I climbed on the porch rail and then to the porch roof. From there, it was a quick trip across the shingled roof to Chimera’s perch on our garage rooftop. She sat comfortably, knees half-way to her stomach, arms folded across them, head resting sideways on her folded hands. “Hey.” I greeted, knowing it was the only word that would break through her tortured thoughts. Her favorite pastime was twisting her brilliant mind through mazes of excruciating emotion.
I preferred to watch her while she did it.
“Hey.” The word was returned, yet the ruby-glittered lips remained pursed in thought.
Settling into a safe spot beside her, I followed her darkened gaze to the activity across the street. A white tent had gone up as cars lined the curb, the birthday banner hanging lopsided across the front yard. I swallowed. The happy brightness of it all made the gigantic U-Haul sitting in the driveway seem like a garden gnome.
Short, squat and ugly, in my opinion.
“They’re starting without you.” I ventured.
Chimera blinked. It took her a moment to process the sentence as she slowly dragged her mind back to the present. Her lips half-quirked into the smirk I knew as her smile. “Really? They’d start my sweet sixteen party without me?” She rifled through the black studded knapsack positioned between her feet. “About ready?”
I couldn’t look at her. “Yeah. House is empty. It has a loud echo.” There was a pause. “Mom’s all packed. Dad’s looking for his sport shorts again.”
A laugh sputtered through. “Elle, girlfriend, you crack me up.” She snorted, extracting a plastic bowl of orange slices. “Here, hold this.” From the shaggy depths of black, a plastic baggie of brown dust was produced.
My stomach gave a happy growl. “Oranges and cinnamon sugar?” I barely dared to breath the name of her ‘fairy-food’.
“Special occasions only.” Chimera whispered. “Open sesame.”
The blue lid popped off as the cinnamon sugar was unceremoniously dumped inside. I snapped the cover on, shaking it hard. Chimera winced. I blushed. “It’s…mixed.”
In a matter of minutes, our fingers were juicy and sticky, the few laughs shared between, as bittersweet as the precious treat of our sisterhood. The bowl was nearing empty as I noticed the birthday gathering across the street beginning to swell in numbers. “Big family?”
She rolled her eyes. “Never had a birthday party before. They’re just curious.”
“You’ve never had a birthday party?” I stared at her, completely mind-boggled once more by another one of her matter-of-fact admissions. “Never? Ever?”
There was a shrug. “You seemed to like yours though…so I figured it wouldn’t hurt.”
“You decided to have a party because of me?” Tears began to pool in the corner of my eyes. I resisted the urge to squeeze the stuffing out of her.
“Mom practically exploded.” Chimera nodded wearily towards her house. “The creativity hasn’t stopped. I made her promise not to stick anything too girly in there…”
“It looks great.”
“I feel awful.”
“You’ll be fine.”
“I don’t want to be.”
“Chimera…please, don’t do this to yourself.”
“How can I enjoy a birthday party on the day my best friend is moving away forever?”
“It’s only to Arizona.”
“Five states away!”
“We’ll always be friends.”
“Sisters.” Chimera corrected, suddenly shoving the bowl into my lap. “Keep that. Recipe’s on the cover.”
My mind blanked again at this second declaration. “Y-you’re sure?”
“You’re part of my fairy circle-always.” Her smile wobbled. “Now I know what it’s like to have a best friend handpicked by God.” Tears ran crooked rivers down her face, bearing fat streaks of mascara. “I’m going to miss you SO much.”
I grabbed her in a hug as my own tears mixed with her goth hoodie and skinny jeans. “Not as much as I’ll miss you-”
“In my heart-” She traced a heart on the side of my cheek. “-and in my prayers.”
“Always.” I whispered back, pulling away as we both began to smack and swipe at the telltale tears. “Thought I was done with this crying stuff.”
Chimera sniffled. “That makes two of us.” She froze. “Gimme your earring.”
“Anyone of them-quick.” She reached for her left ear, unhooking a burgundy biker wing. Obediently, I tugged a gold lightening bolt out of my left ear. Her fingers snatched it up, replacing it with her own as her hands closed over mine. “Now we’ll always have a piece of each other.”
I hugged her tight.
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