Brooke wasn’t a good friend. She knew that she wasn’t a good friend. How could she possibly be a good friend when Chloe constantly pointed out everything she did wrong on a day-to-day basis? Chloe made sure that Brooke realized exactly what she was doing wrong to be a bad friend. Brooke should really be grateful towards her best friend, Chloe was just trying to be helpful, after all. Chloe was simply trying to show Brooke how to be better. Then why did it make Brooke feel so absolutely horrible every time that it happened? Chloe’s comments just made her want to curl into her jacket and disappear from the world so she wouldn’t be able to mess anything up ever again. They made her want to cry for hours while alone in her room, but Chloe hated crying, said it made Brooke look pathetic. The worst part of it all was that if she could just get her act together and actually be a good friend, she knew that it would all stop. Chloe would have nothing to complain about. For now, however, Brooke wasn’t a good friend and would have to put up with Chloe’s friendly corrections.
This was a day full of those friendly corrections at every turn. Chloe had just been dumped by Jake, for good this time, according to him. Brooke had seen the whole thing from her place beside Jenna’s locker. Jake had tried to let her down easy, had tried explaining that things just weren’t going to work out between them because Chloe was too controlling and pressured Jake too much. He had tried telling her that he needed time to just be by himself so he could figure out where he belonged, especially after the SQUIP incident, losing almost all mobility in his legs, finding out that his best friend was using him for his popularity, his house burning down, and his parents skipping town. It all seemed rather reasonable to Brooke, but she learned rather quickly that Chloe disagreed.
The brunette had started screaming at Jake about how he was a fake and a heartless bastard. She had started crying and making a fuss, drawing all sorts of attention towards her. Jake had tried to make himself appear as tiny as possible in his wheelchair, but all eyes were already on him and Chloe. Chloe had ended the altercation with a twirl and a hair flip before marching back to Jenna and Brooke, tears shining on her cheeks. She wiped them away with a huff before launching into a rant about how horrible of a person Jake was.
Brooke had made the mistake of mentioning that she actually thought Jake was a pretty cool and kind person who never upset people purposefully. Chloe had whirled on Brooke, a fire in her eyes that always managed to cause Brooke to shrink in on herself. “Nobody asked you, Brooke!” She spat at the blonde, causing her to take a step back. “Besides, what do you know, anyway?” She turned her back on her to keep talking with Jenna.
“Nothing.” Brooke said quietly enough that she wasn’t sure if Chloe was ignoring her or just couldn’t hear her. “Nothing at all.” She didn’t dare make a comment for the rest of that conversation, gaze fixated on a dark mark on the floor that she figured could be a really old glob of chewing gum.
The entire day passed by in a similar manner. Chloe continued snapping at Brooke for every tiny thing that she did. She glared at her for answering a question in class incorrectly, for initially declining to give her part of her lunch, for talking to Michael Mell about a homework question. No matter what she did, Brooke seemed to be in the wrong. By the end of the day, she was absolutely exhausted, barely able to keep herself together. She walked out of her last class of the day, trailing behind Chloe and thinking about all of the homework she had to get done if she didn’t want her parents to yell at her for not trying hard enough. She absolutely hated the poetry unit they were working on in English. How was she supposed to know the author’s purpose if she wasn't the author? How was she supposed to know what he meant when he said flowers if he wasn’t talking about flowers? Brooke found the entire concept to be extremely frustrating.
Brooke was so caught up in her own thoughts that she didn’t notice that she had been walking without paying attention to where she was actually headed. She blinked and looked up, finding herself completely alone in a deserted hallway. Her feet must have carried her there while her head wasn’t paying attention. She looked around for Chloe, as she was supposed to walk home with the other girl and absolutely hated walking alone. She had to cross a busy street with fast-moving cars that were so loud and fast and angry, that looked like they wanted nothing more than to squish Brooke flat against the pavement. She couldn’t cross the street alone because she was scared and stupid and needed Chloe to hold her hand.
Chloe wasn’t in the empty hallway. Brooke started fiddling with her sleeves, wrapping them around her arm frantically. “Chloe?” She called, hearing her voice echo against the walls. Normally, she loved the sound of echoes, but at this moment, it made her more aware of how completely alone she was. “Chloe, where are you?” She searched the empty classrooms that she passed by, but there was no sign of Chloe anywhere. Brooke had been left behind.
Of course, she had been left behind. She hadn’t been paying attention to anything and she had walked right away from where she was supposed to be going. She should be thankful that Chloe even ever put up with her. She was a ditz, a stupid blonde with an attention problem, an idiot. She could never do anything right the first time. Brooke didn’t even realize that she had started crying until a sob forced itself out of her throat. Chloe was too good for Brooke. Anyone would choose the beautiful brunette over the stupid fool any day of the week. Jeremy would rather kiss Chloe, Jenna would rather talk to Chloe, everyone preferred Chloe. Brooke was just the second choice who could be walked all over until the time came for her to be used and spat back out.
She started spinning. Spinning was calming and helpful and safe. It was something to do. It was something. Anything. She couldn’t quite stop crying, but the feeling was grounding, was safe. She just twirled around and around and around, burying her face in her too-long sleeves, soaking them until she could feel the dampness against the skin of her palms. She continued crying until she heard the sound of shoes against tile, but she still didn’t stop, couldn’t stop.
“Hey,” A voice sounded far away, like it wasn’t really there with her, but Brooke was certain that it was. “Hey, are you okay?” The voice was soft and gentle. Brooke decided in a moment that she liked that voice. She slowly stopped spinning and peeked out from behind her wet sleeves, only to see Christine Canigula standing in front of her with a concerned look on her face. “Hey. Are you alright?” She asked gently, reaching out to steady Brooke, who must have looked like such a mess. Brooke had only spoken to Christine a few times, but she knew that the girl was fun and energetic and very kind with a warm heart. Brooke liked her a lot, but Chloe didn’t, so she didn’t try to reach out to her any.
Brooke slowly shook her head, wiping her pathetic tears away. “I-I’m lost.” She admitted quietly, tasting salt as her own tears found their way past her lips. She sniffled a bit. “I have to w-walk h-home.” She hated that her voice trembled whenever she got upset. Chloe hated it too. Chloe had hated it first.
“Oh. Being lost isn’t too much fun.” Christine mused, a finger on her chin thoughtfully. “Maybe I can help!” Her smile was so huge that her face seemed to be made of rubber or some sort of elastic that allowed it to stretch in ways that most people’s faces couldn’t. “I don’t have anywhere to be. I can walk you home!”
“Really?” Brooke’s eyes widened in surprise. “I’d really like that.” She said enthusiastically, nodding excitedly. She never expected anyone besides Chloe and maybe Jenna to help her. Chloe said that crying never got anyone anywhere. “I don’t live too far away.” She tucked her golden hair behind her ear, smiling weakly at the girl who had offered to help her. “Thank you.”
“It’s no trouble at all!” Christine said happily, holding onto both of her backpack straps as she rocked on her heels. “I like hanging out with people, Brooke!” Brooke felt a rush of joy as she remembered her name. “Now, come on! We can talk while we walk.”
Brooke nodded quickly, following the smaller girl with a smile. She wasn’t aware that anyone could be kind to her besides Chloe and some boys. She didn’t think that anyone would want to be her friend. Maybe Chloe was wrong. Maybe Brooke could have deserve friends. She would like that a lot.