I got a little over my fear of planes. I had been on a plane once when I went to New York but today was different. Today, I was going back. And instead of feeling paranoid - don’t get me wrong, my hands still shook and there was a voice in my head begging me not to go - I simply breathed deep breaths and I felt a tiny bit better. I was going to see Kai.
My family didn’t know I was coming. They didn’t expect me to be back at this exact day. I was just going to pop up at their front door and deal with whatever reaction they had.
I hated airports but I loved to travel. Seeing new places, discovering your deepest desires and being on your own. That was the dream.
Boarding the airplane, I found my window seat and made myself comfortable. A small part of me wondered who my seat mates would be and what their story was.
The kid in front of me kept looking back, like he might run for the exit and I understood his reaction. I had been there when I went to New York and still felt nervous going back. I wasn’t sure whether that was my fear of flying or my nervousness of coming back home that made my heart beat so fast.
Moments before the plane stopped boarding, one last passenger stepped inside. I was already looking through the window at the workers who prepared the plane for takeoff and wasn’t paying attention to who it was. The stewardess must have pointed her in my direction because seconds later, she plopped down on the seat next to me.
“Hey, babe,” the girl said, her voice more than familiar to me by now. I immediately looked in her direction and my heart skipped a beat.
“Lilith!” I exclaimed, genuine excitement spreading through me like wildfire. Others didn’t share my happiness and shushed me without thinking twice about it. I paid them no mind as I hugged my best friend, my smile wide and unfaltering. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m going home with you.”
“You’re what?” I asked her.
“I’m coming home with you,” she repeated. “See, I have this whole plan. I’m going to meet your family and you’ll introduce me to Kai,” she wiggled her eyebrows. “And we’re going to eat lots of junk food, have fun and you’re going to show me around.”
“Is this the part where you do background checks on me to see if I can keep on being your roommate?” I asked baffled. She was joking about it the other day; she claimed she didn’t know anything about me outside of school and wanted to see who I was at home.
“Honey, I think we both agree we’re perfect roommates for each other. There’s no need to deny it.” She placed a finger on my lips to silence me in a dramatic way. “But no. I decided that I want to go with you because I don’t trust your family or your friends. They don’t get to screw you over this time because I’m going to be there to protect you in case anything happens.”
I was taken aback by how serious she had been. There was nothing kind on Lilith’s face and a part of me was scared of how intense she was. But a different part of me liked that she cared this much.
“If you stumble upon your best friends," she explained, emphasizing the last two words. “Or your brother’s so-called best friend. Look,” she sighed and started to playing with her hair, a sign she had been nervous. “I saw how broken you were when you first came to our school and I read the things people said about you. I don’t want to see you get hurt.”
“But.. why?” I asked.
“Because - and I hate to admit it - you’re the only real girl friend I’ve ever had and you’re really nice. Too nice.”
“Aw, I love you too,” I poked my finger at her ribs and she flinched, indicating that she was ticklish.
“I don’t love you.” The false tone in her voice said otherwise.
“Whatever helps you sleep at night,” I said and leaned my head on her shoulder. The flight attendants started to explain the safety procedures and I tuned in to learn where the nearest exit was in case of a crash.
“Dude, chill,” Lilith told me, seeing my shaking hands.
“I hate flying,” I replied as we started to go towards the runway.
“I’m right here with you. Take my hand,” she ordered and I did. Her hand was warm and firm. Looking out the window, the sight outside distracted me from how unstable this plane had seem. After what seemed like an eternity, the pilots started accelerating and pushed the plane into the air. Then we flew into the wide sky.
The rest of the flight consisted of Lilith and I playing I spy, Never Have I Ever and trying to figure out other people’s stories. We had the entire row to ourselves and I had to admit that the plane in general seemed to be quite empty.
I learned a lot of things about Lilith, such as the fact that she had a little brother called Wess. She hated snow and Australian summers. She said the heat was always too much for her. She was more of a cat person, preferred vanilla over chocolate, liked tea more than coffee and preferred pantsuits to dresses.
When we started to begin our descent, Lilith took my hand again and held it until we were safely back on the ground. I felt relieved when we finally started to grab our things and leave the plane. I hadn’t even realized how excited it was to have Lilith with me. My family could finally meet her in person and so could Kai.
Having her with me... it meant more than I thought it would. And it just made me all the more curious as to how she pulled everything off.
“Hmm?” She was busy taking in the surroundings of the airport. I admit, it wasn’t anything like the one in New York, but it was still fancier than any airport nearby.
“How did you know what plane I was going on? Or what seat to book?”
She thought about it before she replied. “Well, for one thing, you left your ticket on my table. Then the idea came to me and I had to write down your seat and plane on the list so I could book the ticket later when you weren’t here.”
I nodded. “So you didn’t have any intention of going with me before?”
“No, my parents wanted us to go to Bora Bora. We have a vacation house there so it was expected of us. By then, I was looking for excuses not to go because we would’ve spent every single day fighting,” she explained.
“Well, if it means anything, I’m happy you’re here. Thanks.”
Lilith smiled and we headed towards the taxi drivers. He took us to my home and I felt nervous once again. I glanced at myself in the rear view mirror and tried to fix my hair.
The whole ride, we listened to the radio and hummed to songs, occasionally looking at each other and laughed when one of us would miss a tone whenever there was a bump in the road. It was like you were trying to sing while jumping. I paid the driver when he dropped us off in front of my house. Then Lilith and I took our suitcases and climbed the stairs of the front porch. My fingers hovered over the door bell and I had to take a deep breath before pressing it. At the sound of the door bell, Lilith gave me a comforting look. That was what she was to me today. A way of comfort. Someone I could turn to.
I liked that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Lilith and I had a weird relationship but it was refreshing and it was exactly what I always needed.
The door opened and Connor stood in front of us. There were some shouts coming from the living room, but my eyes were fixed only on him. He looked like he was seeing a ghost. Lilith snapped his fingers in front of him so he finally woke up from his trance. He gave her a quick look before he rushed to hug me. He pulled me into one of his bear hugs and leaned back so my feet couldn’t touch the ground.
“Astrid!” He yelled. “Oh gosh, I never thought I’d see you again!”
“Connor, you’re suffocating me.” I hit the upper part of his arm very lightly a couple of times and waited as he set me back down. “Hi,” I said.
“Hi,” he smiled. “And Lilith, I presume?” Connor’s eyes scanned Lilith.
“The one and only,” she replied, her smile promising all kinds of trouble. They shook hands but Lilith spoke instead of him.
“Are you going to let us in or what?” I asked Connor who seemed to be a bit dazed. He stepped aside and grabbed our suitcases from us.
“Make yourself at home,” he told us and carried our things upstairs to my bedroom.
“Whoa, nice house,” Lilith commented, observing the details and pictures on the wall.
“I bet your vacation home is much more impressive than this,” I laughed it off.
“Not when you go there every break in May. But if you want to see it, maybe we’ll fly there in a couple of days,” Lilith offered as she stalked into the kitchen and looked on the fridge with my old drawings and baby photos displayed.
“Somehow, I don’t think your parents would be happy with that.” I sat on the counter and watched her.
“My parents have been dying to meet you ever since they heard you were my roommate and we were actually getting along. Abbott would want you there as well. Not to mention Wess would totally love you.”
“Ha! The real question is, who doesn’t Wess love?” I said to Lilith. While we were on the plane, she told me how Wess made friends so easily and how he was such a people person. Everyone loved him and he loved everyone. He effortlessly became her parents’ favorite kid.
“True,” She smiled. “Did you draw these?” She asked.
“Yes. It was a long time ago.”
I forgot that I used to draw and used that to close myself off from the world. I didn’t need to talk to anyone, I didn’t need to listen, I could just use colors to express how I felt. I’ve read books to escape the reality of my miserable life and I studied to distract myself from the fear of never being good enough.
“Astrid?” Delilah’s voice snapped me into reality as I remembered where I was.
“Delilah,” I let out a breath as I glanced at my friend, standing at the doorway. She didn’t hesitate a second before coming and wrapping her arms around me. I was happy to see her, as unexpected as it was. But she wasn’t the only one who stood at the threshold. Diana, Adelaide, Matt, Beck, Nathaniel and Connor were there. Suddenly, my smile disappeared. I raised an eyebrow in a totally bitchy way.
Diana stood up straighter but Adelaide looked like she wanted to disappear. Lilith cleared her throat.
“Astrid, care to introduce me to your friends?” Lilith knew there was nothing friendly on my face and her tone mimicked the way I felt. There was nothing warm in it either.
“Diana.” Diana extended her hand for Lilith to shake but my best friend took her time thinking whether or not she should take it. She did and one look at Diana’s face told me her grip was very firm.
“Lilith Arwen,” she said and in that moment, I truly believed she was. The demon. “Astrid’s best friend.”
“You already met Connor and Delilah,” I cut in before anyone got hurt.
“Good to finally talk to you in person,” Lilith said to Delilah in a bit friendlier voice.
“That’s Beck, Nathaniel, Matt and Adelaide,” I added, using their full names for once.
The biggest question was , what were they doing here? Diana, Matt and Adelaide, I meant.
“So, Astrid, how’s New York?” Matt asked, trying to get a reaction out of me.
“It’s incredible. The city’s amazing, the school is so big, the classes are interesting, our room is huge and my friends are... more than I could wish for,” I said, looking at Lilith, smiling.
“Anyway, we’d love to chat but Astrid promised to show me around,” Lilith saved me from any further conversation.
“She’s right,” I said.
I had to admit that I appeared to be calmer and less bitter than I truly was. I had pretended what our reunion would look like over and over again, replaying how I would spill a drink all over my former best friends or how I would lose my shit in front of them. I hadn’t considered our first conversation back to be this civilized. I supposed it was because Lilith brought out the best in me and I knew that she would shout their ears off if any of them did anything to me.
I saw that Nathaniel and Beck were smiling at me because they knew they would get their own hugs later.
“Where are you going?” Matt asked.
I snorted. “Like it’s any of your business.”
“Well, maybe I could give you a ride.” He said.
“Last time I checked, I still had my driver’s license. I’m sure Connor won’t mind if we borrow his car,” I winked at my brother who, still a bit dazed, gave me his key.
“Be back soon,” I whispered in his ear and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.
My first thought of showing Lilith around was to get her to the place that caused me grief the most. My old school still stood there, unchanged. I, however, was very much the opposite. The negative energy this place radiated was through the roof and I couldn’t believe that this was once the place I went to.
I wasn’t happy about being back home, except to see my family and those closest to me. The rest of them could suck it.
“Astrid, you need to calm down,” Lilith told me when we went to get something to eat. I tore apart three of the napkins in front of me as we were waiting.
“What do you think they were doing there? You don’t think that Connor forgave them? What if they all lied just so I came back home?” Tears threatened to come but Lilith grabbed my hand.
“When we came to your house, I heard their yelling.”
“So did I but-” She interrupted me.
“They were arguing. Matt was trying to apologize or something. At least I suspect it was him because it was a male voice and neither Beck nor Nathaniel did anything they’d have to apologize for.”
“But that still doesn’t explain why those two back-stabbers were there.”
“I don’t know,“Lilith tried to think. “But I do know this. They will try to become your friends again. They’ll try to look the best way possible in front of you. Those kind of people are not to be trusted. I think they’ll want you to forgive them too.”
“Then why did Diana look like she enjoyed my pain?”
“The only way you’ll get answers is by asking her.”
“I don’t want to,” I replied in a stubborn tone.
“Then don’t. But if you don’t ask them, then don’t even bother to care about them. It’s just a waste of time. There is no win-win situation here.”
“You’re right,” I said. I didn’t know what I would do without Lilith’s guidance.
“What?” She asked.