by Sean Heflin
If there’s one thing Levi Levitt hates more than anything, it’s his best friend, Trish. It’s not that Levi doesn’t hate other things: he hates when the Cleveland Cavs lose, he hates when the cafeteria serves cardboard pizza with mushy tatter tots, he hates listing out what he hates. But nothing compares to the feelings that his best friend stirs up inside him.
Trish—Bestest Friend Forever est. 2002 aka second grade—walks down the school hallway, her high heels beating against the floor. With each step, her hips swing like she would knock you over if you couldn’t flee fast enough, and for all Levi knew, she would. She flips her hair, the color of burnt pizza crust, over her left shoulder, so all that’s left is a white strand running down her face to frame it. She claims that the white comes from a birthmark on her head, but nobody believes her.
Instead of waving and waiting for her like Levi usually has to do, he opens their locker and pretends to search for an important assignment. He shuffles through papers and hopes that she doesn’t need anything today. Fortunately, he doesn’t have to pretend for long.
Trish stops in front of a poor girl, whose face screams a bit of “Help me!” with a side of “Oh dear, Lord,” and starts yak-yacking away. Her high shrill voice, drenched in fake southern drawl, floods the hallway. Levi is sure everyone can hear her. She has a voice that refuses to not be heard. She complains about how awful her mother is, and then she says, each word crystal clear to Levi, “Yeah, and have you seen his shoes?” Her nasally laugh sounds off, like an alarm.
Levi peeks down at his feet and sees the bright red converse he decided to wear today. His cheeks flare up.
His path to class is in the direction of Trish, so he hugs the opposite wall and avoids eye contact. That doesn’t stop her from looping her arm through his.
“How are you today, Sweetie?”
“Fine,” Levi says, through pressed lips. He shifts his head downward, so he has a better look at her face. “You?”
She groans. “You have no idea what it’s like livin’ with a mom who hates you. And she’s so sick. I just don’t know what to do.” She hugs his arm tighter.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “So your mom’s doing bad?”
“You know I can’t talk about it. Anyways, take my mind off of it.” She juts out her bottom lip.
“So, um, uh—How’s class going?”
“Awful! The teacher chewed me out. Said I’m not allowed to park in the teacher’s parkin’ lot. Who says that? ’S not like I was doin’ anything wrong.”
“That’s lame,” he comments, flat.
She rolls her eyes. “Yeah, I know.”
“Sorry, but uh—I need to get to class.” Levi unfastens her vise-like grip. He escapes into the English classroom before Trish can latch on again. When he’s finally alone inside, he sighs.
It wasn’t always like this for him; when Trish and he first met, he never felt the constant need to flee. They had truly once been best friends. He remembered comforting her when her first relationship fell through. She was eleven, and it was the first time he had ever seen her cry. She had watery streaks crawling down her cheeks. He sat beside her on his family’s sunken-in sofa with an arm draped around her shoulder and let her lean into him for hours. She had the unfortunate experience of paying him back two years later when he lost his mother to a drunk driver. She held his hand, and much to his chagrin, watched him cry on that dang sofa.
But that all changed freshman year when Trish started to take digs at him. Sometimes it was little stuff like, “I can’t believe you like that.” Sometimes she made fun of things he would do, what he wore. Who he was was no longer good enough.
Nothing he’s done has ever pleased her since.
It’s not that Levi is a sensitive guy. Sure, what she says might affect him. He may blush or awkwardly chuckle. More than anything, he’s tired of her. She has become more of a burden than a friend. But how is he supposed to tell his best friend that?
After a full day of dodging Trish in the halls (an art he’s perfected, and knowing her schedule like his own doesn’t hurt), the school day ends, and he meets up with Kellan for an upcoming English project.
“Hey,” Levi says. All the halls have cleared, so it’s just the two of them.
Kellan stops and searches around Levi.
“What? You lose something?” Levi asks, checking behind his back.
“She’s not anywhere around you, right?”
“Man, you know who—Trish! She sticks to you like glue.” Kellan clasps his hands together and pretends it’s impossible to pull them apart to prove his point.
“No, dude. Coast is clear, for once.” Levi wipes imaginary sweat from his brow.
“I don’t get why you just don’t dump her ass—it’s not like you’re dating.”
Funny thing is, Levi had never spoken to Kellan before Trish introduced them. Kellan had always just been the class clown who found humor in everything, especially himself. He even grew out his unruly hair to the perfect clown poof.
Now, though, Kellan was more of a best friend to him than Trish.
“Oh, and like you don’t put up with her—it’s not just me who doesn’t like her; it’s you, too.”
“It’s everyone!” Kellan explodes. “Doesn’t she mock your one friend, that—what’s her face. She calls her fat and whale and pretends like she’s gonna be eaten. Right in front of the chick, too!”
Levi nods. “Yeah. Nora, you mean.”
“Trish deserves to get back as much as she dishes out.” Kellan pauses. “Whatever. We gonna get to work, or what?”
“Yeah, yeah. Let me get the assignment from my locker.” When Levi unlocks it, the door flies open from all the junk shoved in it. Papers spill out across the floor. Sweaty clothes drop down. A musky odor rises from the dark recesses of what used to be an organized locker.
“Damn.” Kellan covers his nose.
Levi crouches to pick up the mess. He looks up to Kellan for assistance.
“No way, man.”
Levi shakes his head and stuffs as much back in as he can.
“What’s this?” Kellan spots a magnetic basket attached to the inside locker door. He picks up the black marker in it.
“Oh, yeah, that. She writes little messages.” There is already one written on the mini white board: Having such a bad day 🙁 I need a hug.
Kellan takes the eraser lid and smudges out the note. “Try this instead.”
Levi, distracted by cleaning, finally uncovers his assignment. “Found it!” He stands up, dusting off his pants, and sees what Kellan wrote. “Dude, what the hell is that?”
The new message: Kill yourself :).
“Erase it. Now.” Levi grabs for the eraser, but Kellan evades him. Levi swipes sporadically at the whiteboard, but the marker doesn’t come off without the special eraser. “Come on, please. She’ll kill me.”
“Dude, she won’t even know who did it. Say it was someone else. She’ll probably just erase it, anyway.”
“Whatever,” Levi says, still reaching for the eraser.
They both jerk their heads up when they hear loud clack-clacking coming from the end of the hallway. Only one girl is capable of making that much noise.
“I thought she already left.” Kellan’s face pales.
“Who said that? Nobody said that. Her stuff is right there!” Levi jabs his finger in the locker.
“Then, why would you let me write this?” Kellan throws the pen and eraser back inside, and he takes off to hide in the nearest classroom. Levi slams the locker and follows. Inside, they huff and puff, but as Trish’s heels approach, they hold their breath.
Levi peeks his head out and watches as Trish opens the locker, grabs a couple of her books, and finally reads the message. He sees her body go still, and then she abruptly walks away without even closing the door.
When she is out of sight, the boys slowly come back out.
“What’s she gonna do?” Levi asks, real fear in his eyes.
“I’m out of here.” Kellan heads the opposite direction of Trish.
“Forget it, dude. There’s nothing we can do. I’m going home; you should too.”
Not knowing what to do, Levi does what Kellan says: He ignores what happened and heads home.
The next morning, Levi walks into school ten minutes late, hoping he could avoid Trish at the locker. As he arrives, she’s there, hand on hip and foot tapping.
Levi stops in his tracks, but she already notices him. Her eyes lock on his. He unwillingly moves forward, a fish on a line, reeled to his demise.
Levi tries to formulate a plan, but his mind goes blank. Trish’s nose is scrunched up; her face locked in a scowl, all hell breaking loose behind those eyes.
His eyes flit away from hers for just a second to find an escape, but he dismisses the idea. It’s too obvious; she would peg him as the culprit. So, he heads straight to her like nothing’s happened.
“What’s the matter?” Levi asks, his eyes all big and doe-like.
“Were you the one who wrote it?” Trish snaps at him.
Trish turns to him, face to face. For the first time, Levi notices thin trails of dried mascara running down her cheeks.
“Someone wrote, ‘Kill yourself’ in our locker with a fuckin’ smiley face. Someone wants me dead, Levi!”
He feigns surprise. “Oh, god. Who would—that’s terrible.”
Trish reaches out and grabs his hand. “I know. I knew you wouldn’t do that to me. The principal and school officer asked—but I knew. I just had to make sure, you understand?”
Levi nods, but it’s barely noticeable.
She continues, “When I first found it, I had no clue. But then I remembered; you gave out our locker combination to Nora—remember? I was so mad at you, and this is her revenge. It has to be. Who else?” She looks up into Levi’s eyes.
“No, you’ve got it wrong,” Levi tells her. “Nora would never—”
“Doesn’t matter.” The corner of Trish’s mouth turns upward. “I knew it had to be her. They already called her down. You just missed it.”
“What?” Levi jerks his hand away. This can’t happen to Nora, not to the girl who does everything she can to stay out of drama. Not that she had a choice—she was dragged into it by people like Trish all the time. She tried to hide behind long hair and glasses, but being a size 24 with a double chin in high school earned her attention she didn’t want. Now, she’d have to deal with this.
No. Levi wouldn’t allow it.
“Trish, listen, it wasn’t her. She didn’t do it. Actually…” He takes a breath. Could he really do this? He could blame Kellan…No, it wouldn’t be fair. It’s Levi’s own fault for pretending to be in a hopeless friendship. “I did it. It was me. It—it was supposed to be a joke—a prank, I mean. I’m sorry. I didn’t think it would go this far, I didn’t mean—”
Her eyes dart to his. Flashes of emotion pass through her face all at once: anger, betrayal, hurt, but then, apathy. Her green eyes lose their spark. “Yeah, well, I guess I can forgive you. It’s not like you can help it. Not with friends like Nora, anyway.”
“You’ll tell the principal, right? You’ll tell him it wasn’t Nora, just a misunderstanding?”
She snickers. “Why? It’s not like I’m her friend.”
“Yeah, but I told you she didn’t do it.”
“So? Either way, it doesn’t affect me. It’s not like I care. ‘Serves her right for tryin’ to take my cutie pie away.” Trish reaches up and pinches Levi’s cheek, like a great aunt would. “Besides, she would’ve eventually eaten me. At least, I’ll be safe now.”
“For real, Trish. You have to tell them.”
“I. Said. No.”
The stubborn look she gives Levi brings him back to freshman year, back to when the seed of hate had first been planted.
It was the first week of school, three different middle schools had combined into one high school, and Levi hadn’t seen Trish as much anymore. When he did see her, she’d never look at him for long. When Levi asked her about it, she’d play it off as nothing. But Levi couldn’t let it go, so he picked and picked at the scab until it came off. She admitted she didn’t like to be seen with him, that his long, lanky form was unattractive. She had laid her eyes on better guys now: the perfect height, the perfect build. Levi was too skinny, too tall. Too this and too that.
Levi narrows his eyes at her, the memory fresh in his mind. “Bitch.”
“What’d you call me?”
Levi shrinks back at first but then squares his back. “Why do you walk all over everyone?”
“I don’t know what you mean, I never—”
“Yeah, you do!” he says it louder than intended.
“If anything, people walk on me. All I do is give. I do so much for you. Of all people to say that to me.”
“That’s my point! I’m not your child, and I’m definitely not your boyfriend.”
Trish turns away, staring straight ahead at the locker. Her tiny frame shakes. She buries her face into her hands and sobs.
“No,” Levi says, firmly. “You don’t get to do this. You’re not the victim here. You’re never the victim! Stop the act.”
She wipes at her tears. “You’re bein’ a really bad friend,” she says, her southern accent thicker than ever.
“And stop the damn accent. Nobody likes it, or you.” He pauses, then adds, “Including me.”
“If that’s the way you really feel…” Her voice cracks, accent gone.
“It is! It is…”
Trish doesn’t meet Levi’s eyes. “I’ll tell the principal I was just kidding. October Fool’s, or whatever. Just get your stuff out of my locker.” She turns and walks down the hallway until she disappears.
I’m sorry, Levi wants to say. But he keeps his mouth shut. He’s not sorry. Not really. He’s been wanting to tell her for so long, and finally, he has. Now it’s out in the open and he doesn’t want to have to take it back. He doesn’t want her as a friend anymore. He’s done.
So, they move their separate ways. Levi cleans out his part of the locker, looks one more time at what he’s leaving behind, and closes the door.
Category: Fiction, Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing, SNHU Student