Mom came back into my room and put my phone on the table beside my bed. I was crying still and my pillow had a huge wet spot from me being curled up into a ball on my side. She sat in front of me on the bed and laid a hand on my leg, stroking it gently.
"I asked your dad if he wanted you to go up there to be with him, but he said that he'll call if he needs anything," She took a deep breath and exhaled it through thin lips.
I stared off into my room at nothing in particular. I thought about the last picture I had seen of Laura that she posted to Facebook. My dad never liked being in pictures, so he was the one who took it. They had taken a drive to the beach and she was standing in front of the Pacific. I could tell her smile wasn't posed. My dad must have made one of his lame jokes which she always laughed at even if they weren't funny.
I thought about the first time I met her. Dad had said a lot of good things about her, and I was skeptical at first, but she proved to be a good person. Even though I didn't see my dad often, whenever I did, she was always making sure we were both happy. Every once in awhile she would ask if we were hungry or thirsty. She would ask about my life and how school was going. She genuinely cared.
Death will happen to all of us. Dying is inevitable. But when it happens so sudden, you almost can't believe it. There's some part of me that hopes that I'll see her again. I kept thinking, Next time I go to my dad's she'll be there, as if this was all some sort of sick prank being pulled. It wasn't a prank though. Laura was gone.
Still petting my leg, my mom said in a hushed tone, "I don't expect you to go to school today. Will you be okay here by yourself?" All I wanted to do was scream at her and tell her to stop pretending to care. She never met Laura. I don't even think my mom knew what Laura looked like.
Instead of screaming, I said, "Yeah, I'll be fine," flatly. I rolled over to face the wall, which took my leg out from underneath my mom's hand.
"Okay then. I'm going to go to work, but if you absolutely need anything, just call me." I didn't answer her. I know she was just trying to help, but I wanted to be alone.
When my mom left, I turned back over toward my table and grabbed my phone. I had unlocked it and the picture of Parker was still on the screen from before. Great, mom had to have seen this when she hung up the phone with dad. Still on Facebook, I went to Tori's page, clicked on the message icon, and sent her this: "Hey. Is it okay if I call you? Something happened and I don't know who else to talk to."
Tori replied just a minute later, "Of course! Here's my number." My heart rate went up a little bit, but I took a deep breath to calm down and called. The line rang once before she answered. "I'm assuming this is Maia?" she asked.
"Yeah, it's me." My voice was a lot clearer than I had expected it to be.
"You're not quitting your job already, are you?!" Tori laughed and it made me laugh a little too, except she must have noticed that my laugh was off. "Is everything okay?"
"No, I'm not quitting. You can't get rid of me that fast," I said jokingly. Then the tears came. "Tori, I... I'm sorry to bother you with this, I just really don't have anyone else to talk to," I was crying loudly again.
After I told Tori about the call I got from my dad, she said, "Oh honey. I'm so sorry," I know that's something that everyone says after a tragedy happens, but she sounded sincere. "You're not going to school then? Come over to my house if you feel like it. I'll send you my address."
"Don't you have to go to school?"
"No, Parker and I do our schooling online," When she said his name, my stomach fluttered. I wanted to go over to her house, but I didn't want Parker seeing me like this. I've already looked vulnerable enough in front of him.
"Oh. You sure it's okay if I come over?" My anxiety had grown and I started to fidget with the corner of my blanket.
"Yes of course! I know we just met or whatever, but neither of us have any other friends and you definitely need someone right now," Tori's voice was so calming, it had made me stop crying.
I got off the phone with her and went outside to the back yard to smoke. I didn't bother taking off Parker's hoodie or sweatpants. I wasn't planning on giving them back to him today anyway. When I got done smoking, I took a shower then threw his clothes into the washer.
Driving down Tori's road, I noticed that every house on the street almost looked the same, and they all looked big and expensive. I parked my car in their driveway, right behind the SUV that Parker had been driving the night before. When I was getting ready to leave my house, I thought about putting makeup on, but decided not to bother, just in case I started crying again. I checked myself in the rear view mirror; underneath my eyes had a sort of blue tint to the skin, and my face was pale. Granted, I was pale all of the time, but I now looked like a zombie.
Tori met me at the front door and gave me a long hug. At the coffee shop, I had only ever seen her wear her uniform with a long sleeve shirt underneath. Today she was wearing a short sleeve band tee that exposed many tattoos on her arms. There was no color in her tattoos, but they were all abstract pieces made up of nothing but black dots and lines.
When we walked into her house, the smell of lemon hit my nose like I had been punched in the face. "My mom insisted on baking you something. I hope you're a fan of lemon." Tori winked at me and I smiled.
The inside of their house was nicely decorated. They had a lot of plants and most of them were in front of the many big windows in the living room. A giant TV was hung on the wall in front of a huge brown leather couch. There was a large fire place in the corner of the room. It looked like the perfect place to relax on a rainy day.
Tori led me into the kitchen to meet her mom. "Oh there she is! The new little barista!" Her mom put down a piping bag filled with white cream and wrapped me in a huge, warm hug.
"Mom, you're being embarrassing," Tori said flatly and crossed her arms.
Her mom ignored her. "Maia, you are just a doll aren't you! So pretty, look at this hair!" She grabbed my head with both hands and kissed my forehead.
'Wow, she's very enthusiastic, I thought to myself. "Thank you, I, uh, grew it myself," Her mom laughed really loudly, which startled me. "Thank you for having me over."
"Honey you are welcome any time! When Jellybelly here told me what happened, I knew I had to make you some of my famous lemon cream cake," When she said 'Jellybelly' I looked over at Tori who was rolling her eyes.
"Okay, mom. We're going to go to my room now," Tori grabbed my hand and pulled me away.
As we were walking away, I yelled back to her mom. "Nice meeting you, Mrs. Keller!" She had said something in response but I couldn't make it out. Walking up the stairs I told Tori, "She seems like a very happy lady."
"Her happiness is a lie," I'm not sure what she meant by that, but I didn't ask. When we got to her bedroom, Tori told me to make myself at home. She chose to sit on her bed, and I chose a plush brown chair that was next to it.
"How old are you, anyway? I never asked," I looked around her room at all of the cool decorations. She had posters all over her walls of bands, some of which I recognized.
"I just turned 19. Well, we turned 19," Tori replied.
"You couldn't tell?" She laughed. "Parker and I are twins." Now that she had pointed it out, they did look a lot alike. With their dark, curly hair and their rosy cheeks. I definitely noticed they looked like siblings, but the thought of them being twins never crossed my mind.
"Holy shit, how did I not realize? I'm 18 still. You seem a lot older than me," I said, looking at her.
"Well, I am still older than you," We laughed together and for some reason the thought of Laura popped into my head. I remembered why I decided to call Tori in the first place. My smile faded away.
Tori adjusted herself so that she was sitting up taller and said, "Want to watch a movie? We can put face masks on and do each other's nails too if you want," She managed to bring a smile back on my face.
"That sounds absolutely perfect," I had forgotten what it's like to have a friend. We watched some independent movie on Netflix that I really enjoyed. We put on green face masks and talked through a second movie that wasn't as interesting as the first.
"So how do you like the high school here?" Tori asked.
"I don't. I've lived here my whole life and I don't have any friends. You know how pathetic that is? I don't think it's my fault, though. Everyone here has their head stuck up each other's asses."
"I've definitely noticed that just from working at the shop. You have good judgement, Maia."
"I never told you this, but thank you for everything. First, you gave me a chance working at Brew'n'Cup, and now you're being so nice to me away from work... which you're the manager of so quickly? That's impressive," I tried to smile at her but the face mask was starting to dry around my mouth, making it a little hard to move. I could feel that my forehead was still wet when I raised my eyebrows.
"The other workers are monkeys... with their heads up their asses, as you said. Actually, no. Monkeys are way smarter than these people, I swear," We laughed and when we looked at each other's smiles, we laughed even harder since we couldn't smile right from the face masks.
Tori's door opened and Parker came walking in. When I saw him, I started to feel all weird and anxious. "Jesus, who killed Shrek and put his remains on your faces?" he said rudely and I laughed awkwardly. Tori just told him to shut up and asked him what he wanted. He must have known that I had been at their house, since he didn't seem surprised to see me, or bother to say hello.
"I need to borrow you phone charger. Mine broke and I don't want to go to the store until later."
"Looks like you're going to the store now," Tori said with a grin. Parker just rolled his eyes and left. Why hadn't he said anything to me? He seemed so charming and nice at the coffee shop. I heard his footsteps as he went down stairs. The front door creaked and Parker let out a big moan.
"Shit, my car's behind his," I got up and started to leave Tori's room when I heard Parker coming back up the stairs. Just as I turned out of her room, I bumped right into him. My face went right into his shoulder, which smeared green on his shirt.
"God damn it!" He was pissed.
"Don't you ever watch what the fuck you're doing?!" He marched off to his room and slammed the door. I was stunned by his words. It was just a little bit of face mask, I didn't understand what the big deal was.
"What the hell happened?" Tori came up behind me. I couldn't breathe. Tears welled up in my eyes.
Don't cry. Dont. Cry. But I did.
I managed to say, "I have to go," and ran down to my car. I got into the driver's seat and Tori flung open the front door of her house. All I wanted to do was drive away, but instead, I put my green-covered forehead on my steering wheel and bawled. When she got to my car, she opened my door and knelt down next to me.
"Maia... He's just in a bad mood, that's all. He doesn't know the day you're having either. I didn't tell him. I know you're having the worst day ever, but you can't let him get to you," She put her hand in mine, and the other hand on my back. "Move over, I'll drive us somewhere, okay?" Without saying anything, I climbed over my center console and sat in the passenger seat. After putting my seat belt on, I reached into the glove box to grab some napkins that I had stashed in there awhile ago. I wiped my face off. I handed some to Tori as well.
We drove in silence and I watched out the window at all of the green, wet trees and plants pass by. I stopped crying finally, distracted by the beauty of the side of the roads. We had been driving for about ten minutes when Tori pulled into the Target parking lot.
"What are we doing here?" I asked quietly.
"I don't know. I was originally just driving nowhere, but I figured we would have to stop eventually," Even though we were in park, she still had her hands on the steering wheel and she was watching people walk to and from their cars.
I looked at her sharp jaw line and the color of her cheeks. I loved the way her nose came up a little bit at the tip and her eyebrows were natural and bushy but well-kept at the same time. Her black hair was in a messy bun and it had a healthy shine. Tori was absolutely gorgeous. Of course I had noticed this the first time I saw her, but seeing her up-close was different somehow. Like I was actually seeing her instead of just looking at her.
"I have an idea," I took off my seat belt and opened my car door. "Are you coming?" I asked.
We walked through Target past the cash registers and the groceries all the way to the electronics department. I picked up a phone charger from a display and looked to Tori. "He was an asshole to you, why are you buying him a phone charger?" Her face was scrunched a little.
"You're right, he was an asshole, but I want to kill him with kindness," I smiled and walked to the cash register to pay.
The drive back to Tori's house wasn't quiet this time. I had plugged my phone in to the auxiliary cord and showed Tori the bands I was currently obsessed with. I was really glad that we both liked the same genres of music. I was really glad I finally had a friend, and thankful for the distraction.
I knocked on Parker's door and he told me to come in. "Oh, it's you," he said, but not in a rude way. He sounded sad.
He was sitting in a computer chair that looked like a seat that had come from a race car and was playing a video game on two computer screens. I walked in and put the Target bag on his desk in front of him. "Here," he paused his game and looked in the bag.
"Why did you-?" He sighed. "Thank you. I'm sorry I was a dick earlier. I wasn't in a good mood... clearly." Parker smiled slightly at me. I didn't smile back though, even though his smile drove me crazy.
"Don't mention it. I know what it's like to be in a shit mood. Maybe next time, though, instead of taking it out on other people, you should really consider that they might be in a shit mood too," He raised an eyebrow at me and I left before he could say anything else.
I sat back down on Tori's chair with a satisfied smile on my face. "Did he enjoy his gift?" she asked.
"I think I rubbed it in his face that I was being nice? I dunno, but I do know I feel great about it."
"Well I'm glad you're feeling better," Tori was on her phone, but put it down to look at me and smile. "Want some ice cream?"
"How did you know that ice cream was my favorite?" I looked at her seriously.
"Because we're best friends, duh!" We happily went down into the kitchen and her mom was washing dishes.
"Hello, my beautiful girls!" Her mom turned around from the sink. Her smile was so big it kind of freaked me out. Tori and I both said hello and Tori went to the freezer to grab a tub of ice cream. "I hope you're getting famous lemon cream cake to go with that ice cream!" Mrs. Keller's voice kept getting higher and higher as she spoke.
"Yes mom, 'how could we ever forget?'" Tori said mockingly. She scooped three scoops of vanilla ice cream for the each of us into bowls and topped it with a square of yellow cake. It looked absolutely delicious and I had never been more excited for ice cream in my life.
We sat on her screened in back porch as we ate our ice cream. The air was a little chilly, but it felt nice. I'm sure Mrs. Keller was right about her lemon cream cake being famous. If I could marry a food, it would be that cake. We talked a lot about Tori's old life in Connecticut and how none of her three friends bother texting her anymore.
"You would think that when you're friends with the three same people since kindergarten, they would want to talk to you no matter where you are, ya' know?" I nodded in agreement.
"I definitely relate to that. Well, sort of. My, uh- best friend from Kindergarten killed herself freshman year," We were both quiet again. Here I go bringing up sad shit, again, I thought. "Her dad was abusive and her mom wasn't around. You never would have guessed he hit her though. He was nice to everyone else, but Megan always saw his mean side. I think it was because she reminded him of her mom...I dunno." I took a bite of ice cream. "I know it gets easier after someone dies, but you never forget. Especially if you're the one who finds them."
Tori sat up in her chair instantly and I heard her swallow her ice cream hard. "You.. found her? We don't have to talk about this if you don't want to... I understand."
"It's fine now. I'm not freaking you out or anything, am I?"
"No, I'm listening," She gave me a slight smile.
"Like I said, it gets easier, but yes, I did find her. At school that day, she seemed perfectly fine. It was just a normal day. Even when we were walking home and she was talking about death, it was just another conversation we were having. Or so I thought."
"Megan had asked me what I would do if she were to ever die. I had told her that if she were to ever die, I would die too. Clearly I'm here and alive now, but I think a part of me died that day along with her. That night, we had planned to study for a test in history we had the next morning. When I went to her house, I found her on the floor of her bathroom with an empty perscription bottle in her hand. Her dad was home, too." Tori was quiet so I kept talking. "When I started screaming and trying to wake Megan up, he came into the bathroom. He didn't say a word. He just stood there and stared at her body."
"There's been a lot of talk about death today, and I'm sorry if it makes you uncomfortable. You've done a great job of making me feel better, but talking about Laura and Megan makes it a little easier for me though. Death is a normal thing that people hate talking about, but I think the more you talk about it, the less scary it is, for some reason."
She put her bowl down on the porch and stood up, reaching her arms out toward me. I put my bowl down too and stood up in front of her. When I went in for a hug, I could see the tears welled up in her eyes. We hugged for a while, crying in each other's arms.