I found myself at her house again.
It was so devoid of all life, and it was strange. The windows were dark and the car had left dark marks on the driveway. The building was usually bustling with life and warmth and now everything Eleanor about it was gone. Even her purple curtains had been ripped from the window and I could see straight into the empty room.
I wandered around the property, my feet squishing the grass. This backyard was all too familiar to me. Eleanor and I had carved our initials into the side of the house once. They were still there. Her parents had never noticed.
There was a ladder leaning on the side of the house, hidden by a large blanket of vines. I grabbed it and yanked it out. Tendrils of plants broke and fell to the ground. I stepped back and set it against the house so the top of the ladder was close to a low part of the roof. I scaled the ladder quickly, my shoes fitting into the grooves worn into the ladder from years of use. I hooked my leg up onto the roof and pulled myself up.
Eleanor and I hid up here when the world was too crazy. I balanced on the highest point of the roof and walked over to a flat plane. I sat there, cross-legged, in the middle of it. Usually, when we came up here, we could hear the house bustling below us. Her sister and her parents were loud people. But the house was quiet now. It'd been quiet for almost three weeks.
I started pacing. I wound around in circles in the small square plane of flat roof. Frustrated, I dug my fingers into my scalp and tugged on strands of dark hair. I was upset. Eleanor was gone. Poof. She disappeared off the face of my earth. She was my best friend - so I have the right to be upset.
Minutes and minutes later, I climbed back down the ladder and walked numbly out to the sidewalk. I focused on putting one foot in front of the other and listening to the sound of my soles hitting the cement. My fingers were flexing in and out of fists. I stalked into my front door, the smell of bread baking in the oven wafting past my nose.
"Kloette!" My brother exclaimed at my entrance. I entered the kitchen to see him in his infamous blue-and-white striped apron, his hands on his hips and a big smile on his face. "Glad to see you're back. My bread's almost done and I need you to taste it."
"Mark," I began, his contagious grin spreading to me. "If you got flour on the ceiling like last time, I'm going to hurt you."
Mark bit his tongue between his teeth. "Don't look up then." He chuckled and jumped slightly when the oven went off. Mark pulled his outrageously ugly oven mitts (they had chickens on them) and pulled a pan of fresh bread out of the oven. It smelled amazing and my face must've shown it because Mark slammed his oven mitts onto the counter triumphantly.
"It smells delicious, doesn't it!" He yelled. I cringed slightly.
"Don't yell, Mark," I commented, dropping my purse on the floor near the door and walking closer to his creation. He put a hand on my arm and pulled me back.
"It just got out of the oven, smart one." Mark snarked playfully. "Touch it and you'll burn yourself."
"Have you no sense of adventure?" I retorted, my hands finding the island behind me and hopping up on it. Mark shook his head distastefully and went back to another bowl of dough. I swung my legs back and forth, watching him maneuver around the kitchen expertly.
"Hey, Mark?" I asked, tilting my head slightly to the side.
"Hmm?" He replied absently, his head clearly wrapped up in his next batch of pumpkin bread.
"Where do you think Eleanor went?" I could feel him sag from several feet away. I knew he loved Eleanor too - I was always suspicious of them hooking up (they both always denied it).
Mark sighed, wiped his hands on his apron, and turned around to face me. "I don't know, Kloe. It's not like her to do this. You and I both know that. I just hope that she's happy wherever she is."
I pushed off the table, hitting the floor loudly. Sudden anger rushed through me and I was filled with boiling adrenaline. "Stop it. You're making it sound like she's dead. She's not dead."
"Kloette, you have-" Mark began.
"She's. Not. Dead." I growled. "I shouldn't have to think that my best friend might be dead. You shouldn't say that. Shut up."
Mark rubbed the side of his face, dragging his fingers along his stubble. "Sorry. Forget I said anything."
I stalked away from the kitchen, my throat tight with the high end of all my anger. Mark called out my name behind me, but I ignored him. Collapsing on my bed, I released a breath I hadn't noticed I was holding. I covered my face with my hands, digging my fingernails slightly into my skin.
Eleanor, Eleanor, Eleanor. You don't disappear. You never have. So why would you now?
Maybe I was obsessing too much. She was probably fine. She was probably chilling on the beach somewhere, perfecting her tan and painting her nails. But maybe she wasn't.
I was restless. I wanted to move and I wanted to find her. So, I grabbed my phone and my earbuds. Putting them in my ears, I put on some old album and cranked up the volume so I couldn't hear the sounds of Mark baking. Then, as quietly as I could with the thumping in my ears, I slipped out of the house and onto the street. And I walked away from the house.
John showed up at my doorstep the next morning. He was carrying a small bag and a wide grin.
"Oh God, what do you have?" I sighed, letting him in and ushering him up to my room. John gently tossed the bag onto my bed and threw himself into the wheely chair at my desk.
"Can I just not show up to my friend's house with a mysterious bag and expect to be welcomed with open arms?" John grinned sarcastically, his knee bouncing. I crossed my arms and raised an eyebrow, making him sigh and shake his head. "My mom made an extra sweater. It's your's now."
I reached into the bag and pulled out a thick, dark pink sweater with a fuzzy white collar. It was slightly scratchy under my fingers. "Uh..." My lips curled slightly, trying to form nice words. "It's... unique."
"Don't worry about being mean." John laughed. "My siblings and I all got one of the same beautiful quality."
I rolled my eyes and tossed the sweater into my closet. Plopping onto the bed, I crossed my legs and lazily looked over at John. He tapped his fingers on the arm of my chair, spinning in slow circles.
"There's a party going on at the Ridgetop tomorrow night. You should come." He said. The silence that followed his request was practically deafening.
Eleanor had shown me the Ridgetop. It was her favorite spot when she was stressed, other than the roof.
I pursed my lips. "I don't think I'll go."
"C'mon, Kloe." John pleaded. "Eleanor's been gone for almost two months. You need to move on instead of moping about here and at her house. If she doesn't come back from wherever she is, then you can't spend the rest of your life wishing."
"Shut up, John," I growled. He didn't know Eleanor like I did. They were close, but clearly not close enough. "I'm not going to the Ridgetop with you."
"Yes, you are." John hummed certainly. He stood up and grabbed his bag. "I'll be here at seven tomorrow. Have your wardrobe and makeup ready so we can get you dolled up for the party."
"John, seriously-" He cut me off by leaving and shutting the door behind him. I cursed under my breath and covered my face with a pillow.
If John had his way, I would be going to that party. If I had my way, his little curly ponytail would be ripped right off his freckled head. I am not going to the Ridgetop. Not without Eleanor.