“Thanks a lot.”
The bitter words left Mary’s mouth and harpooned themselves in Tima’s chest. In an instant, Mary had bounded down the stairs leaving behind the foul air of a rotten exchange.
Tima bit her lower lip and fiddled with the hem of her shirt. Ross, Mary’s father, stared at the space left behind by his daughter, turned to Tima and offered an apology for his daughter’s behavior. Tima shook her head, smiled shyly and watched Ross hurriedly follow his daughter.
It was a while before Tima closed the door to the house and walked into the kitchen. Her mother stood in front of the sink and took to washing the dishes piled up after the huge dinner they had. Sensing someone’s eyes on her, she turned and gave Tima a quick smile before going back to her task.
Tima opened her mouth to speak up, but she could not think of a coherent way to word her feelings. Her brain felt like the static displayed on TV after a satellite cut. In the background, she heard her dad and his friends laughing in the living room.
She turned to leave the kitchen when she spotted the two halves of the turkey bone on top of the trash can. Tima made to move in that direction when her mother’s voice cut her off, “No messing around with the trash Tima, why don’t you go open the presents your dad’s friends got you?”
Not wanting to anger her mom after a stressful night, Tima left the kitchen and headed to her bedroom at the far end of the corridor. She closed the door behind her and vacantly stared at the pile of gifts. Plopping herself in bed, she shut her eyes and replayed the events that led to her friend leaving the way she did.
Tima’s family had moved in to this apartment sometime during spring. Her dad wanted to be closer to his job, and her mother had promised her that there would be a huge playground downstairs.
True to her mother’s words, her jaw dropped at how amazing it looked. She saw cartoon-themed slides and swings and a vending machine with her favorite chocolate. There was already someone in the playground, and Tima wasted no time striking up a deal with the girl. Five pushes on the swing, and they would switch. Her name was Mary, and she lived here with her dad. Feeling proud of herself for making a friend so quickly, Tima grabbed Mary’s hand and ran to her parents to show off her friendship trophy.
Tima had been too excited to see her parents’ concern, and before they could say anything, Ross came into the picture. He introduced himself as Mary’s dad and the caretaker of the building. He was dressed in a plain cotton white shirt and black pants.
He was friendly enough, and he never said no to their playtime. There were days when Tima would notice Ross wearing the same clothes or a torn pair of shoes, but she didn’t want to make him mad, so she never said anything.
November came around, and Thanksgiving was upon them. Tima adored Thanksgiving for many reasons. There was so much to love, like not going to school, the food, her grandparents’ visit, the money she got and the presents. Most importantly, she loved making a wish with the turkey bone.
Every year, she would say her wish out loud, and her family would find a way to make it come true. Last year, she shared the bone with her grandma and wished for a PlayStation 5. Everyone on the table exchanged looks and were quiet. Two weeks later, her grandparents surprised her with the console, and she was over the moon.
Earlier that day, she and her mom had gotten back from last-minute grocery shopping. Tima spotted Mary in her usual spot on the swing with Ross pushing her. Mary’s face broke into an excited grin when she spotted Tima running up to her. After sharing a warm hug, Tima blurted out an invitation, “You have to come tonight to our Thanksgiving dinner. We’re having turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin p-“
“Tima, I’m sure Ross has work tonight. You’re bothering them,” Tima’s mom interrupted.
“Yeah, I do have work tonight, Tima,” Ross began apologetically, but upon seeing both girls frown, he continued, “but I don’t mind Mary going, if that’s alright with you Mrs. Williamson.”
The woman’s face hardened into a half-baked smile, and she said, “I don’t mind.”
The girls began jumping up and down before Tima was dragged away by her mother who needed to prepare dinner. She gave her friend a final wink and ran upstairs to get ready for the day. Tima put on her best pink Cavalli dress and her shiny Burberry shoes. Much to her delight, Tima got to taste test the food. After that, she helped her mom set the table.
Evening came along, and the guests began to arrive. The house quickly buzzed with excitement and chatter. Ross dropped Mary off early on, and Tima introduced Mary to everyone. Mary wore a white and black dress that had the Mickey Mouse icon on the back. At first, she was timid, but she loosened up at everyone’s friendly greetings. The night was off to a good start.
The grown-ups exchanged small talk about who’s marrying who while Tima used this chance to pull Mary away. The girls headed to Tima’s bedroom where they decided to play some games until dinner was served. Mary kept oohing and aahing at her toys, which Tima found both strange and exhilarating.
They settled on a game of dress-up, and minutes later, found themselves with mismatched accessories and make-up. Tima laughed so hard at her reflection that she tripped over her own scarf and landed on Mary, who stumbled backwards in return. Like a pair of colorful domino blocks, they lay comfortably on the ground, roaring with laughter and joy.
Their loud laughter caught Tima’s parents’ attention. They appeared at the door with disapproving looks on their faces. Tima smiled sheepishly and promised to keep it down, but their eyes never left Mary, who began to fidget under their intense gaze.
Tima’s dad commanded calmly but sternly, “Mary, empty your pockets.”
Tima doubted she heard her dad correctly since his words didn’t seem to make sense. What could Mary have in her pockets? One look at Mary confirmed she was thinking the same thing. Mary didn’t move, but Tima’s dad wouldn’t let up. He repeated the command once more.
Mary plunged her hands into her pockets and pulled them inside out, revealing nothing inside. Tima’s mom nodded and followed up, “Alright, both of you to the dining room. It’s time to eat, anyway.”
Like that, a spell was cast. Mary shrunk away from any further conversation throughout the meal. Mary picked and played with her food, only looking away to stare at the clock. Tima had tried to get her attention through any way possible. She made faces to her friend, poked her under the table and asked her what she thought of the food. Nothing worked.
Tima tapped her foot under the table, wondering what she could do to break her friend out of this trance. Her grandmother called out to her from across the table, “Tima, it’s time for your favorite part. It’s time to make a wish with someone. Who do you want to pick this year?”
The guests were amused with how Tima’s eyes lit up at the mention of a wish. She took the bone from her grandmother’s hand and turned to Mary, whose face had fallen into a dark stare. Extending the bone to her friend, Tima explained the rules, “We’ll both make a wish. Whoever pulls and breaks off a larger piece will have their wish come true.”
Mary was silent but nodded to show she understood. They each grabbed an end of the bone and closed their eyes while making a wish. Tima spoke hers out loud, “I wish I can go to Disneyland.”
Mary said nothing but weakly pulled on the bone. It cracked in Tima’s favor, and everyone around the table cheered. Tima jumped from her chair and hugged her relatives, one by one. She hoped they would make her wish come true soon.
When she had finished her rounds, she went back to her chair, only to notice Mary had teared up. She put a hand on Mary’s arm to ask what was wrong, but a doorbell interrupted them. Tima’s mom excused herself and opened the door. Ross had come to pick Mary up. Standing stiffly, Mary said a broad thank you to everyone and rushed to her father at the door.
She was about to bypass him and go home when he caught her arm and urgently said, “Mary, aren’t you going to thank Tima for inviting you?”
Tima was on her tracks and extended her arms for a hug, but Mary coldly stared back and uttered the three words that saw the end to their friendship.
“Thanks a lot.”