This story is by Lori Fogle and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Rae dabbed at her bleeding wrist with a dampened towel and wondered not for the first time, why she was friends with Leigh. Maybe because Leigh was the only friend she’d ever had. But the fight that started with a bitter tirade about how Rae would never make it on her own had turned physical.
This was why she’d decided to pack her few belongings and move on. To try to escape how Leigh made her feel. She didn’t have time to deal with any of Leigh’s antics. She rushed to mop up drops of blood trailing from the front door across the hardwood hallway to the bathroom.
“You’ve got to go. My parents will be here soon,” said Rae.
In the past 10 years, her parents hadn’t visited her at this house once. It was no surprise really. They’d all but disowned her when she decided to move out of her childhood home at the encouragement of Leigh– a friend they’d never met.
“You have to let me meet them. I’ve been your friend forever,” said Leigh, out of breath after their fight. She clasped Rae’s shoulders, demanding her attention.
Rae knew her friend was desperate to get back in her good graces. She would always start a fight and then when it was over, she would cry and plead with Rae– claiming she couldn’t live without her.
But Rae was leaving all this behind for a new life without Leigh– at least that’s what she’d been telling herself for the last few weeks but wasn’t sure she’d be able to follow through. She’d tried so many times in the past and then went back to listening to Leigh.
Rae quickly secured gauze to her wrist and pushed Leigh towards the door. “We’ll talk later.”
Ding Dong. The doorbell echoed through the empty house, announcing the arrival of her parents– there to shuttle her off to a new life. All she had to do now was find the courage to shut Leigh out.
Rae’s parents didn’t say much as they methodically loaded boxes into their big, black truck. They finally stopped long enough for her mother to fire a question at her. “Is Leigh going to follow you to Greenville?”
Rae’s mother had never met Leigh, but hated her because she’d taken the Rae she’d known away. “I hope you didn’t tell her where you’re moving to,” she said.
“Mother, you’re being dramatic. Friendships end all the time.” But she couldn’t look her mom in the eye because truthfully, she was scared about how Leigh would react. And was worried things would feel “off” without Leigh around. For the last decade she’d been whatever Leigh wanted her to be, whatever she said she was.
Over the next week Rae got settled into her new place. She’d saved one box, sagging to the side from the weight, for last. She curled into a cross-legged pose on her hand-me-down plaid couch, the box full of papers torn from spiral notebooks in front of her. She pulled out a sheet cramped with slanted writing and read the first line–
You’re so ugly. Especially when you cry. Your nose gets red and your mascara smears.
She couldn’t deny that Leigh had always been honest with her.
And no one feels sorry for you. You deserve what you get.
Rae agreed that she had made a lot of mistakes and probably deserved the way her life had turned out.
She tossed the piece of paper on the cushion next to her and slid another one out of the box.
You wonder why you can’t get a boyfriend? Seriously, how did you let yourself get so fat? Maybe if you had some damn willpower, a guy might be interested
Rae gathered up the sheets of notepaper and dumped them back in the box. Blowing out a deep breath, she lugged it into the bedroom and dropped it in the closet with a thunk. As much as Rae believed the words Leigh had written, she didn’t want them to define who she was becoming.
That night, she went to bed with positive thoughts inching into her mind. She wanted to be happy and hoped the sun shining in her window the next morning was a good omen. She was actually excited to go to her job.
That’s when she heard a grating voice– “Get up! You aren’t out of bed yet? You are so lazy.” It was Leigh.
“I want a fresh start. Please let me have that,” said Rae closing her eyes in an attempt to gather her patience. She stretched and went to the bathroom to wash her face and brush her teeth. “By the way, how did you get in here?”
Leigh ignored her. “Why are you going to this new job? They could train a monkey to do it. What’s there to be proud of?”
Rae felt a surge of strength from some unknown source, “I want you to leave, Leigh.”
“I’m only trying to help you! If I left, you wouldn’t know what to do or how to act. There IS no you without me!” she said, her face turning chili pepper red.
“I haven’t accomplished anything in my life BECAUSE of you.”
“You weren’t going to accomplish anything anyway,” said Leigh. She was standing there, seemingly contemplating her next move when her fist shot forward and smashed the mirror. Shards of glass crumbled into the sink. “You aren’t getting rid of me that easily.”
“Why are you so adamant about destroying me?” Rae asked, tears springing to her eyes.
Leigh’s answer was to produce a plastic Coke bottle with a clear liquid inside. She smacked it down on the counter– “Here, this usually makes you feel better.”
Buzzz. Buzzz. Rae’s phone rattled across the dresser as it rang. It startled Leigh and she looked away just long enough for Rae shove her hard and grab the phone. “Mom! Leigh is trying to hurt me!”
But Leigh snatched the phone and tossed it aside, pushing the drink towards Rae with her other hand. Rae couldn’t stop herself from grabbing the bottle and sucking the contents down.
Rae was slumped next to the dresser when her mother showed up 30 minutes later. “What in God’s name is going on here, Rae? Where’s Leigh?”
She grabbed her mother’s outstretched hand, wobbling as she stood. “She’s gone for now, but she’ll never leave me alone. And it’s all my fault– I wanted her as a friend, needed her to get me through my teen years. But I can’t be happy with her clinging to me. I have to get rid of her.”
“What do you mean ‘get rid of her’? I know we haven’t seen eye to eye when it comes to Leigh; the girl is a monster, in my opinion, but you can’t do anything crazy! Call the cops. Have the girl sent to jail.”
“No matter how hard I try, she always comes back around.”
“Then Rae, invite her over tonight; I’ll show up and we’ll explain things to her together. How does that sound?”
Rae agreed with her mother to get her to leave, but she knew the night would not end well. Her mind was much clearer than it had ever been. She knew what she had to do.
It was ironic that she walked with such confidence now as she strode down the hall and peered around the wall. Leigh was sitting on the couch, just as Rae had expected. She always seemed to be there, just around the corner waiting to pounce.
She sat with her ankles crossed, a smug smirk on her face. Her voice almost a snarl and her mouth twisted into a grimace, she said – “You know there’s only one way to get rid of me…”
She extended her arm and splayed her fingers. Little white pills were cupped in her hand. She opened and closed her fist, taunting Rae. Leigh had told her many times in the past that the only way she would disappear forever was if Rae killed herself. And she was finally going to do it.
Just then, Rae glanced out the window to see her mother jogging back up to the apartment. Before Rae could duck into the bedroom, her mother barged in.
“Rae, what are you doing?” She frowned at her daughter who was standing stock-still, eyes flitting back and forth to the couch.
“Mom, it’s time you met Leigh,” said Rae and gestured towards the couch.
Her mother frowned. “Ok where is she? There’s no one here, Rae.”
“What do mean?”
“Rae, there is no one sitting on that couch. What is going on with you?”
Rae put her head in her hands and pressed hard into her temples. She looked from one side of the room to the other, behind and to the side of the couch. Wait. What? She couldn’t have imagined it. Leigh was real. Right?