A Best Betrayal

Catalina Stefson and Harold Connell were inseparable best friends, but this is not your usual cup of a cliché story idea. Catalina's, a.k.a Cat, mother is struck by sudden liver cancer and she is distraught. She tells Harold about the condition because she trusts him. Unfortunately, just two weeks after her mother's condition, she catches him making fun of her mother in front of his friends. And Cat doesn't like that.

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4. Without Harry, without Mom

 Cat's POV

I walked over to Harry with his bowl of cereal as he fixed his tie. I had made some cereal for breakfast since he was there and all he was doing was trying on my Dad’s ties. This time he had found a really expensive tie that was a beautiful navy blue with incomplete green and grey stripes and now he was just too observed on ‘getting the right look’ and he was stuck in front of the mirror, looking at his stupid face.

“Are you eating?” I asked, tapping his shoulder with one hand.

“I am a bit busy at the moment,” he whispered dramatically, not taking his eyes off the mirror.

I rolled my eyes.

“Stop looking at that tie. It’s Dad’s favourite. You ain’t gonna get it,” I smirked smugly, trying to get his spirits down.

“One day, it will be. He will gift it to me, or I will buy one like it,” he answered back with stagy enthusiasm.

“Why don’t you eat up your crappy cereal and then we can talk about it?” I urged, my voice getting snappy.

“Ugh, I am not eating it if it’s crappy,” he pretended to gag, looking at my reflection in the mirror with his twinkling eyes.

“Stop being such an annoying Mr. Smarty-pants,” I huffed, “Just eat this thing so that I can go to school.”

“You are supposed to laugh,” he laughed, spinning on his heel to finally look at me.

I shrugged. “I don’t have time to put up with your cheeky nonsense right now. I want to get to school and I really don’t want to babysit, you know.”

“You do like baby-sitting,” Harry pointed out.

“And you are a baby!? Seriously, dude, you are a freaking adult. Grow the hell up,” I grunted.

“Stop cursing so much. You curse at every single thing, Cat, it is not good,” he warned.

“Thanks, Mom,” I snorted, “And, you know what, Harry? Just take this goddamn bowl and let me be on my way.”

He held out his hands out slightly and I quickly handed it to him, before grabbing my wine red blazer from the counter. I threw my keys in my pocket and my phone in another.

“Spare keys are in the kitchen,” I called to Harry before getting out of the house and locking it.

I took the bus as usual, and reached school in a matter of twenty minutes or so. All the time I was thinking how my day at school would be without Harry. It was going to be my first time without him, and I had to manage it. Not only that, I knew that every single student would keep asking me questions about Harry.

Yeah, I had quite a few things to take care of.

Arriving at school gates, I breathed loudly to get all my confidence in a single piece and took a seemingly casual step ahead.

“Catalina!”

There was a disturbing call right behind me and I turned my head to see a girl with long, golden locks and a freckled nose running towards me. She was dressed very plainly in a green V-neck and red mini-shorts and matching red sneakers.

For some reason, she looked rather inquisitive as she sped to me and almost a bit too goofy for my type. I thought of running in the school before she reached me, but she didn’t look very bothersome so I stayed in my place, with a half-smile on my lips.

“Catalina!” she panted, reaching me.

“Hi,” I greeted with a small wave, waiting to hear her say something else.

“Hi,” she finally said, composing herself.

“Can I, uh, help you?” I asked with a questioning shrug.

“Oh, yeah. Yeah, I just came by to ask you something,” she nodded, carelessly twiddling her thumbs together.

“Go ahead, but be quick about it. I have a class to attend and the teacher will kill me if I am late,” I smirked at the last comment.

She giggled. “Um, ‘kay, so do you know where Harold is? Why did he steal your essay? Aren’t you guys friends?” she spoke hesitantly, but enthusiastically all the same.

I cleared my throat, looking a little gloomy. “He is a troublemaker, that boy. He was just teasing me but it went… a little too far…” I pretended to be upset about it and the girl gasped quietly.

“But he got suspended. Isn’t that good news?” she tried to console me.

“No, it is not,” I answered straightforwardly, and went on to act like a kindly soul, “But he was sorry about it. He said he was just teasing, so I forgave him.”

“That’s very surprising,” the girl said, “but I am glad you guys didn’t fight. That would have been exciting though – no offense.”

I shook my head. “None taken. I am glad too, I can’t risk losing my best friend… and I am sure he wouldn’t risk losing me too. We are comrades-in-arms, really.”

She laughed, “That’s great to hear! Uh, can I ask you something else?”

I raised my eyebrows but turned my head ever so slightly, gesturing at her to go ahead.

“Did Harold tell you how long he is suspended?” she asked, “Some are saying a week, others are saying two. Some even said a whole month!”

I laughed, putting my hand to my mouth. “Nah, only ten days. That’s it.”

“Oh!!” she nodded, and then stuck out her hand with a grin, “I am sorry I didn’t introduce myself. The name’s Alicia.”

I accepted it warmly and shook it. “I am Catalina, but you can call me Cat,” I winked.

“Cat! Wow, that’s catchy,” Alicia grinned.

I smiled broadly, somewhat glad that she wasn’t acknowledging my awkwardness. “Thank you, Alicia– ”

She cut me off with a half laugh, “You can call me Al. Alicia is a bit of a mouthful.”

“Agreed,” I chuckled, “Well, I gotta get to class, Al. So… bye!!”

She waved. “Bye! See you at lunch!”

I waved back, before walking off steadily, “See ya!”

When I reached class, I noticed Ms. Mallow was the same as she had been before she confronted Harry. Her voice was still more of a hiss and her sense of fashion was still pitiful. The only thing that seemed to have changed was the amount of time she spoke to the class. She spoke much more and was constantly calling on students to answer questions and read text aloud.

And, thankfully, the class was buzzing with activity. Time flew and we all went to our other classes. I was honestly surprised that no one was asking me about Harry – till it was recess time. The moment recess was announced, a large group of students ran out; not to the cafeteria, but to me.

“Catalina, where is Harold?”

“Why did he steal your essay?”

“Why would he burn your essay to get you in trouble?”

“Where is he, Catalina!?”

I honestly felt like I was someone ridiculously important and that the mob was the press that wanted to interview me. If you see such a scene, it will come as over-dramatic to you. But when you think it through, with all the backstory and stuff, you will realize that it is not as stereotype as it sounds.

See, Harry was the popular one. He was the popular one – among troublemakers, especially – in the whole school. The nerds, the boys, the girls, the tough ones; they all totally loved him. He was not a bully – which is why he was such a favourite of the less popular people – and he was not the tattooed, gangster-ish type either. He was pretty good at his studies and always did his homework on time.

The only catch was that he was, well, rude. He wasn’t disturbingly misbehaved but he was very direct and incredibly snarky.

That is why he was never a teacher’s pet. Some teachers despised him, but most treated him like an average student. Despite all of this, he had a heart of gold and every single student realized how amazing he was.

Back to the present, everyone was speaking at the same time and I strained to hear. When I had had enough, I raised my hand and yelled, “Stop!”

Oddly enough, everyone shut up at that moment. I calmed down.

“Okay, just speak one by one. I can’t hear anything with this racket going on,” I said, and pointed at some short, blue-eyed guy, “Do you have anything to ask?”

He nodded, “Yeah, where is your friend?”

“He has been suspended. He is at home,” I lied. I didn’t want to say that he was at my home because that would totally ruin the plan. “Anything else?” I went on, but the guy shook his head.

“Me!” someone squealed and a girl shoved her way towards me.

I twitched my lips at the sight of a notepad in her hand. I was ninety-nine-point-nine percent sure she was going to write down whatever I said.

“Yeah, go ahead,” I gestured.

“Okay, so first of all, why did Harold treat you like that? Burn your essay and all?” she asked, flipping her notepad open and getting ready to write. Her curiosity creeped the heck out of me and I stared at the pen with wide eyes.

“He is a troublemaker,” I answered quickly, “He just goes a bit too far sometimes.”

The girl scribbled in her notebook swiftly and said, “Are you guys still friends?”

I nodded, “Kinda. I mean, yes, we are. I forgave him.”

The entire crowd ‘ooh’ed’ and I mentally face-palmed. This had to get so embarrassing and I wanted to get away real fast. The girl wrote my answer as soon as I spoke.

“What are you doing?” I asked her, eyes narrowed.

“Nothing. Just jotting down details,” she smiled, but it looked so pathetic that I just groaned.

“Details? Are you sending the story to some newspaper?” I asked, trying not to sound annoyed.

“It is school gossip, Catalina,” she laughed, “I am just making up an interesting story, spiced up and all.”

I narrowed my eyes sharply. “Interesting story? That sounds very humiliating.”

She shrugged with a slight smirk, “Well, a story can’t make sure that no one is humiliated. What’s gossip without humiliation?”

I held myself from gritting my teeth. “Yes, well… I would not like to be the ‘toy’ of your gossip. I don’t want to be humiliated,” I gave her a hard stare and turned away, “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to talk about this topic anymore, guys.”

The crowd looked disappointed but I was already gone. No one came up to me after that but the ‘notepad’ girl, as I spotted, was snickering at me with some of her friends. I had no idea what her problem was, but I chose to let it go.

What is high school if no one makes your fun?

I left school as soon as the bell rang. I had nothing left to do there, nor did I want to remain there anymore. As I walked off, I felt like I didn’t want to go home either. I just wanted to stay in the streets and dawdle about on the streets with no real reason whatsoever. It didn’t come to me that ‘Oh, Harry is at home! Oh, what a rush I am in to see him! It has been AGES!!” because I knew there was something more important than Harry at the moment.

My mom.

I took my phone out and dialed Dad’s number.

“Hello, this is Edward Stefson.”

I smiled at his voice. “Dad, it’s me,” I smiled.

“Oh, Cat! How are you, darling?” he asked.

“Everything is okay, Dad. I miss you and Mom… How are you guys?”

My question was met with a sad sigh. “She is… coping. S-she misses you too, honey. We both do.”

“I know you do,” I replied warmly, trying to console him, “Where is she?”

“She is resting at the moment. She had a hard night. The doctors were so worried about her!”

“What happened, Dad? What happened to her?”

“Her blood was completely filled with bacteria. It was poisoning her, Cat. I was so scared I would lose her,” he spoke in a ghostly whisper, trying to hold himself from breaking down.

My own eyes were getting tearful but I sniffed. “Dad… I am sorry I can’t be there… I miss Mom so, so much.”

“Baby, we can understand,” he soothed, “You don’t have to come here. You have more important things to deal with.”

“Dad,” I said again, voice broken, “nothing is more important than you guys. I couldn’t live without you…”

“Oh, sweetie!” he sighed, “You are our star too. So, what are you doing right now?”

I could tell he wanted to move on to a less daunting topic and I tried to smile. “Nothing much, Dad. I am just coming home from school.”

“Is Harold with you?”

“No, he is at the house. He got suspension and didn’t want to face his parents… so I let him stay.”

“How long is the suspension?”

“Just ten days, Dad. But he will be getting out tomorrow – when his parents were less mad at him.”

Dad laughed quietly but it was broken by some voices at the other end. It was clear that someone was talking to him and he would need to go.

I waited till he was ready to speak again.

“I am sorry, sweetie, but I need to go sign some papers,” Dad sighed.

“Dad. Please, take care of Mom,” I sniffled.

There was silence on his side but then he spoke again, his voice soft but brave like the man he always had been.

“I love you, darling, and your mom does too,” he whispered gently.

“I love you too, Dad. See you Saturday,” I croaked, wiping my tears away.

“See you, kiddo,” he sighed and the line went dead.

I put the phone back in my pocket and felt the tears on my cheeks. I hadn’t realized I had been crying, but I felt so sad for Mom. I had never missed my parents so much. Right then, I wanted to be with them and nowhere else.  I squatted down in the lonely street, covering my face with my hands and crying hoarsely.

Whenever I heard footsteps, I pretended to be tying my shoelaces and when there was no one, I sobbed like there was no tomorrow.

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