You Are-Chapter One

I leaned against the soiled kitchen counter, watching my three best friends go about their morning business. Tibby was rummaging through her messenger bag, trying to find some particular tape she need for her film class. Lena was spreading cream cheese onto a bagel fresh out of the toaster, and Carmen had her head stuck in the fridge. I had someplace to be too, an early morning class, but going to class and having a normal life wasn't something that I found interesting that morning.

Carmen pulled a six pack of yogurt out of the drawer in the bottom of the fridge. "You want some, Bee?"

I shook my head. I wanted to say the words, I really did. But when I opened my mouth, nothing would come out. Everybody was too busy preparing for their day to notice me in the corner of our crowded little apartment. Part of me wanted them to notice me; part of me wanted them to ask me…and part of me didn't.

Tibby ran out the door, hollering goodbye as she went. I was watched as Carmen stuffed a mouthful of yogurt into her mouth and grabbed her car keys off the hook. "Bee, shouldn't you be getting ready for class?" she asked.

I shook my head, content to watch my friends go about ordinary life without saying a word.

"See you later then," Carmen said, flashing me a puzzled look as she went out the door.

Lena put her knife in the dishwasher and placed her bagel onto a plate. She crossed over to the kitchen and leaned on the kitchen counter beside me. "Are you okay, Bridget?"

It was the question I had been waiting for, precisely the thing that I had been wanting one of my friends to ask. Yet, when it came out of her mouth, I could only stare at her blankly.

"Bee? Are you all right?" she repeated.

I wanted to say it, I wanted to spit it out and tell her everything. But when I opened my mouth, all that came out was, "I'm just not feeling well." It was at least part of the truth. Even as I said it, I felt my stomach turn, and I knew that I was going to throw up.

"You don't look," Lena started, but she didn't get to finish her sentence before I turned around and ran for the bathroom.

I heard her plate clatter as she ran after me. "Bee? What's wrong?"

I was on my knees in front of the toilet, my empty stomach heaving, before she caught up with me. I dry heaved for quite some time while Lena held my hair back with one hand, rubbing my back with the other. I was finally able to pull away from the toilet, and I leaned back against the cool tile wall.

"What's going on?"

I could hear it in my head, the whispered voice, "Ssh, Bee, it's just me."

"Bee?"

"It's just me."

She grabbed a washcloth out of the cabinet and ran it under the faucet before placing it against my forehead.

"Just me…"

I didn't realize I was crying until the tears started dripping off my chin.

"Bee?" Lena grabbed my face and turned it to face her. "What's going on? What is wrong?"

I shook my head.

"Don't shake your head at me, it's not nothing."

I tried to push myself up off the floor, but my legs were still shaky and I sank back down. Lena sat beside me on the bathmat and laid my head in her lap, holding the washcloth to the back of my neck. "It's just a stomach flu or something," I managed to whisper.

"Are you sure?"

I struggled out from under her and forced myself to sit up. "It's fine, everything's fine."

She kept staring at me. Lena was the friend who knew me better than anyone I'd ever known, and I was lying directly to her face. I knew that she knew, and I'm pretty sure that she knew that I knew. But I couldn't say it. I couldn't get the words out without getting sick again. So I chose to say nothing at all.

"You sure?" she asked, after a couple of minutes.

"Yeah," I replied, getting to my feet. "I just want to spend the day in bed."

She stood up with me and helped me down the hall, keeping a hand on my arm to make sure I didn't fall. As I crawled into my bed, she asked, "Do you want me to stay with you?"

I shook my head. "That's okay."

"Let me know if you want to talk, okay?"

"Yeah, sure," I answered.

As she left the room, I pulled the blankets over my head and willed myself to disappear.