“Keeping Secrets” – Ch.19 – No longer friends (3rd storyline)

No longer friends….

 The day of the slumber party finally arrives. I feel like I have been waiting for the day for months. Roxie has avoided me all week at school, even resorting to being driven to school each day.

It is one of the longest weeks of my life. Firstly I have to spend more time with the twins walking them to and from school on my own. When Mum found out Roxie was getting a lift to school, she insists that I walk the twins each day.

“But why,” I complain each morning in the kitchen as I attempt to eat breakfast.

“You know why young lady. You can’t walk on your own and it saves me driving them to school and then racing off to work,” says Mum as she moves hastily around the kitchen cleaning.

“I hate taking them to school. They fight the entire way there and back. It’s so annoying.”

“Don’t speak like that Alexx. They are your sisters and they love you. This is just the age they are at.”

At least with Mum and me arguing every day about the Bree and Ella, Dad and Mum don’t get the chance to argue too. Most mornings Dad simply walks into the kitchen, kisses us all on the head (except Mum) and leaves for work. Sometimes I think silence is worse than the constant bickering.

Secondly I miss seeing my beautiful Brendon every day. Now that I am no longer walking with Roxie, Brendon isn’t walking me. I don’t think he is avoiding me, we just leave the house at different times. He is being loyal to his sister, which I know of course he will.

He always makes me feel special, even on our short journey to school. When an older boy, a gorgeous older boy is happy to walk with you, talk with you about cool stuff, it makes you feel special. When our skin would accidentally touch as we walked, my heart almost leaped from my chest. I hope he never noticed my reaction to his touch.

Brendon gave me reasons to dream. The dream is always the same, him and I together alone. He would stare into my eyes, always making me nervous but comfortable in his company. He would tell me how beautiful I am and how much he really likes me.

His hands would reach for mine, gently holding them as he rubbed his fingers ever so slightly over my palms. All my senses would come alive, tingling excitedly. He would make me the centre of his world, even for the brief moments we would spend together.

Time stood still as our connection became more intense with each moment. His eyes never leaving mine, he would lean forward, slowly, confidently taking the moment into his hands. As our lips touch slightly, my hairs would stand on end and butterflies would soar inside my stomach.

With our lips touching, his kiss turns me into the most beautiful girl in the world. He is so gentle and caring, I would never want this feeling to end. My first kiss belonged to him and him alone.

This week I miss out on all my dreams. I need to see him, be around him to dream, pretend this is a possibility. I feel like I have been cheated from precious time with Brendon.

Thirdly, the most important of all is I haven’t spoken to Roxie all week. She is avoiding me everywhere we go, the walk to school, the playground, and the telephone. Nothing. No contact what so ever.

I try to call a few times but each time I speak to her Mum, she says she is unavailable but will leave a message I called. It became clear that she knows what has happened, so Brendon probably does too.

I never realise how much I had in my friendship with Roxie. It wasn’t just Roxie, it is her family too. I care for them all and I know they care for me too. My Mum asks about Roxie all week, saying she misses her happy smiling face around. Even the twins ask why they haven’t seen her.

School is the hardest time though. It was always Roxie and I doing everything together and the rest of the girls simply formed part of our friendship circle. Roxie and I would meet before lunch and walk together out to the playground. We would walk back into class together.

At assembly we stood together as everyone needed to pair up. We did everything in pairs but I no longer had my partner. Instead I was left out, no one to pair up with. Poppy and Bella are inseparable as usual, nothing and no one would get between them. While Jo and Sam paired off in most things, it had become habit that these two chose each other. That simply left me, alone without my security.

Every time I see Roxie in the school grounds she seems happy, happier than I have seen her in a long time. There is always a new face around her, requesting her friendship. Even when it is time to pair up, Roxie always seems to have a willing participant by her side.

I never realised Roxie was my security, my rock and I have taken her for granted. She is moving on with other friends, other people who will share her life and I am left on my own. I have other friends but they are all happily secure in their friendships. I have no one, no other special pair.

It feels wrong. I am forcing friendships that may never have occurred and in doing so I have lost the one friendship I really care about. No one else seems affected by my loss, not even Roxie.

All day every day the conversation is about Poppy and her slumber party. With Roxie no longer hanging around, there is no need to be secretive. Roxie only came up in conversation once and it is as though she has never been part of our circle of friends.

It was the first lunchtime after our fight and I walk out to meet the girls on my own. I am very self-absorbed by my own sombre mood not realising I have somehow become the centre of attention.

“Hey Alexx, where is Roxie?” asks Sam, concerned by my appearance.

I hadn’t slept well the night before, tossing and turning every hour. Even though sleep has evaded me, the nightmare of the damage I have caused is truly alive. With dark circles under my eyes and my skin even paler than usual, I look as sickly as I feel.

“She is at school somewhere,” I say, intentionally evading the question.

“Yeah I saw her heading towards the library with some other girls,” injected Jo unaware there is a situation developing.

“What girls?” asks Poppy.

“I don’t know their names. You know the girls who hang out with Sam’s cousin,” replies Jo.

“Katey?” says Sam.

“Yeah, Katey and her friends,” agrees Jo.

“Why is she with Katey?” asks Poppy, turning her attention to me.

‘Umm, well, Roxie and I had a fight last night. She is not talking to me at the moment. I am sure she will be back with us tomorrow,” I respond quietly, trying to convince myself it is true.

“What is the fight about?” Poppy demands.

“It doesn’t really matter.”

“Yes it does. You two never fight and now she is playing with someone else. I need to know,’ demands Poppy more aggressively.

“If you must know it is about your party,” I growl, anger building in my voice as I try to match her intensity.

“WHAT??” shouts Poppy making everyone around her freeze with fear.

Poppy is someone you don’t want to get angry and you definitely don’t want to get on her wrong side. She is like a lion, she will not let go until she has hunted down her prey and destroyed them. Today is looking like I will be her prey.

“I told you it is a secret. It is none of her business,” screeches Poppy.

“I know you did but she is, or was my friend and I didn’t think it is very nice not to tell her. I didn’t want her to find out from someone else.”

Poppy moves closer to me her arms on her hips towering over me making me feel like a coward. I am intimidated by her, scared to be at the other end of her anger.

Jo eased her way in between us, trying to defuse the situation before it gets out of control. With Jo acting as some protection, I contemplate turning and running,  running away as fast as I could until either my legs can no longer carry me.

A voice inside my head told to stand my ground and not back down. If I ran now I will have nothing, no one. I will have done all this for nothing.

“Girls, let’s talk about this,” says Jo calmly, guiding the group to sit down and talk about this like friends, not enemies.

“I am sorry Poppy, I felt bad for Roxie. That’s all.”

“It isn’t your place to tell her. You promised me you wouldn’t,” replies Poppy frustrated.

“I know I did and I am sorry. I am really sorry Poppy. Please forgive me,” I plead.

Sam stands by my side sensing that I need some moral support. She will never cross Poppy; it is not in her nature. She is kind at heart and hates to see anyone hurting as I am.

“Okay, you’re forgiven, but don’t think that I am going to now invite Roxie just because she knows about my party.”

“No, I don’t. Plus I don’t think she will want to come. I think she hates me.”

‘But why you?” asks Sam distressed.

Sam’s caring nature always takes me by surprise. I often think of her as an added appendage to Poppy and Bella. However she is nothing like any of my other friends. Sam is kind in her heart, kind to everyone and everything. She never judges what she sees, what she hears. Sam accepts people’s choices without regret and she is able to put herself in someone else’s shoes, really feeling what they are going through.

“I think she wanted me to not go to Poppy’s party,” I reply directly to Sam, ignoring the reaction of gasping from Poppy.

“Oh Alexx, I am sorry you have to go through this,” says Sam.

“Oh, stop this you two,” interrupts Poppy. “Forget her. I am sick of talking about Roxie. It is about me and my party.”

Relieved the attention has been taken from me but annoyed that Poppy shows so little patience or sympathy I have lost a true friend and I have lost this friend for her.

As each day that passes at school, the conversations never waver from Poppy and her slumber party. Roxie is not mentioned again except for the odd sideways glance from Sam asking me how I am coping with everything.

Poppy informs everyone about what we need to bring to her party…sleeping bags and pillows and a special teddy and a secret. The secret part frightens me as I am unsure what she means by it. Poppy won’t elaborate any further just says it is part of the fun for the night.

By Friday I am completely over the slumber party. I have heard about it all week and I am no longer looking forward to it. It is like an anti-climax to such a stressful week.

The exhaustion I feel from my disrupted week makes me look and feel almost zombie like. The bags under my eyes have grown darker and more defined, with nightmares occurring every night. They aren’t scary nightmares like being attacked by zombies. The nightmares are deeper than that.

I am alone in my nightmares. Everywhere I go, no one is with me. Others are in my dreams but there is no one who cares for me, no one who loves me, no one who wants me around. I search each time for someone I know but there is never anyone.

When I wake up I am still alone but at least I am in the safety of my bedroom. I try to talk to Mum about it but the words evade me. My mind goes blank when I try to put together how I feel and what is happening in my life. I need a friend. I need someone I can talk to and trust.

Feeling trapped between what I have want and what I am living, I can’t seem to escape. I try to dream, go back to places that make me happy like the time I spent with Roxie or Mum or even when I would be in Brendon’s company. It is no good. I am still trapped with no key to unlock the world I have left behind.

Sitting in my bedroom on the new stripy multi-coloured rug Mum bought me attempting to cheer me up, I have the music quietly feeding from my dock. Flicking through the latest ‘Miss’ magazine, pretending to be interested in the fashion section I normally crave to view. Nothing is able to hold my attention at the moment.

“Alexx,” Mum says tapping gently on the door, opening slightly before I can answer.

‘Yes Mum,” I reply, not looking up from the magazine.

“Can I come in?”

“Yeah, of course.”

When Mum asks to come into my room it means one of two things. Either she needs to ask me a favour like babysitting the twins or she wants to talk. Not chit-chat talk but really talk, serious talking.

I don’t want either but I am not going to get a choice. As Mum sits on my fluffy quilt neatly folded around the sides of my bed, I keep my head down pretending to be engrossed in an article on ‘Destroying Pimples’. Thank goodness I don’t have pimple problems to add to my problems.

“Alexx, I have been watching you over the past few days and you don’t seem like your usual happy self. Is there anything troubling you at the moment?” Mum asks.

Without looking up I reply, “No, all is good.”

“Why haven’t we seen Roxie here all week?” Mum continues pressing me for more information.

“I don’t know. Maybe she has been too busy.”

“Are you two fighting?”

Silence.

“Alexx?” Mum asks again apprehensively

I am racking my brain to come up with a good excuse why Roxie hasn’t been over but the trapped feeling makes my brain shut down. I can think of nothing remotely intelligent to say. Come on Alexx… think. Nothing, just blank thoughts.

‘Close the magazine Alexx and look at me,” Mum asks softly but sternly.

I close the magazine, forcefully holding back tears I can sense are about to arrive.

“Look at me darling.”

Slowly I raise my head, trying to avoid eye contact as long as possible, giving my tears time to stop developing and me time to control my emotions.

“What’s wrong? I know something is wrong darling. I hate seeing you like this, so unhappy. You are such a beautiful young lady with so much to offer. You have nothing to be sad about. I want to help.”

“I don’t think you can Mum,” I finally find the courage to speak.

“How do you know until you try?”

“I just know. I have tried to think of how to fix things but there is nothing I can do. The damage is done.”

“Try me?” Mum asks reaching down to cup my face in her hands so our eyes can connect.

With this I cry, I cry tears that have been held deep inside me all week unable to be freed. Mum’s protective arms wrap around me, holding me tightly while I cry and cry until exhaustion set in.

I am unsure how long Mum and I stay in the same position, not talking just being together. Mum knows I need to release so much hurt and anguish inside me and words are not need. She asks no more questions, she is simply there for me. Allowing me to trust her again, a trust I have locked away.

Pulling away from the safety of her arms, I sit back on my heels ready to open up to her. I need to open up and trust her, trust that maybe she can help me and get my old life back. I miss my old life. I miss Roxie and Brendon and Mum and Dad and I even miss the twins.

Once I begin talking, the words flow freely. I hold nothing back from Mum as I am determined to set things straight again. When I realise I can’t do this on my own, the only person whom I know will be able to guide me is Mum.

Mum listens to every word, judging me occasionally when I deserve to be judged. Concern I am going through all this on my own, not letting anyone in. I even told her how I feel when they fought all the time and how I blame Roxie for this and for not understanding.

I talk of the slumber party tomorrow, the way Poppy behaves, telling Roxie everything. I can’t seem to stop the secrets coming.

Mum is patient with me while I search for words to express how I feel. Her simply being there is enough for me. I am the centre of attention, I have all the attention I can ask for. No interruptions, no ‘I’ll be back in a minute’, it is the two of us and I begin to feel like the old Alexx.

“Oh darling,” Mum says on many occasions.

“So should I go tomorrow night to the party?” I finally ask the one question I don’t want to answer myself.

“Do you want to go?”

I want a straight answer not a question. Juggling words and playing guessing games give me no joy. Just give me a simply yes or no.

“Can you tell me what to do Mum?”

“No Alexx, you are grown up enough to make your own decisions. Party or no party, I will stand by your decision.”

“Why should I miss out on going to the party. Roxie hates me anyway, whether I go or not.”

“I don’t think Roxie hates you. It maybe something you need to work on to try to sort out your friendship. Is the party something you are looking forward to going to?”“Yes, well I have been but after the weird week I am not sure.”

“Why don’t you sleep on it and I am sure in the morning the answer will come to you,” Mum suggests, guiding me off the floor and into bed.

Like a little child, she tucks me in, folding the quilt around my neck and flattening the remainder of the cover. Her kiss on my forehead is gentle and loving, signalling my body to rest now and dream sweet thoughts only. She turns around at the door while flicking the light switch off.

“Good night darling.”

“Night Mum,” I say rolling over under the warmth of my quilt.

“Sweet dreams.”

With those simple words sleep falls upon me bringing the sweetest of dreams to assist in my slumber.

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