“I got you a present!” Marianne proclaimed as they entered her bedroom.
“Oh?” replied Sharla as she dropped her backpack on the ground. As much as she loved her best friend, she was always wary of what ‘presents’ Mar found. Her friend always meant well, but a combination of naivety and optimism meant that the bespectacled girl often got it wrong.
“You know how you like Steve, Shar?” she said with a grin, pushing her small round glasses back up her nose.
“Yes…” Sharla said warily, dropping into her accustomed beanbag. She pushed a lock of short brown hair out of her hazel eyes; she’d just gotten a pixie cut for the first time, and it was taking some getting used to. She also hoped it would cover her surprise; Marianne was usually cheerfully oblivious to, well… everything!
Marianne grinned widely, making freckles dance across her face. She opened a desk drawer and fished out a small wrapped box, obviously pleased with herself. She handed it to Sharla, looking very sure of herself. Still looking wary, Sharla meticulously peeled back the tape, taking care not to see what was being given to her prematurely. But as it was small, no larger than a pack of cards, she quickly reached the gift in question.
“It’s a box of candy hearts,” Sharla said flatly as she put the box to the side, “Are they supposed to make Steve magically fall in love with me or something?” A hint of exasperation entered her voice at the second utterance.
“Yes Shar, they are!” Mar exclaimed triumphantly. “I knew there were magic spells for THAT. I just never imagined buying one off of Ebay.”
“Well you can get anything off of Ebay, but I sincerely doubt they’re a magic spell. I think you’ve been had again, my friend” She reached out to pet Marianne’s hand to show she the gesture was still appreciated, even if it were to no real end. “Besides, I’m over Steve already. He started dating Jackie, and he was always so mean to you. It wouldn’t've been a good relationship.” She nodded to accent her words, pulling her backpack over and pulling out her homework.
As she was looking around for ‘her’ lapdesk, Marianne replied, “I’d put up with anything if it meant you were happy, sis.” They weren’t actually sisters, of course. They were neighbors, the same age and in the same classes, and had been as far back as either could remember. But because of their natures, Sharla took the lead role, and Marianne the passive roll, and they enjoyed calling each other sister… in private, at least. At 14, almost 15, people looked at them queer if they did it, if it were a game they should’ve left behind; it was easier to conform publically, where it didn’t matter.
Shar made a noise of acknowledgement, but didn’t really know how to reply. It was… confusing… when someone you thought you knew to the core, knew every hair of, surprised you by being in tune with life in a way they never had been before. Even something as minor as Marianne noticing who Sharla liked was a fundament-shaking shock – it just did not happen. It would have made more sense for her to sprout a third arm, and would’ve been just as awkward. And she did feel awkward; Shar usually had something clever to say, something to move things along, but between the surprise and her preoccupation with assignments, she didn’t really feel up to it. And as dismissive as she might be acting about Steve, he was incredibly cute, and he would’ve been a lot of fun to fool around with. She sighed, and wondered where in the depths of her bag a working pen might be living.
“Do… do you not like your present?” Marianne asked quietly, not turning from what she was doing at her computer.
“It’s fine, Mar. You know I love everything I get from you, even if it doesn’t work as intended. Hey, do you have a pen that actually works?”
“You know where they are, silly,” Mar called over her shoulder, gesticulating to a small table near Sharla, “I always leave a few over there for you.”
“Thanks Mar, you’re the best” Sharla called, helping herself to a pen and digging into her work.
Marianne sighed quietly; she tried to think about her assignments, but found that she couldn’t. She loved Sharla like a sister, true, but it pained her how poorly the other girl truly knew her. Sharla just saw herself as this big protector sort – she was bigger than Marianne, she could be surrogate mommy to replace Mar’s mother after the divorce (even though they were the same age!), so on, and so forth. Sharla had this rather childish concept of who Marianne was at current based on who she was as a child. So what if Mar didn’t care about fashion, or socializing with the other kids at school? It’s not like she was going to stick around this sleepy ‘burb for the rest of her life, breeding and stagnating with them. And even the candy hearts – she had hoped that her friend would get that it was a joke; there was no way anyone could be so stupid as to think them part of a magic spell! But nooo, silly old Marianne just HAD to be serious.She shook her head, and opened up her graphic arts assignment. They had been asked to freehand a company logo incorporating certain elements, and she was quietly pleased with the progress she had made. Mar had always liked drawing, and had been pleased when she’d been recommended for this course. Now, if she moved this little bit over here…
“That looks good, Mar,” Sharla commented, causing Marianne to jerk her head around, “I’ve always admired your ability at making things just… look right. I bet that sounds silly.” She chuckled, and settled deeper in the beanbag, the end of the pen jammed between her teeth once again.
The bespectacled girl slowly turned back around to her monitor, surprise still painted on her face. She hadn’t realized that Sharla actually had noticed her art anything; Shar didn’t have an interest there, so they didn’t do it together. And it made her wonder – what had she missed about this girl she called ‘sister’? Why was she sitting here being mad because Shar had missed things, when she herself had probably missed things, too? Could they really call each other friends in these circumstances, or merely two people who happened to spend a lot of time together? While it had been herself that had attempted to make a silly gift to Sharla, she silently thanked Sharla for giving her a much bigger gift – open eyes.