A short story about what happens when a friendship goes toxic, anonymously authored…
“It will definitely be better for your friendship, long term.”
Grace sat in the car outside her house. She had parked at least 20 minutes ago, but spent the first 15 mindlessly scrolling on her phone before calling her sister Maeve to update her on the situation – it didn’t help that reception was hard to come by in her gaff.
“Why would you want to live with someone like her?”
Maeve continued through the radio. “She’s toxic.”[restrict]
Beyond the issues of reception and social media addiction, Grace had also been avoiding going into the house because Lindsey was there. She was avoiding the eggshells, the hollow conversation, the feeling she got driving too fast down the motorway that made her clench and flex her fingers – anger.
Two days prior, Grace and Lindsey went for dumplings – an evening they’d pencilled in for after work.
After what felt like weeks of domestic bickering, Grace wasn’t sure if either of them had really wanted to go anymore and was waiting to see if she’d bring it up. On the other side of the coin, she didn’t want to be seen to be the one who let the activity slide. So she texted her, like she always did.
“Are we still going for dumplings tonight?”
According to Lindsey, they were. After missing out on a table at their place of choice, Lindsey picked another restaurant and told Grace to meet her there.
Grace did, as well as doing her usual thing of not addressing the elephant in the room – the “argument” they’d had because Lindsey hadn’t checked the electricity in a year. Grace only copped when she saw the letter from the supplier in the hall a few days prior.
Grace: “Did you check the meter for the electricity?” she text.
“No, I’m extremely nervous we’re going to be hit with an extortionate bill tbh,” Lindsey replied.
“Will you have a chance this week to or will I do it?”
“I’ll do it, it’s grand. No need to monitor me.”
It was these replies that stung, that stayed with Grace, that became the focal point of conversations with friends and family. Stinging rebuttals weren’t a characteristic of their friendship before, yet now Grace had a list of micro-aggressions the length of her arm.
Grace and Lindsey met through mutual friends after college had finished – Grace desperately needed a place in Dublin for the summer while she did her internship and Lindsey came through. Day one in the sitting-room-cum-kitchen marked them as very different people – Lindsey, cool, quiet, self-assured. Grace sparked around the house filling the silence, trying to get anything out of her. By some miracle, she siphoned the laughter out of Lindsey with her own innocuous small talk.
It sounded like music. Once Grace started, she couldn’t stop.
The summer was spent drinking Prosecco on week nights and arguing over whether Taylor Swift was a good person or not. Lindsey introduced Grace to all her friends, cooked them the most delicious, yet simple meals as they tried to figure out their lives together. Grace, when not acting as court jester, wanted to know everything about Lindsey’s world and how she could solidify her place in it.
Even at this point, there were red flags that Grace chose to ignore. She never noticed Lindsey’s secrecy, how she could be open but strictly on her terms. She never noticed her lies – probably because they fell out of her mouth so easily. She was disappointed when Lindsey told her she couldn’t come to the big birthday party Grace had been planning for months – but she let it go. She always did.
Grace followed Lindsey, through leases and love interests. They were each other’s best friend – in her head at least. She wanted to protect Lindsey from the world, having watched her heartbreak a million times over men who were never worthy while simultaneously dropping others in the most callous fashion. But something changed after that summer. The dynamic shifted. Lindsey got busier. Grace never knew where she was or who she was with from one day to the next. She found out things about her from other people, while she looked from the outside in.
She didn’t understand how they could go from texting each other things like “happy birthday, you are my best friend, I don’t know what I’d do without you x”, to being barely able to string a sentence together in person in fear of setting the other one off.
“I’m moving out,” Lindsey told Grace as they waited on their orders.
Following the electricity incident, Grace had called everyone she knew, ranting and raving about Lindsey’s attitude and the division between them: “I’m moving out,” she told her mam, sister, boyfriend, work friends. “She’s impossible to live with. I wasn’t asking her to nag, it just needed to be done and she’s never home. I wouldn’t have even known had I not seen the letter! She’s unbelievable.”
Now, there she sat, silently fuming that Lindsey had beaten her to it. Most of all though, she was hurt. She was wary of her face betraying her, so she tried to stay blank as Lindsey explained the situation. It was closer to work; the rent was cheaper – but all Grace heard was that it was away from her.
She started viewing moments with Lindsey differently, as the announcement had forced her to look at their friendship under a microscope. Lindsey never made an effort with her parents. She thought Grace was wasting her life with her boyfriend. She asked for advice that she consistently ignored. She didn’t support any of her endeavours.
Suddenly, everything seemed so false to Grace. Or, maybe it was her fault? What had Lindsey told her friends about her? What had she done to make her hate her so much?
“Hello? Are you still there?”
Grace ignored her sister as she tried to arrange the words in her head. She had to confront Lindsey before the feelings festered any longer. Now was the time to call her out. Now was the time to challenge her on everything – why she now held her at arm’s length after a summer spent in each other’s arms, drunk on a balcony on Parliament Street, why she cried when she’d suggested moving her boyfriend in, why she decided to spring such a huge decision on her…
“Yeah, I am, sorry,” she replied.
“Got distracted. I’ll give you a call later when I talk to her.”
She hung up, stepped out of the car, and fumbled for her keys. She braced herself for the slowly unfurling fight – Lindsey would hear the door and come meet her in the sitting room. That’s when Grace would let her know what she’d done to them, what she’d ruined. She’d tell her how people would soon become wise to her games and leave her in the lurch just as she’d done to them. She unlocked the front door – practically fizzing – and headed for the sitting room. Lindsey was already sitting there.
“Hey, how are you? How was work?”
Grace evaporated. How could she carry this rage for a person only for them to not even register it? Was this a joke to her? Did any of it mean anything to her? She let it go. She always did.
“Good yeah, you?”[/restrict]