Authors Note: In this piece I tried to mimic James Joyce's style, hence the use of dashes instead of quotations.


A Dog's Loyalty

She sat on a blue bench watching her classmates flood the school. Her arms were stretched out behind her, propping her body, and in her nostrils was the odor of falling leaves and rain. Most people considered Anne a quiet girl, but despite the opinions of her peers, her obvious loyalty to her friends and friendliness to all prevented anyone from thinking poorly of her.

The wind rustled her shoulder-length hair that clumped together like long, hanging ears. Soft brown eyes patiently watched the gray sky. Her hands, with their large palms, short fingers, and square nails, stretched over the blue bench, fingers hooked into the holes of the bench. She was waiting, but she did not expect the person to come.

Many people passed. Pouches had formed under the eyes of the students, appearing to be old men and women instead of young teenagers. She heard their typical daily chatter. Their voices combined into a small hum that vibrated in her chest.

The descending cold air of winter did not slow down the socialization of these teenagers. Their bright colored clothing allowed them to pretend that it was still summer. The bipolar California weather never fully decided what season it was, which caused strange days of warmth. They gray pavement disappeared beneath the sea of bright bodies.

The face she was waiting for had bright green eyes. Her name was Bethany. Bethany's polite laughter made everyone smile gleefully and flock about her like birds. They responded to her every movement. They laughed with her, shared her specific opinions. They always ensured that she was in the middle of their world. Bethany was overly proud of her heritage, boldly expressing her pride for her Italian and British mix. She walked with long strides, if it hadn't been for her rounded shoulders, she would've had a perfect posture. Her chin-length hair curled about her head.

Not long before the two had been the best of friends. Bethany was no longer at Anne's side. Not because Anne left, rather that Bethany left. Anne still could not understand the abandonment. It was simple and sudden. A phrase ended a strong and peaceful friendship of several years.

-I'm still pissed, you know.

Anne did not understand the turn of events. She frantically contacted Bethany, begging for answers. The results were unsatisfactory, full of excuses and reasons that even the open-minded Anne could not understand.

This was followed by a flurry of posts to her friends that did not know Bethany, begging for advice. All of them told her that Bethany was in the wrong, that Bethany was the one that was going to suffer by losing a fantastic friend. They all told her to abandon Bethany, but Anne could not.

Later that day the news had spread to the rest of Bethany's friends; a lie was woven in to make Bethany the victim. Anne was approached by many of Bethany's friends who had very harsh words to tell her.

-How could you do that to Bethany? Inquired one.

- You are such a liar, Anne! I can't believe you're so low to pretend to like comics! You are the most pathetic excuse for a person, said another.

- I can't believe that you're so low to actually try to steal Bethany's friends! What the hell is wrong with you?!

Each comment bit into Anne as if the words were angry beasts. As Anne's eyes trained onto the pages of her book, the angry cries of Bethany's friends faded away. Inside the fantasy worlds she tried to discover exactly what she had done wrong.

Ann never pretended to be interested in comics, she had always been interested in them. She was a lover of stories and that medium gave her more access to different kinds of narrative . Another half of her mind screamed to know how it was possible to steal friends, since people are not objects, how can they be stolen?

Anne remained confused as to what her crime was. Not a soul provided an inkling that could lead to a greater or sensible answer. A gray mist had descended over the truth, even if she wandered in it, the black truth was so small and so hidden that she would never find it unless she was lead, yet no one wished to lead her. Why did Bethany leave?

Anne always gave her full attention to her, and Bethany always directed hers to others. Nights when Anne could have slept, she stayed up to keep her lonely friend company. Bethany stayed up late due to homework and her need to draw, and Anne kept her company over Yahoo messenger; the two engaged in conversations that ran late into the night. She insisted that Anne be available at all times, becoming frighteningly angry when Anne forgot to log out or was engrossed in a book. Anne simply brushed off the anger and proceeded to give Bethany the company she craved.

The only times when Anne went against Bethany was when Anne riled against Bethany's stern and strict opinions, yet she was always beaten down. Bethany's world only had two colors, black and white. Bethany preferred the night, and she wished to know Anne's preference.

-So, Anne, do you like the day or the night better?

-I like both!

-You can't like both!

-Why not? asked Anne.

-You can only like one. Day and night are complete opposites. They're enemies and cannot coexist, replied Bethany.

Their conversation was abruptly stopped by the arrival of the bus. Bethany clambered on and Anne mulled over their conversation. What was so wrong about liking both? Anne loved the warm sun, the brightness and happiness it gave to the world, the life it breathed. She loved the cold moon and twinkling stars, bringing calmness and fantasy creatures to life.

Everyone asked Anne if she had any intention of blindly apologizing to re-create the friendship. She was hard at work when the fighting first started, but she quickly learned that not all battles with friendship could be won, so she let her mistress abandon her. Anne apologized once, yet she still did not know what she apologized for.

After many nights of tossing and turning, Anne figured that Bethany believed that she was in the way. After all, Anne was a quiet girl, and Bethany was constantly surrounded by others. Anne tended to move away from the hubbub and absorb herself into the gentle pages of a book. Bethany, would move over to Anne and sit with her, showing the world who her friend was. Yet, it seemed that Bethany yearned for more than just this quiet girl.

Bethany explored another life with people that fluttered around her like birds, like the sun amongst planets. Meanwhile, Anne lived in her lonely world of books with her eye secretly watching Bethany over the tops of them, a quiet watchdog.

She watched out for Bethany's moods. Although the two were no longer friends, Anne remained close to Bethany. During brunch and lunch, Anne would sit on the bench, a book in hand, secretly alert to Bethany. She quietly sent glares to those that angered Bethany. On severe occasions Anne would slam her book shut, which promptly caused the chittering birds around Bethany to become alert for danger.

One day, Anne's peripheral vision was disrupted by two familiar forms. They were people that used to be her friends but decided to remain with Bethany when the two parted ways. The two friends were laughing hysterically, their giggles joined the chorus of chatter on the school campus. Bethany was missing. Where is Bethany? Why isn't she with her friends?

Anne's eyes flicked to the corner, and sure enough, there was Bethany. Her lips were curved in a frown, a smile that was supposed to be in place with her friends never flashed across her face. Anne tried to focus her eyes upon the books, yet they continued to follow Bethany's movements. Bethany seemed to catch up with her friends and Anne's eyes refocused upon her book.

Anne felt the presence of someone watching her, and her eyes glanced up. Upon realizing that it was Bethany, her eyes quickly yearned to be bound to the book. Yet, her soft brown eyes peeked over the pages of the book, and briefly met the stern green ones of Bethany. Both girls' eyes darted away. Anne's breath remained in her chest and refused to exit.

The weight of the bench shifted and a small smile broke on Anne's face, yet she could not prevent herself from leaning away from the girl who used to be her friend. Her partner on the bench leaned forward and rested her head on her hands, green eyes watching the milling crowd.

Anne's eyes flicked toward Bethany, eyes quickly absorbing all details. There was something very different in her expression. Golden glowing skin was faded to a pale white. The loose expression on her face was tighter with concealed emotion. Eyes that normally looked forward faced the gray pavement, proud head bowed down as if she was paying her respects to everyone around her. Bethany's tall proud upper body was hunched forward, folded onto itself.

What's wrong? Why is she here? Anne could sense that there was something wrong. Anne's lungs screamed with air that wished to be released from her chest.

-What's up?

-I'm scared, Anne.

-Why, Bethany? What's wrong?

Bethany's voice trembled, and the shake in her body enforced the one in her voice. A sigh escaped, as if to stabilize the tremble.

-I'm scared…. that I'm not a good person.

-What do you mean?

-I'm scared that everyone is going to leave me…

Anne shifted forward, her back elongating, and her soft brown eyes turned to her unhappy companion. She watched Bethany's tan bright face, now slightly pale, and seemed to be calm.

A strong sense of panic suddenly attacked Anne. Her fingers gripped the bench. No! No! I cannot let her hurt me again! She'll just use me again! Escape! She must escape quickly before she uttered something she would regret. Maybe she could leave the school, live a new life. Why should she be unhappy and continue to follow this girl?

Yet, she couldn't prevent the words that she had said to Bethany many times before from falling from her lips.

-I won't leave you. Ever. I promise, said Anne strongly, each word sharp and crisp like a dead leaf.

-Promise?

-Yeah. I'll never leave.

The two people became serious and silent. The world before them continued to shift and change, yet the two remained immobile, absorbed in separate worlds. The loud sound of a bell echoed in both of the girls' ears, breaking the silence between them. Bethany rose from the bench and artfully slung her backpack onto her shoulder.

-I'll see you during brunch, okay?

-Yeah.

Anne watched Bethany walk away, her soft brown eyes loyally watching her movements. Once Bethany was out of sight, Anne shrugged the backpack onto her shoulders and went to her classroom.

Anne bounded out of the classroom, feet churning the ground, eager to meet Bethany once again. The faces of Bethany's friends, soon to be hers again, filled her eyes. None of them gave her a smile or a nod, but Anne could care less. She stood near her blue bench, amongst the chattering crowd. Bethany's tall figure strode toward the group, white teeth flashing at the sight of her friends. The once unhappy green eyes fell on Anne, and the laughter died.

Anne felt the hairs on her neck rise. Her face moistened and paled as she pleaded to the world to unsee what she just saw.

Cold eyes, like those of a heartless dragon stared into Anne's soft brown ones. Bethany crossed her arms and planted her feet.

-What are you doing here? Get out! You don't belong!

-But…Bethany…

-Leave, you traitor.

Anne felt something break deep inside. Her backpack fell from her shoulders and she sat down upon her blue bench again. She opened the cover of the book and once again hid herself in a world of fantasy, always waiting on that bench.