Lily jotted her ideas in a leather-bound journal she kept in her purse. Sometimes it was about a new menu she’d like to try on. Sometimes it was about a dress she fancied. Sometimes it was about her observation of society.
She would sit in a coffee shop where lights illuminated a row of wooden furniture. A modern rhythm swayed her inner heart and grounded bean aroma filled the space. Chatters accompanied her while she worked on some possibilities to execute a problem.
She tried different methods to analyze it but they were not effective. Leaning on to the sofa, she realized there was another way to do it. She pondered a moment. Feeling lost, Lily turned her gaze to the window where she caught sight of a car passing by.
A lady stepped out and whisked her wavy hair aside. The dark maroon handbag matched her red flowery dress during spring. Lily took time to observe the dazzling earrings and magnetic eyes. She looked like a model walking on a runway.
Lily enjoyed these little observations. They were her favorite sources of inspiration available whenever she needed it. Her journal was almost like a personal Wikipedia, a record of humanity.
Then her mind trailed off to the box where she kept all her journals at home. “The written box,” she whispered and smiled.
Lily moved around a lot with her family. She didn’t bring much stuff at first but soon her collection grew. “You can’t bring them all, honey.” She learned to select the necessary things to be carried from town to town. One time she unpacked a box and the next she repacked it again. She then left some boxes behind in the storage.
There was too much stuff to organize in her room. Stacks of magazines and fiction novels were on the coffee table. There were laundry clothes piled in a bucket.
After driving for an hour and a half, Lily warmed up her food and ate dinner instead. She could not care less about her room. Her attention was glued to the smartphone. She had a habit to tap on the screen, putting likes to posts related to chubby animals and hilarious videos. Last time she checked, she followed ten pet profiles and three entertainment sites. These numbers were low compared to her friends’ account.
It was hard to ignore phone buzzes. There you are, working on a piece of paper or on a computer while streaming online music. You felt a sudden vibration on the desk and you peeked on the update. It was breaking news. Did your friends get this? Lily was not immune to these experiences.
She often found it amusing. She would refer her smartphone’s updates for a conversation topic. She couldn’t imagine otherwise. Lily was the kind of person who appreciated search engine more than anyone else.
It was then that she remembered the lady in the spring dress. ‘I wonder where she got that one’. Lily typed in a simple sentence ‘red spring dress’. The webpage flushed thousands of references. A picture showed a similar dress that she adored before, moving under the sun.
She imagined wearing vanilla or peach scented perfume with the dress. It was impossible for her to wear olive, turquoise, or grey shoes. Lily wandered off with a working mind, fitting pieces into her trivia puzzle.
The closet in her room held a full-length mirror and she tucked her hair in. “Maybe, just maybe…” she smiled at her own reflection. She walked to the bathroom and put on a pair of earrings. Lily always dreamed about a makeover, something all women want. The magazines and TV shows always portrayed the magical brilliance of a makeover.
As she pulled the closet opened, her coat slid down from the hanger. “Always,” she clicked her tongue and cleaned up.
Halfway through, Lily dived into reminiscence. She remembered ‘the written box’ kept in the storage room. She retrieved it and opened the box.
You can’t hold on to all your memories. Sometimes we printed our moment into everlasting pictures or multimedia. Sometimes we wrote back about what immortalized them. Not all good things come, not all bad things happen. Lily flipped the pages around and saw who she was then, who she was now, and wondered how she would become.
A page slipped from one pink journal… a token from a friend. It was written on a scrap paper, ripped right at the edges. There wasn’t much… a friendly thank you note. “You are very nice and I hope to see you again.” When she looked at the bottom part she found Bianca’s name on the paper. It was the girl with wavy blonde hair. She was nice too, Lily thought.
Then like everybody else, Lily grabbed her laptop to get an update. Maybe she was in town. Lily clicked and hovered her mouse on the screen. She typed on the keyboard. A quick preview showed all about Bianca, at least based on her social media profile.
“You are very nice and I hope to see you again.” The two simple sentences rang back into her mind. Lily saw the active sign in Bianca’s chat and she typed in a simple message…
“Bianca, is that you?”
She went to her fridge to grab some snacks but before long the laptop pinged her a message. “Hey, Lily! Long time no see.”
Her heart paced. She didn’t know Bianca would reply so soon. Something came from the back of her mind… the graduation. She remembered the last time they met was on college graduation about two years ago. They didn’t exchange words but in the end, Bianca embraced Lily while congratulating her.
The story began back when Lily applied to Hillside college. She later found that Bianca was applying for art major there too. Hence, they both became roommates in the small college town. Green trees covered most of the scenery in Hillside. Some of the town’s buildings were still made from wood. Both Lily and Bianca had explored the parks and hills, dedicating their free time for hiking. Although Lily was studying economics, she took an interest in arts. They both took Arts 102X class, a special class designed for crafts enthusiasts. Lily took it as an extra credit while Bianca took it to fill her portfolio. Since Lily’s skill was not as good as other artists, she asked Bianca for help from time to time. Soon, they became best friends.
It was in July the first year when Lily heard rumors about Bianca. College students were supposed to differ from high school students. Yet some of them still avoided Bianca. The art students called her an impostor, stealing ideas from a famous virtuoso. Lily knew little about the conflict but she questioned Bianca’s integrity.
In summer Lily applied for a class tutor position. It paid twelve dollars per hour — a decent sum for a college student. She collected the money every month through checks and stored it in her bank account. It was, of course, delicate information she didn’t share with anyone. That was until she lost her January check. She watched Bianca like a hawk, being suspicious with her. Did she do it? I don’t know if she’s deceitful… she wondered.
On the weekend, both of them went together for a dinner. Tim got the bill for the table when suddenly Bianca said, “sorry guys, I left my wallet in the car. Can you lend me some?”
Lily exploded at that moment. “You can’t depend on people to buy you things! Stop pretending you don’t bring your wallet.”
“But… I don’t.” Bianca’s voice trailed off. Looking at the fuming Lily made her realized that something was wrong. Her best friend was usually calm and understanding. But now she looked frustrated. “Are you okay?”
“I am not okay!” Lily finally released her anger. “Not until you return my check.”
It was something that Lily regretted years after. She never knew where the check was… perhaps she had misplaced it or perhaps she had stored it in the bank. Lily then talked to the college tutor place. They consulted with the administration office and willingly rewrote a check for Lily. She felt grateful for that. But things spoken couldn’t be taken back. Lily and Bianca never spoke ever since.
Now, in front of the laptop Lily typed in enthusiastically. She tried to engage the conversation to upcoming movies and concert. Some activities they might enjoy together. After all, she didn’t want to remind Bianca about the past. It would be embarrassing!
“Hey, what about a trip down to Hillside?” She typed in. Bianca’s profile showed that she still lived near the college. She thought it would be a fun trip.
“Don’t tell me… The Espresso Bar?”
Lily smiled upon reading the words. Bianca sure knew her well. It was a little café she used to visit back in the old days. The one she spent hours and hours writing freshman assignments. “Yeah. Let’s meet there.” She replied.
Lily was watching the hard rain pouring outside. Last time she checked her phone, her old best friend said she was on the way. ‘Was she coming with a car? Was she coming with a bike?’ She had no idea.
The wooden door creaked open with a tingling bell sound and Lily turned to see Bianca in soaked clothes.
“Sorry, I’m late. It’s… the rain…”
“It’s okay,” Lily took her bag down and let Bianca sat. “…been a long time.”
“You wanna take an order?”
Lily lifted her right hand and a waiter came up to them with a note. “What would you like to order? We have the special spring menu starting today.”
Bianca took the extra menu and squinted her eyes. “Let me try the Dazzling Tea. What do you want, Lily?”
“Yes?” Lily realized that she got distracted. She was thinking how long it had been for them to sit together like this. “Peach Tea for me, please.”
At this, the waiter clicked his tongue. “Sorry, we’re run out. What about Morning Tea? We have it… over here,” he pointed to the extra menu.
“Fresh scented vanilla with Mint Tea.” She thought about it for a second, wondering why it’s not Vanilla Tea altogether.
Lily is always like this when she doesn’t get what she wants. A bit of disappointment, Bianca could tell. She had a little smile on her face.
“Well, let me try that.”
As the waiter went, Lily turned her head back just in time to see Bianca’s smile. “What?”
“Nothing. I remembered how you used to look at some stores with that look. ‘How come I’m not getting that?’ Haha.”
“What? My look? No, I’m not that obvious.”
“Oh, you’re very obvious, Lily. Right, maybe only to me.”
Then they stayed silent for a while. They were half enjoying the rain and half not knowing what to say.
“How’s everything going?”
“Good. I’m working at a small agency down the road.”
“How many people do they have?”
“About twenty in this office. They had a branch in Lakewood.”
“Wow, that sounds great.” Lily accepted her tea and thanked the waiter before getting back on the track. “So look. I get this idea about writing a story and the best setting is our high school. I was thinking of going there and taking pictures and stuff. But if someone’s willing to help me, that would be great. You know, pointing stuff out; the ones I forget. I thought it would be fun if… I don’t know, doing it with an old friend?”
“So try,” Bianca sipped her own coffee and pointed to Lily. “You’ve always wanted to write a book. I know that.”
“Yes, yes. Exactly. I want to write something about friendship with a little bit of twist. I guess little fights here and there?” At this, Lily peeked a look at Bianca.
“Fights are not enjoyable, you know.” Bianca looked hesitant.
Lily nodded her head immediately. “Yes, exactly. That’s what I want to show to people. Even if you fight so many times with a certain someone, you can always get back on track.”
They were silent again for a while and Lily noticed that Bianca wasn’t comfortable with the topic.
“I don’t know, Lily. It sounds a little boring. I know too many books about this.”
Lily finally stopped persuading. She took her cup of tea and held it for a while. The warmth of the tea contrasted the chill rain outside. Even this brought her to an idea of a story. She smiled at this, though it’s not a time to fantasize another story.
“You know, Bianca, life paced fast lately. Just the other day, I did the spring cleaning. While doing so, I asked myself ‘What am I doing? What the heck am I doing?’ I started my own projects to do this and that; to do something with my life. You know, like in those Hollywood movies where the main character wants to change his life…”
“Oh, feeling like a movie star, aren’t you?” Bianca teased Lily, and they laughed.
Underneath the table, Lily kicked Bianca’s leg gently. She enjoyed this conversation very much: their laughter on silly jokes; silly statements. “I miss this,” Lily told Bianca.
Bianca only shrugged, “sometimes you miss things you used to have.” She sighed and adverted her view to the rain outside. “Whatever happened to us back then, huh?”
She sipped her tea once more before she continued, “I’m sorry. It was my fault entirely.”
“Though we were friends like crazy.”
Bianca chuckled and Lily smiled. The two girls sat down for another 40 minutes. They were talking frivolously about the upcoming TV series and trending books. They were a bit too loud. But both are glad to reunite after a long year.
From afar, the waiter stood watching the two. His hand was holding the coffee jar he’s supposed to offer to Lily. But he stayed in the counter until either of them asked for more. He smiled.
“Aren’t they too old to talk that loud?”
The waiter laughed at his boss. He straightened up his bow tie while checking himself up in a mirror. “We all talk loud in front of friends, don’t we?”
“Maybe, you. Maybe youngsters,” the owner defended himself. “Or perhaps women are always like that: chatty.”
Again, the waiter smiled though he didn’t say a word. Then he turned himself back to watch the girls again and for a while, his eyes met the short hair one. ‘Thanks,’ her mouth formed the word. He smiled in response.
“What was that for?” the owner asked.
The waiter smiled while preparing a cup of latte for the next customer. “She’s just an old friend, that’s all. I thought I want to help her.”
“I see. You’re the mastermind then.”
“Could be, if you wanna say so,” he chuckled.
“I wish she’d call you, though. So that the two of them will know whom to thanks for.”
“It’s okay,” he shrugged one of his shoulders. “I’m glad they’re back to the old times.”
“They are like old best friends as they used to be.”