“Your parents know!” She pulled on my arm the instant I stepped on campus, dragging me to the edge of the walkway, just beyond the steady stream of kids lugging backpacks beneath the covered sidewalk. “Your dad called my dad!”
Panic. Dread. The one time—OK, second time—I tried to do anything, anything!, and my parents had already found out. “What are we going to do?” I asked, my cheeks burning. My parents were already troubled about my friendship with her. And if they’d known I sometimes thought of her as my “bad friend,” well, they would have worried even more.
“Your dad is scary,” she said in this little girl voice she had sometimes. She could seem so innocent with those big blue eyes and that sweet voice.
My dad was not scary at all. Just maybe not terribly warm, especially to a friend he disapproved of. Not a fun dad, like hers. Not the kind of dad who would ever, ever, buy wine coolers for his 16-year-old daughter and her friends. Definitely not the kind of dad who would look the other way when those same girls walked out his front door, headed on foot to an 18-and-over club in a college town known for frat parties and excessive drinking. “But what did he say?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Nothing really. Just that he wanted to meet.”
I groaned. Of course. My parents always wanted to meet the parents of anyone, everyone, I was going to be friends with. It was so annoying.
“It’s because I spent the night two weeks in a row. That’s probably what did it.” I shook my head. “What are we going to do if they know?”
“Your parents already hate me!”
“They don’t hate you.” It wasn’t a lie. It just wasn’t exactly the truth.
I met her Sophomore year in Drama class. She had transferred from the other high school in town. She wasn’t like most of my friends who all got 4.0s and were life members of the California Scholarship Federation. Not that she wasn’t smart and couldn’t pull A’s, because she could when she got her shit together. But she wasn’t a goody-two-shoes. She listened to Liz Phair and the Descendants and smoked cigarettes in her little black car and swore (but never in front of my parents). She drove fast and wore Betsey Johnson dresses to school and went to parties at the Washout. She was going to get dual citizenship when she turned 18—American and Irish. She had an aunt she visited every summer on the East Coast, living in a mansion and hanging out with prep school boys. When she had left back in June, I had cried, watching her drive away. We had written letters all summer. Around school, people called us lesbians because we would hold hands and share the giant chocolate chip cookies the cafeteria made and bags of plain M&M’s and Big Gulps of Mountain Dew mixed with Pepsi that she would buy at 7-11 on her way to school. We were glued at the hip, with five classes together, and no one could keep our names straight anymore. We didn’t even care—even though we laughed about how we didn’t look a thing alike, not when I was blond and she was brunette. She was cute, with that dark straight hair and bright blue eyes and the palest skin you ever saw. I still remember how she told me I could be popular if I would just go to parties sometimes.
But when I tried—getting tipsy on Bartles & Jaymes and smoking cigarettes without inhaling and dancing in that club and making out with some boy I didn’t even know who ignored me a week later when I went back—well, I got caught.
Except it turned out my parents had no idea what we’d been up to, they were just doing their parent thing, thinking I was spending an awful lot of time at the house of someone they didn’t know, but I was afraid enough of disappointing them that I never spent the night at her house again, didn’t try drinking again—not until I got to college and then just barely. Because even at sixteen I knew my parents were right to be worried, they were right, they were right, only it took me another year to see just how right because she was fun and sweet and she needed me in a way my other friends didn’t.