It’s a mild day—slightly on the chilly side, but that’s quite usual in Trois-Rivières, Canada. Two girls, one European, the other African, walked side by side, on the way to school. The European took in a breath, and spoke.
The girl walking next to her was silent. Then Friday looked at her, smirking. “Ooh, look who figured themselves out!” she teased. She laughed and grinned, blinding white teeth contrasting with her chocolate skin. Her friend punched her lightly, and Friday swayed.
“So if you’d call me, like, Jakie for now on, that’d be cool and all.”
“No problem, best friend.” Friday hugged her friend.
“Yeah,” Jakie said.
“Isn’t that a bit too…” Jakie’s classmate waved his hands around, making some gesture that probably meant the words “out there”.
Jakie stared at the boy. “Also if you’d refer to me as a male, I would appreciate that,” he continued, ignoring the previous statement.
Jakie’s finger hovered over the call button. Should I do this? He cocked his head to one side, considering the decision. After a moment, Jakie shrugged his shoulders, tapped “Call”, and waited. One second. Two seconds. Jakie brushed down his shirt with his other hand.
Jakie covered a grin, as if the person on the other side could see his sneer. “Voice cracks, much?”
“…Rude.” The voice sounded male, with a cute accent. Probably Australian. They sounded younger than eighteen though, so Jakie wasn’t interested.
“That… was kind of rude,” the voice continued, a bit more irritated.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” the teen sighed and rolled his eyes.
“Obviously this is a prank call, so do you even have anything other than insults? If this is going on YouTube, at least make the time worth it.”
“Well I was going to tell you that I now prefer masculine pronouns, but apparently you’re not even likeable,” Jakie shot back. Really, there wasn’t much to be mad about—if anything (and this was probably the case) the guy on the other side should be the one to be mad. “…Yo man, I’m sorry. That was not okay. From me. Sorry. Ugh.” His face was burning up. “I’m nicer than this.”
“Oh.” Jakie could almost hear the shrug in the kid’s voice.
“So am I on safe grounds again?”
“I don’t even know you.”
“The indentured servants didn’t know what their temporary masters would be like when they signed the contract agreeing to serve them for several years.”
“Sir, that is a horrible analogy.”
“Hey, you remember my preferred pronouns!” Jakie laughed lightly. “So… how about that truce?”
There was a breathy laugh on the other side. “Yeah. Okay. Why not.”
Jakie smiled. Then he took the chance. “My name is Jakie LeTael. What’s yours?”
A pause. Then—“Travis. Travis Fordi.”
“Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too.”
So Jakie and Travis were friends. They talked on the phone, laughed together, cried together, and did all things best friends would do. As more and more information was shared, they came to realize that a twelve year old boy and an eighteen year old queer wouldn’t normally be friends. But that didn’t matter. Not to them.
“We don’t talk anymore.”
Friday was singing again. “We don’t talk anymore. We don’t talk anymore.” She took a deep breath. “LIKE WE USED TO DO!” The word “do” was unnecessarily drawn out, and voice cracks were heard all throughout the screamed line.
Jakie, beside her on the couch, laughed.
“No girl, I’m serious.”
Jakie frowned and glared at Friday.
She cleared her throat, ducking her head down. “Ah, um sorry.”
“Since we’re friends, I guess it’s fine.” Jakie rubbed the back of his head. “Do we really not talk?” He started frowning for a different reason. He was now frowning out of concern. “I—I’m sorry. I swear this is not on purpose.”
Friday squinted at her. “Huh.”
The boy fiddled with his shirt. “My mom called today. Apperently some realatives are coming over. She wanted me to show up for dinner.”
“Oh, that’s pretty neat! When are you supposed to go?”
“An hour ago.”
Friday gasped, horrified. “Woah, what?!”
Jakie’s voice then became irritated. “Stop critizing me. You always do that, you know? Like, let me speak for once.”
Friday looked taken aback. She seemed offended. “I don’t do that!”
“Yes you do.”
“No I—okay, do we really needed to argue?”
Jakie scoffed and rolled his eyes.
“The reason I cut you off is because you should’ve gone!” She fluttered her fingers. “Your mom is family. You can never replace that! Your mom already lost your dad. She doesn’t need you to disappear as well.” Her glittery nails sparkled in the dim lamplight. They gripped the hem of her skirt. Her eyes flickered back to Jakie, and away again. Then she spoke. “Please don’t be vain.”
“I’m not vain.” Jakie said it again for good measure. “I’m not vain.” He stared back at Friday.
Friday bit her nails and shook her head.
“Why would you even think that, Friday.” It wasn’t a question. “Seriously though. I’m like, your best friend, right?”
“Well, that’s your decision to make.”
Jakie scoffed. “It’s—it’s like you don’t even care anymore. About our friendship.”
“Your family is more important than your friendship with me.”
“Jeez, Friday. Lighten up.”
Jakie’s friend shook her head and stated firmly, “You should’ve gone to your mom’s dinner. I don’t think I can be friends with someone who cares so little about their family.”
Jakie stood up. “I’m leaving.”
“’Kay. Just say sorry to your mom for me.”
At his house, Jakie frowned at his phone, and explained the situation to Travis. A warbled reply came on the other side, and he pursed his lips. He shook his head, and elaborated some more. This went in a cycle, until Jakie hung up. He stared harshly at the phone, and then tossed it onto his bed. “Whatever,” Jakie sighed. Because how could Travis even understand? He was only twelve.
Jakie looked up at the sky. It’s been a week since he talked to Friday or Travis, and the feeling of loneliness was unpleasant, to say the least. Jakie was not a person of poetry, yet if one asked him to explain his dilemma, he would reply with “worse than the searing, harsh light of the day”. (He really was not a person of poetry.)
A thought popped up in the boy’s head. It was of the classmate who he clearly remembered commenting on the strangeness of his new name. Was “Jakie” too strange of a name? Maybe, Jakie thought, horrorstruck, I just made up the name to sound unique. Maybe it is too “out there”, and everyone else except me knew it was better to just stay in the safe zone, where no one can judge you, and no one could say that you were too vain. If “Jakie” really wasn’t a valid name to have, he needed to know. He needed an outside view on his choice in using Jakie as a name. He took out his phone and called Travis.
He didn’t answer.
Jakie yelled wordlessly in anger. Why wouldn’t he respond! It was only one o’ clock in the morning! Jakie threw his phone on the pavement. It cracked and he winced. It wasn’t the phone’s fault. It was Travis’. And Friday’s. And that classmate and the teachers and his mom and everybody. Everybody was so stupid, and Jakie couldn’t take it. Why did he have to be the only smart person in the world? Why did he have to realize grades didn’t matter and impressions did? Everyone else was so happy, and only he was the one who was right. Jakie scoffed. Vanity? It’s called self-confidence. If nobody else would be standing up for him, he’ll stand up for himself.
Jakie stood on the sidewalk for a few minutes, and all the rage slowly faded away. As his mind cleared he realized he hadn’t picked up his phone from the pavement. Jakie bent down to pick up his phone and didn’t straighten back up. He just sat on the sidewalk. So at one in the morning, Jakie LaTael cried on the city sidewalk, phone in hand, weighed down by guilt and shame.
Jakie looked up, seeing his mom a few feet away, holding groceries.
“Pumpkin, come here.” Despite her statement, Mrs. LaTael was already crossing the ground, arms open. The groceries were forgotten, and Jakie accepted the hug. “What’s wrong?” the mother cooed. “Is something bothering you?” Jakie only clung to her mom. After a few moments, he spoke softly.
“Sorry I didn’t show up for your dinner renunion.”
Mrs. LaTael smiled. “It’s all perfectly fine, pumpkin. It was a bit of a bore without you, though. You seem to be going through hard times. I don’t blame you for not coming to one dinner party. You can tell me about your feeling if you ever want to.”
Jakie hesitated, but ended up telling her about the events happening in his life. “I also skipped school. I’m sorry. I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Mrs. LaTael smiled. “Did Friday tell you to say this to me?”
“…Oh yeah, she did. But this is entirely from me right now.”
“I’m sorry for being vain. I shouldn’t be putting this stress on you. Skipping school was wrong, and so was fighting with everybody. I should’nt have done any of that.” Jakie hung his head.
At that, Jakie’s mother held her son away at arm’s length. “Sweetie, it isn’t vain to talk about serious problems in your life. You are a very, very strong person, but I know not even can pull through this alone. I’ll always be by your side.” She brightened up. “Hey, you also got your new friend, T-T-Trevor? No, no that’s not it… Thomas? Certainly not…” she mumbled some “t” names for a bit, until Jakie put her out of her misery.
“Travis.” He sighed. “His name is Travis.”
Jakie smiled. Then a thought crossed his mind. “Mom, I think I messed up the friendship between Friday and me.” He frowned sadly. “We were really good friends too. I shouldn’t have lashed out at her.”
“Ah right, the girl with the strange name. Always such a sweetheart, that girl. You could always apoligize. She seems like a person that forgives and forgets quite easily. Remember that time you spilled fruit punch on her white jeans in fifth grade. She just laughed and said it looked artsy!”
Jakie winced. “Yeah, I still feel super guilty about that. They were really expensive.” He shook his head from the memories. “I’ll try that. Thanks mom. You’re a great person.” He hugged her.
His mother smiled gently, her crow’s feet wrinkling around her eyes. “I love you too. Now let’s get to your apartment. The sidewalk is a bit cold!”
In the bustling halls of the school, Friday looked past her shoulder to see Jakie rushing towards her, backpack jumping at each step.
“Friday,” Jakie repeated, a bit breathless. She glanced at him cautiously.
“Hi,” she said dryly. “Long time no see.”
Jakie froze. Friday looked really mad! He thought fearfully. If only there was enough space in the hallway to fall on his knees, bow, and apologize profusely, because he was ready to do that if necessary. Jakie continued shakely. “I-I’m sorry. I’m so sorry that I burst out at you. I’m so sorry that I thought that family wasn’t important. I will forever be grateful if you would take my awkward apology and shape it into something better.”
“…Sure I’ll forgive you.” Once hearing that, Jakie breathed out a sigh of relief. “One thing though.” Jakie tensed up again. “Did you say sorry to your mom?”
Jakie grinned. “Yeah!”
Friday gave the boy a grin full of blinding white teeth, and hugged him.
Jakie had a mouthful of hair, but that was no big deal. He had his friend back, and that was much more important.