Divine Calm: Elizabeth

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I was intimidated by Elizabeth before I met her. She was the quintessential tough girl in my junior high school, but she could also meld into the popular and honor roll crowds. When first glancing at Elizabeth, you might think she was one of the druggies or smokers who missed ten minutes of first period for that last drag of "borrowed" cigarettes from home. Her crinkled bleached hair conveyed rust instead of blonde, and the caked layers of the peachy brown make-up stolen from the local drug store did little to hide her acne. But Elizabeth's doe eyes rimmed in smudged kohl eyeliner and petite size zero frame betrayed her fragility underneath the veneer of "I don't give a damn".

Elizabeth and I began our friendship as newbies in seventh grade choir. We had never encountered "choir geeks" before and were at a loss for how to fit in. (Little did we know that the love for singing was the only prerequisite. Like band, choir was a haven for misfits minus the financial resources for band instruments.) During choir practice, we would share music and I would uncomfortably giggle at her imitations of the dorkier choir members. I knew my mom would have never approved of my laughing at others' expense, but I was enamored by Elizabeth's musical ability and wit. While my soprano voice was strained and immature in seventh grade, Elizabeth's was a richly smooth alto. I wanted to fit into her world and, therefore, handled her delicately.

In ninth grade choir, Elizabeth and I were vocal equals (thanks to my voice maturing) and had participated in multiple vocal ensemble competitions together. Additionally, our duet of "Love Me Tender" was a success at the talent show, despite the song's old-fashioned vibe. Of course, Elizabeth's coolness brought legitimacy to any song. Before our performance, I remember being shocked by Elizabeth's mom while practicing for the talent show at her house. Her mom's sweetness combined with an extreme religious reverence was a far departure from Elizabeth's "f*** you" attitude.

Besides choir, Elizabeth and I had another thing in common. Tina. Tina and I had been best friends since kindergarten, and our mothers were best friends too. While I could fill several pages to describe the dynamics of my friendship with Tina, Elizabeth and Tina were in the honeymoon stage of their friendship in ninth grade. They were inseparable and soon were morphing into each other's brains. Finishing each other's sentences became common for them. (By the way, if it seems as if I am describing some sort of love affair, I'm not. Aren't all friendships between girls extreme in their highs and lows?)

To be completely honest, in ninth grade I wasn't threatened by Elizabeth's friendship with Tina at all. I had the naive belief all three of us would join forces like the heroines in some teen novel and be a powerful clique in which everyone would admire. I liked Elizabeth. Tina was my best friend. Why wouldn't this dynamic work out?

Instead of my friendship fantasy, three lines of friendship developed between the three of us. Elizabeth and Tina. Elizabeth and me. Me and Tina. No interwoven communication. No three amigos. However, when the three of us were elected to Student Council in tenth grade, I had hoped we would become closer over fumes of paint and markers while making homecoming ticket signs.

Instead, a void had developed between Tina's and my friendship over the summer before tenth grade. While I could ignore this fact while working during the summer, I was uncomfortable with what we had allowed to lapse after seeing Tina during our first student council meeting held in the fall. Elizabeth and Tina had become interchangeable in their appearance. They had always been very tiny and almost anorexic looking, but now Tina's eyes were rimmed with the same smudged kohl liner and her face held the same impassive stare as Elizabeth's.

When I decided to say hello to Elizabeth and Tina, they had separated themselves from the rest of the student council and sat on an old heater propped against a wall while smirking together. My nervousness must have been apparent, because the two girls went in for the attack. As we were talking, Elizabeth would continually mock me while Tina would "hee hee." I was horrified and began to blunder my words, and after a while I walked away.

Not long after this incident, I received a six-page letter from Tina detailing all of the wrongs I had committed throughout our friendship of ten years. Shocked by her memory for detail, I felt betrayed. Why hadn't she told me this earlier, and then we could have talked it out? I couldn't deny my faults, but I knew they were unintentional and I cared enough about our friendship to work on them. Now looking back, I find Tina's inability to let hurts go a bit disconcerting. However, I think she was afraid I would out-talk her had she verbally confronted me. I don't agree with how Tina handled the situation between us, but I do admit that we were both to blame for our problems. We were kids during most of our friendship, after all.

However, Elizabeth's role in the dissolution of Tina's and my friendship soon became apparent during lunch one day. As I was eating, a popular girl came up to me and started to berate me for talking about her behind her back. My face reddened and my bite of sandwich became lodged in my throat. I barely knew the girl and had no reason to talk badly about her. When I was finally able to speak, I sputtered out how I had never said anything about her. She didn't seem completely satisfied with my response, but as she walked away she said it better be the case or I would later regret it. Embarrassed by the scene this popular girl had created, I crouched a little lower in my seat and looked over to where the girl had sat back down. Elizabeth was staring defiantly at me and her baby browns were sparkling with smug amusement.

I no longer spoke to Elizabeth and Tina for the rest of high school, and while I made many new friends, the two Siamese twins did not mix with the rest of the student population. They even dated two guys who happened to be best friends and had dropped out of high school and worked at the local factory. My only means for learning about their lives was through my mom, since she remained in touch with Tina's mother.

Several years after high school, I heard a crazy story about the girls. Supposedly, after a lot of drinking at a strip bar, Elizabeth had become very jealous of her boyfriend's attentive conversation and glances at a nearby "server." Not to be outdone by this "server," Elizabeth hoisted herself onto the bar and began stripping. Eventually, Elizabeth's boyfriend dumped her due to her antics. Tina, in the meantime, had dumped the friend of Elizabeth's boyfriend, and comforted the heartbroken ex-boyfriend of Elizabeth. (I know, it's a confusing web of relationships.) Today, Tina and Elizabeth's ex-boyfriend are married. I don't believe that Tina and Elizabeth have remained friends.

I am somewhat heartened by the ending of Elizabeth and Tina's friendship. Elizabeth might have been a friend thief, but Tina nabbed her boyfriend. Occasionally, I still miss Tina, but I smile when I remember the power Elizabeth held over me when I first met her. Elizabeth's power and nonchalance toward life were illusory, but her own misery was real. Looking back, the only time I observed Elizabeth stripped of her jealousy was when she sang in choir. I can still hear her comforting alto lifting and dropping in perfect pitch with the music.

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