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Today, I rubbed the last chip of silver paint off of the necklace that Felicity gave me for Christmas. I didn’t do it on purpose, but yet, there laid the tarnished copper half of a heart in my palm, chain draped over my fingers. I gazed at the word etched onto its face: “friends.” Hers says “best.” I folded my hand around the charm and pressed it to my chest. We both knew it’d lose its shine one of these days.
The past few days, the dullness was becoming more and more evident. The one-word sentences and sideways glances all but froze me into a statue. As her eyes met mine, their vibrant turquoise instantly became marble. Stone. Dead. Maybe she hadn’t even been looking at me. Maybe she was looking at a particle of dust in the dense, sweating air suspended between us. My nervous, twitching fingers begged for something to do. They quickly found my necklace and clutched that half-hearted “friends” like a baby holding a teddy bear.
I played it cool as she walked by, but as soon as she turned the corner, I shut my eyes and gulped down the air that I had forgotten to breathe. The oil from my hands and the poison from her silence corroded some of the shine off of my necklace.
I weaved my way between the bodies in the hall, scrambling to get to class by way of the most roundabout route possible to avoid the proximity of Felicity’s locker.
“Hey, wait up!”
Christian fell in step beside me. My nerves seized up. I flashed him a smile, but then clamped my mouth shut in case there was something in my teeth. Great. The death stare from Felicity, the long journey to yonder Spanish class, and the unanticipated presence of Christian produced a river of sweat flowing between my shoulder blades.
“Hey, do you need a ride to the game tonight?”
I choked, “I’d love one, thanks.”
“Okay! See you later, then.”
“Yeah, see you.”
Oh, where was Felicity when I needed her? I’d never even told her that I liked Christian. And now he was driving me to the game!
The guilt of the untold secret clung like mucus to the back of my throat. As I slid into Spanish class, my thumb traced over the letters on my necklace. F….. failure……R…..rejected…..I……idiot- Aren’t there more productive ways to think? This friendship that once gripped so tightly around my neck and rested over my very heart was losing its luster fast. As my thumbnail etched over the E, another chip of paint flecked onto the ground.
Spanish class came and went. As I hoisted my books up onto my hip and trudged out into the hallway, I felt like some sort of one-girl infantry marching into combat. I just wished she’d tell me why she wasn’t talking to me.
I swung my locker door open and heard a loud “thud” behind me. Felicity’s locker usually got stuck and refused to open without a good kick. I’d know that “thud” anywhere.
I focused intently on the back wall of my locker and made it my life’s mission not to look at her. A fleck of silver paint flittered down to the bottom surface of my top locker. I peered down at my necklace; I hadn’t even noticed that I had been picking at it.
I whipped around and darted into the lady’s room, the far corner stall. I locked the door, sat down, and unclasped the tiny symbol of this supposed eternal loyalty that we both were so selfishly taking advantage of.
The original shimmer was gone. No more hugs for no reason, phone calls just to say “hey,” and “I love you”‘s as we pass each other in the halls. The wave of something new had washed over us and shattered behind us, but the firm alloy of commitment dangled from its chain, sterling as ever.
“Friends.” The copper charm swung in front of my face. We both knew it’d lose its shine one of these days. Nothing sliver can stay. But as I clipped the necklace back on, I was surprised by a sudden rush of liberty. It may be tarnished, but paint is made to chip off; the metal is the real substance. Yes, it’s tarnished, but no matter how shiny you paint it, it’ll always be strong. That’s why I still wear it. It may be tarnished, but it will always be strong.