CLAIRE (working titles) or, Big Town Secrets
Rain beats against the cab with such fury I fear the windows may crack. When we pull up to the curb I fling the door open and make a dash for the building, ducking beneath the awning. As I wait for the driver to bring my luggage I see Tess and Summer in the flower shop across the street. “Oh, crap!”
They study me through the window as if they aren’t quite sure it’s me. Their mouths are going like machetes and I can just imagine the angry expletives. Before I’m able to escape inside the bus station the two are out the door and dashing across the street. Thirty seconds later they have me cornered.
Summer pushes a lock of wet hair off her face, glares at my luggage, then me. “You coming, or going?” Her nose puckers in a snarl that reveals four beautiful white teeth. That look has always been a little frightening. She’s gorgeous, and the best friend you could want, although when perturbed she’s like a wildcat.
“Going,” I croak. I glance at my bags sitting against the building. “Sorry I-I haven’t called.”
Tess comes around and stands so I have no choice but to look at her. “So then, why haven’t you?” Summer slides up beside her and grabs my arm, “Come on Clair, spit-it-out. Where’ve you been? I heard, California.” They’re all over me like flies and I just want them to go away.
I find an exit and dart around them, although Summer’s still clutching my arm as I hurry to the building and collect my luggage. “Look me in the eye, Claire? Was it California, or not?” When I don’t respond she gives me a good pinch and lets go. I move away, but she’s right there screaming in my ear. “So where’re you off to now?” I’m tempted to turn around and scream at her, but let out a sigh instead and keep walking.
“What in God’s name has happened to you, anyway?” Summer sounds dejected and it crushes me that I can’t say more. I can’t look her in the eye.
I stare down at my luggage knowing I have to end it here. “I-I’m sorry. It’s…things change sometimes.” I take a breath and stoop for my bag. “I’ve gotta go.” I hoist the bag over my shoulder, pick up my suitcase and glance their way. “I’m going to France. Remember, where we always planned to go, some day?” My face warms with guilt. It’s true, that was our plan at one time. But that’s not where I’m going. What a stupid thing to say. For one millisecond, I think of confessing.
“You’re going to miss my wedding,” Summer spouts.
I look at her, taken aback. “Congratulations. I-I didn’t know.” My eyes drop to the ring on her finger.
She lifts her hand for a moment then pulls it back. “Why haven’t you called?”
I turn away sick to my stomach. The truth is I never left town. I push the door open then turn back. The girls stare at me like a couple of homeless pups. I’ve never seen them look so…pathetic. At one time I would’ve taken a picture so we could laugh over it.
“I’m sorry,” I say again. I push through the doorway and head inside. When I reach the counter, I look back and they’re watching me through the window. I wish they’d come in and drag me out. It’s hard to believe that not long ago we were the best friends ever placed on this earth. Oh, how I miss the way it used to be, miss it so much I feel I might die from wanting it back.