A Thin Ray of Light

Diane Weller wasn't planning to live through the day. She also wasn't planning to get stuck in the backseat of a cab with her ex-best friend and enemy, Harris Connor, either, but she might find that Harris is the only one who can shed a thin ray of light into her darkened life.
*Short Story*

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1. A Thin Ray of Light

     I never thought I'd be one of those people who wished that life came with a remote control, but right now I felt like I needed to hit 'PAUSE' and 'REWIND' just to see what really happened two years ago, when I started losing my best friend, and when my life started spiraling out of control.     

 

     Harris and I used to be inseparable. Yeah, I say 'used to be' because now we couldn't even be in the same room without trying to tear each others throats. I don't know when we started hating each other, but it's like we woke up one day and decided that we couldn't stand being next to each other anymore.     

 

     Two years went by so fast, I didn't even have time to think about how much it hurt to lose my best friend, and how much I missed him. I buried myself in my school work and after school activities because I didn't want to think about the pain, or how much it sucked that I no longer had him by my side.     

  

     He hated my guts right now. He probably even wished that I was dead. Of course, Harris was going to be lucky. In a couple more hours, he wouldn't be seeing me anymore.     

 

     The next, and the last time he will be seeing me, is when I'm trapped in a coffin, cold and utterly lifeless.     

 

     That is, if he even bothered to attend my soon-to-be funeral.

 

     ***

 

     "I cannot believe, that out of all the cabs you could have taken, you decided to take mine."     

 

     Harris rolled his eyes at me. "Please, you weren't even looking. I had this one first."     

 

     I narrowed my eyes at him. "Get out,"     

 

     He raised an eyebrow. "No,"     

 

     "Dammit, Harris, get out." I hissed, trying to stare him down.     

 

     "I don't see why it has to be me, if you don't want to share a taxi, then you get out," he retorted.

     

     "Can you please just pretend like you're a gentleman for once and let me go first?"

 

     "Could you just tell me where to go?" the taxi driver grumbled impatiently. Harris and I looked away from each other to stare at the grumpy bald man in the driver's seat. His bloodshot, tired eyes stared back at us from the rear view mirror.     

 

     "Oakwood drive," I said, at the same time Harris said, "Gate Ridge,"     

 

     There was a moment of silence in the cab.    

 

     I leaned in. "Could you just drop me off at Oakwood since it's closer? Then just take him to wherever he wants to go," I jabbed my finger in Harris's direction.     

 

     "Um, no, I need to be at Gate Ridge ASAP," Harris said. "Take me there first."     

 

     "Will you please be reasonable?" I snapped, irritated. "Oakwood is closer, and I'm already late."     

 

     This was ruining my plans of being gone before my uncle came home from the bar. If he lost a bet again then I'd be leaving earth with fresh blue patches on my skin.     

 

     "Look, sweetheart, I don't care what appointments you keep, but it's obviously not as important as mine." He rolled his eyes. I felt a throb of pain in my chest, and I briefly wondered if he would regret saying that in a few days.     

 

     The driver pulled over and stopped the car. "If you two can't make up your bloody minds, get out."     

 

     I gave Harris a scathing look. "Fine, I'll get out."     

 

     I threw the door open, got out and slammed the door shut, muttering under my breath. Honestly, of all the people I could have shared a cab with, it had to be him!     

 

     My last cab ride was ruined.     

 

     I heard a car door slam shut behind me, and I turned around, my eyes widening in shock when I realized that Harris had gotten out, too.     

 

     "Are you stupid?" I yelled. "I already got out!"     

 

     "Well he wasn't taking me anywhere," Harris said curtly.     

 

     I squeezed my eyes shut for a second and forced myself to calm down. "Just stay away from me,"     

 

     "You don't have to tell me twice,"     

 

     I turned around and began walking away, feeling my heart ache, as it always did whenever I fought with Harris. We were both in our senior year of high school, and I always did my best to avoid him because I didn't want to argue with him. But whenever we were thrown together it was all that we could do. Argue.     

 

     I would have given anything to save our friendship, but I couldn't see myself doing that anymore. It was too late. What we had was gone, and the gap between us that used to be nonexistent widened every single day.      Even if I wanted to save our friendship, I couldn't. Today was up. In about an hour, I would be staring down on my own body. I would be out of Harris's way. For good.     

 

     I heard the familiar sound of his footsteps echoing behind me. I turned my head to side and started walking faster.     

 

     "Stop following me," I said, gritting my teeth.     

 

     "I'm not following you, idiot, we're going in the same direction,"      

 

     I stopped walking, then I turned around to face him. "But I'm going to Oakwood,"     

 

     "So?"     

 

     "Gate Ridge is that way," I pointed to the other side of the street.     

 

     Harris stared at me, stumped. For once he couldn't come up with a snappy comeback. I bit my lip, trying not to laugh at him, but I failed and ended up laughing so hard I doubled over.     

 

     "I can't believe it's been two years and you're still like this," I managed to say in between bouts of laughter. Harris had absolutely no sense of direction.     

 

     "Shut up," he said, and I watched, dumbfounded as color tinted his cheeks.     

 

     "Oh my god, you're blushing!" I exclaimed, covering my mouth to stop myself from laughing at him again. But obviously, given the situation, I failed.     

 

     He threw me an annoyed look. "God, Diane, you are so-"     

 

     Suddenly somber, I straightened up and looked at him, wary. He hasn't called me by my first name since we stopped being best friends. The way he said it immediately put a stop to my laughing fit. As much as I didn't want to admit it, I missed the way my name sounded when he said it. Deep down, I was glad I got to hear it one last time.     

 

     "I'm so what?" I asked, urging him to continue.     

 

     "Nothing," he said, looking away. "It's nothing,"     

 

     I sighed, turning away from him once again, my heart squeezing painfully in my chest. "Alright well, I better go. Good luck finding Gate Ridge. Goodbye, Harris."     

 

     I hadn't taken three steps when he called out to me again. I didn't turn around, for fear that he might see the tears threatening to spill from my eyes. Now that I wasn't cramped up in my room, hell-bent on studying, I finally realized how hard it was to have my ex-best friend standing in front me when I couldn't even reach out to hug him or hold his hand like I used to nearly sent me doubling over in pain and regret.     

 

     I missed Harris. I missed him so, so much. I missed his compliments, the way he would walk into my house at two am for no apparent reason, or the way he would drink from my carton of milk when we had breakfast, and how he used to call me Squirt just because I was so short. I missed those days. I missed him.     

 

     These days, I only knew a Harris who called me by my last name, Weller. Instead of hearing compliments, I heard insults. Instead of comforting hugs, I get the vivid image of him raising his middle finger to my face. And finally, the words that used to be 'I love you,' bitterly turned into 'I hate you,'.     

 

     A tear slipped down my cheek before I could blink it away. I dabbed it away with the back of my wrist quickly before he could see.     

 

     "I really have to go, Harris, I can't be late." I said. Not that anyone was waiting for me. Just my incoming death.     

 

     I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to force the tears to remain inside, before I began walking. I didn't know where I was going anymore. I just kept on walking, and walking, until my legs ached. Tears blurred my vision, and I found myself leaning against a tree.     

 

     "Diane," a quiet voice called out.     

 

     I whipped my head around, the tears coming fast. I couldn't hold them back anymore. All those years of trying not to break, trying not to cry, came crashing down on me in one single blow. The tears rolled down my cheeks like a current, and I pressed a hand to my mouth, trying to control my sobs.     

 

     And then I ended up in Harris's arms. He held me tight, and I leaned against him, allowing myself one last cry, and one last hug from the man who used to be my best friend.     

 

     Harris said nothing. He just held me, showing no sign of letting go. He buried his head against the crook of my neck, his hands clenching the material of my jacket.     

 

     After this, I knew it would be goodbye for good. But Harris didn't, and I wasn't planning on letting him know.

 

     ***

 

     "I'm sorry I kept you from going to Gate  Ridge," I said, my voice hoarse from all the crying.     

 

     Harris shook his head, his evergreen orbs containing an emotion I couldn't decipher. "I followed you here. It was my choice,"     

 

     I nodded, taking a deep breath. "Thank you," I said, unable to look him in the eyes. Instead I focused mine on the tree before us. It looked familiar, for some reason.     

 

     I stared at it closer, feeling a wave of nostalgia wash over me. Where have I seen this tree before?     

 

     My eyes zeroed in on a heart that was scratched out in the middle of it's trunk. Inside the heart, two names were carved perfectly, probably done with a Swiss army knife. Diane and Harris. That was it. Diane and Harris.     

 

     "This tree-" I paused, unable to finish the sentence.     

 

     "We went here, the summer before our first year of high school," Harris said, his voice soft, wistful, even. "I carved out our names here because you insisted it. You said our friendship would be forever if I did this."      My heart dropped down to my stomach, and a lump formed in my throat. "Harris, I-"     

 

     He held a finger up. "No, don't. We could waste our time standing here, wondering why we stopped being friends, but I don't want to relive those painful memories. It's already been done,"     

 

     I nodded, swallowing once, the lump in my throat bobbing down, and then up, as I did so. There was a moment of silence, as we stared at each other like hurt children. Maybe because that is what we were, inside.     

     "Do you really hate me?" Harris finally asked.     

 

     I bit my lip, before vehemently shaking my head. "I never really hated you. And if I said it I was just hurt. Did you... did you really mean it when you said I was the worst best friend ever?"     

 

     Harris's eyes turned regretful. "No. I never meant that."      I thought I ran out of tears an hour ago, but I was wrong. They filled my eyes again. I would be able to leave without any regrets now.     

 

That day, Harris and I sat down underneath the tree where we carved our names inside a heart. And then we talked, and talked for hours. We talked until it got dark. We talked just like we used to, back then. I told him everything. My aunt and uncle were the ones who took care of me, since my parents died when I was an elementary student. I told Harris how my uncle started out with just pulling my hair when he was angry, to turning me into a punching bag. Except he never punched me in the face because then people would see the bruises and start questioning him.     

 

     The beatings started after my aunt divorced him, which was the summer before sophomore year, and the summer Harris and I stopped talking.     

 

     After I told him everything, I suddenly realized that if Harris and I hadn't shared a cab, I would have been long gone.     

 

     I was ready to kill myself, the moment I got home. As far as I was concerned, I had nothing to live for. I had lost my parents, my aunt, and then my best friend. I couldn't live with my uncle beating me up every time he got wasted.     

 

     I knew that suicide was not the answer, but with all the shit going on in my life, I felt like I had no other choice. I couldn't live with my uncle, and what's worse was that I couldn't even live with myself.     

 

     The reason why I had stepped out of the house instead of rolling out of bed and proceeding with the plan of digesting a bottle of 100 pills, was because I had one last errand to do.     

 

     I took out a newly printed picture from my jacket pocket and showed it to Harris. It was the last picture we had together. His arm was around my waist, and I was leaning against him. We were both laughing as it was taken.     

 

     "I was going to take this picture to the grave," I said quietly.     

 

     Harris's eyes searched mine. They were serious, yet filled with fear. I knew he understood what I was implying.     

 

     "Diane, promise me something," he said grimly.     

 

     "What?" I asked, already knowing that he was going to ask me not to do it.     

 

     He took my hand and held it tight. "That you're not going to let go. Ever."     

 

     My lip trembled, and fresh tears began to form in my already-sore eyes. Through the darkness, I could see a thin ray of light that I had never seen before.     

 

     I knew what it was, because it was Harris who had given it to me.     

 

     Hope.

 

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