The second place winner of our Fall 2021 National Teen Storyteller Contest, presented with the student-led and founded Decameron Project! We invited young writers to share a story responding to the theme of Friendship.
The doorbell trills, ding-ding-ding, and then the door is open and Dee is pulling me inside her apartment.
“Eesh! You’re here!”
“Dee,” I say seriously, holding her elbows.
“Are you ready for the best Double E Sleepover of all time?”
Double E is the two of us. I pointed out once that there are actually four E’s in our names, but we agreed: Double E sounds better than Quadruple.
“Obviously,” Dee huffs. “Come on, my dad’s setting up the air mattress!”
She leads me down the hall to her room, poking her head inside and half-shouting.
“Are you done yet?”
“Almost,” Dee’s dad says, glancing over at me. “Hey, Eesha. How’s it going?”
“Good,” I say. Dee groans.
“Dad, come on!”
She’s hopping up and down on her toes next to me, and the second her dad steps back from the air mattress she flops down face first onto it. I join her, the two of us bouncing up and down on the leathery surface. Dee’s dad chuckles.
“Don’t break it before Eesha even gets to sleep on it.”
“We won’t!” Dee promises, bouncing once more for emphasis. “You can go now!”
Dee’s dad laughs once more as he leaves. The second the door closes, Dee turns to me and holds up the Monopoly box.
“Come on!” she says. “First tradition.”
Double E Sleepovers always have a schedule. We made it when we were five, at our first sleepover, and I wrote it down on a piece of paper. Dee said maybe we could just remember it in our heads, but I wanted a list. They’re easier.
The list goes like this:
- Game. We used to play Sushi Go, but when we started third grade Dee and I decided Monopoly was more grown-up.
- Movie. Every time, we say we’ll pick something different, but it always ends up being Into The Spiderverse (Dee’s choice) or The Empire Strikes Back (mine).
- Ice cream. We always have sundaes with chocolate syrup and two cherries, because one isn’t enough and three is too many.
- Sleep. I sleep on the floor and Dee sleeps in her bed. We tried both sleeping in the bed once, but it didn’t work, because:
- Dee always gets up in the middle of the night. (Which isn’t really a Double E Sleepover tradition, but it happens every time so I put it down anyway.)
Dee told me about it once, the way she can never get to sleep. The way she has to get up every night to let her brain wind down.
“It’s like- like when we push all the buttons in the elevator”, she said. “Like there’s too much going on in my head and I have to stop at every floor before I can sleep.”
“Like you’re working through a checklist,” I said, and Dee laughed.
So, we go down the Double E Sleepover schedule, and I lose Monopoly because Dee probably cheats, and we throw pieces of popcorn at the TV whenever Darth Vader shows up, and we spill chocolate syrup on the table and laugh through our apologies to Dee’s dad. And then I curl up on the air mattress and Dee curls up in her bed, and I go to sleep.
Or I think I do, because when I open my eyes next Dee’s digital clock says 1:26 a.m. and Dee is sitting up in bed.
I don’t know if I remember the first time I met Dee. My parents have told it to me so many times that the memory has gotten complicated, twisted up until I don’t know how much of it is my own mind.
The way Mama tells it is this:
“You were so little then, three and still wearing that green dinosaur jacket you loved so much. We took you to the playground to run off some of your energy, and you ran and ran: up and over the climbing structure, through the sprinklers. Up and over and through until you ran smack into Dee in her little pigtails and fairy wings. You remember those wings? You begged for a pair of your own after that first day. Anyway, you run into Dee and the two of you fall to the ground and I can tell you’re seconds away from crying. and then Delia smiles, with her little gap between her teeth, and suddenly you’re pulling my hand on the walk home talking about your new best friend.”
It’s funny, because if I really do remember meeting Dee, it’s my first memory. Like life- my life- is a line, and it only really starts when we slam into each other at the playground.
And maybe Dee’s elevator-button brain is infecting me, because suddenly I’m speeding ahead, past when we go to middle school next year and high school after that and then move a million miles away for college.
And I feel a million miles away already, off on a spaceship or in another universe. And then I come back to myself and sit up and Dee is just staring into space, caught on the edge of the moon.
So, I climb into bed next to her and she curls an arm around me. We don’t talk, because what is there to say except “It’s late” or “I’m tired” or “I love you” and we both already know all that.
In the morning we will get up and I’ll put on my light-up sneakers. In the morning we will get in the elevator and press all the buttons, taking our time on the way down. In the morning, I will hug Dee goodbye and go home. In the morning, we’re one step closer to the future.
But for now it’s just me and Dee curled up like we’re one person in the bed, Double-E-that-should-be-Quadruple-but-we-don’t-care, sorting through our checklists until we fall asleep.