Holly let me love her. Everyone wanted to love her, and she let me. It was first period on the first day of high school –– a classroom with walls covered in yellow paper and a cartoon painting of Stanislavsky behind the teacher’s desk. The room was filled with theatre-kids, and when our acting teacher entered the room, they all combusted into applause. The students began to pretend that they were family even though none of them knew each other’s last names. Underneath the noise, Holly and I looked at each other. We smirked and covered our mouths when we began to giggle. Two strangers had formed some sort of a personal joke out of thin, awkward, teen-aged air.
At seven-thirty in the morning, we would meet each other before class and talk about what happened the night before. Sitting on the cold, marbled floors of the hallways, Holly and I took pictures of our faces squished together at the cheek. After school, we got our parents to sign notes of permission for us to ride on each other’s busses. We sat, hip to hip, sharing yellowed earbuds. She said she liked my taste in music, and that no one understood her song-choices other than me. Every time she singled me out amongst her past-friends, I felt like I was a part of something big.
I began spending almost every single day with Holly. We went to parties together and held each other’s vodka sodas and made each other laugh until we could taste the Sprite in the back of our throats. We wrote poems together and when the mood struck, we would put on The Strokes and raise the volume really high. We danced around like toddlers learning how to walk. I smiled the most when I was with her. Now, still, summer feels like Holly’s room when it’s warm out.
Holly was beautiful, and by standing next to her, I felt beautiful too. Because she let me love her, when everyone else wanted to be her friend, I was special and that was that. I began to know her, know her more than anyone, and even though physically we were opposites, on the inside we were too similar to ignore.
The first time I threw up was with Holly. I was over her house after going out to dinner with my family. My stomach felt really full and it was hard to move easily. I ate fried wontons for an appetizer. I ate all of my nachos. For dessert, I ordered red velvet cheesecake that I ate most of. It was all washed down with a diet coke. I told her, when I got there, that I really needed to throw it all up. That I felt too sick. She asked me if I was sure that I wanted to do it at least twelve times. When she knew I was sure, she taught me how to do it. She handed me an old toothbrush to stick down my throat. It felt great, feeling empty afterwards. It was the first time I could take back my bad decisions.
She went after. She took another toothbrush and threw up in the same toilet. We giggled during the whole thing. We felt young and complicated. We lifted up our shirts and looked at our stomachs in the mirror. The fluorescent lights of her and her big sister’s bathroom made it so we could see how far our hipbones made it past our bellybuttons. We laughed so hard I started burping, which inevitably made her laugh so hard her face turned into tomato soup. We sat on the cold, tile floor and made jokes about what we had just done.
Holly looked at me, as if relieved, and said, “You’re my best friend.”
In a matter of a month and a half, we lost ten pounds. The summer of sophomore year helped us transition from thin to thin. Holly and I felt resilient. Boys loved us when we wore tank tops and girls told us how beautiful we looked when we wore floral sundresses. We held pinkies when we walked down the street and had jokes that only we found funny.
That summer, we went to the beach every time we could find a ride over. We wore string bikinis and drank diet Coca Colas in the sand, towels laid side by side. Her mom would pick us up around three p.m. and take us back to her house. We would blast “Julio Down by The School Yard” on the sunburnt highway home, our stomachs filled with Caramel Color Number Five. On the front yard, we’d sit and smoke her sister’s Marlboro Reds, doing handstands in between cigarettes. Once we were tired out, we would keep on our sun-faded bikinis on and hop in the shower together, dancing and singing to her radio playlist. Dried, we wore her dad’s tee shirts and played movies about women who wanted to be loved, watching sleepily as we laid on the cool, hardwood floor.
October came about and Holly got a boyfriend. His name was Isaac, and he made himself appear all closed-up and locked by iron. Mysterious, I suppose. Holly always looked at romance like it was a person’s ultimate goal. She made it seem like love would cover up any sore spot anyone could ever have, and that any pain associated with it is worth it. People who are in love make it seem like they’re in some elite group. Like they know something the rest of the world doesn’t. But then she and her boyfriend would fight, and she would cry, and he would look at other girls like they were cherry-flavored lollipops and then I started to realize that she was probably wrong. That they all are wrong. Often, Holly would call me and tell me to come over because Isaac asked her for something Holly couldn’t give him. I would lay next to her and read her stories from poetry books we bought together until she stopped crying.
Holly used to get really sad, just like I did. The same kind of sad. We both had felt each other’s lows; how our lows feel like the bottom of the ocean. Only she had the highs to make up for them. She used to tell me that she felt like a part of the universe. Some days she acted like a child that looked at everything with beauty, other days she was someone who knew exactly what the hell she was doing. She would sit in a forest behind her house, naked, like she grew straight up from the ground. I’ve never had the urge to do that. She did fifty-percent of the time.
Holly let me love her, and let me love her disorder also. As time passed, her disorder became more outward, more ominous. Sometimes I would pull up to her house and she would be laying in the grass topless, high off of some pot she batted her eyelashes to get. Other times she’d come over to my house just to tell me she wanted to become a professor and move to Europe. I held on the back of her shoulders throughout all of her ups and downs, held onto the rollercoaster ride named Holly. She started getting high off of other stuff that wasn’t pot, and she started finding friends that would give it to her. She would get offended by things I would say, like “how is your dad doing?” and I would apologize until she forgave me.
And it stopped one day. All of a sudden, like a flash of light. I didn’t know until Holly that beautiful things could end in an instant. I waited outside of school for her in my orange Volkswagen Beetle, where I always did, and where she would always hop in and light both of our cigarettes. I saw her walk down the steps in front of the large glass doors to the gymnasium, with another girl with blonde hair. They walked past my car and got inside the white car parked next to me. Looking through my open window, I tried to search for Holly’s eyes in the passenger seat of the white car. She glanced up, and I waved. She only smiled. Not the smile with all the teeth, the one she did usually. A smile that just pushed her lips together and made an indent in her left cheek.
Adriana DeNoble is a young, American writer living in Rome, Italy. She has studied creative writing at both Columbia University and University of Oxford. Her publications include three online publications for the website Thought Catalog, and was included in the print anthology, A Number of Letters.