Warning: Contains mentions of suicide or self-harm
“I quit!” Alison mutters to herself, it was the first time she had seen the ghosted face in months. Memories of empty avoidance and shallow conversation seep into the crevices of her mind. It simultaneously pains and angers her.
If there was one thing she hated, it was wishy-washy people, people who disappear out of cowardice, despite sometimes falling into that category herself. Her skin would crawl under the response of platitudes that would accompany a difficult situation going unaddressed. She often found herself drawn to the opposite; strong personalities who would willfully argue against what was in front of them. These people seemed comfortable with who they were and had no problem presenting that. She wished to be that, divorced from the former identities of old friendships that recognized her as the opposite.
“Hey Allie, it’s been a while,” opening her car door, the voice she least wanted to hear cried out from the night fallen parking lot of the church. Still, there was both a requirement and a conviction to show grace to the other person, no matter how forced it was. Alison turns around, trying to make eye contact, though her pupils wanted to dart the other way.
“Hi Shannon, how are you?” Alison stifles out, it is hard to summon the kindness, but it had to be done. Alison wasn’t naturally a kind person, let alone forgiving. Shannon had worn on her nerves over the past several years. There was flakiness to the woman, a backbone like a reed that blew in the wind, and what agitated Alison the most was the inability to assert herself to one side of a debate or the other.
“Good, good. It’s been a while,” as Shannon said this, Alison felt like she was swallowing knives. The combination of awkwardness and need in the other person's voice drove her up a wall. There was still that conscience of spirit urging her to work against the natural base reaction she knew was there. The requirement to treat the other person with some realm of respect rang in her ear like a small irritating bell.
“You said that,” Alison spat back at Shannon in a monotone voice. Her nerves were thin and Shannon had only been speaking for several seconds and it already grated on the frustrated and tired woman. Her plan of suppressing the natural reaction she had was spinning out from under her more quickly than she wanted to admit.
“Oh sorry,” Shannon stops, pausing for a second and looking at the ground, ” I heard you lost your job.”
“Yeah, I did,” Alison grunts, not wanting to explain.
“Yeah, well that sucks.” Shannon stalls, not sure of what to say. The problem with their friendship arose in the awkward disconnect of their lives. Shannon neglected the friendship and Alison still felt jilted by this, but this was not the end of where the agitation arose.
“Can I help you with anything?” A tenor of stone exits Alison, she no longer has the energy to continue the long-winded facade. She came to the mindset that she needed to set her boundaries with Shannon while avoiding any venom she may feel towards her.
“Yeah, do you want to hang out?” Shannon looks at Alison with hopeful eyes. It strains Alison like a bird trying to take flight while having its wings stroked back. She felt the pain of the years of desiring this, knowing that she had worked hard to drain that desire.
“I don’t want to be nasty, but I don’t think so,” Alison trails off, she can feel her mind drift in the cold. One part of her remembers times in high school sitting on the couch laughing and the other part remembers Shanon disappearing after their friend died, and the times she would come back and crash at her house. Alison remembers trying to prepare for graduate school and Shannon still had no clue what she was doing with her life. It made Alison angry.
“Oh,” Shannon trails off. The light tone of voice. The wishy-washy sentiment made Alison all the more infuriated with the woman in front of her. Vitriolic insults crawled through her flesh that her spirit desperately tried to silence.
“I...I actually think this friendship is over.” Alison spoke this in the cold outside the church. The wind breezed in the night air. The world was cold and so was she. She could no longer tell if these words came from her flesh or spirit. The struggle to keep up the pleasant and restrained face had snapped under the pressure of the years that looked down upon them both like gargoyles seated in a cathedral.
“...I’m sorry. I know I’ve been absent for a while.” As Shannon stutters, Alison breaks. Her cheeks burn with anger as she feels the ice sting her eyes in the night. The anger in her burns like a fire.
“You’re not just absent, whenever you’re done you force yourself into my life. I thought you knew our friendship was over after Beatrice died.” Everything in her regarding the secret monologues she carried was breaking. The instability of friendships in the years past had destroyed her, the struggles with the character of her former self, and the distance she had felt from God. This all led to her feeling like her well-being was being sacrificed for someone else to speak platitudes and softness at her. A softness that felt like a fool's paradise, a gentle pat before a dog was put to sleep, delights to many but poison to Alison.
“Excuse me? I’m tired of you blaming the death of someone who died when we were eighteen on me!” Shannon looks confused and like she was reacting to what Alison was saying. The doctor’s messy emotions crept up on her. There was glee in Alison that for once in Shanon's life she had a negative reaction to something she said instead of laughing at it and being nonchalant.
“That’s the point, you act like nothing's wrong!” Alison screamed. It was as if her heart was being ripped from her chest again. She no longer felt like a twenty-six-year-old, but the teenage girl who just lost her best friend. She had grown protective of Ripley because of her loss at a young age, she hated seeing the spiritual rupture of a person, and in turn, a disconnect from God upon their death. It was never peaceful to picture where a soul goes and Alison struggled in communicating that to Shannon.
“Because as far as I know nothing is wrong! You act like she died because of me and she didn’t! Her parents were just psychos!” Shannon screeched back.
“Allie!” Thomas’s voice was stern and strong. It wasn’t the emotional gargle that the other two women had just released but the demand of a parent. Alison knew he did it for her benefit. He knew the way she loses her temper and was on edge at the end of the day. He made her remember not everyone treats her like a rag, and that she shouldn’t treat others like one.