A True Friend
by Tim Law
Click here to listen to this story on the Kaidankai podcast.
“I think I may have made a new friend today,” I told Mom while we sat at the dinner table eating.
It was pizza night, my favorite. A perfect ending to a wonderful day.
“That’s great, Abby,” Mom said between mouthfuls. “What’s her name?”
“His name, don’t you mean?” I replied with a smile.
Mom coughed as she struggled to swallow the piece of ham or cheese she was chewing. I wasn’t sure if I needed to thump her on the back.
“Ok, what is his name, then?” she asked, her voice tinted with an edge.
“Tony,” I replied. Thinking of him, I said, “He’s kind of shy and really cute.”
After I said the 'C' word, well, we continued eating, but in silence. I wondered if I’d said too much.
The following day at school, I hung out with Tony again. I got some weird looks from the other kids but I stared them down, I had a reputation for being tough. It seemed strange to me, though, that even the teachers seemed to ignore Tony. They acted as if he wasn’t there. In science he knew the answer to this question about compounds and his hand shot up. Easily he was first, but Miss May didn't call on him. She waited, like, a minute before know-it-all Cindy put her hand up. I smiled when Cindy got the answer wrong for once.
“You’re so much smarter than the rest of us,” I told Tony during lunch break. “Even Cindy can’t hold a candle to what you know.”
Tony gave me his sandwich to try. Liverwurst. eeewwwwwww. I’m not surprised he didn’t eat it. I offered him some of my leftover pizza but he didn’t seem too keen on that, either.
“Are you up to anything tomorrow, Abby?” Tony asked me when we walked home together that afternoon.
“Hey Scabby Abby!” yelled Peter Paulson as he ran past us. “Talking to yourself again!”
“What an idiot,” I said to Tony and we laughed together.
I threw a stone and almost hit Peter, Tony picked up a bigger rock but little Peter Paulson was such a chicken he ran off before we could throw anymore.
“You’re psycho, Scabby!” yelled Peter, but by then he was so far away and running so fast that Tony and I could barely hear him.
“Come away with me tomorrow, Abby,” Tony said.
“We can’t go anywhere tomorrow, Tony,” I answered. “We’ve both got school, remember?”
He surprised me by asking that. I’d never skipped school a day in my life. I just knew my mom would hit the roof if she found out I’d gone off with a boy instead of learning.
“Please, Abby," begged Tony, "promise me you’ll not go tomorrow.".
He held my hands tight and looked deep into my eyes. We’d stopped walking then and I had to look away. Tony’s gaze was intense like he knew something he wasn't telling me.
“What do you know, Tony?” I asked, but Tony went tight-lipped and didn’t say another word.
The next day he wasn’t at school in the morning. Little miss know-it-all aced the math test and got to stand in front of the whole class while our teacher Miss May pinned a big gold star on her shirt. I was sure if Tony had been there he would have let me cheat and then all three of us could have gotten stars. By lunch, he was back at school.
He took me by the hand.
“What are you doing, Tony?” I asked as he pulled me towards the gate.
“Abby, you’ve got to go,” he insisted. “There is something you need to see.”
Tony was freaking me out, I’d never seen him so worked up.
“Ok! Ok, I’ll go,” I told him. “But I’m seriously sure my mom’s going to kill me.”
As we left the school grounds I noticed another boy, Michael, sneaking off, too.
“Where do you reckon he’s going?” I asked Tony, but Tony seemed more interested in us than Michael. Michael was an odd kid, he’d tried to kiss me once but I’d shown him who was boss.
Tony dragged me along the backstreets of our town in silence. I would show him, too, who was boss too if he tried anything stupid. He didn’t though. Instead, Tony took me to the dead end of town, the cemetery where they bury all the old people.
“So, what do you have to show me that’s so damned important?” I asked.
Tony just pointed to the stone we stood in front of.
“Read it!” he demanded, arms folded, waiting for my reaction.
“Here lies…” I began. “Anthony Fuller?”
I turned to ask Tony what was going on but he was no longer there.
“Born March fourth, 1985,” I murmured as I continued to read. “Died August third, 2000, aged fifteen.”
My mom was a Fuller before she met my dad. I tried to remember if she’d ever mentioned a brother, but my thoughts were interrupted by two sharp sounds from the direction of the school. Following that, came two more. I thought the worst and ran all the way back there just as fast as I could.
As I neared the school I saw that it was in chaos. There was a lot of activity around a few ambulances, and Sheriff Dossie was there speaking with Michael’s dad. Michael was in the police car in cuffs. I felt sick to my stomach. What if I’d been there, what could have happened to me?
“Oh, my God! Abby, thank God!” cried my mom when she spotted me.
She broke away from a group of parents and enveloped me in the biggest hug.
“Where the hell have you been?”
We all looked on as two of my classmates were taken away, one dead and one barely breathing.
“Mom,” I whispered, relief making me shake. “I’m pretty sure my uncle Anthony just saved my life.”
Mom kissed the top of my head as tears streamed down her face.
Tim lives with his family in Southern Australia in a little town called Murray Bridge. He is pretty sure that the Library where he works is haunted, although it is quite new so he is still trying to figure out why. Tim is starting to discover the joy of telling horror and ghost stories, exploring the darkness that he did not know was there. "A True Friend" was an opportunity to challenge himself to write in the dark and the light simultaneously. Not all ghosts are evil and not all monsters are under the bed.
Linda Gould hosts the Kaidankai, a weekly blog and podcast of fiction read out loud that explores the entire world of ghosts and the supernatural. The stories are touching, scary, gruesome, funny, and heartwarming. New episodes every Wednesday.