Past the Mask

DepictionElizabeth walked beside Annabelle, talking animatedly about her latest stunt with the eagles that often passed her house. They were strolling around the crowded school courtyard during the one recess they got all day. Annabelle gasped right on cue as Elizabeth discussed how the eagle swooped down, almost grazing her head. She was trying to concentrate on what Elizabeth was saying but her mind couldn’t focus. It kept straying to the recent fight her parents had had. They had yelled at each other for hours and it ended only when her mother stormed out of the house in tears. Her mum still hadn’t come back yet, though it had been a week, and whenever she approached her father, he was difficult. He wouldn’t talk. Or if he did, the sentences were brief. Annabelle shook her head, trying to to get the thoughts to go away. Elizabeth was done with her story and the silence wasn’t bearable.

“So I heard you started watching ‘Glee’ right?”

“Pfftt dude, I watched like four episodes and I hated it. They totally ruin songs.” Elizabeth teased.

“Hah! No way! Their voices are amazing! They do the original artists a favour by singing their songs.” She laughed, the distraction was working.

“Plus the guys aren’t even hot. There’s no point of watching a show without hot guys.” winked Elizabeth.

Annabelle couldn’t help laughing. Trust Elizabeth to get her cheered up with her carefree air. She felt lighter and the worries seemed more distant. Glancing up she noticed Sam observing her. She flushed. The loneliness came back. Why had she ever left Sam for Elizabeth? Sam was her best friend. She understood Annabelle without so much as a word from her. She always knew what to say and what to do. Now Annabelle had popularity and a reputation in school. Sam was still with the old crowd, the odd ones. Her life was a mess but no one knew, no one could tell, and no one cared. As long as she was smiling and laughing at their jokes nothing else mattered. She was just another face.
Annabelle was quiet. She glanced wistfully at the ‘odd’ crowd, her crowd. Sam had left and she tried looking for her but the courtyard was too crowded. Elizabeth hadn’t noticed her silence or distraction, and had taken advantage of the gap to recount another one of her many stories. Annabelle just nodded, wishing she could go back to Sam and apologize. Wishing she could do it without bursting into tears and wishing above all that Sam would, could forgive her for stepping on her to get into the ‘popular’ gang. The bell rang, signaling the students to get back to their classes for lessons to start. She trudged beside Elizabeth, trying not to think about anything. Trying to keep everything at bay.
They were on the steps when a hand touched her shoulder. Turning around, she saw it was Sam. In her eyes she saw understanding not the betrayal and judgement she was used to. There was something else too, but it couldn’t be possible. After all she’d done, how could Sam forgive her. But her she was, standing before her, hands in pockets.

“I’m here.” Sam said.

Tears stung Annabelle’s eyes. She wasn’t alone.

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