This is what happens when you grow up with your childhood friend, but she can't grow up. (Flash Fiction)
Anterograde amnesia. That’s what they called it. After the accident, Wendy wasn’t able to make any new memories. She had been 6. That was 20 years ago. She was still 6. I was 7 at the time, and she was my best friend. It was difficult to tear myself away as I grew older yet she didn’t.
Have you ever been a child and forced away from your best friend? It’s traumatic. I stuck with her and she still loved me, even though she didn’t recognize what I put her through, with her juvenile mind.
And I get it. I’m a terrible person.
I put together games for her. I got her to play sympathy cards like aces. Almost any sucker outside of a Wal-Mart wants to donate to some disease with a complicated name. This poor girl stuck in perpetual childhood. What a sad story.
She’d sit next to me behind a folding card table. It was covered with butcher paper, the front of it with markered letters. She was really excited to get to decorate the sign. Her motor skills had improved a bit, but she still wanted to embellish every letter with swirls and hearts. She taped it up and took a step back, a hand on her face, her fingers stained colorful from the markers, as she admired her handiwork. It must have been an interesting sight. Me, a grown man in ill-fitting clothes, slouching back in a plastic chair next to what appeared to be a grown woman in bright garments, eyes wide and glossy, bouncing up and down in her seat with excitement, saying hello to every person she saw in a voice that could give you a cavity.
They were all just games to her, and she never saw what was really going on. Her parents did. At last, they decided I had become poisonous to her life. I saw myself as the cure, actually.
“Where are we going, Doug?” she asked me, as I led her by hand through the woods behind her house. Night was long into effect; the darkness was heavy, practically palpable.
“An adventure,” I said, as enthusiastically as I could through heavy breath. I told her to pack light, as I saw her pink, flowery backpack flop back and forth rhythmically as we ran, but she still clasped onto her fairytale book in the crook of her arm. I could only hope she’d let her imagination flow like they do in those stories. It would be difficult, as the dark death of autumn bit at our skin, the once vibrant colors gone, even during the day, a sharp contrast to the oversaturated colors on those pages.
In the distance, I heard the definitive sound of a screen door slamming and muffled, cracking voices calling out Wendy’s name. Her face instinctively turned in that direction, stopping at the familiar sounds, nearly falling forward with the residual force chasing her. “It’s part of the game,” I reassured her.
“But they sound... mad,” she whined, still rooted in her spot, her white and pink sneakers stuck in the ruts she had created in the soft earth, nervously looking behind her again.
“They’re playing too, they’re afraid they’ll lose. Because we’re winning right now,” I said, giving an earnest smile, lightly tugging on her arm to get her to speed up again. She was satisfied for the time being.
We reached the edge of the woods where I’d left the black car I’d “borrowed.” She started to fidget, with the darkness and tension in the air, so getting her into the car was a challenge. I started the car, its engine roaring to life, damning my luck for picking such a loud car. The voices closed in, and I saw Wendy’s wide eyes scan around, her head swinging back and forth and her tangled brown hair whipping about.
On the road, I tried to keep her calm, even as the paths turned from thick, bold lines to erratic, snaking hairlines on the maps, and as the moonlight turned to flashing red and blue behind us. I tried to keep her calm as the road turned from paved to grass to ragged roots, and as the tires blew out and the car gave out one last sigh of defeat.
I told her we’d be okay, because every story is supposed to have a happy ending.
No matter what happens to me, I still hope she still has hers.