“Wake up! It’s time for school!” Rachel yelled.
“I am up!” Joey poked his head out of his bedroom window. His black hair fell down past his blue eyes. It was the first day of their junior year and Joey finally felt like his life was headed in a good direction. Last year he had the best grades of his life and he met his best friend Rachel. He could never remember how and why they ended up being friends, it kind of just happened. “I’ll be down in a second!” Joey slipped on his white and black converse and raced down the stairs. His mom was waiting at the bottom step, packed lunch in hand.
“Joey, who were you talking to?” His mom asked.
“Rachel, of course!” Joey responded while putting his lunch into his school bag. “Mom, you really have to stop making my lunch for me, it’s embarrassing.”
“You have talked about Rachel all summer and I have yet to meet her. Is she right out front? I think I’ll go introduce myself.”
“Come on, isn’t the lunch enough embarrassment for today? I’ll invite her over for dinner.” Joey said as he dashed out the door.
Joey couldn’t help but to feel excited as he walked toward Rachel. Yeah, sure, they were best friends. But Joey wanted to be much more than that. She was perfect, curly blonde hair and one strand would always hang over her left eye. Most of all Joey liked her smile. It spanned across her whole face.
“Was that your mom?” Rachel asked as Joey walked up.
“Yeah, she just loves embarrassing me.”
“What is your dad like?”
Truthfully Joey only knew what his mom told him about his dad. According to her when Joey was two he had to be taken away. Since he was little that was the only response he would ever get. “He doesn’t live with us.”
Joey felt uneasy while opening the big metal doors. He wasn’t exactly the most popular. He didn’t always fit in. His peers thought he was strange. He never understood why, but that didn’t matter anymore, he had Rachel. He knew while walking down the halls with her that the other guys would be jealous. Sure enough as he walked down the hall he picked up the gaze of multiple people.
“Why is everyone staring at us?” Rachel asked.
“Because you look beautiful and you are with me.” Joey smiled and winked at Rachel.
“Oh whatever! You look good too!” Joey blushed at Rachel’s response.
“Crap! Before I forget my mom wants you to come over for dinner tonight!”
“I have to go to class. I’ll think about it,” Rachel said as she split down the hallway.
She would always get so weird when Joey would ask her to come over. Even during the summer. They would spend hours at the park but she would always refuse to come back to his house. When Joey would ask if he could come over to her place she would say her parents wouldn’t allow a boy over. He always wondered if maybe there was something going at home. It kept him up at night but there wasn’t much he could about it. He didn’t even know where she lived. In fact she would always divert the conversation when Joey asked her about that too. The feelings of doubt grew ever more increasing for Joey. Maybe it had nothing to do with her home life. Maybe she didn’t like him as much as he liked her. After all no one had liked him before he met Rachel. Why would she be any different?
“Your dinner is going to get cold if you don’t eat.” Joey’s mom broke the silence.
Joey just sat pushing the chunks of meat back and forth across his plate. “I’m not hungry.”
“Does it have something to do with Rachel?” She asked.
“Nothing. It’s just that after going to class today she didn’t talk to me for the rest of the day.”
“Have you tried texting or calling her?”
A moment of confusion swept over Joey. Why did he not think of such a thing before? He reached down to his pocket and pulled out his iPhone. He typed an R into the search bar and nothing popped up. He thought it was strange so he scrolled through his contacts. He only had six, but Rachel’s name wasn’t amongst them. Joey began to wonder if he ever really got her phone number. They would always just meet at the park every summer morning. There was no need for cell phones. “She doesn’t have a phone.” Joey stormed off to his room leaving his plate behind.
“Wake up! It’s time for school!” Joey heard Rachel yelling outside of his window.
“I am up!” Joey hadn’t been able to sleep much the night before. He ran down the stairs and was surprised his mom wasn’t waiting for him with his lunch. Maybe she was mad about last night? “Mom?”
“Sorry dear, I’m on the phone with a doctor, your lunch is on the table.”
Joey grabbed the lunch and rushed out the door.
“Another packed lunch?” Rachel giggled.
“What happened to you yesterday?” Joey wasn’t in the mood to joke around.
“I had some home stuff to do deal with.”
“That’s what you always say. I tell you everything and you tell me nothing. I don’t even know your phone number.”
“Give me your phone.” Rachel said. “I don’t want you to have to deal with the stuff in my life. I go to you to escape it.” Rachel leaned over and kissed Joey on the check.
“Okay.” Joey had a goofy smile on his face. It was sort of like his first kiss.
The day progressed the same as the day before with Rachel leaving to class once they got there and Joey walking home by himself. There was a silver car in his driveway that he didn’t recognize.
“Joey?” His mom turned her head around the corner as he walked in.
“Whose car is out front?” He asked.
“There is someone I would like you to meet.” An older gentlemen with a grey beard stood up as they walked into the living room together. “Joey, this is Dr. Bryce.” As she spoke Dr. Bryce held his hand out to Joey. The man seemed familiar. Like he had seen him a long time ago. Joey started to remember the last few says he spent with his father. This man was there, watching the both of them.
Ignoring his hand Joey looked over at him mom, “What’s going on mom?” Joey asked.
“Dr. Bryce is just going to ask you a few questions.”
“I’m just here to help. Go ahead and take a seat.” Joey didn’t like Dr. Bryce his voice was superior. It made Joey feel as if he was being judged.
“Help with what?” Joey lashed at his mom.
“I just want to ask you a few questions about Rachel,” Dr. Bryce said.
“What does Rachel have to do with this?”
“How did you meet Rachel?” Dr. Bryce asked.
“At the park down the street.”
“The beginning of the summer!” Joey furiously flailed his arm out knocking over one of his moms favorite lamps. It crashed into the hard wood floor separating into multiple pieces.
“Joey! Calm down.” His mother yelled. She ran into the kitchen to grab a broom and dust pan and began sweeping up the shattered pieces.
“Joey, Will you please take a seat.” The doctor lowered his voice and gestured at the ugly green chair, where most of Joeys remaining memories of his father originated.
Joey looked down at his mother. Tears in her eyes as she swept up her favorite lamp. Out of guilt Joey sat down in the chair. The doctor scooted one of the dining room chairs so that his knees were practically touching Joey’s.
“Really think about this summer. Are you sure Rachel spent those days in the park with you?”
“What the hell do you mean? Am I sure! Of course I’m sure!” Joey recalled the summer. The long days spent underneath an old tree. They would lay at the bottom of the tree and look up at the leaves. However the longer Joey thought about it the more the image of Rachel seemed to be faded. All he started to clearly remember was her always talking to him. While he looked up at the leaves. Her voice would echo through his head. Did her ever turn his head and gaze into her eyes? Joey was having a hard time recalling any such moment. More to reassure himself rather than the doctor he said it once more. “Of course I’m sure…”
His mom sat on the arm, brushing Joey’s hair with her hand. “I looked out the blinds yesterday. I didn’t see anyone. Same thing again this morning. Rachel wasn’t there.”
“What are you trying to say?” Joey turned around looked into his mom’s teary eyes.
Dr. Bryce interrupted. “Joey, your dad had a problem. It’s why he was sent away when you were so young. It got out of hand. He would see and hear things that didn’t exist. It got to the point where it was putting all of you in danger. If we don’t get you help now, you might end up the same.
“Mom? What is he talking about?”
“Listen, I didn’t want to tell you this, but now that it’s happening to you, I have to. Your father had schizophrenia and we think you are developing it too.” Tears began to overflow from her eyes.
“You are trying to say Rachel isn’t real?” Joey frustratingly pulled his phone from his pocket and handed it over to Dr. Bryce. “Look she gave me her number today! She couldn’t do that if she wasn’t real!” Joey screamed.
“Joey, take a look at her contact.” He handed the phone back.
Joey took the phone in his hand clicked Rachel’s name but there was no number. The phone slipped from his hand as it stopped working. The thud it made against the floor rattled around in his head. “Impossible.”
“Joey, what’s Rachel’s last name?” The doctor asked.
“I-I don’t know?” Joey’s head spun and his stomach cringed. The room started spinning. Becoming a distorted mess. Much like the memories he had with his father, just like the memories he had with Rachel.
“We are going to get you some help.” His mom hugged him.
“Wake up! It’s time for school!” Rachel yelled
Joey walked over to his bedroom window. Rachel stood there smiling. Joey took his medicine for a week after being diagnosed. Rachel disappeared killed by the medicine. So after a week he stopped taking the medicine. All his life he wanted a friend, he had no right to kill her off with little white pills.
“I’ll be down in a sec.” Joey said. Joey knew she wasn’t real but she was still there. She was still is only friend, and his girlfriend and that had to count for something.