The sickening sweet September air was suffocating; it held the gravity of summer’s end. Junior year came and left so quickly, the thought of being in my final year of high school brought no feelings. Lethargy was my only company stepping through the double doors for my last first day. I used to be so concerned with having the best outfits, best hair, best makeup and the perfect friends and it was completely and utterly exhausting. Now it’s a miracle if I brush my curls all the way through and don’t give in to a messy bun. For once, I don’t care what people think, including my own inner voice. I wonder if others felt this way too. As I walk home, I remember the simplicity of life. I remember a time I would stop and climb a tree or collect stones. Life wasn’t such a hurry.

“No, Allie hasn’t been here. Will do. If she comes over, we’ll call right away,” I heard mom on the phone from around the corner as I walk in the door. “What’s wrong?” I ask. “It’s alright, Megan. That was just Allie’s mom wondering if she had spent the night. Apparently they got into a fight the other day and Allie didn’t come home last few nights,” Mom sighed. I rolled my eyes, “Why would she even call here. Allie and I haven’t hung out in ages.” Mom gave me a look, “Why is that, Megan? I thought you and Allie were best friends.”

I snorted, “That was forever ago, mom. We were kids then. Things are different now.” I ran upstairs to my room to plop on my bed, to stare at the ceiling fan in deep though. I lay holding my cell to my chest, in a trance of nostalgia of when I first met Allie. It was first grade; things were so simple then. Little me was so brave. I thought to myself, “I want to be her friend.” So I sat next to her at carpet time and asked if she wanted to sit with me at lunch. We were inseparable until about 8th grade. Soon after, High School happened like being hit in the face with a bag of bricks. I hadn’t thought of Allie in a long time. We just weren’t in the same circle anymore, didn’t like the same things anymore.

Despite our distance, her number was still in my phone. Even though my phone had changed many times since I last called her, I never let myself delete my first friend. I remember how shitty her mom used to be when we were kids, and how we made a hideout in the woods of my old apartment complex as an escapism for us, nestled between a circle of pine and birch. We called it The Haven. I finally get the nerve to text her. Hey 

I wasn’t expecting a response, but moments later my phone buzzed. Hey was all she replied. My heart sank in my chest. How are you? I asked. I didn’t receive any reply after that. She hated me. Something compelled me to grab my bag and go to The Haven. Suddenly I felt very small, and I wanted to remember a time when that comforted me.

Holy shit, she actually was there. Her look changed drastically, box-dye red hair, copious amounts of eyeliner and black cuffs and bands. She had a sketch pad and headphones that covered her entire ears. My ginger face was consistent. Without my makeup, I look the same as I did when I was 7. I think that startled her. When she noticed my presence she jumped up and held her pen like a knife. “Shit, what the fu-… what are you doing here Megan?” She squinted her eyes and seemed genuinely confused. I couldn’t help but smile as I looked up to see moon and the sun in the same sky, with the tree-tops as tall as I remember. “You still come here,” I laugh.

Allie rolled her eyes, “Come here to make fun of me some more?” My heart sunk again and I felt pain. “No… not at all. I just… Just wanted to make sure you were alright.” Allie was still perplexed. She sat back down to draw like I wasn’t even here. I looked over her to see what she was drawing. It was a manga girl with her insides pouring out of her chest like vomit. Ew. “What do you want? Seriously, you’re starting to creep me out,” Allie scoffed. 

I looked around and pondered. “Bet you can’t climb that tree,” I grinned, pointing to a jagged birch. Finally, she put down her pen and pad. “If I climb the tree, will you leave?” Allie asked. I cock my head in thought and nod. When she went to climb, I darted past her, “Race you.” At last, I got a laugh out of her. We climbed as high as we could before the branches felt brittle. The sun was setting and for the first time in a long time, the worries of life were halt. “This doesn’t mean we’re friends again. I know the moment we go back to school you and your new friends will be dicks as usual,” She warns.

“Sorry,” I whispered. “I let teenage drama get the best of me. You were my best friend. I shouldn’t have let you go,” I say with regret. She chuckles, “Don’t get all sappy on me now.” She pauses and looks at me with a cheesy grin, “Ba dum tis. Get it? Sappy?” The awkwardness had faded and soon I felt like a kid again. We took stones down to the marsh and skipped them. We took paper bark from the birch and made little cartoons on them. Allie was always the better artist. She had drawn us on one of the pieces and wrote ‘thank you’ at the bottom. She gave it to me and I of course accepted. But sooner rather than later, the sunset turned to nightfall.

“I better get going,” I say hesitantly. To my surprise Allie calls back, “See you tomorrow, Meg?” Nobody but Allie was ever allowed to call me Meg. I used to hate the nickname, but it felt so sweet to hear it again. “Sure,” I reply. As Allie is gathering up her art supplies, her face turns serious. “Thanks for coming to look for me, Meg. It means a lot. Even after all this time, you still know me better than anyone else.” I stop in my tracks and wait to walk here out of the woods. “That’s what best friends are for,” I smile.

After school, I went straight towards The Haven. It was great to finally have my friend back. When I got there, there were about eight police cars and they were roping off the woods. An officer approached me, “Sorry, the paths are closed right now. Please head on home.”

Of course I wasn’t going to listen. I nodded to the officer and turned around. As soon as he wasn’t looking, I went ninja style and snuck around the main path. Knowing Allie, she wouldn’t have let these guys tell her what to do. She was probably in The Haven now on top of a tree, watching these guys like ants.

That’s when I saw her. She was in the tree, like I had said. Her face was blue and black and the color faded from her eyes. She wore that same outfit she did yesterday. Her face was empty, like a jack-o-lantern without the lights on. She hung from a noose on that same tree we sat upon yesterday. But why… Why would she… 

German shepherds came prancing through, barking at her dangling corpse as it swayed under the rays of the sunset. I couldn’t bring myself to move an inch. Watching her move from side to side was like a metronome, a minute-hand to a clock that hadn’t moved in hours. Her lifeless eyes stared into me. 

I was paralyzed from fear. Cops came flooding in The Haven. They took pictures, scoped the area and finally they cut her down. “I’d say she’s been here for about 48 hours,” I heard one man say. “Definitely not a fresh one,” Another clamped his nose. That’s impossible… We were just here…

Tears welled in my eyes, and I at last remembered to breathe. Though I couldn’t afford being caught trespassing, especially with a body. I put my hands in my jacket pockets and curled in a fetal position. Out from my pocket, I pulled out some of the paper birch from yesterday. It was real. We were here. A perfect portrait of us together was inked on the backside of the paper birch.

October 08, 2019 15:31

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Mary Waters
10:26 Oct 17, 2019

I liked this, caught the essence of two friends who had lost contact, reunited. Shock ending, hadn't expected that. Great story


Jenny Toupin
11:32 Oct 17, 2019

Thank you. (:


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