Pieces of Her
We met in third grade. I told her stories of the identical twin I had never met. I had been adopted at birth and my twin and I had been separated at the same time. One of those pieces of information was, indeed, true. Everything else I ever told her on our late afternoon bus rides home was a boldfaced lie. We grew up together on the outside looking in. I fancied myself the leader of our outcast pack, the object of every boy’s affection, the girl who didn’t care. One of those fancies was true. The rest were only true in my mind.
I don’t know if I ever told her the real extent of all my lies. I just stopped talking about the fantasy parts of my stories. I wanted to believe that she forgave me for my untruths, dismissed them like you would forgive a 12-year-old boy for picking his nose when he was five. Somehow we went on as if those lies had never existed. If anyone around us had observed our whole story as it unfolded, they may have found it disturbing. We may have found it disturbing ourselves, but we never said so.
She and I were in choir and drama classes together throughout middle school and high school. We stuck together defensively; everyone needs a best friend. When I wasn't busy telling lies and she wasn't busy making judgments, we had a lot of fun together. We could make each other laugh like no one else could. She was blonde and Latina: exotic, buxom, olive-skinned, and feminine without meaning to be so. I was thin, raven-haired, alabaster-skinned; trying hard to be both masculine and sexy. We were opposites in many ways, but our souls had similar holes.
My parents appeared to be perfect in every way but divorced when I was in the eighth grade; her parents clearly hated each other but somehow remained married. Her father was military; her mother was a Puerto Rican second-grade teacher. They were so immersed in their own wars at work, they couldn't help but drop bombs at home. When her parents were expecting their second child, they very loudly and openly entertained the possibility of abortion. I couldn't believe it. I was the product of a teen pregnancy—a teen who chose not to kill me, even though she couldn't raise me. These people were married to each other and fairly well off. In the end, there was no abortion, but the new little girl may have been better off never born.
She and I had made pacts to be good girls. She and I had planned to save ourselves for marriage. My daddy issues won out. I hadn't the heart at the time to tell her I had already given myself away, time and time again. Somehow, she already knew. She had been a very good girl in that regard, and I had always prayed I wasn't a bad influence on her. I only told her bits and pieces—the parts that weren't the worst, like how I drank myself to sleep at parties and woke up pretty certain that some strange boy had been inside me. I also stayed away from telling her the best parts too, like the moment right before I would let another boy do what he wanted to me, that moment I was insisting on slowing things down, but knew how much power I would have in that next moment when I let him change my mind. I never fully admitted to the sex. I didn't want to accept it myself.
She and I were fiercely competitive for boys; most of the time, never for the same boy. Once during drama class in our junior year of high school, we had squealed to each other about the new boy in class. He was muscular and dark, from somewhere far away like New Hampshire or Panama—his story kept changing. One night we managed to get ourselves invited to the new boy’s house: myself, her, and our best guy friend.
She and I were enchanted by the new boy. We and our guy friend went for a dip in his Jacuzzi and drank wine coolers all night long. The new boy smoked pot, which she didn't approve of. I wouldn't have approved either, had I not been so desperate for him to approve of me. While she and our guy friend were in the Jacuzzi, the new boy and I snuck up to his room together.
No matter how many times I swore to she and our guy friend, who both walked in to the new boy’s room, that we were not actually having sex, neither one of them would believe me. I don’t blame them. The new boy and I dated on and off for a year or so. She was his next target, though, and she fell hard. When she told me she was going out with him, I was half shocked, half not. She had told me a day or two after she discovered our entangled bodies that I had violated the “girl code.”
“I told you I liked him,” she.
“You said he was hot, and so did I,” me.
“I said it first.”
“He pursued me before you.”
“If anything like this ever happens again, that will be the end of our friendship.”
I chose not to argue. I was even happy when she ended up with the new boy, since she had wanted him so much. All of us went on to the same college. She and I once worked on a story for an English class. The professor had challenged us to enter a contest with a cash prize. All the students convinced themselves that they would win. Everything seemed to be going fine until I wanted to infuse some truth into our fictional narrative. I added a twist to the plot, so the heroine in the tale walked in on the man of her affection in the arms of her best friend. Upon reading the latest draft, my friend and co-author arrived at our shared dorm room, screaming at the top of her lungs.
“You can only write what you know,” I defended myself.
“This is my story. I never should have let you give me advice.”
“What are you talking about? It’s our story!”
Though the story was never entered into that contest, she threatened to sue me. Over what, I could never exactly pin point. I got so scared I hired a lawyer. I wrote a demand letter. The letter only demanded that I receive credit for my portion of the writing. The short story never went anywhere, nor did either of our empty threats. Though she did throw the first stone regarding our shared writing, I think we both realized we were in the wrong.
The irony was that when we first met I piled lie upon lie, and in that moment when I wanted us to make some truth together, she just wanted to bury it. It seemed rather petty, especially since she seemed to have forgiven me in real life. Perhaps what I took as passive forgiveness was really an active cold shoulder.
We never were the same after that. She stayed with the new boy, though he wasn't really that new anymore. When she described the way she lost her virginity, it was even sadder than some of my worst sexual experiences. “It was his finger, and then suddenly it wasn't,” was the way she put it. She didn't say much else about it. I wished I had been a better influence, though I was pretty sure it wasn't directly my fault. In the same breath that she had told me about her mediocre first sexual encounter, she revealed she was pregnant.
She had an abortion and I simultaneously mourned with her and hated her for it. Later she told me, “Every time I have a period now, I can’t help but think; there goes another one of my babies I’ll never meet.” Though I never corrected her aloud, I couldn't help but silently respond: your periods aren’t your lost babies—you killed your baby.
Regardless of my disappointment in her, disappointment in me, disappointment in the situation, I was prepared to carry on with our pattern of simply continuing our friendship regardless of the sticky, awkward details. Until one day I came home to a Post-it note displayed prominently on the tiny fridge in our shared dorm. “Moved in with the new boy. Saving up to get married.”
Even to this day, pieces of her are still embedded within me. I was the other woman, the betrayer, the Scarlet letter. Before the meltdown, I was her confidant, her true love, her best friend. In the end, we had accumulated too much for us to survive. In the end, she was the only one brave enough to say so.
About the author:
Crystal Lane Swift Ferguson, PhD is a communication professor at Mt. San Antonio College and California State University, Northridge and a Mary Kay Sales Director. She paints, sings, acts, models, produces independent films, and has published many academic articles and two academic books. Crystal Lane has published poetry in Shangri-La Shack, Still Points Quarterly, PQLeer, and other places. Her poetry collection, God Bless Paul is out on Rosedog Books and her chapbook, The Way We Were as well as her “Fourplay,” Still Learning to Let Go is out on Writing Knights Press. She has a dog, Sadie, with her husband, Rich Ferguson. You can visit her website here. (Photo courtesy of Alexis Rhone Fancher.)