Chapter Seven

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I sat in a coffee shop with Kimberly and Amy, flicking my eyes between them both nervously. They were both happily sitting, comfortably sipping their drinks in turn, neither of them finding anything odd about this situation. To me, it was completely and utterly bizarre. I'd never done this, even before. Sitting here, drinking hot drinks with friends—it was just mad. It wasn't the sort of things school kids did, and then I was too sick to even consider it.

I had far too much adrenaline coursing through my body—I almost couldn't control it! I was desperately trying to keep myself under control, but I was really struggling to appear normal.

"So, do you think you're going to get it?" Kimberly spoke excitedly.

Amy had just revealed to us that she'd been working really hard in secret, going to night school in between shifts and studying her ass off, to finally achieve her dream. Apparently she'd wanted to be a hairdresser forever, but she hadn't enjoyed school, so she didn't want to go on to do further education immediately afterwards. That was why she took the job in the diner, and stuck at it for...well, way too long. And now, it was happening for her, for real. Now she was actually close to getting exactly what she wanted.

I felt a little lost at her big revelation. I didn't know how to take it. I didn't want to be stuck at the diner, all by myself. Now that I had Amy, I didn't want to lose her. Of course, I wanted her to get the life that she deserved, the one that she'd worked for. I just didn't want to be left behind.

I felt bad at my previous assumption that she was just a loser, like me. It seemed that I was by myself with that one! Oh God, why didn't I have dreams? Why was there nothing that I wanted to achieve? That I desired to get from life? I wouldn't know where to begin, even if I did have something that I wanted out of life.

"Yeah, it's looking really good! The manager has been emailing me all of the health and safety regulations, that sort of thing." Amy grinned, brighter than I'd ever seen her smile before. "I just can't wait to get started, you know?"

"I'm so proud of you!" Kimberly pulled her in for a hug.

"Me too." I said, through gritted teeth and a fake smile. It wasn't that I didn't feel happy for Amy, of course I did! I was just so sad for myself. I was selfishly wishing that she didn't have to go anywhere. I'd only just brought her into my life, I'd just let her in, and now she was leaving. I hugged her too, trying not to let the bitterness show.

"I'm really looking forward to it now; it's going to be amazing!" She was so, so happy. It almost brought a tear to my eye. I was so conflicted with my emotions; it was like a horrible, nauseating rollercoaster.

The other two talked for a while, and I slowly, quietly sipped my drink. I tried to organise my thoughts, keep my feelings in check. The last thing I wanted to do was show these girls my selfish side. They'd invited me here, they'd brought me into their social circle, and I could not afford to blow it. I certainly didn't want to lose either of them totally.

"So, Lara." Suddenly the conversation swing around to me. I didn't quite know how that happened, I really should have been listening. "Tell us a bit more about yourself, I still don't really know anything about you."

Kimberly smiled, inviting me in, wanting me desperately to be her friend. I froze. I wanted that too, I wanted to be their friend so damn badly. And for real—not just to tell my mum—but it didn't feel as simple as that. Maybe I should just open up and tell them, maybe it was time. Maybe it was time to unburden myself, just a little. It might help them understand me better and take our friendship to another level. Maybe, for the first time in a long time, I wanted that. I needed that.

I opened my mouth, and the words just started to spill out. "Um, well I moved here from Newmount, a small down a few miles from here—well a little more than a few miles, actually. I wanted to move to the city, after I had a bit of...a rough time." I chose my words carefully; I spoke in a considered manner. I was afraid, desperate to find the right way to make this come out in the best way possible.

The girls exchanged a look. Obviously they'd been discussing me and they knew that something was up.

Kimberly rested her hands over mine, looking kindly at me. "Trust me; we've been through shitty times too!" I could tell by her words that she thought that it was all about a bad relationship, a horrible ex, something along those lines. I could just see it in her eyes. I also thought I might have accidentally given them that impression when we were drunk.

Oh God, they really have no idea.

"Um, no it's...it's a bit weird." I stuttered, feeling myself growing cold and pale. I didn't plan on saying any of this now, I'd rather it come out when I'd had time to rehearse it in front of the mirror, to chose my words more exactly. But I might not get another chance.

"It's okay." They both instinctively moved in closer to me. "You can tell us anything, we're your friends now."

"Um, okay. Well, I was diagnosed with a rare terminal cancer. They said I wouldn't live longer than six months." I blurted it out quickly, noticing Kimberly throw her hand over her mouth. "But, I survived. I mean, I still have to get checked up every now and then, I'm not totally out of the woods...They said it was a 'miracle recovery'." I let out a strangled laugh as I realised how much a mess I was making of this—I knew for a fact that I wasn't getting many of the details out at all, and that I was just rushing through it, but I couldn't stop myself. "So, life went a bit weird and I decided to get away, to come here, to start again." I knew that I'd told that in the worst possible way, but I just wanted to get this conversation done as quickly as possible. I hated even mentioning it again.

I finally looked up to see Amy nodding intently, finally seeing why I'd been so difficult to be around. I was glad that I could make her see that I wasn't just odd and bitchy—that there was much more to me than that. It made it feel a little more worth it.

"We're here for you now." Kimberly said, decidedly. "We'll help you, won't we Amez?" Amy nodded again. This time, I could tell that she didn't know what to say. I recognised that look extremely well, I saw it a lot when I was diagnosed. I smiled back, feeling strained. I knew I shouldn't have said anything. This had changed everything. These girls would look at me differently now, I just knew it.

How could they not, when everyone else did?

"In fact, one of my friends is having a house party Friday night, do you want to come? It's gunna be loads of fun!" Kimberly's tone was overly enthusiastic, but I did appreciate the offer. "You're coming, right Amy?"

"I can't, I need to get ready for my job..." She trailed off, looking awkward. A horrible realisation consumed me. I'd lost her; she no longer wanted to be my friend. She didn't know it herself yet, but she felt too uncomfortable to be around me. She wouldn't make the decision to actively avoid me, but it would happen, slowly, over time. It always did.

I wanted to cry, but I wouldn't in public. I'd wait until I was safely locked indoors before I allowed the tears to fall. I should be used to this by now, but somehow this wound felt completely fresh and new.

"Well Nick invited me, so I kind of have to go. I think this might be the one shot I have with him. He actually went out of his way to ask me out and I don't know if I'll get another chance. I need to do this. Please come, Lara? Say you'll still come with me? It will be fun, honest." She pleaded with me, fluttering her eyelashes as a joke, and this shook me out of my negative mood a little. She still wanted to be around me, even if no one else did. I couldn't help how Amy felt—anymore than she could—but what I could do, for the first time in a very long time—was focus on the positive. The Lara I'd become would have only seen the bad side of this, but I was doing my best not to be that person anymore. I wouldn't see the friend lost, I'd see the one I'd gained.

Anyway, maybe it really would be fun. Getting out, having a laugh—that was exactly what I needed. Sitting at home, alone, resisting the temptation to cry was not a better option.

"Of course, I'll come." I grinned, feeling a heavy weight lifting from my shoulders. This was going to be fine, I was going to go out with Kimberly and have a really good time—just like last time. I remembered how good the last night out had made me feel, and I looked forward to having that experience again.

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