To Feel Alive

Louise has never been lucky in life, losing her best friend and mother within a year, and now has a Dad who barely recognises her existence. All she has left is Cody, with whom her relationship is strictly friendly, and a small but successful business where she anonymously helps girls decide whether a boy is worth dating. But one day she receives an email from Maisie, the most popular girl at school who she tries to avoid at all costs, asking for her help. The choices that follow will make life as she knows it unrecognisable.

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8. Chapter Eight

 

“You’re quoting ‘Twilight’ at a time like this?” I said, exasperated as I clutched onto her frail hand.

“It’s always the right time for sappy, over-hyped literary genius marketed deviously well towards sex-hungry pre-teen dolts,” she said.

“You do we remember we read that book? And loved it?” I pointed out.

“Yes I do. We fabulously conformed to the sex-hungry pre-teen dolt stereotype,” she said, grinning before her smile slipped away. “I’m still sex-hungry. I’m gonna die a frickin’ virgin, Lou!”

“I again question your timing for bringing up such things,” I said, frowning a little.

“There’s no time like the present for me,” she said, closing her eyes a little and making a hopeless attempt at a deep breath. “My lungs suck bad.”

“Elementary, my dear Watson,” I said, rolling my eyes.

“Hey, I’m Sherlock! Don’t steal my role.”

“Oh, come on. Like you could be Sherlock.”

“I’d be a better Sherlock than you would be,” she said feebly, at an attempt to banter with me like we used to.

“Would not.”

“Would too. Let me at least be Sherlock for today? Tomorrow it’ll be your turn, okay?”

“Okay,” I said, sticking my tongue out at her but her eyes remained closed, and I bit my lip, realising it was now I released some sort of planned speech about how much I loved her and that she was my best friend forever and none of this changed any of that. But I couldn’t do it. It just seemed too formal, too finalised.

“I did a front walkover and back handspring yesterday,” I said, trying to make conversation like we always did.

“No way?” Lily said, trying to sound interested but I could see the pain on her face.

“Yeah. It’s taken a while but I’ve finally nailed it.”

“That’s real cool,” Lily said, and then silence again. I had to do it. Now. If I didn’t, I’d always regret it. I could already see the colour draining from her face as her breathing became more and more desperate.

“Lily, you know I love you?”

“Calm down, lesbo,” she said, chuckling at her own joke, but when I did not join in, she opened her eyes and looked across at me where the first couple of tears had started to fall. “Oh no. No; don’t do this. You better not pull that crap on me.”

“You know it’s time! I have to!”

“No you don’t! I know exactly how you feel, ‘cause I feel the same about you!” she said, scrunching up her face as she put all her efforts into sitting up to face me properly. 

“But I need to hear it from you, so you must want it from me!” Lily shook her head.

“We’ve never talked about feelings. You know that,” she said, firmly. “Whenever we’ve got anywhere near, we’ve brushed it off with a sarcastic comment. That’s just the way we roll, Lou! It’s always been that way! The Lily and Lou Show!”

“You know things have changed since we were five, Lily,” I insisted.

“Have they?” Lily said, frowning. “All I know is you are my best friend in the whole wide world and if you want to stay in that high, prestigious position you better do what I say and act normal. I’m not letting you say goodbye, okay? So stop trying.” She lay back down then and folded her arms tightly across her chest, shutting her eyes. I was in shock.

“I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then?” I said, getting to my feet. Lily nodded.

“Sounds like a plan.” I hugged her tight and she complained momentarily that I was twisting up her tubes, but then willingly hugged me back. Then she held out her fist and we went through the handshake we’d been doing for more than we could remember complete with an appalling rhyme only Kindergarten kids were capable of writing.

You should watch us go

When we climb high and low

Cause you all wanna know

About the Lily and Lou Show

“We were such intelligent kids,” Lily said, smirking. “See you when I see you, yeah?”

“Yeah,” I said. “And I do love you, Lily.” Lily smiled weakly, and, as I was walking to the door to leave I heard her whisper it right back.

“Love you too, Lou.” And just hearing her finally say the words comforted me. It was enough.

I did however write a letter later that day saying goodbye to Lily. I planned to take it to the hospital the next day and show her, determined that there would be a next, and I’d have my turn at being Sherlock. It took me several hours where I sobbed uncontrollably, staining many sheets of paper in the comfort of my own room, until I had something I thought justified our friendship by about half.

I folded it up carefully and slotted it into a blue envelope – Lily’s favourite colour – as well as a photo of us from summertime when we were six at John and Paulie’s, completing a jigsaw puzzle, and then another from a couple months ago, as we’d sat in the exact same seats. Some things never changed, and just seeing the two frames side by side gave me hope that, in ten years’ time, we’d add another photo to the collection, when we both had kids of our own that we’d take there.

I put the envelope on my nightstand as I went to sleep, and prepared myself to face another day of wondering when the final day would be, and when this endless struggle would conclude in the only way it was possible. One half of my brain told me it was inevitable how the next few days would proceed, and yet the other half insisted on serving me false optimism. It wasn’t over yet.

I was woken at three in the morning by the sound of the phone ringing from the hallway. I got up in a state of confusion, rubbing my eyes before all that had occurred in the past year came flooding back to me like a punch to the stomach. There was only one reason for a caller at this hour. I knew before I even picked it up what news awaited me at the end of the line, and stood staring at the phone for as long as I could, preserving that moment when I was not yet aware that my world had ended, and would never be whole again.

What seemed like years later, I answered, holding the phone against my ear with clammy hands, and heard Aaron’s choked, shaky voice deliver the final blow I’d been anticipating for months, but had never believed would actually come. My best friend was gone, and she’d never know just what she meant to me. She hadn’t let me say goodbye. And for a moment, I was so overwhelmed by my lost opportunity that I did not cry for the loss of Lily but slammed the phone to the ground in frustration, letting out an unstifled scream into the dead, dark night. 

And then I broke down. 

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