Sandi sat alone at the bus stop on Dega Street and sighed. Her evening off from being Sandi Griffin was working about as well as being Sandi Griffin had lately, which was to say not at all. The bus had so far shown no sign of coming, and the fact that the bench was empty except for her was troubling. Worried about the prospect of hitching back home—or worse, calling for a ride—she didn't notice the other person take a seat next to her.
"Huh," a deep female voice said. "Never thought I'd see the day."
She turned at the sound. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Andrea, whose voice it was, glowered at her. "Sandi Griffin; Dega Street; the bus. An unusual combination."
"Not that it's any of your business, but a little variety adds to the spice of life," Sandi said in her haughtiest tones, but the heavy sigh that followed undercut her intentions.
Sandi looked curious. "What sucks?"
"Everything. This whole miserable town," Andrea grunted. "That's why I'm bugging out."
"Bugging out? You mean leaving?" Sudden disappointment crossed Sandi's face.
Andrea held up a threadbare knapsack. "I've got a cousin in Philly who'll put me up. I can check out the scene, you know. Anyway," she added, eyes narrowing, "what business is it of yours? You never gave a shit about me."
"That's not true," Sandi snapped.
"Don't give me that fifth-grade bullshit, Griffin." Anger suffused Andrea's features. "If you cared, we'd still be friends."
"It wasn't my idea," Sandi almost shouted, before deflating. "No, you're right. If I cared more, I wouldn't have blown you off. I just— Dad had me held back a year, just so I wouldn't start middle school with you. He really thought you were a bad influence. I was afraid he'd send me to some private school next. " A thoughtful look came into her eyes. "And not the good kind of public school, where you can meet rich guys."
Andrea barked a laugh. "Were you already thinking like that in fifth grade?"
Sandi shook her head. "Just looking back on it now. I'm not the person I was in elementary school, but then neither are you."
"What do you mean?"
"C'mon, the hardcore Goth stuff and the gloomy poetry?" Sandi gave her a lopsided smile. "Sandi/Andy used to be a cheerful pair. You were the one who always wanted to play princess."
"Yeah, but the princesses always saved the day," Andrea retorted. "They didn't sit around waiting for some stupid prince to do it. And you were the one who came up with the Raggedy Xan and Andy costumes in fourth grade."
"Don't complain. We won the costume contest at the school party. And we got away with putting Mexican jumping beans down Upchuck's pants."
This time, Andrea's laugh was more natural. "That was pretty funny. Were we already calling him Upchuck?"
Sandi nodded, but her smile drained away. "I kinda feel bad about that. I'm the one who came up with it, when he tried to kiss me in third grade. He used to hate it so much. I'd see him crying on the playground sometimes." She sighed. "That's why I always tried to call him Charles in High School. Even if he did turn out to be a total sleaze."
"Well, he's not all bad," Andrea said with a leer.
"Am I missing something here?"
"Remember Jodie Landon's graduation party last year? The one that everyone came to?"
"Oh, yeah." Sandi said. "Even Quinn's sister and her art friend were there. And Quinn didn't even get upset." Sudden realization dawned. "You didn't!"
Andrea grinned, an expression Sandi hadn't seen in years. "Figured I should have some fun. The little pervert turned out to know what he was doing, too." She laughed again at Sandi's look of horror. "Maybe you should look him up."
"No thank you," Sandi said tartly. "I prefer to make my own choices in the area of romance. And Charles Ruttheimer the Third is not one of those choices."
"Suit yourself," Andrea said, and rifled through her pockets. She found a half-empty pack of Marlboros. "Mind if I smoke?"
Sandi shrugged. The dark-haired girl took that as assent, or at least indifference, and lit up. After a couple of drags, she spoke again. "So why are you down here, anyway? Looking for love in all the wrong places?" At Sandi's outraged look, she backed off. "Sorry. I didn't mean anything."
Sandi shot her an apologetic look. "No. It's just—" She paused for a moment before adding. "Did you ever feel like the whole world is moving away from you? The Fashion Club fell apart, and each time I talk to my friends, I see how little we have in common besides clothes."
"No," Andrea said, voice carefully emotionless. "I can't say that I have."
"So I came down here to try something new and I find that I fit in here like a business suit in a rack of miniskirts. I—" Something in her brain clicked, and shock and horror suffused her face. "Oh God, Andy. I'm so sorry. I'm such a bitch!"
"What, because you're complaining to me about the same thing you did to me?" Andrea tried a smile to take some of the sting out of the words. "It's a long time past, Sandi. Besides, I finally got what I wanted?"
"You just apologized. And it's kind of a weight off my shoulders. I told myself I didn't care, after you ditched me and called me names. But hearing you say it—"
"I'll say it again if you want. I'm sorry, Andy. I treated you horribly, and I told myself it didn't matter, because you were lower class and couldn't afford new clothes and new toys, but you were my first real friend and I treated you like shit."
Andrea waved a fishnetted hand. "In the past, Xan. In the past."
"But you're still going?" Sandi said in a quiet voice, shocked to hear the nickname that only Andrea had ever used.
For a moment, Andrea looked away in the direction the bus would go. She took another long drag on her cigarette and then dropped it. "Yup. Got my bus ticket and I'm ready to chase my destiny. " She turned back to Sandi with a fond look. "But I'm glad we get to part as friends."
"Me too." Sandi said, absently putting out the cigarette with the toe of her shoe. "And when you get settled in Philly," she added with a note of pleading in her voice, "will you give me a call? I'd like to hear how you're doing."
"Sure thing, Xan." Andrea smirked. "Same number, right?"
Sandy nodded, just as a bus arrived. The Greyhound logo suggested it wasn't the local. Before Andrea could speak or say good-bye, Sandi grabbed her in a sudden hug. "Take care of yourself."
Andrea hugged back fiercely. "You too," she whispered back. "And be yourself." Letting go, she hoisted her knapsack as the door opened. In a moment, she was gone.
When her bus arrived five minutes later, there were tears in Sandi's eyes, but a big smile on her face.