Today’s prompt from Elizabeth S. Craig was to write a story about an old friend needing to stay and what talking about old memories would affect main character. And all of this to written in an hour!
Jackie swiped the fob over the sensor and heard the door unlock. She checked her mail: junk, junk, junk, magazine she needed to cancel, and knitting catalogue to remind her of all those unfinished projects sucking up dust next to the television. She tossed it all in the trash, and then reached back in to grab the magazine. Might as well add it to the stack of the unread.
Up the front steps and around the corner, she flipped her key set and grabbed her apartment key with her teeth. She adjusted everything in her arms so she could actually get into her place.
“Shit!” Of course, everything fell and scattered across the hall; her life was a slapstick comedy.
“Sorry, sorry. Let me help.” The woman started to pick up the papers closest to her. Making as neat a pile in her hands as she could.
“I go by Cilla now. But yeah. How are you?”
“What, what are you doing here?”
“I’m not gonna bullshit you. I need a place to crash. My whole … situation fell apart (I don’t want to talk about it), and I just need a couch for a couple of days to figure something out.”
“I called your mom. Well, actually, my mom called your mom. So I’m here. I won’t be in your way, just need a roof over my head.” Cilla – the name did not yet go with the face – had finished picking up her mess and was looking expectantly at Jackie.
“Yeah, yeah.” She fumbled with the lock but eventually got the door open. “Come in. You hungry? I was just going to order a pizza. There is a great little place that delivers a few blocks away.”
“Sounds good, except I don’t have any money at the moment, so I’ll need to throw it on my credit card.”
“No, no. My treat. Don’t worry.”
“I don’t feel good about that.”
“I was going to order it anyway, so just … it’s fine. Let me buy you dinner.”
“Okay.” Cilla paused. “You got a nice place here.”
“Thanks. I’ve been here for seven years I think, so collected some stuff and slowly, you know, put it together. Sit.” Jackie gestured to the couch. They sat there. Jackie looking at Cilla. Cilla looking everywhere but Jackie. Jackie turning to look out the window onto the fire escape. “Can I ask what happened?”
“Um, we aren’t really friends like that anymore, so I’d rather not talk about it.” Jackie was hurt. They’d been inseparable in high school, and now she was good enough to ask for a place to crash but not good enough to lend an ear. Prissy always told her everything. “Let’s talk about happier times, when I wasn’t begging for places to stay and waiting for my mom to wire me cash.”
“Okay. What’s a happier time?”
“Well, since it’s us here, how about that time we snuck out and destroyed Jason’s yard for him calling you a bitch.” Jackie laughed.
“I was a bitch though!”
“Yeah, but he said it like it was a bad thing!” They both giggled. “I think his parents are still find plastic forks in their yard.” The giggles had become cackles. “He deserved every single one.”
“Definitely.” She remembered that feeling of being two against the world. Prissy couldn’t stand that Jason made Jax cry.
“Remember how everyone always thought we were together; that we were hiding it? They thought they had discovered some big” she opened her eyes wide on the word “secret and kept trying to get us to admit it.”
“Did you keep count of the number of times they dared us to kiss?”
“I didn’t have to! That was your job.” She laughed again. “How many was it?”
“I have no idea anymore. A lot, definitely.”
“It would have been more if someone in this room hadn’t started asking for truth.” Jackie’s jaw tightened just a little bit.
“Yeah, well, the kissing got to be … uncomfortable for me.” Her heartrate stepped it up; she had just opened a door to questions she never thought she would have to answer.
“Uncomfortable how? I thought it got way easier every time someone said it. It was so expected.” Cilla knew. There was no way she didn’t know.
“I noticed you got more flippant about it.”
“And you got more … Oh. … Well, this is uncomfortable.”
“Luckily I haven’t yet ordered the pizza, so I am going to do that and when I get back, we can talk about something completely different please.” Cilla sat there, thinking, while Jackie ordered a pie. “They say they’ll be here in 45, but it’s probably going to be like an hour, hour 15. I hope that’s okay.”
“Actually, it’s Jackie, now.” She nervously laughed. She didn’t know what was on the other end of her name.
“Jackie,” Cilla was nearly whispering and staring at her hands, “is that why you left?” She met Jackie’s gaze, and she was suddenly 16 again and they were Prissy and Jax, having one of their deep conversations about life and everything good and bad and complicated and wonderful and terrifying.
“I left for a lot of reasons. That just made it clear that I had to leave. It flipped a switch in my brain and it wasn’t a game anymore. You don’t just tell your best friend who clearly isn’t into it that you are in love with or whatever it was. you hardly admit to yourself that is what it was.”
“Because of me.”
“No, because I was suffocating there. I was … I couldn’t be me there. You were like the only person I felt like … You didn’t have expectations of me, but that … that was just a toxic subject. It wasn’t you. I … You were great. I just had to get out.”
“I wish you would have told me. It would have been fine. I wouldn’t have let anyone do anything to you. You could have stayed. I wish you would have stayed. I think my life would have been better if you had stayed. You made me … I don’t know … stable.”
“I was only stable because I so conscious of being stable, of being. I was just trying to survive long enough to get out. Leaving wasn’t easy, and it didn’t solve anything. Leaving wasn’t the answer I was looking for”
Jackie laughed. “I don’t think we are those friends anymore, Cilla.”
“Maybe someday we’ll get back there. And I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.”
“You’d have to stick around more than a couple of days.”
“Girl, as it stands right now, I’ve got nothing to give but time.”