Practically Invisible


A short story

by Liz Coley

Copyright Liz Coley 2014

Published by Liz Coley at Shakespir.

Cover by Liz Coley, image license purchased from Bigstock.com.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or retransmitted without express written permission of the author, with the exception of brief quotes for book reviews or critical articles.

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by Liz Coley

“It’s amazing what some people will do to get attention.”

Bennett’s voice carried across the quad to where Melanie and I were standing. His left hand rubbed a spot on the back of his head. His eyes fixed on Mel. Not on me, of course because I’m basically invisible next to her, but I blushed anyway. Mel tossed her hair, so long that the blond tips swept across my cheek.

“Sorry,” she called. “I’m usually not so uncoordinated. I was aiming for the tree.”

Bennett picked up the blue Frisbee that had soared past the hundred-year-old oak and attacked him from the rear. He crouched and tucked his wrist like a discus thrower. “That tree?” His tight black curls and straight nose completed the image of a Greek athlete. Except in jeans, not naked white marble.

Mel dropped her eyes, her cheeks as pink as mine. I bet she’d had the same thought. “I know, right? Like missing the side of a barn. Do you mind toss—”

Before she could finish the word, the Frisbee sailed with incalculable aerodynamics to float straight down between two exposed roots at the foot of the oak. Bennett pumped one fist in the air. To me he looked like an overgrown kid asking a trucker to toot his horn, but Mel smiled at him.

“Tough lie,” she said. “The hole’s over there.” She pointed to the steel mesh trash can on the far side of the tree. “Now it’s going to take you two strokes to escape. I was going for a bank off the trunk.”

His eyebrows rose at her use of disc golf jargon. “Oh, of course.” He loped toward us and handed Mel the Frisbee, shaking off a spring-green leaf. “Guess I messed up your finesse shot. What are you doing out here alone?”

I stepped in front of Mel and glared at him. Why was he intruding on our private time? Had he followed us out of geometry class?

He grinned at her right over my head with orthodontia-straight teeth. Or I bet they were naturally perfect. Like the rest of him. Guys like that were bad news. Hard to forget.

I tugged on her hand. “Let’s go,” I whispered. “I think he’s trouble.”

Mel squeezed and slipped her fingers out of mine. “I finished my homework. Had a free bell.”

“Why don’t I know you?” he asked with a hint of more than casual interest in his dark eyes.

“I’m, uh, new,” Mel said. “We just moved here.”

“You know we have a Frisbee golf team?” he said. “Can I recruit you?”

How did he know we’d played on the spring team two schools ago?

“No tryouts?” Mel asked.

Bennett laughed. “No tryouts, no cuts. And no records, no trophies. I’m the proud captain of a losing team. But we have a blast. Hey, wanna toss?”

“Mel, say no,” I advised in a whisper. “We should be—”

“Sure.” Mel wound up for hook-thumb release. “Go long,” she warned.

Bennett ran back with his hands up to receive the pass and snatched it out of the air. He flipped the disc back right on target, low and fast. I jumped out of the way. We formed an expanding triangle, with the two of them slinging the Frisbee back and forth from further and further away, showing off, testing each other. I waved my arms in the universal over here sign, but Mel never even glanced my way. Like I didn’t even exist. Tears dampened the corners of my eyes. We’d talk about this tonight. For sure.

I went home with her after school, as I always do. It’s a best friend thing.

We chilled out, watched some TV, set the little folding table in the apartment kitchen so it would be ready when her mom got home. At dinner, Mel was all full of stories about the new school and about this guy. I sat in silence, no appetite at all. What was the use of making new attachments?

“Honey, that’s great! Already making new friends and joining a team?” Her mom encouraged it. I don’t know why. We’d just be moving again in a few months. Mel’s mom was the most restless person either of us ever knew. She wasn’t attached to anything except novelty. I’m the only reliable, constant friend in Mel’s life, and I’ve always moved with her.

I sat curled up on the couch at her side, like a cat or something, waiting for her to finish homework so we could talk about what happened today. She finally stuffed everything into her backpack ready for tomorrow, brushed teeth, put on a sleep shirt, and slipped between the sheets, ignoring me until I could hardly stand it. Finally, when the lights were out, I stretched out on top of the covers and tried to start the difficult conversation.

“I can’t believe it,” I said. “You know you’re doing it again.”

“Shut up.” She rolled on her side away from me.

“He’ll never write or call. He’s not that type. Don’t break your own heart all over.”

Her voice turned wistful. “Maybe we won’t move again. Mom really likes this job.”

I sighed in the dark. “You said that last time. But here we are.”

She was silent, but not asleep.

“Look,” I said, more gently. “We’re a team, you and me. And when we move, you know I’ll come with you. He won’t.”

Mel reared up on her elbows, her breathing tight and annoyed. “Maybe I don’t want you to. Yeah. Maybe I don’t.”

My heart turned icy cold. “Mel, you don’t mean that. You can’t.”

“Shut up and let me sleep.”

But I couldn’t let it go at that. “You used to take my advice,” I said. I tried to keep the whine out of my tone, but I’m afraid it was there all the same.

“You used to be older than me,” she snapped. “I looked up to you. Now you’re just…you’re just being childish.”

My throat closed so tightly I could hardly breathe. “But…but Mel, I can’t—”

“I know you can’t. And it’s not your fault, but you’re holding me back.”

“Why can’t I grow up with you?” My voice felt unpleasantly tight. “I thought…I thought we were forever.”

As I reached for her hair to smooth it between my fingers, she batted my hand away. “No,” she said. “No more.” And I knew she was thinking about how Bennett’s fingers had threaded through her hair as he walked away from the quad, an arm around her shoulders. And about how he’d turned his head right as she turned hers left and their lips brushed for just a moment.

“You need to leave,” she said quietly. And as she turned away from me for the last time, I realized she had missed the tree on purpose.

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Practically Invisible

  • Author: Liz Coley
  • Published: 2015-10-31 16:50:06
  • Words: 1321
Practically Invisible Practically Invisible