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She just showed up on my doorstep, literally one of the last people I would expect to see. I’m chilling on my computer, Saturday afternoon, still in my pajama top and in my glasses not contact lenses, with no makeup. Luckily my top was new, and I’m wearing shorts instead of the skirt that I almost put on.
The doorbell rings. I wait for Dad to get it. No sound. I wait some more. Still nothing. I sigh, put my laptop on the couch, not bothering to close it. I hesitate, then peek out the window, hoping whoever it is isn’t staring around, trying to catch a glimpse of whoever’s home. I see blonde hair and a flyer, and figure it’s a teenage girl trying to earn dog-walking money.
We don’t have a dog.
I scurry around to the door, open it, notice that the rug could use washing, look up.
“Hello!” It’s automatic. I don’t say what I’m thinking, which is, What the he**? Am I dreaming?
“Hiii.” Her voice is just the same as I remember. “Hey, I, um, I’m doing my silver award for Girl Scouts—” you’re still in Girl Scouts? I think. “And I’m collecting personal hygiene products for the homeless shelter.” She hands me a flyer. I glance down. It’s blue, with her handwriting across the top, “Katie,” and too many smilies to be professional.
“Cool,” I say, still automatically. “Wow.”
“Yeah,” she replies. We’re both grinning, me happy to see her but still wondering if I should pinch myself or slap her across the face. “So, uh, you still running?” That’s where this he** started, six years ago. Not he** to start, but he** to end.
“Um, a little,” I lie, opting for the filler word with a concrete ending. I don’t want her to notice how my tummy poofs out. She doesn’t have one, still stick skinny. She could be in fourth grade. “You?”
“Not really,” and I’m instantly shamed for my lie. I’ve never had the guts to tell her the truth about me. “It’s not much fun when you’re alone, you know?”
Da**. Why do we have to click on this? It’d be so much better if she ran and I didn’t, and then she could walk away and I wouldn’t have to be the same as she was. “Yeah,” I agree. “I know.” More than you can imagine, I add silently. “I’m biking more,” so I don’t sound fat.
“Yeah,” she agrees absently, nodding, still grinning. “Hi!” My dad must be behind me.
“Hi Katie.” He’s probably out here to make sure a lunatic is not murdering me. He has no idea. He walks away again.
I smile, ignoring the panicky guilt in my gut. I haven’t done anything, I tell it. “Well, I’m coming back next Wednesday, so….”
“Cool. Okay. Thanks.” For ruining my life and coming back to stare me in the face and ask for something. I bet your mom made you do it. She always liked me.
“Mm-hm. Thank you!” She nods again, turns around, walks quickly down the sidewalk, not bothering to pick her flip-flops off the ground. I recognize her mom’s car parked behind the tree. I close the door, turn back to my dad.
“What was that all about?” You tell me.
“She’s getting her Silver Award in Girl Scouts and is collecting personal hygiene products for the homeless shelter.”
“Didja give her any?”
“She’s coming back to pick them up next Wednesday.”
“Yup.” She always said that. “Yeeeup.” I turn away, go back to my computer. The phone rings. I ignore it. I look her up on Facebook. She friended me last year. She didn’t even wish me happy birthday last months. She did last year. I bet her mom made her do it.
Dad comes into the room, holds out the phone. I ignore it. “Please take this.” I do, keep scrolling down her page. “Hey, wtf? why dont we hang out more???/ xoxo” Katie is now friends with Matt and 27 other people. Katie wrote on Jesse’s wall. Katie added Tori as her sister. She told me that she was tired of Tori, that Tori, her “bff” of 12 years, had “gotten too annoying”. At the time it didn’t occur to me that that might say something about her value in friendships.
“Say hello,” my dad says, waving at the phone.
“Oh, shoot,” my mom says.
“Hi, honey.” She tells me where she’s going for lunch. I don’t care.
“Guess who just showed up on the porch, asking for personal hygiene products to donate to the homeless shelter for her Girl Scouts Silver Award?”
“Katie.” Her name is so beautiful.
My mom inhales. “That took a lot of guts.” Her tone is hostile. She goes on a sarcastic rant about how she would have never shown her face again after that, let alone ask for something. This is why I don’t like to tell my mom stuff. It makes her happy when I do, because she says I’m too private, but then it comes back to haunt me years later.
Right now, I don’t care that I threw up from crying so hard. I don’t care that never called me back, that I always had to try to keep her, that she kept walking away subtly while accepting all my invitations. I always thought it was because she didn’t like me, because I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. I’d just realized yesterday that I didn’t think about her anymore, that the “What-ifs” were vanishing, one by one. The M+K heart in the pavement that we claimed as ours didn’t make me close my eyes and hurt anymore. Now, I want her back again. I don’t want someone to trash-talk her, because maybe she was just too young to understand. I never told her anything, really. I want her back.
I say Yeah and nod at the phone a lot. My tummy has the same foreboding feeling, and I wonder what I’m going to screw up this time.
“So call me later.”
“Love you too. Bye.” I hang up. I want to be alone, but I need someone to tell me the answers. But there are no answers, because they haven’t happened yet. Next Wednesday.