15 | Forgiving But Not Forgetting
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
- Thomas Edison
Hannah and I spend the next fifteen minutes helping each other out on our auditions. I already have an idea in my head of what I want to act like and how I want things to go.
Hannah is still a bit nervous but with some more convincing, she seems ready to do it.
Out of nowhere, a body drops onto the seat beside me. My head snaps in the direction and my eyes widen when I catch sight of Athena sat right next to me. Hannah scrambles out of her seat on the other side of me and goes to sit next to Athena.
“Hi! How are you? I feel like I haven’t spoken to you in so long!” Hannah yaps, with bright brown eyes.
Athena, however, remains focused solely on me. Her light blue eyes glued to my form, assessing my reaction. With a lot of effort, I refrain myself from squirming under her gaze. She always could trap me in an intimidating stare, whilst she read me. I guess some things never change.
“I’m good Hannah,” Athena calmly answers, briefly glancing at Hannah. “Is it alright with you if I talk to Whitney for a second?”
Unbeknownst to Hannah, I don't want her to go. However, she doesn't see the silent plea I give her. With a nod to the head, she bounces off to a sulking Brock, leaving me alone with Athena.
Throughout the entire lesson, I could feel Brock's green eyes on me. Whenever I moved an inch, he would be watching. It is starting to feel very unsettling.
Reluctantly, I turn to fully face Athena’s pale, round face. Athena takes a deep, shaky breath and pinches her plump, pink lips together.
“Hello, Anastasia.” She greets, in a low tone.
“It’s Whit -”
“I know what your new name is.” Athena interrupts me, distastefully emphasizing ‘new’. “But to me, you will always be Anastasia, my best friend.” I swallow at the term, racing with thoughts on whether I would still call Athena my best friend. For Whitney, Casey is my best friend. But what about Anastasia? If she was here right now, who would her best friend still be? The girl who sort of betrayed her? “And as your best friend, I know I let you down. Instead of backing you up on that day and calling out Callum for what he was doing, I didn’t. I watched you suffer and run away. And for that, I will always hate myself for it.”
Holy hell. Is this happening right now?
“Ath - ”
Once again, Athena cuts me off. “Let me finish.” She pleads. ”Please."
Hesitantly, I nod. “Continue.”
“Anastasia, I missed you so much. We all did. Brock cried the day after you left, he sobbed in front of everyone at school. Ares and I cried at home too. I think even Callum did but at home, away from everyone. He loved you too - he still does, he just doesn’t know what it is and how to express it.
“We tried looking for you before you became famous. We searched for ages, with Martin, Brock and your parents. All of us were devastated and we desperately wanted to make it up to you. We still do.
“And so the point I’m trying to make is that I want you to forgive me. I want my best friend who I teased, laughed and cried with back. It breaks my heart seeing you hang out with Hannah, it feels like I have been replaced by my own friend. Nobody will ever know you like me, not even Callum.”
Athena sucks in a breath and wipes the stray tear rolling down her pale cheek. I watch her, I watch the way her strong exterior crumbles and leaves a sad girl who regretted not helping her best friend. I examine her light blue eyes, seeing guilt and regret.
I open my mouth to speak but no words come out. I don’t know what to say.
"Please Ana,” Athena begs. “I - I am so sorry. Ares and I both are. We understand if you don’t want to be friends with us again; I will find a way to respect that but I can’t just give up knowing I didn’t try.”
Conflicted thoughts. That’s what I have. I want to be friends with them. They will always be considered family to me. Athena and Ares didn’t do anything wrong in theory so I can forgive them. But if I show them redemption, what about Brock and Callum? Will they come seeking redemption too?
I don’t think I can forgive them. They hurt me so much.
They probably only want to be around you because your famous. I remind myself, hating the fact that its ninety-five per cent true. What they did when I first left was out of guilt. They probably didn’t want to look bad in school.
Athena stares at me with so much hope, I just don’t have the heart to tear her down. She doesn’t deserve to be rejected.
“I...can forgive you and Ares. You don’t deserve to feel what you felt two years ago. And, I missed you too. I missed my overdramatic, crazy best friend.” I admit, smiling sheepishly.
Athena squeals in delight and wraps her arms around me tightly, squeezing the life out of me.
"Thank god.” She mutters to herself, loud enough for me to hear.
I giggle, childishly.
“But,” I say, pulling away from Athena. “I can’t be friends with Callum and Brock. Gosh, I can’t even look at them without feeling betrayed. I’m sorry but I refuse to be around them.”
Athena bobs her head up and down in understanding. “I completely get it. I won’t pressure you to be around them. We don’t have to hang out with them.”
“That sounds like the best idea.”
“Great!” Athena fist pumps into the air. “Ares!” Athena calls out to her brother who is sat with Hannah and Brock. “Come over here!”
Ares quickly stands up, excusing himself and rushes over here.
I stand up in preparation for his famous hugs that I know he’s dying to do. He stops a few inches from me, apprehension shining in his eyes. Giving him an encouraging smile, Ares grins and steps forward, wrapping his strong arms around my thin body. Feeling a scent of comfort, I lean closer and inhale his aftershave scent.
Ares suddenly lifts me off the ground and starts spinning me around. Squealing in delight, I laugh whilst he chuckles. My laughter picks up when he starts twirling us around even faster; I throw my head back.
Eventually, the spinning decreases and I’m being placed back on the ground. My knees wobble as dizziness overwashes me so I lean into Ares for support, who happily wraps his arm around my waist securely.
“Woah Sia, you okay there?” Ares asks me in worry. I wave it off, standing up straighter when I begin to get my bearings.
“I’m fine, I haven’t been spun around like that in a while,” I reply, plopping myself back down on my seat. Ares’ expression turns depressed at my words but he tries to mask it - not very well might I add.
Athena’s giggles from beside me, moving my attention to her. “He called you Sia and you didn’t complain.”
My face contorts to one of realization and I gasp in shock. “You’re not allowed to call me that.” I wack Ares on the head, now that he’s seated on the other side of me which he managed to do without me noticing. “You know I’m not keen on that nickname.”
“You love that nickname!” Athena teases. I scrunch my nose up and vigorously shake my head.
“Miss. Winters!” A woman shouts my name. I turn my head to face Mrs Sadie who is standing at her desk with a smile on her face. “It's your turn to audition.”
I blow out a breath and nod my head. “See you guys in a sec.”
“Good luck!” Ares wishes.
I laugh. “Please, I don’t need luck. I’ll ace it.”
On my way up to the side stage steps, I make eye contact with Brock and Callum. I wonder if they saw me make up with the twins. They must have since Ares was twirling me around for a good minute, whilst I was squealing loudly.
My curiosity peaks - do they feel envious of them? Do they think they have a shot now?
Once I’m on the centre stage mark, I pull out my script. Briefly, I glance at Hannah who smiles excitedly at me. Beside her, Brock watches the exchange and smiles too. Quickly, my face turns neutral.
“Should I - Do I just start?” I ask Mrs Sadie uncertain. Normally, when I audition, I have to give out all of my details and stuff.
“Do it as you usually do in Hollywood.” She replies.
“Right.” I clear my throat. “Well, my name is Whitney Winters and I’m auditioning for Hazel from The Fault In Our Stars. This audition will be two minutes long and will not involve any props.”
Mrs Sadie nods her head to start. Inhaling, I pull the piece of paper out, close enough for me to see but far enough so that it doesn’t block my face. It’s always important to project your voice.
“I believe we have a choice in this world about how to tell sad stories. On the one hand, you can sugarcoat it. The way they do in movies and romance novels...” I pause. “where beautiful people learn beautiful lessons...where nothing is too messed up that can’t be fixed...”
Two minutes later, I’m finished. The claps resonate in the room. Blinking at the harsh bright lights that I directly stared into, I try and see beyond the stage at the students. Trouble is, the only lights currently on are the ones focused on the stage. Thus, its pitch black in the seating area.
“Thank you, Whitney. Wonderful work.” Mrs Sadie compliments, ecstatically, waving her arms around everywhere. I take that as my cue to get off the stage, back to my seat.
Ares and Athena jump on me when I reach them, gushing about how awesome I was.
“Thanks, guys, you are too sweet.” I bashfully reply.
“We’re being serious Whitney, that was so good.” Ares jumps in, speaking with a serious face. “Your performance deserves an Oscar. You’re such a good actress.”
My cheeks faintly turn pink but due to the darkness, Ares wouldn’t be able to see it.
“Ares, that is one of the most ki -” I’m cut off by the sound of the stage doors bashing open. Swivelling in my seat, I let my curiosity win on seeing who decided to make such a dramatic entrance.
My eyes widen when I catch sight of Nicole marching down towards us, with a determined expression on her face. Her eyes stay set on me, fury boiling in her blue eyes. Rage. All I see in her eyes is rage.
Her light brown hair falls messily down her back, some strands brush themselves on her face from the breeze she creates.
Nicole comes to a halt to the side of Ares. Her eyes narrow accusingly at me, as she points a finger at me. “I need to talk to you, Whitney."