“Keeping Secrets” – Ch:18 – Good friend – Bad friend (3rd Storyline)

Good friend….Bad friend…

   It is times like today I wish school went on forever. I knew when the day ended Roxie will be waiting for me and the first of many questions will be asked, expecting an answer. An answer I won’t be able to give to her without causing distress.

Delaying the dreaded moment, I even offer to help Mrs Shore clean up after class. She is as shocked as I am when I offer as this is not something I normally do. When the bell rings I am usually one of the first to leave at such a speed, it’s like I will be rewarded for my effort.

Cleaning the white board, pushing in all the chairs, aligning each table with such perfection I feel like I have Chronic Neatness Disorder Syndrome. Time is something I have plenty of today. Unfortunately Mrs Shore is lacking in time as she kindly orders me to leave the classroom.

“Thanks Alexx but I think that is enough. I have a meeting and I am already late,” says Mrs Shore anxiously, directing me towards the door.

“I can lock up if you need me to,” I reply, pretending I can’t sense I am no longer wanted anymore.

“That’s lovely Alexx but I am not allowed to leave students in the rooms on their own. So please if you wouldn’t mind, I really need to lock up.”

Begrudgingly I leave the room and head back into the world I am trying to avoid. Looking at my bright pink watch Mum bought me from a trip to the South Melbourne market, it read 3.47. School has been out for seventeen minutes, which is definitely enough time for Roxie to ascertain that I am being held back for some reason.

Roxie would probably call me later tonight dying to know why I was held back at school. She will think I have detention for something and I can easily agree with her story. If she calls I will tell Mum I am not home, that my head is hurting after such a big day at school and I simply have no energy left to talk, even to Roxie. Perfect cover up. No one will know and I can gain precious time to decide how to handle this situation.

With a little more courage than I possess earlier in the day, knowing I will have more time to determine my fate, I head towards the school gate. Focusing straight ahead, my head glued in one position like a cheap plastic doll that doesn’t move, my eyes darting in every direction searching for Roxie.

Each step closer to the gates I start to breathe easier until I have inhaled too much cold afternoon air making me light headed. Roxie is nowhere within the school grounds so she must have gone home on her own.

The walk home is only short but long enough for me to realise I am on my own. I hear the wind twisting the leaves of the willow trees, sounding like a group of strangers talking, following me home. I shiver as goose bumps appear all over my body.

Dogs barking with severity it sounds as though they are trying to escape to savage the nearest meal – me. Cars constantly travel up and down Corule Boulevard but today there are none. No sign of life, nothing, nowhere.

Increasing my pace with each step, hoping to reach home before I scare myself silly, my imagination getting away from me.  With my house in sight and the noises growing louder, more dominant, I start to run the final hundred metres home.

Not watching where I am going, only focusing on the end result, conscious that I am over-reacting to my surroundings. By the time I see Roxie hiding in the far corner of my vision, it is too late to change my direction.

Breathing more heavily as I reach the blue letterbox with the golden sparrow, now frightened to face Roxie, forgetting all about the strange noises. Her face is blank, no emotion to determine her knowledge of any secret.

“Alexx, what happened to you after school? I waited but when you never showed I thought you must have gotten detention,” says Roxie, standing arms folded with her hands tucked into the sleeves of her hoodie to protect them from the increasing winds.

“No, no,” I huff, trying to contain my breathing to a normal rate.

“Did you run home?” laughs Roxie. “You looked buggered.

“Huh, huh, so funny,” I respond sarcastically, regaining a normal pattern of breathing.

The winds are blowing enough to gather all foreign objects lying on the ground, swirling them around. Distracting my concentration for a moment, I notice how easily the wind could control its surroundings. Something I wish I could do.

The willow trees move in the direction enforced by the winds. The beautiful light green pansies in Mrs McCormick’s yard almost appear to be lying flat on the freshly cut lawns from the force of the winds. The rubbish begins circling, creating small tornado like shape ready to attack.

If I can have one wish that will be it – to be able to control my surroundings. Secrets won’t be an issue because I will control who finds out and what the results will be. Worrying about other peoples feelings will no longer matter as I will control how they’d react. To be as strong as the wind!

“So did you?” asks Roxie again, tucking her hands deeper into the hoodie.

“Did I what?”

“Get detention? And run home?”

“No I didn’t get detention and no I didn’t run home, just walked really fast. I could see the winds coming up and I didn’t want to get caught in it,” I reply, hoping I have said enough to ease the curiosity.

“Where are you after school then?”

“Just helping out Mrs Shore clean the room after class, that’s all.”

My wavy dark blonde hair has become a distraction, a welcomed distraction blowing around in the wind. Trying to control my hair in the wind, I hold it off my face, annoyed by how out of control my hair and life is getting.

“Its getting bad out here, I’m going in,” I say.

Fire begins to burn in my belly, moving swiftly through out my body. I hate being placed in situations like this. I am angry with Roxie for not being invited. I am angry with Poppy for not inviting Roxie. I am angry they had placed me in this position.

It isn’t my fault Roxie’s not friendly enough to Poppy. That is the reason I believe she isn’t invited. The story about her Mum doesn’t sound right to me. No Mum would do that as much as I desperately want to believe it is true. Poppy is a brilliant liar but some some are too hard to believe.

“Have I done something wrong Alexx?”

“No,” I reply with my back to her unable to turn around.

“Then what? What is going on?”

“Nothing.”

“We have been friends for ages Alexx but you are behaving strangely. Why did Poppy just want to talk to you today? Not the rest of us.”

Innocently Roxie asks a simple question unaware of the enormity of my answer. The slumber party, the secret about the party, I have promised I will keep the secret but I have been fighting that decision all day.

The swirling of the winds feels like it has moved inside my body. Everything moving in all directions causing an over powering sensation of nausea. My heart is pumping, my blood is racing, my is mind pounding, my is stomach lurching, when will this all stop.

I run towards the deep purple shrubs that line the front of my house, creating the illusion of a fence. Bending over, forcing my face deep into the shrubs, attempting to hide if I throw up. As I hide my face between the shrubs, my stomach muscles tense uncontrollably trying to release its contents, unsuccessfully.

I can no longer hear the winds, the noise of my own body takes over. A firm hand is on my back, rubbing as I continue to heave behind the shrubbery.

“OMG, Alexx. Are you OK?”

Wiping my mouth on the sleeve of my school uniform, angry she is determined to put me through this, I stand up to face her. Her eyes are soft, concentrating hard on me, waiting to be given instructions. She is upset by my unnatural behaviour and unsure how to alleviate the problem.

Calmness takes over, easing the fire inside me. I will share this secret with Roxie, not because I want to, that is obvious, but because I need to for my own sake. I can’t be angry, mean or nasty. Calmness is the state required so deep breathing helps get me to that place.

“I’m fine Roxie.”

“Then why the…” Roxie couldn’t even bring herself to say the words.

“I think it’s my body’s way of telling me to let go,” I respond maturely.

It feels like I am having an outer body experience, like I have stepped outside of myself, standing next to me watching everything. I sound calm, the most calm I have been in weeks.

“Poppy is having a party Roxie, a slumber party this week end. That is what she wanted to tell me.”

“Oh, sounds like fun, but I don’t understand why…”

“Please Roxie, let me finish. She pulled me aside because everyone else knows about it but you. She is not inviting you to the party.”

Roxie stands, tilting her head to the side, analysing the information I have thrown at her. Like a lost child searching for her mother, Roxie’s expression is that of confused sorrow.

“You can blame her Mum Roxie,” I quickly add. “She said only four could be invited and Poppy needed to make a decision.”

“What have I ever done to her?” asks Roxie.

“Nothing, you have never done anything. It’s just numbers, I am sure it is just numbers.”

The pain I am causing my friend makes my stomach ache once more. Still trying to recover from before, I wrap my arms around my waist in an attempt to control the spasms. She is hurting, this emotion now expelling from her eyes rapidly.

“I knew she never liked me. I told you that but you didn’t believe me.”

“She does like you, it’s just…”

“NO,” screams Roxie making me jump from her unexpected out burst. “NO. She doesn’t like me and you know it. She is mean. I am not mean to her but she is always mean to me. You just refuse to see it.”

I stand in stunned silence, still wrapped in my arms afraid to move. Roxie’s sadness had evaporated into the winds, blown away rapidly. She is determined to let me know exactly how she feels.

“What did you say to Poppy when she said I wasn’t invited?”

“I told her is being mean and that she should invite you.”

Roxie replies only with a look, a look that tells me to continue talking.

“She said she couldn’t and that it is best to keep it a secret from you so you wouldn’t get hurt. I needed to tell you because you’re my friend and I knew you would find out sometime. I thought finding out later would be worse.”

“Are you going?” she asked.

Without thinking of the consequences, I automatically reply ‘yes’.

The anger and emotions roaring all around stop. The wind stops blowing making an eerie silence. The trees are no longer rustling, the rubbish lay quietly still on the ground, Mrs McCormick’s pansies sit bolt upright frozen back into position.

Roxie starred further into my eyes, searching for our friendship, a friendship that has been so important to both of us until recently. Secrets are tearing our friendship apart but I am unable to stop it, control it. With our eyes locked together, I try looking away but I no longer have the strength.

Her words are quiet and spoken with such dignity and such strength they are barely auditable.

“Thank you for being honest with me Alexx. I think it has been along time since you were honest with me. I would never treat my friends the way you have treated me.”

Roxie turns on her heels and walks away.

“But…”

Roxie stops and turns to face me with a look I have never seen before.

“I thought we are best friends, but you have made it very clear who you want to be friends with Alexx, and it’s not me. I hope you enjoy the party.”

With that Roxie disappears inside her house, leaving me standing on the front lawn still hugging my body. I am unable to move or comprehend what has just happened. Roxie knows the secret and she blames me for everything. All I want to do is go to a slumber party.

I want to expand my friendships and I had done that successfully. I want to move away from Roxie, just a little and I have managed that too. So I should actually be happy. I have everything I want.

However I’m not happy. Not even close. I feel empty inside as though I have lost more than I have gained. There is a gap inside me, a hole has been carved out and I ‘m not sure how to fill it.

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