Lila's gone in the new draft. Everything's different between Dan and Brian. This wee fragment -- unedited, not even spellchecked -- is the only airing her ghost will ever ever see....
Watching Brian do his thing wasn’t exactly exciting. After awhile, he looked up from his keyboard and told me to get lost, he’d call when he had anything.
So I dropped in to see Lila.
Her room was a big change from Brian’s. There was light and air for one thing, and a view of trees out her window, the first leaves already shading to red and gold. Her room smelled like candlewax and sandalwood incense, and her walls were hung with posters of the Misfits and the Distillers, a shirtless Henry Rollins and a vampire girl in a corset. Mixed in, you could still see traces of the little girl that was: stuffed animals on a shelf over her bed, a couple of pony toys and karate trophies on the dresser and an old friendship bracelet, fraying at the ends.
Lila surprised me when I came over. On the phone she’d told me to give her ten minutes, but when I showed up she was just sitting on her bed tapping away in her FaceBook account. She flipped the laptop closed as soon as she saw me, flashed a smile that was wet and red warm. She wore a ripped tee shirt and a pleated mini that was very nearly a belt, and I could swear I caught a faint hint of perfume when she took my hand and pulled me to sit down beside her. For someone who’d been sitting around doing nothing, the hair was damp at her temples from perspiration.
We sat together on the bed. Our weight on the mattress pulled it down in the middle, pushed the warmth of Lila’s body up against my shoulder.
“Hey,” she said.
Her eyes were full of something I could not define. As I watched her expression solidified into something I knew all too well: pain.
She thumped herself back against the pillows, arms folded, staring at the wall.
“Shouldn’t you be off with your Little Golden Whore?”
“We kind of broke up last night.”
Lila snorted, It was an ugly, ugly sound.
“Told you she’d use you and throw you away.”
“It was, it was kind of a mutual thing.”
“You used to be friends with her, didn’t you?”
“Is that why you came over, to pump me for information?”
“Why are you so mad? What’s Stacey Burrell ever done to you?”
“You even care she’s making a fool of you?”
“I think she might be in some kind of trouble,” I said.
“So leave her to it. She’ll be fine-- she’s Stacey freaking Burrell.”
“You and her and Blaire, you guys used to be really tight.”
“When we were like six.”
“No, it was longer than that, I think. Didn’t the three of you get caught picking flowers at the
library when we were twelve or thirteen?”
For the first time, since I’d walked in, a smile ghosted across Lila’s lips.
“It was Mrs Paulson, the librarian’s yard, and we were eleven.”
“You guys were good friends for such a long time. What happened?”
Lila heaved a sigh and unfolded her arms. One hand picked at the hem of her skirt.
“I don’t know. Life, I guess. They got boobs and I got these. Blaire got a nose job and Stacey looked like Stacey always looked. Next thing I knew, they were running around with juniors and seniors and college guys, and I was still picking flowers.”
I thought of Brian back in his dark and smelly room, doing me a favor because I asked. When we were little, the differences between us hadn’t been any kind of a big deal. But somewhere along the way, the baseball team made me their pitcher and Brian moved deeper into his own world.
A piece at a time, we stopped calling, stopped hanging out. I’d missed him, but there was always more important stuff going on. I wondered if he felt the same sense of loss.
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