For my very best friend in the whole world; thank you for all you've ever done for me. Regardless of where we may be later down the road, you have changed my life. You have made things easier to bear, given me new outlooks, and we have survived together. Always remember that I love you, and that you will have a part of my soul wherever you go.
Chapter One: The End
I knew it was her the minute I heard the greeting, but I went on with my usual telephone salutation anyway. Call it force of habit, if you like. "Hey, it's Winter."
"Hey Win, what's up?" Eva said easily. The answer to that question was always the same, but again, out of habit, one of us always asked it.
"Nothing," I said lightly, relaxing on my couch and running a finger across the edge of my mom's favorite pillow. "Just wanted to hear your voice, is all."
Eva laughed a little. "Miss me that much, huh? You know we hung out just yesterday," she teased.
I shrugged, even though she couldn't see me. "Yup," I said. "Besides, it's after nine, so I get free minutes." I smiled, already anticipating her response.
"Aww, you're so cheap," Eva feigned disappointment. "Calling me only when you get free minutes on your cell."
I laughed. We both knew that wasn't it at all. "What's up?"
"I don't know," Eva exhaled. "I'm sitting on my bed right now. And I can't find Bunny. Where is she?" she said. I could picture her sitting on her bed with her back resting against the headboard, asking that question to her bedroom at large.
"No idea," I replied. "Is she sitting on the end of your bed?"
"No," Eva whined. "I can't find her. She's missing."
I chuckled. "It's okay, you'll find her. You always do."
Sighing and momentarily giving up her search for her favorite stuffed animal, Eva then said, "I'm bored. And tired."
"What else is new? It's summer."
"Oh yeah – that reminds me: how was SAT camp?" I knew she was grinning.
"Psh," I said. "You know how these things are. It was alright. All the counselors were really nice… No hot guys though," I added.
"Aw," Eva said, truly disappointed this time. "I had rather hoped you would find some uber hot dude and bring me back his number."
I laughed. "Nope," I said. "No uber hot dudes. I mean, come on, it's SAT camp. What kind of super sexy guy in his right mind would spend a week of his summer at SAT camp?"
"You have a point," she admitted. "Still, one can hope."
I smiled. "So what else is up?"
"Umm, not much…actually there's something I guess I should tell you…" she trailed off, and I detected a hint of trepidation in her voice. I waited patiently. Eva always revealed what was wrong in due time, so I never pushed her. There was a short pause before she plunged head first into it. "Well… It's my parents."
We were quiet for a moment, and she let that statement sink in.
"And?" I prompted her gently.
"Today's the first official day of their divorce. From today on, they're separated." It was said casually, almost offhandedly, but I knew her better than that. Now that it was out in the open, she continued on quickly, almost as if stopping would be harder than going on.
"It's all arranged. My mom has to move out by the end of the year, and…" she trailed off; I could tell she was holding back. "And… and about a hundred other things."
I remained silent. Only pure shock prevented me from speaking. It was finally happening.
"Oh Eva, I'm so sorry," I finally said, so sorrowful for my best friend it blocked out any other thoughts of SAT camp that I was going to tell her about. It was the only thing I could think of saying.
My apology seemed to send her off. When she next spoke, I heard an unfamiliar waver in her voice, and that was really saying something. I had known her since the sixth grade, and I had only seen her cry once before – and that was also because of the situation with her parents.
She sighed. "I'm so confused," she said, taking a rather shaky breath. Again, I could picture her sitting on her bed and hugging a pillow to her stomach, eyes bright with unshed tears. It was enough to make me want to run over to house that second.
"What's going to happen?" I asked quietly.
"Well…my dad has custody of all of us."
"All of you?" I asked.
"Yeah," Eva sighed. "All six of us."
"Wait – why your dad?"
"I don't know…" she said despairingly. "Because he makes more money? I don't know."
"And your mom has to move out?" This idea was the most foreign to me – I could not remember a time when I had gone over to Eva's to not find her mom there, sitting at the dinner table sewing on a missing button for a pair of jeans, or bustling around the kitchen, frantically trying to get dinner on the table in time.
"By the end of the year," my best friend confirmed.
"Where is she going? I mean, she can't go far, because her work is right here…"
"Oh, I don't know. Branner City is too expensive for her, so we know she won't be staying here. Maybe she'll rent an apartment in Hampton." Hampton was the closest town to Branner.
I sighed. "How are the little ones?" Eva's family consisted of six children – Eva was the second oldest. Tristan was the oldest; he was going to be a senior in high school this year. Eva and I were two years younger than him, then came Anthony, who was going to be a freshman. Samantha was going into seventh grade, Matty into sixth, and Emily into fourth.
"They're alright… Well, Anthony and Sam are still in Vermont for another two weeks visiting my grandparents, so… But Matty and Emily have been at home to witness the whole thing, which sucks. Emily's been crying a lot, and I feel so bad for her."
"And you?" I asked. "That's what matters most. At least, to me anyway," I added on as an afterthought.
Eva chuckled sadly. "Thanks, Winter. I've been okay. Just really confused as to what this is going to mean for all of us. And I'm more than a little pissed off too, because none of us any say in what's happening. But really… if you think about it, the whole reason we're being calm as I'm telling you this is because we kind of half-expected it."
I silently agreed. I wanted to know why she hadn't warned me of this sooner, but I think I knew the answer to my question already. Eva was the type of person who never wanted to break bad news until she absolutely had to. And all the years of fights her parents had been having – all the disagreements and blowups – this was where it was going to culminate. Really, it was very anti-climatic. I was pretty sure her parents were being very civil toward each other about the whole situation. If I was honest with myself, in the back of my mind, I had seen it coming, but as always we humans never like to dwell on warnings our minds send us. We can disillusion ourselves like that, tricking our hearts into believing things that perhaps, deep down, we know aren't real.
There was silence on the line for a long time. I sighed quietly and traced the meaningless patterns of embroidery on the pillow, feeling the roughness of the thread underneath my fingertips as I readjusted the phone against my ear. At length, I summoned up the courage to say, "Eva?"
"What are you doing tomorrow?"
"Well, I have volleyball practice at one, then basketball practice after that." She sounded so tired, so weary, but I knew she was making an attempt at our normal, regular conversation.
"How about Tuesday?"
"Volleyball. I have volleyball camp Monday through Thursday now."
"I think I'm going to go to Andrea's basketball game at 5:30."
"When will you get home on Thursday?"
"Camp ends at 5:30, so I should be home by 6."
"Do you want to sleep over? On Thursday, I mean."
I knew Eva was smiling at the normalcy of it. "Of course I want to. But I have to ask my dad. Now I have to ask him for everything. It's terrible. I know he's going to interrogate me until he squeezes out every last detail."
"Alright," I said. "I'm picking you up on Thursday at 6:30 whether he wants me to or not, though."
Eva laughed. It was music to my ears. "Okay. I'll try the nice way first though."
"Yea, here's the nice way," I grinned. "You suck up to him all week, then pop the question about three minutes before I arrive, and I shall whisk you away as soon as he says yes."
"And if he says no?"
"I'll whisk you away anyway. Trust me, you need a night out of that house."
"Too true, I do," Eva replied. "But I'll try for peaceful negotiations first."
"Okay. You do that."
We were silent again.
"Do you realize…? This is going to be the end of everything as we know it." She paused, and reiterated, "It's the end." We both knew what she was talking about.
I sighed. "I know Eva. I know."