If I’d been told in advance about the blood sacrifice, I would have made up an excuse not to attend the bachelorette party. I wasn’t too enthused about going in the first place. I resented group activities, especially ones where everyone else involved seemed delighted to participate. It made me wonder if I was just a miserly curmudgeon for not wanting to shell out my hard-earned income on someone else’s idea of a good time. Did no one else find it all ridiculous? The engagement party and the bridal shower and the bachelorette weekend and the wedding week.
“I’m going to end up dropping five K on someone else’s wedding,” I complained to my mother over the phone as I packed my suitcase in advance of Hailey’s Whimsical Woodland Weekend. “And why does everything have to have a theme now?”
“Not like you need the money for your own wedding,” my mother said.
“Well,” I said, contemplating a pair of shorts, “that’s your fault, not mine. You raised me to be fiercely independent.”
“I should send you the link to her registry. It’s unconscionable. They’ve lived together in that house for two years. They don’t need anything. They’ve got a frog statue on the registry. Ceramic frogs sitting on a log. I believe they’re fishing. It’s a hundred and fifty dollars. For fucking frogs.”
“Language,” my mother said. “Why are you so worked up about this?”
I folded the shorts and placed them in my suitcase, then collapsed onto my bed. “Why do we, as a society, reward people for getting married?”
“It’s a celebration,” my mother said. “We need to celebrate things in life. Otherwise . . .”
Her voice trailed off. I heard her sip what I knew was Diet Dr Pepper in a porcelain teacup. She liked things the way she liked them and never apologized for it, which was good and fine, but somehow it was a mystery to her how and why I turned out the way I did.
“Why don’t we celebrate other accomplishments?” I asked. “Why all the hoopla over forsaken freedom?”
“Natalie. This isn’t about you and your burning bra. This is about Hailey. This is for Hailey.”
My mother was right. Hailey was my oldest friend. We’d grown up together. Countless sleepovers watching dumb comedies and staying up past midnight, whispering secrets. Slipping notes into each other’s lockers, cutting class together. Swapping clothes and boys. We’d gossip about who was a good kisser, who used too much tongue. When we got our licenses, we’d drive around town for hours, listening to angsty emo rock and contemplating the future.
Now the future was here, and she was getting married to someone I barely knew. Mike seemed fine. In my eyes no one would ever be worthy; Hailey was the sweetest and most fun person I’d ever met. I had other friends, friends whom I loved and was close to, but they weren’t special to me the way that Hailey was. When you’re young with someone, when you share those formative years, the bond is specific and sincere.
“I have to finish packing,” I said, my voice weirdly high. “Thanks for listening to me vent.”
“Anytime. Love you.”
“Love you, too.” When I hung up, I noticed I had a text from Hailey.
Can’t wait to see you this weekend!! it read. Miss you so much!
I plugged my phone in, and as it charged, I scrolled through old photos.
The two of us at our eighth-grade graduation, our smiles metallic, our dresses glittery, butterfly clips in our hair.
The two of us at sixteen sitting on the curb outside the mall, wearing tank tops and too much eyeliner, eating from the same bag of Swedish Fish.
A selfie of us in Hailey’s car, our eyebrows plucked thin, our lips pouty, the picture taken at a Myspace angle.
After a while, looking at the pictures stopped being fun and started to be painful. It was an icky feeling, a squirming in my chest. I patted away a few rogue tears and continued packing, busying myself in an attempt to escape the emotion.
The emotion that was, in retrospect, a warning.