When We Were

Delilah Canbury has never been understood. She's always thought that talking to people was too hard and had too many risks. Her family life mostly consisted of her parents and her ill grandmother, who was getting worse by the day.

Annabelle Walker had always seemed to be the perfect girl. Exceptionally erudite and curious, mixed with elegant beauty and a sharp tongue makes her the one that teachers compare others to.

After an abrupt encounter when Annabelle causes Delilah to lose her lunch–literally–a friendship blossoms between the two and ferment a bond that could never be broken. Until the unthinkable happens.

Five years later, the girls are together again, but nothing is the same again. Both of them have changed in those years apart and cut from contact. Annabelle whisks Delilah away with one decision that could shatter or mend the both of them.

A story of mending friendships and changing lives that starts with the words, "Trust me," and ends with the words," Forever and ever."

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1. Prologue

Prologue

         I never thought that I would meet my best friend in a restroom. I never thought I would actually have a best friend, really. 

         Hey, look. It's the weird girl.

         Yeah. It's her. Just walk away from her. You don't want to catch the crazies.

        I wanted to scream at them, ask them why they had to be so harsh. Though I knew why I was the weird girl. I've always known, that's the exact reason why I strayed away from people and they strayed away from me, as though I was people repellent. 

        My grandmother has bipolar disorder, with slight delusions. There were days when she was the happiest, days when she was depressed and days when she was flat out savage. People reported that she would be jittery for a while, her words slamming into each other and always daring to take on new projects. Then, she would slump in a gloomy mood and never want to get out of bed, complaining about life. She claimed to hear voices whispering into her ear as she sleep, or when she was taking a test or when she was brushing her teeth. She said they told her things about people. They told me the truth behind the masks that people wear, she told me. These voices also told her answers and secrets, which was why she was able to pass school despite her instability. 

         Then, when she was in college, she had a breakdown. She screamed and shouted till her lungs were on the breaking point and her throat was mangled. She threw furniture and dashed throughout the campus, causing mass destruction and mayhem. At least ten people were sent to the hospital with cuts, bruises and internal bleeding. That was when she had to be transferred to an asylum for being unstable. 

         That was the week she had my father.

         They were worried that he might be bipolar, like my grandmother. So her family made sure to keep him away from her as much as possible, until she got better or he showed no signs of the disorder. This was how most of his life was; family and friends scrutinizing his every move, searching for a symptom or breakdown that would signify his disorder.

         Thankfully, he never came up to have those mood swings. During his teen years, they were extremely worried, but it never was as common as my grandmother's. He had the closest thing to a normal life, fell in love and had me.

        Which, in turn, signalled the time for the hawks to swoop back in and inspect me. Dad did his best to ward them off, and that was all it took apparently; just a simple and curt "Go away," and they left us alone. 

        That didn't stop the teasing. This was something Dad never spoke about, so I assumed it would be just fine. I mean, I didn't have bipolar disorder, so it would be fine, right?

         Tell that to the kids who desperately avoid my gaze or simply crossing my path, as though I'm a giant black cat of bad luck. Tell that to the teachers who treat me as though I'm a ticking time bomb about to explode any moment. Tell that to the strangers who gawk at me and are scared to even look me in the eye.

         It was fine by me. I didn't want to talk to people or be that girl who had friends over every weekend, talking about boys or celebrities or shows on the television. I embraced solitude like an old friend, and it seemed to be so. From silence is born inspiration, my mom would say when I told her about the people avoiding me. "It's nice to have some alone time every now and then. You don't have to be friends with everyone, Delilah."

         I could tell she had a disposable amount of friends when she was my age. Her hair was long and wavy, the colour and texture of bronze silk. Her skin was a smooth porcelain and everything about her was doll-like. Dainty hands, long legs, and big bottle green eyes that would seem to glimmer when the light hit them. I could see why my dad fell for her.

         Mom had a way with words. It was like she could weave out this beautiful string of words to make a tapestry of eloquence and elegance. It must have been clockwork in her head, gears spinning and clicking into place like a well-oiled machine. 

        I wished I had her power when I met Annabelle.

        When your life is about to change, you don't expect it. You are just going about like it's any other day. Hey, it's that same bird, that same sky, that same teacher, that same group of people that stare at you, but they don't look at you. You never expect it, and that's why I didn't set out a table or break out my heels and jewelry when I came into the bathroom to eat lunch.

        I set up shop at the third stall–the cleanest one by far–and began to devour my sandwich in a silent peace. Sometimes the janitor would come by and eat with me; and we would talk about mindless things. I took this time to count how many tiles there were in the stall when the door flew open.

       A girl with her cape of raven black hair flowing out behind her stood before me, her dark eyes piercing me. Though we didn't have uniforms, she still took it into her own hands to wear a teal and gold checkered print skirt with a maroon blazer embedded with a chymera–the school mascot. This girl was also known as Annabelle Walker, Reiner High's pride and joy. She represented everything the teachers and students alike wanted. She had the grace of a princess, as well as the practical beauty of one. Her brain could connect from point A to point B in a matter of seconds, making her a shoe-in for valedictorian. The thing about Annabelle though, was that she seemed a little eccentric. 

        You would frequently see her yelling at the sky or gazing too fondly at the birds that flew over. Everybody brushed it off as her being curious or unique. This was one of the things I liked about her; she didn't deny the rumours, just accepted them. She knew they weren't true and treated them as though everyone had known so already. Eventually people forgot about there ever being such thing and went on with her life.

         My slab of bread and meat went soaring through the air and I clawed frantically for it. Like an expert in food catching, Annabelle snatched it with one hand and took a bite out of it. 

        "Turkey, a flightless bird. I approve," she nodded and handed me back my lunch. I accepted it reluctantly as she leaned against the stall and smirked at me.

        "What are you doing here?" I asked, finishing what was left of my lunch.

        She stuck out her hand. "I'm Annabelle Walker, your new tutor. I heard you were falling behind in your studies, so I decided that a girl such as yourself should not fail classes."

        I gaped. "How did you know that? Those are my private records!"

        She shrugged and handed me a mischievous smile full of secrets. "That is classified information. Let's just say I have a proposal for you."

        I got up from the toilet seat and brushed myself off. "I want to hear it first before accepted it."

        She nodded. "Perfectly fine. I will tutor you and mentor you in exchange for one thing; that's all I ask is this one thing."

        Her eyes were serious and her eyebrows swooped up a bit, asking me a question. "And this one thing is?"

        "Come with me to a party. Jack Burns is having one and I want to go with someone that doesn't want to just hit on boys and play spin the bottle. Please?" her eyes sparkled and I felt my heart ache from the realization of isolation. I had never been to any party, save for the ones I attended with my family. All the noise, the sweaty bodies, the smell of alcohol laced in everyone's breath repulsed me. 

         I looked at Annabelle. Her eyes were begging and I couldn't imagine why she would pick me of all people. "The Weird Girl"–the one that could possibly be crazy, the one that doesn't want to talk. I knew in the back of my mind that this is a trick. There was no way that someone like Annabelle would invite me to a party meant for popular people. No absolute way unless they were dared to.

        But she wasn't like that. I remember once when one of her followers asked her to help prank the music teacher, who was this anxious bald man that spoke with fidgeting eyes. She immediately denied it and made sure that the incident didn't occur. She would never do something so terrible just to impress her friends or get a rebellious high. Still, the absurdity of this offer is overwhelming.

        "I know what you're thinking, Delilah," she sighed. "You think that I'm doing this to coax you into being humiliated in front of everybody. You don't trust my offer. I completely understand, but I'm asking you because I noticed how you don't really talk and how you always come here to eat lunch. I wanted to help you feel like you belong here, not like some outcast."

        "So this is a pity offer?"

        I tried to push past her when she took hold of my arm. "No! This isn't something like that! I just want to help you, Delilah."

        "How do you know my name?" I narrowed my eyes at her.

        She flashed a sweet smile that seemed to sparkled. "If I'm going to be your friend, I have to at least start with knowing what to address you by. You seem to not like your full name as much as I thought you would. How about Lilah?"

        I felt like everything was swirling inside me. Confusion mixed with anger, reluctance and a longing to have someone to tell secrets to. Someone to talk about things that troubled me other than my parents. As much as I wanted to accept her offer, I couldn't help but feel like there was another ulterior motive.  

        "Why me? Why not one of the other loners? Why not one of your followers?"

        Her eyes flashed like she expected me to ask this question and she laid her surprising strong hands on my shoulders. "The thing about you Lilah, is that you have this vile rumour surrounding you, about how you are bipolar, or deranged or mute. All in the few minutes we have spoken, I have proved all of them false. I never believed them. We are alike in this way. Both of us have a history that we don't people to know and a life that we prefer to keep tucked away under a rug of secrets. Sometimes though, these secrets start to create a bulge under the rug and you don't people to notice. You want to tell someone so that the rug starts to look normal and inconspicuous again."

        I saw the sincerity in her eyes and the desperation. I understand now. She doesn't just want me to come to Jack's party with her; she wants me to be her friend. I thought about how this is one thing we share, the yearning to relieve ourselves of the hushed knowledge that weighs down our shoulders. I thought about how Annabelle before seemed like this perfect cardboard cut-out of a girl, but she wanted someone to trust like me. 

        "When is the party?"

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