I Know Why You Dress In White

I knew what I'd done as soon as the door closed behind me. I allowed myself a small smile of satisfaction in the shadows of the doorway before rushing to Callie's bedside. I knelt beside her on the grey-flecked white tiled floor, and placed my folded hands next to her on the crisp white sheets. Callie's face was pale, and her formerly vibrant brown curls fell limply around her face on the pillow. I noticed the bald patches scattered on her scalp from where she had torn her own hair out. Light from the window behind the headboard streamed into the room, and Callie stared vacantly at the spot where it touched the wall in front of her.

"Callie," I called softly. She didn't respond. "Callie, wake up, sweetie." Callie's deadened brown eyes continued to stare blankly at the sunlight. "I'm here for you, Callie." Her chest continued to rise and fall with each shallow breath that she took, but she still didn't acknowledge me. Satisfied, I stood from my position on the floor and moved to sit in the blue plastic chair next to her bed.

I met Callie a year and a half ago in homeroom. She transferred to my school as a junior, and on the first day of school I could tell she was desperate to find a friend. On that first boring day of classes, Callie was perched on the edge of the desk chair in homeroom, and I caught her occasional nervous glances throughout the room. I slid from my desk and moved to the desk immediately next to her. Callie would be my next player.

"My name's Lilith," I told her, tucking a strand of strawberry blonde hair behind my ear and pasting a grin on my face. "What's yours?"

"I'm Callie," she replied, her brown eyes big and trusting.

I smiled again, this time genuinely. Callie would be perfect. "What's your schedule this quarter?" I asked, drawing her in. She explained her classes, and I was pleased to discover that we shared a few. Yes, Callie would be absolutely perfect.

I spent the next few months building her trust. It wasn't a hard thing to do, since Callie even made the first phone call, asking if I could hang out. Since neither of us were part of any extracurricular activities, we started spending time with each other every day after school. Soon we were "best friends," and it was rare to see me around school without Callie somewhere nearby. When those first critical months passed, I knew it was time to start making my moves.

I started by helping her get involved in school. I made use of every opportunity to ask for her help in taking care of my younger sister while I went to the "library" to "study." During the last half of our junior year, I got her interested in sports and student government. She joined the girls' softball team that spring, and I encouraged her to try out for the cross country team in the fall. After all, it would be something special to put on her college applications. After some persuasion, she decided to run for vice president come fall; I – as a good friend, of course - would help promote her as a candidate. I encouraged her in her classes and constantly told her that she should think about applying to Ivy League schools. I picked up the same applications, telling her that I would apply too, but those applications went straight into the garbage cans later in the day.

That fall, everything ran smoothly, just as I had planned. Callie secured a spot on the cross country team, and won the position of vice president. She worked hard on her homework to keep up a 4.0 and spent all of her free time writing essays for her college applications. My plan was seamless, so I decided it was time to put the final stage into action.

One day after school, Callie and I decided to go to the local mall. I'm sure it was exactly like any other small-town strip mall, with a few hallways lined with stores, and a food court and a fountain in the rounded center of it all. We sat down with our sodas at a table near the fountain. The splashing water from the fountain and the buzz of other conversations nearby served as a perfect innocuous setting.

"So, Callie," I began, settling back in the cheap padded chair and flashing her a disarming grin. "Are there any guys here that have caught your attention?" I watched in amusement as her cheeks reddened. She gave me an almost imperceptible nod. I leaned forward on my elbows, playing up my part as the curious best friend. "Who?" I prodded, lowering my voice.

Callie glanced behind her anxiously, checking to see if anyone was nearby. "Promise you won't tell, Lily?" she whispered. I nodded. She was going to tell me, and I could finally start my plan. "I really like Cole Richards," she blurted out in a hurried undertone.

I had to restrain myself from laughing with joy. I couldn't have planned it better myself. Cole Richards was an attractive guy with dirty blonde hair and a confident smile that caught the attention of almost every girl. On the other hand, he was exceedingly persuasive and had talked countless girls into his bed, only to leave them a week later. Cole was ideal.

Outwardly, I squealed with joy, like any good friend, and shrieked, "Really?! Oh, don't worry, I won't tell a soul! But I think he might like you!" Callie gasped and blushed, adamantly denying my supposition. But I perceived the small smile that lingered on her face as the conversation moved on.

That night, I made a phone call. Cole had been a casual acquaintance of mine for a couple years. I had needed a good fuck one weekend, and I knew he would be up for it. After that, we kept a casual friendship and helped each other out when we needed something.

"Hey Cole? I need a favor," I told him over the phone.

"What can I do for you this time, my lovely Lilith?" he drawled.

"Callie McCoy likes you, so I think you should hook up with her. I know she'd enjoy it," I told him. "I wasn't supposed to tell you that, so just leave me out of the story, all right? You're just smitten with her, like usual."

Cole chuckled, and I could hear the smirk in his voice. "Sure thing. I just dropped Hayley a couple days ago, so I'm in need of someone else."

"Great. I know she likes you, so she'll warm up pretty fast under pressure. See you later, Cole." I hung up the phone and let a tiny smile creep on my face. My plan was nearing completion.

The next day in school, Callie ran up to me, panting, with a bright red flush on her otherwise pale cheeks. I noticed the dark circles beginning to show on her cheeks and smiled, greeting her approach.

"Guess what, Lily!" she exclaimed.

"What?" I replied obligingly.

"Cole asked me out today!" she gushed, her excitement temporarily bringing energy back to her face. She paused, then continued, "You didn't tell him, did you?"

"Me? Of course not! You just told me yesterday, and I haven't even seen him since then!" I gasped, feigning offense at the mere idea of telling him anything.

"I didn't think you would," she told me, grinning. "You're the best, Lily."

A week later I received the phone call that I had been waiting for. Callie called me in tears after her date with Cole.

"He got kind of out of control, I think. It was going too fast, and I panicked. So I told him to stop, and he did. He just looked so hurt, Lily. Maybe I did something wrong? I don't want to break up with him already! Cole's so sweet. I still can't believe that he asked me out in the first place!" She sighed, remembering the rose he had given her before the date.

"Give him a chance, Callie. He likes you too, you know. He's good for you," I advised, giggling softly at the bullshit spilling from my lips.

In the following weeks, I could see the strain beginning to take its toll. Callie stayed after school for hours a day in order to fulfill her vice presidential duties and work her hardest at cross country practice. The end of the semester was sneaking up on us, so the homework load increased in anticipation of finals. When Callie got home at night, she worked on homework and college applications until evening, when Cole would pick her up for some quality time together. She never told me exactly what went on, but her face flushed red every time I brought it up. It was easy enough to guess.

She never got home after her dates until midnight, which is when I would call her. As her best friend, I needed to hear exactly how her day was and how she was coping. Sometimes I asked for her help on an English or a Calculus assignment I had finished earlier that evening, desperate for a careful explanation on the things that "I didn't understand." I always dragged out our conversations as long as possible without arousing suspicion, and Callie never caught on. I had helped her with so much, and it was the least she could do to help me with my homework, right?

It was a Tuesday night when I knew that she was almost done in. I reclined on my bed, propped against the wall with a couple throw pillows. My completed homework lay in a neat pile next to me. I turned on my stereo with the remote on the nightstand next to me, and soon a burned CD of my favorite songs was playing softly in the background. My alarm clock shouted "12:04" in glaring red numerals, so I picked up my phone and called Callie.

"Hey, Callie!" I chirped.

"Hey Lily," she replied, and I grinned at the defeated tone present in her voice. I asked her what was wrong, and she sighed deeply before speaking again. "I… I don't know if I can take it, Lily. I haven't slept in a few days, I think. I could hardly run today in practice – my legs just felt like steel poles and they wouldn't move!" She shouted the last word of the sentence, and took another long, shuddering breath before continuing in a normal voice. "I still have homework to do tonight, and my Princeton application is due tomorrow. I've got to finish them! But Lily, I can't do it! I think you and Cole are the only ones keeping me sane right now. I'm just… drained. I can't give any more. I couldn't even make Cole happy tonight; I just couldn't move. I quit, Lily!" I heard her break out into muffled sobs.

"Oh, Callie," I soothed, my voice sounding syrupy even to my ears. I coughed quietly, and continued in a better sympathetic tone. "Just do your best. You can make it. You know what? I was going to ask you to help me baby-sit my little sister tomorrow, but it sounds like you have enough on your plate. I think… I think I might be able to do it myself. I think I'll just skip my studying. Getting into a good college isn't worth your health, right?"

Callie interrupted me. "No, no, I'll do it. You need to get into a good college, too. The semester's almost over, so I can make it until then. You and Cole will help me get through."

I gasped. "Oh, Callie, are you sure? I… I can't ask you to do that!" Callie protested against my plea again, and soon it was arranged for her to come over and help me after her cross country practice tomorrow. I hung up the phone, and let the laughter bubble from my throat. Callie was so predictable, and so naïve. That guilt was a guaranteed way to get her to agree to add one more thing to her schedule. Fully satisfied and still giggling to myself, I clicked off the light and snuggled under my covers for a full night's sleep.

I woke up the next morning with a smile on my face. Today was the day; I could feel it. Today, all my plans would finally come to fruition. I hummed an improvised tune as I got ready for the day, and by the time I reached school, it took a massive amount of effort to keep my joy from being exposed.

The first thing I saw when I walked in was Callie standing with Cole in the middle of the cafeteria. Cole was speaking, and I saw Callie's face completely draining of color. I let a small giggle escape before I recovered my composure and strode over to the scene.

"…we're done," Cole was saying. "I found another girl, and since I'm not a cheater, I'm breaking up with you." Callie started hyperventilating. "Calm down, babe, it's not the end of the world. You'll find someone else. You're not ugly; you're actually pretty hot. So, chin up, okay? I'll see you around."

Callie stared after him as he sauntered out of the cafeteria, disappearing through a doorway. I watched as her body started shaking and her legs gave out and she crumpled ungracefully to the floor. "Callie?" I called out, the feigned concern down to a T. She started muttering to herself, complete nonsense spilling from her mouth. Her body instinctively curled up in a fetal position, and she started fisting her limp, greasy brown curls. "Callie?" I exclaimed again, creeping closer. I stared as she pulled a fist away from her head, taking a chunk of her curls with it. "Callie!" I screamed this time, reveling in my role as the hysterical best friend. "Someone call 911!" Callie was sobbing silently, her chest heaving with emotion, but no sound escaped except the whooshing air from her erratic breathing.

The entire cafeteria was silent, but someone must have called 911 because the sound of sirens was audible in the distance, gradually increasing in volume until an ambulance stopped in front of the school. The paramedics entered in a flurry of excitement, securing Callie's twitching body on a stretcher and whisking her out the door with an oxygen mask strapped to her face.

I was jerked back to the present by the soft sound of the door opening in Callie's hospital room. A nurse walked in carrying a clipboard and moving to stand next to Callie. She fiddled around with some of the gadgets attached to Callie and made the occasional scribble on her clipboard. "How's she doing?" I asked gently.

"Everything seems to be fine with her body, hon. I think her problem is emotional, not physical. I'll check with the doctor, but I think she'll be out of here in no time. She'll just need some therapy." She smiled kindly at me. "It's so nice to see that she has such a good friend here to see her. Maybe you can break her out of her funk?" Her smile turned sad, almost wistful. "Such a sad thing to happen to someone so young." I nodded demurely, letting a tear form in my eye and slide down my cheek. The nurse made one last note on her clipboard before turning and silently leaving the room.

I rose from my blue plastic chair and stood next to Callie's bed. I took in the image of her dark curls standing out in stark contrast to the white sheets, hospital gown, and her pale face. Her eyes continued to stare lifelessly at the sunshine that had fallen much farther down on the wall. I grinned. "I know why you dress in white," I hissed at her still figure. "But you never will." Callie made no response, so I turned and headed toward the door. My plan had succeeded, and my job here was done. "Thanks to you, Callie, I fell in love with the game," I whispered softly to myself. "I won this round. Next time, I need more of a challenge." I allowed myself one last giggle in the doorway before escaping the room.

I kept my eyes peeled at school the next day. It was time to move on and pick a new player for my game, after all.

Author's Note: Yep, it's another short story. It's actually my final for my creative writing class, and I'm proud of how it turned out. Let me know what you think!

Oh, and I've started a blog to keep updates on my writing and why my fictionpress updates are so ungodly few and far between, so check it out on my homepage on my profile!