 Feb 28, 2021

Such a beautifully worded comment ❤️ Thank you! x

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Carla Ward
00:12 Feb 13, 2021

Well done. The story does a good job of describing Cassie's perspective and joining it with Lin's perspective at the end. It hints well at the emotional trauma suffered by the survivors of those who commit suicide, while demonstrating a compassionate understanding of what might go through the mind of one who has decided to take their own life. I do have one suggestion, and that's to be more mindful of proper grammar when you're using the narrative voice. The problem is that for someone who notices grammar a sentence which begins with "Her...

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Mike Henry
02:19 Feb 13, 2021

I agree 100% Carla. Like you, I'm a bit of a grammar nazi and those small errors detracted from the story. Another example was, “her on the trombone and him on the...” and proper grammar needs to be strived for ALL the time, not just when writing in the ‘narative voice.’

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Reha Ali
08:05 Feb 13, 2021

I really appreciate your feedback, Carla and Mike! I definitely should've paid more attention to my errors when editing and my grammar can definitely stand to be improved upon. English isn't my first native language, but still, I think that further practice and attention could've helped weed out most of my errors; I will keep this in mind next time. Thank you!

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Splinter Magus
02:26 Feb 14, 2021

I'm also a non-native English speaker! (and writer, I guess) If I may ask, where are you from? I'm from Brazil.

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Sophie Maselli
21:36 Feb 12, 2021

This was so wonderfully written--so heartbreaking and touching! Every word was perfectly placed and this story is just overall really amazing. I love how you started the story off with her memories before Marcus' passing, and the way you told the reader he was no longer with us was shocking and stunning. This was a very creative use of the prompt, and I love your writing style tremendously. Can't wait to read more! Congratulations on the well deserved win!

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Reha Ali
07:58 Feb 13, 2021

Thank you so much! Your comment truly made my day! And it meant a lot to know exactly what you liked about the story. Thank you! x

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Scott Skinner
05:50 Feb 12, 2021

Great response to the prompt. I enjoyed reading about the three characters and seeing how their lives intertwined. You cover a lot of time here and bc of that you can't drill down to much and explore one space. That, I feel, is the only thing that's missing. I'd like to have them linger longer at some points. Below are some small things that I noticed: "ever so slightly." - I'd say delete it " real real grasp" - repeated word "To top it all off, Lin and Marcus's parents were also very close friends, something about meeting at an archeo...

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Reha Ali
07:55 Feb 13, 2021

All really good points! Thank you for your feedback! 👏🏼

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16:36 Feb 12, 2021

Just amazing👏👏👏

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I cried. Rarely, stories make me cry. When I saw the trigger warning, I didn't want to read it because for me, suicide is like, a very sensitive topic for me but I decided to push past my fears and read it!!! This was a great story. So descriptive and thoughtfully written, I couldn't get enough of it. Tou made me feel the characters emotions!!! I wish you the best in writing!! -Cass

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Luna Wood
17:24 Feb 12, 2021

Congrats on winning on your first submission

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Reha Ali
07:59 Feb 13, 2021

Thank you!

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Kiki Abbi
17:09 Feb 12, 2021

Omg this story was so beautifully made. Congrats!!! You really deserved this win.

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Reha Ali
08:06 Feb 13, 2021

Thank you so much! ❤️

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16:08 Feb 12, 2021

Wow, this was beautiful. Deserved win

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Reha Ali
08:06 Feb 13, 2021

Thank you! ❤️

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14:17 Feb 13, 2021

No problem :)

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Zilla Babbitt
19:19 Feb 16, 2021

Wow, this was really well done. It's beautiful and raw and vivid. I love the "dead stars" line; it captures the spirit of the whole story. Deserved win!

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Shea Redmond
01:12 Feb 15, 2021

Suicide is just awful, but something hits differently when it's a kid. I cannot imagine navigating a loss like this as a teenager, and finding someone to find space with seems almost detrimental to their own survival. You portrayed some survivors guilt well here. Congrats on your win!

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Reha Ali
03:00 Feb 15, 2021

Yeah, It truly is. Thank you for your kind words!

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Lori G
07:44 Apr 09, 2021

Did you post your story on Youtube? If not please look into this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbHJiMuD3N0 Someone has been stealing the work of writers on Reedsy, including my partner's winning story. Please contact Reedsy! You can take bits of your text and paste it into Google and see if it is anywhere else. No one else deserves to use your work, whether they profit off of it or not!!!

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Reha Ali
03:02 Apr 10, 2021

Oh, wow. I definitely did not post it else where. Thanks for the heads-up though! More people should know about this!

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Lori G
10:40 Apr 10, 2021

I know! I just did not have the energy to dig through all of the past winners to let them know. I told Reedsy about it in an email to their customer support, but they ignored me. This is ridiculous to have our hard work stolen. I hope you can get it taken down.

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Lori G
10:40 Apr 10, 2021

I know! I just did not have the energy to dig through all of the past winners to let them know. I told Reedsy about it in an email to their customer support, but they ignored me. This is ridiculous to have our hard work stolen. I hope you can get it taken down.

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Keya M.
18:54 Feb 23, 2021

Wow, this is the first Reedsy story I have ever cried over! You wrote so beautifully, and have truly woven a story worthy of winning!

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Praise Abraham
08:07 Feb 13, 2021

This was a wonderful story. 🥺 My critique specs literarily shattered as I read this; it's shattered and fogged with tears. The characters are so relatable, with normal human feelings like jealousy, fear, sympathy... And you did a great job with pacing this story. You also have a unique writing style. It was like each word was meticulously crafted. You totally deserved the win, I must say. Keep up the good job, dear. 💯💖

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Reha Ali
08:29 Feb 13, 2021

Aw! 🥺 Sorry about your specs! I'm really grateful for your kind words though! It really means a lot! Thank you! ❤️

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Praise Abraham
08:36 Feb 13, 2021

Ha ha!😂 Did you take that literarily? I just tend to have a sense of humor - tiny though.😊 Thanks. You're quite friendly. 😍

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Reha Ali
02:58 Feb 15, 2021

No I was just going along with the joke haha 🤣 And thank you!

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Renee Avery
08:05 Feb 13, 2021

Congrats on the win! I enjoyed reading your story and liked how you had Cassie and Lin come together after Marcus' death. Looking forward to reading your next story :)

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Reha Ali
08:32 Feb 13, 2021

Thank you so much❤️

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Arvind Kashyap
02:06 Feb 13, 2021

Congratulations. Engrossing. Beautifully crafted.

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Reha Ali
08:22 Feb 13, 2021

Thank you❤️

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Nigel Dougill
23:02 Feb 12, 2021

I really enjoyed this. It gives me a much clearer picture of how far i have to go. Well one

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Reha Ali
08:22 Feb 13, 2021

Thank you, it means a lot❤️

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Lizzy Everett
22:33 Feb 12, 2021

Wow, first story and you're already a winner, great job on this piece! It left me in tears.

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Reha Ali
08:23 Feb 13, 2021

Aw thank you so much!❤️

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