Sad Fiction Friendship

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

The most annoying thing about being a writer is having stories come to my mind at the worst times. Right before falling asleep, while driving, or drying my hair. They never pop up when my hands are conveniently free or I have the time or space to sit and write. They just enter my brain, create a little excitement and chaos, and then disappear into thin air, never to be remembered again.

The story of Kate though, is one that never leaves, no matter how much I would like it to, or how much I wish it had never entered my brain. Kate has become a part of me, and I a part of her. And so, we travel together day and night, while I’m alone or with friends, happy, sad, hungry, tired. Kate is always there.

It started five years ago, triggered by the sound of alarm bells on campus. The day I had dreaded for so many years had finally arrived - a madman on the loose, a shelter in place order in effect, my roommate gone. I was alone, I was scared. And then she arrived.

She sat on the corner of my roommate’s bed, her long legs drooping over the sage colored comforter, her messy braids falling onto her stylishly ripped black t-shirt. She wore denim shorts and an old pair of tennis shoes. She was absolutely beautiful. 

She looked at me as I huddled in the back of my own bed; shaking and fearful, and she smiled. It was kind, it was gentle, it was calming. She didn’t speak, just sat there until the all-clear sounded, and then she walked to me, squeezed my hand, and walked out of the room.

For the record, I am not some sort of crazy. I know Kate was not real. But what wonders the human brain can do, what beauty it can create to provide shelter from the storm, comfort in chaos. Everyone remained safe at school that day, and I wondered if anyone else spent their afternoon with a Kate, too.

But despite my reality check, Kate stuck with me, appearing at the most intense times of my life. She was there when my roommate had a complete mental breakdown, trashing our room and literally spinning in circles before being escorted to the health center. She was there when I got fired from my first job for being too “aloof” when I was supposed to be making sure the kids in the pool didn’t drown. She was there when my mom passed away suddenly the year after I graduated college, and even sat in the back row on my wedding day. I really wish she had dressed up a little, but that black t-shirt seemed to be her favorite. After my wedding, on the most intense evenings, when he raged and I huddled, she sat next to me, never speaking but always reminding me that someone had my back, even when my husband could not. In many ways, she was my closest friend, my confidant, the security blanket I could no longer physically carry around.

It was after a few years that things began to change. Kate began to chat with me, just a few words here and there at first, quickly escalating into entire nights of conversation. She’d arrive after my husband fell asleep, and encourage me to head into the guest room, where we would lay and talk for hours. She’d ask me about my day, and I would spiral into stories of joy and sorrow night after night. My deepest fears, my deepest secrets - Kate knew them all. 

After about six weeks, my husband started to catch on. He’d wake to my chatter in the guest room and ask who I was talking to. I would roll over and pretend I had been asleep, telling him I must have been having a dream. He didn’t buy it though, and quickly began staying up too late, until I had no choice but to fall asleep before him. But Kate continued to appear - hanging out with me at breakfast while he showered, or popping in to say hello when I was out running errands. I was so grateful for her persistence. She had become my best friend, and I knew I could not live without her.

It was about a year later when the trouble began. I was having a particularly terrible day at work. My editor tossed the story I had been working on for weeks, calling it garbage. He called ME garbage. Oh, I was angry. I was in the elevator, tears welling up in my eyes, trying so hard not to let them cascade down my face, when Kate showed up. 

“You don’t have to take this,” she said. I looked up at her. Her face was soft, gentle, kind. She always knew exactly what I needed to hear when things became difficult. “You could make him pay.”

I bit my lower lip. He had had it coming to him for a long time. Such a sexist prick he was, always cutting my stories to pieces and letting the men in the office publish their stories with very few edits.

“It could just be something small,” whispered Kate. “Just something big enough to throw off his day. Make him feel some discomfort in the office. Put him in his place a little.”

I pondered this idea. The elephant project. It was his baby. His golden ticket. He had been working on it for nearly a decade, doing research in the field and co-writing with the scientists. It was almost ready for publication, and he had been in talks with the Times. It lived on his hard drive. He didn’t believe in backups. For being damn near brilliant, he wasn’t a terribly smart guy, my boss.

Kate looked at me again and nodded her head. 

The next morning I arrived at work early. I headed into my boss’ office, glad to see he had not also arrived early. I leaned over his desk - just to peek at what was on the calendar for the day - and the task was complete. The tea spilled from my uncovered cup, drenching the drive, and oops, his keyboard too. I even heard a little sizzle, and knew it was a success.

Needless to say that was a bad day in the office. And I really feel bad for Joanie. As the only tea drinker on staff she was an easy target. I do hope she’s found another position.

I wish I could say this was the last of Kate, but unfortunately she stuck around. We became partners in crime, always dodging the blame, but causing a whole bunch of trouble. Apologies to the kid at the corner store who got caught with a stolen pack of cigs in his back pocket. Maybe now he’ll stop leaving his dog’s shit outside my front door. So sorry, barista, I can’t believe you put actual weed in my morning latte, you really should not have been such a cranky a-hole to me every morning for the past five years.

Revenge became like a drug, and Kate was the catalyst. Every time someone pissed me off, she gave me that look, that nod of the head. She was the permission I needed, and I took her permission and ran with it every time. The adrenaline flowed through me like fire, the chills sometimes enough to turn me on. My husband had no idea what had become of me, but he sure did like this new confident, sexy wife of his.

He never caught me talking to Kate again. We had our chats in secret, when I was alone and he was at work, or working in the garage. But we were always plotting, always planning, always ready for whatever our next adventure would be. 

So I’m here, Judge Greene, to ask for your forgiveness, to help you to understand. This crime you have accused me of, it is not my fault. You must take her to trial, you must! For it is Kate, not I that did it, not this time. I have done plenty wrong over the years, but this time, this most inexcusable time, this was her, not me. And for that reason, I ask for a release and a new trial to be performed, only with her on the stand.

Judge Greene took a deep breath and looked at me. His eyes were tired, his age showing. It had been a long day.

“Miss Merriweather,” he started. “do you mean to tell me that your…imaginary friend…is the person responsible for the death of George Clawfield?”

“Oh no, no, no,” I laughed. “That would be very silly. Your honor, Kate is very real. In fact, she’s sitting right here.” I pointed to the chair next to me. Kate looked at me and smiled. We had agreed to this arrangement. She was on board with the plan. She always was on board.

The judge rubbed his temples. I truly could not understand why he would look so stressed. I literally brought the perp to him. Must be his age. He really should retire.

“I’d like to request a 10 minute recess,” he sighed. “Counselors, meet me in my chambers.”

I looked at Kate and shrugged. She looked back at me, her braids still perfectly placed on her ripped t-shirt. It’s crazy how over the years she hadn’t aged a day. She was so lucky. And I was so lucky, because she didn’t even fight me when I said I couldn’t take the rap for this one. I had too much to lose. I had a family now, my daughter needed me. This one was on Kate, and we’d have to separate for a little while so she could serve her time. She understood. She really was the best friend a girl could have.

Ten minutes later the judge, my lawyer, and the other crazy lawyer returned to the courtroom. My lawyer stood up to address the court. I knew he would have my back.

“Your honor,” he said. “I’d like to call to the courtroom, Mr. Julian Merriweather.”

My…husband? Why would he be calling my husband? We hadn’t even spoken in a year.

The courtroom door opened and I turned around to watch as he strolled in, looking more gorgeous than ever, with his brown hair perfectly placed, and a suit that probably had every girl in the room feeling the fire down below. I’ll never understand why he chose to go work in a remote village in Africa with no cell service, no internet, and just a community of 10 people. How did he find out and get here so quickly? I made a mental note to ask Kate after court. She was the one who filled me in on what was really going on when he packed his bags and left on that late April evening. Regardless, I was so happy he had come here to have my back and get me out of this mess.

He looked at me. I smiled. Oh, I was so happy to see him. He did not return the expression. In fact, he looked rather upset. Africa seemed to have taken him back a few steps, he had made so much progress in his anger management.

The bailiff swore him in and he took a seat. I kept smiling at him, trying to charm him with my bright eyes that he always loved so much. No emotion was returned. My heart started to pound and I became a little nervous.

My lawyer stood up. “Mr. Merriweather, can you please state your name and address for the court?”

Julian shifted in his seat and leaned towards the microphone. “Yes, I am Julian Merriweather, and I live at 65 Old Park Drive in Laguna.”

I frowned. That was not our address. And that clearly was not an African village.

“And how long have you been living there, Mr. Merriweather?”

“Please, call me Julian. I have lived there for about a year now.”

I looked at Kate. She shrugged, her eyes wide, clearly as confused as I was.

“And where did you live before that, Mr. Merriweather?” My lawyer asked.

“With my ex-wife,” he responded. “Kate Merriweather, the defendant in this case.” He pointed towards me. Ex-wife?! 

“Julian, can you please explain to the court why you and Mrs. Merriweather decided to part ways?”

“We did not decide to part ways. It was unfortunately decided for us when she broke into our bedroom and tried to cut my clothes off in a fit of rage last April, with our daughter watching in the doorway.”

“Why would she do this, Julian?” my lawyer, asked. My jaw was on the floor. How dare he! Such crazy accusations! I would never hurt him. Ever. And especially in front of Rachel. What kind of psycho does he think I am? Maybe he got a parasite in Africa and his brain is broken. Yes, that makes sense. Much more sense than this whacked out story.

“And what do you mean, she ‘broke into your bedroom’? Was she locked out?”

Julian sighed. My brain was spinning. I was so confused. I had literally no memory of any of this. I looked at Kate and my body froze. She looked at my husband with…satisfaction? Her smirk, her posture. Oh my god, she tried to harm him. She tried to kill my husband.

Julian answered, “Yes, she was locked out. We had to install a lock on the door after the first time she tried to harm me.” He wiped his eyes. “My wife is sick, it’s not her fault. The voices…sometimes they just take over. I tried to help her, to fix it for so many years, but the night she attacked me with the scissors, well, it was the final straw.”

I jumped up. “It wasn’t me!!” I cried! I pointed at Kate. “Look at her! LOOK AT HER! Do you see the satisfaction on her face? I would never hurt you! It was HER! I told you all, SHE -“ 

The judge pounded his gavel. I was sobbing. My heart was pounding, the room spinning. My lawyer put his hand on my shoulder, and gently grabbed my wrist. He whispered something in my ear about remembering a conversation about being able to stay out of handcuffs, but I really had no idea what he was talking about. I sat, unable to believe anyone thought I could do such horrible things. Especially to my husband. Especially in front of Rachel. I snarled at Kate. Manipulative. I should have known.

The next few minutes were a blur. Words like, “dangerous, schizophrenia, plea of insanity,” were thrown around. I cried, Kate smiled. I flailed, they cuffed. I was escorted out of the room, and remember nothing more from that day.

So here I sit, in this “home” that is more sterile than it should be, surrounded by people who are nothing like me. They let me type on this computer for an hour a day once a week. They say it helps me to get my thoughts straight. Kate sits with me, but I don’t talk to her. Not after what she did. Not after all she took from me. 

What she doesn’t know is that revenge is coming for her soon. Revenge is on the horizon, and she won’t even see it coming.

February 09, 2023 19:31

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Dan Coglianese
00:29 Feb 20, 2023

What a great story! You really get the reader into the narrator's mind. Nicely done!


Mazie Maris
19:54 Feb 24, 2023

Thank you so much for reading and for your thoughtful comment Dan!


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