By Vita Forest
“How was your day?”
“What happened today?”
“Nothing, not much.”
But it was not fine and much had happened. But not so anyone else could tell. Only inside Sonia’s head was a tempest, a storm, a whirlpool, a tornado of emotions that miraculously stayed contained inside the box of her skull. She wanted to tell her mother what her friend had done. She wanted to tell anyone. Was Mia a friend anymore? Everyone thought so, even Sonia. But was that really what friend’s did?
Sonia wished she could go back to when she was five years old when she told her Mum everything. Every new sound she had learned at school, what other children had told for news, what Mrs Carroll had worn to school that day and if her nails were painted red or pink.
Sonia wished she could go back to when friends were easy to read, when they knew how to say to each other, “Stop it, I don’t like it!” when the other did something wrong, when their feelings were hurt, when they wandered off the “kind” path into “meanness”. Back then it was OK to like the same thing – the same sport (soccer), the same books (Tashi), the same kind of lollies (Lemon Sherbets).
Perhaps it would still be OK if the “same things” were not boys. When your best friend didn’t end up with the boy you liked. And she knew! How could she not know? Sonia had kept it secret, she had told no-one, not even Mia. It had been a strange maelstrom of suppressed emotions that bubbled to the surface whenever he was near, whenever he was mentioned. For a while Sonia hadn’t even known herself, didn’t link the way her body seemed to react violently for no apparent reason when she thought about him. The sticky tangle of highs and lows that were all to do with whether she even saw him. Whether they spoke.
But Mia knew. Like Sonia knew that Mia liked chocolate ice-cream but not mango sorbet. Without being told. Just by watching. Just by paying attention.
She would have known.
Why had she done it? Why had she chosen him?
Today at lunch they had suddenly appeared together, hands linked, laughing. In front of everyone. Mia hadn’t even told Sonia first. Mia and Ryan. Ryan and Mia. The whole group had stopped talking, stared at them.
“You all know Ryan,” Mia had announced in a new voice. A simpering voice. A sly voice. A betraying voice.
“Yeah, we like, all go to the same school!” said Sam in a sarcastic voice as he checked his phone. “We know Ryan.”
Sonia had been grateful for his response, her lunch turning to cardboard in her mouth. She concentrated on chewing the bread, on her jaws mechanically opening and closing, her teeth pressing and grinding it into paste. She had let her hair fall forward over her face so the others wouldn’t see the shame of this announcement, the shock. How long had it been going on? She and Mia talked everyday, all the time, yet she hadn’t even thought to mention it, to her best friend, hadn’t confided in her, hadn’t thought her worthy of anything more than this public announcement on the school oval after Maths.
Sonia hadn’t spoken to Mia after that. She had walked through the rest of the day in a daze and had wondered, how many people out there were like her? How many people were trying to adjust to major disruptions, catastrophes, while they went through the motions of everyday life. Write down an answer. Pack up a bag, Get on a bus. Walk home. Looking normal, looking like everything was under control. When inside they wanted to scream and rage and tear their friend’s hair out. How many people swallowed it down, kept their voice at a reasonable level, continued on their path that suddenly didn’t mean anything anymore?
How many people said it was nothing, not much?