It had been a short trip back home. Her great aunt’s funeral. The past few days were a blur of familiar faces and uncomfortable sleeping arrangements in her parents’ home. Everyone’s faces blurred together – sad, resigned, numb. Maria rarely visited anymore, despite her parents’ urging to come down for the weekend and not just one or two holidays each year. She paid her respects and then ate some cold cut sandwiches and some store-bought kolaczki. It was the same menu for every funeral that she had been to since childhood.
Being home always felt strange, like an outfit that had grown too small. Each time she drove through their suburban town, it became smaller and smaller even though it had sprawled and added more box stores and developments in her absence. Back in high school, the town was simultaneously too big to escape and too small to endure.
On her last day, she woke early and took a walk around her old neighborhood. Everything was still, save for the odd car passing or the chirping birds. Overhead, grey clouds obscured the morning sunlight and gave the colorful trees a muted tone. She tucked her hands into her coat pockets, looking around at the houses she remembered playing in as a kid. And then she came to the white-sided house on Preston Street, and stopped.
Though she had tried to forget that final summer, Maria would hear a song or see a girl with dark hair that triggered her bitter memories. Every time it happened, the wound was fresh and raw all over again, and she hated it. Lizzie had been her closest friend – closer than most of the girls in their school. They spent every weekend together since middle school and were practically inseparable.
One sleepover, Lizzie had kissed her. Maria could still feel the slightly sticky minty taste of Lizzie’s Chapstick on her mouth. It was messy, but it gave way to so many more. Lots more. She never told anyone, and they never officially were girlfriends, but Lizzie had been her first love. At one point, they talked of going away to the same college and sharing a dorm or an apartment.
Nina transferred to their school senior year, and Maria no longer existed in Lizzie’s eyes. No matter how many times Maria had tried to get in touch between classes or on the weekends, she just never heard back from Lizzie. She had been dumped, and it hurt like hell.
Looking up at Lizzie’s window – was it even her window anymore?, she wondered – Maria was back in high school again. Her face burned against the chilly air. If she were a different person, she would take one of the rocks at her feet and chuck it at the window. A broken window for her still broken heart.
She toed at the rocks, gave the window another look, and then turned back towards her parents’ house to pack.
Later, on the train home, Maria saw a notification on her Facebook app – a friend request from Lizzie. She took a breath before deleting the message. No more.