Authors: Claire Hollander
175 Varick St.,
New York, NY
Copyright © 2012
by Claire Hollander
reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any
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edition November 2012
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Right Behind Her
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In memory of
If you didn’t
know Eve, she was that girl with the perfect skin, the glossy hair, the figure
that turned your boyfriend into a drooling idiot. You tried not to stare. You
tried not to compare yourself to her, to think what she had that you didn’t.
If you didn’t
know Eve, she was that girl who lost a lot of weight, all of a sudden, who your
boyfriend stopped gaping at, her tiny wrists lost in the turned-up cuffs of a
baggy sweater. She was the girl who had her arm in a sling all year, and no it
wasn’t a sprain, and no it wasn’t broken, and what it was she’d never say:
. She was the
girl who started walking with a limp, the girl who sometimes fell down.
You tried not to
stare. You tried to think of her as someone just like yourself.
If you didn’t
know Eve, she was the girl who one day disappeared.
If you were me,
and Eve O’Meara was your best friend, she came to you in your dreams, throwing
her head back when she laughed, the way she always had, running a few strides
ahead of you on the track, her straight, blond hair whipping in the breeze, her
strides long, and languid. In your dream, she’d be apologizing for something.
She’d be trying to explain why she hadn’t called.
She’d be telling
you everything was ok now. That she was better. She’d be speaking in her same
old husky voice. She’d be leaning forward, so her hair fell across her face.
She’d be telling you about Jacob, as though he were a guy who was worth the
trouble. She’d be telling you how happy he’d been to see that she was well now,
and she’d have tears in her light blue eyes that she’d be blinking back, and
you’d be happy for her too, but also a little jealous, in this dumb-ass dream,
that she’d gone to see him first. That when the miracle occurred, she’d gone
straight to him.
This would be a
nightmare, of course, a nightmare about your own selfish heart, your small-mindedness,
your ancient jealousies, and you’d wake up from it in a cold sweat, wondering
how you’d actually face her.
That’s how I
woke up the first day of school, junior year. My junior year, not ours, since
Eve was out of-the-picture, being ‘homeschooled,‘ so she said. It was the kind
of first day you dreaded, no sign of Autumn, everyone asking too many
questions. I spent most of the day avoiding people, ducking out of the
cafeteria, eating a greasy, buttered bagel right out of the wax-paper cafeteria
wrapper, alone on the grass, on some lonely corner of the green where no one
hung out, not even freshman losers. But more than trying to get away from
people, I was trying to get away from that dream feeling - that tightness in my
chest that made every breath I took come up short.
I hardly had a
real conversation with anyone all day until seventh period, when I had study
hall with Jill Gottleib, my last friend standing. Or last real friend anyway.
Last girlfriend who didn’t get on my last nerve. We sat by the window as far
from Mr. Doyle as possible, passing notes. Mr. Doyle must’ve drawn the short
straw at the English Department meeting, to be stuck supervising last period
Jill had lost
weight over the summer, looked pretty good, her long black hair falling past
her shoulders. Jill used to be jealous of Eve, back when Jill was chunky, and
Eve was Eve. Back when Eve was my best friend, and Jill sometimes didn’t want
Did you hear
about Jacob and that freshman?
Jill scrawled across the top of her
notebook, passing it to me. I frowned, shook my head. What was the point in
keeping track of shit like that?
Eve had bad
taste in guys. It used to amuse me, in a way.
I hope she
doesn’t hear about it!
I wrote quickly
in pencil, the lines thick and dark.
Worse things have happened.
I had to shut
Jill down on the topic of Eve, and stupid-ass Jacob. I didn’t trust myself to
have patience with anyone. I made a show of taking my algebra text book out, as
if that first day crap about keeping up had really sunk in. Everyone had
suddenly started talking about college and the SATs. I was practicing
avoidance, something I was a natural at.
I blew Jill off
later when she asked if I wanted to go over to her house, sit by the pool. She lives
in this crazy beast of a house, marble everywhere, and a pool with a slide and
diving board, and the joke is it’s just her and her parents, and Jill is such a
lazy-ass. “Maybe after track,” I lied.
dinner,” she said. “I’ll make fish sticks.” Jill was an orphan weeknights, both
her parents working in the city.
“I don’t know,”
I said. “I have to check in with Mill, “ I told her. Milly is my little sister,
who’s crazed about the first day of school. She’d been on me that morning about
ice cream sundaes, our traditional celebratory dessert. Not that I was in the
Jill and I
walked together down to the junior parking lot, wilting in the heat, and I
dropped her at her car, an obnoxious red Mustang, much too showy for her,
something her father had chosen. She lit up a cigarette as soon as she got in
the car, and I shook my head at her, and tried to grab it out of her mouth.
“Don’t be such a poser,” I said.
“OK, bitch,” she
said, moving the cigarette to her other hand, and giving me the finger at the
I’d have to get
used to this year slowly, I told myself. Jill, and her little moments.
By the time I
got down to the gym, the locker room was crowded with lots of people I hadn’t
seen since the beginning of summer, including my track-buddies, people I didn’t
actually mind seeing, at first. “Hey Andy-lynn,” Naya said, giving me a
half-hug. Naya was a geek, who always added extra syllables to everyone’s name.
She had blue braces and looked about twelve, but she was a sweet girl, who
mostly minded her own business, though now that that Eve was gone, everyone had
something to say.