The hospital cubical was dim, silent, and cramped. Big enough for only a bed with stiff, over-starched white hospital sheets and a tiny plastic chair, it was lit by a single hanging bulb, the only noise that could be heard was the constant beeping of several machines hooked up to a tiny wisp of a girl. She seemed to be in about her late teens, with clumps of thinning brown hair that looked as though it hadn't been washed in days. Her cheeks had the sunken, hollow look of someone who had lost a lot of weight in a short period of time, and her arms were so thin they looked as though they could be snapped in half by the lightest of touches. Her breathing was shallow, unsteady, as she stared blankly off into space, her body completely immobile, as it had been since they had rushed her to the emergency room five days prior. Finally, she spoke, for what was the first time in days. Her voice was cracked and dry, and sounded as frail as she looked.
The woman in the chair sat up quickly, jerking out of her doze. "Trina?"
"Mother…" She sounded choked, her voice getting raspier. "It hurts."
Tears instantly filled the eyes of the woman who had not left her bedside since they had placed her there. Reaching over, she smoothed her daughter's hair out of her weary eyes. "I know. I know, honey. Try to sleep. The doctors are doing all they can."
"It hurts too bad to sleep."
"Do you want something, sweetheart?"
A tired, heaving sigh lifted up the girl's fragile chest. She closed her eyes momentarily. "I want you to tell me a story. Like…when I was little."
It was with motherly affection and worry that she mindlessly tucked her daughter in tighter, trying to get the creases out of the sheets and plumping up the pillows. "A story about what?"
"I don't care. Your life. My life. Someone else's life. Anything. Please?"
She winced. Every word Trina uttered seemed to take so much energy out of her; perhaps that was why she hadn't spoken in days, just to retain enough energy for these few precious words. She was so skinny. So sickly. In so much pain. Like any mother, she wanted to do anything she could to help her daughter, so without even thinking, she hurriedly began talking, paying no attention to the words, and instead focusing on her daughter's face, watching for some sign of relief, some sign that she was doing something right. "There once were six best friends. Four of them grew up together, and two came later in life. They were what most people would call, 'fortunate,' from the big trust funds their mommy's and daddy's had set up for them, and they took it all completely for granted. The six did everything together. They laughed together, cried together, attended the same boarding school together, studied together, partied and got drunk together, and sometimes…even slept together."
It was finally around that time that the mother realized exactly what she was saying. She flushed and dropped her eyes from Trina's, clearly embarrassed, but if her daughter noticed, she didn't comment. "What…what were their names?" she asked weakly, closing her eyes and reaching for her mother's hand.
A smile crossed the mother's face for a second. "There was Tori Vega. Tall, tanned, beautiful Tori. She had more grace and poise than everyone else in the world put together. People envied her for her blue-blooded, patrician beauty and her ability to keep her cool under the toughest of situations. Because of these good fortunes, if you could call them that, her five friends were her only five friends. The rest of the school hated her."
A feeble coughing fit expelled from Trina's weak lungs, stopping her mother short. "What was the boarding school called?" her daughter wanted to know, once she finally calmed down and had gotten in a few good swallows of water, courtesy of the glass her mother had raised to her lips.
"Hollywood-Arts Academy. It was one of the most expensive, well renowned schools of its time."
"Who were…the other friends?"
"Jadelyn West had been Trina's best friend since they were in diapers. They grew up on the Upper East Side of New York together, in penthouses just down the street from each other. She was self-explained, 'So plain you could look at her twice and still forget her face.' It wasn't true; of course, she just looked that way in contrast to her breathtaking best friend. Jade was very into sports and very outspoken. It went without saying that people disliked her, simply because she insulted everyone within a five mile radius.
"Caterina Valentine was another, who insisted on always being called Cat, under threat of death. She joined the other two girls in their freshmen year at Hollywood Arts. Cat was disliked because of her eccentricities. Her hair color changed more often than some people change their underwear, and she would come up with the most twisted combinations of outfits to wear. She was a budding photographer, and carried her camera with her everywhere, to catch reaction shots of the splash she always made when jumping into a social pool."
Trina offered a soft chuckle. "So…they were friends because…everyone else hated them?"
"Basically. Tori and Jade had known each other since birth, so of course they were friends. Even back in preschool Jade would declare that everyone was jealous of them when their classmates would refuse to sit with them at juice time. Cat understandably migrated to them, as they were the least likely to reject her. Friendship was forged so fast that Tori, Jade, and Cat all roomed together from their sophomore year on up."
A tired smile settled over Trina's exhausted features. The story seemed to be doing some good, as she appeared to be lulled slowly to sleep. "What about the other three?"
"The other three were boys. Beck Oliver had grown up with Tori and Jade, so they were nearly immune to his good looks and charm. With perfectly cut, smooth brown hair that nearly always feel into stunning brown eyes and a body to absolutely die for, Beck was sometimes accidentally called, 'Adonis,' by their sophomore English teacher, who had a crush on him. Every straight female with eyes had a crush on him. He played it up to his advantage, becoming quite the legendary womanizer by his senior year."
"So…he wasn't hated?"
A bumbling young nurse bustled into the room just then. Her two main concerns seemed to be patting her hair back up into it's messy ponytail and chomping away at her great big wad of sugary pink gum, as she ignored the other two occupants of the room. She squeezed around the mother and began checking Trina's vitals and making little marks on the clipboard clutched in her claw-like, scarlet nails. She blew a huge, bright pink bubble before staring the mother down with accusing eyes. "Dr. Keneg said for her to sleep, ma'am."
"Can't sleep," Trina informed her, opening a brown eye slowly. "Hurts too bad."
"You want to try to, I don't know, do your job and maybe help her by giving her some medication?" the mother snapped sharply, a fierce frown shadowing her otherwise pretty face. The crows-feet around her eyes became more pronounced, as did the wrinkles around her mouth from worry. The entire effect was enough to scare anyone.
"Like…not my job, ma'am. I'll let Dr. Keneg know she's hurtin', though." With thus said the frightened nurse all but scurried from the room, snapping her gum as she went in a manner that was even more annoying than her chewing.
Trina gave another cough. "Mother?"
"No, he wasn't hated, sweetie," was the reply she got after a moment's more mumbling of inconsistent treatment and nurses that lacked proper training. "It's funny how boys and girls are different from each other, isn't it? When one girl has something other girls want, the others get jealous of her and hate her for it. But when a boy has something other boys want, the other boys look up to them and think they're cool. I can't explain it, but I blame estrogen. Do you want me to go on?" After Trina's soft laugh and slight nod, she continued, "André Harris had been Beck's best friend since elementary, and he was another who had basically grown up with Tori and Jade, since he joined their first grade class. André's dark good looks went along swimmingly with his sarcastic sense of humor and more often than not, cruel jokes. He and Beck co-captained the football team their senior year, but basketball was his time to shine. He was an absolute sportsoholic, and had a habit of sleeping in his game jersey the night before every game.
"Robert Shapiro completed the group. He came around seventh grade, and though at first he and Beck despised each other, they became friends by the time high school rolled around. With his boyish grin and sweet disposition, he melted the heart of females around him and was regarded by many of them as their best guy friend. He was mistaken for Andy Samberg a record of four times before he reached his senior year. He had a total of seven casual girlfriends his entire high school career up to that year, but no serious ones. It was often rumored that he was gay, but as Jade liked to say, 'He's just a pussy. The only problem is, all girls already have pussies, so the last thing they want is another one.'"
If Trina was taken aback by her mother's crass language or revealing story, she was too weak to show it. She chuckled lightly and exhaled a sigh caught somewhere in between wistful and dreamy. "Sounds perfect…" she murmured in a low voice, her eyelids getting heavier by the second.
"Oh. But it wasn't." It was clear by then that the mother was so captivated by her own tale that she hadn't noticed her daughter dozing off. "They were six best friends. They did everything together. But they also lied, cheated, stole, and ruined each other's lives, and after their senior year, when the shit finally hit the fan…they could barely look each other in the eye. Because while these kids were good at it all, had great grades, incredible sports skills, and gorgeous looks, the one thing they were best at was keeping secrets. They all had secrets. And those secrets would eventually cause everything they had come to know to disappear."
Thick silence swallowed up the tiny room, as she stayed immersed in her thoughts. When Trina gave a little snort, she jumped, snapping out of it, and finally realized that her daughter was asleep.