"So did you talk to him?" she asked, pouring the last of the tiny marshmallows into her cocoa. We were stifling giggles over the woman behind the counter who was wearing a sinful amount of blue eye shadow. Even though we had already paid, she was watching us suspiciously. Because that's how adults look at us non-adults when we walk into stores without a chaperone. .
"Well, yeah," I answered in an overly-assured tone, "I asked him about it at his house last night."
We were sitting at our usual spot, a random booth in the corner of an aged gas station located close to the high school. This is where the majority of our most important conversations took place. We unlocked many secrets of the universe in that booth. It was also where we'd drink cocoa and laugh at all of the truckers eating hot dogs.
"And?" she asked, impatiently. I didn't dare look at her. I didn't have to. I knew she was looking at me, and could picture her exact facial expression. It was the one she used whenever she sensed a bluff, which was appropriate right now. Because everything about me lately was a bluff, an imposter, a counterfeit version of myself fighting desperately to hide all of the things I had given up on.
"And what?" I said, in that obvious, defensive tone all human beings take on when they know they're wrong but can't bear to admit it just yet. "We talked about it. I told him what I heard, he told me his side of the story, and we're good now. It's fine."
"Oh, fine. Yeah Meg, I'm sure it's fine," she retorted. I looked at her with a surprised expression because although she used sarcasm often, it was rarely ever directed at me. "It's all just fine because you did the same thing you always do - Lay yourself down like a door mat, and let him do the same thing he always does - Use you as one!"
This statement was followed by a heavy silence in which I had once again become transfixed with the now empty cup in front of me. It was obvious that was something she had been wanting to say for a while, and it stung. My mouth was suddenly dry and all I wanted to do was go to bed for the rest of winter.
"Jen," I started, "I know what it looks like. What it always look like with Dane and I." She rolled her eyes and I pretended not to notice. "But I swear, I wouldn't stay with him if I didn't feel like he had a good explanation. I'm not stupid. Things can get bad with him, sometimes, but they can also be so good. It's like that song about the ocean. It gives and it takes away. It's like that --"
"And who is doing the giving here, Meg? You are. He does nothing but suck all of the life out of you and I can't pretend to approve! It's sick! I mean, did you even get an apology from him?"
"Well - yeah!"
"An actual apology? A real, no-doubt-about-it, I'm sorry, Megan?"
In a final attempt to prove whatever lie I was holding onto, I looked her in the eyes. She wasn't letting me off this time, and I knew it. This was the thing I loved most about her, and I hated it right now. I wondered what that said about me, but I pushed that unflattering thought out of my mind.
"It was a hard conversation, okay?" Who was talking right now? Surely not me. I wouldn't talk this way to the only person willing to take my side anymore. That would be insanity. Shooting my own foot to prove I can walk without it. "I had heard everyone else's version of things, and I felt like I owed it to him to let him give me his."
"So, what? What was 'his side of things?'" she asked, making quotations with her fingers. "Was that where he talked you into circles until you were disoriented enough for him to magically change your mind? And then convinced you that you were the one who did something wrong? And then graciously accepted your apology for suspecting him?"
She was so right I wanted to slap her and cry.
"I just wanted to get the truth," I said.
"The truth," she said haughtily, throwing her purse over her shoulder and standing up to leave, "has never been something that requires many words. I mean, why do you think lawyers have to use so many?"