Rainbow Socks This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

September 26, 2009
Natasha woke slowly, consciousness regained, eyes closed. The shrill sound of her alarm clock was faded by the sharp pounding in her head. She lay there for awhile, wishing the headache would stop. Finally she peeled her eyes open, and glanced around her room. It was small, and the baby pink walls that she had so adored as a toddler were almost covered with posters of Anime characters and metal bands. The window let through a small stream of gray light, the sun straining through huge December clouds.

Natasha sat up in bed, feeling overwhelmingly distressed, but she couldn’t remember why. And then her eyes fell to her alarm clock. 1:00 PM. It was Sunday.

“Cassie,” she whispered with realization.

Beside the clock was a bottle filled to a fourth with vodka. The reason for the pain in her head. But not the only reason.

She reached for the bottle, but found she couldn’t swallow. Her throat was tight and her eyes were welling with tears.

Natasha put the bottle back and tried to stand. Her knees felt incredibly weak, and it took several minutes to make her way out the door, down the hall, into the bathroom.

Looking in the mirror, Natasha could hardly recognize herself. Her eyes were bloodshot and swollen; the pale white, blemish free complexion she was so proud of was splotchy and ruddy. Her raven black hair was a mess; it hadn’t seen a comb in days. Running her fingers through it, she recalled that she had cut it herself only three weeks ago - with Cassie.

“Your mom’s going to kill you,” Cassie laughed as she helped Natasha sweep hair off the bathroom floor when she had finished.

“I like it.” countered Natasha gazing at the asymmetrical style in the mirror. “Besides, Janet won’t notice a thing. She never does.”

And she was right. When the two girls walked down the stairs, they were all but invisible.
Natasha’s mom and stepdad had been in a heated argument about the refrigerator, and Natasha hurriedly let Cassie out before it got ugly. Sure enough, the yelling turned into throwing, and her stepdad stormed out the house and didn’t return for three days.

Natasha sighed. Cassie had always been there for her in times like there, but now - she gazed out the tiny bathroom window. Light, powdery snow had just begun to frost the yard. But now, she thought, she’d only be a cold, lifeless shell, buried deep under the frozen ground...

Her stomach lurched. She turned to the toilet and dry heaved. Violently, continually. Her body shuddered, she gasped for breath. Nothing was coming up; she’d barely eaten for days, ever since...

Her hands found a drawer, where she grasped a prescription bottle halfway full. She popped a tiny pill into her mouth, and forced her breathing to calm. They were her mom’s, but she had so many, she rarely missed a bottle or two.

She mechanically washed her face, brushed her teeth and combed her hair. She shuffled back to her room, dazed.

“Okay,” she told herself. “You have to get dressed and go see Cassie. Say goodbye to her, one last time.”

Natasha walked to her closet, and flung the door open.

Natasha’s wardrobe was simple: all black with a few accents of red here and there. She searched methodically for a dress. She knew she had one somewhere, a plain black one. She looked through shirts and jeans, tank tops and shorts, but couldn’t find the dress.

“Dammit,” she muttered, pushing past the clothes and reaching to the back of the closet.

She stepped over empty shoe boxes, grabbing a pile of clothes that had fallen off their hangers.

She found her dress under a sea of old blue jeans and ripped undershirts. Stuffing her clothes back into the closet, she spotted a bright pair of socks. They were striped, and all the colors of the rainbow. They still had the tags on them.

Natasha instantly remembered that Cassie had bought them for her right before their freshman year. They’d been at the mall, where they saw the multi-colored socks.

“Natasha, aren’t these the cutest socks? You should buy them,” she’d squealed.

Natasha had declined, making some sarcastic remark.

“You’re always so dark!” Cassie teased, “Here, take them,” and she bought them for her.

They’d left the store laughing. Arriving home, Natasha had immediately thrown them into the back of her closet and forgotten all about them.

Staring at the socks, all the memories of that night flooded back into Natasha’s mind. The last time she saw Cassie. She sank to the floor and wept.

“You shouldn’t smoke. It’s bad for you,” said TJ sarcastically, rubbing a fine white powder under his nose. “Didn’t they ever teach you that in school?”

“I probably skipped that day,” Natasha’s speech slurred. She’d already been wasted a good half hour ago, but hey, what was one more joint?

It was a typical Friday night for Natasha. She and several kids from school always met at Crystal Jordan’s house to get high and talk about their crappy home lives. Crystal’s dad was never home, but the mini bar was always stocked.

Leslie Peterson, a senior, came over to Natasha with two cans of beer. One she handed to Natasha, the other she kept for herself.

“Here’s to having a sucky life,” Leslie raised her can in a mock toast.” Recently, Leslie had found out that her mother had gambled away all her college savings. She spent a lot of time at Crystal’s now.

“I’ll drink to that,” agreed Natasha, popping the tab and taking a big gulp. She’d never been that fond of beer, but this week had been a particularly horrid one.

Lots of fighting. Lots of yelling. Lots of throwing. Natasha’s stepdad punched a hole in the wall Thursday night and left, with her mom screaming for him to come back. Natasha’s mom cried for four hours, then took multiple sedatives and stayed in her room. She still hadn’t come out when Natasha left for Crystals.

“Hey wa-want any-y?” stuttered TJ, holding a ziploc bag filled with the white powder.

She shook her head, took another drag of her joint and leaned back on the vomit encrusted couch. She closed her eyes, listening to the discordant melodies of Marilyn Manson in the background, and tried to forget everything that had happened since her real father left when she was 7.

“Na-Natasha? Is that you?” a voice whispered urgently.

Natasha’s eyes popped open. It was Cassie.

“Cass? Wha tha hell you doin here?”

Ever since high school started, Natasha and Cassie had become part of two totally different groups. Natasha hung out with the emo kids, the punks, the skaters, and the stoners. Cassie was always surrounded by her church friends, cheerleaders, and kids in the Honors Society. They never talked to each other’s friends. They were as different as day and night, but somehow they managed to maintain their friendship. Natasha couldn’t believe that Cassie had come to Crystal Jordan’s house.

“I ran out of the house. I hate my parents. Hate them.” Cassie was shaking.

But Natasha didn’t notice.

“Join the club,” said Natasha nonchalantly. She hopped up and headed to the kitchen.

“I’m serious, Nat . I don’t know what to do.”

Natasha reached into the refrigerator and grabbed a can of beer. Cassie snatched it out of her hands and began drinking.

Natasha stared blankly. She’d never seen Cassie drink. Ever.

When she was done, Natasha asked: “So what’s the problem?”

“I...” Cassie trailed off. “I don’t know if I can talk about it right now.”

“So you drove all the way over here to not tell me anything?”

“I just had to get out of the house. And you’re the only one I can talk to-- about this.”

“So what’s the big deal?”

“I’m not talking about it right now!” snapped Cassie.

Natasha stepped back, stunned.

The girls sat in stony silence, Cassie drinking, Natasha smoking.

Finally Cassie glanced at the clock on the microwave.

“Past...mid...night..gonna...go...now,” Cassie staggered through the kitchen.

If Natasha had been sober, she would have clearly seen that Cassie had drank several beers and was in no state to drive.

But she wasn’t, so she didn’t.

In the back of her mind, Natasha could see how hurt Cassie was. But she was too high. Too high to care.

Natasha made her way back to the living room and fell asleep on the couch.

Natasha woke up around noon. She helped Crystal clean up and kick the last few stoners out. She headed to Cassie’s house, thinking about picking her up and taking her to pizza hut, their favorite place to hang out since 6th grade. Then they could talk.

Natasha ran up the steps and rang the doorbell. Cassie’s mom opened the door. Her face was gaunt and weary, her hair wild and tangled. She looked as though she’d aged a hundred years since Natasha had last seen her.

“Um, hi,” said Natasha. “Is Cassie home?”

At this, Cassie’s mom let out a strangled cry and began sobbing. Cassie’s dad had quickly come and put his arms around his wife.

We’re not taking any visitors, he’d said. He explained in a haggard voice, but Natasha only heard a few words: Middle of the night, drunk driving, 18 wheeler, swerved....

Cassie was dead.

Natasha had no idea how long she’d been sitting on the floor crying. When she eventually dried her eyes, she saw the socks Cassie had bought for her. She slipped the dress over her head and the socks over her feet. She stepped into some black heels and looked at herself. The socks reminded her so much of Cassie. So bright, even when everything else around was so dark. Then she walked out the door to say goodbye to Cassie.

One last time.

Join the Discussion

This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

mackadoodle30 said...
May 20, 2010 at 3:34 pm
Wow that was amazing! I almost cried at the end. You're a great writer and I would really love to read some more of your stories!
BriarRose This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 14, 2009 at 8:29 pm
wow, tear-jerker much! i loved it!
Rachael M. said...
Oct. 23, 2009 at 8:27 pm
I loooooooved it! You're a great writer!
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