In Her MemoryA Story by Kimberly Kublank
A story of the way friendships grow, or grow apart. "... I got choked up during the singing thinking about how the person who had loved these songs wasnt here anymore, but that people cared enough to sing them one more time, for her, in her memory.&
In Her Memory
I dont know how it happened really. You know how sometimes things just creep up on you gradually and you dont even realize it until one day, bam! it hits you in the face. And wow, I mean, what a surprise to suddenly find that the person you most trusted in the entire world - and you thought you knew inside and out - could do something like that. Well, I know you dont even know what Im talking about, and Im trying to think of the best place to begin.
The memorial service was really nice, I mean for those sorts of occasions. Sad, certainly; but most especially for Danna since it was her aunt, not mine, and I didnt really know her well. I was there for moral support since Danna had been my best friend forever. She was doing one of those silent sobs; not making any sound, but breathing really short, static breaths and tears streaming down her face. She gripped my hand tightly and I didnt mind that our palms were all sweaty stuck together like that, because I knew it was helping her feel better in some way. This was her Aunt Mina, her favorite aunt of all her mothers five sisters. She was the first of her family to die, and it was so sad because it had been one of those drunk driver hit and runs, and the police still hadnt found the person who had hit her little VW head-on and left her crumpled over the steering wheel on the side of the road, lights on, tires all askew. All we knew was that the other car was red, because some paint had come off that car onto Aunt Minas. Youd think that would be a big enough clue for the police to follow like it is on those tv shows that match the paint of the car and then find the make and model and then go through the license and registrations until they find the person who did it. But I guess it isnt really that way in real life. Ive stopped believing that tv shows know anything theyre talking about.
There was a big crowd at the church and several people talked about what a wonderful person Mina was and read poems and showed a video montage of pictures from her life and sang songs that she had liked. I got choked up during the singing thinking about how the person who had loved these songs wasnt here anymore, but that people cared enough to sing them one more time, for her, in her memory. Afterwards, there was a gathering at Dannas house with food and people coming in and out and saying how sorry they were and exchanging Aunt Mina stories and there were a lot of awkward pauses. I brought Danna a paper plate of food, deviled eggs and cookies that I knew she liked, but she wasnt hungry. She kept trying to tell me about how her aunt had always taken her on special outings, like to the tearoom or the art museum, and had treated her like an adult and talked to her about her future - how Danna wanted to go to Paris and study painting and become a famous artist.
Aunt Mina is the only one who believes... believed in me, Danna said with a catch in her throat. Mom doesnt think painting is a real career. She wants me to go to business college and paint as a hobby. She sniffed in indignation. As if. And she started to cry again.
Dont worry, Danna. I patted her hand. Youre going to be a brilliant artist. Danna threw her arms around me and cried for a long time. I stroked her back, warm from the wool cardigan she was wearing, until I felt her tears soaking through my dress front. Gently, I pulled away and looked around for a fresh tissue, found a box on the side table and handed her a couple. She wiped her eyes and nose.
Im going to go lie down for a while, she said and stood.
Do you want me to... I began, but she shook her head no and told me thank you but go on home, shed see me tomorrow. And that was the memorial.
Blakey had been in love with Danna for as long as I can remember. Who could blame him, with her dusty blonde hair and fair skin, not to mention her long, long legs. Boy were constantly coming up to her and asking her out, but she was not very interested for the most part. She liked to be independent, she always said, so she wouldnt be tied down by being in love with some guy when the time came to go to Paris. But Blakey was different; as far as Danna was concerned he was just a good friend. He decided that being a good friend was a good way to be around her. So we were a best friend threesome for a long time. Only problem was that I was in love myself with Blakey. Who could blame me, with his tousled dark hair and intense, kind of squinty, brown eyes. It was the only secret I kept from both of them.
That one night late when we were together in Dannas room studying for the history final and goofing around, and I was going to spend the night and it was later than Blakey had ever stayed, but so far none of the parents had noticed or made a fuss, so we went on having a good time. Danna was talking about when she lived in Paris how she would take long walks for inspiration, because just breathing the air in France where all those painters had painted before her was inspiration enough to fill a million empty canvases. And all of a sudden Blakey leaned over and kissed Danna on the lips. It was quick and he made a grand joke of it afterwards, but it meant something bigger between them. I could tell. Danna was giggling and dreamy-eyed. I felt sick to my stomach and went into the bathroom, turned on the water to hide any noise I might make and tried to cry. Nothing came out. When I had composed myself I went back into Dannas room and Blakey had gone home. Danna was getting the cot I slept on when I stayed over set up for bed. I felt like going home, but it was too late, so we changed into pajamas and went to sleep without much of the usual talking in the dark.
The next day I got up the courage to ask Danna if she had changed her mind about Blakey, if she wanted to be more than just good friends. She said, God, no. But I felt something had been left unsaid. Blakey and I did really well on our history finals and Danna said she didnt care about history anyway so what did it matter, and we all went out for ice cream to celebrate. I kept my eyes open, but there were no overt signs that anything had changed between us all. I convinced myself that I was being paranoid and had read more into a spontaneous jokey gesture than had been there. Still, I wondered why he had kissed Danna and not me?
Danna got a job waitressing so she could save up money to go live and study in Paris. She was hoping for a scholarship of some kind, but those were tricky to get and far and few between. Usually people spent their junior year of college abroad, but Danna wanted to skip the usual route and jump right into the abroad part. She figured it might take her a year to save up enough to get there and settle in. Then she could waitress in Paris while she studied. Her mother thought she was crazy, being stupid and wasteful. If she really wanted to study art, which in her opinion was still a huge mistake, then she ought to go to college, even community college, and do it the right way. According to Danna, community college was for dummies who couldnt get into regular universities or poor people who couldnt afford anything better.
I bit my lip; I was going to start community college in September to study nursing or maybe physical therapy. It wasnt that we were poor or because I was dumb - in fact, my grades were very good - it just made practical sense. I looked at Danna and wondered when she had become such a snob. Up until that time I didnt know that her academic record was so poor she would have had a very hard time getting into a good college. I guess that was a secret she had kept from Blakey and me. Her mother spilled the beans right in front of me and Danna began to seethe.
Dannas mother was shouting now... little miss priss, you think you know it all. Youre going to end up being a waitress for the rest of your life if you keep on with this cockamamy scheme.
Danna yelled right back. Id never yelled at my mother in my entire life.
Thats what you know. Aunt Mina said I could do and be anything I wanted to, that I had talent, real talent.
Dannas mother softened her voice a bit. My sister could say those things to you because she wasnt your mother, she could spoil you, while I have the job of teaching you about reality.
But Danna wasnt giving an inch. Youve never believed in me!
Thats just not true. I do my best by you. Im telling you whats real and what isnt here. You cant just not go to college and expect everything to fall into your lap, easy-pleasey. Dannas mother spoke in clipped tones now with tightly pursed lips, like she was trying to hold back an explosion.?
Then Danna delivered the cruelest punch: I wish Aunt Mina had been my mother. She understood me. She loved me. I hate you. She turned away with an angry jerk and stomped up the stairs to her room. She had forgotten I was even there. I backed toward the door to make a hasty retreat, but not before I saw her mother crumple to the couch in tears.
Blakey had gone to work in his uncles upholstery shop. So with me in school and Danna and Blakey working we didnt get together as much. But we still spent some weekend nights in Blakeys parents basement rec room talking, joking, playing pool, watching movies. Blakey and Danna liked to drink beer, but Ive never gotten used to the taste. Danna started smoking cigarettes; something she picked up from the other waitresses she worked with. She said if you didnt smoke, you never got a break. Besides, everyone smoked in Paris. Gradually, Danna started bowing out of our weekends together, saying she was working an extra shift to make more money, she couldnt wait to get out of her mothers house. So sometimes, and then more and more it was just me and Blakey. Inevitably, we became close, closer than friends. We started to fool around, then we were going out. I was on cloud nine; after years of my secret crush, I finally had Blakey all to myself. We didnt tell Danna straight out about us, but we figured she knew.
One Saturday, Danna said she was busy and couldnt make our regular rendez-vous, so on the spur of the moment Blakey and I got dressed up and went downtown to a club. It wasnt an exclusive club, we just had to buy drinks; I ordered a Shirley Temple and Blakey got an imported beer. The atmosphere was loud and bright, crowded and rather hyper; definitely out of our regular milieu. But we went out on the floor to dance and started having a really good time. We had never danced, just the two of us, before. I closed my eyes and felt the warmth and sturdiness of Blakeys chest against my cheek. He was holding me close, breathing softly against my hair. I was imagining our wedding dance being this way, swaying together in love. After all, wasnt that where we were heading? Suddenly, he pushed me a ways apart from him, and on opening my eyes I saw his surprised look at something behind me. Turning around, I saw Danna.
She was dressed to the nines, and I mean, in something way too expensive for a waitress who was saving up to to go live in a painters garrett in Paris. She sparkled and smiled. What are you two doing here? she shouted with false cheer. I knew her well enough to know she never in a million expected to run into us here.
We thought you had to work, Blakey replied, completely innocent. Thought wed see how the other half lives it up. He laughed. We werent dancing anymore. He wasnt holding me anymore.
Dance with me? she asked Blakey, stepping forward to claim him and stumbling a bit on her high heels. She was slightly drunk.
Blakey grabbed her arm to keep her steady and they began to dance. I wove my way through the dancing feet to a table and sat down - do I even have to say the word dejected? I watched them together. Danna was as tall as Blakey in those heels with her long, long legs shown off to great advantage in her short, short shimmering skirt.
Blakey told her we could drive her home, but since my house was on the way he dropped me off first without even a kiss good night. This was not what we had planned. We were supposed to grab a bite to eat at a diner, maybe even just coffee and pie. Then, go back to Blakeys house where it was dark and quiet. Why had he dropped me off first? Why hadnt I raised an objection? Because, somehow I knew I wouldnt have been heard. He couldnt still be in love with her, could her? I hoped beyond hope I was wrong.
I went to my classes. I went home. I read, studied, wrote papers. I cooked dinner for my parents and brother and sister. I tried not to stare at the phone. I tried not to jump every time it rang. It wasnt for me.
Friday night - a regular rec room night - I didnt go over to Blakeys, neither did I call to give any excuses. I was hoping he would call to find out why I wasnt there. He didnt.
Saturday night - another get-together, usually a popcorn and movie night - it grew later and later. Finally I called. Hey, trying my best at nonchalance, are we getting together tonight?
Well, yeah, he said. Nothing more.
Is Danna coming? I asked.
Yeah, shes here already, he paused, I think he covered the phone with his palm, I heard some whispering, but not the words. Do you wanta come by?
Should I? I said, faltering, I mean.
Umm, yeah, I. He faltered too. That sick pit-feeling appeared in my stomach.
There was a scuffling sound, then Dannas voice over the phone, Hey! Whereve you been? Blakey and I have some news.
No! I screamed in my head. News? I felt dizzy.
Well, I think you can guess. I mean, after all these years you must have known that your two best friends would finally work it out in the end. Danna sounded happy. How could she sound so innocent. She was laughing.
The only think I could think of to say was, What about Paris?
Danna laughed. Yeah, well, you know, Ive kind of spent most of the money Ive been making, and Im getting my own apartment next week. I am so sick of living with Mrs. Know-It-All-Told-You-So. Even if she maybe is right some of the time. Besides, Paris will be there and I can wait.
I couldnt think of anything to say. Okay, then. I hung up.
Blakey called me once more, later that week to say he was sorry if Id gotten the wrong impression about things between him and me, hed always liked me as a great friend, I was a great person, really, but hed always loved Danna, I knew that, didnt I? I told him I did. I wished them every happiness. He thought I was being sincere.
I graduated with a degree in physical therapy. Ive worked at the center now for about a year. I like working with people who have the chance to recuperate, a second chance stand, to walk, to mend. Ive met some amazing people. For a while I went out with Jon, a former patient who I helped regain the use of his right hand after it had been crushed in an accident. Hes taking piano lessons now. We still talk on the phone and meet sometimes for coffee. We both agreed there wasnt enough of a spark.
I have a weeks vacation coming up early next fall. Since Im still living?at home I have quite a lot of money saved. Im thinking about going to Paris.
Kimberly Kublank/IronWorks Publishing at Focus Fine Arts 2008
© 2008 Kimberly Kublank
Added on March 19, 2008
AboutI'm back with some new writing after a rather long hiatus due to undergoing treatment for breast cancer - still in the midst of it all, but feeling pretty good right now. I've spent a lot of my time .. more..