Femi found me curled up in a ball and sobbing when she returned home. Without a word she cocooned herself around me and held me close, letting my animal sounds escape to the air around us. When I’d calmed down a little and stopped gulping she took my hand, eyes growing wide at my naked wrist.
“I told Spence.” I sniffed, wiping my eyes.
“What did he say?”
“No, come on, you can tell me.”
“No. He said nothing. He got up and walked out without saying a word to me.” I could feel the tears trying to climb back up my throat.
“He was probably just in shock. It’s okay.”
I shook my head. “It’s not okay. Not okay one bit! My best friend totally abandoned me! It was like he wanted nothing to do with me. Like I didn’t exist.”
“He’ll come around. He probably didn’t know how to process it. It’s a lot to take in. But he won’t have abandoned you. He wouldn’t do that.”
“What if that’s it? What if he never speaks to me again?”
“Of course he will. Nothing could separate you two.”
I gave a laugh filled with tears. “Yeah. Right.”
“Come on.” She squeezed my shoulders. “You’ll be alright.”
Something snapped inside me and the raging storm settled for a moment. “Stop saying that.”
“That everything’s going to be alright.”
“But everything is going to be alright.” Her nut brown eyes were so sure, so positive, that I almost didn’t want to take it away. But I had to. She wasn’t being realistic.
“Femi.” I chewed on my lip a moment. “It isn’t. It really, really isn’t.”
“Why not? Why does this have to be such a big deal? Why can’t you just cover it up? No one knows about it. Nothing’s changed so far. Why are you making such a thing about it all?”
I furrowed my eyebrows. “Do you not understand? Are you blocking me out or something? This is serious. This is happening. And yeah I can keep covering it up but you think it’ll stay quiet forever? Someone will talk. It’ll get out. Someone will see.”
“Who would talk?” She threw her arms out wide. “Me? Spence? Of course we wouldn’t. As long as you don’t go flashing it around we’ll be fine.”
“How can it be fine?” I felt my hands trembling. “How can anything be fine ever again?”
“We just have to get over this. Pretend it never happened.”
“How? It’s not something we can look back on and laugh. It’s forever. It’s marked on me forever. There’s no escaping this.” I couldn’t take a full breath.
“Lex. Lex.” Femi moved closer so her face was all I could see. “It’s going to be okay.” She said each word as though she believed it. “You have to believe me.”
“I can’t! This is out of your control! This is out of anyone’s control! I’m done for. My life is over.”
“Stop it.” Tears were brimming in her eyes now. “Stop talking like this. I hate seeing you like this. This isn’t you.”
“I can’t be me anymore! Being me is dangerous. Look where it’s leading.” I was taking huge raking breaths now and Femi was pressing her lips together as though she was holding in a sob too.
The click and fumble with the lock downstairs meant Mum and Dad were home. Femi and I shared a terrified glance. Her eyes grew wide and had never looked so big.
“Girls! We’re back!”
Femi looked to the door and I grabbed both her hands, shaking my head, pleading with my eyes. No.
“Girls? You up there?”
I couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks and I needed to breathe big and loud but I was too afraid.
Femi cleared her throat. “We’re in Lex’s room!”
I squeezed her hands tighter, too afraid of opening my mouth to speak. Who knew what ugly sound would explode out of my lips.
“You have to tell them. They might know what to do.”
I just looked at her.
“Please, Lex, look at you. You have to tell them.”
I shook my head.
“We need to tell them. I can’t lie to them.”
“What?” I squeaked. “You said you wouldn’t tell anyone. You can’t tell me you can’t lie. Fem, I need you.”
“I can lie and I would lie to anyone for you, you know that. Just not them. Not now.”
“No.” Tears blurred my vision again. “No. Please. Don’t.”
“I don’t think we have a choice.”
“Please!” Everything was being ripped away from me all in the same moment. If I hadn’t lived in this room my whole life I wouldn’t have known where I was. If it wasn’t Femi sat in front of me now I wouldn’t have known who it was. There was no room left in my head for anything but panic and fear. It consumed me. I could feel it in my shoulders and stomach and heart. I could hear it galloping around in my brain. I could taste it in my tears.
Mum’s footsteps up the stairs had me pulling in violet gulps of breath. The tears were choking me. I couldn’t work out how to breathe and cry and panic all at the same time. My body fought a battle with itself and I was just the victim.
“What’s going on?” Mum appeared in the doorway and rushed over at once, joining us on the bed. “Lex, Lex.” She tried to meet my eye but I looked down to my quilt. I didn’t want to look at her. Couldn’t. “What is it?” She turned to Femi at our silence. “Fem, what is it? What’s going on?”
I felt Femi’s eyes on me as Dad’s footsteps made their way up the stairs and onto the landing.
“What’s going on in here?”
All at once our family was crowded around my bed. Crowded around me. I couldn’t remember the last time we’d all sat so close together.
“Lex?” Mum tried me again but I didn’t want to look into her caramel eyes. I didn’t want to watch the expression on her face when Femi no doubt blurted it out.
Femi still had my hands. How long would it take for her to turn one over? I gripped tight, glancing a look at her. Hoping all my pleading was flowing into her.
“Lex?” Dad leant forward, his head almost on Mum’s shoulder now. “What is it? You can tell us?”
I shook my head, refusing to look up.
“We’re not leaving here until you tell us what’s going on?”
My lip wobbled and it took all my strength to hold in the sobs.