I noticed Lisa from across the room. Staring at the wall, she seemed withdrawn. I stopped dancing and weaved amongst the partiers until I reached her. I bumped her shoulder playfully. “Hey, how's it going?”
Lisa's eyes met mine briefly before she looked down. Dragging her fingers through her long, straight hair, she looked towards the door. “Do you wanna go outside?”
“Sure,” I said.
Hot from dancing, the cool air felt sweet on my damp skin. “So what's up?”
Lisa picked off the paint on the rail with her perfect nails. “I had an abortion.”
The silence between us seemed loud like static. “Oh,” I finally managed to say.
“I didn't want to,” Lisa said, her voice high-pitched. “My mom made me do it. She said she'd kick me out if I didn't have the abortion.”
I nodded. It seemed the only thing I was capable of. I wanted to reach out and hug her, but I felt anchored to the boards beneath my feet.
Lisa finally shook her head. “I'm going back inside.”
Stunned and dizzy, I sat against a tree. At 15, I'd certainly heard about abortions, but never this close to home. I hugged me knees and shivered, barely noticing when a guy from my class almost tripped over me.
“What are you doing out here?” He took one look at my face and sat down beside me. “Do you need to talk?”
I shrugged my shoulders, but his kindness drew out my words. “I just found out that a friend had an abortion.”
“Wow,” he leaned his head back, “that's heavy.” We sat there listening to the music inside. “Was it Lisa?” My silence confirmed his suspicions. “I noticed she was looking pretty wretched tonight.”
Two days later, Lisa approached me at school. “Rachel, did you tell anyone?” Her eyes were huge and full of hurt as I opened and closed my mouth, unable to answer. “Thanks, it's all over the island now.”
I decided not to take the bus home and walked instead. It was an hour long treck, but I needed the time to think. I felt sick at the realization that I had added to my friend's pain. How could I have been so stupid?
The friendship drifted, and I mourned the closeness that Lisa and I had shared. Seething at island living—where everyone knew everything about everyone else—I longed to leave the “rock” and experience some freedom.
All island kids had to move away for high school. Grade 11 couldn't come soon enough, and before long I was boarding in basement suite two ferries away from home.
Carhi High turned out to be a rude shock to a girl whose only experience was a country school with 70 students. I, who'd always felt like the proverbial fish in the fish bowl, now felt like I'd been tossed into the ocean. There were 1200 students in the school—more than all the residents on my little island. I tried to be the first to leave after each class; being swept along with the human tide of people—that flooded the halls between classes—would cause panic to wash over me.
What a strange thing it was to be invisible. Many of my friends had gone to other towns and other schools, and no one knew who I was or cared to know. I did start to hang out with a girl named Amy. She was sweet and wore her blonde hair in a high pony tail that she flicked from side to side. “You are so amazing at knitting! Would you teach me how?” she gushed.
I took her to a yarn shop and showed her the supplies she would need. As we rode the bus home, she pulled my back pack towards her and, grinning slyly, removed a ball of yarn and a pen that she had stolen—and put in my backpack. It just reaffirmed what I now knew to be true:I'm just a naive country kid. I don't belong in this place.
I decided to return to my island and finish school by correspondence. Standing on a rocky bluff, the waves pounding the surf far beneath me, I basked in the rays of the setting sun. I had blamed the community, but it was my fault that my friend was hurt by the secret I had shared. I no longer wanted freedom from the people who cared for me. Closing my eyes, I breathed in the salty air. I'm home.
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