The sign on the marquee at the Loma Theater read, “The Fog, starring Adrienne Barbeau.” My best friend Becky and I thought it would be the perfect movie to see on Halloween since our parents told us that at fourteen, we were too old for trick-or-treating.
After what happened at that movie, I wish I’d just stayed home with Mom and handed out candy to the kids in the neighborhood. But you know what they say about hindsight.
Of course Tammy wanted to come with us; she moved to town the year before, after her parents’ divorce, and was the obnoxious third wheel in our friendship.
Tammy could be fun, but everything was a game to her, including her relationship with me and Becky. She had this dark side, and she used it to fuck with our heads. It was petty, teenage girl bullshit, for sure, but it was enough to cause tension between Becky and me.
And Tammy finally won her sick game — however, she paid dearly for it. But so did Becky, and in a way I did too. I just never let myself think about it; I refused to let it ruin me. But Becky . . . she wasn’t so lucky.
On the sixteenth anniversary of Tammy’s death, I get a call from Becky’s mother. “Got your number from your mom,” she said matter-of-factly. Then in that same casual tone she said, “Becky’s dead. OD’d in some hotel in Vegas.” There was no emotion in her voice, but she’d been expecting something like this to happen since Becky was fifteen.
“Becky left a note . . .” she continued, and I heard the first hint of sadness in the woman’s voice. “She said she was sorry, do you know why?”
Sure I knew why, but I couldn’t tell her. Becky and I decided a long time ago that we would never tell a soul what we did.
I came home for the funeral. It was strange being back after so long. My folks didn’t live there any longer, so this was the first time since college that I’d returned.
When I saw Becky’s mother again, the memories of that night came flooding back, and I almost lost it. Part of me wanted to tell her everything, to explain why her daughter drifted, why she ended up dead with a needle in her arm in some stranger’s hotel room.
But when you’ve held on to a secret as long as I have, it becomes a part of you, something that you can’t let go, even if you wanted to.
“What happened to you two?” Becky’s mom asked after the funeral. “You were so close at one time, then you just stopped coming around.”
I shrugged. “Becky wanted something different than I did.” That wasn’t a lie, it just wasn’t the whole truth. Becky wanted to come clean. I didn’t.
Her mom nodded. She was staring off into the distance, her eyes empty, devoid of anything. “She made her choice,” the woman said. “I don’t blame you for pulling away. She was a hard kid to love.”
I stayed for a few days, visiting old friends who were still in the area. I almost felt normal again, almost felt as if it none of it ever happened; as if Becky was still living on Cherry Lane, and at any moment she would ride up the street on her purple Schwinn.
On my last day there, I took a walk downtown, visiting all the places that Becky and I used to go. It wasn’t surprising when I ended up standing in front of the old Loma Theater.
It closed down a few years after Tammy died. Mr. Abelson’s family owned it for fifty years, but couldn’t compete with the multiplex in the mall. He sold it to the city when I was in high school, but nothing was ever done with it. It stood in that same condition all those years, a constant reminder to both Becky and myself of the day that changed us forever.
We bought tickets for The Fog earlier in the day — and got balcony seats because hardly anyone ever sat up there.
Becky seemed on edge the whole time. “Did I do something?” I asked her.
She shook her head, but I knew something was wrong.
Tammy was at the theater when we arrived, shoving popcorn and M&Ms into her mouth. She was her normally abrasive self, and kept looking at Becky, then me, shaking her head and chuckling.
Finally Becky said, “Cut it out, Tammy.”
Tammy laughed. “What’s with you, Becks? You upset about yesterday?”
Becky’s face tightened and she said, “Shut up, Tammy!”
“No,” Tammy said, “I think ol’ what’s-her-face here needs to know exactly what you think about her.”
Tammy continued, looking directly at me while she spoke. “Becks thinks you’re a know-it-all pain in the ass, she’s just too nice to tell you.”
Becky stared straight ahead. She couldn’t even look at me. This is what Tammy wanted, and she was enjoying herself immensely.
Tears welled up in my eyes, and I remember Tammy laughing and pointing at me. “Look, Becks, she’s crying.”
But Becky wasn’t laughing, “Aww, come on you two, I’m just having some fun,” Tammy said.
She was wearing this smug smile, and I remember wanting to slap it right off her fucking face.
Tammy was sitting on the railing, her legs propped up on the seat between me and Becky. “You are a fucking drag, Ava,” she said to me. “I never liked you, and now Becky doesn’t either.”
It was quiet in the theater, and Mr. Abelson, who let us in early, was in his office preparing for the first show of the evening.
“Look, Ava, sometimes friends grow apart. No big deal; you can hang with those nerds you study with at lunch. Becks and I will be just fine without you.”
Looking back, we should’ve just told Tammy to fuck off. We should’ve left her in that balcony and sat somewhere else. But when you’re fourteen and your hormones are raging, it’s hard to think clearly. All you know is some kid is fucking with the only real friend you ever had, and your teenage brain is trying to find any way to stop them. Becky had been my friend since before we could walk and talk. Now that was threatened by a girl who thought it was fun to pit us against each other.
Becky and I exchanged glances. The smile Tammy had been wearing the entire time disappeared.
We spoke with our eyes, and when Becky nodded, I knew just what she meant.
Tammy tried to scream, but Becky clamped a hand over her mouth, and we pushed her over the railing. I’ll never forget the terrified look on Tammy’s face as she fell back, trying to grab anything in order to save herself.
The sound of Tammy’s body hitting the chairs below, the crack of her back, seemed loud enough to alert Mr. Abelson. Becky and I quietly stared down at Tammy’s broken body, took stock of her empty eyes staring accusingly up at us.
We told police that Tammy was fooling around on the railing and fell. No one doubted us; we were the good girls, Tammy was the problem child.
“She’s been nothing but trouble since the day she was born,” Tammy’s mother said.
We told ourselves that what we did was in order to save our friendship, but it did the exact opposite. Becky and I never talked about what happened, and after that night we just drifted apart.
Neither one of us ever officially ended our friendship, but it was effectively over on the night we killed Tammy.
What happened to Tammy was all over school the next week, and for months that was all anyone talked about. Tammy didn’t have many friends. There was no one grieving her loss; she was simply the subject of gossip and rumors.
But when people began to speculate that maybe Tammy’s death was no accident, that’s when Becky completely fell apart. She turned to alcohol to help her forget, and drugs to numb the pain.
I went inward, focused on school and avoided the stares of classmates who thought Becky and I were murderers.
The last time I talked with Becky, she showed up at my house a few days before I went away to college.
“Becky wants to see you,” my mother said worriedly. “She looks awful. Want me to send her away?”
“No, I’ll be all right.”
Reluctantly my mother left us alone on the back patio.
Becky was so jittery she couldn’t sit still. Her left leg kept bopping up and down. She stared at me with these wide, terrified eyes. Her hair was matted to her scalp, the clothes she wore were stained and torn, and the smell that emanated from her told me she hadn’t showered in quite some time.
“Why are you here, Becky?” I said coolly, surprising myself. In reality, part of me wanted to say I was sorry I hadn’t been there for her. But that would mean bringing up what we did, and I still wasn’t ready to do that. So I sat still, gripping the chair so I wouldn’t go to Becky and hug her.
“I saw her,” Becky said “I saw Tammy — she’s been following me. I don’t know why she’s here now. Have you seen her?”
“Tammy died in that fall, Becky.” I said it so angrily that it startled her, but she knew I was lying. She knew I had seen Tammy as well. The hurt and pain in her eyes is something I’ll live with forever.
I was still looking through the window of the Loma Theater when I saw her reflection behind me. I wasn’t surprised.
“Hello, Tammy,” I said to the Tammy thing that stood silently staring at me. She looked exactly as she had on the day she died.
I let Becky carry our burden alone for all these years. Now the burden of Tammy fell onto me.
I turned and started walking toward my hotel room. “Check out is at eleven,” I said to the ghostly figure, who followed slowly behind me.