Lauren stepped out into the crisp, November air, drawing her parka around her. I’ve lived in Maryland all my life, she thought to herself. Shouldn’t I be used to the cold by now? She gave a shudder in the still air. Of course, weather’s not all that’s bothering me right now…
”Lauren!” a chipper, female voice called out to her. Lauren turned and saw Meredith, a girl from her class, rushing out of the school building. “Thank G-d it’s Wednesday afternoon,” she said, panting slightly. “What’re you doing over Thanksgiving break?”
”I don’t know…” Lauren said, feeling awkward. She didn’t really know Meredith all that well, just through association. I wonder if she’d even be talking to me if… Lauren shook her head. No, she’s given up on her; the whole school knows that.
Meredith, noticing the head shake, commented, “You cold?”
The two of them stood silent for a minute, staring out at the deserted parking lot, perhaps looking for their mothers’ cars, perhaps searching for a long lost friend.
”Oh my G-d!” Meredith suddenly shrieked in a whisper. “Do you see that guy? Right over there. DON’T stare!”
Meredith’s words drew Lauren’s gaze away form the tall, well built senior who she recognized as being a member of the lacrosse team every spring. That’s what SHE used to tell me, Lauren thought angrily. You’re so nosy, Lauren! Well, she’s not here to say that now, is she?
”I’d hook up with that guy in a second,” Meredith said wistfully.
Lauren gave her a long, contemplative look. Should I tell her what’s on my mind? “You sound like Mandy,” she blurted out, rather fast.
Meredith looked Lauren in the face for the first time. “I don’t want to talk about it,” she said, her eyes flashing.
”Sorry,” Lauren blushed. “It’s just- I can’t think about boys right now. Not since-“
”Look, just drop it, OK?” Meredith said dangerously. Short silence. Then, “I find myself attracting to the guys who stand out. You know, the ones who are always alone. Sometimes, I just want to run away with them.”
Lauren stared at her, mouth dry.
”Of course, it’s the stupidest thing to do in the world,” Meredith continued, kicking a nearby rock onto the pavement. “Running off into the streets with a guy you hardly know. What about your safety? What about your family? What about your friends?”
Meredith’s words seemed to echo through the empty parking lot. I thought you didn’t want to talk about her, Lauren thought sardonically. She’d felt the need to do that, lash out at the world, ever since-
”What about you, Lauren?” Meredith was suddenly looking at her with intensity in her eyes. “Would you run off with that boy right there? Leave all your family behind? Betray your friends?”
The thought stewed in Lauren’s mind- quite an ironic statement for Meredith to make. “Well, does it really matter anymore?”
”What do you mean?” Meredith demanded sharply.
”I wouldn’t be betraying any friends.” Lauren took a deep breath, finally letting it all out. “I only had one friend. And she’s gone.”