Aubrey Jenkins is the definition of gorgeous. She’s tall with a perfectly proportioned athletic build. She has chestnut colored hair that is paired with beautiful hazel eyes and a dazzling smile. Everyone loves to be around her because of her amazingly kind and funny personality.
Aubrey also happens to be best friends with me, Nora Thompson. Ever since kindergarten when we were paired together for an activity, we’ve been inseparable. I don’t even remember a time in my life when Aubrey wasn’t by my side. We both have always played such an active role in each others’ lives. That is, until now.
I started noticing that the dynamics between Aubrey and me weren’t the same the summer before this school year; freshman year. It was a sweltering hot August day and I texted Aubrey to see if she wanted to hang out and go the the pool or something. Aubrey had texted back saying that she was busy, something that she never did. Whenever Aubrey had a conflicting event on her calendar, she always gave me an explanation of what it was. I promised myself that I would talk to Aubrey in person on the first day of school, which was in a week.
Walking through the doors of my school, West Ridge High School, I realized I was six minutes early on the first day. I decided to use these six extra minutes to locate my best friend in the loud, swarming crowd of high schoolers loitering in the school cafeteria. As I looked around at the various friend groups that populated my school, I struggled to spot Aubrey. Choosing to look for Aubrey in a couple of minutes, I headed over to my other group of friends.
“Hey guys! Have you seen Aubrey yet?” I asked my friends, who were staring at me.
“Nora. Chill out. It won’t kill you to be separated from Aubrey for ten seconds,” replied Naomi, one of my good friends who was exceedingly funny. “I think she’s over there though,” she said as she pointed in the direction of the rebellious skateboarding group that was taking up a corner of the cafeteria. This friend group was made up of both boys and girls who were known unanimously around the school as the “bad kids”. These were the kids who went behind the dumpster of the local skate park and made transactions with other insubordinate high schoolers multiple grades ahead of us.
Why would Aubrey be over there? I asked myself. She has no reason to be interacting with those people. When I finally identified Aubrey, I realized that she was talking to Levi James, the “leader” of the bad kids. Levi was the stereotypical image of a rebellious teen. He had jet black hair that was cut into a spiky buzz cut on his scalp. Complementing his haircut, Levi had one pierced ear that he had placed a small metal hoop in. He also wore ragged denim jeans with so many holes in them that you couldn’t even tell that they resembled jeans anymore.
“Um... Naomi? Why is Aubrey talking to Levi?” I wearily asked Naomi, who seemed to think this whole situation was no big deal.
“I don’t know, Nora. Just try to calm down okay?” Naomi responded. There was no way I was going to be able to calm down. It was the first day of high school and Aubrey didn’t even notice that I still attended the same school as her.
The school day passed uneventfully and as my mom was driving me home, I realized that I didn’t have any classes with Aubrey. This was the first year since Aubrey and I had started school that we didn’t have a class together. To keep the hot tears welling up in my eyes from running down my cheeks, I quickly pushed the thought away.
As I walked into the school’s cafeteria extra early the next morning, I realized that I was one of the few people at school this early in the school day. But then, as I was looking around at the small number of faces, I recognized the familiar form of Aubrey, who had her back turned to me. Spontaneously, I decided to confront her.
“Aubrey! Hi! It seems like we haven’t seen each other in forever!” I voiced to Aubrey maybe a little too enthusiastically. Aubrey turned around to face me almost immediately with a happy look on her face. But when she saw me, her mood dampened.
“Hi Nora. I know. We haven’t seen each other in a really long time,” Aubrey muttered, not at all seeming like she wanted to talk to me. Just as fast as Aubrey had responded to me, she had turned back around to resume texting on her phone.
“Aubrey wait,” I practically begged as she turned back around, looking more annoyed with me than ever. “Why are you pretending like you barely even know me? Since when are you hanging out with Levi and all of his friends? And why are you at school this early?” I questioned her.
“What the fuck, Nora? Why are you so obsessed with me and my life? Why do you care about who I hang out with and why I’m at school early? Maybe it was because my parents were having one of their never ending arguments this morning and I just wanted to get out of the house, okay?” Aubrey shot back at me with such force that it was like she had her hurtful speech rehearsed. This time, I couldn’t stop the tears from trickling down my face. When had Aubrey started swearing? Even though I didn’t want to, I knew I had to apologize for coming up to Aubrey and bombarding her with questions.
“Ok. You’re right. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked you all of those questions,” I managed to say back to Aubrey. Impulsively, I asked Aubrey another question. “Aubrey? Do you want to come shopping with me on Saturday?”
“Uh… sure,” answered Aubrey who sounded slightly confused that I was asking her to go shopping after not talking to her for what seemed like an eternity.
“Awesome! Do you want to meet me at Teen Apparel at 2:30?” I asked Aubrey again, hoping that I didn’t sound too eager to hang out with her.
“Yeah, that sounds great!” answered Aubrey, finally with some cheer noticeable in her voice.
“Ok! See you then!” I said rapturously as I turned to walk away.
The remainder of the week passed slowly and finally, Saturday came. As I entered the doors of Teen Apparel a couple minutes late, I spotted Aubrey studying the earring section of the store. Before I knew what was happening, I saw Aubrey’s long, pale arm unearth itself from where it had resided in her pocket. Her skinny fingers reached out and grasped at a pair of small black hoops, the same kind of earrings Levi wore. Aubrey glanced at the earrings one last time before she tenderly shoved them in her jeans pocket. After she had plucked the earrings from the shelf, Aubrey went back to carefully inspecting the wall of jewelry. Aubrey was about to shoplift. Quickly, I walked over to her.
“Are you going to steal those earrings?” I asked Aubrey with panic clearly evident in my voice.
“Yeah. They’re way too expensive anyway,” Aubrey replied nonchalantly, confirming my accusation.
“Aubrey! Why would you do that? You have to put those back or find the money to pay for them,” I said, suddenly becoming nervous that I was involved in a crime.
“I’m not going to put them back, Nora. And if you tell anyone that I shoplifted, I’ll make sure that you regret it. So, I would suggest that you stop trying to tell me what to do,” threatened Aubrey.
“I have to go to the bathroom. I’ll meet you outside,” I answered, even though what I said was just an excuse to not be seen leaving the store with someone who was shoplifting. When I was outside, I quickly texted my mom explaining that I felt sick and asked her if she could pick me up. I didn’t feel like going shopping with Aubrey anymore.
When Aubrey finally came outside with her stolen earrings in tow, I repeated the same lie I had told to my mom. Aubrey said she understood and that she hoped I felt better soon, but she didn’t sound genuinely concerned about me at all.
The following day, I couldn’t stop thinking about the crime Aubrey had committed. Aubrey had even threatened to punish me if I told anyone about the incident. I knew the right action to make was to confess the crime to someone, but I didn’t know who. I decided that I would contemplate the thought and think about it more tomorrow after I had received a good night's sleep.
At school the next day, I was struggling to pay attention in my science class when an announcement abruptly came over the loudspeaker. The familiar voice of Mr. Williams, West Ridge High School's principal, filled the room.
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I have a very serious announcement to share with you all today. I have recently been notified of a crime that took place on Saturday, September 17 at the store Teen Apparel located in the mall. I know that this store is a popular place for you all to shop at, so I would like to inform you that a pair of earrings was stolen on Saturday. If anybody knows anything about this crime, please contact me immediately. Thank you all. Have a great rest of your day.”
After this announcement, I knew I had to confess Aubrey’s crime to Mr. Williams. When the school day ended, I made a beeline for Mr. Williams office. As I entered the office, Mr. Williams welcomed me inside and I quickly proceeded to get the words I had to say out of my mouth as fast as I could. After I had revealed Aubrey’s crime, Mr. Williams thanked me and I practically ran out of his office. Was that the right thing to do? I asked, suddenly second guessing myself.
Anxious to get home and stop thinking about Aubrey, I continued to run out the doors of my school. I joined my mom in her car, which was faithfully waiting outside for me.
At school the next day, I was subconsciously waiting for Aubrey to ask me if I was the one who confessed to Mr. Williams. Still, it surprised me when Aubrey did come up to talk to me. The look on Aubrey’s face clearly showed self regret, and when she started talking, her voice matched the emotion displayed on her face.
“I know that you told Mr. Williams that I stole the earrings,” Aubrey started off, “but I’m glad that you did. It was the right thing to do. I should have never shoplifted. That was stupid,” Moments later, Aubrey’s eyes overflowed with the huge amount of water that had been building up in them. Tears started pouring down her cheeks, accompanied with snot from her rapidly running nose. “The reason I started swearing and hanging out with Levi and his friends is because my parents are going through a divorce. I didn’t want to talk to you about it because I knew that you would try to make everything better. At the time, I didn’t want that. I just wanted to be alone. I guess that’s why I’m talking to you right now. To apologize,” Aubrey concluded, looking at the ground. I was at a loss for words.
“Aubrey. I’m so sorry. I had no idea that you were going through this,” I finally decided to say.
“Thanks, Nora. I appreciate it. Also, if it’s okay, I would really like to go back to being friends because quite honestly, you’re the best friend I’ve ever had,” replied Aubrey.
“I would like that too,” I said, smiling. “Thanks for deciding to stick with me after all of these years.”
“I wouldn’t choose anyone else to be best friends with,” answered Aubrey, who was now grinning from ear to ear.