Pink hair, white shirt, gold buttons, brown skirt. Pink cheeks, white teeth, gold face paint, brown eyes. Eva holds the World in her hands.
She’s still elated from the end of summer fair and her hair is knotted at the back of her head where she can’t see it, tangled from one too many rides. She stands in front of the mirror and pretends it is a camera. I watch her, but I am not the only one. To her, we are alone. Her truth, I remind myself, is what’s most important here.
Her bed is softer than mine under my hand, her duvets are lined with pearly silk, while mine are a grey linen. I’m not complaining, but it does no harm to be a little bit envious now and then. Her mattress, on the other hand, is firmer than mine. I’ve heard that a hard mattress is good for your back, that would explain her perfect posture. I must remember to smile more, she may be able to see me in the corner of the mirror. My face hurts already.
She must feel no ache in her cheek and she spins and grins at me. I try to look happy for her and the ring on her finger.
It’s silver with a pink pearl that matches those in her earrings. How convenient for the random ballot at the ball to give her a ring that completes a set she already had. I focus on not rolling my eyes as I take her hand in mine and let her babble on about fate and destiny while I examine the ring like I’ve never seen it before.
It’s not the biggest lie I’ve told, but pretending to still be amazed would be difficult even if I wasn’t the one who broke into her dorm when she was in her dance class and ransacked her dressers until I found the matching pearl earrings. I took little care to hide that I’d been there, she would never notice it anyway. She’s never had to look beyond the shallow tapestry that we’ve woven for her.
I look over her shoulder to the faded gold teddy bear on the top shelf mounted on her wall. I wonder if someone’s meeting my gaze through the lenses in the toy’s eyes. She doesn’t like not being looked at and steals her hand back from mine and stuffs it in her pocket.
“What’s wrong with you?” Eva pouts.
I roll my eyes and stand up from the bed, side stepping her in the process. “I’m worrying about Bio. So don’t worry ‘bout me, because then there’ll be too much of it about.”
“Carly, the class hasn’t even started yet. What are you worrying about? If you need help I took it last year,” I know, “and I think I still have some of my flashcards lying around.” I know that as well, I found them when I was searching for her earrings.
I rub my eyes and offer her a weak smile. “Yeah, ask me again tomorrow. I’m gonna try and sleep on it tonight. Speaking of which,” I trail off and pick up my jacket from where I had tossed it on the chair. It smells of the doughnuts I spilt on it during one of the rides today .
She pouts and sets herself down where I had just been sitting. I can tell she’s upset, she takes out her phone and starts scrolling something. She doesn’t look up as I tie my shoes, and she is laughing at something on her phone when I close the door behind me.
Eva has never been in my room. I don’t let her, though there is nothing to see here, there’s something to smell. I’ve made a habit of burning all the papers the Administration gives me.
Sometimes the ugly yellow envelopes that appear on my desk contain information about a new Player in Eva’s World, usually a Teacher or a Filler, a background character. Those get filtered through me for I am Eva’s Best Friend, I’ve been there the longest.
Today the envelope introduces a Filler, someone Eva is barely supposed to know. Fillers play an important role in Eva’s World, they keep it full but are never interesting enough to interact with beyond small talk and group projects.
I skim over the info, ‘Maria “Molly” Young. Age 16. FILLER.’ I zone out when it starts introducing her interests and strengths. I have my lighter out before I get to her weaknesses. I used to be more thorough, but there’s only one year left before she leaves this life behind.
The air is tenser this year, you could feel it at the fair, and you can feel it in the dorm walls, our restlessness seeping through the concrete to keep each other awake. Only one person will be sleeping soundly tonight, her pink hair caught between her arms and her face as she kicks off the duvets when she sleeps. We’ve all seen the tapes, the surveillance crew will dish them over for a pretty penny, letting us do what we will with them.
When I was younger, I would dress myself up and smile for the cameras. I’d try to be a genuine friend to Eva, but now I fear we’re only together since we’ve always been. Ever since the assessment, ever since I was chosen to be her Best Friend when we met in grade 8, we’ve always been Eva and Carly. Eva is always written first.
I’ve done everything for her, picked out her clothes, helped her cheat in art, listened to her drunken ramblings like they were the key to the universe. I’ve snuck her formulas in math tests and forked over the last of my pain killers when we both hurting. I dyed her hair pink, although that might have been just for me.
I used to look forward to the first day of class, to see my schedule, almost identical to Eva’s, and to assert my position as Best Friend onto all the Fillers. Now I think we’re all just holding our breaths and bouncing our legs.
We just want this year to be over.
Eva spits hummus onto the table at lunch and eats her crackers that fell onto the ground. I make a note to myself to get her some etiquette classes, she must learn to be clean, the message has yet to seep into her habits.
She is surrounded by her Friends and we hang off her every word, although we all know exactly how her ski trip went. We pretend that she ignores our questions about her parents, and she does not ask us how our summers went.
She sleeps through Calculus and jokes through Latin. The Teachers have warned me before, but I know she is good enough, her grades are always in the top five of every class, and it’s not as if she doesn’t work for them.
I drop into my seat and reach over to tangle our fingers together in Chemistry. She does not listen to the instructor, but I’ve perfected her handwriting and write in the answers to the homework for her as she gossips about one of her Friends.
The graphite smears on my paper and my erasers are as black as the stains on my hands. The paper tears as I erase my answer and copy it onto hers. The cameras have never stopped me before, and I stare them down and jot something incoherent onto the smudges of my own paper. She needs to be perfect, I just need to pass.
We’ve all made sacrifices for her.
The Administration stops sending me envelopes as the final days draw nearer. Eva is doing well in her etiquette classes and she has a solo in the upcoming dance show. If we were to graduate as she thinks we will, she would be the Valedictorian, but that is not the stage she will be standing on.
I hope the Administration is happy with me, that I have been a good Best Friend. Sometimes I worry that she is too impulsive, too apathetic and oblivious, but it does me no good to second guess myself. I have done enough, and there is nothing more for me to do.
My fingers run through her hair as I braid it into a pink crown, twisting and pulling. I lift two strands above her head and pretend she is my puppet. She lifts her arms and mimics me in the mirror, she laughs and I try to join her.
She does not know that this will be our last sleepover. She does not know what the world holds for her or what will be needed from her, what will be torn from
her. Her eyebrows crinkle in her sleep and drool trickles from the corner of her mouth. I’ve been watching her for hours now and the sun is starting to creep through the blinds, the birds singing her praises and my hands fixing her blanket around her shoulders.
Eva leaves on the second Monday of November. It was as it always meant to be. I stand and watch her as she steps onto the stage, accepting her title and new responsibilities. They have dyed her hair back to black, but the pink silk of her gown makes up for it. She still looks like she’s living in a dream, and that she’ll wake up tomorrow in her bed. She is grateful and happy, as she should be.
Her dress is riding up where her hands swing by her sides and there’s mud on her shoes. Her fingers steal thread from her sleeves and her eyes glaze over as the magistrate gestures to the crowd. She is beautiful, inside and out. She is perfect, inside and out. I smile for her sake.
She does not notice as I am led off into the crowd by the Administration, my back lost in the swarms of cheers and flowers. The cheers fade away and my footsteps echo in the grey hallway. The room I am led has no windows, but is full of familiar faces.
I have done my job, and I stand with all the other Players in Eva’s World, our roles have finished and we are worthless.
It takes a village to raise a child, but what do the villagers do when the child has grown?
What do you do with a cradle when the child can no longer fit?
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i was a little confused at first, but throughout the story it was as if i could almost feel what the narrator felt
why was it confusing ? was the basis of the world not set up enough?
i’m sorry for not responding to this until now. i believe i was wondering why the friend was annoyed with eva (this is under the topic of best friends after all) but i understood better after reading for a bit. it was a pretty good story