We were three pieces of one puzzle. This was the way we spent almost every time we were together, draped upon someone’s bed or couch. Matt, Cecelia, and I were all laying on my bed, with my head on his chest and Cecelia sprawled across us both.. Matt had his phone in his hands, smoothly scrolling through his music, trying to find an Ariana Grande song.
“No, wait, I have another song; you guys will love it!” Cecelia exclaimed as she sat up and dug her phone out from the blankets flung across my bed. Matt grumbled as I yanked the phone out of her hands. “Whatever, Lillian, I’ll play that song eventually,” Cecelia complained, flipping her curly dark hair out of her face.
I laughed, handing her phone back to her. Matt played the song and we relaxed into silence with Ariana’s nasally voice exploding from the speakers of his phone.
“I love this,” I sighed, soaking in the pure joy of being with my best friends.
“Me too,” Matt said. “I wish we could do this more often.” He picked at a string hanging off of his red t-shirt. Cecelia huffed and aggressively wiggled herself between Matt and me, breaking the contact between us. I scooted to the side to let her fit a little more and sighed in exasperation.
Matt’s phone dinged and he picked it up. He groaned, “My dad is here.”Cecelia and I cried out in protest like people do when the alarm goes off. Matt coolly slid off my bed, I rolled to the ground, and Cecelia hopped out. Cecelia and I waved Matt goodbye as he drove off with his dad. Cecelia turned to me.
“So, what movie are we watching tonight? It has to be something you won’t fall asleep to,” Cecelia commanded. I rolled my eyes exaggeratedly, but I couldn’t hide my grin as I walked into the living room.
“I have to tell you something.” Matt sighed as we pulled our books from the lunch table. I looked at him curiously. We shuffled into the crowd of students leaving the cafeteria.
“Is it bad?” I asked with a smile. His dark eyes met mine, and he nodded. “Is it your classes?”
“No, it’s not like that,” he said, turning his eyes to his shoes.
“Are you sick?”
“No,” Matt shook his head. We were reaching the cream-colored hallway as a hoard of students filled the area around us. Panic began to settle in my stomach as my brain shuffled through all my worst-case scenarios.
“Are you moving?” I questioned. Matt didn’t respond and turned to me. I gasped and bursted out, “Where?”
“Cincinnati, Ohio,” he revealed. My stomach flopped like a pancake in a frying pan and I felt my face crumple as I held back tears. I was already imagining how often we could see each other, and how we could keep in touch. I couldn’t imagine losing a best friend. It felt like I had just been woken up with a pan of freezing water to the face. Shock and horror filled me as if life was pouring a massive bucket of water on my face.
About a month later, everyone knew Matt was leaving. Matt and I were sitting backstage, watching the spring musical play out on stage. Cecelia, Matt, and I had all decided to try out so we would be able to see each other more often. Matt and Cecelia were excited, I was emphatically less so due to my lack of skill in dancing or singing. We didn’t have to perform that night, so we watched the other performers sprint to their places, gossip behind set pieces, and rush to get props to their correct location. Cecelia had gone off to make herself feel wanted in the dressing room. If you listened closely in the lulls of songs coming from the stage, you could hear high pitched laughing flow out of the dressing room when the door opened and an actor slipped out.
Matt and I could barely make out each other’s faces in the darkness with only the stage lights emphasizing our noses and cheekbones. “I’m scared,” I confided, pulling at my black ankle socks.
“About the show?” Matt asked, one eyebrow arched.
“No,” I laughed softly. “About you moving.”
“Oh,” he responded, turning his head to the floor. “Me too.” He ran a hand through his hair.
“You’re leaving me physically, and I feel like Cecelia is leaving me mentally. It’s like she’s not even there when we’re together, and I can’t help feeling like I’m not enough. I love it just being the three of us, I just don’t understand,” I sighed, exhaustion and worry weighing on my body. I could almost envision life refilling that bucket of water, ready to douse me in my worst fears coming true.
“I think it’ll be okay,” Matt said with confidence. “You guys have been BFFs since forever, since before I even met you! If I believe in anything, it’s you guys.”
I sighed again, skepticism filling my brain. The audience applauded with warmth, actors scurried off stage, their faces flushed with adrenaline, and the lights dimmed. Stage crew rushed into the darkness to set the next scene.
My phone lit up and I screamed, “he’s here!”. I sprinted down the hall and out my front door with Cecelia not far behind. My phone was still blasting Stevie Nicks and I left the front door swinging open as I rushed to meet Matt on my driveway. My feet hit the cold asphalt and the crisp autumn air tossed my hair to the side as I threw my arms around him. Two seconds later, I felt Cecelia’s arms wrap around the both of us. We stood there with our arms linked together for ten seconds before Matt’s mom cleared her throat. She handed him his duffle bag and instructed him to call that night.
“I’ve missed this place,” Matt announced, looking up to the tall ceilings of the entryway to my house.
“I’ve missed you!” I squealed, a smile widening on my face.
“Me too,” Cecelia said with her lips pursed and a hand on her hip. I tried to hide my eye roll. Matt glanced back and forth at us before walking up my stairs.
We flopped onto my bed like the old times, all of us intertwined together. Suddenly, everything felt okay again. Maybe life had not quite soaked me yet; maybe life had only threatened to throw that second bucket of water.
“I’m doing the fall play this year!” Cecelia announced as she sat up and scooted back. Matt and I sat up, the three of us angled so we could easily see each other.
“That’s awesome, do you think you’ll get in?” Matt asked with a closed-mouth smile.
“Of course she’ll get in, she’s a bona fide choir kid now,” I commented and scrunched up my face in a grimace.
“They’re actually really nice people, but you can’t seem to give them a chance!” Cecelia exclaimed, her eyes in a pointed glare.
“I do know them, and in case you didn’t realize, they don’t give two flying flamingos about me,” I responded, my words coming out harsh and accusatory. Cecelia rolled her eyes in response. My nose flared as I traced the designs of my comforter with my hand. Matt quickly changed the topic, giving me an oh-my-god-what-is-happening-with-you-two look, and I exhaled trying to enjoy the moment. Life definitely poured that bucket of water on me, no doubt about it.
I zipped up my jacket, flung my scarf around my neck, and closed my locker, already thinking about what I had to do when I got home. I needed to finish my homework, do my laundry, and make dinner. I made a mistake to look up as Cecelia passed me.
She sashayed past me and waved to her friend who was already waiting at her locker. My stomach did a bellyflop, but I couldn’t stop watching. I knew they had become much better friends, but I tried to ignore it as often as I could. Cecelia said some witticism to make her companion laugh without smiling. I watched the new best friends chat and prepare to leave for the day. My head throbbed, and I quickly walked away from my locker, keeping my eyes on my feet.
I hauled myself up the bus steps, shaking the snow off my jacket, and surveyed my surroundings. The front of the bus was full, even the seat I always took. I asked the girl in the first row if I could sit with her and she scooted over. Tears burned my eyes as I rested my head on the back of the seat, trying not to let tears escape my eyelashes. Life didn’t just pour water onto my hopes and dreams, it threw that metal bucket at me too.
That night, I called Matt. I held back tears as I croaked out, “I know she doesn’t care about me anymore but I still care about her. I’m so alone here, and it’s just so hard to give up a friendship you thought would last your entire life. I feel worthless,” I shook my head, placing my forehead on my free hand, salty teardrops slipping down my cheeks.
Matt sighed into the phone. “You’re not worthless, Lillian. I wish I could bring you here or I could go there,” he told me. “I know it’s so hard now; I’ve been there. But I know you can get through this,” he said. I took a deep breath and wiped the tears from my face.
“I know,” I mumbled, “you’re right.” Matt could always talk sense into me during my worst moments.
I thought of how much I loved my classes now, how much I had grown to appreciate my family, how many people with whom I had developed new friendships. I thought of my future and my past, and then I realized something. I was smart, I was funny, and I was a valuable person. I could be happy, I just had to make a choice to be so.
I could throw that bucket right back.