In elementary school while in 4th grade, I met a girl named Marika. Her name was pronounced like the name Marie, but with a -ka on the end. Some boys called her “America” as a joke, but I couldn’t bring myself to make fun of her name because it was unique, unlike mine – Chris.
We remained friends throughout middle school and high school, but we were never really close. I’d been to her house multiple times for parties, but that was about it.
College changed everything, though. From our small town, we were the only 2 people that went to a particular university 2 states away. I don’t know why she picked that university, but it had a good biological science program, and that’s why I went.
We started talking and hanging out more often during the last couple of months of high school when we realized that besides each other, there was probably not a single person that either of us knew that would be going that that school.
That summer was one of the most important summers of my life. We got a lot closer, or, at least, close enough to decide to rent an apartment together, which I guess is pretty close. I never expected her to become my best friend, especially not so quickly, but by the 3rd week of school, I was sure of it.
We clicked in a very unique way, but maybe it was only unique to me because my best friends had always been guys. She’d drag me off with her to the mall, and suddenly, even though I’d always hated shopping, it wasn’t so bad anymore. I’d make her go see stupid guy movies with me, and she’d laugh her ass off the entire time.
Toward the middle of our sophomore year, Marika started dating a guy named Dillon. She always brought her boyfriends by the apartment to get my opinion on them, and he seemed like a pretty decent guy. Usually, I was a pretty decent judge of character, but with Dillon, I was way off the mark.
A couple of weeks later, Marika came home crying at 1 in the morning with a black eye.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Dillon…hit me,” she timidly responded.
I was furious.
“It’s not the first time,” she bawled. “I didn’t know what to do!”
She turned around and lifted up the back of of her shirt. There were three other bruises spread across the upper and lower part of her back.
I couldn’t see straight – could hardly breathe.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” I asked. I tried my best to not let my anger affect my tone of voice toward her, though. She was scared and hurt, and screaming at her wouldn’t help that. “I would’ve helped you.”
“I know, I know,” she cried. “But I was scared. He said he’d hurt me worse. I thought I would just keep waiting to wake up from this nightmare.”
“It’s over,” I said, holding her in my arms and stroking her hair with my hand as gently as I could. “I will never let that monster hurt you ever again.”
It took everything I had to not throw on some clothes, drive to that bastard’s house, and beat the living daylights out of him. Marika needed a friend though, and I was certainly not abandoning her to cause even more violence.
She cried herself to sleep that night on the sofa. I threw a blanket on her and sat across from her thinking. I tried to sleep, but my head was spinning with thoughts that wouldn’t give way to slumber. Dillon might as well have punched my own mother in the face, and I don’t think I could’ve been more infuriated.
I finally nodded off sometime around 3 or 4. I actually had a pretty good dream that night, but I still woke up in a foul mood at around 10 the next morning. Marika was awake, but she hadn’t moved from her spot on the sofa.
“Hey, how you holdin’ up?” I said.
I”‘m okay,” she said.
“What do you want for breakfast? I’ll make whatever you want.”
“Anything?” she asked.
“Will you make French toast with strawberries and cream on top?”
“Coming right up!” I smiled, adding under my breath, “As long as it’ll cheer you up.”
I went in the kitchen and made breakfast, the entire time with Marika commenting on how good it smelled.
“Breakfast is served!” I said as I finished the last piece.
Watching her savor her breakfast made me feel a little better. If she could forget about what had happened for a little while, then all the work of preparing a nice breakfast was worth it.
knock knock knock
“A visitor at 10:30?” I said.
“Wonder who that could be?” Marika said.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
“Someone that’s very impatient, apparently,” I said, getting up to answer the door.
“OPEN THE DAMN DOOR, MARIKA,” a voice screamed from outside.
I froze. Dillon.
“Oh no…” Marika timidly whispered from behind me.
I flung the door open, didn’t say a word. Didn’t need to. I swung my fist back and clocked that son of a bitch square between the eyes. He staggered back, fazed but still upright.
“What the…” he stammered.
“Stay the HELL away from Marika,” I gritted through my teeth, eyes fierce with rage. “If you come anywhere near her or this apartment again, I will call the police so fast your ass wont even know what happened. And don’t you even DARE threaten her through ANY means EVER again.”
“Look man, I was just coming to apologize, you don’t have to…” he started.
“Stop. I don’t care. You are a miserable little boy, and I wont give you the chance to try to rid yourself of the guilt. Now get out of here you giant, insufferable douchebag.”
I didn’t think he’d actually leave, but he turned and spit on the ground, and then walked away.
I slammed the door and only then did I feel my hand throbbing from hitting Dillon so hard. Marika stared at me for a few seconds until silent tears started to fall down her cheeks. There was no sobbing, no noise to indicate she was crying. Just tears.
“He isn’t worth crying over,” I said, breaking the tension of the silence.
“I’m not crying over him,” she said, her voice quivering.
“What are they teardrops for, then?”
“I never thought I’d have a friend that cared about me as much as you do,” she said.
Silence enveloped the room. I wasn’t expecting that response at all. I was touched, yet I couldn’t respond. She had been so sad, yet her tears were those of happiness? Tears because I was in her life?
“T-thanks,” I finally mustered. She smiled, though still crying, and got up out of the chair.
She didn’t speak, she didn’t even make noise as she walked. Inches from me, she stopped, wrapped her arms around me, and locked them there. I could feel the moisture from her cheeks soaking into my shirt as she buried her face into my chest.
“Don’t make me let go,” she said, her voice muffled, though still intelligible.
Then, there was silence. I could hear her breathing and nothing else for at least 10 minutes. She just stood there, holding me, and I held her. I wasn’t sure what was running through her head, but if this was what she needed, then I’d gladly give it to her.
She’d finally woken up from her nightmare.