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  • Writer's pictureCathryn Grant

Novel Excerpt: Best Friends Forever


November 12, 2010

The room was utterly dark. She liked it that way, for now. Even though her brain felt as if it were sloshing around inside her skull, taking wild dips, skidding sideways, she’d never felt so loved and content in her life. Her eyes were closed, her body still warm from the half-naked boy who had lain on top of her a few minutes ago. Or was it longer? An hour? The night before? Was it a dream?

Her sense of time had dissolved. But that didn’t bother her either because the bliss was incredible. She still felt him inside her, although she knew that was a blur of memory and imagination, not an actual physical sensation.

Was this what it was like to be drunk, or was it something else? Until tonight, she’d never had more than a single beer or a few sips of champagne. Other kids partied, but she thought it was stupid to choose to deaden your own brain. She liked thinking about things. She liked the intricacies of her mind and her sharp, clear awareness of life.

She wasn’t sure how many Jell-O shots she’d eaten. They were so good—like eating candy. At some point she drank a plastic cup filled with soda that might have had alcohol in it. No one had ever told her that alcohol made you feel calm and loved, at peace with the world. As if no one could ever hurt you again.

A wave of nausea passed through her. She willed it away, remembering the feel of his lips and the way he’d looked directly into her eyes the entire time they were making love, as if he could see through the lenses into her soul. As if she were the only woman in the world. As if she’d been made for him. She sighed and felt a smile ease across her face.

He was so cute and charming. The most charming boy she’d ever known. He was funny and, best of all, smart. He knew what he was doing with her body, and he’d made her feel things she would never be able to describe. No wonder people went crazy over sex. Why on earth had she waited so long to try it? She laughed softly, her voice sounding like it belonged to someone else.

She wasn’t sure where he was right now. He’d gotten up and left the room, maybe. Had he? She’d drifted to sleep or even passed out. She couldn’t remember. He would come back soon.

The door opened. See! She’d thought it, and he appeared. Just like that. Magic. She smiled, her eyes still closed. The nausea pushed against her, demanding she pay attention.

After a few moments of silence, she tried to ask him to lie beside her, but she couldn’t seem to make the words come out. She felt like she was falling asleep, but different. That sense of absolute bliss was growing, filling every crevice inside her body, making it seem as if each cell had a life of its own, thrilled with its own existence, bathed in an unimaginable awareness of love.

Making out the shape of the other person in the darkness was impossible. It wasn’t him after all because there was a faint scent of weed. He never smoked. He liked to drink, but not go too crazy, he’d said. He never wanted to pass out or forget what he’d done. That made her feel secure, as if he wasn’t with her simply because they were drunk.

She tried speaking again, wanting to ask who was standing near the foot of the bed. Why wouldn’t her tongue work? Or was the problem her vocal cords?

She was lying on the bed where everyone had left their coats and purses. She was surrounded, almost buried in jackets and sweatshirts. She still couldn’t speak, and now the nausea had grown more intense. She was pretty sure that if she opened her mouth even a fraction of an inch, her dinner and all those Jell-O shots would bathe her face, soak her hair, and splatter across other people’s belongings. She imagined the disgust that would come her way as members of the fraternity and the kids from her dorm complained that she’d spewed all over their nice wool coats and leather purses.

The visitor stood beside her now. She felt their weight against the side of the mattress. The heat of the coats was smothering her, making her skin feel like it was dissolving. Another coat was tossed over her upper body, the feather-stuffed nylon cool on her skin.

“Help me. Please. I can’t…”

Her silent companion, impossible in the dark to tell if it was male or female, pulled another coat across her body. Too hot. The stuff that had roiled in her stomach rushed up her esophagus without warning, her stomach heaving before thrusting its contents out into the previously sweet-smelling air. She gagged and coughed hard. Vomit burned her throat. “Help me. Please help me. I…”

She couldn’t breathe. Why couldn’t she breathe? She tried to cry, but nothing came out. Some of the vomit had rushed into her lungs, where the burning was so intense that she thought it might tear a hole in the fragile tissue. It was the most awful feeling ever—her mind still blissfully happy as her body screamed with agony. Her arms and legs trembled. Her stomach twisted violently, trying to expel more. She needed to sit up or turn onto her side. She tried to push herself up, but her hands slipped on soft fabric, and she wasn’t able to lift even her head off the pillow.

It felt as if there wasn’t enough room for oxygen in her lungs. She coughed, a hard stinging attack. Her mouth opened wide, trying to get air, but her lungs were tight and on fire with the presence of thick liquid that shouldn’t be there.

Why wouldn’t they help her? Why weren’t they helping her sit up, moving the coats, speaking to her? They should be telling her it would be alright. But it wasn’t. Something was wrong. How could they just stand there?

Was she dying? Was this what it felt like? This strange ecstasy and blissful unconcern blended with absolute physical torment? She was dying. She was sure of it now. There was no air in her lungs, and she was so unbearably hot. She’d never been this hot in her life.

Gagging, unable to grasp even a wisp of air, she felt her thoughts dissolving. Her head seemed to sink even deeper into the pillow. And then she felt nothing.

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