A young girls' journey to recovering broken bonds with old friends
|She walked around campus, hair pulled up under her denim baseball cap, black jacket pulled around her against the nip of the wind. She didn't want to be recognized. In all black, no one would know her as the vibrant girl in the doodled on sweatshirt of the spring term. And that was fine. In fact, that was just the way she liked it.
She took the elevator up, standing in the corner, unobtrusive. A student in no particular hurry. As she reached the fifth floor, she reached up and pulled her cap off, letting her shorn locks fall to her shoulders.
"Hey Liz" said her familiar friends, "how was your summer?"
she was finally back. Really back. Back in her theater home, the only place she'd ever belonged, ever been listened to. Ever, in her entire life, been wanted.
She fell into a chair and reached for a slice of cold pizza. "Good" she said around a mouthful of cheesy goodness.
"Why are you in blacks?" Her friend asked. Polite but curious.
"Trying not to be noticed."
"That's funny," she heard from the back "since you surely got us noticed last year."
Here Liz offered a smile up to Mike, "yeah well there's certain people I don't want noticing me"
"Back up," said their advisor. "Why's that?"
"Find out who your friends are," Liz replied. "And I found out that the friends I had are apparently apathetic to my existence. So why give them the chance to find me?"
As the drama club president and the director checked off beginning-of-the-year agenda items-attendance, new members, storage access, inventory, budget paperwork, Liz sat in the back and watched. Looking out the window she could see, from across the quad, the window where her so called friends were planning, plotting, playing petty games. No, no more. The campus activities people had forgotten her. As for them, There would be no thinking of that.
She turned her attention back to drama club's first meeting of the semester.
"So that's most of what I have to say. Liz will have the pamphlets done in color shortly, she says. So that adjourns today's meeting."
Liz grabbed another slice and headed out, laughing and smiling as another semester began.
"Liz, Liz!" Came the call across the quad. Liz struggled to pull her dark hair back under her cap, to regain the anonymity she had so desperately sought out.
"Liz, I didn't know you were back! where have you been?"
"Out of my way, Lorraine" she growled. Lorraine was one of them . the people that had ignored her all summer and now acted like they cared.
"You ignored me, I haven't heard from you since my birthday. Why should I bother-with you or any of the BCA?"
I wanted friends, she thought. Not this shit. Not convenience.
Lorraine turned away, hurt and angry. So yeah, they'd ignored each other, for the most part. But she had to admit she's gotten closer with the board, and those that hung out outside of the office-over the summer.
And they had talked about Liz. How she was strange. A bit of a brat. Not that they'd ever invited her to get to know her better or anything.
She watched as Liz trotted away, black as night against her more colorful dramatic counterparts. Maybe they'd made a mistake after all.
Liz was hurt. No one ever chased after her. No one cared. No one came looking for her, if they found her, great, but they didn't exactly check in on her. And weren't friends supposed to care? At least a little? Well to hell with them, she decided, as she came back to the conversation swirling around her. Actors and crew alike were digging into the leftover pizza, sitting at a booth overlooking the lawn. They watched as BCA trotted over to open their movie for the night, and meandered their way back shortly after. The drama kids, closed up the pizza and said their goodbyes. And Liz, she realized, was alone again.
Tucking her hair up under her cap, she quietly walked by the campus activities movie. Quietly observed all the people who didn't see her-had never really seen her. And in her blacks, she was all but invisible. Those people don't miss you, kid. She told herself, pulling her jacket tighter. She dug through her pockets, searching for her keys as the theatre broke into laughter. She kept walking. To hell with them, she thought. To hell with them all. I don't want anything to do with it OR them. So why was she brushing tears off her wind-burned face?
Lorraine cornered Liz the next day. And this time she brought backup. Liz rolled her eyes as she saw Caitlyn, Carson, and Keaton standing in front of her. The only friends she'd made with the Campus Activities last year.
It was Keaton who had suggested they look for her in the only place she'd ever felt safe-the same fifth floor space where just the day before she'd been laughing and downing pizza with her real friends from drama club.
Caitlyn spoke first. "Why?"
"You ignored me!" Liz accused, immediately on the defensive.
Keaton spoke up "you didn't exactly message us first..."
Liz ignored him. And his stupid logic.
They stood there in silence, knowing eventually she wouldn't be able to stand it and would blurt something out.
"I wasn't learning what I wanted to" Liz sat back, defeated.
Carson spoke first; "You know we would teach you anything if you asked."
"Except you all know I won't ask people for anything. And I don't see Jason here asking me to come back, or Cameron or Bryan!"
They flinched as she rattled off the names of their missing members.
"So I went out and found myself better teachers. Places where I could REALLY practice my skill. With people who wanted me."
Lorraine, Carson, and Caitlyn walked away to call the elevator. Liz heard the *ding* from someplace far away in her mind.
Keaton stood over her a second longer, looking down and shaking his head sadly. "I really thought you'd realize, Liz. We-" he gestured to the three getting on the elevator "wanted you."
"C'mon Keaton!" Lorraine's voice shrilled "she obviously doesn't want US."
And with that, Keaton walked away too.
Liz turned away in her seat so they wouldn't see the tears sliding down her face.
There was a knock on the door and Liz jumped Six feet. She hadn't told anyone where she'd been living this year. Which meant it'd be one of VERY few people.
"Liz" said her advisor, breezing in. Liz smiled, that's what she'd always loved about the advisor for drama club; he cared so much he surpassed societal norms.
He'd hug a girl having a bad day, he'd advise a male student on relationship problems. That was just who he was. He had never crossed a line-it just seemed he carried the comfort of being around him like some people carried a long board or a backpack,
"Liz, I got a call from the president of the BCA. One of my students, incidentally"
Liz pulled up a chair in front of him. The president was a pilot, it wasn't surprising her advisor-another aviation teacher among many-knew him.
"He said you've repeatedly refused to meet with any members of the BCA. What happened?"
Before Liz could answer, he continued. "You were our girl on the inside. You wouldn't stop talking about their stuff and how we could use it last year. I thought you liked them."
"LIKED." Liz emphasized the past tense.
"For what it's worth," her advisor said, standing "he said they all miss you. Maybe you should give them a chance."
"Whatever." Liz said, slumping back into her seat. She nodded to the door. He showed himself in, he could show himself out.
Liz pulled up her IMs, watching names from the BCA drop lower and lower as more recent chats came through. Her best friend from Iowa, the director from the community theatre, the director and president from drama club, the group chat for the same.
And nowhere, she noted-was a group chat for BCA.
Maybe that was the rub. She'd never been invited to see what they talked about. Why else than if they were talking about her? She answered a few messages-homework, tutoring, rehearsals-and closed the tab. She opened up the events page and browsed the schedule. There were two shows this weekend for her own community company, she had no time for anything on campus. However she froze as she noted two distinctly flagged and flashing events for BCA. She moused over one, seeing that it was actually before her call time tonight.
Even as she told herself she wouldn't go, she was slipping into sandals and fitting her baseball cap over her head. Just to see she told herself.
She slipped into the back row, Unnoticed. However, She noticed everything-people looking behind them at the sudden disturbance. The lights and sound temporarily interrupting their hushed conversation to glance behind them. She ignored the huddled figures in back, she knew it was Lorraine and Keaton silently watching from the back. It wasn't that they didn't trust her, didn't know her. They were just watching. "Always watch the watchers" as Gibbs-a favorite character for many at campus activities-often said. Keaton tapped Lorraine on the shoulder and silently made his way over to the brooding girl in black.
He sat on the end; didn't say anything. Just watched as she surreptitiously wiped tears from her face, crying tears nobody heard. Crying for something, maybe even she didn't realize she missed.
And he said not a word as she quietly slipped out the back before the lights came on. Covered as Lorraine followed her.
Liz heard footsteps. With barely a thought, she whipped around, a brutal four inch blade thrust out in front of her. Lorraine, startled, jumped back.
"So you came to see what you were missing."
For a moment Liz forgot herself, she smiled. "Not much, that guy sucked." In that moment, she wasn't angry anymore. She could remember sunny days in the office. Late nights brooding over cut rate movies that the student body had stupidly selected over options Jason had thought would have been much better.
Lorraine laughed for a minute. Stopped as Liz's smile faded, her features hardening into an unreadable line. "It's not so great singing backup." Lorraine said gently, a reminder that at one point, Liz had been front and center.
"Well it's what I do now." Liz replied. "And I have to go."
"We're here when you're ready." Lorraine barely breathed the words into the air-just loud enough for Liz to hear as she huffed away.
Liz just pulled her jacket closer. Those words shouldn't have brought the hope that Liz suddenly felt blossoming in her chest. Shouldn't have made Liz smile stupidly as she walked into rehearsal. Shouldn't have made her run-as soon as rehearsals were over-to an office that was already dark.
Well no one is waiting for you, she said. As if that was all the proof she needed. She slunk down in front of the door, and cried.
If she didn't miss them at all, she asked herself, why was she so disappointed in finding nobody there?
The next night, after rehearsal, Liz exited the stage door to find the rain coming down in sheets. Liz could hardly see the road. She knew the hill to her house would be brutal. She drove with her lights on high until she-almost on accident-finally found the university, her marker to nearly home. She pulled into the school, turning her car off in the lot where she usually parked before class. Great, she was stopped. Now what's your plan? she asked herself. She knew before she even took the key from the ignition exactly where she was heading. Head ducked down, she turned into the student center. Turned left. And to her relief, saw the door to the office wide open, like it was just waiting for her to find her way home.
She stood heistatntly in the doorway till Jason looked up. Jason, her big brother, her best friend. Well, he'd been like her big brother, even if they'd never been related by blood.
"Liz." He said, standing up, "What are you doing here?"
"I got scared," she mumbled. No one was going to know she was scared of thunderstorms. Not if she had anything to do with it.
"Of what? The storm?" Jason laughed incredulously.
"maybe." Liz stood there awkwardly. She wanted nothing more than to push him aside and collapse on the couch. But she knew this was no longer her home, she had no claim to this place.
"Can I....Can I come in?"
Jason moved out of the way to grant her entry. "It still is...you know." Jason said.
Liz smiled at him gratefully, falling back on the couch.
"Can I ask you something?" she said carefully, unsure if this was the same Jason she had left in May.
"WithOUT getting the exec party line?"
Jason hesitated. He knew he'd crossed the line with the things he had told Liz in the past.
Here, Liz hesitated. She knew the question. She knew she could expect Jason to be honest. But was she ready for the honest answer? "If i left BCA...would they really MISS anything?"
Jason hesitated, feathering between "uh...um..well...if you left...Wanna go for a ride?" he asked.
Exactly. Liz thought, I don't do anything. But the second part was, At last, a question Liz knew the answer to. "yes."
Last semester, that had been her favorite thing. She and Jason were always the last people left. Liz ate dinner at school, Jason couldn't stand school food. So when he went to get dinner, Liz always got to go.
They buckled in and rode in silence. Liz had noticed that about Jason. He always thought better moving. Kinda like someone else she knew.
"Ok," Jason said, pulling the car into the parking lot. "you want the honest answer?"
"Oh, so now you've had time to think of a good party line?"
That confirmed what Liz knew-she could expect honesty from Jason, even if from no one else.
"I think some people would miss you...and some wouldn't blink."
Liz stood there, nodded, and figured that was as good an answer as she would get from him. "well Lorraine would miss me, but only cuz she's exec." She reasoned. "Cameron and Bryan would probably throw a party. And I know Carson talks about me behind my back." She didn't say Jason's name, too afraid of knowing the answer, too afraid she could be wrong. They got back in the car and buckled in.
The ride back was filled by mindless chatter, how the evening's events had gone, how everyone was doing. "Equipment training is coming up, do you plan to be there?" Liz shrugged.
Liz lit up, as Jason had known she would. "it's great. I'm not doing stage management as much, but I'm working with props. Everyone is super nice. I feel at home there."
Liz told the truth. As her friend, and the president of drama club, had said before, the theatre was everyone's home. The fact that there are just so many different roles and jobs and types of people in a theater at any given time meant that there was no way anyone could stand out. And in that, everyone fit in. Jason parked the car in front of the student center and held the door for Liz. She hopped out, suddenly her happy, boundless self. Jason smiled and opened the door to the office for her. Liz curled up on the couch as Jason flipped the TV on and loaded the week's movie for preview. For a moment, it was like Liz had never left.
That was, until Bryan walked in. "Hey Jason." He said, not even turning to acknowledge Liz's presence.
Jason nodded in greeting. Don't care, don't care Liz repeated to herself.
"Anyway, we're all going out to eat. You want to come?" Jason looked down at his sandwich.
Liz couldn't believe it. This was the only friend she had in all of Campus activities, and here he was, ditching her like everyone else. Liz waited patiently for Jason to invite her along, as he always did when he saw her being railroaded. He didn't.
Liz packed up her stuff-no one could hang out in the office without someone from the Board there too-and grabbed her keys. Fine.
She walked out ahead of everyone else-she didn't need them-and threw her backpack in the car. She wasn't sad anymore. At some point, you get used to being left out.
She threw her car into drive and tore out of the parking lot. Fine, she thought, I don't need them. That was it. She would never go back. This is why you left, remember? she scolded herself. These people aren't your friends, those people who shared pizza with you and listened to your ideas? Those people were your friends. She pulled into the parking lot of her dorm, turned off the car, sat there, and wept.
The next day was a thursday. Last year, Liz had looked forward to Thursdays. Thursdays was when BCA sat down, outlined their plans for the next 7 days, and sometimes, there was cake. Liz looked forward to this Thursday too. Astronomy club was having a speaker! All she had to do was survive today, and what a sweet prize awaited her if she got through the day. The president of astronomy had promised free pizza to boot.
Liz always started the day early. Her first class didn't start till 10, but she always got to school by 730 or parking was a nightmare. She usually just sat in the library or took a nap. As usual, Liz was outside her classroom by 930. The president of drama club, who was in the next class over, greeted her cordially. Liz nodded in acknowledgment-not much of a morning person-and browsed through her email. She noticed that she had a new email from the BCA-I've got to get around to unsubscribing from that she thought. She'd forgotten their weekly meetings happened on Thursday. She swiped to delete-and then thought twice. They're still my friends she thought, It might be good to see them.
Liz was stuck in an interesting limbo. She had arrived early to back-to-school to help BCA with orientation. Even doing community theatre, she'd show up to BCA's events-as she had just two days before-and try to help, even as they dismissed her. Other people talked to her, she was a hard person to ignore. Even knowing how she felt about them, she knew that if she wanted, she had credit for much of her time there. And credit counted, as it did in any club, being there mattered. Usually, as Liz was about to find out.
Liz showed up to the meeting a bit late, having been absorbed in the astronomy club's speaker series. She snuck in the back row and sat right behind her best friend. She listened to the items on the agenda-events she hadn't been to, but had seen either the beginning or end of, missing the main show courtesy of rehearsals. The meeting went quickly and Liz was desperate to catch the end of the speaker's series. "Wait, wait..." came the call from the meeting's leaders. Liz ignored it-there was an astronomy speaker! "They're handing out t-shirts!" Liz's best friend called. Liz was already halfway down the hall; "Just grab me one!" She called back.
Liz did catch the end of the speaker. She found it fascinating. Being fidgety as she was, though, she was glad to be dismissed at last. Her best friend was waiting for her. "They didn't have any extras" her friend shrugged. "What?" "Didn't you get an e-mail asking for sizes?" Liz's friend asked. Liz fumed. "No. I continue to support them and that's what they pull?!" She stormed down the stairs. She couldn't believe what she was hearing.