Through Thick And Thin

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"I don't want to eat lunch with you anymore."

Fall.
Freshman year.

You were 15 minutes late for lunch period, and I found you outside in the high school courtyard. I remember the chill in the air, just before the frost set in.

We'd met in third grade, and we ate together every day since. Other friends came and went, but you were the one constant at my cafeteria table. My BFF. Practically my sister.

"I'm busy," you said. "It's not like it's required, Viv. Grow up."

I remember the way your face looked. No longer childlike. Distorted with contempt. And I remember the names you called me:

Clingy...
Bossy...
Demanding...

Something like that. Anyway, I got the gist. Our friendship was over.

"Fine," I said. "Whatever. I don't care." I left you there to freeze.

I didn't cry until after school. My mom stroked my hair and explained how people grow apart sometimes. It didn't make sense to me, though. People don't grow apart overnight. Maybe they stop eating PB&J and switch to salads because they want to act "grown up," but they don't start hating their best friend.

But, I listened to my mom. I cried myself to sleep. The next day, I dried my eyes.

Fine, I told you. Whatever. I don't care.

Those words weren't true, but I made them true. For the next three years, I didn't look at you when we passed in the halls. I turned away and talked to someone else.

So I didn't see the changes – how you were disappearing day by day. Junior year, when your parents pulled you out of school, I didn't even notice you were gone.

It was only after high school that I found out where you went. Funny how hindsight can cast memories in a different light.

It's not like it's required, Viv...

We were both in our 20s when you found me on Facebook. We got together for coffee, and you explained how that conversation had been a turning point.

First you dropped PB&J.

Then you dropped lunch.

Then you dropped eating altogether.

"Anorexia," you said. You finished high school from a hospital bed. You collected your diploma from a wheelchair, too sick to walk across a stage.

And me? Your BFF? I didn't even notice you were gone.

I wish I could go back.
Fall.
Freshman year.
The high school courtyard, before the frost set in.

Not that I could've changed anything – that was a battle only you could fight – but I wouldn't have walked away in bitter coldness.

Fine. Whatever. I don't care.

I wish I'd known what I know now. That some words linger. Some chills settle into your bones – so deep, the ache can still bring you to tears, all grown up and sipping coffee ten years later.

But most of all, I wish I'd told you that you still had a friend when you needed one.

"Always," I should've said. "No matter what. Through thick and thin."

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