I'm standing in the kitchen gripping a glass of water. My palms are getting sweaty, and I stare at the wall, my face solemn and still. I bite the inside of my cheeks, and I feel every little bit of my body tingling. It's stupid, it's stupid.
Maybe if I had just gone to Martha Garden's party, I wouldn't be standing in my kitchen like a deer in the headlights. Maybe if I was wearing my collared green sweatshirt instead of the striped turtleneck that choked me. Maybe if I had made eggs for breakfast instead of a bagel.
"Mari," my sister's familiar voice says suddenly. She appears at the kitchen's entryway, wearing an oversized sweater and baggy pants. She's crossing her arms, staring directly at me. "What now?"
She sounds so condescending. I swallow my saliva, a bit too loudly, and I move my eyes her way. "I needed water."
She keeps staring at me, unimpressed. "Why aren't you at Martha's?"
Martha Garden holds parties at her parents estate a few blocks over every Saturday night. Martha Garden used to be the person I told all my secrets to. Martha Garden would compliment my outfits, send me letters, and walk to school with me.
"I don't feel like it," I mumble.
"Why? Why not?" my sister asks.
"I just don't."
I really didn't.
"Martha's always been your best friend, Mari."
I roll my eyes, my grip growing tighter on the glass.
"Not anymore. Not really, anyways."
My sister opens her mouth and gasps. "What do you mean not anymore?"
"I can't explain it. Or, I don't want to. I really don't want to."
"That sucks. She was like... your only friend."
I scrunch my nose and raise my eyebrows. "No she wasn't."
Truth was, I could feel myself lying. Every bit of my pride oozed out of my face, my bone structure, my legs and toes. I had met Martha Garden when I was four and a half years old. We created a handshake a months later. She made us friendship bracelets when we were six years old, and gifted me mine on Halloween.
Martha Garden hated tomatoes, but loved ketchup. She wore fuzzy socks with frills on the edges and had three younger brothers. She was a terrible dancer but she always closed her eyes when she moved. All these things, I don't know why I kept reminding myself.
"If you stopped being friends because of something stupid, like a boy.... or scheduling conflicts, or whatever... then I would like to remind you how foolish that is."
I didn't react. My sister brushed past me and opened a cupboard, deciding to get her own cup of water.
Martha Garden had thrown a party three months ago. It wasn't different. It was the same kind of party she always threw. Anyone who knew anyone was invited. Cars would pull in and pull out of the rounded driveway in front of her house.
I was late, but I had shown up in a pretty outfit. One that Martha had told me was "unique" and "spunky."
I walked in her front doors, overwhelmed by the music that was blasting. Waves of sound echoed through my head, as I pushed past partygoers and students, faces that I recognized and faces that I didn't.
I made my way up the stairs. I turned left, and then right. Left again. I had memorized this. I knocked quickly on the bathroom door. I smiled as Martha opened the door.
"Oh, thank god Mari. Thank god you're here. I'm going through the five stages of grief."
Her voice was soft, with a bit of rasp to it. Her hair was short, but curly, a bob with ends that sat upwards. She grabbed my shoulder and dragged me back over to the bathroom sink, where she lifted herself up on to. Sitting on the counter, she raised the mascara that was in her hand and seemingly continued to apply the thick and clumpy mixture to her lashes.
I don't say a word, because I usually don't have to. Martha and I always had comfortable silence. It was the most comfortable I had ever been.
I looked at her through the mirror. She was wearing a flowing dress with puffy sleeves, her arms propped up as she focused in on herself.
It was all okay until it wasn't.
She stopped applying the mascara, giving herself one last look before she turned to look at me. "Mari."
I didn't say anything for a moment. "Yes, Martha?"
She turned to look at her hands, picking at a loose piece of skin that was barely there. "Are the rumours true?"
I kept looking at her, my hands clasped in my lap. I sat on the edge of the tub, the inside still wet. "The rumours?"
She shook her head and then looked at me. "The rumours, Mari. About you. You know... what they've been saying."
"What... I'm sorry, what rumours? Who's they?"
"Don't play dumb, Mars. You know what I'm saying."
"No, actually. I don't."
Martha was tearing up. She rubbed her eyes, her newly applied mascara starting to smudge. "You've always been my best friend. I'm not trying to be a bitch. I just can't do this."
"I'm confused," I said quietly.
Martha rolled her eyes, looking up at the ceiling and then back at me. "Everyone knows you're a lesbian."
I blinked a few times. "Hm."
"I just don't like you like that, Mari. I'm sorry."
And just like that, Martha Gardens hopped off the counter of her bathroom sink and closed the door behind her.
I can still see Martha and I. When we didn't know what being happy or being sad was. When we'd share French fries and cry when each other scraped a knee.
Now I'm standing in my kitchen, and I just remembered I haven't brushed my teeth all week. My room is cluttered, and my brain feels heavy. I'm gripping this glass of water even tighter.
I turn around and I see nothing underneath me.
"Do you see that?" I say frantically to my sister, who's about to leave.
"See what?" she says, looking around and behind me.
"That shadow," I mumble, turning around in a circle like a lost puppy.
"Mari," my sister says quietly. "There's nothing behind you. There's no shadow. Take your water and go to bed."
I shake my head, bringing my empty hand up to my chest, hugging myself and letting out a big breath of air.
It's stupid. It's stupid.