We always had staring contests when I was a kid. I can't remember exactly how it started but Lexie and I always won the contests. It was sometimes to show how cool we were,like being able to stick a straight pin through the skin of a finger so that you didn't bleed and it didn't hurt; and other times it was for prizes at parties, at birthdays or at Brownies or Guides. We would sit cross-legged across from each other and stare into each others eyes. You had to watch carefully because if the other person blinked before you did, you won. It always seemed to come down to a contest between Lexie and I. Lexie was my best friend. Occasionally she won, but most of the time I did. Stubbornness counts for a lot when you're a kid.
Lexie and I would go to each other's cottages and we'd swim, go out in boats, and sunbathe without our tops on,scrambling back into them if we heard someone coming close. At the age of eleven, the fear of being caught is as much of a thrill as the prospect of no strap marks to mar your tan. Lexie was more into danger than I was. One of her friends at her cottage was a major juvenile delinquent, but she got away with it because her family practically own the town that she shoplifted in. She got Lexie hooked on the thrill of not paying for something. It wasn't as if Lexie needed anything she stole, if she asked for anything her mother was more than happy to give her the money for it. I was envious of that privilege, because money was tight around our house in comparison. Not that I ever lacked for anything of importance, but Lexie was always getting the latest cool thing and I just couldn't. Girls that age feel such things keenly. Lexie continued to shoplift after she returned to the city at the end of the summer. She got me to try it once, but it scared me shitless, and made me so guilty, that as she always stole something when we were out shopping, I avoided going shopping with her.
One weekend I was hanging out with Sue-Anne, another friend of mine, and she and her mother were teaching me how to iron shirts; mainly because neither could believe that I didn't know how. My mother has always refused to iron since they came out with permanent press, she said it would be backward and refusing to move with progress. Sue-Anne's father was a cop and obviously the police force wasn't as forward thinking as my mother, because all of his shirts had to be ironed. I was just getting the hang of it, learning the finer points of collar pressing, when the phone rang. It was my mother, for me. She sounded sort of strange, as did my father in the background who kept telling my mother to give over the phone. A police officer got on the phone and asked me when the last time I had seen Lexie! I got a cold chill down my spine and asked him what had happened to her, was she hurt or lost or something? The officer said no, it was nothing like that and when was the last time I had seen her? I answered that it was Friday afternoon at school, and was he sure there was nothing wrong? He said he was sure, thanked me for my cooperation, apologized for bothering me and hung up. I went back to ironing shirts.
Later that afternoon, when I got home, I asked my mother if she knew why the police officer wanted to know when I had last seen Lexie. My mom told me that Alexandra had gotten caught shoplifting and had said that I had forced her to do it. I was hurt and angry that she would try to pin the blame on me, especially when I had tried to tell her that she would get caught and get into trouble. My mom tried to make me feel better by saying that I should be flattered that when she was in trouble, I was the first person she thought of. Even at eleven, I didn't buy into that particular brand of bullshit, but I didn't say that to my mother. Alexandra apologized to me after dinner that day, and told me that she had gotten a rough time from the police because she had lied, and she wan't allowed in the drug store again. I was still pissed, but I forgave her. Still the damage had been done, and though we never spoke of it again, we were never as close.
A funny space became part of our friendship and still is eighteen years later, though we never stopped hanging out together all through senior public and high school, and have even kept up the connection since she moved to the capitol to become a political animal. Recently, we were both at a baby shower for one of the other girls we hung around with at high school, and I thought something had changed, was different, about Alexandra. The space I had felt before became obvious again, and I couldn't fathom why? I had talked to over the phone a few times, but I hadn't seen her in about two or three years, so at first I wrote it off as that. Even though it continued to nag at me, it was nothing I could put a finger on. Later, I finally figured it out.
When Alexandra talks to me, she never really looks me in the eyes.