“Best Friends For(N)ever”
I was 12 when we met at a friend’s birthday party. Gabriel was 14, a big, scary eighth grader. The sun had gone to bed, and bats flew overhead. Suddenly, this scrawny boy with ruffled, jet black hair leaned forward. “Do you want to hear a secret?” he whispered. I nodded eagerly, wondering what he could possibly have to share with me – a measly sixth grader. “Okay, but you have to promise not to tell anyone.” I nodded again and hugged my knees a little harder. Gabriel smirked. His eyes looked almost black in the moonlight. “Did Julia ever tell you about the time when we were sitting on this trampoline and somebody was hiding beneath it?” “No,” I said. He looked from side to side, as if to make sure no one was eavesdropping. “Well, it was a night just like this one. Dark. Chilly. Bats flying everywhere. We were sitting here talking – just like right now, and do you know what happened?” I shook my head. “All of a sudden – someone stabbed a knife through the trampoline!” Gabriel lunged at me. I scrambled off the trampoline, screaming. He doubled over, his highpitched cackle filling the air. I scowled in childish outrage. “That’s not funny!” He didn’t stop laughing, but attempted a half-hearted apology. “I didn’t mean to scare you that much!” Even that first night I couldn’t stay mad at him. *** By the time I was 15 we were best friends - inseparable: always play-fighting, stealing each other’s things, scaring each other shitless and always ended up in fits of laughter. We could also talk about everything. Sometimes, we didn’t even need to speak at all. *** It had been two days since he was kicked out of the play. I hadn’t seen Gabriel smile since. I was acting like a creep, but my eyes stayed glued to his back as he rummaged through his locker. He turned toward me, ready to go. Naturally, I averted my gaze, but not for long. His stare was piercing, and I looked up again to meet his eyes. ‘I’m so freaking worried about you. Please, I need you to be okay again.’ I thought. Then, he head-butted my shoulder, basically his version of a hug, and smiled. *** “Amber,” he said. He had a way of saying my name in this weird voice, almost like a velociraptor. That did it, any control I had over my emotions disappeared. I could feel my body begin to shake as he pulled me against him. He was short, only a few inches taller than me, so we fit together perfectly. Our arms were like vice-grips around each other, and I could feel his shirt growing wet beneath my cheek. “This isn’t the end,” he said. I nodded, but felt uneasy. Gabriel was graduating - going to college. I was staying here for two more years. *** November. Three months since Gabriel left. The messages slowed, and then stopped coming.