Fiction | Short Story

A Childhood Friend Contacted Me Out of the Blue and the Reason Why Will Horrify You – Part I

Two crazy things happened to me last year. Firstly, after years of procrastination, I decided to finally to pursue my dream of authoring a novel in the young adult/supernatural fantasy genre (for brevity, let’s just say something along the lines of Harry Potter, or Twilight if it didn’t completely blow). Up to this point, I’d […]

Two crazy things
happened to me last year.

Firstly, after years of
procrastination, I decided to finally to pursue my dream of authoring
a novel in the young adult/supernatural fantasy genre (for brevity,
let’s just say something along the lines of Harry Potter, or
Twilight if it didn’t completely blow). Up to this point, I’d
been mostly content scrubbing out a meagre existence as a bookshop
assistant,  dreaming up plotlines in between shelf stacking and
chatting with customers. For spare change I also occasionally wrote
ad copy for an online appliance retailer (for those interested to
know, it takes a heinous amount of characters about KitchenAids and
chrome six-slice toasters to even buy a beer). At this time, my
boyfriend Josh and I were renting a tasteful art deco style
townhouse. Achieving my goal meant that I began spending increasing
chunks of time at home plugging away feverishly at a manuscript with
Jas, our cat purring like a tractor next to me. Sometimes, the
weirdest things happened whenever I was alone. I could be totally
zoned out in concentration on a chapter. Then I’d swear that someone
else was standing in the room just out of my field of vision, as if
poised to tap my shoulder. Unexplained puddles of water appeared
around the place too. I swiftly texted Josh and received the
pragmatic reply ‘Must be faulty pipes. Call plumber’. What I didn’t
mention was that the puddles never  even appeared close to the water mains. Another time, a stench of rotting meat pervaded
the rooms all day. Jas copped the blame for that one – I suspected
he must have slipped out and stashed away a hunted animal somewhere.
I never found any evidence though, and mysteriously the smell
disappeared as quickly as it came.

Relevant to the second
thing that occurred, is an admission that shames me deeply. I was
unfaithful – once and once only – to Josh. It brought me to the
realisation that our relationship had deteriorated to the point where
we lived in separate worlds. Five years earlier, I’d reluctantly
accompanied my friend Jamie to a uni bar famed for its kitschy
taxidermy animals on the walls, sticky floors and dirt cheap booze. I
leaned against a stuffed moose head while Jamie worked the room,
trying to be inconspicuous and feeling the exact opposite. Josh
approached me and introduced himself with some lame quip thrown in.
As Kings of Leon blared at deafness levels, I smiled in spite of
myself. That night, we exchanged numbers.

When we started dating
I learned that Josh’s family were all respected, highly focused,
Type A personalities. His mother, a renowned socialite regularly
threw lavish garden parties. Once, she announced in a clipped tone
‘My son is designing the most prestigious hospital in the country’
to a room of guests. When somebody politely enquired about my
occupation I flustered hard. ‘I, uhh.. Work in retail, sometimes.’ I
almost saw the word underachiever light up in neon
across her forehead. Josh and I loved each others company, but over
time I knew his career and reputation – and family’s opinions –
started mattering more to him. I cursed myself for feeling
inadequate, petty for being jealous of his ambitions. When I
accompanied him to family dinners I felt like a live insect under a
hot microscope light. Then we’d fight, I’d sullenly withdraw. Josh
frequently had more reasons to stay later at work. Slowly, the
emotional chasm between us grew wider.

What I’d done was inexcusable and weighed heavily on my conscience. Paralysed by
inertia, I threw myself even more completely into writing. For some
reason, my delusional brain believed that finishing the manuscript
would somehow prove that I still possessed some self-worth and wasn’t
a total piece of shit for betraying a person who loved me. Then one
cloudless spring day, as I was mentally steeling myself to start on
chapter 35 and sipping a cup of cold coffee, a message pinged into my
Facebook inbox. My eyes popped open in shock when I saw the sender’s
name – Erin Mayweather.

Erin and I had been
primary school best friends, in the way Stephen King wrote about the
kind of friends you only have when you’re twelve years old.

The message read:

Hi! Remember me from
Mrs Wanda’s year six class?

Just came across
your profile, I hope you’ve been well x

My heart leapt a little
at this. Of course I remembered. Erin and I had been inseparable for
the entirety of our last two years at Greta Vale. In fact, since the
exact day we’d bullied Glenn Bosley, a kid who perpetually wore
woollen pullovers all year long, into switching places so we could
sit next to each other and liven up a mind-numbing school assembly
with sarcastic wisecracks.

I fetched a fresh mug
and fed Jas, who was yowling at my feet, then fired off a reply:

Hey! Of course I
remember, we were such shits that year haha

It’s great to hear
from you. It’s been so long since we last spoke, what are you up to
these days?

waiting for the response, I checked out Erin’s profile, curious to
see what she looked like now. It was clear the profile was freshly
created. A couple of years back when social media really took off, I
tried searching Erin a few times but all efforts came to nothing. I
did find her younger brother, who appeared to be living overseas,
realised he probably wouldn’t have a clue who I was and forgot about

only viewable photo was an artistic, slightly out of focus distance
shot of a girl sitting on a bench in a park. The girl is holding an
umbrella and looking over her shoulder, her face framed by the same
shock of red hair I remember.

But Erin wanted to know
my opinion on well, everything. Over the next days I told her about
the music I was listening to, the books I liked. What I thought about
this psychological theory compared to another. I confided to her how
my mum was doing these days and how I felt about that. It was a
welcome diversion to the nagging feelings of hopelessness I had been
experiencing, the snag my novel had hit. Josh was away on a five day
work trip. Jamie was overseas too, doing the whole year in London
thing and hard to catch for Skype sessions if she wasn’t asleep or
out partying. It felt- lame as it is to admit- just nice
having an old ally in my corner again.

The only little thing I
noticed, when we touched on the present day- current jobs,
relationships, so forth- Erin got a bit cagey and tended to circle
back to different topic. But in all other respects, she was so chatty
and uninhibited. I almost always received a reply back from her
within five minutes of writing. Then, all of a sudden our
conversations took a much darker, unexpected turn that I didn’t see
coming for miles.