Jade, Drifting
	It was all over school the next morning. Susan stopped me as I headed for 
my locker, placing a hand on my arm and leaning over so that her face, pink with 
excitement, was close to mine.
	"Did you hear? Last night Jade Winstonís mother caught her in a van with 
three guys! On the school parking lot, can you believe it? Jenny says..."
	What does Jenny know?" I said, more fiercely than I intended. Susan looked 
startled for a second, and then went on, her enthusiasm for the story overriding the 
warning edge in my voice.
	"She was there. It was right after marching practice, and the van was parked 
in the corner of the lot, and lots of people saw, not just Jenny. Can you believe it? 
Three guys!"
	I felt sick, as if someone had punched me in the stomach. I had felt this way 
once before, when I was a child. I had fallen out of a tree, and when Jade had come 
over I had pretended to be dead. I had thought that it would be funny, but when Jade 
had started screaming my stomach turned to lead, and I had sat up quickly and tried 
to laugh, to show her everything was fine. The sick feeling had haunted me for days 
afterwards, coming to me suddenly and unexpectedly, Jadeís screams echoing 
inside me.
	But Susan wouldnít, couldnít, know that. No one knew that Jade and I were 
friends. Had been friends. We hadnít even spoken to each other for months. Part of 
me said that I shouldnít even care, but I thought of Jade and the van and my 
stomach lurched. I ran to the bathroom, leaving Susan standing in the hall staring 
after me, hoping that she would believe me later when I told her it was something I 
ate.
	I didnít doubt what Susan had told me. But I couldnít believe it, either. The 
Jade I knew would never do something like this, would never think something like 
this was possible. The Jade I knew hadnít. This was someone new, someone alien, 
and the Jade I knew was gone. I went through the rest of the day numb, not thinking, 
not wanting to think about what the other kids were whispering, what the glances the 
teachers gave each other over our heads meant. After school I went straight home and 
ran to my room, laid on my bed and stared at the ceiling until my mother knocked 
on the door to my room and told me that Jade had come to see me.
	Jade was standing by the back door, so she must have cut across the empty 
lot like she had when we were small. I wondered what it felt like to walk through the 
lot, wondered if the once well-worn path between our houses was still there.
	"Hi," she said, not brightly, but not awkward, either. Just said it, as if she 
came to my back door every day.
	"Hi." I wanted to ask her if it was true, why she had done it, but she stood 
there looking so much like the Jade I knew that I thought I must have dreamed this 
afternoon, dreamed, in fact, the last year, dreamed that Jade had become a 
stranger. Or was this the dream, I wondered.
	"Want to go for a walk?" she asked, and I felt myself nodding, heard a voice 
that must have been mine say "Sure," heard the door shutting behind me as I 
stepped onto the porch.
	We walked, without talking, around my house and down the road which 
curved towards Jadeís house, walked until we were  on the long straight road that 
ran past her house and stretched unbroken between neat rows of houses, and 
further on across flat featureless fields, to meet the horizon. It was the same walk we 
had taken almost every evening for the past eight years. Every evening, that is, until 
we had entered high school and had become strangers to one another. I felt 
awkward, aware of the questions threatening to rise up and burst out of me. The 
questions I suddenly wasnít sure I wanted the answers to.
	"Remember when we were little, how we would pretend that the horizon was 
the end of the world? We would scare ourselves silly, imagining that if we ever 
reached the edge we would fall off, and never stop falling forever and ever."
	I smiled, in spite of myself. I had a sudden picture of Jade and I, seven years 
old and daring each other to keep walking, checking the horizon to make sure it 
really wasnít getting any closer, finally turning and running for the safety of our own 
familiar territory.
	"I remember the beach," I said, the picture of Jade and I abruptly changing. 
For a moment I thought I heard waves crashing in the distance, tasted salt in the air.
	Every summer we had gone to the beach together, our days always the 
same. We would take two old patched inner tubes and tie them together with a long 
rope, and then drag them as far out as we could. Jade would take one and I would 
take the other, and we would relax, letting the ocean separate us with its gentle 
sway, squinting against the growing expanse of shimmering ripples between us, not 
speaking in words but letting our silence speak for us. The rope would stretch 
between us, farther and farther, until it couldnít stretch any more, and there would be 
a sudden tug, and then we would be drifting towards each other again.
	Something inside me seemed to burst, and then the memories came rushing 
so fast that I couldnít get them out fast enough, and Jade was remembering and 
laughing, too, and we were saying "Remember?" and "You must remember..." and 
gasping for breath as we laughed. Before we could stop laughing, it was late and the 
sun was starting to set.
	"Oh, Jade," I said at last, when we could be quiet again, "whatís going to 
happen?"
	She stopped smiling. "I donít know. They might send me away. Someplace 
where nobody knows me. Where nobody knows them." She kicked at a pebble, a 
half-hearted kind of kick that sent it rolling sideways into the weeds at the edge of 
the road.
	"Oh, Jade," I said again, thinking as I said it that it was a stupid thing to say, 
something out of the readers we had to use in first grade.
	Oh, Jade, said Jane. Oh, Oh, Oh. See Jade run.
	"Arenít you going to ask me? Donít you want to know?"
	I knew what she was asking, and I realized that even though my mind had 
been screaming "Why?" ever since Susan stopped me in the hall, even though the 
question was pounding in my head, I really didnít want to know. I shook my head.
	"I donít care. It doesnít matter."
	She sighed. "Things are always so easy for you. Your family, everything. 
High school was easy for you. I watched you. You donít even think about it, and 
everyone likes you."
	I couldnít believe what she was saying. Me? Everyone liked me? I was a 
nobody. Jade had always been the pretty one, the one with the exotic name, the one 
everybody knew. She was the one who had made it into the popular crowd, while I 
hung around with the nameless faceless masses. I had watched her, walking down 
the hall, so caught up in conversation with someone else that she didnít even notice 
me.
	I was still trying to figure out what she meant, trying to think of something to 
say, and then we were standing in front of my house and Jade was waving goodbye, 
as if this walk was just like every other walk we had taken. I watched her walking 
alone down the road, the setting sun hovering just above her, glowing like fire on her 
hair, her arms, forcing me to look away. When I could look again, she was gone.
	Jade wasnít in school the next day, or the next. I went to her house, but her 
mother told me that she "wasnít felling well" and couldnít come out. I left her house 
feeling hollow, as if part of me had been left behind. On Thursday, my mother told 
me that Jadeís parents were sending her to a 'boarding school' in another state. I 
could imagine what kind of place it would be. She would be leaving Saturday 
afternoon. I kept hoping that she would call, or come by, but she didnít. She didnít 
want to see me.
	I woke up Saturday morning and tried not to think about Jade. Even if she 
didnít want to see me, it felt wrong not to see her. I felt angry, and wondered if she 
was angry with me, if thatís what she was trying to tell me that last day. I wrestled 
with my feelings all morning, and at one oíclock I started across the empty lot.
	There was no trace of the path that had once connected our houses, but my 
feet remembered each step, and I let them lead me unthinking towards Jadeís 
house. When I reached the road I didnít go any further, but stood on the edge of the 
lot, where I could see Jadeís house and the road stretching straight, running away 
from me until it met the horizon. The sun was very warm and I began to feel dizzy 
from the heat but I didnít move into the shade, didnít sit down. I couldnít do anything 
but watch the door to Jadeís house, and wait. 
	It wasnít long before Jade and her parents came out. Jade walked straight to 
the car without looking around, and got in the back seat. Her mother moved slowly, 
carefully, as if moving caused her pain. Jade sat, unmoving, in the back seat, 
staring straight ahead, not answering when her mother spoke to her. After what 
seemed like a long time her father started the car and began to pull away. It wasnít 
until then that Jade turned back to look at the house and saw me, standing in the 
tangle of weeds, and smiled.
	The sun was bright and hot and the heat rose from the road in ripples which 
shimmered like waves. I watched the car pulling slowly away and my heart went with 
it, pulled out of me and stretching between us like a rope. For a wild moment I thought 
that it would be enough to stop the car; that when my heart had stretched far enough 
I would feel the familiar tug, and we would be able to start drifting towards each 
other, but the car kept going farther and farther and getting smaller and smaller, and 
still my heart went with it, stretching until I was sure that it would break.
	But nothing happened. After a while the car disappeared and there was 
nothing to see but the road, the heat ripples shimmering so fiercely now that the 
whole road wavered and no longer seemed real. The place where the horizon should 
have been was a trembling curtain. I stood there for a long time, and then I turned 
and began to walk through the empty lot.

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