Claudia had been my best friend ever since kindergarten. We'd been friends so long, in fact, that I couldn't even remember how we'd met or originally become friends. Claudia had simply been my best friend for as long as I could remember.
Then, we reached high school, and everything changed. Suddenly, Claudia started hanging out with older girls, wearing make-up, and spending her evenings at parties instead of talking to me on the phone or hitting movies.
Claudia changed entirely. I heard rumors around school that she was at the wildest parties, getting drunk. I had my suspicions that she'd had sex with at least one boy, even after we'd promised one another the summer after our eighth grade year that we'd both wait until marriage. The worst part was that as Claudia went through all those changes, she never bothered to tell me what was going on or how she felt about it. It was as if we'd never been best friends, or if we had, she simply didn't care any more.
I convinced myself that Claudia only acted the way she did because she wanted to ingratiate herself with the popular crowd. We all made our mistakes in attempts to make friends with the wrong sort of people; deep down, she was still the same old Claudia, and someday she would realize what she was doing and come back to me and our old friendship.
I honestly remembered that until one poignant day in the first semester of my sophomore year. Classes wouldn't start for another five minutes, and the entire student body had, as always, congregated in the hallways to gossip and generally squeeze the last few minutes of freedom out of the day until school began.
I slipped into the bathroom, and while I was locked away in the farthest stall from the door, I heard some distinctive voices- those of Claudia and all her newest friends. One of the girls, whose name I think was Donna, laughed a very annoying hyena-like laugh, then asked in her annoyingly nasal voice, "Can you believe Eddy last night? He actually tried to hit on me. If I hadn't been so stoned, I might have smacked him just for asking."
The other girls laughed and agreed, and Claudia spoke up. "I can't believe this you guys. I left my English paper at home."
"Who cares?" asked a girl who might have been Francis, although she sounded a bit like Gretchen, too. "Mr. Heller is such a crab. Blow him off."
"Normally I wouldn't," Claudia answered. "But I'm just about failing English, and my mom will go crazy if I fail another class. She's been threatening to ground me if I don't get my grades up."
In my stall, I winced. In the old days, Claudia had always been concerned with her grades. She'd talked about maybe going to Harvard after graduation and becoming a lawyer. That dream must have been discarded for the sake of her new friends.
"So skip whatever you have third period and throw something together then," suggested Donna.
"I might have to," Claudia responded.
A moment later, the bell rang to signify that classes would start in a mere minute, and Gretchen said, "I need to go to the office and tell them that I have to leave at noon. Let's get out of here."
"I'll catch up with you," Claudia declared, and a moment later, I heard the sound of the bathroom door opening and closing. I emerged from my stall and found that Claudia and I were alone together. Perhaps this was my chance to talk some sense into my best friend.
I began to wash my hands and pretended not to be interested in Claudia, who was applying mascara. "Hi," I said as nonchalantly as I could.
"Hey," Claudia answered, obviously uninterested.
"So, you were partying with those girls last night?" I ventured, almost certain that there were a thousand better questions to ask, but unable to think of any.
Claudia dropped her mascara into the duffel bag sitting on the counter before her, and withdrew a brush. A moment later, the bell rang, but Claudia didn't seem too concerned that she was tardy for class. I stayed where I was, determined to win Claudia back. With a sassy flip of her hair over one shoulder, she demanded, "Why do you think that's any of your business?"
"I'm just curious about what's going on in your life," I said.
Claudia barked a short laugh, then proclaimed, "You're just trying to butt into my life. Let's be honest with one another, shall we, Izzy? You're not my friend, and I'm not your friend, so knock off whatever you're trying to pull."
Angry tears collected behind my eyes, and I responded, "Who are you trying to impress? It's just you and me in here."
"I'm not trying to impress anyone," Claudia answered. "Why can't you accept that this is who I am?"
Unable and unwilling to respond, I blinked rapidly in a vain attempt to keep my tears from falling, and pushed past Claudia and out of the bathroom.
I had expected and even hoped that the halls would be empty since class was already in session, but as luck would have it, my sister, Jennifer, was in the hallway.
Lockers were assigned according to grade and last name, so my twin sister's lock was always right next to mine. I pretended not to see her as I sniffled and tried to work the padlock. Of course, Jennifer asked, "Izzy? What's wrong?"
"Nothing," I grumbled as my padlock failed the third time in a row. Frustrated and growing more upset by the minute, I kicked my locker and began to actually sob. Jennifer asked another concerned question, but I was unwilling to talk, so I spun around and began to run, uncaring where I ended up.
When I rounded a corner, I saw Kyle standing next to a drinking fountain. Kyle had made it quite clear in the past that he had a fairly serious crush on me, and I was certain that if he knew I was upset, he would try to comfort me. I ran just a little faster as if I could leave everything behind. I heard him calling after me. "Isabella!"
Gasping for breath and still crying, I threw open the schools front doors. The brisk outside air hit my face like a wall of ice, and the still rational part of my mind asked if it was supposed to snow that day.
I began to fly down the concrete steps, but got ahead of myself and tripped. I tried to catch myself on the railing, but miscalculated and over balanced. The last thing saw was the sidewalk rushing up to meet my face.