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Best Friends for Life
“J****, Shar! Leave some for the rest of us.”
“’Rest of us?’ You’re the only other one here!” Shari put the piece down. “Besides, you’re already stoned out of your frickin’ mind.”
Laila found this comment especially funny; she burst out laughing, grabbing the pipe. Shari just looked at her best friend and smiled.
The two seventeen-year-olds were sitting on the fire escape just outside of Laila’s room, enjoying their last night of summer vacation.
“I need to fall asleep somehow,” Laila said, clicking the lighter on.
“It’s only eight-oh-five!” Shari started giggling.
Laila let the flame go off and blew out smoke in Shari’s face saying, “Yeah, well, I need to be well-rested for our first day of classes tomorrow. Are you going home soon?”
“No. I’m about to pass out. I can’t make it all the way home. Besides, I want to stay here and enjoy this lovely view.” She turned her head and looked out past the rails of the fire escape and down the narrow alleyway that looked all the way out across the East River. The Brooklyn lights twinkled in the distance.
“Your apartment is, like, a minute away!”
“I can’t make it to the hall, dude. I have no energy.”
Laila started giggling again.
“Fine, fine. You can stay here.”
“And that, my friend, is why you are my best friend!” Shari said, cracking up at her own joke.
Still, she couldn’t even think of a day that they hadn’t spent together, not since they first met six years ago. Shari had been so nervous for her first day of junior high, and her first day of school in a new state. She was so mad at her mom for moving them away from their small town in Utah and out to dirty Manhattan. Everyone was talking loudly to his or her friends during first period, but Shari just sat in the corner by herself. She didn’t have anyone to talk to. That is, until Laila sat down next to her and complemented her top. They continued talking all period, and ate together during lunch, where they found out that they lived down the hall from each other. After befriending Laila, Manhattan didn’t seem so bad anymore.
“Come on, let’s go inside.”
Shari tossed the pipe onto Laila’s tempurpedic mattress before sticking her foot through the window.
“Be careful with Felix! He’s just a baby.”
“Don’t worry, he landed on the sweet cushiony heaven that is your bed.”
Shari rolled over the bed, onto the floor, and walked out the door and into Laila’s living room.
“I thought you said you were about to pass out?” Laila called Shari out on her lie.
“I may have lied a bit. But I need to eat, now. I am serious about that part.”
“There’s some Pirate’s Booty in the cupboard.”
“Thank God. Okay, I’ll be right back.”
Shari sprinted to the kitchen while Laila sat down on her bed. She looked around the room, her room, until something caught her eye. She was still staring at Felix when Shari ran back inside.
“I brought two bags: One for me, one for you. I know, I know. You love me.”
Laila smiled. “S***. I didn’t realize how much I wanted some until just now.”
“Yup. That’s the secret magic of Pirate’s Booty. It’s like, as soon as you look at it, you want it in your stomach.”
The girls quickly ate their snacks, climbed under the covers, and turned off the lights.
“A great end to a great day,” Shari said while smiling and looking over at Laila. Laila smiled back at her as Shar closed her eyes. Laila lost her smile, leaned back into her pillow, and sighed.
“S***! Laila, get up!”
“What…” Laila opened her eyes. “Why are you yelling?”
Shari was already out of bed, throwing new clothes on. “Class starts in fifteen minutes! Can I borrow this shirt?”
“Yeah, sure… Oh, S***! Throw me those shorts!” Laila jumped out of the covers and grabbed a clean shirt off of the floor.
“Shari, really? You’re putting makeup on?”
“Just some eyeliner! You should wear some, too. Maybe then you’d actually look alive for your first day of senior year.”
“Fine. Give me it.” Laila grabbed the eyeliner out of Shari’s hand.
“Hey, I wasn’t done!” Shari did her best to look angrily at Laila, but she ended up laughing instead.
“Trust me, you were. You look like a frickin’ raccoon!”
“Raccoon is in now.”
“Sure it is. Now come on! We need to go!
They burst out of Laila’s room, running to the kitchen to grab a quick breakfast. On the way, they passed by Laila’s mom, Ms. Jones. She was on the couch, sleeping.
“S***,” Laila said when she saw her mom. “Be quiet, or she’ll get pissed.”
Shari did her best to be quiet, setting down a paper plate on the cluttered counter, slowly opening the fridge and looking for food. She found some grapes, and put them on the plate. Laila added some crackers.
“Alright, let’s go,” Laila whispered.
They tiptoed towards the door, but knocked over a stack of bills on the ground. Ms. Jones woke up.
“What the-“ Ms. Jones walked to the front door where Laila and Shari stood. They looked up at each other, eyes wide.
Ms. Jones looked at Laila and Shari, down at the scattered bills, and back up to Laila and Shari again.
“Damnit, Laila! Look at the mess you made! And you frickin’ woke me up when I was sound asleep! “
“Mom, I’m sorry, I didn’t-“
“Shut up! Do you even know what time I got home last night? Four a.m.! And that was after I spent the whole night working my a** off so you can live in this damn apartment and eat all the food you eat and …”
“Just leave,” Laila whispered to Shari. Shari snuck out the door and waited in the hall. She could still hear the yelling.
“I’m sorry, Mom! It was an accident!”
“You ungrateful, little b****! Don’t talk to me like that! Show some respect-“
“Respect? How the hell am I supposed to respect you if you’ve never taught me what respect is?” Laila walked out before her mom could answer.
“Come on, Shari, let’s just go.”
Ms. Jones followed them out to the hall and shouted, “Don’t you even think about coming back here!”
Laila just kept walking. “It’ll be alright. She won’t even remember this by tonight.”
Shari looked up at the clock: two and a half minutes until the bell rang, until the first day of school would finally be over. She bounced her foot up and down, tapped her fingers on her desk.
One floor below, Laila also looked up at her classroom’s clock. She let out a big sigh, stretched out her legs, and leaned back in her chair.
“How were your classes?” Shari ran up to Laila at her locker.
“Fine, I guess.”
“Just fine? Mine were pretty good. I have some nice eye candy in a few of my classes. I still can’t believe we don’t have any together!”
“Yeah, I know.”
“That’s it? ‘Yeah, I know?’ Are you okay, Laila? You were super quiet during lunch today.” Shari looked at Laila, her brow furrowed.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m fine.”
“Are you sure? Because you know you can tell me anything, right?”
“I know, I know! Everything’s fine.” Laila gave Shari her most reassuring smile.
“Alright. So… I heard about this wicked awesome burn place just on the other side of the river. We need to go to catch the three-fifteen subway out! Wanna go?”
Laila looked down at her feet, and paused before answering. “Yeah, alright. Let’s go.”
“Isn’t this place awesome?” Shari put her backpack down and sat on a log.
“Yeah, this is pretty cool.” Laila sat down next to Shari and opened her bag.
“Felix finally gets to see what trees look like!”
Laila couldn’t help but smile at Shari’s comment. But she was too busy getting Felix out to answer. She took out the worn-out Ziplock bag and opened it. Immediately they could smell the pungeant odor that escaped and clung to everything it touched. Shari smiled and leaned back against the trunk. She always became happy just smelling it; it relaxed her. Her thoughts took her to a beach, stretched her out on a lounge chair, and cooled her off under an umbrella.
“You want greens?”
Shari’s lips curled into a smile. “Why, thank you. Yes, yes I would,” she said in a very fake English accent that made Laila laugh.
But the laugh abruptly stopped when Shari let the smoke out of her mouth and handed Felix back to Shari. The smell reached Laila’s nose, and for a second she thought she was really alive, feeling her blood pumping through her veins and hearing her thoughts running wild in her head. As quickly as it started, though, the smell was gone, as was that amazing feeling. She wanted it back.
She eagerly took a hit.
“Whoa, slow down there, tiger. There isn’t a time limit.”
Shari grabbed her water bottle and took a sip while looking at the leaves of the trees blowing in the wind, dancing a little dance just for her.
“This place is amazing. I wish there were actually trees like this in our neighborhood.”
“What do you think happens when you die?”
Shari looked down from the trees and into Laila’s eyes. Laila was looking down. She took her time, answering slowly, “I don’t know. I don’t think that far ahead.”
“What if it isn’t that far ahead? You could die tomorrow. Or in eighty years. We just don’t know. If you had to guess, what do you think happens?”
“Well... I guess nothing. I don’t believe anything happens when you die. You just… Aren’t anymore.”
“You really think so?” Laila looked genuinely worried.
“Yeah. But it doesn’t matter. We still have our whole lives ahead of us! I could die tomorrow, but I’m banking on eighty years!” Shari threw her arms up, and looked back up to the sky. She soon became entranced by the leaves again, and just sat there staring wide-eyed up above.
Laila lowered her head, shut her eyes, and took another hit.
Shari stopped at her apartment door before opening it. “You want to come in and hang for a little bit?”
“No, I’m just going to take a nap.”
“Are you sure? Family Guy is on…”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m tired.”
“Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow for school! Don’t wake up late this time.”
Laila turned to walk back to her apartment without saying anything to Shari.
“J****, Laila. Answer your phone once in a while.” Shari stood outside Laila’s door tapping her foot. “We’re going to be late, get out here!”
Laila’s mom opened the door. Shari cringed. “Hello? Oh, Shari.”
“Yeah… Hi, Ms. Jones. Is Laila up yet?”
“Why don’t you go check?” Ms. Jones walked back inside, leaving the door open. She went straight to the couch and laid back down
Shari walked inside Laila’s room. Laila was still in bed.
“You’re still sleeping, Laila? Are you kidding me?”
Laila didn’t move.
“Come on, get up.” Shari shook her shoulder. She still didn’t move.
Shari looked next to Laila’s bed: A completely empty bottle of Tylenol p.m.
“Oh, s***. Ms. Jones! Call 911!” Shari started shaking Laila, harder this time. “Come on! Wake up! Please, please wake up!”
Ms. Jones walked in. “J****, what is going on…” She looked at her daughter, unconscious on the bed. “S***.” She ran out to the kitchen and grabbed the phone.
Shari started to cry now. “No, no. Laila, you can’t leave me. Please, just wake up!”
She looked back over to pill bottle, and saw a folded up note with her name on it. She stuffed it into her pocket.
The medical examiner wheeled Laila’s body into the back of an ambulance. Ms. Jones sat on the steps of the apartment door with her head in her hands. Neighbors stood on the sidewalk, not talking, not sure what to do. Shari watched everything from the fire escape outside Laila’s window.
She had the note in her hands, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted to read it yet. But she knew she had to. Slowly, she unfolded the note.
I think that when you die, you go to your favorite place in the world, and stay there forever with your favorite people in the world. It certainly will be better than this. The only time I felt like myself, that I felt alive was when I was high. That’s not a way to live. I don’t want to drag you down with me.
That was it. Those were her final words to her best friend. Shari really started to sob then. How could she not have detected that anything was wrong with Laila? Shari was supposed to be her best friend, but she couldn’t even detect that Laila felt this way. Sure, she had seemed off the past few days, but not enough to kill herself!
Shari went back into Laila’s room, grabbed Felix, and threw him out the window. She watched the blue and black glass shatter on the street below.