top of page
  • Writer's pictureAutumn Isobel Smith

FRIEND

In which Autumn Isobel Smith writes stories occasionally throughout the week.

 

How many people would you consider your friend, if you really had to count? How many people have your back through thick and thin? I myself am incredibly lucky to have at least ten people I can rely on through anything. They've been there for me when I had literally no one else. They are my true family. So shoutout to all those people who have stuck by me through the craziness that has been my life. You are needed and you are loved.



 


 

“Angela, you and Dusty need to come in for lunch! I made grilled cheese and tomato soup.”

“Okay, Mommy!”

I smiled at Angela, then pulled my nose up and stuck out my tongue. She giggled and did the same. We were best friends. We did everything together. Today, we were fairies searching for a new home in the forest. Yesterday, that same forest became a playground, and we rode up and down on a fallen log that had landed just right to make a perfect see-saw. Tomorrow, maybe it would be an alien planet and we would be the first earthlings to ever set foot there. The possibilities were endless.

“Come on, Angie, first one inside wins!” I shouted and darted towards her. She shrieked and raced across the lawn and up the porch steps. We were neck and neck, both reaching for the door handle, but Angela got there first. I had to let her win. How could I not?

“I win!” she crowed, and flashed me a gap-toothed smile. It just about melted my heart. I loved seeing her so happy. These days, her delight only showed when we were deep in one of our fantasy games, where she could forget about the real world and just be.

She skidded to a halt at the kitchen table, plopping into one of the worn wooden chairs. There were two plates set out, each with a warm grilled cheese sandwich cut diagonally down the middle. My heart swelled a little. Her mom was so nice. Angela took a huge bite out of her sandwich, grinning at me.

“Here’s your soup.” Angela’s mom placed a small bowl in front of each of us as her phone went off. She sighed when she saw who was calling. “I have to take this. Go ahead and eat without me. If you go back outside after, make sure you wear your jacket. It’s a little chilly today.”

She walked into the next room, the phone already to her ear. I turned to Angela, who was cramming half a sandwich in her mouth, chewing noisily. “What do you want to do next? We could go explore down by the waterfall and look for frogs!”

A door slammed in the other room, but it did little to hide the raised voices from within. Angela didn’t answer me. She was tuned in to the yelling. I tried to distract her by poking her in the ribs, but she brushed me off. “Do you think that’s Daddy?” Her big brown eyes were wide and sad. I hated when she was sad. It was nothing less than my duty to keep her as happy as possible, and I took my job very seriously.

“Maybe it’s your mom’s work. She’s been working a lot more lately, hasn’t she?”

Angela nodded, her lip trembling. Her gloom was infectious and I felt it filling me too. “It’ll be okay,” I told her. “You’ve always got me. I’ll never leave you.”

“It’s not the same,” she said. The words hurt. Deep inside, I think I knew I would never really be enough for her. She needed her family. But I wanted that. I wanted to be her family, to make sure the beautiful light in her soul never stopped shining.

“I know,” I said, trying not to show how deeply her words cut. “But I’m here for you. I just want you to know that.”

Angela pushed her plate away and stood up. “I’m not hungry.”

I pushed mine away too. “Me either. Wanna go back outside?”

“Okay.” She stood up and walked towards the entryway.

“Don’t forget your jacket,” I said, and tugged it down from its hook.

Angela stepped outside and headed towards the woods. I followed, watching her drag her feet in the dirt, shoulders slumped, head down. How I longed to raise her spirits! I did a cartwheel alongside her, but she didn’t notice. She followed the trail across the creek, under the weeping willow, and past the mossy stone wall that led nowhere. I knew where she was going then.

We passed the see-saw, the cluster of boulders where we played Keep Off the Ground, and the circle of toadstools where we hunted for fairies. At last, Angela stopped before a gnarled pine that rose high into the air. She began to climb, ignoring the sap that coated her hands, doggedly pushing through the needles and pinecones in her way until she reached her special spot.

She climbed onto the thick bough, her back against the trunk. I followed, sitting on a branch just below her, looking up as she wrapped her arms around her knees, hugging herself. Dark coils of hair cascaded over her arms as she hid her face from me and the rest of the world. Her shoulders shook, and I heard her breath hitch in her throat. She was crying.

I knew the right thing to do was let her be. She needed this. I sat quietly until she sniffled and looked up from her knees. “Hey,” I said softly. “You doing okay?”

“He’s never coming back, is he?” she whispered. “He hates us.”

I stood on my branch, balancing precariously as I took her hand. “He doesn’t hate you. Sometimes, grown-ups have problems they can’t solve together. It doesn’t mean it’s your fault. It’s not anyone’s fault.”

“But it’s not fair!” Angela’s sobs had subsided, giving way to raw anger, although the tears continued to spill down her cheeks. “I hate him! I hate him!” She bellowed the words into the forest. A flock of birds took off from a nearby tree, calling out in alarm. She wrenched her hand from mine and raked her nails across the skin on her arm, leaving red welts. When she went to repeat the action, I seized her hand, holding it tightly in both of mine. “Let go,” she demanded.

“Let me help you,” I said. “I can’t watch you hurt yourself like that.”

“Leave me alone, Dusty.”

“Angie, I’m your friend. Your best friend. Please, let me help. That’s what I’m here for.”

“No!” Angela glared at me and pulled away. “I’m leaving,” she said.

When she reached the ground, she stood still for a moment, then collapsed into tears. It just about broke my heart, watching her cry in the dirt. I jumped down from the tree and collected her in my arms. She clung to my shirt, leaving tear tracks on the material.

We sat like that for hours. The sun was close to setting by the time she stirred. I think she must have fallen asleep there. Her skin was cool to the touch and when she sat up, she was shivering.

“Let’s get you inside,” I said. I offered her my hand and she took it. We walked slowly back to her house, where we found her mom outside.

“Angela! I thought you were lost!” said her mom, rushing over and hugging her daughter.

Angela pulled away and marched inside, leaving her mom and I standing in the yard awkwardly. Her mom’s face crumpled and she began to cry. I didn’t know what to say, so I just left.

The next few weeks were rough. Angela withdrew from everyone. I didn’t go to her school, but from the sound of it, things weren’t much better there either, and now that summer had finally come, she was even more isolated. It was just her and her mom. And me. She never wanted to play anymore. She stayed in her room, reading or doodling in a notebook. Sure, we still talked and all, but it wasn’t the same. I missed her.

The summer came and went, and I think we played outside twice during that time. School started up again, and she went away for most of the day to second grade. I sat alone at her house, waiting for her to come home every day. One of those days, she brought home another girl and they played the way she and I used to. I watched from the shadows, but never once interfered. This was what she needed. She needed friends, real connections. True, I was always there if she needed me, but right now, she didn’t.

That girl went on to be her new best friend, and she introduced her to her own circle of friends. She was part of a group now. She didn’t need me anymore, it seemed. But I could still see her from afar, watching her beautiful smile and reveling in the brightness of her spirit. Slowly, she began to heal. Her father’s sudden absence in her life had left a hole to be filled, and that’s where I came in. Now though, she had real friends, girls who she could grow up with.

The years slowly crawled on, and I got to watch Angela grow. She never talked to me anymore, but that was okay. I was happy all the same. I’ve begun to notice something though. When I look at myself, I can see through me. I think I’m fading from her memory. It happens to all of my kind eventually. It’s the price we pay for our relationships. But it’s worth it.


 

14 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page