Guys, listen up: Having a girl for your best friend is awesome until she’s not your best friend anymore.
I’m in her room, playing nurse for my former best friend because Evie’s parents don’t know about our fallout and assumed I’d be thrilled to care for to my own personal Judas Iscariot. I’d like to think of her tonsillitis as the universe sending her a message, one that said, “You ignored your best friend’s biggest moment and so, BAM, let’s chop your tonsils out and call it even.” I’ve got some time to kill while my patient rests, so I make myself comfortable on her oversized bean bag chair and reach for my phone. I scroll through my Instagram posts and torture myself with memories from better days.
Last relevant post, January 31, my birthday party. The day of the crime. On the screen, a group of my closest friends gathers around my kitchen table with gifts and they’re singing “Happy Birthday to you!” I look giddy, with my arm around my brand spanking new girlfriend, Kelly. There’s also Josh, Tucker, Layla, and, of course, Evie. The look on Evie’s face screams “I don’t want to be here,” and in hindsight, she acted like her best friend died. I’m alive and well, so not sure what was going on there. Historically, Evie’s an epic gift giver, and birthdays have always a big deal between us.
When we were little, Evie gave me LED wheel lights for my bike (8th b-day), a deck of cards with the WWE wrestlers’ faces (10th), and a drone (12th). When I went through my rebel phase freshman year and decided to grow out my hair, she bought me hair elastics and some crazy expensive shampoo that smelled like heaven and fresh cut lemons. I used them religiously until she was kind enough to tell me that she overheard Katie Emory from 5th period science, my crush of the week, tell the kid at the desk next to her she hated man-buns. I scroll back to look at my own man-bun Instagram post, and sure enough, it was more soccer mom and less Samurai (think Heath-er instead of Heath Ledger). Evie helped me buzz my cut the same night and I told me I still looked hot either way. Because that’s what best friends do. Did.
Sophomore year, during the great blizzard of 2020, we hibernated in the basement together and binge watched the entire first three seasons of Stranger Things. When January rolled around, she bought me a Stranger Things shirt and a year’s supply of waffles for the ole’ birthday. Sigh. Those were the days…
Sometime around mid-March, mere months ago, I ditched the clingy, co-dependent girlfriend, Kelly. Evie cracked a joke about finally being free and I said, “At least she remembered the day I was born.” She looked at me, seeming to take offense at my accusation.
“Your party was literally your first week as a couple. And…I didn’t forget your birthday.”
“Right.” And then, awkward silence.
Another thing we always had: Evie used to check over my math, and in return I proof-read her English Lit papers. Teamwork makes the dream work, amiright? The week before Spring Break, I was reading her essay on empathy and reminded her, in case she forgot she had forgotten, that my 17th birthday was a few meager months ago, and it wasn’t, in fact, too late to apologize and give me her best wishes.
“This again? Are you serious right now? I didn’t forget your birthday.” She added a nice dramatic sigh and didn’t even meet my eyes, and how dare she sound annoyed at ME.
“What’s with the ‘tude? Is it your special girl time or what?” That statement did not smooth things over like you might expect.
“You’re seventeen, not five. I celebrated right along with everyone else at that party. Geez.” The worst part: she left after that. Grabbed her backpack and slides and walked out the door, which I thought was a bold move for someone with a severe allergy to confrontation. I never finished proofreading her paper and she didn’t even finish checking the last few problems on my pre-Calc homework. She hasn’t checked my math since. Seems like that was the beginning of the end.
My phone gives me a warning that my battery is getting low, so I click “Low-battery mode” and soldier on. I end up time-traveling to last September, when we all went out to celebrate her dad’s remission and the return of his appetite at the ‘all you can eat Chinese buffet.’ I got sick from eating so much. I regret nothing.
Next, October and oh my gosh, our Halloween costumes were E-P-I-C. Princess Peach and Mario for the win! I move on to Thanksgiving when we took my little brother to a pumpkin patch and I helped Evie carry her giant gourde. She declared she must have the biggest pumpkin and was thrilled by the insane number of pumpkin pimples (her words, I kid you not) covering its skin. At Christmas, she dressed like Mrs. Claus and passed out presents to our friends at the youth group party. Except she was the old, super frumpy version of Mrs. Claus. Evie’s life motto is “go hard or go home!” And this post of her wearing her ugly Mrs. Claus get-up still makes me cringe-laugh.
I’ve scrolled so long my phone’s battery gives me the ‘10% phone death imminent’ courtesy, so I start to look around for a charger. I rise from the oversized throne and search her desk, reminded that dang she is one giant nerd. I die a little inside when I see the B+ on her latest essay; she didn’t even ask me to look. Hashtag that hurts. No charger, though.
I hear a little cough from the bed and when I glance over to check on my patient, she’s still out, strawberry blonde waves in a hot mess all over the pillow. I can see the blanket rise and fall, rise and fall. Then, hello, I spot the end of a charger sticking out from her nightstand. I shuffle over all ninja-like and try to quietly open the drawer. It’s a little stuck, so I give it a micro-tug before it opens, but it missed the silence memo, and a pile of papers fall to the floor. Of course they do. Fortunately, Evie’s still out.
I do my best to stay painstakingly quiet while I put the contents back in the drawer, one piece of paper at a time. Devotional, composition notebook, music sheets, program from her sister’s recital, and then, a silver envelope. With my name on it. Surrounded by party hat emojis and purple hearts. I pick it up with stupid curiosity and a bit of reverence, like it might burn my fingers. I take out the card for further inspection and two tickets to the Taking Back August concert float to the floor. That concert. The one I spent months saving for and still didn’t get enough dough together. And it was in Jacobson Park last month.
I hear a sharp intake of breath and meet Evie’s panicked eyes. She rubs her throat from inhaling too sharply and looks a little pale. “Please tell me you didn’t read that.” It comes out in a weak whisper, thick with desperation, breaking my heart a little.
I blink, dumbfounded. I come to my senses, rise, and knee-shuffle over to the edge of her bed to smooth an errant hair, tucking it behind her ear. “Evie?”
She sighs and lays her head back to her pillow as a single tear slides down her cheek. “I didn’t forget your birthday.”
I can feel my heart beating in my chest and my stomach tightens. “Yeah, I’m getting that.” About six foolish, petty months too late, but I’m starting to understand.
“I’m sorry.” We say at the same time. She scrunches her eyes closed, then opens them again, looking tired but relieved.
“I miss you.” We say at the same time.
“I miss you, too.” Also said in unison. We’ve got our bestie vibes reconnected. Like spidey senses, only better.
We’re quiet for a while. “You drinking enough water? Do you need anything?” I ask gently so I don’t overwhelm her.
She smiles a tired smile, shakes her head no, then closes her eyes. I brush her hair from her face once more and pull the blanket over her shoulder, tucking it under her chin. When her breathing becomes even and I’m sure she’s drifted off, I read the card I never promised I wouldn’t.
Happy Birthday! I know you like to tease me for all my awkward dating dilemmas or never wanting to date at all. You say I’m picky, but the problem is, you set the bar too high. I’m trying to be brave. I don’t want to share all these “feelings” with you, because a big part of me fears you won’t be my best friend anymore or things will get weird. But after my dad got sick, I now know how important it is to tell people how you feel. YOLO, ya know? So, these tickets are for you, and you can take whomever you’d like. But selfishly, I hope you’ll choose to take me. As your date. I love you, birthday boy.
Whoa. Whooooaaaa. I can feel a goofy grin forming. I send her parents a quick text: “Patient is asleep. I’m running out for a quick second and I’ll be right back!”
I’m back in a record 15 minutes with a little bouquet of wildflowers from our neighborhood florist. They’re tied in floral wrapping tape and a purple ribbon. I lay the bouquet on her nightstand with the note I wrote with “Evie” scribbled (in my best boy handwriting) on the front. I sit on the floor so my purchases are behind me and take the selfie. I post it to Instagram with the caption “Taking care of my bestie and I hope she feels better soon. Love you, @theteenieevie.”
I can’t wait until she wakes up.
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Man-buns… oh dear. Great story.
Really liked this story!! Great characters and great theme!
Thank you for your positive feedback. :)
Great, sweet story. I cracked up at the man-bun part. Such is the life of a high-schooler.
Thank you so much! :) I've never submitted a story to Reedsy, so I'm glad someone enjoyed it.