If Ray weren't here, I wouldn't unpack my clothes. They'd sit in my suitcase, and they'd probably get a bit wrinkly, but I'd survive.

If Ray weren't here, some fresh-out-of-college social media manager who's barely older than me would handle my Instagram posts. They might seem contrived at first, but she'd catch on quickly, and only the most discerning Codettes would notice.

If Ray weren't here, everything would be okay. It'd be weird at first, but I'd get through it. I'd miss her, but my world wouldn't end.

I set the pillow down beside me and sit up. "Ray, you're fired."

Ray turns, a pair of jeans in her hand, and blinks at me. "Pardon me?"

"You heard me," I say. "You're fired."

Ray freezes, like the wheels in her brain have ground to a stop. And then she moves all too quickly. The jeans leave her hand and sail in my direction, landing softly in my lap. Then she goes for a pair of Nikes. I'm barely able to duck those. They hit the wall behind my head with a thud.

"Ray! Stop it!" I hold my hands up in front of my face as a leather jacket comes flying at me. "You're still my best friend, you just can't be my personal assistant anymore."

"That doesn't make any sense!" Ray shoots a t-shirt my way, but it flops through the air so slowly that I manage to catch it. "You're not making any sense!"

"That thing isn't bottomless, you know." I climb off the bed and hold my hands up as I walk toward her. She stops throwing my stuff and stares at me. "It's not, like, Mary Poppins's suitcase."

"Of course not," Ray says, sniffling. "Mary Poppins would never fire her best friend out of nowhere."

"No, but she did disappear without a trace, didn't she?"

"But," Ray says, twisting my Wonder Woman running tights in her hands, "Jane and Michael knew she loved them. They always knew that."

"Oh, Ray." I wrap my arms around her like she did for me the other night. "You know I love you. I'm sorry I sprung this on you like that. Please let me explain."

Ray nods against my shoulder, so I release her and guide her to sit next to me on the bed. Before I start talking, I hand her a tissue. She mutters a thanks and blows her nose.

"Do you remember," I say, "when we were thirteen and you told me you wanted to be a doctor so you could help blind people in third-world countries see again?"

Ray groans. "I was thirteen years old. There is so much white privilege in that statement, I can't even. Plus, do you remember in freshman year when we had to dissect a frog and I had to leave the classroom to throw up?"

My stomach churns at the memory. I left class a few minutes later to check on her, and it was not pretty. "My point is, you have dreams, okay? Even if they're not the same as they were when we were thirteen. You want to make documentaries and travel the world and read every book Rory Gilmore did. How are you going to do any of that if you're spending your time unpacking my toiletries?"

"I like unpacking your toiletries," Ray says. Her head falls against my shoulder. "And that's not all I'm doing, okay? I'm traveling the world with my best friend the pop star. How many people get to do that?"

"But your dreams—"

Ray grabs my hand and weaves our fingers together. "There's plenty of time for my dreams, Cody. And right now one of my dreams is to spend as much time with my best friend as I can before she confesses her love to Niall Horan and he sweeps her onto his white horse to run away with him. You hear me?"

the other side of fear // n.h.Where stories live. Discover now