Something that happened over that weird summer between A-Levels and childhood.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: (This is a true story but I’ll keep everyone anonymous. This is part of a series of short pieces focusing on female relationships in my life: I think a lot of what women write about overlooks female friendship and interaction.)
SECOND AUTHOR’S NOTE: (This is really, really gay. Turn back now if homosexuality upsets you.)
She kisses me against the oak tree and her mouth tastes like vodka and cherry cola.
She has her arm firmly around my waist and she reaches clumsily for my chest with the other. I pull her fingers hard back to my side. “Not here,” I whisper sharply. “They can see. And you’re drunk. And you have a boyfriend.”
She laughs in a way that makes my lungs ache, and looks to me with blue eyes blurred with intoxication. “You’re always such a prude, Maddie.” She says, not incorrectly. She leans forward, kissing my neck. I want to push her away but my body is rigid. Maybe it was the skill of promiscuity but I am weak at her touch. “I love you.” she says, like an actress in a play.
“Don’t say that,” I hiss, staring furiously towards the party further out in the field. “You’re drunk. You’ll regret this tomorrow.” She looks down at me from her impressive five foot eight, and pouts in boredom at me. I hate it when she does that.
Whichever unfortunate boy she ends up with, I’m always the one who ends up holding her on the front steps at three in the morning while she leaks mascara into my dress. All this would be bearable if she would just stop saying-
“I know you want me,” she slurs, tripping on her heel. She’s not wrong there either, but I know better than to get with my best friend when she’s drunk, not to mention when her gorilla boyfriend is less than a field away. She staggers back a little, and I wonder if I should carry her back to the group. “Look at the moon!” She shrieks, staring up at the sky. “Isn’t it romantic?
“Stop it.” I say, not for the first time that evening. “Stop playing. You told me you loved him a few hours ago.”
“I was sober then. No one says anything they mean when they are sober.”
There is a pause, and she slumps down in the burnt long grass. It’s dry and it cuts your legs, but I sit with her. When we were at school together, we’d come here and sing, not giving a damn who heard. Now I watch her drink, spilling her brightness into copious intoxication until her beauty is smeared with prudent sexuality and ringed with slurred unhappiness. She drinks to escape, to find something else, to numb the fingerprints of men she’d like to forget. I will watch her, moth-like next to the butterfly, until she cries out for my normality, my seriousness, my parental sense.
She turns to me again and again in a crowd full of men eager for her laissez-faire attention and pretty laugh, face pale with anxiety, lipstick pulled to her neck by a mouth she can’t remember. She uses men like she uses alcohol, to ease the pain of insecurity after years of being the unpopular, undesirable schoolgirl. I loved her, in my own quiet, teenager way. She throws her head back again, bohemian, and sings into the stars, with uncanny sobriety:
Amazing Grace, How Sweet The Sound
That Saved a Wretch Like Me-
I join her, in my lower alto.
I once was lost, but now am found
Was Blind But Now I See
She shivers, leaning into me. For a moment, I see the brilliant cobalt of her eyes in the moonlight.
“Let’s get back, Maddie. You always help me back.”