21 - But he was my best friend . . .

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Now.

In the weeks that followed that last session with Karen, I regretted opening up the topic of Tanner in my mind because it was all left unresolved when we ran out of time and the session finished. It felt like he was haunting my every thought, with everything I said to him that night playing on repeat in my mind. I missed him so much, and I wish I could take it all back.

"I don't even remember when we stopped talking. It just kind of happened, and before we knew it we were strangers to each other for the first time since we met as little kids. It wasn't like we had a huge fight or anything, excluding that one, of course. We just drifted away from each other, I guess," I said to Karen a few weeks later when I finally had time to make another appointment. Work has been so busy and Madden had a cold that he just couldn't shake, meaning I had to cancel the last one we had booked to look after him.

"Friendships like the one you both had don't usually just break down for no reason," Karen replied.

"I never thought it would, which is probably why I never saw it coming, and therefore didn't do anything to stop it from happening."

"Sometimes things just happen organically before you're even aware of it. That doesn't mean that it's your fault, or that you could have changed the outcome, even if you tried."

"I know," I said, but quietly feeling all the guilt I deserve to be feeling in this moment. "But he was best friend and I really didn't try at all."

Then.

Camden, being new to the school after only transferring at the end of the previous year, didn't really know too many people when we went back to school that week. I had been going to that school for my entire secondary education. I had been living in the area my whole life, and was closely connected with the footy community there too, so knew a lot of people. Granted, some of them we nasty gossip mongers that didn't give a shit about ruining other people's lives for a chance at spreading misinformation, but for the most part, they were reasonably tolerable. We were teenagers after all. We all had our teenage issues, and all that drama-laden shit just came with the territory.

I had my group of friends - Tanner and Morgan, obviously; and the boys from the club that I had grown up around my whole life who I practically considered family. They were a very chilled bunch of guys. They liked to joke around and have a good laugh. They loved their sports and they breathed footy from dawn to dusk, even in the off-season. From the outside, maybe they were seen as jocks; but to me they were just my lifelong mates. We connected through our ancestral love of footy and the fact they were good people, but we didn't have much in common beyond that.

Alternatively, Camden understood the second side of me - the bookish, creative, moody side. In my head, having Camden around meant that I was able to exercise that more introverted, artsy part of myself, while continuing my old friendships with the others. After all, both sides were equally big parts of who I was, and if it blended together and functioned in me, why couldn't it work with them all, too? Ha!

The boys hated Camden. They thought he was some weird emo kid, just listening to his heavy music too loud and skating around like some clichéd punk rebelling against society. Realistically, they weren't wrong; but there was more to him than that and they just weren't open to seeing it.

They also thought he was a rude asshole and that he made no effort to get along with them. Again, I couldn't fault their conclusions. I had initially rationalised it in my head that he kept to himself and didn't engage with them because he was new and anxious about being around people he didn't know yet.

It was a lot worse than all that though. Camden despised them. He would just refer to them as 'ignorant jocks with no substance,' and would make comments about how he didn't understand how I was friends with them when we were all so different. I could see where he was coming from . . . to an extent. I didn't fully fit in with them, but a big part of me did; and it was the part of me that he pretended didn't exist, or tried to crush out of existence.

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