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French Toast

by Mackenzie Rae Vanacore 

I didn’t want to go out but I agreed after Alex texted me for three days straight–each
message containing a new place, a new activity, a new idea. When she suggested that we go to
our favorite bakery and cafe just down the street, I finally gave in.
“I knew Our Place would get you,” Alex said when she picked me up after school. “Are
you okay, Maya?” Alex asked as soon as we got into her car. I knew this was coming so I tried
my best to give her the finest fake smile I could conjure up.
“I’m good,” I replied then added: “Starving! I can’t wait to have French Toast.”
“Ugh, me neither! It’s been too long...”
We had to park down the street because the bakery’s parking lot was always too crowded.
It was cold out, so I kept my hands stuffed tight inside the pockets of my army green coat. I
never liked my long hair, but I was glad that I hadn’t shaved my head yet.
“Are you cold? Your teeth are chattering,” Alex laughed, nudging herself against me as
we walked down the street.
“I’m fine,” I said, maneuvering my way around her to open the door. While we waited to
place our order at the counter, Alex attempted to fill in the cracks of silence but my replies
consisted of head nods and short responses. On our normal days, I would’ve engaged in what
Alex had to say about her lab partner. But our “normal” was dissolving like mist at the end of a
waterfall. I was too caught up in trying not to stare at the way the sunlight was hitting her light
blonde hair.
“I’ll have grilled cheese,” I told the cashier, after a few seconds of staring at a menu I
knew like the alphabet.
“I thought you were getting French Toast,” Alex looked at me as if I had just admitted to
a crime. “You just said you were starving for French Toast.”
I shrugged. “I’m not in the mood for sweets.”
“Hmph,” Alex muttered, her eyebrows pinched together. “Well, I guess I’ll get grilled
cheese, too.” She said more to herself than the cashier.

“You don’t have you,” I told her, the satisfaction of my curveball rolling off my tongue.
“You can have what you want.”
“And I want to try the grilled cheese,” she replied, defensively. Her cheeks flushed a
bright shade of pink and I had to force myself not to reach out and poke them. Instead, I forced
my hands to pull out my wallet and pay for our lunch.
“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” Alex said to me as we went and found our seats. “I just
started my new job, I can pay for myself.”
“Sorry,” I apologized as I slid into the seat across from her.
Alex’s frustration disappeared once we were seated, springing into the text topic. I
couldn’t remember what she was saying but I knew I must have been staring at her because she
shut up unexpectedly. The air around us grew suffocatingly warm so I took off my scarf and
cleared my throat. “How are things going on with you and...?”
“James,” Alex finished for me. I knew his name but I hated having to swallow the
bitterness that lingered on my tongue just by forming the letters. “We’re good! He asked me on a
second date but he hasn’t asked me yet. You know? He mentioned it but we haven’t decided on a
day yet. So, I don’t know if I should bring it up or wait for him to bring it up?”
I wasn’t sure if she was asking me for advice but the way she was staring at my face told
me otherwise.
“You know?” She said again when I didn’t reply.
“I think I’m going to go to that art school,” I said, changing the topic. “The one I applied
to. I got my acceptance letter in the mail yesterday.”
Alex blinked, a mask of confusion sliding over her face.
“Here you go, ladies!” The same employee slid a tray of food at the end of the pick-up
counter. “Enjoy!” I stood to grab the tray and a few napkins.
Alex was still wearing her mask when I sat back down. “What?”
“I just... I thought we were both going to decide on a school together. I thought that was
the plan,” she said, her eyebrows pinching again. “SCAD is so far away, Maya.”
“I know...” I looked down at my plate, nudging a few chips around with my finger. “I
just,” I didn’t know how to explain it to her–how badly it hurt to even sit across from her.

“Hey,” Alex reached across the table to put her hand on top of mine. “What’s really
going on, Maya?”
I pressed my lips together.
“Hey, no tears. It’s okay...” Alex squeezed my fingers. “Is it about that girl you were
going out with? Did she lead you on?”
The girl was a lie. I nodded anyway.
“Listen, I know it sucks right now but everything will be okay.” Alex squeezed my
fingers again, forcing me to look up. “You have to distract yourself. Keep yourself busy... You
can’t shut yourself away and ignore your best friend when she asks you to do something,” she
said, eyeing me and holding my hand. “We’ll get through this together.”
I wanted to force myself to believe her, but even as we were holding hands in Our Place,
the world outside disappearing under a blanket of whiteness, I knew I had to go through this
alone.
“I like the French Toast better,” Alex announced when we left through the same door we
had entered.