Our Little Club

Rosalie Fralick

***Mason***

I didn't know her as well as the others. I knew her better than anyone else in this damned school, though. I didn't know her favourite author but I knew her favourite album, and I didn't know her dog's name but I knew her mother's. I mean, I knew her pretty well, I guess. But we hadn't been close, not really. I only knew her favourite album because she had danced to it every year and Gwendolyn's Christmas party, and I only knew her mother's name from birthdays in Jr. High. When the middle-aged guidance counsellor calls the four of us down to her cramped rose coloured office and tells us the news, I am surprised, but not as upset as I maybe should be. She wouldn't have been upset if it had been me, either.

In the moments after Ms. Robinson breaks it to us, our reactions are thus: Mylo turns around a punches the wall hard enough that his knuckles begin to bleed, Gwendolyn takes three deep breaths and I watch as her fragile body quivers, Willa crumbles to the ground in a sea of red hair, I fidget with my hands. I think about death, but not about Sylvia's death. I think about the inevitability of it, the permanence of it, the suddenness of it, but not about Sylvia. I think about how Sylvia is not a person anymore, but I don't really think about Sylvia. "If any of you need to talk over the coming weeks, my door is open to you," Ms. Robinson tells us as we slowly leak out the door of her office and towards our lockers.

We get back to our lockers and everyone else is in class. None of us even consider going to class. I mean, none of the teachers really expect us to be in class today. We all sink to the ground: Gwen still shaking, Mylo totally stone-faced, Willa sobbing. And here I am, still pinching at the skin on my hands. None of us speaks. A clock down the always ticks, none of us speak. Mylo smacks his fist against his leg, none of us speak. Gwen raps her fingers against the floor loudly, none of us speak. Willa stops breathing and turns purple for three whole seconds, none of us speak.

Eventually a bell rings somewhere in the distance. Our classmates come trickling out of the classrooms in various states of hysterics. Most of them are crying, lamenting the death of their dear friend Sylvia. Two tenth grade girls start wailing and I shake my head. They probably didn't even know Sylvia. I don't think people should be allowed to cry for upperclassmen they've never actually spoken to. I mean, I'm not crying, and I know her mother's name.

Slowly, the others push themselves up off of the ground and brush the dirt off their clothes. I replicate their movements, not wanting to call attention to myself. Willa is biting the inside of her cheek so that she'll stop crying, I can tell because I am standing right next to her. Gwen is rapping her fingers against her hip silently. Mylo is clenching and unclenching his fists, staring at the wall in front of him. The two sophomore girls approach and hug me first. "We're all going to miss her so much," one says. The other adds, "at least you guys were lucky enough to truly get to know her." Then they hug the rest of the group. Gwen is not even a little bit trying to hide her shock at their audacity, her jaw is practically falling off of her face.

The bell rings, indicating that they ought to all go to their next classes. No one seems to be returning to class, though. Instead they are all hugging us. Seven minutes pass and Mylo has left. Another three minutes and Willa is back on the floor sobbing. None of the other mourners dare disturb her in her fragile state. Eventually, Gwen slaps someone and they leave us alone after that. Willa pulls herself back together and walks herself out the front door and down the street. She's lucky to live within walking distance. She doesn't have to wait for the big yellow bus at the end of the day. Gwen escapes to somewhere too, I don't know where she's gone. I mean, I guess she could have called her mum to come get her or something.

I sit down across the hall from Sylvia's locker and quietly watch the day unfold before me. Soon people begin writing notes to their dear departed friend on her locker in sharpie: "I wish I had known you better, I really could have loved you," reads one. Another person has written, "Your beautiful smile lit up my day every time I saw you." I find this odd. I saw Sylvia several times a day and she very rarely smiled at anyone, let alone some meathead football player.

I pull out one of the three moleskins that Sylvia gifted to me on Monday. Three days suddenly feels short and long all at the same time. At the time I didn't think much of it. That was pretty stupid of me. I mean, I said thank you and stuff, but then I just shoved them into my bag and went on with my day. I begin writing in the notebook, quoting Camus and Sylvia's namesake and anyone else I can think of. I don't know as many literary quotes as I would like to. Soon I just start writing my own poetry. I pause twice to pull on my t-shirt, adjusting it to cover my "beer" belly (I don't drink but my stomach looks like I knock down a six pack every night).

Someone leaves flowers at Sylvia's locker. I am inwardly gagging.

***Gwendolyn***

Sylvia's stepfather is Catholic but the priest said they couldn't have the service at the church. Sylvia was not Catholic, she would not have wanted to have the service at the church anyway. Bisexuals do not make good Catholics, that is just a fact. "We're too deviant for the Church," Sylvia told me once. Instead the service is in this big beige funeral parlour and her mother and stepfather and aunts and uncle all have a special room to stand around in while the rest of us stand in the lobby. This would be fine except that the whole damn school is here. My short, stout math teacher approaches, "you'll love again, dear," she tells me.

Sylvia and I weren't together all that long. Three and a half months together, seven weeks broken up, and now she's dead. I'd love again? Did I even love Sylvia? I cared about Sylvia, sure. I'd known her for a long time, I'd seen her naked, we'd held hands. I probably didn't love her, though. People figure I loved her because they all love her now that she's dead. The truth of the matter is that I didn't get all that attached to Sylvia, because we both knew she was going to die. It's hard to know when a person is going to die, but sometimes it is easy to know that it is inevitable. I sigh and head to the bathroom to powder my face and hide from the mob of fake mourners.

The ceremony is impersonal. Even though we aren't in a church, the stepfather has found a priest to perform the ceremony in the big beige funeral parlour. There are two bible passages read, and her Aunt Sarah says a few words. No one brings up a boom box and plays Revolution 1 like she asked us to in the note. We're all shitty friends but also it was a stupid request. I occasionally rotate her dead grandmother's diamond earrings in my ear lobes. Some distant cousin plays the organ at the end as we all leave. There is no body, they burnt it up.

We all meet outside at Mylo's red Honda Civic. He is already sitting in the driver's seat. At my request, we took a vote before the service to decide whether we were going to the wake at her mother's house. It was unilaterally decided that we would skip it. Instead we're going to Mylo's and having our own wake.

Mylo's driving is terrifying. He's always been an erratic driver but today is worse. Sitting in the passenger seat, I rap my fingers on the armrest. "Drive slower, or you're going to kill us all," I instruct. He doesn't answer me, but he does slow down by about ten kilometers an hour. I feel a little bit safer. I made a documentary for my grade ten media studies class about the driving habits of the people in our little club. Mason was only fifteen at the time so I had to film him on his bike. Mylo was a scary driver: aggressive, fast. Willa drove easily as fast as Mylo but she also drove frantically which might have been worse. She was always screaming as she drove through yellow lights. Sylvia was a calm driver, she occasionally critiqued the other drivers on the road in her soft, child-like voice.

Eventually we get to Mylo's house. "Don't forget to lock your doors," I tell them as we all got out of the car.

***Mylo***

I push my car door closed and run my left hand through my hair, yanking knots out as I go. Sylvia wanted it cut, said it was weird that my hair was longer than hers. I should have just cut it but I was stubborn. One of a million fights we might not have had if I weren't such an ass.

Gwen leads the way to my front door. My dad isn't home and neither is his wife so we don't have to bother with any kind of stupid pleasantry. Instead we walk straight through the ugly, yellow, art-deco kitchen and down the stairs into the basement. The others have been here enough to know where things are. Mason heads to the couch and sits down, folding his legs under him. Gwen begins stacking the magazines on my coffee table, only to realise what type of magazines they are and stop. She crosses her legs and taps her fingers on the arm of the couch. Willa doesn't bother with the couch. She has tunnel vision for the bar, heading straight for the Belvedere vodka. We all watch as she drinks ounce after ounce: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7. She puts the bottle down and begins wandering away from it, only to reconsider and turn around to take a last swig.

As she stumbles over to the armchair, I consider how hot she is. Her wide hips sway, her red hair flounces. Would fucking Sylvia's best friend be like fucking Sylvia one last time? Oh, God. How could I have a thought like that. I immediately push it out of my mind. I just miss Sylvia, I tell myself. I absentmindedly run my fingers along the ridges on my arms and pick at one of them. I feel the blood get warm and wet under my fingers and my body relaxes.

I head over to the end table I put Sylvia's record player on earlier this week. I lift the needle and place The White Album onto the turntable. Lennon and McCartney are singing about balalaikas and it feels weird to be listening to this song without Sylvia. Dear Prudence comes on and I can see Sylvia dancing to it right in front of me, the skirt of one of her sundresses turning into a rippling flower as she spins. It didn't seem weird to me that she brought over the album and her record player. She said she wanted to bring them with her, we were using my basement to put all of our stuff together before we left.

In one corner of the room I can see the other three boxes we almost finished packing. None of the others know we were back together because if our parents asked where we were it was better if they didn't know anything at all. That was how we justified it at least. We were supposed to leave today, but she killed herself instead.

Maybe she wasn't ever really going to run away with me. I don't really know.

***Willa***

The funeral is on a Sunday. We all skip school on Monday. I am hung-over, Mylo is busy being angry and self-indulgent, Gwen is probably writing and memorizing a public statement for us, and who the hell knows what Mason is doing.

Walking through the doors of the school on Tuesday morning I roll up the sleeves of Sylvia's cashmere cardigan and count the friendship bracelets on my wrist. I think about walking through the doors on my very first day of school. I walked into Ms. Tracy's classroom that day and a little girl with mousy hair walked up and put purple paint on my cheek with her index finger. A smile spread across her face and I mirrored it and let go of my dad's hand.

In the years to come we were inseparable. I acted in every school production and Sylvia designed every set. When I got into drugs, Sylvia would watch me snort the coke just to make sure I didn't have a sudden heart attack. It was the most thoughtful thing any person's ever done for me. I never thought she'd be the first of us to end up dead. I was pretty sure it would be me, or maybe Mylo, but not Sylvia. She was far too level headed for that. That's what I thought.

When I get to the lockers the others are all standing there, looking unsure about what's to come. I examine them: Mylo's hair is awry and kinked in all directions. Next to him and four inches taller is Mason – stoic as always, his jaw set in stone. Then Gwen, with her strawberry blonde, pin straight hair, tied neatly in a bun. I fall in place at the end of the line, the shortest of the group now that Sylvia's dead. A couple of people look like they might stop to say something to us as they pass, but no one does.

Mason is playing with his hands, Gwen is rapping her fingers against the locker behind her, Mylo's hand is running through his hair, and my foot is tapping nervously. It is just the four of us. We are inside and everyone else is outside and Sylvia's absence is so loud it resonates in our chests.

Looking out across the hallway, I realise that no one else can hear the loudness of her vacancy, and that's ok. She wouldn't have wanted them to remember her anyway.