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Anna Lanze


Your youthful laughter full of innocence fills the air. Julia lies beside you, and together your tiny hands mend the worn-out blanket. You both giggle on the couch as you play an R-rated movie, something you two, once again, are not allowed to do. Within thirty minutes, you’re screaming at a jumpscare. This alarms Julia’s mother, your “Aunt” Erin. Aunt Erin, with her arms flailing in the air and her forehead vein protruding, storms into the living room yelling, “What business do two eight-year-olds have watching this film? You both have no business watching a film filled with blood and gore, but that’s probably why you tried watching it.” The two of you laugh in defiance and rebellion.

And there you both are…

“Three…two…one…MINT!’’ comes out of both your mouths synchronized. In a garden of youth, four tiny hands are suddenly ripping leaves from a mint plant and shoving them into seemingly ravenous mouths. The mint leaves burn, but you disregard it because that is the entire point. Julia, ever determined, is scarfing down many more leaves than you are. You are sweating not because of the scorching sun, but because of the leaves you are determined to consume. As your body temperature rises so does your hand, signaling a forfeit. “I CAN’T!” you exclaim. Julia mimics and mocks you, perpetuating her streak of victories, and leaving a trail of memories in the sun.

And there you both are…

You and Julia are wearing neon colored bathing suits with frills and polka dots, and bright pink burning skin on the apples of your cheeks. You two are blowing air into your swimsuits, causing your tops to inflate, giving the illusion of breasts. “I can’t wait till we get older and actually look like this,” she exclaims, her voice leaving echoes of teenage dreams. In what she thinks is a teenage-sounding voice she blabs, “Look at these boobs! I kiss so many boys with these boobs!” The pool contains more laughter than water. The thought of you two being teenagers together thrills you both, but provokes a dark punch to your gut and you know it punches hers too. You two are thinking the same thing but neither of you dare to mention it.

And there you both are…

You’re fully immersed in the pool’s embrace as Julia stands with her toes on the edge of the diving board, water dripping from her short curly hair. She’s wearing a massive grin paired with goggles far too big for her face. Sunrays beam on your skin; the chlorine and friendship-scented air feels refreshing. “Ready?” she snorts as the goggles press down on her button nose. At once you smile and begin waving your arms, screaming for help in your high-pitched voice. The playful charade prompts Julia to jump in to “rescue” you. The splash from her jump fills the majority of your vision, but out of the corner of your eye is Julia’s grandmother sprinting. Not knowing this was all a part of your game called “lifeguard,” her grandma is in a state of terror. Just about to leap into her pool fully clothed, she recognizes snickers of mischief she knows too well. Yours and Julia’s laughter prevails in the face of her grandmother’s scolding and your friendship is immortalized in the sunlit waters.

And there you both are…

Once again, your parents and Julia’s parents fill the backyard with whiskey breath, music, and obnoxious laughter. The back door slams behind you as the two of you approach your parents, who welcome you with applause and hysterical screams. You get into your not-very-well-thought-out positions, fixing the wigs that cover your eyes and identities. You hear your mother whisper about the old costumes you’re wearing, wondering where the hell you found those. You yell, “HIT IT!” and the two of you begin flailing your tiny limbs in various directions. You two are not dancing to any music other than the melody of true friendship. A dance of sheer delight in a symphony of giggles. Howls of laughter from your parents fade into the background as you lock eyes with Julia. She really is your best friend.

And there you both are…

“JULIA!! Do you think we’re being too mean?” you ask innocently while your fingers slam on your keyboard, typing cruel insults to a virtual penguin. “Who knows? Who cares?” she scoffs with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. You giggle and rearrange how you are sitting at your dining table. On a cup of water next to your laptop is Julia mischievously smirking through your iPod screen. You look at the screen and notice she has really long hair today; you compliment it because she usually wears bandanas or hats. “NO WAY!” she yells. You do not question her yelp because you know what just happened to you both. “Banned from playing Club Penguin. Are you girls fucking serious?” hisses Julia’s mom over the phone.

And there you both are…

“GRAB THE WATER GUN RIGHT NOW. IT NEEDS TO DIE!” she demands with her eyes fixed on the intruding insect. You’re paralyzed in horror as a massive bug you can’t even name asserts its presence in front of you both. Julia notices your hesitation and catches a glimpse of your fear. Without a moment’s hesitation, she darts out of the pool and swiftly grabs a yellow plastic gun, showcasing her unwavering bravery. Precisely loading it with water as if preparing for battle, she courageously fires it at the bug. She was always the brave one. “BITCH!” she barks after confirming the insect’s death. She turns to you with her hand on her mouth acknowledging her profanity. You both exchange glances, knowing that if Grandma hears that you’ll get in trouble again.

And there you both are…

You and Julia, partners in digital adventures, tap away on your brother’s laptop. With laughter as your guide, you download an endless stream of Minecraft mods. Consequences arise as the laptop’s screen flickers and goes dark. Your brother erupts in frustration at the sight of this, but his frowns and reprimands couldn’t dampen the spirit of two girls caught in the enchantment of their own world.

And there you both are…

Jaws, the shark movie the two of you have been looking forward to watching all day is interrupted as Julia hesitantly blurts,“What do you think happens after we die?”

Her slim finger hits her tablet screen pausing the film. She’s bundled up in her wool blanket, looking cozy and adorable with her doll-like face. But that wool blanket is wrapped around her as if it was armor shielding her from the impending reality. You, her best friend, know what she’s feeling. You gaze into her wise doe eyes and let her dreadful feeling, an impending sense of doom, transfer to you. You do not respond for a moment, letting those words linger and tighten the air in the room.

“I don’t know, Jules. I just hope we see each other again.”

“Please God…Please let her live,” you whisper with a fragile plea, desperately clutching onto the remnants of hope. Your eyes ascend to the ceiling that holds Jesus on the cross. Your quivering index finger presses a tiny brown button that illuminates an electric candle. A deafening silence surrounds you as dark turmoil consumes you.

There is no sun in the sky; there is no light at all for that matter. The lights are on but the room feels exceptionally dark. The carpet is red, the walls are beige, your dress is black, and the air is suffocating. With a somber weight on your shoulders, you take slow and measured steps toward the hushed room full of adults. Your parents follow behind you, helping you carry the weight of your sorrow. You reach the doorway, a gateway to the brutal reality, as your heart reaches your stomach and your hand reaches your mouth. Your feet follow your eyes that beg for your best friend.

And there you both are…

You stand as Julia lies before you. There is a cushion to kneel on, but your knees are locked in place and your eyes are locked on her. Soft copper curls frame her beautiful porcelain skin and her lifeless face. Her white dress is nice, but she would have chosen something with color. Her makeup looks pretty, but cannot mask the absence of her vibrant spirit; she would have chosen red lipstick. You see her bracelets that will forever rest in silence, but you imagine the sound of them clanging together. Her spirit is now stilled and her familiar face is now frozen in a serene repose. Your gaze lingers on her chest, hoping it will suddenly move again, attempt to take in air. Your nine-year-old hand grazes her forever ten-year-old hand. Her hand is cold, and you want to warm her, but you realize a few things: she is cold but she doesn’t know she is cold. You cannot warm her; you will never warm her, laugh with her, get in trouble with her, or be with her ever again. The finality of the moment crashes upon you. You realize this is the end. You weep and wail into the pools of grieving tears that are your palms. Adults approach you with comfort, but only deepen the pit of grief because how come they get to grow up? There is a void in your life that only she could fill.

You feel different. The world feels different. Regardless of sunlight, the world is darker, colder, and infinitely more complex without your companion. The echoes of your shared laughter cease in the ache of her absence, now only resonating as whispers in the wind. In fact, laughter becomes a haunting soundtrack that reminds you of what used to be. Your hands, once seamlessly entwined with Julia’s, now fumble in the shadows of sorrow, desperately trying to hold onto intangible memories slipping through the cracks of time.

Two girls embracing, Anna on left, Julia on right.

Anna (left), Julia (right)


Anna Lanze is a freshman at SUNY Suffolk Community College. She wrote this piece in the fall of 2023 when she was studying at SUNY Oswego.

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