In one of my unfinished novellas, I kill off a character based on my former best friend. I have her murdered in one of those teenage girl lured and raped and killed scenarios so popular on Nancy Grace.
My former friend is still alive. She dumped me around our twentieth high school reunion. She said we were too different. She didn’t like the way I talked to a waitress.
As I set out to tell a story of two teenage girls flirting with older men, with danger, one bold and risk-taking, one hanging back and watching, I wrote the details of that summer we carried props for “Three Men on a Horse,” then didn’t know what to do next.
So I planned to kill her. I imagined a disappearance through the non-risktaker’s eyes. I imagined TV coverage getting the story wrong and the friend left behind wondering why everyone had to say she was a slut. Well, not say it, but it didn’t need to be said. She went off with a man. She deserved what she got. She wasn’t a virgin.
My friend did not die. She suffered by going off with men who did not treat her well. But she did not die. When my story veered away from her actual life, I stopped writing it. Except in my head. She died there.
At our next high school reunion, I saw her before she saw me. Her hair was an inch long, uncolored, peppered gray. She had shaved it off for a performance, I deduced from a review I found online.
I hopped into a chair at her table and said hello. She was polite. But there was a dead thing on the table between us. I had not approved of her for years, but I was loyal, and I hung onto the stupid things we had done together. Drugs we took. Boys and men we sighed for. Parties we crashed. Cars we should have. She made me wilder than I could ever be on my own. Perhaps I used her, but I wanted the drugs and excitement just as much as she did.
We were friends at a dysfunctional time in our lives (her words). So the friendship had to be killed.
She was hilarious as a girl. She could do voices of pompous aristocrats, hillbillies, monarchs, psychopaths, ingenues. She made me laugh until I cried. I rolled on the floor. I almost peed.
With the dead thing lying between us, I knew she would never make me laugh again. She was serious, boring, still vain, running her hand through her shorn hair, reveling in her new dramatic unvain look. I was bored by the surface, but held by the dead thing. It practically stank.
It was a relief to let go of her after that. No more dead thing. No more laughing, with her. No more anything.
Maybe a story of the times before. I will end it before any death. I will end it while we are still girls, still dangerous, in danger, our friendship still alive. Girls who teeter on the edge of self destruction—I’ll let the story end there, though I know we have lived to
boring boring middle age.
Safe. Apart. Unkilled.