My Best Friend Forever

By on Apr 13, 2010 in Fiction

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Sad girl with road landscape

I stared out the window and watched the freshly-manured field pass by. Erica sat next to me, sleeping, her head on my shoulder, her mouth open. I caressed her arm and thought back to what Mrs. English, our history teacher, had said on the first day of school. She asked us where we wanted to be in five years. If she’d asked me when I was twelve, I wouldn’t have said, “On a bus, with my best friend, running away to New Mexico.”

My life changed when, on a Monday, two weeks after the junior prom, Erica came to school with her auburn hair cut shorter than mine and dyed white. Instead of her usual jeans and blouse, she wore a miniskirt and t-shirt. The principal sent her home because she wasn’t wearing a bra. The next day she gave Mr. Phillips the finger in math class. I’d never seen her do that before. By the looks on the faces of the other kids, neither had any of them.

I waited for Erica outside the detention room that afternoon. Neither of us spoke until we reached her dad’s rusted pickup.

I asked her what was wrong. When she looked at me, I saw an anger in her eyes that had never been there before.

She told me to leave her alone. Those weren’t her exact words, but that’s what she would have said if she wasn’t so upset, or crazy, or possessed, or whatever it was that made her use the “F” word. When I asked again, she slapped me, hard. I rubbed my cheek and stood there unable to speak. We’d known each other since second grade, and that was the first time she’d struck me.

I thought back to how Erica looked at the prom and wondered what had happened to create the alien that stood in front of me now. I couldn’t believe how nervous I felt that night, standing on her porch, my hand cocked to knock on the door. She was the only girl I’d kissed on the lips, and the first girl I’d seen naked, after she dared me to go skinny dipping when we were eleven. She’d waited with me in the hospital when my dad had his heart surgery. It wasn’t like we were strangers, but this was our first real date.

When Erica came down the stairs in her prom dress, I realized she wasn’t the tomboy I used to play with, or the study partner who helped me pass my biology final. She was a woman, with parts I hadn’t noticed until I saw her in that gown. My mouth went dry, and my hands shook so much her mom had to pin the corsage in place. I know it’s a dumb thing to say, but that night was magical for me, and by the look on her face when we danced, it was for Erica, too. We kissed on the way home, and she let my hand explore. I didn’t touch her in certain places, not with my dad in the car.

Erica opened the truck door and lifted her foot to get in. I grabbed her arm and yanked her back. She dropped her books, then stared at me with the same anger in her eyes. I put my hands on her shoulders.

“Talk to me. I want to help.”

“Go away, damn it.” Her eyes bored a hole through me.

“No.” I met her stare with one of my own. “Come on. We tell each other everything. I need to know what’s wrong.”

Three guys on the baseball team and a couple of girls walked past. They looked at us but didn’t say anything. I watched them cross the parking lot, then turned back to Erica.

“Please, tell me.”

The anger in her face turned to pain. She looked at the ground. “I can’t.”

“Sure you can. It’s me, Jeff. The only guy who’s seen you naked.”

The skin around her eyes loosened, but she didn’t smile. Nor did she say anything.

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Jim Harrington lives in Huntersville, North Carolina, with his wife and two cats. His stories have appeared in Apollo's Lyre, Every Day Fiction, Bent Pin Quarterly, Long Story Short, MicroHorror, Flashshot and others. He currently serves as a flash fiction editor for Apollo’s Lyre. You can read more of his stories at Jim Harrington Online.