Drama Suspense Sad

Content Warning: use of cuss words

“So,” Melanie Bloom began, taking in the people before her. 

She wondered why it was so hard to talk to each other, so hard to be like friends again. They used to be a group, one so close it almost surpassed family. But, after so many years she guessed that relationships could be covered by time, their past becoming something new for them in the future. 

Clara, Peter, Henry, Sylvie, Matz, Laya, and Finn. They were missing one, but she couldn’t get ahold of her. 

They were all acting so odd. Clara was staring down at her freckled legs and never moved to touch her plate, Peter kept coughing and grunting, Henry never opened his mouth except to put food into it, Sylvie just looked sad, Matz wouldn’t stop fidgeting, and Laya kept glancing at her and then at her half-eaten plate. Finn was the only one who seemed normal.

“The food is good,” Finn said. Melanie smiled. “Thanks.”

Peter coughed again and she shot him a look. He cowered in his chair, taking a sip of his water. “May I...Uh, may I go to the restroom?”

“Of course. It’s just down the hall to your right.” He nodded and excused himself from the rectangular table. Matz’s fidgeting got worse and his thumping leg was starting to vibrate the table.

“Matz, can you maybe stop? You’re starting to shake the table.” She said this as a warning but let out a little chuckle to try and loosen up the tension. It didn’t help. Matz stopped but moved to play with his hands instead, sweat beginning to form above his lip.

“Clara? Did you not like the food? I see you haven’t looked at your plate. If you would rather have something else or...Are you a vegan? Vegetarian?” Melanie asked, genuinely curious to know more about her friends. The chicken wasn’t the only thing she had cooked. It took her hours to prepare this meal, hoping to regain a friendship she missed more than anything, but they seemed to have rather wanted to leave immediately and never talk to her again. It was potatoes, rice and beans, mango salad, corn, asparagus, and, of course, her prized chicken.

Clara’s eyes bulged at having to talk. “I uh...I’m just not hungry,” was all she said, a whisper that Melanie hardly heard. Melanie breathed in deep. Bullshit. It was silent once more, Henry seemingly avoiding her gaze. 

“What is up with you guys? I’ve missed you all,” a sob caught in her throat, “so much and you guys look like you’ve never met like we have different languages and no one speaks the same one. I don’t understand.” Melanie’s eyes pleaded with them, almost looking as depressed as Sylvie. “When did we become such strangers?”

“Do you not remember?” Clara said in the tiny tone of a bird, still not looking up from her legs. 

“What?” Melanie was beyond puzzled at this point and she pushed back on the table, screeching her chair backward as she jumped from her seat and in the direction of the bathroom. Peter was still in there and before her rage could spill over and before she could bang on the door and start yelling, she heard sniffling. Peter. Peter was crying. Did it really hurt him that bad to come and see her? See them all in one room? Well, except for…

Melanie shook her head and went upstairs to her bedroom. She thought this would be great, a thing that could bring them together like they once were, to be how they once were. Because she was alone. Melanie suddenly felt selfish. She was alone and lonely, that’s why she invited them back. They had probably built new lives already, lives that they wouldn’t want to be changed with the drama that comes with having friends. They were probably too occupied to think of reshaping and recreating the family they used to be. It was too much, and she had been the cause of their uncomfortableness. She reached for her pillow and screamed. Then, she recomposed herself and made her way downstairs where Sylvie and Henry were trying to coax Peter out of the bathroom. 

Melanie nodded at them and came back into the dining room, looking fresh with a rotted mind. Laya was almost glaring at her.

“How could you forget?” she said, voice low but full of menace. “How could you, when she was always there for you when none of us could help? How could you, when we vowed she would never become a ghost? How could you ever forget her?”

Melanie was taken aback. Forget what? “I...I don’t understand,” she stammered. 

Claire looked physically hurt, tears threatening to escape. Finn rubbed her shoulder and then went over to Laya to try and calm her down. She shrugged him off and stood. 

“She’s gone,” Matz whispered before he turned icy eyes towards her. “She’s gone and it was our fault.”

Laya stood up, anger reddening her face. Sylvie, Henry, and Peter made their way back to the room, wincing at the conflict they just walked into.

“I wake up and can’t stand looking at my own face. I wake up and remember everything that happened like it was just the day before! I wake up and make certain I never forget because I deserve the guilt! As should you. We all breathe in the memory of her like acid and we come here and you talk as if none of it had happened. As if she was never there at all! How COULD you?”

Clara began to cry, Sylvie with her sad eyes rushing to aid. Peter started coughing and Henry said nothing. Matz was angry, but it would only show on the inside, shaking his leg under the table again. Laya looked about to cry before her face turned to stone.

“Say her name,” Laya’s voice was dangerous like a threat had been passed between them. “Say her name, Melanie.” 

Finn looked uncomfortable and sighed, sitting back in his chair, head in his hands.

“Say...Her...Name,” her voice was strained through clenched teeth. Melanie didn’t have a clue. She racked her brain, puzzled by just the action. What were they all screaming about? This dinner with them, this dream, had instantly turned into a nightmare.

“I...I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Melanie said, fear and bile rising up her throat, a crease between her brows. Laya shook her head. She stood still for a second before she yanked her small purse off the chair and ran out of the house, slamming the door so hard, the room rattled. Melanie was shaking. She hadn’t realized it and tried to calm down to no avail.

Clara was still crying, Sylvie dripping tears without sound. Peter stopped coughing, but with his silence, he grabbed his bag and left too. However, he didn’t slam the door. 

“Anna,” Henry rasped out. “Anna,” he said again, lowering his head with a look of loss she couldn’t interpret. 

“Her name...was Anna,” Finn repeated as if in agreement. Clara whimpered and Sylvie watched Melanie, tears still silent.

It all came rushing back like a waterfall had just been dropped down upon Melanie’s head. Anna, Anna, Anna, Anna. 

The night was cold. So cold, they each grabbed a partner and cuddled for warmth. The nine musketeers, all together. Henry sat with Sylvie, Peter sat with Laya, Clara sat with Matz and Finn, and Melanie sat with Anna. They were all laughing under blankets, telling jokes, and drinking heavy alcohol, the lake breeze flowing through their already messy hair. The lake. It was right there. They all stumbled and tipped to the water, drunk as hell. It was so stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. But they all stopped at the dock and dipped their feet in the water instead. Anna looked disappointed, she said she wanted to swim. But the rest of them were too tired. Except for Melanie. She didn’t want to go alone so Anna asked if she would go in with her so they could play and Melanie drunkenly agreed. They raced off the dock, laughing laboriously. Anna hit the water first, Melanie soon after. They made a splash that caught groans and playful smiles from the rest of the group. They participated in hand games that involved singing like pattycake, struggling to keep their heads above the water. Finally, Anna decided she wanted to become a magician. She urged Melanie back on the dock, Laya helping her do so, also intrigued. “I am going to make myself disappear,” Anna exclaimed, catching eyes that wanted to see if she could actually do magic because magic was something that could be real under the influence of alcohol on their brains. Laya leaned forward on the dock, watching closely. Melanie did the same. “On the count of three,” she began, waving her hands in mystical gestures. “One...Two…” They all watched, wanting impatiently to see what would happen when she got to three. “THREE!” she yelled and disappeared under the surface of the lake. Melanie and Laya applauded, the rest of the group already forgetting what had just happened. Except, Anna never resurfaced. And when glee turned to panic, Henry, Finn, and Sylvie, the soberest of them all surged to action. Sylvie called the cops while Henry and Finn jumped in, trying to find her. But the water was too deep, too dark. Clara began to cry and Laya took to shaking her head violently. Melanie showed no emotion, too drunk to register that her beloved friend, beloved Anna, had just become a victim to a magic trick gone wrong. Melanie, in a daze, never really felt the loss of her best friend. Never acknowledged it because it hurt too much. And because it was mostly her fault. If she hadn’t agreed to go in the water, Anna would have probably been too scared to go in by herself. If she hadn’t agreed to watch her friend do magic, Anna would have done something else instead. If she hadn’t agreed to have a third beer…

Melanie began to mourn.

And with each cry, a person left. It wasn't out of hatred, but out of respect. Of letting her go through the pain for the first time without the old strangers peering at her.

Matz took a crying Clara to take her home first. Sylvie and Henry were the next to leave. Finn, the last. But before he went, he knelt down and grabbed her hand.

"It wasn't your fault. It wasn't anyone's fault. We all lost her and now we have to pay the consequences. But no one is to blame. We were young, ignorant, and there is no way to change the past. We weren't in the right state of mind, we couldn't save her. Mourn, Melanie. But don't blame yourself and don't forget her either." His voice was calm, resolute. And she nodded, shivering with this newfound pain.

Then, he left too, the food becoming a cold, soggy mess of the memories she could no longer hide.

They were all strangers again.

But they were all strangers who held the same burden.

June 27, 2021 18:41

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