Friendship High School Teens & Young Adult

Trigger warning: suicide


Chloe Ward, You’re Invited!

Class of 2008

Liberty High School

10 Year Reunion

June 22nd, 2018, 6 PM


5:32 PM

I sit at my kitchen table, fiddling with the invitation in front of me. For months now, those bold words have leapt off the page to accost me each time I passed the small table in my apartment’s entryway. When it first came in the mail, I couldn’t even bring myself to open the envelope for several days. Once opened, I tossed it into the pile of things-I-can’t-throw-away-but-want-to-ignore, where it sat, collecting dust, until just a few minutes ago. I wish they’d had the decency to just create an event on Facebook. It would’ve been easier to ignore.


The strange encounters started soon after. Sallie Winters at the library, ignoring both my earbuds and library protocol to shout my name across the room and wildly gesticulate in my direction. Clayton Drummond took it to an entirely new level when he plopped into the chair across from mine at Starbucks. Then, Rachel Hampton herself in Walmart, dragging her toddler over to say hello. Yeah. Mhmm. Wow. Sure. Frown. Give them nothing. Don’t encourage them. goawaygoawaygoaway.


Each conversation ended the same. “See you at the reunion!” 


Not, “Are you coming to the reunion?” or even “Hope to see you at the reunion!” Just more expectations from people to whom I owed absolutely nothing. Supposedly, time heals all wounds, but I guess it also allows you to pretend you were never the one inflicting those wounds.




6:15 PM

I park my car at the edge of the parking lot and immediately cut both the engine and lights. It’s a quarter past six, which, in this town, means everyone’s already been here for half an hour. At this point, they probably think I’m a no-show. If I head in now, I’ll make a scene. I tap on the steering wheel and chew on my bottom lip until I taste a little blood in my mouth.


I should go inside. If I don’t show up, I’ll become the fresh gossip again. “Did you hear, Chloe Ward didn’t come to the reunion?” If I at least show my face, the public harassment might stop. Stay for about 15 minutes, make sure everyone gets a good look at me, avoid any in-depth conversations, bolt. 


The alternative makes me nauseous. “Chloe, we missed you at the reunion!” “It’s such a shame, I was hoping we could catch up!” I’d mirror their fake smile and try not to glare holes through their skull or curse them out in the middle of the supermarket.


I thought the fake pity was bad, but it would be nothing in comparison to meaningless platitudes without even attempting an apology.


Screw it. Let them talk. I don’t owe them anything, especially Rachel, and I don’t owe them tonight. I start my car and peel out of the parking lot. Hope they saw that.


I drive with no destination, ignoring the speed limit signs. Even on a Friday night, cops are bored in this town, so I’ll likely end up with a ticket. Fine by me.




6:42 PM

I didn’t mean to come here. For nearly half an hour, I wove around town, through side streets, neighborhoods, even past my parents’ house. And now… I’m here. A giant sign looms above, Great Wall Buffet, illuminating my car in vibrant greens and reds. Inside, the dining room is sparse. It’s well past their busy time. Then again, I haven’t been here in ten years; maybe their busy time has changed. I sit in silence for several long moments until my stomach breaks the silence with a giant gurgle. 


Fine, you win. 


Gentle piano music welcomes me into the restaurant like a cozy, familiar blanket. But the woman at the hostess stand isn’t Ivy, and when she takes me to my table, it’s all the way in the back of the restaurant. I nearly ask for the second booth from the front, but instead, bite my tongue and mumble a thank you. 


I loop around the buffet a couple of times, grabbing food at random. When I get to the Sesame Chicken, I pause, just for a moment, before filling the rest of my plate with it. Before returning to my booth, I grab a fortune cookie.


“Fortune first,” I mumble, and crack the cookie open. A part of us remains wherever we have been… in bed. I shove the fortune into my pocket.






November 2007

“Sesame again?” I laughed, as Kara loaded her plate full of Sesame Chicken. “The point of a buffet is that you can eat lots of things, not just one.”


“At least I don’t forget which dishes I like and accidentally get the gross ones over and over,” Kara teased back as she plucked a fortune cookie from the pile at the end of the row. 


Our laughter cut through the otherwise silent restaurant, and several diners, all well over sixty, stole quick glances our way. A few outright glared as we returned to our table, their eyes lingering on our hair, clothes, or both. At last week’s sleepover, we’d finally pulled the trigger on dying our hair, and as a result, chunky purple highlights littered her dark hair, and my bangs, once blonde, were now bright red. That, combined with our black tees and matching studded belts? They all probably expected us to dine and dash. Thank God Ivy loved us.


We scooted into our booth-- second from the front, the same one we sat at every Friday. 


“Fortune first?” I unwrapped my fortune cookie and held it out to Kara.


“Fortune first,” she repeated, and we clinked the cookies together.


I cracked mine open and read the fortune. “A faithful friend is a strong defense… in bed.”


“Don’t get any ideas tonight.” Kara laughed, and then read her own. “Life is pointless and you die alone… in bed.”


“It does not say that.” I tried to grab it, but she yanked it away.


“Okay, okay. People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be… in bed. Which means I’m screwed. Not literally, unfortunately.”


I frowned, averting my eyes. “I wish you wouldn't joke about that.” Kara opened her mouth to respond, furrowed her brow, and shoved half of the cookie in instead. The restaurant’s prolonged silence washed over our table.


After an eternity, Kara grimaced and stabbed a piece of chicken with her fork. “Did you hear the new rumor? I drink my own blood. Lindsey overheard all the preps talking about it at lunch.” 


I rolled my eyes. “Three guesses where that came from.”


Rachel Hampton. As always. The three of us were inseparable until she befriended the preps in 7th grade. Within a couple of weeks, rumors started getting back to us, all started by Rachel. “Kara and Chloe are secretly lesbians,” “They’re totally hooking up.” We sent her a picture flipping her off while our friendship bracelets burned in the background. 


I shook my head. “What's wrong with her?”


Kara frowned. “Don’t take her too seriously, Clo. Today it’s blood-drinking, next week it’ll be satanic rituals.”


“I’m just worried you’re going to take it seriously.”


Kara’s face hardened, and she averted her gaze and rubbed her wrist. “I’m fine.”






7: 17 PM

I leave Great Wall, and as I drive through town, places I haven’t thought about in years jump out at me. A pub now occupies the corner slot of the strip mall that once belonged to our town’s only Blockbuster. The summer before our senior year, Kara and I made it our goal to get through their entire horror collection, until we realized we’d have to watch like five movies each day. We settled on the major franchises instead. Freddy, Jason, Michael. 


A few blocks further, the parking lot of the conjoined skating rink and bowling alley is practically empty, and several of the giant letters on the front of the building flicker and threaten to go out. How it’s survived this long, I have no idea, but in junior high, it was the hangout. We could request songs, that would then be projected onto the walls of both sides of the building. One day, Kara and I nearly got banned from requesting songs. Apparently, our “whiny emo crap” turned away other teens who just wanted to listen to A Thousand Miles and Unwritten on a constant loop.


Downtown, the streets thin. Most businesses close early in this part of town. Except The Dungeon. Wedged between an ancient florist and a modern boutique sits a bright red, battered door. If not for the color and collage of band stickers, no one would give it a second glance. In high school, entering that door and descending the stairs into the basement transported us into a different world. Live bands, mosh pits, and a bouncer who never clocked us on our fake IDs. The space was small, cramped, and always reeked of stale beer, but it was our sanctuary.


I park in the lot at the end of the block, and a quick Google search tells me that a group called Limp Beat goes on in a few minutes. Reluctantly, I get out of my car. Surely, my lifelong ban can’t really be valid if my fake ID was the one banned, right? When I reach the door, I pause, brace myself, take several deep breaths. And finally, dive in.  






April 2008

“What’s SHE doing here?” Kara yelled, barely audible over our favorite local band, Saving Joey.


“Who?” Kara nodded toward the bar, where Rachel and two of her friends, Maggie and Yvette, stood, beer in hand. I rolled my eyes and shouted in Kara’s ear. “Ignore them, we’re here to have a good night.”


When she shot another glare at the corner, her face contorted. “They’re coming this way.” Kara chugged the rest of her beer. 


Rachel smirked as she approached. “Wow, you must really like the beer here. What’s in it, blood?” Maggie giggled, while Yvette peered into her own cup of beer. Five months, and the joke somehow still hadn’t gotten old.


I stepped between the two of them. “We both know you started that rumor, Rachel. Leave her alone.” 


Rachel ignored me. “I mean, why else would you have all those cuts up and down your arms, right?” She cocked her head to the side and stared past me, directly at Kara. “Or do you just do that for attention?”


Kara’s mouth gaped open and she glanced down at her wrists and pulled her arms into a hug around her. She spun around and stormed toward the exit, leaving me alone with Rachel and her friends.


I dumped my entire beer on her. The whole cup, nearly full. Directly on her head.


As I raced up the stairs after Kara, the bouncer yelled at me to never come back.


Kara sat against the florist’s window, knees pulled into her chest, tears flowing down her face.


I slid down next to her. “You missed it, I poured my beer all over her.”


Kara gave me a tiny smile. “Thanks.” I sidled up next to her, and we sat there, silent, for several moments.


“I’m sorry,” I finally said, unable to come up with anything else to say.


Depression was one of the few four-letter words in a friendship where normal four-letter words flowed freely. It swirled around us, always there, never mentioned. We spent every possible second together. I saw every single scar. I knew when they were fresh, and I knew why they were there. Many came on their own, spurred by her own inner demons, but far too many showed up the day after a new Rachel rumor. Kara maintained her strong front, claimed they were no big deal. She was untouchable, unphased by any insults.


“It’s already bad enough at school,” Kara finally said. “The stares, the whispers. One of my teachers even heard and made me go to the guidance counselor.” She sniffed and wiped her tears again. “But to my face? Tonight? It’s like… I can never escape.”






7:39 PM

Turns out, Limp Beat is a terrible DJ. But I’m already here, and I paid for a beer, so I hang around in the back of the room and sip it. All over, my eyes linger on kids who look like they could be as young as even fourteen or fifteen. How did they get away with their fake IDs? No wonder the bowling alley was a ghost town. I drink to hypocrisy.


My stomach lurches. Dizziness washes over me. I put a hand on the wall to steady myself, but my legs threaten to give out. All at once, everything is too real. I need to get out of here. I stumble toward the stairs, but the bouncer stops me. “No alcohol past this point,” he says. I shove my beer into his hands and race out. 


I burst out the door, taking giant, heaving breaths of fresh air that doesn’t smell like sweat or alcohol. A dull pain throbs in my head as I collapse back against the same window from so many years before, letting it hold me up instead of doing it myself. Once or twice, despite the help of the fresh air, my stomach threatens to dump partially-digested Chinese food all over the sidewalk. Thankfully, I pull myself together before that can happen.


As I walk toward my car, my heart races. I know where I need to go, but I also know it might make me more ill than The Dungeon. Without a single thought or hesitation, I start the car, squeal out of the parking lot, and race toward Kara, as fast as I can.






April 2008

Please, God, please. If you’re out there, please let her be ok.


That was the only thought racing through my mind as I wove through neighborhood streets, flooring it. The instant the text came through on my phone, I tore out of the house, headed straight for hers.


“Just wanted to say goodbye. You’re the only one who deserves that. I love you so much. Please don’t hate me.”


At some point, only a couple of minutes from her house, I must have sped past a cop, who immediately started following me, lights flashing. Good. 


When I pulled into her driveway, I didn’t bother to cut the engine. I put the car in park, flung the door open, and raced to the porch. I desperately rang the doorbell, banged on the door, yelled her name, over and over. I didn’t even hear the cop calling out to me as she approached, until she pulled me away from the door, screaming, thrashing.




Immediately, the expression on her face shifted. She paused for a moment to recalibrate, then jumped into action, knocking on the door, ringing the doorbell, yelling that it was the police. She called for someone on her radio, but I was too dazed to tell what she was saying. 








8:03 PM

Kara’s pitch black gravestone sticks a few feet out of the ground, engraved in dramatic gothic font, exactly how she would have wanted it. Even in the dark, it’s easy to find-- there aren’t any others like it. Unlike my other destinations tonight, it hasn’t been ten years since the last time I was here. I make sure to visit on both her birthday and memorial day each year. Any more would be too much to handle. A bouquet of black and deep purple flowers fill the vase on the side, still there where I left them last month. 


They found her in the bathtub with the tap on. Scalding red water flowed freely from the tub, soaked the hallway carpet. Cops kept me from the scene, repeating the same mantra that has echoed in my mind for ten years since. There’s nothing you could have done. There’s nothing you could have done. Later, they told me they believed her text was the last thing she ever did. They found her phone beside her at the bottom of the tub, destroyed by water damage.


When I sit down in front of her gravestone, tears already stream down my face, soaking my shirt. I rest my forehead against the stone and let it all out. I choke on shallow breaths, sniffle to keep snot from spilling out all over her stone.


When I finally collect myself, I pull the tiny fortune out of my pocket and slip it into the base of the vase.


A part of us remains wherever we have been


Parts of Kara lay scattered all over this town. Every corner, every street, no matter where I go, a part of her remains. All except the most important part, stolen far too soon.


And, if I’m honest, the most important part of me went with it.


October 03, 2020 01:01

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Josh C
07:18 Oct 05, 2020

This was really good. I never particularly cared for flashbacks and time skips, but I thought it worked so well in this one. Maybe it's just because I can empathise with 'whiny emo crap' and live bands in dodgy bars, but I could really see all of it in my mind. It was heartbreaking as I realised where the story was going to go. Very well done, a great read!


Kris 🖤
16:37 Oct 21, 2020

Thank you!! I tend to be on the opposite end of loving flashbacks and time skips, so I'm glad that the way I incorporated them worked for someone who doesn't!


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18:27 Feb 19, 2021

hey, you probably won't see this because you, unlike *someone*, have a life ;) but i just wanted to say hi, to check in since i know that you've updated your bio somewhat recently but your last shown activity was like 4 months ago and i just wanted to say hello :) no pressure at all to answer this--mental health and physical health and family and friends and life and literally just anything real always comes before insignificant strangers online--but i guess i just wanted to let you know that if you ever decide to post another story, i will ...


Kris 🖤
16:48 Mar 24, 2021

just now saw this because I haven't been on here in what seems like forever but omg thank you so much!! this is basically the only place where I've put my writing out for other people to read (all my other projects are long-form), and your positive feedback on it is SO encouraging! as for the update, yeah, i started working on a story and never got around to finishing it (not uncommon for me, lol). right now, i'm attempting to prep for camp nanowrimo (not having much success bc of real life). but after that, i'll hopefully be back! thanks ...


04:01 Mar 25, 2021



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21:55 Oct 07, 2020

4trh4rh3j4yrfvbhv fldjfdjgbfgjfbglfbghjgslgrhhrfbg;lrgjfgb I LOVE THIS WHY ARE YOU SO TALENTED IT'S NOT FAIR TO THE REST OFUESFEFUSFEOUFGUYFGBYRWG


17:00 Oct 08, 2020

ps: i'm mentioning you in my bio (bc you're an awesome author and deserve way more attention, hope it doesn't weird you out or make you uncomfortable, if it does i'll remove it immediately) so, if you don't mind sharing, i'm wondering if your pronouns are she/her? thanks, ink


Kris 🖤
16:36 Oct 21, 2020

sorry it took me so long to reply (I haven't been on because I've been prepping for NaNoWriMo)! I'm fine with you mentioning me in your bio (and she/her is fine as well). Thank you for all of your praise and kind words! My impostor syndrome makes me feel like I absolutely don't deserve them but I really appreciate it & it's really encouraging to hear positive feedback. Thanks again!!


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