School is tiring. Other than the fact I lack friends or acquaintances in this 84,700 square feet establishment, I’m not the kind to reach out to anybody for company. Hence why one can always see me on my own and mumbling to me. I’ve learned from a very young age that everything passes and changes. It would be a complete waste of my time to open up and build relationships with anybody. Especially when I know it will end anyway. So, I don’t bother. Shutting myself out of the world. No person is worth the pain or the time. Well, maybe one person is.
“Emma!” I hear somebody calling my name out. As I take my earphones off, I silently pray it isn’t my teacher bugging me for my unsubmitted homework or the student body president pestering me about being more open to new experiences. I turn to see a redhead wearing a black cardigan with skinny jeans approaching me.
I put my hand up the woman’s face. “No, Julie. I am not talking to you,” I bark at her.
That said woman is Julie. My childhood best friend that I’ve known all my life. Quite frankly, the only person I feel a type of kinship with. She’s… how do I put it? My exact opposite? My foil? Watson to my Holmes? Razumikhin to my Raskolnikov?
“Okay, but hear me out!” She says as she clings to me, making me chuckle. “There's a school thing on Friday and...”
“...and I shall stop you right there,” I stubbornly interrupt her. “Anything that involves you and a school thing is a recipe for disaster.”
She whines back “How can you say that? You never do stuff with me.”
Fine. I won’t deny it. I might have purposely ignored her since last year’s accident. It’s not something she likes to talk about, so I don’t bring it up. Especially, since she would dodge any question of mine asking her about it.
“Still, it’s a no. Whatever it is,” I say plainly. Julie is a good friend, don’t get me wrong, but she disappears too much in social settings. One moment she excuses herself to go to the bathroom and next thing you know it’s 6 pm and everybody, including the football players, has gone home.
She paints a frown on her smile. I feel bad; I do! Just not enough to voluntarily sit through a social event while Julie disappears yet again to go to the powder room to freshen up (her words, not mine).
“Fine! But don’t come running to me when you’re 80 and regretting being a hermit all your high school life,” Julie teases me, still clinging onto my hand as if she’s a koala.
I roll my eyes. “How about, just to make it up to you, we can go to that new ice cream shop down the road?” I ask her, trying to appease the redhead.
“Fine!” She replies cheerfully.
“Okay. I’ll just tell my mom about it.” I tell her, moving away from her koala grip to dial my mother’s number.
I listen to the ringing of my phone while I wait for her to pick up the call.
“Hey, sweetie. Why did you call?” I hear a feminine and motherly voice speak through my phone.
“Hey, mom. Just here to tell you that I need to go somewhere with a friend,” I explain to her while fidgeting with the phone in my hand. Bracing myself for the myriad of questions she’ll be asking.
“Who’s the friend?” She inquires just like clockwork. “Where are you going? And what time will you be home?”
My mother isn’t one to be overprotective about me but since the accident, she always wants to know how, when, and where I am going. I’m used to my mother’s new habit of asking me about everything. She just wants me to be safe...I guess.
“I’m going with Julie to the new ice cream shop down the street from the school,” I calmly reply back.
Silence looms between the two of us.
“I’ll be back before dinner, so don’t worry,” I add, breaking the silence. Hoping for her to say something.
“Emma...” She starts speaking just as I hoped (and feared).
“I’ll be fine! Please stop worrying,” I cut her off. It’s been a while since I hung out with Julie and I want to be able to do so. I just need to make her understand that I am fine. And I will always be fine.
I hear her clear her throat.
“Emma… We talked about this,” she slowly tells me, as if coaxing a child. As if, she is holding something back.
“No! I won’t hear of it. Since the accident, which I’m perfectly not bothered about, you have been overprotective. And I dare say completely overbearing. Please let me have this,” I plead with her.
An overwhelming feeling of heat starts to rise up my throat. I am not mad, it was something else, and I don’t know how to describe it. It felt like my heart broke into millions of pieces. I don’t even want to go to the ice cream shop that badly. I could have just told her that Julie and I can hang out at home. So why do I feel this impending doom coming before me? And why does it feel so familiar?
“Emma...” My mother calls out for me in a calming manner. Almost like to console me. To hold me close like a kangaroo taking care of their youngins.
I hear a faint sob followed by four words that hurt me more than a dagger to a heart.
“Julie is dead, honey.”
I hang up. An overwhelming feeling of confusion came over me. Dead? She was literally right beside me a while ago.
“A while ago… Wait, where is Julie?” I think to myself. Looking around, I gasp to find nothing but air. She is indeed gone. Whizzed into the air like dandelion seeds.
The same familiar feeling rises in me. I feel like I was drowning in my emotions. Nothing feels real or fake. Everything is just there. My knees turn weak. I don’t know what to do.
“She is alive. She is alive.” I mumble to myself like a prayer.
I don’t know why. But, no matter how hard I try assuring myself that she's alive, everything feels more and more fake. Has feeding myself this lie kept me sane? “Stop questioning yourself!” I scream back to myself. Maybe even out loud, but I don’t care about people staring at me. I care about Julie. And the fact that she was alive and well. Is she? I stop my train of thought. My heart started to give me unbearable pain. To remind myself that I live in a reality where she is dead is a terrible punishment to put upon myself.
So, I didn’t bother and wiped the emotions away. I conjured up my Julie, just to see her once again. The curl of her lips, the hazel in her eyes, and the sweet sound of her voice.