Flash Fiction Friday

Stories in 500 words or less.

She could have been in Paris. Six years ago, when she graduated high school, she was a wandering soul. She thought about flying across the water, buying a backpack, and walking through the countries where all the fairytales had happened. The wind streaming through her hair, she would have roamed the countrysides, danced through the towns, sung from the rooftops. Then she started to think about jobs. The crushing fear of the future bore down on her and smothered all the fantasies underneath the harsh stones of reality. Maybe she would have met someone. Maybe she would have fallen in love. Maybe she would have stayed in Paris. But she didn’t.

She could have been at Yale. When the acceptance letter came, she almost cried. Her mother did. “You’ve worked so hard,” her mother said, taking her daughter in her arms in a way no teenager appreciates. “You deserve this so much. Honey, I can’t believe how smart you are.” She pushed off her mother and told her to stop being so weird, but inside, she felt like she was walking on air. Then they started looking at the money. Yale’s numbers were big, and hers were not quite so much. In her first year at state school, she thought about Yale sometimes. Maybe she would have gotten a mentoring professor. Maybe she would have been steered towards greatness. Maybe she would have become enlightened. But she didn’t.

She could have been a doctor. That’s what she signed up for, the first day of college, and when she attended her first intro class in a room with five hundred other young eager spirits, she was so excited that she could hardly keep her legs from bouncing under her seat and she dropped her pen five times. For the first month, she studied so hard every night and her roommate called her crazy. She walked around with textbooks on her hip and a pencil in her ear and dreamed about diagrams in her sleep. Then the first test results came back. During the scheduling week, her adviser suggested that she think about a different major. When she looked at her GPA, she realized he was right. Maybe she would have founded her own practice. Maybe she could have saved someone. Maybe she would have cured the world. But she didn’t.

Instead, she sits here, talking to me, as we both nurse a couple cups of coffee at a cheap café we can both afford. We gabble about work things and girl things and things that don’t make sense, but somewhere beneath the chatter are the words we’ve spoken in subdued voices after the safety of the sun has left and the darkness is too much for either of us to bear, when all we can do is hug each other and cry. And I’m glad she never went to Paris or Yale or became a doctor, because then, she would never have been my friend.

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