The Red Dress Club: Nomenclature
Caroline woke with start. Reaching for phone, she wondered if she would ever get used to the middle of the night pages. She entered the call-back number.
“This is Dr. Greenwood.”
The people in Caroline’s life could be divided into two categories; those whom she’d known before she went away to school and those she met after. And she could determine which group a person belonged simply by what name was used.
Carrie. The diminutive form had been used from the very beginning. “Caroline is much too long of a name for such a tiny girl,” said her father. But the name never seemed to fit. Caroline felt as though she was using a pseudonym. On two different occasions, she had tried to make the transition to Caroline. But it never took. “You can be Caroline once you get to college, Sweetie,” consoled Mom. “It’s just too hard for folks who’ve known you all your life.”
The voice on the other end of the phone could be placed into the first category, though it was someone with whom she attended university. She and Tara had met in high school and rather coincidentally ended up at the same university. Determined to be Caroline right from the start, she had shared her plan with Tara during Freshman Orientation. But by the time classes started a month later, Tara had either forgotten or didn’t really care. When Caroline would mention it, Tara would simply respond, “Hard for me to remember. I’ve always thought of you as Carrie.”
There were other things as well. Incidents or behaviours that viewed in isolation seemed of little consequence. When viewed together, and with the gift of hindsight, ought have made it clear that this was a very unhealthy friendship.
Like Tara’s habit of correcting Caroline’s grammar. Which, as it so happened, was pretty good. Or the unrelenting criticism of what Caroline ate. Worst was the one-upmanship. No matter what Caroline had done, was doing, or planned to do, Tara could beat it. SAT scores, position on the Student Council, volunteer work. As if they were rivals in some unnamed competition.
“Yes. I’m still here.”
The voice hadn’t changed since the last time they spoke. Which was three weeks before the end of Fall Semester, Sophomore Year. Caroline had gone to share a disturbing phone call she had just received from home.
“So I need to go home for about a week while my mom is recovering from her surgery.”
“Some kind of brain tumour. They won’t know for sure until they can do a biopsy. It’s close to the surface, though, and she seemed to indicate that was promising.”
Tara seemed annoyed.
“It’s still a brain tumour.”
“I can’t explain it, Tara. My mom said it was fine for me to stay here and that my dad would call as soon as the surgery was over. But I just can’t imagine being here. I’ll be a nervous wreck. I might as well be there, see that she’s OK with my own eyes, get her settled back at home, and then come back to school.”
A frigid vice grabbed hold of Caroline. With a sudden clarity, she turned and walked out of the room. They never spoke again.
It was the right decision. Six weeks later, her mother was dead. From a glioblastoma. On a leave-of-absence for the rest of the year, Caroline returned to school the following August.
“Yes. Tara. How are you?”
As Tara’s voice trailed off, Caroline was surprised by the response that rose to her lips.
Red Writing Hood is a writing meme. This week’s prompt was to write a piece of fiction about a phone-call from a long-lost friend. A friend who is in tremendous need of your help. Nomenclature is my initial foray into this genre. So constructive criticism is especially important.