"Reba, I knew there was a reason I liked you!" Kim said, careening into the living room on impossibly high heels. For being six months pregnant, she sure could move fast, even with a huge, dusty, bulky photo album weighing down her arms.
Reba looked over at her mother who was busy polishing off a bottle of scotch at barely nine a.m. in the morning. Her look said, "it's too early for this". But Reba turned to face Kim then and said, "Why thanks… I think."
"You're never going to believe what I found, Reba. You're just going to flip your country boots!" Kim cried in excitement as she dropped the huge album on the coffee table with a thud.
"What is that thing exactly?" Reba asked. "And by that, I mean why is it here in my house getting dust and cobwebs all over everything? I just cleaned."
Kim shook her impossibly blonde head. "Oh, Reba, you're so droll," she said and Reba rolled her eyes. "Anyway, ever since we met I have had the strongest feeling that I knew you from somewhere, like total déjà vu stuff - and not just from seeing you in all those TMZ news segments either."
"Okay …" Reba didn't know what to say. With Kim, she never really did. Kim was just well, Kim. Reba never expected to understand her.
"Well this morning I had my staff clean out the attic and look for stuff I could donate for that big charity auction coming up next month to save the Peacocks, and my favorite of my many maids, Lola, found this album in a box. She asked me if I wanted it. Well at first I was all 'Oh, it's so dirty. What if there are like dead bugs in there?' But I opened the first page anyway and saw this!" Kim stabbed her finger down on an old photograph from the seventies taken with what was probably a very cheap camera. It was a bit fuzzy and hard to make out at first.
Reba shrugged and leaned over, looking at the picture. "What about it?"
"Reba, that's you. And me!" Kim cried excitedly.
"What?" Reba leaned still closer and brushed away the dust coating the picture. "While I'll be! It is me. I must have been just a teen then."
"Oh yes, the years haven't been all that kind have they?" Kim asked, patting Reba's hand. "But it's okay because now I know why we're such amazing friends. You babysat me one summer. Remember how I couldn't say your name so I just called you 'Eebs' and you said I was so blonde that you would call me 'Barbie'. Great times, weren't they?"
"Uh yeah," Reba said. She watched her mother approaching. Lillie Mae gazed at the picture.
"I'm so glad we got your overbite mostly fixed," Lillie Mae said.
Reba self-consciously covered her mouth for a minute. Then she said, "This was a nice walk down memory lane from a summer I spent here. Thanks, Kim, but now I've gotta get busy. The toilets won't scrub themselves."
"Hey, Reba, remember that special thing you told me the last night you babysat me?"
Reba shrugged. "Hmm … Uh, was it 'thank your Mom and Dad for the money. I can put it towards my dental surgery'?"
Kim smiled. "Oh, Reba, no. Come on. It was the last thing you said before my mom drove you back to your Grammy's place that evening. It was the sweetest thing I've ever heard."
"Well, uh now… Actually I can't remember."
"You can't remember?" Kim looked positively beaten down. Reba had never seen her look this upset- or really upset at all. She was so perpetually cheery. Oh so cheery.
"No. It's been years."
"But you do remember me from back then right?"
Reba shifted from foot to foot. "No, no. I don't think I do. That was a wild summer. So, so wild…"
Kim shook her head and if Reba wasn't mistaken, she thought she saw moisture gathering in the blonde's crystalline blue eyes. "Look, Kim-"
Kim held up a hand. "It's fine, Reba. So what if you can't remember me? I guess I wasn't all that important to you then, or now." She then turned and ran out of the house as fast as her stilettos could take her.
Reba sighed and looked at the album again, tracing her eyes and her lips before she moved her finger to Kim's pixie blonde hair. She looked at her mother who was watching her expectantly. "Mama, how could I forget that I babysat her? Kim seems like someone pretty hard to forget, no matter how hard I try."
"It was a wild summer, just like you said. Your Grammy was feeding you flaxseed and cornmeal for dinner every night. That alone was enough to make anyone want to forget."
"I don't remember much of that summer to be honest. I just know that you and Dad sent me to Grammy's because you two were fighting a lot."
"Yeah, we almost done divorced back then."
"Did he run around on you like Bobby did me?"
"No. We just started getting a bit restless in our middle age years. Money was tight. I was menopausal… My vagina was dry … It's all a blur now really."
Reba cringed. "That is way too much information, Mama!"
"Nevertheless, that's what it was all about."
"Well, nevertheless please never talk about your vagina in my presence ever again." Reba then looked at the picture of a teen her and a child Kim and she sighed before heading upstairs to clean the bathrooms.
She was scrubbing the bathtub when the first memory suddenly came to her. A memory of bathing little Kim as she splashed around in the tub singing a popular song of the day. Reba shot to her feet and ran down the hall calling for her mother.
"Mama, Mama! I remember!" she cried, coming down the stairs two at a time. She smelled weed immediately but for the moment, chose to ignore it.
"I remember Kim, Mama! I remember bathing her while she sang and played 'swimming pool' with her dolls. And I definitely called her 'Barbie' which she laughed and laughed at. She was the sweetest little thing with gapped teeth. Even then she liked to hug on me. Constantly hug on me, and back then I thought maybe it was because her parents were never home and she needed someone to care about her. Oh, Mama, I remember it all now."
"Well don't tell me, tell Kim. She's the one you made feel forgettable."
"I didn't intend to!"
"Well hell, intentions, something or other like that." Her mother was totally blitzed out as Cash would say.
Reba shook her head. "I am going over to Kim's with reinforcements – namely Cherries Garcia – and you better have thrown out that Mary Jane by the time I get back."
"What Mary Jane?" Lillie Mae asked and smiled. "Mary Jane is such a nice name, don't you think?"
Reba rolled her eyes and ran for the freezer. She grabbed a pint of ice cream, two spoons and then headed next door.
To her surprise, it was Kim who opened the door and not one of her many staff members. Kim's eyes were red and puffy and it looked like she had been crying for hours.
"Ahh Kim, I'm so sorry for earlier," Reba immediately apologized. "Can I come in?"
"No!" Kim said petulantly, crossing her arms over her full belly.
"Kim, I brought Cherries Garcia…" She held up the pint. "I remember last week you said how much you liked it. And I also remember other things. Other things from that summer when I was fourteen with an overbite and you were five and the sweetest little thing on two legs."
"You're just trying to bribe me to forgive you."
"Well I've never known you to hold a grudge …"
"Well this is different, Reba!" Kim said as a tear rolled down her face. "I remember how lucky I felt back then to have 'Eebs' as a babysitter. No one ever cared about me the way you did and when you said you'd never, ever forget me, I thought you meant it."
"I did mean it… My brain was a bit fried this morning – probably from inhaling too many Pledge fumes – but I do remember the last thing I said to you that summer. I said 'Barbie, you're a really special little girl and I'll never forget you. I know sometimes life is hard and that you miss your parents a lot but never stop being the good, loving little person you are. Never, ever – not for anyone'. And we hugged and I went. But I didn't forget ya, not really. And you really are the good little loving person you always were."
Kim wiped her eyes. "You do remember!"
"Yes, yes I do."
"Oh, Reba, this is so great!" Kim cried and pulled her friend into a fierce, bone-crushing hug. Reba could barely breathe and finally had to wrench herself free to restore her oxygen supply.
"Still a big, big hugger," Reba said. "You grew up real nice though."
"Thanks, Eebs. Thanks a lot."
"You're welcome, Barbie."