BFF in a Box
© Copyright 2016 Jessica West (West1Jess)
All rights reserved. This story or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a review.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
The alarm clock buzzed at 6 a.m. but I was ready for it, my fingertips resting on the snooze button pressed down in silent demand for just nine more minutes. Usually, I drift back off right before the damn thing goes off again. Not today. Today was different. A Monday like every other, but not. I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I watched the red glowing numbers count up the minutes to 6:08.
I pictured myself tossing off the covers, jumping out of bed, ripping the clock off my nightstand, jerking the cord out of its socket, and throwing the damn thing as hard as I could at the dresser across the room. I envisioned looking around for anything I could pick up and bash against … I don’t know, something else hard. I wanted to break something.
My husband snorted and jerked in his sleep as though he could sense my fury as I lay there and watched that red eight turn to a nine. The buzzer sounded again and I slid the switch to off as forcefully as I could. The act wasn’t nearly as satisfying as I needed it to be. I usually hit the snooze button at least three times, actually getting out of bed at 6:27. But today was different. Even though it wasn’t.
For a few minutes in the bathroom, my few moments of peace every morning, I stared down at the sink and watched my tears disappear into the flowing water as they dripped from my face. I’d sport puffy, red eyes today, but I didn’t care. When that moment of overwhelming grief passed, I washed my face with a wet cloth, brushed my teeth, and dressed.
The rest of the morning passed in a blur.
6:55—Wake up Claire, get her in the shower, set her clothes out on the dressing table across from the toilet.
7:15—Breakfast is ready. “Claire, it’s time to get out. Get dressed. You’ve got ten minutes.”
7:30—Start the car, warm it up. Almost time to go.
7:40—“Mom, I can’t find my shoes.” “They’re in your closet, on the shoe rack.” “No, they aren’t.” “Go look, I put them there last night before you went to bed.” The shoes are right where I said they’d be.
7:50—Drop Claire off at school and come back home. I’ve got work to do. It’s Monday, same as every other Monday.
8:00—Home again. Greg kisses me as I walk through the door, says, “Don’t forget to check the mail, my package should be in today,” and leaves for work.
First things first: Facebook. 23 notifications and 2 messages. None from her, though. I knew there wouldn’t be anything from her. But I looked for something nonetheless. I didn’t have the energy to go through the notifications or read the messages. I clicked on her name in the chat bar and brought up our last conversation.
Morning, sunshine! I hope you’re ready to pin some serious ass today!
Ha! Serial pinners, Kay and I. Between the two of us, our shared Pinterest board had accumulated 8,000 followers. “The Crafty Bitches” was my idea. She didn’t use words like that, but I was working on corrupting her. And she’d joyfully played along. She’d always laughed at my jokes.
I clicked the bookmark on my browser and opened up our board.
A bunch of notifications there, too. I just couldn’t bring myself to click that red dot and sift through to see which of our pins from the day before yesterday got pinned. There were a few messages, too. Probably well-meaning, fellow “crafty bitches” who wanted to know why we didn’t pin anything yesterday. If they knew, they’d understand, but was it really for me to tell them—to tell anyone—what had happened to her?
No, I don’t think so. Maybe tomorrow, when I could find the words to tell them what had happened to me. I could do that, put it that way, tomorrow. But not today.
Usually, I’d have two tabs open, Facebook and Pinterest, and Kay and I would chat about a theme for the day. Then we’d begin the task of scouring the internet for fun crafts projects to pin to our board. Three for each of us was the minimum. And a funny meme to give our board that extra edge of fun.
I couldn’t even google anything. What would I type into the search bar?
how to say goodbye to my BFF in a box?
Only 8:15 and the tears started again.
1:12 p.m. I hadn’t slept well last night and I was feeling it. Almost two hours before I had to pick Claire up from school. I had time for a nap, so I set an alarm on my phone to wake me at 2:30. That’d give me 30 minutes to wake up and wash my face before I left.
I took the scrunchy out of my hair and put it on the wood table to the right of my recliner, then lay back and turn my head just so to the left. I’d dozed on this chair many times. I knew where that magic spot was. Today, though, it eluded me. So I stretched out on the sofa.
Gotta check the mail today, Greg’s package should be in.
Turned over, onto my back. My left side. My right.
I could do a funeral theme today. How to make your own bouquets. How to write a meaningful eulogy. And find a picture of a beautifully carved headstone instead of something funny. They’d forgive me for this lapse in humor. They’d allow me one day to grieve. They’d understand, right?
Well, it was an idea anyway. At 1:30, I was clearly not going to sleep even though I was exhausted, so I grabbed my laptop, settled back into the recliner, and got to work.
how to make your own funeral flower arrangements returned 208,000 results, video tutorials at the top. All I could do is stare at the screen.
I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to share my grief. Not yet. People might have asked what happened to her if I told them she was no longer with us. And I couldn’t go into that yet, if ever. Certainly not with 8,000 random strangers.
So I clicked the bookmark to the front page of the internet instead. Reddit was always good for some mind-numbing fun. Hell, that was where I got most of my funny pins. Kay had never been too big on that, though. To be fair, redditors could be really intimidating for anyone who didn’t understand them. Not that I was in the clique. I was more of a lurker.
I clicked every blue link on the first page of /r/funny, then refreshed the page. All the links were still purple, already viewed. “I don’t know what I expected.” Heh … that guy, what was his name? Ugh, I can’t even remember the name of the show he was on. Archer, another funny character, came to mind instead. Do you want ants? Because that’s how you get ants. Kay hadn’t watched things like that, though. (Arrested Development! That was the name of it.) So every time I got the opportunity to use one of those funny lines, she’d lol.
Back to Facebook just to see her face again. Red, curly hair. Pale skin. Freckles barely visible beneath the little bit of makeup she’d worn for that picture. Neither one of us was particularly fond of makeup.
Huh … there was an idea. I could pin some makeup tutorials. We’d done some cosplay stuff before, so why not? I clicked her name to bring up the chat box and pitch her my idea.
It popped up and my last message glared at me like, “What? Seriously, who the fuck are you about to type to?” No check mark under my last message. She hadn’t seen it before she died.
Oh, the tears again. Damn it.
I read the words through blurry vision, angrily wiping away the tears that tried to hide it.
Morning, sunshine! I hope you’re ready to pin some serious ass today!
We didn’t kick ass, we ‘pinned’ ass. Could I do it without her, though? Maybe I should just let the board go. Let it die with her. She’d hate that, though.
I typed out a new message. It didn’t matter that she wouldn’t see it. I needed to send it anyway.
I just got an idea! How about makeup tutorials?
Hit enter and opened a new tab.
Googled makeup tutorials.
Easy eyebrow tutorial looked promising. Seven steps, no text. Decent quality picture. End result looked nice.
Hooded eyes was another good one. Pinned.
Ooh! There was one rocking the Egyptian eye look. Pinned.
And for the funny meme…
I just googled funny meme, filtered for images, and grabbed one.
Ha! That angry chef. What was his name? I don’t know, the one who said fuck a lot. I think he did, anyway. Neither Kay or I watched that show.
I pinned it then switched back to Facebook to tell her my latest funny real quick before she’d have a chance to see it on the board.
“Your chicken is so rubbery, Goodyear called and asked for the recipe!” Hit Enter.
Oh, God. For a moment, I’d forgotten. I actually forgot. The tears came for real this time, with big heaving sobs and gasps and snotty, snorting sniffles. I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
Shrill chimes screamed out of my phone. That had to be the most annoying alarm sound ever. I turned it off, closed my laptop, and went to the bathroom to pull myself together. I had to get Claire from school in thirty minutes.
I was a total mess. I should have looked up a tutorial on applying makeup to hide crying. But if I put on makeup, I really would make a mess the next time it hit me that Kay was gone. A few more tears stung my eyes, my lips quivered. I took a deep breath. It’s okay. It’s going to be okay. Not now, and not for a long time, but I’d lost loved ones before. Eventually, I would smile again.
I won’t ever forget again, though. The pain of losing Kay struck with a vengeance when coupled with the guilt of that one brief, happy moment. I didn’t want that to happen again.
I cleaned up my face as best I could, but there was no two ways around it: I looked like a train wreck. But the numbness of acceptance settled in again.
I picked up Claire and she was quiet.
Helped with homework. Reviewed and signed last week’s test papers. Marked the calendar for this week’s tests and events. Wrote a check for lunch money, today was the fifteenth. Put six dollars in an envelope for the play on Thursday. Why Thursday? No idea, but whatever. Watched as Claire put her things back in order and closed her book sack. All by herself.
She seemed to know I’m not functioning at full capacity. Claire has always been a blessing, such a good child. Even so, I’d usually put away her school supplies for her. Was she really doing this to help me or was five an age where kids naturally become more independent? I didn’t know for sure until she stood up and hugged me. She didn’t say one word, just held me for a moment as tears filled my eyes once again.
“I’m gonna go play, Mommy.”
I managed a weak, “Okay,” as she left the room.
I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was only 4 p.m. A bit early to start supper, but I just had to keep busy or I’d be a blubbering mess again soon.
I dried my face with my sleeve and opened the fridge. Chicken, beef, or pork? I was out of brown sugar, so no pork chops tonight. Did I have roux? Yes, I did. So gumbo or beef stew? Text Greg.
gumbo or beef stew for supper
—both sound good
well you’re no help
—heh you knew that before you texted
—love you baby
yeah yeah you just want to eat tonight
I got something you can eat 😛
—damn, woman! Im at work!!! i cant walk around like this
lol love you crazy ass
—love you too
Felt good, for just a moment, to pretend today was like any other day. I didn’t forget this time, and the pain was like a sore muscle. It hurt, no doubt about it. But it didn’t cut with the same sharp edge it had when I wasn’t expecting it. I was living with it now. This was how it would be from now on. I’d been here before.
See, people often described grief, specifically the death of a loved one, as a hole; a void in the heart that never healed. But that wasn’t true. It was a wound like any other, though it only existed metaphorically. Still, it was real enough.
The wound of grief will always heal, eventually. The flesh knits together, puckers up into rough line, and scabs over. Like when you have surgery that leaves behind scar tissue inside you. It’s always there. Not the same as it was when the wound was made, but it’s a new part of you. A harder, dead part of you where only soft, living tissue should be. That scar tissue is more vulnerable too. Doctors try to avoid cutting in the same location more than once because it’s worse the next time. Higher risk of infection and such. It’s the same with grief. The difference is that there’s no one to say, “We probably shouldn’t cut into this scar.” Every time you lose a loved one, that same wound gets reopened. Each time, it’s harder to recover.
6:00 p.m. on the dot, I was in the kitchen stirring the gumbo (because it’s Claire’s favorite, so, when in doubt…) when I heard a key in the door and Claire yelling, “Daddy’s home!”
A pang of grief surprised me and, for a second, my heart felt like it had burst into flames. The wound hadn’t healed yet. Not even close. I couldn’t help but wonder how my life would be if I lost Greg. How it would affect our little girl. I couldn’t imagine never again hearing that click in the lock and my happy little girl squealing a greeting that never gets old.
The tears didn’t come this time because it was easy to assure myself that Greg was fine. Claire was fine. Supper was ready, and I needed to fix the bowls and drinks. Everything was going to be okay.
If he noticed anything amiss, he didn’t say anything. He knew about Kay. I’d called him yesterday morning as soon as I found out. I didn’t cry yesterday. I guess I was still in shock. But he was quiet when he came home from work. He actually cooked last night. Like Claire, it’s like he just knew I needed a moment. Or quite a few of them.
He cooked and cleaned up after supper last night, got Claire washed up and ready for bed, and put on a movie. I don’t even remember which one. When we went to bed, he didn’t hold me like they do in cheesy romance movies when the leading actress hits her lowest point. It was like he knew that wasn’t quite what I needed. I needed distance for my scattered, tumbling thoughts to organize.
Those thoughts were in order today, but my mind was still muddy. I just went through the motions today, and I knew it. I could be doing so much better for my family. Was I being selfish? Guilt hung in the silence over the dinner table as we ate our gumbo. Greg and Claire knew I was hurting, and it was affecting them. I needed to work this out. Out loud. I didn’t want my family walking on eggshells around me.
I needed to face this.
“Kay’s funeral will be held Wednesday.”
His question surprised me.
“Uh, yeah. Where else?”
He just shrugged, stuffing a bite of chicken into his mouth. “This is really good.”
I nodded my thanks, watching the steam rise from my bowl. “Claire doesn’t have any tests that day, so I was thinking—”
“You’re not seriously going to bring our child to the funeral of someone we didn’t even know?”
I had to work hard to keep the anger down. To be fair, she and Greg didn’t know Kay. And Claire was only five. Too young to introduce a concept like death. Finality.
“Of course not, Greg. If you’d let me finish…” I paused to make sure he got the message. “I was thinking I could get your mom to come with me and maybe bring her to a store or restaurant nearby while I pay my last respects.”
He was staring at me like I’d lost my mind.
“You want her to miss a day of school for this?”
“We can talk about ‘this’ later. But she’s only missed two days so far and both of those were excused. She won’t fall behind or miss anything.”
His dark eyebrows drew down low. “You’ve never even met this woman. You don’t really know her.”
That stung. My face heated up and tears sprang into my eyes. “So… what? I don’t have any right to grieve?” I’d lost my appetite and I was close to losing my temper too. We wouldn’t fight in front of Claire, though.
He backed off, he knew I was right on the line.
I emptied my bowl and washed the dishes, except for theirs. By the time I was done, Claire had just finished and cleared her plate too. By herself. She brought me her dishes.
“Here you go, Mommy.”
“Thanks, doodle-bug. I’m so proud of you. You’re getting so big.”
She just gave me this huge grin and left the kitchen skipping.
Greg brought his dishes to the sink as well, but set them on the counter. He’d wash his own tonight. He’d done that sometimes. Especially when I was mad. It was like his little thing to do to appease the dragon.
I reached for his dishes. “I’ll get them, Greg.” For whatever reason, it was easier to say things when my hands were busy and I could stare at soapy water.
“Look, I’m not trying to argue with you but you’ve got to understand, for the past two years, Kay and I have not gone one single day without speaking to each other. She’s my BFF in a ‘Box’.” I let out chuckle at that, or the best impression of one I could muster in that moment. “I need this. And I need you to just go with it, even if you don’t understand. It’s not a bad thing, me going to her funeral. So don’t bitch about it. Okay?” I could meet his gaze now that I was done speaking.
“I’m an ass.” He moved behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist. “I knew you were torn up about this, and I should have assumed you would want to go to the funeral. I don’t know why I didn’t. Really. It’s just … I don’t know. I guess I was just freaked out about Claire going to a funeral and couldn’t think of anything else.”
“Well, you didn’t let me finish—”
“I know, and I’m sorry for that too. I just focused on that one thing, my baby girl at a funeral and all the implications of that, and blocked out everything else. Kay was your friend. You should be there. And I’ll be there with you too.”
The longest Monday in the history of ever had left me exhausted, but relieved in a way.
That night, after we tucked Claire into bed, Greg put on another movie and I opened my laptop to send Kay one last message:
One day we will meet, face to face, and it’ll be like the first time. I look forward to getting to know you in a whole new way. I can’t wait to see if you actually laugh out loud at my borrowed jokes. In the meantime, I’ll take care of Crafty Bitches. I’ll even do your three pins each day. I won’t ever forget you. I love you always, my dearest friend.
About Online Friendships:
Sometimes, in the quietest moments of the evening, my worst fears come round to haunt me. One such fear, I’ve recently realized, is that of losing someone I’ve come to consider one of my dearest friends (even though we’ve never met in person). I wondered, perhaps selfishly, what would happen to me if she were to die. Oh, I knew it would hurt like hell. But that wasn’t the only thing bothering me. What I really wondered was to what degree my grief would be acceptable, understandable, reasonable. That’s a horrible thing to even think.
We live in an era of technology. We rely on it. We’re connected by it.
There’s no reason to believe we’re any less human because of it.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou