by Rebecca L. Jensen

We meet when we are five. Eve wears her black hair short, pixie cut and rhinestone earrings. I find out in years to come that she only has hair this short because of the surgery. It is easier for them to cut her hair than to let it grow back uneven. The nurses would have to shave one side short and leave the other at shoulder length, only to be cut and shaved again and again over the course of her treatment, her childhood, her life. Sarah weaves us both friendship bracelets that we wear hidden under the cuffs of our sweaters at school. If our teachers see them, they will be confiscated. Everyone knows that if you take the bracelet off your friendship will end. Sarah ties Eve’s, and Eve ties mine and we smile at each other. Eve links an arm through mine and Sarah’s and we promise to always be best friends. It is that simple.




Eve’s mother and my mother spend weeknights at each other’s coffee tables and back patios. They split a beer; my mother offers Ann the glass and takes hers from the bottle. She loops her fingers around its neck to swish it back. Ann chain-smokes in our backyard and I spy on them from my bedroom window. Our fathers are in their cars driving home to us. They tuck us into bed even though we try to stay awake to hear our mothers’ comforting clatter. I wrestle with sleep in the hopes that by staying awake my mother will grant me some small detail of her conversation with Ann. Though I am still so young, I understand that something is wrong with Eve.

I hear snippets when Ann brings Eve over to play in my back yard; she gives my mom instructions on “what to do if…” Ann’s sentences are never finished but Eve tells me and Sarah that she has a disease, an illness called something-like-Pepsi and when my friends leave, I quietly ask my mom if we will catch it too.




When we are thirteen, Eve’s eating habits become less frequent. She has had another surgery. She is on another medication, a trial to stop her seizures. When I can’t stand the taste of hot dogs on French bread sodden with ketchup anymore—it becomes the only meal she will eat—we drift apart. It’s not just the hot dogs. Eve only wants to play games that she chooses, the ones she knows only she will win. She wants to watch Titanic again and again and again on loop. There are only so many times I can watch until I no longer care if Jack and Rose will live; sometimes I beg time to speed up, to make those star-crossed lovers die faster so the movie will be over and perhaps this time we can do something different. Perhaps this time she will be sick of her own routine. When nothing changes, I spend more and more time in my bedroom with my books. Sometimes, I pretend not to hear the doorbell when she rings; I pretend not to see her from the slivered opening of my bedroom curtains as she walks back to her house, Ann leaning in the doorway, always vigilant, watching and waiting for her. Some days I feel guilty and trudge down to her house to apologize for taking so long.

Sarah, Eve, and I sit on her living room couch and she giggles as Jack and Rose fall in love all over again. When Eve stands facing the television, backlit by the blue glow of the screen, and hugs her own body, moving her arms up and down and moaning, making the sounds like she and an imaginary Jack are sucking face, I feel my face get hot in irritation. Sarah snorts as she laughs. Ann opens the door and Eve squeals. I don’t know where to look. Ann switches off the television and Eve looks at us for ideas on what to do next. While Ann is on the phone, we scamper upstairs and the three of us rummage through her makeup in the bathroom and stencil our eyelids in blue and black. I press pearls of golden powder between my fingers, wondering where on a woman’s face this color is supposed to go. Sarah quickly passes the eyeliner to me so I am the one holding it when the door opens again, and she and I are told to go home.




Days pass and I don’t hear from my friends. I don’t reach out, either, because my mom tells me I have been disrespectful to Ann’s belongings. I am too embarrassed to go to Eve’s house and risk replaying that afternoon, and I am too shy to apologize to Ann in person. I call her instead. My mom stands over my shoulder as I tell her I’m sorry. The line is heavy and silent for a moment before she accepts and passes the receiver over to Eve.

“Let’s call on Sarah,” Eve says, giddy.

In my mind, I can see her eyes light up as they always do when she has a new plan. I sigh but agree. Her energy trickles its way to me, infiltrating.

“I’ll meet you outside her house, but you have to hide while I knock on the door,” she tells me in all seriousness, “because Sarah won’t come out to play if she sees you there.”

“Why?” I ask, feeling the weight of my body double. The phone becomes almost too heavy to hold.

“Well, it’s your fault we all got in trouble. You didn’t want to watch the movie anymore, so we did something else. Our moms were so angry. Sarah probably hates you now.”

This fabrication, her twisting of the truth; I will never win. I want to fight it, but I can muster neither strength nor words to hit back. The muscles in my face refuse to hold; I feel my smile drip from my face like melting butter. I tell her I have changed my mind and hang up before she can open her mouth to retaliate. I grow lethargic with rage.




We’re fourteen and I haven’t seen Sarah in months. Eve is sick and she sleeps a lot. Our mothers tell Sarah and I that Eve has had another bad episode. Instead of meeting on our street, Sarah and I start to text and call each other when our parents give us cell phones. Mine is programmed with Sarah’s number, Eve’s, their moms, contact details for the other mothers in our street; I know Sarah’s is the same. I know our parents—our mothers—have arranged this. We reach out to Eve, but she doesn’t reply to me.

“I don’t think she hates you,” Sarah’s message beeps to me, a blinking green light in the dark of my bedroom. “It’s just hard to be best friends with two people at the same time.”

Some days, I see her across the tracks as we stand on the platform waiting for our trains to take us to school. I head west into the city; hers travels east toward the sea. She has grown taller since the last time and her bright pink shirt pulls at her newly formed breasts. I am embarrassed that I have noticed, but I know it’s because I am jealous that my own chest is still pancake-flat.

On the train home, I position myself to sit near Matt. Matt used to go to school with the three of us. We have known him for years, but only in the way that boys and girls know each other from a measured distance: by sight and through rumors—we have never spoken, spent time together, or shared secrets. But I am beginning to feel different; I am aware of the hair on my legs even though they are hidden beneath my uniform stockings. I realize only as I take my seat closer to him, only a few seats away, that I actually want to sit close to him.




On weekends, Matt works the lunch shift at a restaurant on the outskirts of our town, the only restaurant in our town. He busses tables and washes dishes and rides his bike back down the hill. He cuts through our street when he is done. We are sixteen and he circles around me as I walk home from my Saturday job sweeping the floor at the hair salon. He and I try to talk, and we try not to blush. He steps a foot on the curb and stops his bike, legs still astride its saddle, and holds out his hand.

“What kind of phone do you have?” he asks.

“I don’t know,” I say, my mouth filling with saliva. I gulp it back. My collar is instantly hot and I can feel the wet heat flush under my arms.

“Can I see it?”

I hand it over and wish I hadn’t. I don’t know what there is to text a boy about. He punches buttons and saves his own number. He smiles. He steps away from his bike, pushing it between us as we walk on.

We pass Eve’s house and keep walking. There is a heavy, dull thump on the glass of her upstairs window. From her tiny room, she waves. She steps from the window for a brief moment and Matt swings a leg over his bike. When she returns, she steps up on the stool I know she always keeps beside her bed, and she hoists her whole body up to stand on the window ledge. We are mesmerized by the strangeness of her actions. She is wearing a single bedsheet and her bones stick out at her shoulders, elbows, wrists. She drops the sheet and presses herself, her naked white glow, against the panes. She pulls her bedroom curtains around her, holding them closed behind her back. She wants us to see her. Matt looks at me and I know that he will never be my boyfriend.

I look away. I can’t bear to look at Matt. My eyes are spiked with tears. I rush to her front door and ring the bell. Before her mother can answer, I run, telling Matt to do the same. He cycles away and Eve is a stark flash in my periphery. She must have heard the bell; I don’t turn around to check. We scatter and I am home before her mother opens the door. I know what we witnessed was wrong, but I don’t have the heart to actually tell Ann what her daughter has done. I don’t have the energy to hear that it’s the medication, the after-effects; I don’t have the strength to consider her actions are not deliberate and calculated anymore.

At home, I push the plug into the bathtub and turn on the hot water, letting the tub fill. The bathroom steams and fogs the mirror on the cabinet my dad had painted and fixed to the wall himself. One of its doors leans open on its hinges. I have grown tall enough, finally, to see my own face reflected in the cabinet mirror. When I was younger, I would open the doors and climb up, standing on the closed lid of the toilet to see myself. The edges of the mirrored door are still dusty and smeared with my fingerprints. Now that I am tall enough to see myself, I don’t feel the need to root through my parents’ toiletries, their extra shampoo bottles, razors, cotton balls, my father’s shaving kit, my mom’s face creams. Instead, I stare into my own eyes. I push my thumbs against the base of each eyebrow, desperate to straighten the straggling pieces of the left one to match my right.

When the bath is full, I turn and shut off the water. I peel off my blouse and drop it to the floor. I catch my reflection—healthy, strong, feminine—in the mirror again. I trace my collarbone, my neck with a hand. I pull a towel from the rail and bring it closer to the tub.

In the water, I tip back my head to wash out my hair. I let it bob and float around me. Time passes. My mother taps on the bathroom door—I hear it, dulled through the bathwater, and I pull my head forward and sit up, my wet hair resisting, trying to drag me back in. I draw the shower curtain across to hide my nakedness from her as she inches open the door.

“It’s only me, honey,”

“Mom! I’m in the bath!”

“Eve called, honey. I said she could come over for dinner. I didn’t think you’d mind. I’ll start cooking now. Hurry up!”

As my mother leaves, I reach out a soapy hand to firmly shut and lock the door. I sigh and push my body back underwater, waiting for the hot dog smell to crawl under the door frame.




When I think about my friends years later, we are one decade and half a world apart. It has been so long since we have spoken but I follow Eve online, if only to keep an eye on where she is, how she is growing, how she is surviving. To make sure she is surviving. I am not there anymore; I only have Facebook to tell me that she has checked in to hospitals around the country. I am grateful to see her updates but simultaneously wonder why she posts these things online at all. Then, she is quiet for a long time. I see Ann typing to someone else, Eve had another attack.

I imagine the scene: the back of Eve’s head, smooth and shaved, resting on the cool tile of her bathroom floor. Her arms hooked around her body as it shakes in seizure. The hairdryer on, blowing streams of hot air into the quiet room. She lives alone now. I imagine what it must be like for her to wake and have to assess the damage alone, to herself. Her legs are inked, scrawled and swirled with black and orange tiger lilies so there’s no way for her to see the bruises even though I imagine them blooming under her skin. Her arms are pitted with cellulite, the skin loose in batwings, her wrists lined with old scars.

I do not call. I do not visit her because we are so far away now, physically, metaphorically, in all senses. I think of Eve at the window. I imagine her there as white and as small as my memory of her behind the glass. She is fallen petals, sea foam. I am waves, reaching out and drawing back.

Rebecca L. Jensen received her MFA in creative nonfiction from Florida Atlantic University in 2017. Her work appears in (mac)ro(mic)West Texas Literary ReviewGravel, Crab Fat Magazine, Eunoia Review and others. She currently lives and teaches in South Florida.