“How are you feeling? Your dad said that you weren’t feeling too good so you couldn’t go to the formal.” She inquired, generally worried about her friend’s health. Adjusting the black framed glasses on her face, she hoped her green eyed friend was okay. Clara had been battling with cancer for as long as Gwen could remember. Being friends since they were toddlers, the news crushed her. Clara’s honey toned blonde hair sat straight around her shoulders bringing out the green in her eyes. With her fair complexion, no one could tell she was ill. One of the many reasons none of the students at Shadowfield High knew she was sick.
“Daddy was worried that too much energy used on dancing would make me worse. I was having a bad day yesterday.” She replied with a shrug, Gwen was worried that Clara was slowly giving up hope on the chemo she was having. Clara had always put on a brave face for those she loved; Gwen was starting to see through it. Walking through the gates of their high school, Gwen couldn’t wait to farewell it. Conveniently, it was the only high school in a two hour radius. There were at least a hundred seniors, maybe more graduating that had been home schooled. Frowning, Gwen brushed a brown strand over her hair out of her face, grazing her fingertips over the raised scar on her left cheek. Noticing her friends worry, Clara spoke up. “Don’t worry about me; I know my time is limited and Mr E understood I couldn’t go last night.” The ever mysterious Mr E, Clara’s long term boyfriend. No one even knew his full name.
“How long, I know I told you I didn’t want to know, but I can’t stand not knowing.” Tears threatened to spill from Gwen’s blue eyes; she didn’t want to lose her best friend. The girls were packing up their lockers, clearing them for the future seniors at Shadowfield High. Clara shut both their empty lockers embracing her friend in a one armed hug. There was no easy way to tell someone devastating news without causing them pain.
“He said if the chemo stops working, I will have maybe a year or two depending on how fast the cancer spreads. But I’m spending more days’ sick than good.” Clara whispered through tears, Gwen hugged her tighter letting her own tears fall. The news sucked and it ripped Gwen’s heart out, one of the only people who treated her like she was normal was dying. She knew anything could happen, so the only thing she could do was to stay positive.
“God I love you Clara, you’re the sister I never had.”
“I love you too, but I want to enjoy my last day at Shadowfield High like any normal Leukaemia free teenager. Plus we have graduation in an hour!” They let each other go, Gwen held onto Clara’s things while Clara headed for the girl’s bathroom. Looking around the halls, listening to the excited chatter from the other students Gwen knew she would miss it but just not all of the people in the school. She had Clara, Drake and their other friends, Lillie and Annie who graduated the year before. If it hadn’t been for her friends she would have skipped out on school years ago. Most kids skipped out after grade ten. Pulling her brown curly hair over her shoulder, she plaited it to tame it slightly, before straightening out her formal uniform, a grey knee length skirt with a white fitted shirt; the guys wore grey pants and a white shirt with a grey tie. Wiping her cheeks free of any rogue tears, she felt slightly better; hoping her eyes weren’t red and puffy.
“Oh, Gwendolyn…” He taunted in a sing song voice, he had been her tormentor since he moved to Shadowfield five years ago. Gwen disliked him with a passion; there was nothing she could do to stop him harassing her. Wishing Clara would hurry up; Gwen tried her best to ignore him. Jake Roberts, all six foot something thinking he was the greatest thing to walk the earth. He wasn’t even close, in Gwen’s eyes, if she was capable of hating someone it was him. His blonde hair, hazel eyes and bad boy attitude could have had Gwen swooning with his other female followers if he wasn’t such an ass to her. “What’s got you so upset Gwenie?”
“None of your damn business Roberts, none of your dang business, now leave before Clara comes back to castrate you.” She snapped at him, she despised the nickname he gave her. It made her feel like she was a little kid; she didn’t like to be babied.
“Oh the sick girl, I’m so scared. How long does the cancer patient have this time?” Fresh tears stung her eyes, where did he get off at making a joke about a dying girl, who happened to be her best friend? Gwen thought she wasn’t capable of hating anyone but in that moment she hated Jake. Before Gwen knew it her hand was clenched into a fist and rose punching him straight in the nose. Blood ran down to his top lip, Gwen felt ill as pain shot up her arm. She was glad to have an older brother to teach her how to fight, even if it was against her mother’s wishes.
“There is a hell of a lot more where that came from you asshat! You’re lucky her boyfriend isn’t around to beat you into a pulp. Go to hell Jake.” She growled at him, picking up her and Clara’s things. Walking away she hoped it was going to be the last she saw of him. Adrenaline coursed through her veins, part of her felt proud to stand up to a bully while part of her felt sick to her stomach knowing his dad was a policeman. Her hand throbbed as she made the trip down to the hall where the graduation ceremony was held. She met up with Clara who gave her an ice pack not saying anything about what had happened. Gwen hoped she didn’t do any real damage to her hand.
“… Guys, we did it. We made it all through school and now we can start the real fun.” Hoots and hollers filled the hall when Sam the female school captain, finished their graduation speech. Gwen was surprised at how fast Graduation flew by, the speeches brought the place to tears and soon the seniors were no longer school students. The ice on her hand had stopped it from swelling and numbed it to a full throb. Gwen didn’t bother waiting for her parents as she would catch them at their home later; they were congratulating all of their friend’s kids. Letting the warm spring sun hit her cheeks, she couldn’t wait for summer to start full time work to save up to go on adventures later in life, she farewelled Clara, knowing that she was off to the hospital for another round of treatment. She was waiting on Drake another friend of hers to find her so they could head to work together. Relaxing her muscles, she never thought she would make it through all the years of bullying. Knowing she no longer had to put up with that torment again gave her peace at mind to move on to bigger and better. Whistles and cheering overcome the sound of the birds in the trees. Gwen was ready to start a new chapter in her life.
“So Gwenie, how does it feel to be a graduate?” He asked she knew the voice well enough to know it was Jake. There was no hidden sign that he was trying to torment her. He sounded sincere which unnerved her, no matter his niceness at that moment she still hated him. She didn’t quite know what to say, just as she was about to answer when Drake appeared. Gwen was grateful for his sudden appearance.
“There you are my little Goanna, where have you been?” He asked slinging his arm over her shoulders pulling her into his chest. Drake had been the only one able to call her anything other than Gwen and get away with it. To any bystanders Drake and Gwen might have looked like they were in a relationship by the way they stood. He was her boy crazed friend who was still quiet about it, his drama class helped in keeping that quiet. It didn’t bother her in the slightest about who he liked more intimately, but Drake was waiting to leave school before he came out to get away from the clique bullying that came with the territory. They had been English partners for some assignment when they met and he helped her get the vacant job at Shadowfield’s country saddlery and gift store. His brown hair was slicked back and his blue eyes shone with mischief causing Gwen’s eyes to narrow at him. He was taller than her by at least a head making her feel short.
“I’ve been here the whole time. Jake here was just leaving.”
“Oh no, I wasn’t Gwenie; we have a lot to talk about.” She was about to open her mouth to tell Jake off when lips pressed to hers silencing her protest. She stared wide eyed at Drake waiting for him to pull back from his kiss as she was too stunned to move. Drake pulled away smirking, Gwen still couldn’t regain function of her body. Jake had a shocked look on his face, Gwen was positive hers matched it. She was positive Drake liked boys not girls, so why was he kissing her?
“I’ve always wanted to do that. I can die a happy man now.” He chuckled pulling Gwen away from the hall entrance. She was more confused than ever in her shocked state. Maybe Drake was just acting; she hoped so because she didn’t like him like that. If that was an act, Drake was a natural and would go far in an acting career if given the chance. “I can see your panic, don’t worry, I still don’t like girls.”
“Hey!” She knew he didn’t mean it like how it sounded, but she was relieved it was an act; she couldn’t bare it if she broke his heart. Drake drove her home so she could drop her things off and get changed before they drove to his house so he could do the same. They both had the closing shift; their boss had an emergency and they were the only ones that knew how to lock up. Their boss usually rostered them on together as they worked well as a team and always got what had to be completed done. When they arrived at Shadowfield’s country saddlery and gifts store, Drake stocked the shelves replacing anything that needed it while Gwen filled out order forms and worked the register.
“Thanks for saving me today I guess.” She said unsure of why he kissed her in the first place. Drake gave a nervous chuckle glad the work day was nearly over.
“I’d do anything for you, first kiss and with a girl too. Not how I imagined it though.”
“Gee, I’m glad both our first kiss meant a lot to you. I would have done the same for you. It’s what friends are for.” She said quietly, she knew what he meant. She wasn’t exactly imaging her first kiss with her gay best friend. They chatted as they finished up their workload for the day, the awkwardness from earlier forgotten. The store got busy just before it was time to close, frazzled from her day, her hand throbbed from too much strain. Locking the front door of the shop a figure in jeans and a button up shirt was staring at her from across the street. Dark brown hair was visible under his akubra hat.
“Gwen, you ready to go?” She heard him call from the back.
“Just a sec,” Gwen called looking in Drake’s direction; glancing across the street the mystery man was gone, gulping she made sure the door was locked, heading out back. Whoever he was made her heart rate skyrocket. Gwen shook it off as nerves because he was staring at her.