She picked up a photo frame and smiled wistfully at the two girls' toothless yet beaming smiles. She recalled how that stupid girl had purposely got her teeth knocked out just so she, her friend, wouldn't feel left out for having a gapped smile.
"She was always like this, wouldn't think twice before doing something this outrageous just to make her friend happy." She muttered while chuckling.
Sara and her went back a long way. They met in kindergarten and bonded over their love for colored pencils and tormenting bullies. Even at that young age Sara was such a ruffian and wouldn't back down from a fight. She had certainly earned herself a name. "Those were such happy days," she mused to herself. She couldn't stop smiling as she recalled those joyous memories.
A buzzing sound snapped her out of her reverie. It was her phone- it kept pinging with consolatory messages but she ignored it. She wasn't ready for yet another message where they offered their half-hearted condolences.
She kept going through her old stuff to heal from the grieving pain. "Why did this have to end? Why couldn't it last forever? What could she have done to avoid this, prevent it from occurring?" she thought. This room was filled with memories of just two of them. But she felt alone now.
These memories and mementos were starting to make her feel sick as they were part of the time that she can never have back. A time when everything was perfect, a time when she had her...
She was jerked out of her thoughts by the harsh sound of the doorbell. She made her way towards the door but hesitated just before opening it. Somehow, she knew who was on the other side and so, dreaded opening it. That is until she heard a dry voice say, "Open up bish, I know you are standing on the other side. I can see your shadow from beneath the door, you know?"
Immediately the door was flung open and two girls came face to face. It was as if time stopped yet it didn't. They both took their time to say something but failed to come up with anything.
At last, she came forward and hugged the visitor and whispered, "Welcome back Sara," Sara was silent for a while and just hugged her friend for a long time only to whisper back, "Yes, I'm finally home Khyati."
The two girls sat on the floor in the living room surrounded by pictures of Khyati's beloved but sadly demised cat. The afternoon sunlight bathed the room in a warm glow. It looked as if someone had turned on a camera filter basking the room with a beautiful golden hue.
Sara's long hair was tied up in her characteristic bun with a pencil shoved in to keep it intact. She looked so different now; gone was the gangly, awkward girl who would hide behind baggy clothes, she looked confident in herself now. Khyati mused with an adoring expression on her face but she was jerked out of her musings by a shrill voice.
"I can't believe you didn't tell me about Mani's death! How could you? I had to find out through our mutual friend's social media page. It was so heartbreaking and at the same time offensive. I am your best friend! She was as much my cat as she was yours, remember?" Sara purposely decided to ignore Khyati's flinch when she called them best friends.
"What, social media? Why are people posting about my cat's death on their social media pages? What has the world come to?" Khyati was bewildered by the turn of events.
"Yeah, tell me about it! They even got a photo from somewhere that looked real shady, with her ears perked up and her eyes fixed in her trademark glare. The caption was: RIP dear Mani... we will miss you. I love you so much, my angel."
Sara whipped out her phone to show Khyati as proof.
Both of them studiously looked at the photo for a few minutes until they couldn't hold it in and burst out laughing. Khyati was almost wheezing on the floor and kicking Sara in excitement. Sara wasn't in any better condition and was slapping the floor like a maniac. They would stop laughing for a while but as soon as they made eye contact they would be at it again.
It took a while for them to settle down but a few peals of laughter still burst through from time to time.
"Wow, how long has it been since we last met like this?" Sara posed the question that Khyati wanted to avoid.
"Before I even moved out of the city-maybe? I honestly don't remember." Khyati replied while picking at non-existent flint on her shirt. It was evident that Khyati was being evasive.
"Where are your parents?," Sara asked while glancing around the house.
"Dad's at work and Mom is visiting her friend." There was a lull in the conversation after that. It wasn't new. It has become the norm now, both of them grappling for topics to talk about.
Sometimes they would talk about the same things over and over because they did not have anything new worth talking to.
"So..." "Yeah..." "It doesn't feel like before between you and me now, does it?" Khyati averted her eyes at this question. "It feels strained and draining. Every time we meet, it feels forced," Sara sighed and glanced sideways trying to avoid meeting Khyati's suddenly penetrating gaze.
"We just grew up Sara, it's natural."
"Are we still not going to face the truth?" Khyati heaved a long sigh at Sara's persistent urging. She felt maybe it was finally time to snap the cord that was barely connecting the two of them. "You are right, it does feel forced. Honestly, I don't think we even like each other anymore." Khyati was always blunt but it still made Sara's breath hitch.
"We were the best of friends, we even called ourselves each others' soulmates but that was because back then we connected, liked each other as a person, and most of all resonated with each other."
Khyati's voice wavered towards the end, her throat felt choked up. She glanced outside the window to avoid meeting Sara's teary eyes and compose herself.
"Then, what do you think changed?"
"Even I don't know exactly what led to this. I just know that over time we grew up, molded into different people, and finally became who we are today." Khyati turned to look at Sara and reached out to clasp her hand in hers. Her voice had become shaky due to the surge of emotions.
"We both went through a lot to become who we are today and we are both very proud of ourselves. The changes that occurred in us over time have also changed the way we look at, believe, and understand things. You and I have become completely different people than who we were before. The you I was friends with no longer exists and the I you loved is no more. The only time we laugh or even have any semblance of fun these days is when we talk about our past-when we reminisce about the days gone by. We are stuck in the past Sara, and that's not healthy. Don't you think it's futile to try to preserve a relationship just for the sake of the past we cherish? It's like we are friends out of obligation and not out of choice!" Khyati's outburst stunned Sara into silence. She was left grappling for words when Khyati continued.
"Honestly I am tired-tired of biting back my words every time we disagree about something and then watching you do the same for my sake. And when we do dare to disagree it always ends up in an argument which just creates another deep rift in our already fragile relationship. Maintaining a friendship should never be this taxing! It is supposed to be the most beautiful and easygoing thing in your life, like a calm breeze on a hot day. It was never supposed to be this hard. I can't, I just can't... " Khyati broke down in tears, making Sara feel immense pain in her heart. She pulled her friend into her arms and let her sob her heart out. Finally, months or perhaps even years of frustration and bottled-up feelings were pouring out of her. It was cathartic.
After Khyati calmed down a bit, Sara patted her on the back and whispered, "You know, these days I, too, try very hard to remember our childhood. Maybe because I don't want to remember you as a girl I can hardly stand but rather a girl with whom I connected and resonated with the most. Today, listening to you made me realize that I wasn't the only one suffering. I was too scared to admit it and felt guilty about feeling this way."
Khyati tried to interject but Sara continued, "But guilt should not be the foundation of our friendship. This farce of a friendship we have going on has to stop. It's too exhausting to maintain. It's time we respect each other and our choices. We both chose to walk on the paths that we are on today and wouldn't want it any other way. At this moment we both find it very hard to be friends with each other so let's not pretend to be friends. I think we both deserve the best and this is the best choice right now. If it makes you feel stuck and drained then maybe it's time to let it go. Don't you think?"
Sara looked fondly at Khyati while speaking. Her teary eyes were sparkling like crystals. Khyati was always conscious of her light-colored eyes. It made her look cold and haughty, she often said. But Sara always loved her eyes. They looked like molten silver to her. Today they were shining like stars on a dark night. Both of them grinned foolishly at each other. It was as if a great puzzle was finally completed, the last piece finally fell into its place.
The two girls spent the lazy afternoon together, perhaps their last, reminiscing about their old times and trying to get closure. The old photos, paintings, trophies, certificates were brought down from the shelves. The house was filled with laughter and infectious joy.
"Do you think she is sleeping peacefully?" Sara asked while laying a flower and a few cat treats on Mani's grave.
"Who knows, she might be turning over restlessly in there too! Remember how much of a restless sleeper she was?" Khyati tried to make light of the situation but her moist eyes betrayed her.
"I think she is sleeping well and happy, don't worry she will always be happy," Sara pulled Khyati in for a hug. They both knew she said it as much for Mani as for herself.
"Don't worry about me and live a good life and just because we decide to part ways doesn't mean you become a total stranger. Keep in touch. Okay?" Sara asked pleadingly, almost as if she knew this could be their last time together.
"Yeah, I will, for sure," Khyati replied noncommittally.
Both of them were starting their journeys on different paths now. They both still loved and cared for each other but they both knew that isn't enough to sustain a relationship, even platonic. Sara left through the gate and glanced back one last time, and sure enough, just like back in the days Khyati was watching her from her window waving at her.
Author: Sanika Mestry
An amateur writer who aspires to one day publish her own book. A perfect mixture of clumsy,
ditzy and awkward she loves imagining fantastical scenarios in her mind and transforming them