The Photo Frame


I put on my best smile before walking in but it quickly disappears when I see her empty bed. That means she is in the common room - probably hanging out with Emily again. The common room was where teenagers getting treatment made new friends and hung out. I’d been hanging out there with Hannah from her first round of chemo. As I head over, I hear the familiar sound of Hannah’s laughter. Peering into the room, I see her playing a board game with Emily, the board game we have played a billion times. Hannah sees me out of the corner of her eye but pretends she doesn’t. I feel my shoulders and jaw tense, and turn on heel and storm off back to her room. She knew I was coming. She usually waits and we go there together. This is the third time she has gone off with Emily. I sit on the crinkling sheets of the hospital bed and look at her side table. There is a small framed photograph of two young girls hugging. It was one of the many memories of our friendship.

I met Hannah Brown 11 year ago at preschool. I was playing with pink play dough when she walked in, her big blue eyes brimming with tears. She was the new girl the teacher had mentioned. I watched her drag her legs as her mum pulled her towards the hooks to hang her school bag. Her mother took out her pink lunchbox and I remember smiling to myself because pink must be her favourite colour too. Mrs Nelson, my teacher, took Hannah’s hand and the lunch box off Mrs Brown and told Hannah to say bye to her mum. Hannah stayed strong in front of her mum, but the moment she left, those tears spilt down her rosy cheeks. I picked myself up and walked over to her. Without saying a word, I smiled at her and held out the pink play dough. Hannah wiped her tears, smiled back and we became best friends there and then. It turned out Hannah lived two blocks away. We rode our bikes to each other’s houses, had sleepovers, and even borrowed each other’s clothes. We both played netball and went to the same primary and high school. Our families had barbecues and went on ski trips together. It was on one of these trips that I realised the strength of our friendship. During a ski lesson, James, the chubby kid kept making fun of me. I couldn’t get the hang of ploughing and his snide remarks had the whole group laugh at me. When it was his turn, Hannah stuck out the stock in her right hand that made him tumble down. She looked at me with a smug smile that had satisfaction plastered all over it. We laughed and I knew that I was lucky to have Hannah as my best friend.

*****

A resigned sigh escapes me as I get up from the board game before anyone had won. Confused, Emily looks at me.
‘I’ve gotta go!’ I blurt out and make my way to my room. Jess is sitting on my bed with her back to me, looking at the frame that mum had brought from home.
‘Jess,’ I begin, trying to sound nonchalant,
‘You don’t belong here. I know you’re trying to be here for me but I don’t want you to.’
‘Go make friends who can play netball and ride their bikes with you, don’t waste your life waiting with me.’ Tears stream down her face. I can see my words are hurting her. Distancing myself from Jess who is my best friend tears me apart. I don’t want to hurt Jess more than I already have.


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