The perks of being a fake friend
Estella was my friend. I adored her sense of style, her mind, her face, her ability to dive into the moment while I stood outside watching. She was the girl I wanted to be. I admired her. Until I decided I deserved better. I deserved more than just observing. I wanted more of the cake we shared, of which she always seemed to get the larger piece.
Estella stood by me when I broke up. She stood by me when I was broke too. She considered herself a sister. Not by blood, as we were never truly related, but by choice. She said it was more important, and back then I agreed.
She introduced me to Tim, a day before we left town. She’d met him two weeks earlier, through a mutual friend. We headed to the country, where the three of us would be paid to share a house and take care of horses, while the owner, Tim’s uncle, spent some days on vacation.
Naturally, Estella knew how to ride a horse. I had no idea. Nor did Tim. I didn’t like Tim in the beginning, but I could see what she saw in him. He was too grounded for my taste, and in my opinion not grounded enough for Estella, who needed grounding as much as I needed taking off.
I was the sole witness to their developing love story. I was actually a part of it. We spent the days together, the three of us, taking care of the farm, and in the evening we sat on the porch, drinking wine, talking for hours about important stuff.
“I believe in love. It’s friendship I don’t believe in,” I told them foolishly, one of those nights.
“Look at us three. We’re friends. How can you not believe in that?” she asked in all naivety.
“With us it’s different,” I reassured her, but deep inside I knew I was lying. It wasn’t different. It was never “us three”. It was them two, with me as a pleasant pass-time. I wanted to break their little circle of two and sneak in, destroy the bond that separated them from me. And it was easier than I’d thought.
The house had two bedrooms. In the beginning, I shared one with Estella. Then she moved to Tim’s room. The walls were thin, and I could hear them making love almost every night. The other nights I suspect I was too drunk to hear anything.
I naturally felt left out. Estella once more had it all. She always did, but this time, on top of everything else, she had love too. I did not. And I needed love. It didn’t even cross her mind that I’d feel left out. She lived in her own magical world where everyone should be happy and carefree. And I pretended I was. Only I wasn’t. And I felt guilty about it.
I’m now convinced that I’m to blame for the accident. I was the talentless Mr.Ripley. She fell off the horse while taking a ride in the woods. I’m not sure whether I genuinely felt sorry for her at first, or if I only felt obliged to act as though I did. On the other hand, there was luck, waving hello while she was confined to her bed.
Tim and I spent the whole of our days working together, taking care of the horses and Estella. I didn’t make my move immediately. Just as the evil serpent waited for the right time to introduce the fruit of the forbidden tree to Adam and Eve, I also awaited the right time to sneak in and take Tim.
It didn’t take long though. It’s not difficult to break bonds not firmly bound. Love constructed on opportunity, untested by time and hardships, easily falls apart. I didn’t even like him, truth be told, but the joy of being with him was too visceral not to enjoy. I felt as though I’d beaten an undefeatable opponent, and celebrated my victory with every kiss and touch.
It was only a matter of time before she found out. Her leg was feeling better, so she came to join us on the porch and caught us by surprise. She didn’t utter a single word. She rushed back into her room until the following day, when her cousin surprised us by coming to get her.
I was left with Tim and the horses. I couldn’t stand his touch any more, and my deeds no longer seemed that victorious.
A fall from grace and into black. I’d driven myself from Eden into darkness. Estella was my friend. I adored her sense of style, her mind, her face, her ability to dive into the moment while I stood outside watching. She was the girl I wanted to be. I admired her. From that moment on, I envied her moral high ground too. I would never reach her. And I missed her more and more.
Tim and I broke up a week later. We stayed at the farm until we were no longer needed and split the payment we received in two. Estella didn’t demand her piece. The perks of being a fake friend include a larger share, once the truth comes out. And I needed to prove to myself that I could have the largest piece of cake. I’m not sure any more. I’m about the money, yet she still keeps everything else. She’s still in her little Eden, and I am out.
I haven’t seen either of them ever since.
Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist, living and working in Athens, Greece. She has published two books. Her work has appeared in many journals, in Greek and in English (Menacing Hedge, Maudlin House, the Molotov Cocktail, Infective Ink, among others). facebook.com/milevaanastasiadou.
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