We Do This My Way

Esther watches me from across the loft, grinning wickedly. She flips the eggs, innocently as she chuckles to herself. I frown, putting my paint brush down, waiting for her to explain herself. She laughs, “I was thinking. My family has no idea that when Ash moved out, you stayed.” She starts, and interrupts herself in a fit of giggles.

I frown at the mention of my ex-girlfriend. Ash had been Esther’s roommate for five years, and since I spent most nights, I decided to fill her positions as “Esther’s roomie” once she declared she was moving to Oxford without me. Esther took my offer with great enthusiasm, noting that it had essentially been the three of us the entire time. “And since they’ve all been paranoid about the fact that they couldn’t control my dating life, and I could hide it more effectively, I think-”

“Esther- what’s this really about?” I interrupt.

She laughs again, shaking her head as I glare at her. “Nothing. just that I’d pay you to help me fuck with them.” She tells me, placing the eggs in a plate before cracking three others into the pan.

“And why do you wish to get their panties in a twist?” I wonder, eyebrows raising.

She bites her lip, grinning. “To observe the great effect I have on them, of course.”

I sigh, throwing my head back in frustration. “Why now?” I question, glancing back at my painting. She flips one of the eggs, fiddling with the paddle as if to stall in order to get a rise out of me. Her forearms and hands are full of faded ink from all the fiddling she does when she works. Her tapping the pen on her own hands and clicking it in concentration while working ensured that she always had ink somewhere.

“Cause I’m not sure it’d be as fun to go to the family diner alone. Especially not if the other option is to see eyebrows shooting up to the hairline.” She says, grin stretching as she imagines it. I roll my eyes, smiling slightly at how excited she is.

 

“You look dangerously pleased with yourself.” I comment cheekily. Her eyebrows shoot up as a teasing smile replaces her grin. I shake my head and continue painting.

“You’re not gonna think about my offer?” she asks, feigning offense. I scoff. “You and I both know it’d be bloody fun.” She exclaims, ignoring my annoyed expression. Esther stops leaning against the counter to place the eggs into a plate and sighs, placing the plate on the edge of the table nearest to me.

“I don’t think messing with your family is a smooth way to assert our friendship in the future.” I mutter, shifting my stool closer to the table. I nod in cheers before I start eating, and she smiles at me as she chews.

“Friendship,” she mumbles thoughtfully with a smile, “what friendship?” she teases. I hum in acknowledgement, going along with her jokes. “Well, you are gonna have to get used to that mentality if I do convince you to help con my family.” She tells me with a hint of a smile in her voice, and I nod again, too absorbed in the food in front of me to argue.

 

Once I’ve scarfed the eggs down, and successfully ignored Esther’s teasing smile and prodding comments, I get up with a sigh. I scratch the back of my head as I get up to put my dish in the sink. “Thanks for the eggs. I’m going to take a shower before you can shower me with more reasons for going along with your ruse.” I say, narrowing my eyes at her as I back away toward the bathroom. She laughs, rolling her eyes at the pun. “I won’t be in cahoots with a damn slytherin, not today.” I add, knowing in this case she’ll ignore my “house stereotypes,” a common topic for someone who was a huge fan of Harry Potter, even in her twenties.

She laughs. “You can’t escape me for long,” she tells me, voice getting louder as I shut the door behind me. On my way out of the bathroom, I shamelessly walk around with my towel wrapped around my waist. She nods at me from her spot at her desk, smiling when I raise my eyebrows at the lack of whistling. She chuckles, and shakes her head as she looks back down to the pile papers and fiddles with her pen. With a smile, I note that there are almost twice as many accidental pen strokes on her fingers and palm.

 

Not long after Ash had moved out, and even before that, I’d gotten used to Esther’s teasing. At first, she mostly teased Ash about me while I was in the room, but that quickly changed. At first, I wondered why Ash did nothing to stop her, but I soon learned they both thought quirky unnecessary things weren’t to be addressed in an unsupportive way. Times where Esther and I waited for Ash to get home got us spending more time alone, which meant I got used Esther’s unsocial and studious self, as well as her easily entertained and overly-enthusiastic self. There were many days where I’d be with Ash while Esther was around; this got me used to her neutral self. Neutral as in “being sloppy and lazy in all ways possible.” After about a year of having me around, she didn’t care that I saw her come out of the bathroom after the shower, or that if I was already there when she woke up, she’d be a mess of ruffled hair and loose baggy clothes. Ash had hardly cared about it either, and most weekends the two of them were beyond lazy and rumpled.

Ash had been gone for more than six months, but the flat had hardly changed. If anything, there were more books and video games. Ash’s study area had been rearranged to fit my needs; a stack of canvases and paint supplies along with other assorted art supplies surrounded the desk. The flat’s windows were open a lot more now that Ash was gone, since Esther prefered sunlight over pot lights too. Things were nice.

Esther’s parents hadn’t been to the loft since before Ash had left, and she often had them host her instead. I’d met them a couple times, but Esther and I had agreed very early on that minimizing our being under the same roof would be ideal.

 

I sigh as I sit back down on my stool, unsure how to go about continuing the painting. After being so rudely interrupted by Esther’s maniacal thinking, I realized there was no going back to calmly painting, not until I fully made up my mind about the offer. I can’t say I know why I’m still considering it.

 

Esther stays at her desk even after I sit on the couch and set up Netflix. I’m supposed to cook tonight, so after an episode, I set up on the counter. Esther finally gets up as I’m getting the pan out of the cupboard. “I’m going for a bike ride. Call me when dinner’s almost ready if I’m not back yet, okay?” I nod her way, and she shrugs on her jacket, saluting me with her hat as she opens the door.

When she comes back, she looks more refreshed, sliding into her place at the table easily. She wolfs her food down, and taps her fingers on the table as she watches me finish eating. I sigh as she smirks. “What now?” I ask.

She scratches at the nape of her neck, and I narrow my eyes suspiciously at the nervous habit. She shrugs as if to dismiss my staring. “You haven’t stopped thinking about my offer, despite the fact that you think it’s not a good idea.” She tells me, pleased smile ignoring my expression. It’s not a question. She chuckles as I roll my eyes.

“Yes, your devilish thoughts have been mincing in my brain.” I reply. “Happy?”

She smiles. “Extremely.”

“The only thing they’ll think is ‘Why the fuck is she dating her roommates’ ex?’ Followed by a bunch of judgmental thoughts and crude questions. Why would I agree to that?” I mumble, stabbing at the crumbs in my plate. She sighs. “What do you want me to say?”

“Other than ‘fuck yeah, I’ll totes be in cahoots with you, dude.’?” She wonders, sighing when I scoff. “I just want to have a little fun thinking like an annoyed teenager,” Esther explains.

 

I roll my eyes. “Alright fine, if you’re going to call bullshit every time I defend myself, I’ll just be crude instead.” She tells me. I sigh, gesturing for her to continue. “Yeah, I wanna see if I can get a rise out of them. Why the fuck wouldn’t I? I’m just out of Uni, what the hell else am I supposed to be doing if not proving to them that I’ve got this,” she exclaims. “I’ve got to go full frontal, like fucking huge sign and pickaxe with a mob behind me and shit. In a total, thanks but I can handle it from here.”

“I think they’ll just think you’re giving them the I-told-you-I-could-handle-it point of view.” I rebutted with a shrug.

“That’s not my problem, now is it?” She replies, cocking an eyebrow in satisfaction.

I get up, collecting the dishes and sighing when she chuckles to herself. “Yeah, family can be fucking annoying, but tone it down on the cunning slytherin act, would you?”

“Request denied until further notice.” She mumbles pushing her chair in as she joins me at the sink. “I might be making shit arguments about why to do this, but you’re not even trying to convince me not to.” She tells me.

I scoff, scrubbing the dishes. She laughs as I ignore her. “They bloody might as well see I’m handling a job and a steady relationship. I mean, sure, they’re all pleased if they see me with a job, and that’s great, but,” she laughs, “a relationship, fake or not, gets them all worried and chaotic. It’s fucking beyond enjoyable to watch, especially now that they can’t do squat about it.”

“Not that they could do much before, as Ash often told me.” I mutter bleakly. She beams.

The rest of the night, I avoid the topic by bingeing on TV shows and listening to music as I paint. She joins me on the couch until I go back to painting. The music is eventually replaced by her own music as she softly strums on her guitar. She hums quietly until she’s plucked up the courage to sing, and I smile at the familiarity of this moment.

 

The next morning, I’m already up when Esther comes out of her room, blinking slowly as she groans and contorts as if to stretch. She steps slowly toward the counter, yawning and staggering as she grunts and sighs tiredly. Her hair sticks out at all angles and her eyes are hooded by thick stands of wavy hair. “Morning,” she mumbles almost inaudibly, waving her hand awkwardly as she stretches again. I nod, smiling as she scowls and yawns until her jaw cracks. “Ow,” she whispers, scoffing as she turns back to the fridge to get the cold coffee. Her free hand stays on top of her head, petting the hair in order to flatten it.

I ignore her as she goes about her morning routine – one that I’ve seen often enough to know in my sleep and wait until she’s hunched over her cup of rice krispies before addressing her. “What time are we commuting to your parents?” I ask as she looks at me. She chokes on her sip of coffee, grin spreading wide as she hacks and her eyes water. I laugh then, going to my room before she can catch her breath and start gloating. “You won’t get rid of me that easily, Q.” She says loudly, her voice muffled by the door.

 

It takes less than ten minutes for her to walk in. She wears one of her most worn shirts under a loose button up. The sleeves are rolled, exposing her forearms. “Nice to see you in the clothes you wore five days ago,” I say, chuckling as she scowls and slaps my shoulder. Esther had at least twenty shirts, but wore the same five almost every week – not that she didn’t use the rest of them up by layering, of course, as she had rebutted many times when I’d teased her about it. “I’m going to go paint, if you’ll follow me out of my own bloody room.” I mutter, and her mouth closes (she’d been about to say something) as she rolls her eyes and gestures for me to lead the way.

 

We do our own things to kill time, and I wind up almost finishing the painting before Esther talks me into playing video games with her. The tips of her thumb, as well as a few other fingers have ink spots, and there are faded marks from yesterday. Esther laughs as she notices my counting the marks, “It’d be cool to get rid of those with hand sanitizer,” she mumbles thoughtfully, scratching the back of her neck. I continue counting despite her fidgeting. “Stop.” She whines, chuckling as she pushes my face away. “It’s not like you don’t always have paint at least somewhere,” she tells me, poking at a spot near my elbow and tracing a line that approaches my forearm.

I frown and touch at the spot, only to find dried paint there. She pokes at my wrist, drawing another line, and I roll my eyes. “Alright, alright, I got it. We’re both sloppy workers.” I say, getting up and checking my watch. “Time to play couple.” I say cheekily, smiling when she grins. I put my shoes on and open the door to our loft, waiting for her just outside.

“As you wish,” she mumbles, locking the door behind us.

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Girl in the Uniform : Chapter One

Part I – 2002

 

Teacher •

It was odd, I thought, the way Evangeline Doukas and her friends associated themselves. Evangeline was a tall, quiet girl. She was often stiff and awkward, her expressions barely readable.

Only some of her friends were the same. Like Tina, who seemed to be her closest friend but, I’d recently learned, was just close through coincidence and mutual awkwardness.

And as for her Irish twin, let’s just say they were polar opposites.

While Evangeline was tall, with boy-style straight brown hair, and green eyes, her sister–Persephone–was slightly shorter, with wavy dirty blonde hair past the shoulders, and brown eyes. Persephone was quiet too, but not so much as Evangeline, they related in the blank stares as well, but Evangeline was always more to it. That happened with nearly everything.

Evangeline was the type of girl who was rare–uptight, but somewhat lazy. Persephone was more lenient, and less lazy–again, opposites. While Evangeline had to study more to get through some things, Persephone could be ignoring it and get a fairly decent mark. Evangeline was harder on herself, but that did nothing–except stress her out even more.

 

They had an odd way about things. People tended to call Persephone by a boyish, yet simple nickname.

Evangeline had a different way of things. She let people call her what they wanted–so long as it was related to her name. Most commonly, she’d been called Jelly. The odd close friends would call her Angie or Angel. Possibly the weirdest, though were the names given by Tina and Persephone (Jo and Evan). They had justifications, I’d always supposed. The one that was most random, was Jo, which most wondered about. Whenever questioned, they’d just smile and say, “Why not?”

The other thing was that Evangeline called Tina, John. It was the same thing, and it went the same way.

 

I watched the siblings in class, murmuring in rapid-fire French.  They spoke quietly, usually muffled by shyness and their quick speech. Often, it’d seem like a drone of even sounds more than a conversation.

As they packed up, I watched as Persephone waved. Her sister saluted her dully. Percy winced, causing Evangeline to grin. Tina watched, like me. When Evangeline finished, she walked quickly to the door. Pausing, she looked back at Tina, who was still packing. Her lip twitched and she drummed her long fingers on her binder, waiting.

Tina joined her and with a wave my way, they left.

 

Jelly •

I walked stiffly to the next class, John beside me. “Chill, Jo. We’ll make it on time.”

“Amp’s going to be there,” I said, but John shook her head. Amp was the English teacher. His name given from his booming voice.

I was happy it was one of my last classes. We hadn’t got much time left in school and all the exams were completed.

John and I had been friends for ages, but never best of friends.

Gulping as I walked in, I tried to calm down. The sense of claustrophobia overwhelmed me, even if Amp hadn’t closed the door yet, as he usually did. The class seemed smaller, since I was tall. The other kids kept to themselves, even after acknowledging me. There were desk lined in pairs, forming four rows and five columns. Amp started the class up, keeping his voice as low as possible. He set up a movie. “Could have skipped,” I heard someone say say. I couldn’t help but agree.

 

I sat alone, in the back, John in front of me. We passed notes, keeping watch on Amp.

Mainly we talked about sitting and posture. It was in context, because of the people slumped in their chairs in front of us.

At one point, John brought up guys. It was the one thing aside from friendship I hated to talk about.

 

The conversation broke eventually, at which point I started doodling. Nobody got how I doodled. But there were two ways, either I did lines and spirals, or I really vaguely sketched my thoughts.

I drew lines in lines, stopping only when I heard a chair scrape at the front. Amp got up and flicked the lights on. Sighing, I got up.

It was lunch. But I didn’t have food. John noticed, frowning my way. I shrugged dismissively, I wasn’t hungry.

 

Amp •

I cleaned the class, sighing to myself. At the back, in the second rows’ last pair of desk, was a folded paper. I frowned to myself as I walked over. On the desk in front of it was a lined paper with drawn lines and curves. Another paper was cut in different shapes beside it.

Glancing back at the folded paper, I flipped it. There was nothing on it, so I opened the flaps. There, two different handwritings varied only by cleanliness and grammar, opened a conversation. It was odd and brief. Flipping it open once more, I read on. At the bottom flap, a new conversation began.

The scrawled and messy handwriting had better grammar, and the person was evidently annoyed. They seemed to be talking about relationships and guys. It was even more brief than the first conversation. I read it, surprised by the sudden stop in conversation. As I returned to my desk, I couldn’t help but try to remember the people sitting at the back during the previous period. I was curious to know about the trip that one person was going on.

 

Percy •

Evan, Tina and I sat in the stairwell, reading. I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Evan read Unwind and Tina read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Tina had just got into the series after mine and Evan’s constant nagging. She’d been reading them for months now. Evan read Unwind for entertainment. She’d already read it twice, although, I’d read The Perks dozens of times.

 

I rushed off to class, hearing Tina and Laury in the distance. Evan walked beside me, staring at the ground in daze, presumably lost in thought.

Evan and I had Physics next, but it was just be review. Next, we both had a spare. Catching Tina in the halls, Evan smiled. “See ya tomorrow, sucker.”

“Donkey. Have fun.” Tina said. I laughed.

We walked quietly to the house, Evan twirling her key in her hands, looking at the ground.

As we went in, I went straight downstairs. I saw Evan take her laptop from the coffee table.

 

Jelly •

Sitting on the couch., I played Black Ops 2 with Jasper. I’d only been playing Black Ops for three years. With my reflects, I could be like Jasper, who’d been playing for nearly twice as much time.

We had our own plays, where we talked and competed only against each other. We played for hours., even after I shifted from the couch to my room.

My room was at the end, farthest from my father and the stairway. It was fairly large, with dozens of bookshelves filled with things. There was a large desk with a comfortable rolling chair. It had paper on the edges and in the drawers. Beside it, was a three drawer storage compact, mostly filled with junk. In the storage place, just behind the door, I had old school stuff and pictures. It was filled with memories, event after event. Eighteen years worth of pictures and school related things.

Dad got home, but I ignored him knowingly.

 

Dad •

I knew from watching it happen that Angie was upstairs. I could picture her, shifting on the couch until she simply went to her room, closing the door behind her. Most likely, she shifted around in there too.

I couldn’t help but wonder whether she was scared of leaving, scared of what she’d gotten herself into. I worried that she would be worse after the years passed. Years, loads of them, away from home, training and working real hard. She just had two months left.

As I cooked, she came down. Smiling, she greeted me. I smiled at her.

“How was your day?” I asked.

She shrugged. “We sketched in class and watched a movie in another class and then I had Physics. We did review.”

“That’s good.” I noted. She nodded.

“What about you?”

I sighed. “Work, you know. It’s getting there.” She nodded again, understanding flashed in her eyes.

I worked hard to provide for the three children. And even though one was already in University and the other would start soon enough, it was Angie that I worried about. Sure, I had the money and the distinction, but I still worried about her. A fragile, shy thing. I’d tell myself, she’s tall and strong and brave, she’ll make it.

 

Jelly •

It was late, and I was talking to Jasper.

He wondered again and again why I’d chosen UVic, why that specific future.

 

I explained that I wanted a high pay Engineering job. I wanted to be trained to fight and help others with it too. He figured I could have chosen a safe job, and I retorted with snarky remarks until he sounded worried. I got antsy after that, apologizing and mocking myself so that he’d drop it. Overwhelmed by temporary uncertainty, I judged myself openly, wondering what he’d think. He ended the conversation with a string of flatterers, and I chuckled as I got ready for bed.

 

Percy •

I woke to the sound of my alarm blaring loudly. Downstairs, I could hear Dad and Evan.

When I came down, Evan was packing her lunch. Dad ate toasted bread. I got myself a waffle, eating quickly. By that time, Evan was getting dressed.

Soon enough, Evan was reading in her room. I continued to get ready, finishing quickly. Going downstairs, I went on the desktop computer.

And an hour and a bit later, Evan and I were out the door.

 

We walked quietly, as usual. Inside, Evan went to her locker. Lockers were in alphabetical order by first name. Soon enough, I was in class, the anthem playing.

We didn’t sketch. Instead, we played board games.

 

Jelly •

I exited the class, John at my heels. In English, Amp was setting up the board for The Game of Life. I played with Sam and John and Laurey. She was also part of the group. I chose college, even if I knew I wasn’t really doing that in real life.

 

I spent the rest of the day trudging from class to class. At lunch, we hung out with the whole gang. It was the last real day.

It was better than I expected. Only a few people cried. I remained silent.

It was the end, a new beginning. More friends to make, more people to meet.

 

I spent the next day with Cassandra, whom I’d met years before. We managed to keep in touch even though I hadn’t had a class with her since middle school.

The Saturday, I spent with Gran. We cooked and watched TV.

On Sunday, I spent the day in my room, reading. I finished two and a half books.

Monday, I spent with Jasper, at his house. His mom, Lidia was very welcoming. Percy wasn’t there, she had work.

 

Lydia •

Jasper had told me that his friend was coming over only hours before hand. I knew from experience that Evangeline was a great girl. She was kind and helpful, but she was also very quiet and shy. Jasper had been friends with her for many years now. Unlike her sister, she spoke less, and was more critical. She helped around more though, while her sister just stood there. I got to know her a little more through that.

 

The time she and Jasper spent in ear shot was short, but she was always quieter then. I could tell, from the way her expression shifted back and forth. Jasper was used to this. He only accommodated to her changes.

They ate quietly, choosing songs to listen to on the computer. While Evangeline chose rock song, some with mild pop, Jasper was more picky. His choices were more modern and more pop-like. I mostly recognized the one’s from Evangeline’s playlist.

 

Jelly •

Tuesday, I spent at Gran’s, helping her around the house. It was quick, and reminded me of the good times where I stayed with her. Especially while I was younger.

Wednesday, I spent playing Black Ops and reading. It was an empty house.

Thursday, I hung out with Ash, before meeting John.

Friday, I read, in bed.

Saturday, I helped Dad with errands and the house cleaning. We mostly worked in silence, but I didn’t mind.

Sunday, we had diner at our Aunt’s house. Ed had even come over. Ed was our sibling, but he’d started at U of T. He had often slept in the dorms, it had been more convenient. It was short and mostly silent. TV and food were the main things.

 

My weeks off had passed quickly. I was leaving soon. The days had mostly been filled with my lying in bed reading. That, or socializing until I was immensely tired and called quits. I spent most morning trying to convince myself not to camp in the basement playing video games and reading all day. Bike rides and walks often ended with me sitting on the grass in a cemetery, reading my latest addition to the bookshelves that covered my walls. I hung out with Ed every once in a while, but for the most part, he stayed at the dorms. Why, I could never guess.

Now, everything was crumbling away. I would be gone within the next couple days or so. In a different province, alone. I would make new friends, I was sure, and I would definitely keep in contact with the others. But I would be far away. Hours and hours away.

 

I also often spent time with Gran, helping her with the backyard and the veggies everywhere. When I got bored with being at home, I camped at her place and visited Jasper during the evenings.

I got sick a few days before my departure and proceeded to camp up at Gran’s. I felt better, but my fever was still high, so I took Advil. I helped out in the kitchen and backyard.

Late in the day, I took more for the pain and headaches, going to Jasper’s. We spent the time in his room, playing cards and watching YouTube videos. It got dark faster than I thought. My fever went up and I took more Advil.

 

Jasper •

Angie came to my place in the afternoon. She still wasn’t feeling so good, from the sickness and temperature changes in her body. She took more Advil. It messed with her. It was like she was drugged. She had also had loads of sugar, with all the chocolate pudding and Sprite and Candy Sticks.

 

Up on the roof, it was dark out. Her eyes looked distant, in the darkness. Suddenly she looked at me.

She was quiet. Scowling, she pulled out her pack of Candy Sticks, taking one out. She fiddled with it for a while, like a lollipop. When she had finished, she sighed.

“You know, I was happy when I was younger. I was young and I was naively stupid, but I was happy. Thing with Percy were different, quiet, but open. But that changed when we moved. New neighborhood, new school.

“We spent the first year together, buddy to buddy. Then, we made friends, I was alone again, but not for long. A bit late in the year, the groups merged.

“Then, for middle school. I met you, John and Andy. I was happy. I was confident. Then Percy and Cassie got close to you, and I don’t know what happened. I was with Ash and Andy, but felt a loss of sorts. Confidence–gone. You lot became closer, and I was me, with Ash’s help, I felt better, but it still hurt.

“Then we split, and Percy and I went someplace with John. We had the same groups of friends, no better, no worse. It was fine, I was better. We had different paths. I felt better. Now, I just don’t know what to think. Everything is different, just like I wanted. I thought so.”

 

She sighed. Scowling, she drummed her fingers along her ribcage.

We lay there in silence for a while. I thought about all that. The way she thought Percy was more to people. The way not being a people-person made her. The way she felt about the past.

“You know, when we first met, you were the closest I had ever gone to have a best friend. All of my old friends had never been as close as you and me. I knew loads that others didn’t. I liked the facts I could tell about you. I felt close to you.

“All the rare times we had alone, where we’d talk or run, or go on our laptops or iPods, I was happiest. It was great. Just at the peak, though, Percy had to come and take my place. In the back of my head, you were still my best friend. I could never tell you that, of course. I chose the others who’d been closer, out of impulse. Nothing has ever been like that, ever since.”

She remained quiet. I felt touched. I knew this was the truth, because of the way she wouldn’t meet my gaze, the way she spoke quickly, sighing every so often. The way she was frustrated and self-loathing.

 

It took minutes for her to start talking again. I didn’t dare speak. “You know, I had a crush on you in our early days. Three months after we met, I developed a goddamned crush on you. You, my fucking best friend! I’d always told myself I wasn’t the kind of person to like like my best friends. It didn’t take long to realize that my first crush had been on one of my closest friends.

“It was a small thing, never really developed itself. It lasted four months. Admittedly, not the shortest amount of time I’ve taken, but a fairly short one. I never told you. I was convinced it would change things. I was confident enough to say it was going to ruin it all. One of my finest qualities, ruining things.

“Most recently, I’ve learned that I can’t ruin things anymore than they are ruined. I’m leaving in two days. Two short, short days. Not enough to fix all the crap that’s happened lately. All the worry, all the anxiety.”

 

I stayed quiet. Angie liking me?

I knew that we’d been too young. I knew it didn’t mean anything. I knew, also, that she was just telling me to let it out. To let out all her thoughts from different points of her life. I was sure, then, that she was having a nervous breakdown. She was on the process of it.

I laid there for a while, waiting. She got up, looking inside the house. “And that’s my story. See you.” Before I could react, she jumped. It wasn’t high up, and I’d seen her jump from higher dozens of times before, but I was still worried.

“Where’re you going!?” I said, jumping to go find her. She was just lying there.

“I dunno. Somewhere.”

I sighed. “Come on Angie. You can’t take the bus back. I’ll drive you.”

She frowned at me. “Are you mad? Me going home–like this?!”

Sighing once more, I picked her up. She was light. Lighter than I expected, really. “Then you sleep here.” Angie said nothing.

I walked inside the house, taking her right up to my room. I lay her on the bed and took sweat pants and a long-sleeved shirt to change in the bathroom.

Back in my room, Angie was drumming her fingers along the wall in daze. I tossed her a smaller shirt of mine and shorts. She was fine to sleep in with anything. I changed my socks and waited for Angie, who was changing in the bathroom. She came out, the shorts and shirt hanging loosely on her. She may have been thin and light, but she had muscle, loads of it in her calf and arms. Sighing, I went downstairs, getting water for Angie. Feeling her forehead, I saw that she was definitely better. She took the water, thanking me. I flicked the lights off.

“G’night, Angie.”

“Nighty night.”

 

Jelly •

I woke in daze, my vision hazy. I sat up, my head spinning. Beside me, Jasper slept. I stared, wide eyed. What had happened? Why hadn’t I gone home? I checked my cellphone. Nothing, except a text from Cassandra. It said she’e covered for me, but she wanted a full explanation. I sighed. I stayed there, in order to avoid waking him.

Minutes later, Jasper woke. Blinking quickly he sat up. Sighing he looked around the room. “Hi, Angie. You look better.”

I nodded. “I feel better. But one thing. What happened last night?” I asked.

“Confronting. Loads of it.”

“Why?”

“Too much sugar, too much Advil.”

I sighed, “I’m sorry. I bet I made you think too much.”

Jasper shrugged. “I know what happens in your head now. It’s fucking sickening. You were right, it really is hell.” I laughed humorlessly. “Hungry?”

I shook my head. “No, not yet.” Smiling, Jasper nodded.

“I figured. I have an idea.” He told me. I frowned. He tossed me one of his shirts. It was one of the shirts I’d liked the most. A polo with patterns of orange, red, green and blue. He took another for himself. It was his striped red orange, red, green and gray one. “Be right back, get dressed.”

I smiled to myself. As I pulled the shirt on, I heard him in the stairs. “I’ll leave you to it. Meet me downstairs?” I said. He nodded.

“Oh, wait. Here.” Jasper said briefly. He went in his room and came out, tossing me a hoodie. I laughed.

“Thanks.” It was our middle school hoodie, one I’d wanted to buy but hadn’t gotten the chance, given my size. I’d still been short back then.

Jasper drove, while I sat beside him, puzzled by his eagerness. He drove quickly.

“Where are you taking me?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Somewhere.”

“Not elsewhere?” That made him laugh.

“I hope not. That would be a bummer.” I smiled.

Half an hour later, he parked in the parking lot of our middle school. I smiled widely.

“Just like the old days. The better days. The fun days.” I laughed loudly, getting out of the car.

 

I ran out, going straight to the swings. Laughing, Jasper ran after me. He took the larger swing–as he’d always done. We swung high, racing for a while before letting it fall until it stopped. Then, we went to the castle it had more graffiti and more rust than when we’d been there. We sat, talking about the past, the memories. After that, we sat in the slide. We talked some more. We slid, we pushed each other. Just like the old lunch times.

After that, we sat in the front steps, listening to the music and playing on the apps of Jasper’s really old iPod. We slid on the rails as well.

Later, we went to the field. We went to the tree swing first. I was surprised to see it was still there. Next, we went to the tree. We talked about the past some more, then we went on the discuss the types of trees. It sidetracked us to Minecraft.

Afterward, we went to the woods. We sat on the bench, in the treehouse. We walked the whole thing, both sides, the track and the woods. In the woods part, there was a bank and think pines. On the track, there was dry mud and branches.

Going back to the park, we climbed the tree. It was the easiest tree. One of the best. We spent a while there. Next, we went to the alley. We walked in, and traditionally, I flipped the camera off. At the corner store, I bought more Candy Sticks. We talked some more. We went back to the tree.

 

Jasper drove me home, and I called Cassandra. I went to bed early.

I tossed and turned, but I never fell asleep.

 

Jasper •

My phone rung loudly. Disoriented, I looked around. My phone rung again, making me jump.

“Hello?”

“J-Jasper?” Angie said on the other line. Her voice was a hoarse whisper.

I frowned to myself, yawning stiffly. “What are you doing up?” I yawned again. “It’s four am.”

“It is? I can’t sleep. I haven’t slept. I-I. I can’t.”

“Whoa. Whoa, slow down.”

It took a while for her to speak again. Her breath was long and even, stuttering every once and a while on the line. “I think I’m probably having a nervous breakdown.” She gulped and sighed. “I’ve been thinking too much. I think I’m starting to realize I’m probably gonna die if I take this future.”

“Why? Something happen?”

She sighed. “No. It’s just … look at me. I wake up and I look in the mirror and like it’s pretty obvious to me, you know?”

“You don’t know that, you can’t say that. And a lot of what you’re feeling right now is from the confessions of others freaking out.” I told her.

“I know, but it’s … Look, thank you. But you don’t have to try and cheer me up. I’m … I’m actually really okay with it. I’m, you know, okay. I’m gonna die. You’re gonna die. You know? Hopefully a lot later than I am, but that’s just what happens. And, you know, it doesn’t really mean anything anyway.”

I sighed. I thought hard about the way she was acting. “Okay. Angie, right … right now you’re … you’re going through um … an alienation phase. And I know that you feel really helpless, but I think it’s important to remember that this your choice. Your idea. You created this, for the better. You want to help. You want to feel stronger than you really are. You like the suspense.”

“I know. I know that. It’s just … I need–I think … I feel–I just want it to be over. I’m so fucking tired of being pushed around by my goddamned thoughts, I just wasn’t to stop worrying for once.”

I nodded to myself. “Right. It’ll be gone. It’ll be done in just around three hours.”

She laughed. “I hope I sleep most of that time. Look, I’m sorry I was such a jackass on Wednesday.” She told me.

 

“It’s alright. Angie, I feel bad. I was one of those people who couldn’t keep it inside. I was one who said wrong. I’m sorry I was so stupid.

“I feel like a coward. I’m a prick. I didn’t see it. I was blinded by the possibility of a newer friendship. I was sucked into the idea of a different kind of friendship. I was mean not to realize it. I knew something was up, but I could never pinpoint it. Every time I came close, I told myself I’d been wrong.

“I didn’t know about the friendship and the strength and bond of it all back then. I was dimwitted. I became so into the newness, that I forgot to include you as I had before. When you told me I’d always been your best friend, I felt good. I know now. I know I’d made a foul mistake.

“I was somewhat surprised to hear that you of all people could like me that way. It didn’t take long to see that you’d only felt that for a short amount of time. It was no longer, because you saw me as your closest of close friends. I knew you were just telling me to let the guilt of not telling me go away. I respect that. I know you’re stressed as hell. I know you’re confused and scared.” I waited, but Angie said nothing. I sighed. “On the contrary, you haven’t ruined things. You’ve educated me. I know you better than ever. It’s great. Thank you, Angie. You always assume when you’re stressed, with incoherent thoughts. Mostly, you just haven’t done a justification that people can really understand. But here’s the thing. They don’t need to understand. It’s all on you. Sometimes, the people who understand can be determined as the people who care most. You’re too critical of yourself, Angie. You should really see yourself the way others see you. It’ll make you feel so much better.”

 

I could hear Angie processing all that. Her breath was paced. She gulped several times. “Thank you. It means a lot. It says a lot. It helps already.” She sighed. “Jasper?”

“Hmm?”

She gulped. “I’m terrified.”

“Don’t be. It’ll be good. A good experience, a good lesson. Good deeds for good money at a good job. It’ll help you. You’ll feel loads better than you feel now. You might even be happy.”

Angie stayed quiet. I could practically hear her anxious thoughts. I could imagine her, in bed with patterned, baggy clothes. Her expression, unreadable, except for her widened eyes, worried and fearful. I knew she would feel better as the thoughts synced in.

“Thank you. I could never repay you. You’re the best.”

“I severely doubt that.” I said, and she laughed.

“Don’t argue with me. It’s the truth, and you can’t deny it.”

I smiled to myself. Angie was kind. Even when she was just being honest. She was a very modest person, but she’d never come to that conclusion. Whenever it was mentioned, she would shake her head, look at the ground and sigh. Then, she would you look you in the eye and smiled the small smiled she gave when she was embarrassed or feeling momentarily better. But soon enough, all that would pass and she’d just, shake her head once more, and she would deliberately change the subject.

 

I sighed. “Fine. That’s very nice of you,” I glanced at my clock. Sighing again, I said,“Good morning to you. Sleep tight.”

“Same goes for you. Thank you again.” Angie said, sighing once more. I nodded to myself, and the line went dead.

 

Jelly •

I woke at ten to six, to Dad shaking my shoulders quickly. Remembering my conversation with Jasper, I sighed. Even after I’d hung up, I didn’t fall asleep for a while. Downstairs, I had eggs and pudding.

In the five seater car, I sat in the middle, Ed on my right and Percy on my left. I focussed on convincing myself to keep the emotions inside, feeling the lump in my throat.

At the train station, I got out, blinking back soon-to-be tears. The train station wasn’t packed, which was to my comfort. I waited, leaning against the platform post in misery. Dad looked worried. Ed stood beside Percy, looking grim. Percy sighed every once in awhile. I stayed where I was, taking every ounce of my thoughts and energy to not freak out–or let out any emotion whatsoever.

As we waited, my mind wandered, getting used to the state of robotic-ness. I thought about how long the ride to Victoria was going to be. I thought about my friends, the last day of school. The recent teachers, the ones I’d warmed up to. I gulped, sighing. University was going to change it all. Studies for a future military career would change it all. I would find my place, though, I told myself. I was meant to do such things.

More time passed, and I was oblivious to the outside world. My mind was alive, racking, focusing. I could not let go of anything, in these last moments. But at least, I thought bitterly, I still had some spark of hope. Not yet, a single flame of fire, but perhaps on the way there, upon seeing my sort of freedom, my chance.

I thought about Dad, what he must be thinking. The average girl, clumsy and small for most of her life, going away first. His middle child, leaving. Then, Ed, his sister, companion, friend, gone. And Percy, whom stuck with me the longest. The one who could see through me better than others. I would have to thank them all.

 

Jasper •

I woke again, hurrying to get ready. When it was time to leave, I nodded at Mom, who just smiled.

In the car, I racked my brain, checking the time often. I could make it. I should. I had to.

At the train station, I searched, getting in the platform. I found them, almost alone. Angie was more distant, staring away in daze. She seemed to be thinking deep, given the crinkle in the forehead. Her siblings sat side by side, a pained expression upon their faces. Her dad stood not too far, looking troubled. I sighed. Walking over, I waited. She slowly noticed me, blinking a couple times, before really noticing me.

A whole smile lit up her face. It wasn’t the small smile she’d I’ve me when I complimented her, it was the rare, large smile that made her eyes crinkle. She knew this smile, and she always hated it, but I knew it was the best, the one where she was happiest.

“How are you here?” She asked me.

I smiled. “Percy told me. I had to.”

“Thank you. You are the best. I mean it.” Angie said, smiling again.

“You needed at least one proper send off.” I told her quietly.

Smiling, she nodded. Looking around her, she sighed. “I need this, don’t I? This is me.”

I shrugged, nodding a bit. “Sure. You could use it. It will be good.”

 

Smiling, I waved at Percy, who got up, standing beside me. “Thanks for coming.” She said.

I nodded. “Anything, really.”

The train came then, and Angie sighed heavily.

Nodding, she hugged her family. “I’ll email you.”

While she was hugging me, I felt something go in my pocket, but I ignored it. I ignored the worry creasing in my mind. “You’re the best.” She said.

Going up to her dad, she nodded. “I love you.” And with that, she was gone. As she mounted the train, I could see her eyes giving away to the fear. But she and I both knew it would be gone soon. Smiling weakly at me, she waved.

 

As the train blew past, I reminded myself of the times we’d spent together. Sighing, as I turned away, I checked my pocket. There was a note. I shook my head, sighing at my expectancy. Of course she would.