When She Calls
A Tale of Friendship, Abuse, Love, and Redemption
When I was in high school, I was anything but a “cool kid.” I went to a small private school in Georgia that had a graduating class my year of a mere 75 students. Of those 75 students, 12 of which I had also graduated kindergarten with. Small town syndrome at its finest.
Clearly there was NO way for me to reinvent myself as a proverbial “cool kid” along the way. These people knew me as a nerd from the age of four, there was nothing I could do to change 10+ years of knowledge. Absolutely nothing. Even so, I was at least friendly with most everybody. There were only a few that allowed in to their “close circle” however. Several were cool with being friends for conveniences sake, we did band together or our parents were friends. There was one in particular though who was truly my best friend. Let’s call her Katy*.
Katy had a troubled past, even though looking at her she looked like a grown up version of a Kelly doll from the Barbie world. Neat blond bangs trimmed a round face, perfectly made up each day dressed in her crisp uniform. She was always unusually tan, an even golden color year round. Blue haunted eyes that paid perfect attention in class, taking notes in an elegant, even, and cursive script.
No one knew Katy’s mom was schizophrenic. That her mom was abusive and forced her to lay in the tanning bed three times a week. Kept her up studying until at least midnight every night, hunched over every single book that didn’t quite all fit in the massive backpack she wore on her small frame. No one knew her mother made her binge to keep “healthy” as she called it. No one heard the puking in the bathroom after lunch. No one heard her growling stomach under her cheerleading uniform.
No one knew about the meticulous calendar she was made to keep, full of extracurriculars that she did not even want to participate in but did so to get away from her mother. Activities she was only allowed to participate in because they made her “look good” on future college applications. No one knew her father had taken a job purposely out of state, not willing to face the woman who was slowly draining the life out of his only child.
No one knew that her mother made threats on her life, and eventually attempted to make good on those threats.
No one but me.
I got the call after school like so many before. Katy’s mom was angry and threatening to hurt her. The reason: she refused to go lay in the tanning bed for the fourth day in a row. Her butt was burnt and she hated it. Her mother had threatened to take her phone. Katy without a phone was a scary prospect. So scary in fact, that her current boyfriend bought her a disposable phone “just in case.” What was so scary about today is she was calling me on it.
Her mother had obliterated her old phone with a hammer and was still waving the hammer and yelling loudly downstairs. Katy had locked herself in her upstairs bathroom and called me to figure out what to do. I told her to call the police, then call me back. The line went dead as she followed my instructions.
I quickly called the principle of our middle school who lived next door to Katy to beg him to help. This was serious. Katy’s mom was diagnosed with schizophrenia, but not seeking treatment. She had hurt Katy bad in the past but never used a weapon, only her fists to inflict damage.
He wouldn’t go. This man who I still have trouble forgiving would not walk ten yards to check on the well being of a former student. In the meantime, Katy’s mother broke into her bathroom and almost strangled her to death. Almost.
Six years later, today I got another call. Well a Facebook message anyway. The name on the message said Katy. While we have remained in touch over the years, life got a little too crazy for us to be as close as we once were. Our past is too entwined in trauma for us to ever forget each other, but each new memory since that time has replaced a bad one. Today’s memory was a surprise, I wasn’t expecting to hear from her.
Time has been good to my dear friend. Happily engaged and on the verge of getting her degree, she has survived hell and lived to tell about it. Her faith is as strong as ever, the only thing according to her that kept her resolute in her will to survive through the tragedy she endured. As she shared pictures of her step sister's baby, (her dad did eventually divorce and remarry) she happily texted about her upcoming wedding plans and what the future will hold for her.
I cried. I bawled bid fat tears that I had to wipe off my screen as I read her joy filled words. I cried because I love my Katy. I cried because she is happy. I cry because I still have nightmares about the day I almost lost my friend. I cry because mental illness is real, and those who are affected by it do not just include the diagnosed person. I cry because there is a very real possibility that she could not be here to witness how lovely her life has become. I cried for the others who weren’t so lucky.
I write tonight because my heart is full. It is 1am and my husband is snoring across the house in our room. My eyes are red but there is a smile on my face. A smile, because now when she calls me I know she is safe. I know she is loved. I know she is valued. I also know that no matter what happens, she knows she can always call me. Having that type of friendship gives me all the more reason to smile.
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Georgia Caroline is life enthusiast, wife, fur mom, writer, and believer. She is all about giving in to the impossible. Check out her work on her blog Georgia Caroline and as a contributing writer for Faith Hacks, both on Medium.