You’ve Got the Wrong Woman (A Work in Progress)

“Thank you for that lovely eulogy.” Sarah’s mom wiped her eyes with her handkerchief, dabbing lightly at the corners and examining the cloth for make-up stains. She pulled my hands into hers and smiled tightly at me. “I’m so happy you and Sarah are still such good friends.”

“Of course. We’re best friends,” I said softly, looking down at how her hands enclosed mine. I patted her palms lightly, about to pull away to wipe my own eyes.

But she grabbed onto my hands, pinching them slightly. I could feel her nails biting into my wrist, ever so lightly. I raised my gaze to hers. There was something in them I couldn’t read.

“Most friendships in middle school peter out by the time girls get to high school. Just too much jealousy.” She paused, searching my face. Around me, I could hear the congregation whispering–whether at us or just amongst themselves, I didn’t know. Someone’s stare speared the back of my head like an arrow on target.

“Not us,” I said firmly. My voice didn’t quiver. “We were thick as thieves.”

Another long, drawn-out moment stretched between us as her mom kept her gaze locked on me. Finally, she nodded slowly. “I’m glad to hear that’s the truth.” Gingerly, she let go of my hands. I didn’t miss the way she patted the sides of her pants, lightly dusting them of my touch. “Keep in touch. Don’t be a stranger.” There was something to her voice. Before I could respond, she had shifted her gaze to another person behind me, plastering on the quintessential look of distress that the mother of a murdered child would have. She glided past me as if I was all of a sudden invisible, just particles falling in the sunlight streaming through the church windows.

I stood there, anchored to the ground. A heavy feeling settled over my chest, constricting me. Her mother suspected me! Me, of all people. The one who had been there for Sarah the most. I tried to suck in a breath through my teeth but my throat had choked up. I had to get out of here.

Despite my brain’s commands though, my feet refused to move. They stayed rooted to the cold cobblestone of the church floors. My legs felt weak, like they might betray me and give up at any second. Were people looking at me? I already knew before it happened that my vision was going to spiral. The edges of the world blurred, falling away into a dark chasm. I had to sit down. Finally forcing shallow breaths through my windpipes, I shuffled as quietly as I could to the nearest pew. Don’t make a scene, don’t make a scene, I warned myself, a pulsing mantra in my head. Just stay calm.

No sooner had I thought I’d found safety as I clambered onto the bench did a low growl assault me. “You have some nerve.” Still trying to slow my pounding heart, I jerked back, startled, and looked up into the bloodshot eyes of Sarah’s boyfriend.

Jeremiah. Never liked that guy. I’d always thought Sarah was too good for him, way out of his league. What she had seen in him, I never knew. Maybe it was his whole bad-boy-biker-gang aesthetic, with unruly freshly-rolled-out-of-bed hair, dark leather jackets and ripped jeans… Everything about him screamed stereotypical, right down to his toned abs. In my eyes though, smoking a cigarette every second hour and skipping classes was more original back in the eighties; now, it just shouted ‘I was neglected by my mom and beat up by my dad’. No one should be impressed by that, least of all someone as bright and perky as Sarah.

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