Isabelle Jackson had an idiotic fixation on something she knew nothing about. It wasn’t in that “don’t know but really want to learn” way where you'd shed blood, sweat, and tears attempting to learn something you knew nothing about, but rather an unhealthy obsession that was taking up her entire life. Me, being her best friend and with her almost 24/7, I had to witness it.
I stared at her. She was frantically flipping through a magazine on the floor surrounded by heaps of clothes. She turned to look at me, the mess of ringlet curls bobbing around her head. “Plaid pants or mom jeans?”
“So, tell me what you want, what you really, really want.” She exhaled and pointed to the options she gave me that were laying on the edge of her you-guessed-it 90's-inspired bed.
It was either I choose one or she’d keep singing lyrics, and I didn’t want to be subjected to that kind of torture. Not that I didn’t already have to endure it just by being friends with her, but… “Plaid pants,” I said.
She squealed and snatched it up, running to the en suite. I expected to see her in her daily 90’s styled outfits, paired with her signature ringlet curl hairstyle. She chose the occasional blunt bangs or braids with butterfly clips, for days she felt like being extra. She sashayed out of the bathroom in a black and white flannel and the plaid pants I'd chosen and struck a pose.
“C’mon.” She stepped over the clothes that were covering every inch of the floor and left the room. Had she just said something that wasn’t a 90’s song? It was rare, the kind of rare that once it did happen, it felt like something a party would be thrown for. I followed her, knowing her predictability. We were going to "explore", like we did every single day. By explore, she meant the exact same places. She knew I was more on the spontaneous end and while we did the same things every day, she made it into a different order. It wasn’t much but it was something.
Isabelle walked to her brother’s door and knocked on it. Her 1992 Toyota Camry had been in the shop because it was slowly deteriorating, but she was adamant on keeping it, I didn’t have a car, and her parents were at work until eight p.m. Her brother was kind enough to let us use his Mazda since it was rarely touched by him, now that he’d gotten a girlfriend and brought her over nearly every day.
She walked in and came out swinging his car keys on her finger. “Smells like teen spirit in there,” she said, scrunching her nose at me.
“Where to first, Belle?” I asked. It was our system. Yesterday was my choice, now this one was hers. The objective was to prevent the pointless arguments over who goes where, but alas they still popped up occasionally.
She grabbed an apple from the basket on the kitchen counter. “Thrifting?” She turned to me, wearing such a hopeful expression it made me scowl. I hated when she went thrifting. I was always there, trailing after her like a lost duck, watching her skipping around the aisles humming 90s tunes from morning to late afternoon.
She frowned and walked forward until she right in front of me. “But, I want it that way.”
“Oh gosh.” I stepped around her as she cackled behind me. I knew she had been waiting to spring that one.
“Oh, come on, Adrien. Why do you hate the 90’s so much?”
I opened the door for her, and we walked to the car. “I don’t. It’s just overdone, Belle. I mean, I have to see and hear everything about the damn 90’s every day. I'm going crazy.”
She hopped into the front seat and sighed, pulling out her brick brown lipstic that was so overused it crumbling and deformed. “That’s the magic of it, though. You love something so much and it becomes a major part of your life, right?” She pulled out of the driveway with a Michael Jackson song released in the 90’s playing on the playlist she set up. “I’m going to make you change your mind, Adrien. You wait.”
She’s been saying that since she got into this crap – two years now. I still hate it. That's never going to change.
She parked in front of the café. We got out of the car and went inside. The thick smell of coffee grounds hit me first thing, along with the thick rich scent of chocolate and it was almost divine enough to make my soul wriggle out of of my body and swirl around the shop. It was a bit crowded, not what it was usually like. People filled up nearly all the tables, the workers rushed around behind the counters and gave orders out like they were held against their will. I looked at the poster on the wall, and sure enough, prices were half off - something that happened once a year. They weren’t even high to begin with but it didn’t matter to people, as long as less money was involved.
Isabelle got a black coffee and I got a mocha and a croissant, which we were enjoying at one of the last free tables that we grabbed for ourselves before one of the people in the ever-increasing line snagged one up.
She sipped her coffee and sighed, a large grin forming. “This is so good.”
I shook my head and pointed to my drink. “You clearly don’t know the good things in life.”
“Mocha isn’t that.”
“Yes, it is. You wouldn’t know because you subject your taste buds to bitter flavorless things. They’re aching for a drink like mine.” I smiled at her and took a sip from my cup, trying to act nonchalant after I practically charred my tongue. She noticed and didn’t have a problem laughing at me until tears were streaming down her face, leaving light makeup smudges.
She reached for my croissant after she’d swallowed down the rest of her laughter. I shielded it.
“You should’ve gotten one. Prices are half off,” I said. She scrunched up her too-thin eyebrows and crossed her arms, giving off the classic five-year-old vibes.
I removed my hand and she gave a smile so wide, I thought her face would tear in half, and took a massive bite, only the small end bit left in her hand. “And I - eee - I will always love you,” she sang, crumbs falling from her mouth.
We had a nice little streak going and then she had to ruin it with another one of her songs. I had never met someone as sweet but so annoying like her before.
She dropped a bunch of books on the library table, the one we always sat at when we came here near the silent seniors section. “You should read these. They’ll give you more insight on my life.”
So, this is what we were doing. She was trying to convert me into her Spice Girls cult. Soon, I was going to be wearing blunt bangs and mom jeans. Absolutely not.
“Nice try, my dear Belle but that’s just not gonna happen.”
Her smile faded into a frown and she exhaled for five long seconds. “You’re looking at it in such a wrong way, Adrien. You don’t have to be like me. Just learn about it. My goodness, you can be so annoying sometimes.”
I tilted my head and squinted my eyes. “Me? I’m the one who hangs around someone who lives like it’s a decade earlier than what it really is. We’re far from that and you need to start acting like it, Belle.”
She blinked at me. “Say my name, say my name. My full name. Not Belle," she said, turning around and walking away.
She managed to get mad and leave me staring after her after singing her anger. Was I really the bad one here? Wasn’t I the one who accepted her for the way she was and kept hanging out with her, despite how frustrating it could get? It was her who hadn’t noticed that I was far nicer than what she gave me credit for. Yet…she was the one who was mad, the one who was off angry at me somewhere. How was that fair?
I sighed and picked up one of the books. Why the 90’s Is the Best Era. I picked up another. What Life Was Really Like in the 90’s. And another. 90’s Style and Aesthetic. Gosh. These looked like exactly the things Spice Girl cult leaders had people read before they were forced to join and style their hair in bright blonde pixie cuts, but I still inhaled and cracked one open.
The car ride was an eerie silent. Not even 90’s music was playing which was unheard of when it came to Isabelle. I didn’t know I had made her angry to the point where she had to switch up something she’d always done for so long now – it didn’t give me the feeling I'd always thought I'd feel when I didn't have to hear any more 90's jibber jabber.
I looked at her. She faced the road, ring-covered fingers gripping the steering wheel until her knuckles turned white. Her usually bubbly demeanor was now replaced by a gloomy stone-faced one. As irritated as she always made me and though reluctantly to admit, I missed the old Isabelle.
The zoom and the occasional honking of cars were the only noises audible in the excruciating silence. Damn, Isabelle, sing or something.
She pulled into the thrift store parking lot and stopped the car, barely waiting before she left and shut the door. I got out and walked behind her into the shop. It was funny, might you even say hysterical, to see the change in her attitude upon seeing all the clothes hanging on racks that she could mix and match up . She squealed and jumped and skipped through aisles, running her hands through the varieties of clothing as she passed.
At first, I thought this meant she wasn’t mad anymore but I was proven stupid when I went to talk to her and she scowled and turned away. I sighed. We weren’t the types to get into fights often. Little squabbles, sure, but never a silent treatment like what she was giving me. There were some days when I wished she’d just shut up about the 90’s, where I didn’t want to see her in nineties clothing, hear songs, nothing. Now, there was nothing more I missed than hearing her say something – even if it was about Britney Spears or Destiny's Child.
I took a seat on a bench that was next to a wobbly cart full of wood-smelling clothes and waited for Isabelle. I used my phone, spent time coming up with ways of apologizing, and a crap ton more of random things to pass the time that was steadily increasing.
The sun was already going down and Isabelle wasn’t around. Had she gone home without me? Surely, I couldn’t have made her that mad.
I got up and dusted myself off, keeping an eye out for her. The majority of the people that had come were already gone. The occasional worker walked by, wearing their signature artificial customer service smile, but no Isabelle. Did she really...? A few voices were audible from the back. I headed that way, squinting my eyes, and sure enough that familiar head of curls came into view.
“Yeah, but yours is like a problem.” That came from a girl who stood in front of Isabelle, along with a guy, holding clothes on his arm who looked like her boyfriend.
“You don’t have to be so rude.”
That was Isabelle’s voice.
I didn't know much about what was going on but I knew enough. I clenched my fists and walked towards them, nostrils flared and eyes targeted on the girl. If it was what I thought it was and they were poking fun at my best friend...
“Yours is way too extreme, though. You’re a schizophrenic.”
I stood in front of her and gave her a glare so intense, it could've crippled her and sent her shooting to the ground, but I was going to further it. “I really don’t think she asked for your opinion. And if she did, there was no need to be that harsh. I’m not exactly sure who pissed in your orange juice this morning, but you need to leave. NOW.”
The boyfriend gave me some trouble, but another one of the glares I pulled sent him sauntering out of the store with his girl. I looked down at Isabelle, who was grinning at me, no doubt wondering where I'd gotten that newfound macho-ness from.
“Thanks, Adrien. I promise I won’t shove 90’s things down your throat anymore.”
I shook my head and sighed, knowing what I was about to say was going to change a lot of things. “C’mon. We have a movie premiere to watch and I don’t wanna miss a thing.”
I used the time that she was in shock for making my hasty retreat back to the car, silently cursing at myself and knowing that whatever I had to go through from here on out, I brought on myself.