I sat behind her in Grade 9 chemistry class. She had thin brown hair that came to her shoulders, straight teeth, brown eyes and faint freckles across her face. She had a quiet demeanor but came alive with she laughed. She volunteered at the animal shelter and I thought she was great. Being the shy fourteen year old girl that I was, and not knowing many other people in school, I desperately wanted the two of us to be friends. And for a while, we were.
Until she went quiet.
I don't trust people easily. I'm sure that at one point I must have, but I can't remember what that feels like. When someone invites me to a party, I wonder why. What does she want from me? What is she asking me for? Is this some sort of joke?
Many years have passed since then. High School is over. I've gone through university and entered the workforce. I wasn't friends with Kristine for very long. It's strange that I would think about her now. She swims in and out of my consciousness. Call me superstitious if you want, but I think it's a sign. She's appearing to me for a reason. There's something that I'm supposed to be figuring out.
I turned down almost every invitation extended to me. It was always a friendly, kind-hearted girl befriending me. There was always at least one person reaching out to me, yet for some reason I couldn't reach back. I pulled away. The girl - whoever it happened to be at the moment - would persist for a good while before giving up. All of them gave up eventually.
I remember feeling confused when Kristine stopped talking. It happened very suddenly, for no apparent reason. She would no longer stand with her group of friends in the hallway. She didn't show any emotions. I tried to make her laugh, but it was like a wall had gone up between us. I wondered what was wrong, yet didn't feel it was my business to ask. After weeks of attempted, and failed, conversations, I gave up and left her alone.
These past few years have been hard. When I moved to a different city, I had to make new friends and some of the ones I made weren't true. There would be that uneasy feeling upon being introduced to others. The way the group would greet me friendly-like at first, only to draw a sharp inhalation of breath once my friend told them my name. I met many people like that, but couldn't see it at the time.
Her former best friend, Michelle, became a good friend of mine. We did not talk about Kristine for several years. I'd almost forgotten all about the whole thing until one day she came up in conversation. Michelle and I were in our final year of high school. We had grown much closer since Kristine disappeared from the group, so I cautiously asked her, "what happened with her exactly anyway? I remember she used to hang out with you guys, but then she stopped."
There was an uncomfortable pause. I wasn't sure if Michelle would answer, and I hoped that I hadn't been too nosy. Then she said something along the lines of, "yeah we used to be friends but then she stopped talking to me. Karen and Lauren wrote her a note telling her what they didn't like about her, I guess because they were mad at her about something. I didn't even know about it until afterwards. I had nothing to do with it. I still tried to stay friends with her, but Kristine wouldn't talk to me anymore."
I don't talk to those people anymore. I don't talk to anyone else from that social group either. I can only imagine the sorts of nasty things said about me to them. I can't stand the idea of them knowing my secrets. It's easier to stay away. I don't want this to happen again. It's easier to be alone.
Suddenly it all made sense. Of course by then it was too late to do anything about it. Life went on, and I forgot about her again until this past year when I came across her Facebook profile. I haven't said anything to Michelle about this - maybe she already knows - but Kristine has a child now. It looks like things are going well for her, as far as anyone can tell simply by looking at an online profile. I wouldn't dream of trying to reconnect with her. That would be too weird. Still, it felt good to see that she's doing alright.