Her Last Friday
Three months ago, the girl had three months to live. On her last night, she is already in pajamas. Pink billowy pants with blue half-moons that splotch the legs. A thin cotton top with no bra. The girl has popped a bag of microwave popcorn, bought a coke from the machine in the common room. Heather sits next to her on the bed, talking about a boy she plans to meet. They wipe grease from their fingers with paper towels. They take sips from soda without letting the can touch their mouths.
On this last night, the girl soon to be killed listens to Heather describe a boy from their history class. In their case, signs and portents and omens are things to believe in hindsight. Strange feelings do not pervade the air, clocks do not stop, owls do not hoot in their direction. For now the girl still has her skin and breath and a chipped bottom tooth from roller skating when she was young. Her feet are bare and she stretches her toes absentmindedly.
You’re talking about the one that sits up front? the girl asks. The one with dark hair? The one who’s always raising his hand?
Heather nods, searching her friend’s face for approval or disapproval. But the girl’s expression doesn’t change. Her eyes stay on the television. She’s started a movie, and when this one’s over, she plans to put on another.
Come on, Heather urges. It’s Friday.
I’m aware of that, the girl answers. It’s Friday and I’d rather be watching a movie. She smiles. It’s social suicide. Should I be ashamed?
Yes, Heather tells her. You should be very, very ashamed.
Of course, the girl laughs, I very, very am. Shifting her weight on the bed, she crosses and uncrosses her arms.
Every week it’s the same, Heather, she says. Every week it’s a new boy.
Heather knows the girl hasn’t meant this as a compliment, but she can’t help but grin. She pretends to yawn to hide it and covers her face with her hand.
It has only been three months since Heather and her friend settled into this place as freshman, as neighbors on the same floor. It took Heather only a few days to find that she liked this girl. It took her a few weeks before she was sure the girl liked her. She’s learned her friend can be uncomfortable and reserved around those she’s just met. That she’s the type who always does what others ask without ever asking anything for herself. That she is easily manipulated, in tiny ways.
And it works. A half-hour later, the girl has put on a second movie but isn’t watching it. Instead, she’s leaning over the clutter on her desk, toward a small mirror she’s propped among the books and papers.
She groans. A groan Heather will always remember.
I can’t get it right, she pouts.
Even though the party hasn’t started yet, will not really start for another couple hours, Heather is impatient: It looks okay, she says. No one will even notice.
That’s what I’m hoping, the girl remarks.
I didn’t mean it like that, Heather tells her. You know I didn’t mean it like that.
The girl studies the reflection of her face. She scoffs and points at the television. Stop watching me, she laughs. Watch that instead. It’s my favorite part. It always makes me cry when I’m alone.
Don’t cry now, Heather warns.
No, not now, the girl exclaims. And mess up all this?
Heather’s rests her gaze on the television for a moment before letting it slink back to her friend.
You know, she says, you don’t have to be shy tonight. You don’t have to be if you don’t want to.
The girl inspects one side of her face, then the other. I can’t just abandon myself, Heather, she says. I’m not sure you understand that.
Heather glances back at the television and considers changing her mind. She picks up the can of coke from the edge of the dresser. They could stay and watch the movie together. She could lower her head on the girl’s shoulder. The way she used to with her mom when the big house was quiet except for classical music on the radio and the cats scratching up the furniture. But Heather doesn’t say anything, doesn’t speak. Her friend continues to apply mascara, to brush on blush. When she asks, Heather loans her a pair of heels. When she asks, Heather approves of her choice of skirt. Then they put on their coats and slide out of the dorm in the direction of the party. The place where Heather will lose her friend. The place where Heather will allow her friend to be lost.