Dani

When the final bell of the day rings, I am relieved to escape. Everywhere I go, people glance at me strangely with mixtures of pity and unease in their eyes. Usually I smile at people down the pathways, but today I keep my eyes locked on the floor. Suddenly, I hear footsteps running up behind me. "Dani!"

I know even before I turn that it's Caitlyn running frantically up behind me. I am lacking the energy to deal with her at this point. "Hey."

She grabs me by the wrist. "Where have you been?"

Playing dumb as though I haven't been avoiding her all day is my best bet. "When?"

"Um, all day! I called out to you this morning and you mumbled some bullshit and just wandered off! Don't think I haven't seen you trudging down the pathways like a zombie and turning around as soon as I come your way."

Her voice is like broken glass scraping through my ears. "Sorry, I've just been kind of out of it today."

"Uh, we all know! Just look at yourself for god's sake. What were you thinking, coming to school like that?"

"Gee, thanks."

"I'm serious Dani, what's gotten into you?"

Her audacity is astounding. "Uh, my best friend died?"

"Well so did mine, but you don't see me coming to school like I've just come out of a sewer and skulking around avoiding everyone! Aren't you worried about what people think?"

"What, that I'm actually sad about losing my friend unlike some people?"

Caitlyn's grip tightens around my wrist as she pulls me around the nearest corner. Her face is white and her eyes are wild. I can feel my hand throbbing with the tightness of her hold on me. She hisses into my ear. "Dani. Lola killed herself. Who do you think people are going to blame?"

My heart pounds. "What are you saying?"

"People don't respect us because we're nice, Dani. People respect us because they want leaders. We're confident. We're honest. We have a lot of influence on people. Have you thought about what's going to happen to us now? One of us is dead. People are going to watch what we do, ask questions and pick apart everything we say. One wrong move and we're over."

"Seriously? You're worried about your reputation at a time like this?"

"Dani, look. I know I can be a bitch at times, but I'm as sad as you are. I've known Lola for years, she's like a sister to me. I don't know what to do either. But the last thing I want is for people to go around thinking I had something to do with her death. I don't know why she did it and I wish she hadn't, but the only thing I know how to do is keep going, and trying to show people that I'm not a murderer for god's sake. And you slinking around like you've got something to hide isn't helping. I've had nobody to talk to today, I just have to put on this face for the crowds when really I don't know what the hell I'm doing."

There's a manic gleam in Caitlyn's eyes that I've never seen before. Her usual cool, matter-of-fact nature has been stripped away, leaving this paranoid, shaken figure clasping at my arm and digging her nails in as though I'm her last shot at life. I place my free hand over her white knuckles and she slowly lets go of me. I massage the red marks around my wrist.

I never realised how shaken Caitlyn was. Ever since Lola died, she's clammed up and carried on as usual. Her casual demeanor had thrown me off, but I can't help but feel guilty. Caitlyn can be harsh. Brutal - for sure. There have been countless times when I have wished I never associated with her. But on the other hand, they have also been times when I've been very glad I did.

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