Friendship Sad Coming of Age

This story contains sensitive content

*Trigger Warning:* This story may contain sensitive content. It contains drug references and discusses going through stages of grief when losing a loved one. Enjoy!

“Ugh, I still can’t believe how much junk ends up under here. I just cleaned it last month!” I sigh and push a stubborn strand of hair out of my face. I’m kneeling on the floor, my knees covered in dust bunnies. I hear Kayla laugh from her bed behind me.

“Ha! Consider yourself lucky, Claire. I haven’t cleaned under my bed in a good two years.” She smiles and takes another swig of her soda.

I roll my eyes. Kayla, are we even surprised at this point? Sometimes I still have to remind you to empty your dirty laundry twice a week. 

Surprisingly, the contents under my bed aren’t as bad as I thought. For being a college student, you might expect to find a pizza box here, a scattered pack of cigarettes there, but it’s mostly just old textbooks from previous semesters and crumpled papers. I’m actually a very well behaved student, and proud to be.

You seldom meet a responsible twenty-four year old, I think, recalling my mother’s complimenting words. 

My hands feel around the dusty gloom and grasp around piles of old homeworks and unsharpened pencils. I wince as I rise from under my rickety twin bed and hit my head on the top of my bedside table. 

Kayla stifles another laugh. “I knew you were going to do that!” 

“Shut up,” I mutter, although a smile tugs at the corner of my lips. I drop the pile of things into our tiny dorm room trash can and grab a pack of crackers off of my desk.

I think about the first time I met Kayla, last August. I was a nervous little college freshman, insecure and totally bewildered at the new campus. I immediately knew I liked Kayla after I had met her on my second day here, when I almost ran into her trying to hurry to orientation. We had laughed the incident off, and then she had invited me to eat dinner with her later that night. 

We had so much fun that night, that when she offered to become my roommate, I couldn’t refuse. And sure, she’s a little messy and blunt, but I love her. She’s the best friend anyone could ask for. 

My smile drops as I realize the real reason we had grown so close these past few months. I learned from my mother that my father had passed away in January, supposedly from lung cancer. He had bright green eyes, brown hair with flecks of gray, and a soft, warm smile.

At least, that’s how I had always imagined him in my head. I had actually never met him. He and my mother had split a little before I was born, and to this day I never knew why. 

Kayla had come to the funeral, and although there was no body to bury (my grandmother had chosen to have him cremated), she had helped me with closure. I vividly remember crying into her shoulder, the grief so heavy I could hardly believe I had never met him. 

It didn’t bother me too much, though. 

Since then, I have moved on, and now I rarely ever think about my father. After all, how can you really miss someone you never met?

Kayla is laying on her bed, playing on her phone when I come back from the small kitchenette, still chewing on the last cracker thoughtfully. 

“You finished cleaning under there?” She asks without looking up. The soda can lays on her side table, empty and deserted.

I make an “I don’t know” sound and lean under my bed yet again. I squint as my eyes rove over the floor carefully. 

Nothing more than a load of dust under here, I think to myself. I’m about to get back up and dust off my pants when I see something else. 

It’s in the far left corner, partly hidden by my suitcase and the crease in the wall. I raise my eyebrows and stretch out my hand to reach it. 

It’s a round black tube, with a gray lid. It’s pretty light, and whenever I shake it, it makes a rattling noise, similar to the sound a spray paint can makes before you open it. I sit down on my bed, inspecting it. 

Kayla looks over at me from across the room. “What is that?”

“I’m not sure… I just found it while I was cleaning.”

My roommate gets up from her bed and comes over to sit next to me. She snatches the item from my hand before I can protest

“Oh, it's a film canister! My mom used to carry around one of those cheap cameras during family vacations and take lots of pictures. Afterwards, she would go and get them developed at the drugstore, and put the films into our photo albums.”

I nod, perplexed. “Oh, that’s cool. But I wonder what one is doing under my bed?”

Kayla doesn’t respond to my question, either not having an answer or just ignoring me completely.

“Open it up. Maybe there’s something interesting inside?” She prompts.

I shrug and pop off the lid. Inside is a black cylinder, with—you guessed it—film inside. My breath quickens as I carefully unroll the old film. A layer of dust causes my fingers to leave prints as I smooth it out.

Somehow, I immediately recognize who is in the photo. It is a picture of a young man, maybe around 19 years old. He has wavy brown hair, and even though the picture is in dim color, I know that his eyes are vibrant and green. His smile is inviting, and he seems to be laughing at something someone had just said. 

What was he laughing at? Why? Who? What made him leave my mom in the mere hours before she gave birth to me? Was he content with his life when he passed away? Who was close to his heart in his last moments? Was he thinking about his daughter? 

I shake my head roughly to clear my thoughts.

“It’s my father,” I breathe. This must have been him when he was in high school.”

Kayla looks at me, her gaze unreadable. I can’t really tell if she believes me or not. “How can you be sure?”

I study the photo, every inch of it. It has to be him. His nose was the same shape as mine, and his posture had the same “I’m-all-business” look to it. Who else would it be? 

“I just know it is,” I replied to my friend. 

She eyes me uncertainty, but doesn’t argue. 

“I wonder how this ended up under my bed?” I say out loud. 

Kayla frowns. “It’s possible your mother slipped it into your suitcase before you left? Or maybe the people that lived here before us are somehow connected to him?”

I consider all of the possibilities and eventually give up. There’s no way for me to know how the film got there.

I silently wonder if it was fate that brought me to the canister. I would probably never be completely sure how strange fate is. But one thing I was sure about was I wouldn’t dwell in the past. 

I turn to Kayla and smile at her. 

She smiles back, a little uncertainty. I embrace her in a loving hug and sigh. 

‘It’s best to focus on the now rather than in the past, don’t you think?” I say when we let go of each other.

Kayla laughs, for the hundreth time in the last fifteen minutes. “Yeah, I agree. Want to go get some lunch before studying ?I’m starving!”

My stomach growls and I nod eagerly, letting the film roll from my palm and softly onto the bed. I stare at it for a split second before standing up and grabbing my car keys. 

“That would be great.”

May 05, 2022 21:51

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