Eris first met her when she was fourteen.
She doesn't remember much of that day now. It was the first day of high school, and the entire student body was giddy over the new milestone they’d reached. Everything they did back then seemed so new, so big compared to the small amount they’d experienced of the world so far, even though they liked to pretend amongst each other that they’d already lived lifetimes. People will always wish to act more maturely than they are.
Most of that day was a blur. How much is there to remember from the first day of school, anyway? Students were hustled from class to class and sat in itchy plastic seats lined in rows. They would daydream, their mind already wandering to mundane things, already wondering when they could go back home and rest in the comfort of their beds. Thinking about it now, everything felt so simple back then. So easy in a way that she would’ve never thought of as easy before.
Eris was never one for lasting friendships throughout her entire life. She’s convinced herself that she’d given them up, ignoring the pang of envy she felt whenever she’d witnessed those who could do what she deemed impossible for herself. Internally, she’d come to an understanding that for her, maintaining friendships was tiringly impossible. It was much easier to avoid the hurt that would eventually come once they grew tired of her and decided that the grass was greener on whatever side they’d set eyes on next. And the grass would always be greener because Eris is only a short, pale yellow, dying blade in what is a vast field of tall grass.
Maybe that’s why she remembers the first time she met her so well. It’s the only memory that stands out from that day and the only one Eris can still recall in perfect detail even all these years later.
She’s sitting in an awfully humid classroom, staring at some achingly boring syllabus projected on the front board, fanning her shirt in a poor attempt to dry down the thin layer of sweat starting to form underneath it. A beige bag is set down at her feet and a body dumps itself into the seat next to hers. She looks up.
“Hello! I’m Gabbie.” She smiles a smile so bright that Eris thinks she's blinded for a moment. “What’s your name?”
The rest was history, as they say.
Eris saw Gabbie nearly every day after. Their friendship grew quickly, quicker than Eris could remember a friendship growing ever before, sprouting like dandelions in the early months of spring and blossoming in bright yellow hues. They spent every waking moment they could
together, exchanging stories of no great importance and laughter of too much. Eris saw the sun in Gabbie's eyes and could only hope it would never burn out.
Gabbie lived on the other side of town in a large modern house so pristinely white that she wondered how they managed to keep it clean. It was extravagant in every way it could be, crisp and straight and beautiful. It was everything Eris’ house wasn’t and, maybe, everything she wished it could be. Bright bushes of flowers framed the pathways and the windows sparkled, reflecting rainbows onto the marble floors. Intricate chandeliers hung from the ceiling, and winding staircases lined the walls to the second floor.
Eris never met Gabbie’s parents, or anyone else in the house really, but she came to realize it was never necessary since the house already seemed to have everything they ever needed. The pantry was full of their favorite things to keep them fed, and the house never felt completely empty, with things appearing at their own convenience in a way that could only logically be explained as someone placing them there. Eris had never seen them, though.
It was here that they wasted their days, most after school when they finished their work, some when they didn’t but couldn’t bring themselves to care. They’d play games, sing songs, and talk, about anything and everything. For the first time ever, Eris felt as though someone cared for what she had to say. Her words mattered to Gabbie, and that was maybe what Eris loved most about her, because Gabbie smiled when she smiled, laughed when she laughed, and cried when she cried.
It was also here that they made a promise.
They were watching a movie, lounging on one of Gabbie's large couches, its cushions so soft that it felt as though Eris were sinking into it, becoming a part of it. The film was some cliche romantic comedy, one with a plot you could probably find a million remakes of by different studios, and Eris couldn’t help but find her mind wandering. She watched how all the main character’s friends practically revolved their lives around her, always attentive to what she had to say, even if it was just complaining about the man she saw across the street one day. Eris wondered if she could ever have that with someone, despite how unrealistic it was. To be a main character with unwavering friendships and undying support no matter the scenario. She wondered if she had that with Gabbie. Didn’t it certainly seem like it?
“What are you thinking about?”
Eris sometimes wondered if Gabbie knew her better than she knew herself.
“It’s not.” Gabbie smiled softly. “You know you can tell me anything, right?”
“It’s just…” She paused. “Would you ever leave?”
“Where would I go?”
“I don’t know.” Eris rubbed her palms against her eyes. “It’s just what everyone does.”
“Eris,” Gabbie said, the most serious she had ever seen her. She grabbed Eris’ hand and squeezed it with both of hers. “I promise, on my life, that I will stay with you no matter what. I won’t leave, not like the others.”
“Will you stay forever?”
“If it’s meant to be, then yes.” Gabbie extended her pinkie towards Eris, and they linked their fingers, gripping tight.
Eris first met Bella through a school project, and even after it was over, they never stopped talking. She had Gabbie to thank for a lot of her early friendship with Bella, feeling less afraid as she was only months ago to venture past the point of just acquaintances. Bella was a lot like Gabbie in a way, though if Gabbie was a breeze, Bella was rushing waves. Gabbie always knew the right things to say and where she needed to be when Eris needed her. Bella, however, sometimes said the wrong things and was often occupied with her own life and own thoughts, and sometimes she was a great listener, and sometimes her mind was too clouded to be. That’s what Eris liked most about Bella. She was uniquely human, but instead of annoyingly so, in a way that felt real. Bella would grab her hand, and Eris would feel the pressure of it in a way she never felt with Gabbie.
She never introduced them to each other. She wasn’t completely sure why, though now she may have a few ideas. Maybe it was because Gabbie felt so personal to Eris. It felt so strange to think about them meeting because then maybe, something would crack and the happiness she had been soaking in and building on for the past few months would all shatter. Perhaps she thought they wouldn’t get along. Regardless, after meeting Bella, Eris started to see Gabbie less and less.
It wasn’t that Bella replaced Gabbie. In Eris’ mind, nobody could replace what Gabbie brought, but eventually, she stopped showing up to class. After school, Eris would run to her
house, across the field, and into the garden, and there, Gabbie would be sitting amongst the flowers.
“Where were you today?”
“Here.” Gabbie plucked a rose from a nearby bush, careful to choose one without too many thorns, and tucked it behind Eris’ ear. “Where else?”
Gabbie had never revealed much about herself. Eris never put much thought into it before, but truly, she was a mystery hidden between light-colored clothes, long hair, and sweet eyes. What did she like to do? What was her family like? What was her favorite color? After all these months, did Eris really know Gabbie at all?
They were sitting in her garden again, coloring their drawings of bees and birds and butterflies and looking at the sky to watch the clouds pass. They never talked much these days, but Gabbie’s presence brought Eris a peacefulness she couldn’t find elsewhere. It was safe. Comfortable.
“To where?” Eris sat up, turning to look down at Gabbie, who was still lying down on her back, staring at the sky.
“Is your family moving?” Eris sounded panicked.
“No. I just need to move on.” Why was Gabbie so calm?
“From what? From me?” Eris was standing now. She could feel her eyes burning.
“From everything. From this town. From the people here.” Gabbie stood too.
“We had a promise. I thought we had a promise. You said forever.” Eris could feel the tears rolling down her chin.
“We did.” Gabbie reached out, wiping a tear as it fell from Eris’ eye. “But it’s just not meant to be. Not anymore.”
“What happened? What did I do wrong?” Eris’ chest ached and she hated the look in Gabbie's eyes, how back then they held the sun, and now were clouded over, rays of light barely peaking through.
“Nothing.” Gabbie smiled. It wasn’t a sad smile. It was an accepting one. A genuine, proud one. “You learned, Eris. You did well.”
Eris hated how light Gabbie felt when she hugged her. She hated the last time she looked back to that garden with the flower bushes, the house with the spiral staircases, the girl with the now clouded eyes but still bright smile. She hated how, the next day, when she ran and ran, there sat no crisp, white, modern house, but instead a vast field of tall grass and wildflowers and streams and no sign that a house ever stood there at all. She hated how she never saw Gabbie again, left with only the sounds of the breeze against the grass and the water against the rocks.
It’s been six years since Eris met Gabbie. Leaves have changed and fallen many times over, flowers have died and rebloomed, and the world has kept spinning.
It’s been five years since Eris lost Gabbie. In perspective, maybe five years isn’t that long at all. It’s felt like centuries.
It’s been five years of confusion and questioning, years of only Eris and her memories and no one else’s. Sometimes she sits and wonders what could’ve happened if she never met Bella at all. Would Gabbie still be here? Would she have kept her promise? Would it have been meant to be? She wonders where Gabbie is now, if anywhere at all.
It’s been five years, and after all this time Eris has started to wonder if, maybe, just maybe, Gabbie never truly existed at all.
About the Author:
Bailey Kim found her love for books at a very young age. Her father would fall asleep while
reading, she would eagerly picture how the story would unfold. Today, she is a dedicated
gymnast who devotes almost as much time training in the gym as she does in school. To
unwind, she often stays up too late reading. When she has a free moment, she enjoys writing
short stories, daydreaming and sketching. Bailey is currently a junior in high school and resides in New Jersey.