Charlie Brown This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Ding dong, ding dong. I turned off the vacuum andran for the door. There stood Tiana, my best friend whom I called "CharlieBrown." Some guys we used to hang out with started calling her that and oneday it hit me why - she had a large, round head, just like Charlie Brown! It wasrather cruel, but when I finally got up the nerve to tell her, she didn't seembothered.

The girl at the door was not Charlie Brown. The girl I knew wasbeautiful, and this girl certainly was not. This girl's face showed she'd beendown a rough road.

Charlie's mom was a make-up artist, so naturally shealways looked perfect. But she no longer was perfect - far from it, in fact.Where shiny eye shadow had been, there were dark royal and violet circlessurrounding droopy brown eyes. The acne was a hundred times worse now, so bad thethick foundation would not cover it. It looked cakey, like you could scrape itoff. Her hair was what really made her beautiful. She's half Hawaiian and hadlong dark hair. Now it had fly-aways and was tattered. She'd pulled it back,making her round face even rounder.

I invited her in, feeling embarrassed.I hadn't taken a shower yet, but I still looked better than she did. She walkedin, followed by her boyfriend Bobby and his kid. Bobby was a drug dealer. He wastall and bore a strange resemblance to a rat, right down to the pointy nose. Hishair was black and pulled back so tight into a long ponytail it looked like it'dbeen shellacked. Yup, you guessed it, it was that rat's tail.

His babydaughter, though, was cute. Kaylea kept at least one finger in her mouth at alltimes. She deserved better. Kaylea was the product of Bobby's last girlfriend,Tiffany, and was almost two years old with parents who were still teenagers.Tiffany did not like Tiana, which was one problem Charlie did not need - a crazyex-girlfriend. She didn't need Bobby, either.

They sat on the couch and Isat a safe distance away in my chair. We sat in silence as I looked at Charlieand remembered the last good time I'd had with her. We had sat for hours arguingabout what music to listen to. We always did this, knowing we would listen to ourfavorite CD. We watched "Aladdin," also a Saturday ritual, sittinginches from the TV and straining to hear, trying to mute our giggles so as not towake my dad. Did she even remember?

"So, Tiana," I said. I onlyused her real name when I was upset. "How many days have you beenup?"

"Why would you think I'm high?" she said in a tone I'dnever heard.

"I'm not stupid; don't lie to me," I said as calmlyas possible.

"I've lost track."

That's it; she's gone,lost in the whirlpool of drugs. And not just drugs, but dealing. It had swallowedher whole, and there was no coming back. This was when I realized how deep mylove for her really was. But we would never stay up all night again watching AdamSandler movies or eating Cheetos until our fingers were stained orange. I wouldnever again call her up laughing about some kid at school, or what guy had justcalled me. I would never again call her crying about whatever traumatic thing hadhappened.

It used to be that I wouldn't have to say anything. I wouldcall her, silently crying, and she'd just know, asking, "Kangaroo, what'swrong?" Gosh, I'll miss that. That bothered me, too, that she hadn't calledme Kangaroo, she'd called me Sydney. But then again, I had called herTiana.

"So, what have you been up to?"

"Nothing thatwould interest you," Bobby answered for her.

I was once the personshe spent every waking moment with. But I had been replaced, not by another girl,but by The Rat and drugs. How could I lose to drugs?

She had been on drugsfor close to a year, in rehab twice and was a regular at NA meetings. I thoughtshe would bounce back. Both times she'd gone to rehab, I was there to supporther. I would do anything to keep her off drugs. I became a regular at themeetings because she wanted me there. My efforts didn't seem futile at the time.I learned a lot, and saw what I didn't want; I had too much going forme.

My one regret happened a year ago. I was supposed to stay at her housefor our weekend routine but I canceled. She got bored and snuck out. Charliedidn't live in the best neighborhood, but we knew whom to stay away from. Shewent to the weed dealer's house and instead of giving her weed, he offered hermethamphetamine. She came home and called me to tell me she had tried meth. Iknew it wasn't my fault, but I still feel guilty.

No one had saidanything since Bobby's rude comment. The sun shone through the skylight ontoKaylea's blond hair. I couldn't help but think again how sorry I felt for her.Neither parent even had a home.

"Can I use your bathroom?"Charlie finally asked. It was about time she said something.

"Youknow where it is."

She stood and walked down the hall. She'd gottenso skinny! We had once worn the same size, but not anymore. I would much ratherlook like me than a skeleton. Then, I realized she had left me alone with TheRat.

"So, how's Kaylea?" I made an attempt totalk.

"What's it to you?" Who'd this guy think hewas?

"Don't talk to me like that, please. Don't disrespect me, not inmy own house!"

Kaylea said something, which stopped me; I didn't wantto get angry in front of the baby. She dropped her Elmo doll, and I bent over topick it up. That's when Tiana came back

"Baby, we're leaving,"The Rat told her. He told her? Shouldn't he have asked?

"I was readyto leave anyway," she said.

Fine, if they were going to be that way,I wanted them to leave. I eagerly walked them to the door. What was the purposeof their little visit anyway? They got into their car, which was missing awindow, and I watched them sputter away.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Iwent to my room. That's when I noticed that the $20 I'd been paid the nightbefore for babysitting - and had left on my dresser - was gone. Now I knew theirpurpose - drug money. I cried. There was no hope. So many years wasted. The joyof our friendship was overshadowed with my disgust.

I often think ofthat day, and cry. As much as I don't want to admit it, I miss her. Alot. Many things make me think of her. Whenever I hear a Tupac song, see acartoon, or drink a glass of milk, I cry. Those, along with a laundry list ofthings, are tied to her. Even laundry reminds me of her, and how she insisted onwashing all socks together, all shirts, nothing could mix. Color didn't matter,only the item.

I haven't talked to Charlie since that day. Her parentscall once in a while to update me. She has been in jail for two months, arrestedfour times, and has moved from meth to heroin and cocaine. On her birthday shewas in jail, but I still called and left a message:

"Hi, Tiana,this is Sydney. I called to tell you happy birthday, I haven't heard from you ina while. I miss you and would appreciate it if you would call me back. I loveyou, and enjoy your birthday!"

I did this knowing she wouldn't getthe message, but I made the effort. If I talked to her today, I would tell herhow much she meant to me, and how much I learned from her. Some say you can'tlearn from other people's mistakes, but I disagree. As far as I'm concerned, wewere one and the same; her pain was mine. I learned what not to do. For that, Ithank you, Tiana. You will always be my Charlie Brown.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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