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As she confidently walked away, I could feel my stomach flip-flop. A feeling of absolute dread and regret welled up inside of me. The last person that I could truly count on and trust was walking out of my life. Now I was completely alone.
Deep inside, I knew this had been an outcome in the making. There had been so much tension in our friendship. I don’t think I ever liked her. She was used to getting her own way because she was the only child of a single mother. Constantly, she worried about her appearance and what she did. Designers were the only thing she would wear—deigning to wear anything else was a crime—and it was like she was intentionally taunting me every time she went out shopping. “I have a hundred and fifty dollars to spend. How about you?” she’d ask, when it was obvious I had far less cash to burn.
It seemed as if there was an unsaid competition between the two of us: Who had cooler clothes? Who had flirted with the oldest guy? Who had cooler life plans? Who had the most friends outside of our friendship? What cool things did we do on the weekends? Even: How much did our parents make? What awesome job did they have?
I admit, I lied when I said there wasn’t a time I truly liked her. In seventh grade, we’d both gotten out of a bad friendship with the same girl. We’d both been hurt, so there was a mutual understanding of one another. We both enjoyed gossiping about rumors, who we had crushes on, who other people had crushes on. Slowly, though, she became obsessed with what people thought of her. She never said anything about it, but I just knew.
Mid-eighth grade year, she had become manipulative and controlling. If she made plans and I couldn’t make it, she wasn’t above trying to make me feel guilty. When she realized that the scheme wouldn’t work, she made a show bragging about who she was inviting and how much fun she would have.
Finally, when I decided I wanted to hang out with others, she would explode. “I feel like you’re purposely leaving me out! I should have the option of coming along with you!” I wanted to yell right back, I don’t come everywhere with you, do I? If you want the option of coming everywhere with me, I should get the same option of going everywhere with you! Instead of yelling, though, I forgave her. People had the right to be self-conscious—she was just overly so. But I wouldn’t judge her. I would not judge her!
She went the extra step by deciding that if she wanted to get a guy’s attention, she would have to wear more revealing clothes, get spray tans, and have her nails done every other weekend. She would say: “You’re lucky, no guys like me.” I knew, deep down, that’s how she really felt, but how she said it out loud, anyone could tell she was fishing for compliments. Every so often, I would humor her and disagree, explaining any guy would be lucky to go out with her. Hadn’t she said a week before that two juniors were checking her out? This wasn’t her first rodeo when it came to stretching the truth. Those guys that were checking her out weren’t juniors, they were in junior high—middle school—like us. Soon, I ignored her feeble attempts for reassurance and quick confidence boosts. I wasn’t some person that would be called when her ego needed some stroking.
I knew our friendship was unhealthy. Her beliefs and morals were being shoved down my throat, and it seemed as if I was being lied to every day. I could fill ten pages with thing that just plain annoyed me about her. How she assume she would make Varsity for every team she tried out for when I worked my butt off in two years of rec gymnastics and three years of competitive gymnastics to make Varsity Cheerleading. How she claimed she had already fallen in and out of love with a guy she had barely known for a year. How she constantly put me down, subtly hinting that she was the best at everything either she or I tried. But I thrived on the drama. My fill for the theatrics was satisfied by being around her.
When I finally stood up for myself face-to-face with her, she balked and denied my every accusation. She gave me the silent treatment, breaking it only to give me one pre-set reply: “What are you talking about? I don’t do that.” In one short conversation, she made it seem like I had launched a nuclear attack on her, so she announced World War III. That calculated move on her part resulted in everyone believing she was an innocent victim—she wanted to be perceived as a perfect angel who had done nothing wrong.
I wanted to believe I was the one who had done nothing wrong. What I wanted to yell at the top of my lungs that really I was the victim of a manipulative brat. It wasn’t really my fault that I had ruined any hope of having a relationship with her or any of our mutual friends. But I knew that I shared at least the teensiest, itty bitty part of the blame. It was partly my fault that my sister was the only person standing behind me. But then again, there’s an obligation to being friends with one’s sibling. Having no friends outside of your family is like going into the world stripped raw. You have no one to share you deepest thoughts with, no one else that knew you one hundred percent.
But now, as I watched her walk away, I couldn’t help but feel a longing. My one chance for a friend had slipped out of my grasp. It had vanished. Gone. I knew this is what I had to do, though. Turning on my heel, I walked away as well, determined to keep myself from running back to her—to safety from the loneliness—when what I’d really be doing was running to my very own destruction.