It’s funny how you forget about someone until something hits you right out of the blue; a song, a poem, the sunlight at a particular time of day. For me it was an email, and suddenly Caroline LaRea popped back into my life. It was a mass email, BCC’d so I couldn’t see who else it had been sent to. I could guess well enough, though.

i hope you biches had a nice lif cause guess what shit rolls down hill and youll get yours soon enogh

I remember Caroline from the silly, shallow waters of High School, where alliances are forged and lost on a whim. We were all cruel, stupid creatures, I was no exception. Everyone had those chunky three-part friendship necklaces on dime store chains that we all mixed and matched at will. One day it was Caroline, Rita Belford and I, the next we had formed splinter cells of our own. Everyone was hurt and so no one was hurt.

I emailed Rita about it. She’s the only one I kept in touch with over the years, through the tenuous connection of our children’s soccer league. We compared notes. The same email, down to the letter. Neither of us knew who had dealt the mortal insult, or how “bad” it really was. You hear about it all the time, someone chugging along in their seemingly normal lives until one day they snap and throw it all away for some real or imagined slight.

The next read:

wonder how u can sleep at nite knowing what you did

Everyone was cruel, and therefore everyone deserved it. Caroline was no exception. You paid fire back with fire, and grudges held only as long as the attention span would allow. I could tell you about the gum in my hair, but it was really everyone’s hair, wasn’t it? The gum, the peanut butter on the phone, the thumbtacks in your underwear. Like a crowd execution, we all held the smoking gun.

Rita was understandably reluctant to contact the old crowd. Personal effort involved notwithstanding, we had all constructed lives for ourselves completely separate from high school. There was no disgraced former prom queen waiting in the wings for us. We were business women and housewives, artists and laborers. We had not stayed seventeen on the inside, rotting and venomous. At least, we thought not.

u r all hores i hope everyday you get up and look in the mirror and see and ugly old wore

It seemed so ridiculous. We felt ridiculous even discussing it in daylight. We were full-grown women, not tweenies it at a sleep over. And yet, and yet…

Stephanie didn’t answer her phone. Kendra had moved, no her stepfather didn’t have her new address. Mary wasn’t thrilled to hear from us but yes, she had been receiving the emails. Josie was disconnected. Ditto Ann and Pam. Joy picked up for a moment, breathed heavy, then set the receiver back down in the cradle.

My first date with Paul Dubins and I broke out in a purple rash from my new satin dress. Anchovies rubbed into the sash. A week later, Stephanie got a lovely new pixie cut to separate her head from the mass of bubblegum she had somehow slept on. Three cheerleaders were victims of a phantom stainer who made them look as if they’d wet themselves. We were all the bully and the bullied. Ours was a silent alliance, with rules even we couldn’t parse. None of us considered them for very long anyway. And never once did it occur to us that any of it was wrong.

Rita started smoking again. She hadn’t lit up since her eldest. I found it increasingly harder to tear myself away from the computer. We hadn’t thought we were bad kids. We hadn’t thought we were angels, either, don’t get me wrong. We thought we were just being normal teens. Once someone casts doubt on something so innocuous to you, it throws the rest of your world into chaos. We could rationalize all we wanted, but the fact remained that in some aspect we had been measured and found lacking.

The next came the weekend Rita was chaperoning a youth camp trip. I was alone at home with my coffee to receive it.

im coming for u bitches. one day u wait an ill be there, and youll be sorry u ever fuckd with me

That was the final straw. I fired off my first and only response, saying that I appreciated how she felt, but I thought it unhealthy to dwell on something from so long ago. Perhaps she should talk to a therapist, rather than blaming people who had moved on. I really wished her only the best, and whatever I had done, I was sorry.

The last reply came back.

not caroline


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