Friends to the End This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

February 18, 2013
Custom User Avatar
More by this author
Evr since u started dating Luke, I was the 3rd wheel & now tht u won tht essay contest u left me in the dust.
I stared at the text and read it over and over. Every word felt like a slap in the face. Why hadn’t Robin told me? All this time I thought she was upset over a test grade, like the perfectionist she is. How could I have been so stupid not to notice?
My stomach churned and guilt washed over me, as my eyes filled with stubborn tears. Memories of us going to kindergarten together (decorating our clothes with crayon marks), trading each other’s shoes (which freaked out both our moms), and celebrating New Year’s (when we both counted down to the ball drop) flashed before me. My Green Day ringtone snapped me out of my thoughts, leaving me in the company of the surrounding trees.
“Emma, sweetie. Are you there?” It was Mom.
I didn’t answer.
“Listen to me. You can’t just run off; your dad and I are worried about you.” The cold wind nipped at my cheeks.
I hadn’t realized I had been sitting here in the woods for that long. Today was the award ceremony and I had prepared a speech as first place winner of the Young Writer’s Essay Contest. I woke up this morning thinking, “You can do this. This is your spotlight.” Everyone, including Mom, Dad, Robin (I wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t come), Luke, and the mayor, Mr. Greene, was going to be there. They were waiting for me, wondering where I was and why I was wasting their time.
“Hello? Emma, did you hear me? Where are you?”
“Um… I’ll be right there. Give me a few minutes,” I said, wiping my tears through sniffles.

The building’s auditorium greeted me with a wave of warm air. My fingers went numb and I stared down at my beat up boots. All the seats in the room creaked as the guests turned around and shot me annoyed looks. Principal Michaels stood at the podium, trying desperately to entertain the audience.
“And here she is. Please welcome, Ms. Emma Collins, first place winner of the friendship essay contest,” he announced, giving me an anxious glance. The sharp angles of his face were very rosy, and his navy blue corduroys were already crinkled from moving in them too much. I felt childish for holding everyone up.
My legs shook as I made my way to the stage and up the steps. I slipped my hand in my jacket pocket, but my speech cards weren’t in there. They must have dropped when I ran into the woods. I could feel the hairs on my back rise and sweat beaded across my forehead as the audience returned expectant looks. I spotted familiar faces from some of my classes. Mom and Dad gave me a thumbs-up sign from the second row and Mayor Greene sat cross-legged in the front row next to Principal Michaels, who was biting his nails. Luke winked at me from his seat in the back of the auditorium and Robin seemed to be ignoring my presence.
“Hello, everyone. Thank you for waiting very patiently. I’m sorry for my tardiness,” I said shakily.
The room was silent, and I thought I was going to faint. I didn’t have my essay with me and all these people were going to be disappointed. Robin scowled and rolled her dark brown eyes at me.
“What is friendship? Anyone?” I started abruptly. A couple of yawns drifted from people, and I was surprised to see Luke was one of them.
“To me, friendship is a strong bond…that two people create together…along with memories.” Luke pulled out his phone and typed something. How rude was that! I was losing my audience already.
“Let me rephrase that. Friendship is a strong force that helps us get through in life, even when we aren’t at our best. A friend is one who will be there with you through all of the obstacles you face, who will celebrate your differences, who will hear what you don’t say as well as what you do. I have- well, had- an amazing friend.” Robin’s pursed lips softened.
“We knew each other since kindergarten. We played dress up and sashayed around the house in my mom’s high heels and jewelry. We invited each other to our birthday parties, had play-dates together, and even transformed her pug, Noodle, into a drag queen,” I continued, a smile spreading across my face. There were some chuckles from the crowd and even the mayor’s hard expression turned into a grin.
“My point is that friendship is a wonderful thing most people take for granted. Having someone you can rely on and be yourself with is something to cherish and never let go. I have learned the hard way that you shouldn’t let anyone ruin your relationship with your friend. People come and go, and in the end, only a friend will remain loyal to you. I couldn’t be more grateful to have my best friend in my life, because without her…well, there wouldn’t be anyone I could watch chick flicks with.” I could have sworn I saw a twinkle in Robin’s eyes.
A cacophony of applause rose from the audience and I bowed for emphasis, shocked that I hadn’t fainted in front of everyone. Principal Michaels followed Mayor Greene onto the stage as he presented me with a crisp white envelope. I turned it over in my hands and marveled at the scrawled letters that made out my name. The translucent envelope silhouetted a check for two hundred dollars written just for me. My eyes widened in surprise and I couldn’t believe I had actually won this writer’s contest.
Mayor Greene stuck out his beefy arm and congratulated me. “I absolutely loved your essay, Ms. Collins. It made me realize that friends are what keep me sane- especially when they beat me at Scrabble. And your speech was heartwarming.”
“Thank you, sir. I appreciate it,” I responded, shaking his hand.
A photographer from the Kingsley Herald took a picture of me holding my award standing beside the mayor and my principal. Mom and Dad suffocated me in an overbearing embrace, and I endured the “Are you crazy? We thought the worst had happened. You’re grounded until you turn thirty,” followed by “We are still very proud of you, Em.” They stuck around, socialized with Principal Michaels, and finally left for work.
I searched the crowd of students and school administrators for Robin, but I was stopped by Luke instead, and slightly disappointed. He folded his arms around me and leaned in to kiss me. This time, though, I didn’t have the jitters.
“You sounded great,” he breathed, his hazel eyes probing my pools of blue.
“So, you wanna grab something to eat at Jesse’s Burgers?”
Although the route was a short way from school, it felt like a millennium until we got to the burger shop. Luke didn’t seem to notice and rambled on and on about his problems with Coach Sanders. How could he have been so oblivious when it was my shining moment? I always stood in the bleachers and cheered him on, even though football wasn’t my ideal sport. He couldn’t even sit through my award ceremony without texting someone. Did he even care about the essay contest to begin with? Did he really mean it when he said I presented well?
The waitress, a junior at Kingsley High, glided over to our booth and winked at Luke after she served us our order. I had caught her adjusting her too-tight uniform through the kitchen sliding doors earlier.
“Is there anything else I can get you?” she said, a seductive grin playing across her lips.
“No. We’re fine,” I answered curtly. Couldn’t she tell he was with me? She nodded at him kindly and rolled her eyes at me.
I looked out the window and up into the gray clouds converging against the fading blue sky. Robin actually came to hear my speech. She hadn’t spoken to me in two weeks; she just shut me out. We’d promised each other since middle school we wouldn’t let anyone get between our relationship. I broke that promise, and all I wanted was my best friend.
“Hey, are you going to eat those?” Luke asked through a full mouth. I shook my head, and he reached over and grabbed a handful of my fries. The girl who took our order came back around every two minutes to ogle at him.
“Excuse me. Don’t you have other orders to take?” I asked, a frustrated pang in my voice.
“Um…Is there anything-”
She rushed away. I turned my attention towards the window again. This was unbelievable! Was Luke such a dough head that he couldn’t tell her to mind her own business?
“Whoa. Is everything alright?” he said, furrowing his brow.
“No! Ugh. Luke, why me? Why do you like me?”
His toned arms tensed, and he ran his fingers through his wavy brown hair. He frowned as if this was a question on a test he didn’t know the answer to. I forgot all about my award from the contest.
“Well, you’re very pretty. And you’re a great writer. Um…you’re smart too. What’s the point of this?” I had enough of this, especially the dirty looks from Lindsay, our waitress. I wouldn’t be surprised if she spit in my food.
“Listen, we both have different interests and ideas, which aren’t bad at all. But I think if I go to one more of your stupid football games, I’m going to shoot myself.”
“What are you saying? I can play something else; I’ll try out for the basketball team.” What did I see in him? Robin was right from the beginning- he was too slow and too eager to please.
“No, no. I’m saying that we should go our separate ways. I think someone like Lindsay would have more in common with you. Goodbye.” I got up, pulled on my coat, and paid for myself at the cashier. I ignored Luke’s thunderstruck expression when he stood beside the booth. The trees started waving their branches in protest against the wind, the billowing clouds turned gray, and it began to drizzle. I knew where I was going.

I shifted from one leg to the other in the pouring rain and rang the door bell again. My red hair was sopping wet and my black slacks were glued to my legs. Footsteps padded against the floor on the other side. The lacey blue curtains in the windows framed the crisp white house. The cherry wood door opened, revealing a cozy interior and a rush of warm air.
“What,” she said tersely. Her sweats were baggy around her ankles, she wore thick polka dotted socks, and her Rolling Stones t-shirt was two sizes too big.
“You came to hear my essay speech.”
“Yeah, congrats. What do you want, Emma? Doesn’t Luke have one of his games tonight?” she replied, a bitter twang in her words. Ouch. She never called me by my full name- I was always “Emmy” to her. Noodle leaped out and sniffed at my legs frantically.
“I broke up with him. You were right; he was a total snot head. And I wanted to say I’m sorry for leaving you for him,” I said, biting back tears.
“So what? Now you come to apologize?” Her harsh words sliced into me. Robin pulled Noodle away from me.
“I guess I was excited by the idea of a boyfriend and I wanted to be liked by him. And you texted me this morning for the first time in two weeks; how was I supposed to know how you felt? I’m only human- I can’t read minds.” I hadn’t realized I kept these thoughts inside my head. Robin stood still and watched me intently, so I continued on.
“I don’t want to fight; we were friends since we were five. Are you going to cut me out just because of one fight? I want my best friend back,” I added, ignoring my cold, numb toes.
She stared at me for a while until she broke down in tears. I enveloped her in a hug that we both needed. It felt like forever we had been apart and all I wanted was to watch one of her chick flicks and stuff my face with popcorn like we used to. Robin pulled away, rubbing her eyes and invited me inside.
“I kind of got jealous that you had a boyfriend and I didn’t. And then you won that essay contest, and you forgot about me. I didn’t want to tell you how I felt, because this hasn’t really happened to us before and I didn’t react well,” Robin explained, as she brought in a bowl of popcorn from the kitchen. Noodle raced over to the snack on the couch. My stomach growled, and I realized how long it had been since I last ate. Luke had eaten all my food.
“Luke turned out to be completely shallow and insensitive. He was busy with his phone during my speech. I feel terrible about all that’s happened.” Noodle jumped into my lap and started licking my face.
“I told you so! He was always a jerk. And I feel horrible too,” Robin declared.
“Just because I had a boyfriend doesn’t mean you weren’t my best friend anymore. If you had one, I would be happy for you,” I said.
“But you know how it is. Girls act as if their best friends don’t exist once they have boyfriends. I wasn’t sure if our friendship would endure if the same happened to you. I was afraid of rejection- that’s why I shut you out.” She slanted her blonde bangs and hugged her arms to her body.
“I’m sorry you felt that way,” I replied after we made our pledge.
“I took out a movie. You could use some popcorn too; you look hungry,” Robin said, her face breaking into a wide grin.
“I’d love that.”

Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

Site Feedback