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Moth to a Flame

Her name came from the Latin for victory. Victoria was meant to be for a strong child, a child who would conquer all in her path. In some ways she was; she was stubborn and honest, and made sure that everyone knew what her opinion was. She was never bullied. She was a tall girl, and strong enough to deter any sort of taunting. She also made it clear that she wouldn’t tolerate it, and that attitude did more than her height or her muscles to make bullies steer clear of her. She wasn’t a bad person, and she was generally happy.
She was little conflicted now, but it was a passing feeling. She didn’t dwell on negative things for long. Victoria liked Adam. Really liked him. Smiled just thinking about him. She wanted to kiss him sometimes to feel him smile into her lips.
But so did Abigail.
Victoria wasn’t the smartest girl, or the prettiest, but she was very open, and people found themselves drawn to her. Vicky had no problem admitting that Abby was the brains of the duo, the calculating one. The one who did everything for a reason, who analyzed everything and then acted. That was the difference between them, the thing that made their friendship work so well. One of them relied on emotion and desire, and the other relied on logic and precision. They complemented each other well.
Then came Adam. They disagreed in every other matter, so why did they have to agree in this? But they did agree – he was cute. He was fun. He was smart. He was the kind of guy you grew up and married. He was the kind of guy you waited for.
Vicky wasn’t given to introspection, and this time was no different. She saw the situation in its simplest terms: a battle, a rivalry. She felt refreshed. She would fight honorably and do her best, and that would determine the winner. So she smiled at Abigail and continued as usual, because rivalry was a form of friendship, and they were best friends, after all. Best friends forever.

Abigail just felt weak. She felt weak and selfish and guilty and she hated Victoria for making her feel that way. But she didn’t really hate Victoria, because they were Abby and Vicky, had been for seventeen years. And Abby didn’t know what she’d do without Vicky to show her what the right thing was.
It didn’t matter when she started liking Adam. Because Victoria was her best friend, had always been her best friend, and that took precedent.
Abigail didn’t want to look at him. She wasn’t afraid of him seeing her stares because he was never looking at her anyways. He was looking at Victoria. Everyone looked at Victoria. Vicky was tall and athletic, and she was always smiling. She never gave up. That was Victoria, living up to her name every day.
Best friends forever. That was what you called someone you’d grown up with, someone you’d played with all your life. That was the name you gave to the person you weren’t self-conscious in front of, the person you trusted with your secrets, the person you went to when you were upset.
Moth to a flame. Abigail had always been that, following her and helping her, as though some of Victoria’s unthinking honesty would rub off on her.
Well, this was the test. What was the honorable thing to do?
It came to her as she was tying the laces on her gym shoes, and it made her clench her teeth, but she sighed, knowing she’d do it. They were best friends. It’s what best friends did for each other. They sacrificed. Abby swallowed down the bitterness welling under her tongue and walked past the pair with a smile. This was something she’d do for Victoria. She’d keep silent and let them be happy, and she’d eventually be happy for Vicky. Because as much as she liked Adam, she couldn’t toss aside seventeen years of friendship for a crush.
As much as it hurt, it was a passing pain. It didn’t really matter.

This was the worst part of their day, for both of them. It was gym, and Adam was in their class.
Victoria was only in this class for the second part of the year, after soccer season ended. She was the varsity captain, and she was constantly practicing with potential candidates for varsity and junior varsity.
She wasn’t normally confident about her body, mostly because she never considered it. She didn’t have a reason to think about it.
But then Adam came. And he was an inch taller than her, and he was good looking, and she wanted to look impressive in front of him. She didn’t wear make-up because she didn’t know how to use it well, but she tied up her hair and wore her favorite track pants, hoping it would be enough.
And he talked to her every day, and she wondered where she could go buy some girly stuff, like mascara and hair pins and bracelets.
Abigail sat in the back of the class and prayed that they wouldn’t have to climb ropes in the gym. She was a lot of things, but she wasn’t athletic. She was terrible at most things that required upper body strength, and she tired easily while running.
Normally gym was a slight irritation, but she really didn’t want Adam to see how terrible she was at this. Especially when Victoria was so good.
She tried to make herself nondescript, so that he wouldn’t become her friend, and he wouldn’t care about her failures, and he wouldn’t look at her with concern in her eyes.
But he talked to her every day, and afterwards she felt a lightheartedness that made her feel extraordinarily guilty.

Saturdays were the only day they could hang out uninterrupted, so they did. They were at Victoria’s house, and Vicky’s mother was making lunch downstairs.
Abigail lay back on the bed as Vicky started to paint her nails. The brush moved back and forth with a slight swishing sound that was slowly filling Abigail’s head.
“So what color do you want on top of the primer, Abby?”
Swish. Swish.
Abby ran a hand through her short brown hair. “I don’t care.”
“Okay. I’ll just use the same color I have on, then.”
Swish. Swish.
“That’s fine.”
Swish. Swish.
Victoria dipped the little brush into the bottle again. “Did you have Ms. Hart’s class when you took chemistry last year? I don’t really understand the chapter we’re on.”
Abigail flipped through a magazine with her free hand. “I’ll help you with it when my nails are dry. Did Adam ask you to go to the prom yet?”
Swish. Pause.
There was silence for a moment as Vicky looked at her best friend. “No. He didn’t. Did you ask you?”
Abby raised an eyebrow and rolled over to look at Victoria. “Why would he ask me?” Her tone was too harsh, she knew, but she couldn’t do anything about that in retrospect.
Victoria blinked and started on Abby’s other hand. “Well, I just thought he might have. As friends or something. You know how nice he is.”
Swish. Swish.
“Hm.” Abby did know. She knew exactly how nice he was.
Swish. Swish.
Swish. Swish.
Vicky sat back to admire her work. “Okay, you’re done, Abs. Now we match!” She held up her own hands with a giggle.
She was smiling, and it made Abby almost cry with guilt, because no matter what she did, Abby would never be as good as Vicky. Abby couldn’t even give up on liking one boy for her best friend. Abby turned her face away and spread her palms flat on the desk so that her nails would dry evenly
“They look great, Vick,” she said. “Thanks.”
Victoria smiled. “No problem, Abs. Let me get out my chemistry book while you’re drying, and then we can go down and eat lunch while you explain. I think my mom’s making ham sandwiches.”
Abby nodded and carefully stood up without smudging the paint. Vicky hugged Abigail one-armed around the shoulders. “You’re the best, Abby.”
Abby gave her a half smile that felt like another blow to the heart. “We’ll see.”
Moth to a flame. Always, just a moth to a flame.

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