Nine

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I began to tell him about Ariana's funeral. I spoke with deliberate pauses, completely reliving each sentence I said in my head. I explained I had been best friends with Ari since meeting her during the first year of middle school. We were both eleven, in sixth grade, and I was the new kid in town. My dad had gotten the job he still currently has, and with it giving him a raise in salary plus getting to work from home a few days a week, my parents had agreed it was worth the move to Fairhollow.

I spoke about my childhood briefly, quickly catching up to the part when my life took a turn for the better.

"I met my best friend, Ariana. Ari, for short," I told him. "She was pretty, popular, friendly, and wore the best clothes. She was everything I'm not."

"So far she sounds just like you," he said softly.

"Yeah right!" I laughed. "My parents aren't rich and I wouldn't say I'm popular by any standards. Her friends only talked to me because I was always around."

"No, I meant the part about being pretty," he whispered. "You're absolutely beautiful." He brought his hand to my face and brushed a piece of hair from my eyes.

Oh my God! My head screamed. He said I'm beautiful! This boy is delusional!

I wanted to make a sarcastic, witty remark to ease my embarrassment but I didn't speak. I just stared right back into his blue eyes and tried to etch this moment into my memory so I would never forget it.

I felt my cheeks flush and hoped Leo didn't notice. I continued telling him my story. I went on to say how Ariana and I grew close pretty quickly. By the middle of sixth grade, we were inseparable. I spent every weekend sleeping over at her house and we would talk on the phone every day for hours.

I had never met anyone like her. While I, along with many of our fellow students suffered through puberty, Ariana seemed to thrive in it. My skin broke out, hers only glowed thanks to the summer tan she acquired during all the days we spent by her pool. I fought frizz in the heavy humidity while Ariana complained her long blonde hair was "too straight and shiny". I cut my lips more times than I could count on the metal braces that were stuck on my teeth, yet Ari had naturally straight white teeth. I could go on and on, I told him.

By eighth grade, her popularity hit a new high. She hosted pool parties and started inviting groups of other kids over. The days of it being just the two of us somehow got lost in the past. I longed for those days, but didn't want to seem clingy. Ariana loved the attention from the other kids at school. She lived in one of the biggest houses around, had a huge backyard that easily accommodated the entire student body, if she'd wanted.

Sleepovers now consisted of at least three of us, minimum. Ariana, me, and usually one other girl, Vivian. I hadn't thought about her in years.

 I hadn't thought about her in years

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