My best friend and I are always together. We’ve been friends since we were little and we pinkie-promised that we’d always stay together, no matter what. I know Evie better than I know anyone, which is how I knew something was wrong with her right away. She hadn’t called me in days. She hadn’t come round to my house or invited me to hers. Mum says she’s just poorly and she’ll come back to school soon. Mrs Garrity says I won’t have to partner smelly Richard Jenkins for long because Evie will be back in no time. They’re both wrong.
I’ll definitely have to partner him on the class trip to the secondary school. Next year we’re all starting at St Edward’s. I’ve always been the nervous one, but Evie just grins and says it’s another adventure. We’re always going on adventures, turning our bedrooms into foreign countries and planets with funny names. When we’re at Evie’s her mum even gives us some of her old clothes to play in. My favourite is a red dress with big sleeves and a puffed out skirt. Evie said it was her mum’s ‘going out’ dress before she got pregnant and her thighs got fat.
Dad says I’m too old to be playing dress-up. You’re ten now, Katie, he always says. You’re practically a grown-up. There’s no place for pretend when you’re a grown-up. He thinks I should be reading a book or studying to get ready for secondary school. As long as whatever I’m doing is quiet. Dad likes me when I’m quiet.
Evie sits with me when I’m upset, on the edge of the bed. She puts an arm around me and rests her head against mine. I like it when we sit like that. Her golden hair curls around my mousy brown hair and makes it look interesting. Love you, Katie, she says. Love you more, I always whisper back.
Mum and Dad think Evie’s a bad influence. She’s a distraction, too loud and giggly. But that’s part of the reason I love her so much. It’s difficult to be sad around Evie; she just won’t let you be anything but happy. Her mum and dad are the same. Mum says that’s because they don’t have anything to worry about. Dad calls them snobs behind their backs. He says they buy Evie things to make him and Mum look bad, but that isn’t true. Evie always shares her things with me.
Last Christmas Evie got an iPhone. Dad’s nose wrinkled when I told him. Even though I hadn’t asked, he said I couldn’t get one. I don’t mind so much. Our house phone is right outside my bedroom. Dad works late and Mum goes to bed early, so sneaking it into my room is no problem.
Evie stays up all night with me. We get to school the next morning with dark circles around our eyes, but Evie says she doesn’t mind, it makes us a matching pair. Even as she grew paler and thinner over the last few months she would shrug at me, smiling.
One day she didn’t turn up to school and Mum told me not to worry, She probably just has a cold. I left for school early the next morning, waiting by the gates where her dad usually drops her off on his way to work. But she didn’t show up. She didn’t show up the whole week.
I sleep at Evie’s house most weekends, but this weekend promises to be a lonely one. Weekends at Evie’s are brilliant. Her dad ruffles my hair when he comes home from work and her mum kisses me on the cheek before bed. When we were young, Evie’s mum would lie between us and tell us stories. In her stories no one cries and everyone lives happily ever after.
When Friday arrives it’s the longest I have ever gone without seeing Evie. I stare at her empty seat next to me until Mrs Garrity bangs her hand on the table to get my attention. When I get home, Mum repeats that Evie is probably just sick. But I know it’s more than that now. I know before the familiar roar of Evie’s dad’s car has me running to my window to watch the car pull into our driveway.
I curl up on the edge of my bed and watch as they get out, slamming the doors shut with identical thuds. They’ve never been to our house without Evie before. Evie’s mum’s eyes are red and puffy. She holds onto Evie’s dad, who looks older than I remember. They walk arm in arm to our front door and then I lose sight of them. I catch murmured voices in the hall before the living room door clicks shut. The house becomes silent once more, as if nothing is different. The only hint that it isn’t a normal day is the shiny blue car parked behind Dad’s rusty van.
I turn from the window and fling my legs over the other side of the bed. My eyes fill with tears, as they’ve been doing all week. Dad says he’s getting fed up of me crying over nothing. No one but Evie understands.
I bend my head and look at the mousy brown hair curling around gold. An arm reaches around me, holding my shoulder gently. Our heads move at the same time, touching one another at the perfect moment so we’re both comfortable.
‘Love you, Katie.’
‘Love you more.’
I know why Evie’s parents are here. They’re here to tell me that I did have something to worry about. They’re here to tell me that Evie was sick, that she’s gone. But they’re wrong; my best friend and I are always together. We’ve been friends since we were little and we pinkie-promised that we’d always stay together. No matter what.