Read Unfriended Online

Authors: Rachel Vail

Unfriended (8 page)

BOOK: Unfriended
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Hey Brooke.

You still up? I can't sleep.

I had to talk Jack down off the roof
after he saw what Truly posted. He and I were going to brainstorm History Day ideas but I told him I got this. So I really have to come up with something. Ykwim? The poor guy was ready to go over to her house and set himself on fire on her lawn or something.
As penance.

I was thinking, tho, while we were talking—you could pretty much get through life saying only these 3 things:

1. That's horrible!

2. Nice!

3. Hmmm.

Not that you'd want to, but like if you had to
pack light.

After I got off the phone with Jack I called Natasha, because she had called and texted and Snapchatted me and all that stuff a bunch of times while I was talking to Jack. I was planning to just blow her off and get going on History Day ideas + algebra homework, but then I was like, yeah right.
I'm so not gonna do that.

Also I was thinking I could prbly completely calm her down if I limited myself to the 3 things. How much trouble cd I get in saying only that's horrible, nice, and hmmm?

How do I not know yet that the answer to HOW MUCH TROUBLE COULD I MAKE FOR MYSELF
is always

“So you obviously know why I'm mad at you, right?”
Natasha asked me.

I said,

Natasha yelled at me that I should stop pretending to be all innocent. She wouldn't say of what.

Then she yelled at me for a while until I had to abandon the 3 things plan because it was just pissing her off way more. How much do I hate TALKING on the phone? I asked if we could move to texting or whatever. Yeah. That worked. Not.

My question to you: Did I kill somebody while I wasn't paying attention?

I really have to focus.
between random murders and cracking my knuckles I'm doomed.

Then she hung up on me. So. Guess my work here is done. Everybody's pissed at me. I may as well go to bed.

Can you meet me by the lockers early? And bring your discard list of History Day ideas? I know you gotta have something. Jack might bring scones. The guy is srsly messed UP.
Though messed up w/scones is so much better than messed up w/o scones. Right?

I really wish you were still awake.


That girl I told okay sure let's hang sometime, Hazel, lives near school, so we walked. We didn't have a lot to talk about on the way, but she didn't seem to mind. She was telling me that when she grows up she wants to be a humanitarian and a movie star, and travel all over the world very glamorously and live life to the hilt. She asked if I like to live life to the hilt.

“I mostly just hang around,” I said.

“But when you get older, and you can do anything,” she whispered as we began climbing the steep steps up to her huge stone house. “What do you like to imagine?”

I shrugged.

“Like, I am constantly imagining I can fly,” said Hazel, spreading her arms wide. “Do you ever imagine you're flying?”

“Um,” I said. “I sometimes imagine I forgot to wear pants to school.”

“Today is my half-birthday,” she said, pulling a key out of her shirt. It had been hanging from a shoelace around her neck, along with another key, a tiny one. She bent close to the lock to use the bigger key. “Are you thirteen and a half yet?”

I shook my head.

“It feels, you just feel . . . older, at thirteen and a half,” she said. “Things shift, subtly. You'll see.”

I followed her in. Her house might actually be a mansion. The ceiling was very, very far from the floor in the room where you walk in. In my house and all my friends' houses, there's a front hall or just a where-you-walk-in. Hazel's house had like a lobby. On the left there was a huge square room that was maybe a library. Anyway there were tons of books in there, on dark shelves all the way up to the ceiling. At the far end of the library two huge doors opened into some other room. I didn't know what room it was or if that one would open to another huge room. I decided to stay close to Hazel to avoid getting lost.

Hazel unzipped her jacket and dropped it on the floor, with her backpack still hooked through the sleeves. I hadn't worn a jacket because it was pretty warm out still, and I sweat a lot. I put my backpack down next to Hazel's, then followed Hazel past a dining room that had paintings of annoyed-looking people hanging on the greenish walls, through a long hallway, into the massive kitchen.

“What do you want for a snack?”

I didn't know.

Hazel climbed up onto one of the metal counters and opened a cabinet. “Let's have Mallomars,” she said. “I think you can tell a lot about a person by the way she eats Mallomars, don't you?”

She brought down the box and held it open for me to choose one. I picked one in the center of the back row, wondering what that revealed about me. She took one from the far right front and said, “Come meet my bird, Sweet Pea. Did I tell you I've had him since I turned three?”

My Mallomar was melting a little on my fingers as I hurried to keep up with Hazel, around corners and then up, up, up a steep flight of stairs with dark red carpeting worn out in the center of each step. My house is just regular. I'd never been anyplace like Hazel's house.

“Sweet Pea is a budgerigar,” Hazel was explaining. “People think that's the same as a parakeet, but it's not. Budgies are slightly larger and much more exotic. Do you like exotic animals?”

“Um,” I said.

“I got Sweet Pea when I was three years old and though tragically he never learned to talk people-language, he is still able to communicate, at least to me. I can tell his chirps apart. You'll see. This is my brother's room—don't go there,” she warned, indicating a closed door.

“Okay,” I said.

“This is the bathroom—do you have to go?”


“That's fine. Tell me when you do.”

I took a bite of my Mallomar, revealing that I was a hungry type of person.

Hazel gripped a doorknob on a tall white door. “And this—this is my room.”

She swung the door open. Everything inside was pink. Pink carpeting, pink walls, pink bed piled high with pink pillows. “Sweet Pea?” she called, heading across the thick rug toward an empty birdcage. “Sweet Pea? Ahhh!!!!”

I got there as she began screaming, and saw a dead bird, lying on its side in the bottom of the cage.

She was still screaming when a woman raced into the room, across the acres of pink rug, and grabbed Hazel, demanding, “What happened, love?”

Hazel stopped screaming, said, “Sweet Pea . . . died!” and started to sob.

The woman was an older version of Hazel—big brown eyes, freckled nose. Hazel's hair is dyed green on the tips, but the woman had just black hair all the way down, pulled back in a bun. She gathered Hazel into her arms and sat down on the rug, hugging her.

“Oh, Mommy,” Hazel wailed. “He's dead!”

“Shh,” the mom hushed.

I was still standing there, holding my melting Mallomar. I don't think the mom even noticed I was in the room.

Hazel's crying turned from shrieks to gasps to, finally, just little burbles that sounded like she was saying “Haboo.”

Her mom was stroking her hair whispering “OK,” and occasionally checking her watch.

I ate the rest of my Mallomar and tried not to look at the dead bird or Hazel and her mom, who seemed to be having some private time, just with me happening to be standing three feet away. I would've gone to the bathroom to hide or at least wash off my chocolate-coated fingers, but Hazel had said to tell her before I went there, so I thought maybe their family had a rule of some sort about that. They seemed like they might.

Hazel sniffled hard, and then said, “I've had him since I was three.” She whimpered a little before she dried her face on the bottom of her T-shirt. “It feels, it just feels like, like the death of my childhood.”

Hazel started sobbing again.

“Oh, sweetheart,” said the mom.

“Maybe I should call my dad,” I whispered.

“Don't leave!” screamed Hazel.

So I didn't.

“I feel like . . .” she started again. “I feel like maybe Sweet Pea felt like, like I had grown up, now that I turned thirteen and a half—and so he felt like, after all this time, this lifetime together . . . he . . .” She was too breathy to continue.

“Hazel,” said the mother. “There's something I have to tell you.”

Hazel sat up straight, slid off her mother's lap, and sat cross-legged on the carpeting facing her mom. She swallowed hard and then nodded.

“Sweet Pea,” started the mom. “Sweet Pea wasn't actually, well, what you think he is. Or was.”

“What do you mean?” asked Hazel.

“You didn't get this bird on your third birthday.”

“Yes, I did,” Hazel protested. “I remember. I went to the pet store with Grammy and Papa, and picked him out.”

“Well,” said the mom, tilting her head sideways. “You picked out a bird. He looked something like Sweet Pea, and his name was Sweet Pea, too . . .”

“You mean . . .”

The mom scrunched her face apologetically. “You were so excited, but then the stupid bird died a few weeks after we got him, and, well, we didn't want to start explaining death to a high-strung three-year-old—so I just went back to the pet store and got a new one.”

“I can't believe you.”

“Well,” said the mom. “We didn't want you to be sad. And when that second one died you were five, and a week into kindergarten which was
going smoothly for you, remember, so that seemed like a bad time to deal with death, too. You were a baby! So I just bought a new parakeet.”


“Isn't that the same as a parakeet?”

Hazel stared at her mother. “Budgies are more . . . Sweet Pea was a budgie.”

“Not recently.”

“There was more than one replacement?”

The mom smiled awkwardly. “Sweet Pea was sort of a series of birds.”


“Honey,” said the mom, leaning toward Hazel. “Some of them were green, some were blue . . .”

“You said he was molting!” shrieked Hazel. “Get out! Get out of my room! I want to be alone with Sweet Pea, or whoever this is! Get out!”

I wasn't sure if I was supposed to stay or go. I followed the mom out. Hazel didn't yell at me to stay, so I figured I'd made the right choice.

The mom closed the door behind us and said, “Do you want a snack? I'm studying for the bar.”

I had no idea what that meant. I shook my head.

“You can wait in the kitchen,” she said, moving fast toward the stairs. I could see where Hazel gets her speed. “I'm sure Hazel will be down soon.”

When we got down to the kitchen, the mom took out two glasses and a pitcher of water. She poured us each some, gulped hers down, and then looked at me. “It's nice for Hazel that you're here. She was bound to discover death eventually, and it's nice she has a friend to lean on.”

“I'm not really . . . we're not that close,” I explained. “I just sit next to her in math.”

“Well,” said the mom, pouring herself more water. “I wish I could chat, but as I said I really have to study. Call me if you and Hazel need anything.”

She left. I sat alone in the humongous kitchen, listening to the clock tick, wondering if I should call my dad and ask him to pick me up early. Last year my brother picked me up from friends' houses on his way home from team practices. Just as I was walking out of the kitchen to get my phone, though, Hazel appeared in the doorway. She had a small jewelry box in her hands.

“Is that the kind where, when you open it, tinkly music plays and a ballerina spins on her toe?” I asked.

“Yes,” Hazel said.

“I had one of those when I was little,” I said.

“Want to do a funeral?” Hazel asked.

“Is he in there?” I asked.

Hazel nodded.

I followed her through the kitchen out into the huge backyard. Across a big green lawn, up a hill toward some evergreen trees, we came to a shed. “Hold this,” said Hazel, and she handed me the jewelry box/coffin.

“Oh,” I said, “Um, okay.”

I waited outside the shed while she went in. I tried to be very still so I wouldn't drop it, thinking about the dead bird body just inches from my fingers. Hazel came out wearing big green gloves and holding a small shovel.

“Ready to do this?” she asked me.

“I don't have any experience with death,” I admitted.

“I didn't think I did, either,” said Hazel. “I guess you never know.”

“Good point.”

I followed her to the evergreen trees. She knelt down beside one and started digging. I just stood there, carefully holding the jewelry box/coffin. When she was done, she said, “You can put him in.”

“Maybe you should,” I suggested. “You're the one, you know . . .”

“That's okay,” she said.

So I placed the box into the hole.

“Kneel down with me,” she whispered. “Please? I'll be quick.”

I knelt in the soft dirt. Usually at a friend's house we play Ping-Pong or bake or watch stuff online.

“I'm going to say some stuff, okay?”

I nodded.

Hazel took a deep breath. “Good-bye, Sweet Pea. I'm sorry I didn't realize you were actually a series of birds. I'm sorry I wasn't a good enough bird-owner, and you never learned to talk and you never flew anyplace interesting. You obviously had a boring and misunderstood life. I'm so sorry.” She sniffled.

I was thinking she might start really crying again, and if she did, where would I find her mother? But she cleared her throat and turned to me. “Do you want to say anything?”


“You can. Just say whatever comes to mind.”

“I'm not that good at saying things,” I whispered.

“That's okay,” whispered Hazel. “He can't really hear you anyway.”

I turned and looked at her. She was sort of smiling at me. I sort of smiled back. Hazel closed her eyes and lowered her head again.

I took a deep breath and said, “Um. Sweet Pea? Hi. Or . . . I mean, I guess . . . good-bye. Sorry. Too soon?”

“No,” Hazel said. “That's right. Good-bye. Good night, Sweet Pea. And flights of angels something something. Keep going, Brooke. Please.”

“Okay.” I closed my eyes and wished for words to come and giggles to not. “So, uh, Sweet Pea. I never knew you, you know, alive, and I honestly don't know Hazel that well either—but, um, I think she really, kind of, loved you.”

“I did,” mumbled Hazel with her eyes closed. “I did.”

“So, yeah,” I continued without a clue. “Well. Um. So. I was thinking maybe it would be nice, if you could, like, maybe show up in her dream some night, and fly with her. Because Hazel likes to imagine she's flying. Anyway, um, thank you for, well, that's all.”

Hazel stayed still with her eyes closed, so I didn't get up either. I wondered how long we were going to be kneeling there, and if we were supposed to be praying. Sometime after my feet fell asleep, Hazel stood up and shoveled the dirt onto the top of the box and patted it down hard. I stood up while she was doing that. She drooped beside the grave with her eyes closed and her gloved wrists crossed on the shovel's handle for a while. I kept my head down and waited, resisting the urge to stamp my pin-cushiony feet. Eventually, she went back to the shed. I waited outside it again until she came out without the gloves and shovel.

BOOK: Unfriended
8.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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