“You look awful.” Turns out, this wasn’t the day Timmie would choose to be less direct or more censoring. “What did you do last night?”

“Same. Ditto. To you. Have you been crying?” Noelle was confused. “I couldn’t sleep.”

“Me neither. No. Yesterday was hard, right? Think you’re ready to shake it off?”

“I wasn’t ready to straight-up climb the mountain 24 hours ago, but look at us now.”

Timmie fought her facial muscles and tried not to smile, but Noelle’s exaggerated expression tickled her funny bone. Though neither would admit it in this moment, the women could not be mad at each other for more than 31 hours back-to-back-to-back. The record had been set in 1994, when both worked at a public library after school. Noelle was set for Besties 4 Life, while Timmie hadn’t yet learned to nurture relationships. Her growing up years lent themselves to attachment issues, namely pushing boundaries not many people would have held on to. Noelle, though, was anything but part of the crowd. When Timmie began hanging out with girls who struggled to see beyond their own fake eyelashes, Noelle called her out. At work. When the group of girls stopped by to “whisk our favorite librarian away from a life of fiction.” Both Noelle and Timmie were fired on the spot once Noelle’s angry voice reached the back shelves. Timmie reciprocated with a sucker punch, and a phone call to the police was made by a then-ex-co-worker, Mark Toolison, who ended up disappointed because he wasn’t interviewed about the fight by local news media. Come to find out, a bigger story was happening across town when a doughnut-eating police dog alerted her partner to a wayward fellow customer.

“Whatever. Can we just do this? Please,” asked Noelle and her manners. “How do we shake it off? Can we … I … shake it off? Shouldn’t I be given time to grieve? Or wallow in my shame? How could I be so foolish, Timmie? He lied. And did whatever with another whomever. And what kind of girl does that? Did I know? Was I overtaken by my foolish shame? Did I close my eyes to it, sweep it under the rug, misdirect my own self? Why didn’t I break it off when he stopped,” Noelle’s memory took a turn, “when he stopped returning love?” She took a deep breath. “But I digress. What’s today’s plan, please?”

Timmie mustered up courage and lifted her arms to embrace her friend. “This is not on you, Noelle. This was a sin done to you, not the other way around. The best people give love, not return it.”

Noelle didn’t resist.

“We are so going to shake it off, together, roller skating,” Timmie said, temporarily letting go. “Eighties music. Disco lights. Stale air through our hair. Magical.”

“Roller skating? Seriously?” Noelle caught the smile bug. It felt good.

Roller skates were tied tight, and the women wobbled to the rink. Laughing. Holding each other up. “Do you remember the dance in 8th grade when you chased that boy around all evening because he constantly chased us around at school?” Timmie couldn’t resist using the mixtape booming from the loudspeakers as an excuse for stories. “He stayed clear away from us the rest of the year. The best plan.”

“Greg? I think. Yes! Oof. I sorta felt bad I ruined his gameplay. He wasn’t the same after that.”

“Ha! You say that about all the guys, Noelle.” Maybe too soon. Maybe not.

Giggles. Eye-rolling. Drama remembered. Timmie and Noelle were intent to pause reality’s happenings for 90 minutes. Timmie had news; Noelle had healing. Neither was aware what her respective next steps entailed. Neither wanted to think about it.

“What about that guy who lived two doors down from you in 9th grade?” Noelle eased her way back to the early 1990s as she rolled herself around the rink.

“Oh no.”

“Yes! You could. not. talk. to. him. Like, so bad.”

“Aaron.”

“Aaron! He broke his leg at hockey practice, right? You wanted to help him off the bus.”

“Stop, Noelle.” Timmie shook her head, re-feeling the humiliation.

“Everyone’s eyes were on you. The bus driver. The kids sitting in their seats, wanting nothing more than to go home. Me included. We all just sat there watching this girl – my bestie – stand in front of a varsity hockey player, fumbling her nerves all over the exit steps and his cast-covered, broken leg.”

“Ughhhhhh.”

“What came out of your mouth? Something like, “Help. Me. You want? I was embarrassed for you. Did he ever ride the bus again?”

Timmie moved to bump Noelle’s arm, hoping the memory would become a lost memory. Instead, Timmie tripped Noelle and watched in slow motion as her friend flailed her arms, trying to regain balance. Balance did not come. Timmie hit the wall to stop. Noelle hit the floor.

The upright friend held her breath, looked for movement, gathered herself up and rolled toward Noelle.

She couldn’t move. Laughter had her down. Timmie slid beside her friend. “Are you okay?” she whispered. The rink’s manager hurried over to check on both women as giggles forced tears to run down their cheeks. “Dude. You wiped out. Are you able to walk?” The question caused harder laughter. “Do I need to call an ambulance? You need to sign a form to say you won’t sue.” Noelle shrieked with glee, shaking her head.

Timmie took a mental picture as her friend inked her way out of a settlement.

She wanted to take this moment with her.


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