What Madison Sees

by Nicole Monaghan

She wanted a best friend, but it was probably too late. She was seventeen. She'd had one before, once or twice, but things never worked out.

She let her white hair that people liked to call platinum, as if she were a hard and precious metal, float behind her in a silky wave and looked up at clouds in the shapes of dancers, diamonds, and loneliness. The sun was too bright on her peripheral vision so she changed position until the girls with girlfriends again were her focus.  She watched them talking and tried to imagine how it might be to have someone know her that way at this exact point in her life when it felt there was so much inside of her to know.  She thought of texting them silly messages about unimportant things and having private jokes and calling them BFFs and Besties.  She watched the girls slather sunscreen on each other's backs and roll their eyes at each other and pretend not to care about the boys who were hanging around the pool's edge showing off for them.  She watched them ignore each other and close their eyes while their different shades of brown and red and freckled skin got browner and redder and more freckled, all of them probably daydreaming about their night-time plans together and the boys. 

After a long time, she saw them gather up their towels and bags, some forgetting to restore their lounge chairs to their original position.  It looked as if they'd decided to leave without speaking or checking the clock, as if intuitively they all knew they were done.  They slipped their feet into various colored flip-flops and walked toward the exit like a flock of birds in V pattern, a few of them laughing.  Some were broken off into twos, the luckier ones. She heard their keys jingling.  She noticed whose bodies were prettiest and wondered how they worked all that out, how they managed jealousies and the unfairness of who got what. 

She thought about them driving together in cars, the girls in the passenger sides changing the radio station without asking, already knowing the drivers' feelings about particular songs.  She saw them going to each other houses to flop on beds together, borrowing things, complaining about their parents.  She imagined them ordering pizza and figuring out how much everybody owed, someone forgetting their money and the others chipping in for her, knowing she'd buy them candy at the pool the next day.  She thought maybe she'd call the one girl who was always nice to her. 

She watched the clouds migrate together, ready to shield some other patch of sky over different girls. 

She was afraid to call that girl.  She knew about bonds between girls, how deep they could run and how tender.  Sometimes her hair and her emotions got in the way.  The girls who broke off into twos had been connected for years.  She'd probably never catch up.

BIO: Nicole Monaghan is editor of Stripped, a Collection of Anonymous Flash Fiction, forthcoming from PS Books in spring, 2012.  Her recent work appears in Used Furniture Review, Storyglossia, PANK, and Foundling Review, among others.  Nicole has earned several awards from both the 61st and 62nd Annual Philadelphia Writers' Conferences including three First Prizes in 2010 in the categories of Literary Short Story, Flash Fiction, and Creative Nonfiction.  Visit her at www.writenic.wordpress.com.