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Authors: Juliette Caron

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BOOK: Pictures of You
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When I saw Abby—or the girl I thought was her—I called, “Abby!” I didn’t care if half of the people in the subway were staring at me, looking at me like I was a lunatic. “Abby! Oh my gosh, Abby!” I ran after her. I ran as fast as my out of shape Twinkie thighs would let me, bumping into people as tears of relief blinded me. Touching her shoulder, I felt my heart hammering faster than it ever has. “Abby!”

             
Abby turned, only it wasn’t her, it was a girl with braces and purple eyeliner.

             
“Oh. I’m sorry. I thought you were someone else,” I said, a sick feeling creeping up, like hundreds of poisonous spiders inside of me. Abby was really dead. Why did it keep hitting me—like a swift kick in the stomach? When would it finally sink in?

             
“No, it’s totally okay,” the girl said, her mouth full of hotdog.

             
“I thought you were…” Abby doesn’t even like hotdogs. What was I thinking? “You have the same hair. You’re even wearing her shirt.”

             
“Cool, your friend likes The Striped Goat, too? No way.”

             
I laughed a humorless laugh. “My friend
was
The Striped Goat. I mean, she was the singer, the guitarist.”

             
“Whoa, you know Abby Irvine?” Her violet-lined eyes widened.

             
“She was my best friend.”

             
“Was? You mean…?”

             
“She passed away a few months ago.” She passed away. Passed. Away. What a bizarre term. Who came up with it?

             
“No,” was all she said, clutching the front of her shirt, her face crumbling like a stale cookie.

             
“Abby’s gone,” I said, more for my own benefit. “She’s gone.”

 

***

 

              “I want to know who killed Abby,” I said, on my tippy toes, struggling to reach a spider web, in a high corner of restroom number two, with my mop. “I want to know who crushed our plans, our dreams. We swore we’d grow old together, remain best friends until the bitter end. Did you know I’d been saving up for years to take her to Europe? It was her dream. She wanted to go to Europe more than anything. Arghhh. I can’t reach this stupid spider web.”

             
“You never found out who the guy was?” Chris said, gently taking the mop from me and reaching the intricate net with ease.

             
“Thanks,” I said, tossing the mop into the yellow bucket.

             
“No problem.” He grinned that grin that was really beginning to grow on me. It was a shame he was tied up with someone else.

             
“No. Didn’t I tell you it was a hit and run? They were never able to catch the guy. And the thing is I want to meet him. I want to tell him how much he hurt me. I want him to know who he killed, how my life will never be the same. I hate him, Chris. I hate him.”

             
His forehead wrinkled up like a balled up rag. “It’s understandable why you’d feel that way.”

             
“I hate him. I want him to be punished for what he’s done.”

             
“Tember, I’m sure he didn’t mean to—”

             
“I know. I’m sure it was an accident. But the coward didn’t have to run. He should’ve stopped to see if we were okay. I can’t help but hate him. Lately he’s all I think about.”

             
“I understand—”

             
“I guess I’m just angry. It’s just not fair. I miss her so much.” That feeling I was all too familiar with, that despair, overpowered me, along with the gushing tears. For months I was numb, in denial. Angry even. But nothing could prepare me for the pain. Knowing she was really gone. Gone gone gone gone. It hit me like a double-decker bus. It knocked the breath out of me, crushed my chest, slashed my heart up into a million little pieces. How long would I have to feel this pain? How long did this stupid grieving process have to take? “I miss her so much,” I repeated.

             
“I bet you do,” Chris said, standing helplessly.

             
“Why couldn’t it be me? Why couldn’t I have been the one? She was always the better person. Funnier, more talented. Prettier.”

             
“I doubt she could be prettier,” Chris said, looking away, but not fast enough. I caught the flash of red in his cheeks.

             
“That’s nice of you to say, but you’ve never seen her. She was gorgeous…” I shook my head. “Such a stupid waste. Sometimes I daydream that it was me. It should’ve been me. If I’d let us stop for dinner first like she wanted to, we wouldn’t have crossed paths with that stupid brown van. If I’d driven a little more carefully. If I didn’t insist we go on that stupid road trip. She wanted to go next year because her music career was taking off, Chris…If she’d never even met me…”

             
In awkward Chris fashion, he touched my arm. “September, you can’t think that way. It’s not your fault. I promise.
It’s not your fault
.”

             
But I didn’t believe him and the crushing feeling would not let up.

 

***

 

Abby,

 

              I hate the man who killed you. I know you’re not capable of hating anyone being the churchy girl that you are—or were—but
I am
. I know what you’d say. You’d tell me to forgive him. You’d tell me it was probably unintentional, that he probably feels horrible enough as it is, blah, blah, blah. I don’t care. He stole you from me. How can I let that go?

 

***

 

              “I’d like to buy Pacific Avenue,” Mary said, slapping down a pile of pastel cash.

             
I took a sip of hot apple cider and swore when I burned my tongue. “You can’t buy Pacific Avenue. You can’t afford it. Wait—where did you get three hundred dollars, Mary? Oh, you’re cheating.”

             
“I am
not
cheating.” Like a chimp, she exposed her teeth. She was strange that way. She had a whole attic full of strange noises and crazy facial expressions. Where Abby found such weird friends was a mystery to me. Probably the loony bin.

             
“I
know
you’re cheating.”

             
It was a damp and windy Sunday afternoon, a perfect day for staying in and playing an endless game of Monopoly. A tree branch clothed in sunset orange leaves clawed at the living room window in this creepy way. It reminded me that brutal winter lurked around the corner. Life was tough enough without Abby, but I knew it would be harder to face the biting Brooklyn air, the gloomy shorter days, the death of another year without my best friend. We both had suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD for short. They call it SAD for a reason—because it’s actually a type of depression. The lack of sunshine sucked the life out of us. Each winter we hibernated together, armed with stacks of good movies, a three months supply of mac and cheese, hot cocoa and buttery microwave popcorn. We’d pull on layers of fuzzy socks and sweaters, turn on all the lights and practically live on the couch, reading fashion magazines and juicy novels, playing Risk or Scrabble, or watching our favorite dark comedy flicks.

             
“You’re right, I’m cheating.” Mary shrugged, unwrapped a red sucker and shoving it into her mouth.

             
“If you’re going to cheat, then I’m going to cheat—”

             
A soft tap on the door made us both jump.

             
“I’ll get it. But I’m watching you,” I said, almost touching her nose with my index finger.

             
I fumbled to open the door. Standing there looking all smug was one of the last people I’d expect to see on my doorstep: April. The slut who stole my boyfriend, who actually had the nerve to show up—with him—at my best friend’s funeral. Her porcelain skin was, of course, flawless. Her silky walnut hair sat on her shoulders in perfect salon-styled waves. She held a fragrant casserole, covered in foil. I could smell onions and green beans. Although I was ticked, I have to admit the smell did make my stomach grumble.

             
“Tem-Tem,” she said, giving me a half hug, lightly patting my back. I stiffened. Her fruity perfume coated my nostrils.

             
Had John failed to mention our little run in? Because if he did tell my sister I knew she was a back-stabbing traitor, she wouldn’t be showing up on my doorstep like this. Not for a while at least, until things cooled down. Not for a least a decade or two.

             
April and I were close once, about a million years ago. When we were little we’d play Barbies day after day and never tire of it (although April always got to be Barbie and I had to be Ken). When we grew out of playing with toys, we started making gourmet bread together, sometimes making up the recipes and sold them to our neighbors for five bucks a loaf. That’s when I started saving up for the Europe trip I was planning on surprising Abby with. For a handful of summers, around the time April was beginning to develop breasts, we’d hop into our swimming suits every morning and lay out in the backyard, working on our tans. We’d sip fresh lemonade and take turns reading Sara Zarr novels out loud to each other. High school was the beginning of the end for April and me. We found we no longer had anything in common and ran with different crowds.

             
“April,” I said icily. It was the first time I’d seen her since the funeral. The first time since I learned she was a pathetic, cheating tramp.

             
April slid past me and paraded into the kitchen, plopping the casserole on the counter. “Sorry, September. I know I’m the last person you want to see right now.”

             
Mary snorted, clearly amused by all of this. She was engrossed, contorting her whole body so she could be in on the action. This was entertaining to her. I threw Mary a warning glance before shooting daggers with my eyes at my sister.

             
Frowning while touching her obnoxiously perfect curls, April continued, “Look. I didn’t want to come, but Mom made me. She wanted you to have this green bean casserole—you love green beans—and truthfully, she wanted me to come and apologize.” The last part wasn’t easy for her to say.

             
I crossed my arms over my chest. “I don’t care to hear any insincere apologies and I especially don’t want any pity. Not from you, anyway. I’d rather you just go.”

             
“September, we really didn’t mean to hurt you,” she said, fondling the plastic wrap covering my casserole.

             
“Well you did, April. John was mine. He was mine. He wasn’t a book or a doll you could just borrow. He was my boyfriend. I love—I loved him. What were you thinking?” I had to use every ounce of restraint to keep a lid on the tears.

             
“I know, it seems all wrong…but John and I are so
right
for each other.” She placed a hand on her chest.

             
I practically spit out the words. “It
seems
all wrong? Cheating with your sister’s boyfriend? Stealing him away? It
seems
all wrong?”

              “I’m sorry for stealing your boyfriend, I really am. But you can’t make him happy like I

can.”

              It was a low blow. Mary whistled in the background. I couldn’t believe I was hearing this. Who did April think she was? The happiness fairy? “You know what? I’d rather you just leave. Before I
kill
you.”

             
“Do you think you’ll ever be able to forgive us?” April asked, her eyes big and pleading. “September we
love
each other. John’s
everything
to me.”

             
I laughed. “John was everything to
me
, April.”

             
“No, September. Abby was everything to you. It was always Abby.”

             
“Get out of here,” I said, grabbing a vase, threatening to throw it at her. “Get out of my house!”

             
“One last thing. Mom wanted me to remind you of their twenty-five year anniversary party.” She slid a manicured hand into her designer bag and handed me a lavender envelope. “Here’s the invite,” she added before giving me a huge pity smile—the one I hated most—before finally leaving.

             
I stood, quivering like a lilac tree in a storm, staring at the enclosed obligation.

             
“Wow. That was ultra intense,” Mary said, her tongue dancing on the shrinking sucker. “I’m ready to buy Pacific Avenue.”

BOOK: Pictures of You
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