Chapter 1 - Ellie
I was dreading the start of my senior year all because of Margo, my on again, off again “best” friend since first grade. I alternated every other school year between hating her and loving her. I didn’t consciously know why I switched back and forth about how I felt so often. We’d go months of having fun together all the time, sharing a similar sense of humor and love of colorful language. Then, suddenly, she would be turning on me in one way or another. Ultimately I realized that she’s a manipulative, selfish person who is obsessively competitive about every aspect of life. By the end of our junior year, we had our final falling out.
We didn’t speak or see each other all summer, which was actually pretty great. But school starting up meant we would have to see each other, especially in the first few months of school, which is marching band season.
I hate to admit that she’s super “book smart” and does really well in school. She takes all advanced classes and constantly gets recognition from the school for her academic achievements. But I refuse to ever concede that she is in any way socially or emotionally intelligent.
She doesn't seem to have the ability to come up with her own interests. So anything I get into, she then becomes interested in. And then, frankly, she does it better. It started in fourth grade. She’d played violin for the past year, since string instruments were started in third grade. I had waited to pick an instrument because I knew I wanted to play in the band, not the orchestra.
The school put on an assembly, introducing all of the instruments to us by having the band teacher play ten second clips on each instrument offered. I sat patiently, observing, deciding which instrument I would play. Some looked too heavy and uncomfortable to hold. Some made sounds that I didn’t like or were too loud. Some I ruled out because they were gold, which I thought was ugly.
And then she introduced the flute. It’s silver, slender body reflected the fluorescent lights in a way that made it look like a magic wand. When she started playing, the room got quieter, as if this instrument was so magical it was able to make a gymnasium full of fourth graders lean in to hear the secrets being whispered through this quiet but beautifully powerful instrument. My mind was made up.
Its home would be a slim, rectangular, black plastic case, with Gemeinhardt written on silver along the bottom right corner. It was beautiful even when it was locked away for safe keeping. I remember the first time I unlatched the case and saw the blue, crushed velvet covering the indentations and surrounding the three pieces of dismantled flute. The first thing I had to learn was how to put the damn thing together.
Over the next year, I practiced my ass off, despite hating my band teacher. I really enjoyed making music, even if I only knew a couple of notes. My teacher, Ms. Cee, really enjoyed making kids feel worthless. She knew I was good at my instrument, I clearly had a good ear and natural talent, but it didn’t stop her from making fun of me during lessons.
I wasn’t alone though, that was just how she treated everyone. By the time I was headed to seventh grade, I begged my mom to let me quit Band, but she knew I would like the teacher at the middle school a lot more, so she made me stick with it. And it to this day is one of the best things she has ever done for me.
But back to Margo. After I played flute for a year, she decided that she also wanted to play the flute. From that day forward, she abandoned her violin, and took residence in the first chair, demoting me to second, where we would remain until we graduated high school.
Flute was just the first thing, but she did this with everything. I picked up a hobby, she picked it up too, and did it better. Drawing, music, sports – everything. By the time we got to middle school, it started happening in our social lives, too. I would tell her I had a crush on a guy, and a week later, she’d be dating him. It definitely hurt, and it changed the way I felt about our friendship the first time she pulled this move.
Which brings me to Luca, my Co- Drum Major and tenth grade crush. Needless to say, Margo started dating him once she knew I had a crush, and they broke up soon after going to Junior Prom together in May.
I didn’t have a date to prom.
The one thing that I ever “beat” Margo at was becoming Drum Major of our school's highly competitive Marching Band. She had also tried out, and was not chosen by our instructors to be head Drum Major – I was.
I expected once I heard that, the next name they called for assistant Drum Major would be hers, as there could be no way I got something and she didn’t.
But she didn’t.
And Luca did.
And I did.
And being Drum Major is way more fulfilling than having a date to prom.
The problem that this created with Margo was not my ideal situation to kick start my senior year. Not only did we do Marching Band together, but we had been part of the same group of girlfriends since we were in kindergarten. There were always five of us - Myself, Margo, Adena, Sofia and Lainey, but only Margo and I played instruments. The rest of our friends played various sports and were star students, but their main focus in high school was partying.
Margo made sure I knew she was pissed at me every chance she got over the summer between Junior and Senior year. Once I got the position of Drum Major (they did the auditions in February even though the season doesn’t start until August) Margo made it her mission to ensure that I had no social life what so ever. While my other friends still talked to me, it was clear that they were on Margo’s side, for whatever reason. Not wanting to deal with the drama, I distanced myself from them and pretty much became a hermit over the summer.
They only social interaction I had in the month of August, aside from my family whom I lived with, was the week long band camp our school hosted. No, it’s not what you probably think it’s like - it’s a week long of twelve hour rehearsals in the heat of summer out in the middle of bumblefuck Pennsylvania - no cell service, no computers, just practice from morning ’til night.
When we left and re-entered cell service, I was surprised to see a text from Adena inviting me to an end of summer party. Margo was on the bus with me, coming home from camp, so she had no way of reminding Adena to leave me out of the invites. Feeling exhausted from a week of hard work, I looked forward to the chance to wind down with a few drinks and my oldest friends. It would be at that party that I decided those girls were not my friends anymore.
We had three days until school officially started back up. The day after the band returned home was Adena’s party — which wound up being much bigger than expected. She’d invited a ton of friends from out of town which made it pretty easy to avoid Margo. I won’t lie, I had more than a few drinks. I was on a mission.